Performance Archive

Even Michael Jackson Made Mistakes?!

Earlier this summer I was shopping and met a 20 year-old sales clerk who discovered that I taught piano. While he admired his favorite musicians on the radio, he had never studied any musical instruments himself, nor had he ever spoken with a real life musician before. I learned that he thought that all professional musicians were perfect and never made mistakes.

I took the opportunity to give him a reality check. Guess what? Even Michael Jackson made mistakes. When I told him that, he was completely shocked. Here was someone he admired, and he thought was perfect. The truth, however, was Michael Jackson was a human, and humans do make mistakes, especially when they are learning.

I also clarified that Michael Jackson prepared his music so well, and knew it so well, that he didn’t make that many mistakes in performances, but when he did, he knew how to keep going and not draw attention to it. Was Michael Jackson immune from making mistakes? No. This sales clerk was in disbelief.
I took it a step further. If Michael Jackson was still alive, you could ask him, “Tell me the worst public mistakes you’ve ever made.” And, he would be able to tell you.

I think I blew this young sales clerk’s mind that day. But also, I was hoping to open the door of possibility of his own potential. These people that you admire and are older than you, they are also just like you. They also had to start in the same place you started. Guess what you have in common? You are both human. And what is the one universal requirement for playing a musical instrument? A human body.

It’s easy to admire our favorite musicians from afar, no matter the style of music they play or sing, and forget that they are simply a human being who put time, energy and focus into refining their craft.

That same time, energy and focus is available to all of us to choose where we want to spend it.

We are fortunate to have so many opportunities available to us. The question everyone gets it answer for themselves is where do you want to spend your time, energy and focus?

If you’d like to spend yours learning how to play the piano, or taking your playing to the next level, give us a call at 360-527-9626. We’d love to help reach your dreams.

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Learning from Your Peers

At a recent group lesson, students were preparing for the Guild Auditions so they all had ten pieces they needed to practice performing in front of people. They played all their pieces for each other. Some pieces were stronger than others. This was wonderful feedback for students to then know what they needed to practice at home.

One student had difficulty finishing playing a piece from memory. He suddenly just gave up and took his hands off the keyboard with a dejected look on his face. Knowing this student would respond well to direct and blunt instructions, I said, “I don’t care what you play, just play something and make a nice ending.”

I continued, “When you are performing you don’t need my permission, nor anyone else’s. You do whatever you need to do to keep the beat going and bring the piece to a nice close.”

He put his hands back on the piano and played something and found a way to end the piece with more confidence and took a bow.

Afterwards, another student chimed in, “When I get lost, I just play the part I know over and over until I figure out what to do next.”

What a wonderful idea, and another tool students can have in their tool box. Students learning from each other. It is music to my ears.

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How Do You Know You Are Ready to Perform?

Question: How do you know you’re ready to perform in front of an audience? Choose the best answer:
a) You know the notes
b) You can play the piece perfectly from memory
c) You know how to keep going if you make a mistake
d) You know how to fake if you have a memory slip

The answer:

c) You know how to keep going if you make a mistake
d) You know how to fake if you have a memory slip

If a student can keep their composure when they make mistakes or have a memory slip, then I know they can handle a performance situation.

Choices a) you know the notes, and b) you can play the piece perfectly from memory, are important in learning a piece and should not be overlooked. Once those are in place, then start practicing performing in front of people.

Things will happen. You may make a mistake where you’ve never made a mistake before. You may have a memory slip. Knowing how to keep the beat going and improvise if needed until you get back on track is a skill. Those two skills are your backup system when performing. I do not recommend performing unless you have a backup system in place. Otherwise you run the risk of a negative experience.

Prepare well. Know your piece well. Then, in the moment of performing it’s a dynamic environment. Having a back up system at your disposal will enable you to have a good experience performing even when you are not at your personal best.

Need help learning how to have a good experience performing? Give us a call at 360-527-9626. We are happy to help.

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