The Value of Performance Classes

“Building confidence in the performing environment is key. This, of course, starts with technical assurance. If a student knows that passages are technically beyond them, they will leave themselves open to stress. Nerves are often caused by a student thinking too much about how they feel. This is the wrong focus: instead, the performer should think about the music itself and the composer’s intentions – and, perhaps most importantly, the audience’s perceptions. Listeners mind far less about perfection than we as performers fear they do. An audience wants to be moved. The performer must be convinced that the audience is a supportive body of well-wishers.

I often teach performance classes – something I cannot recommend highly enough. The environment of performing to your peers can be hugely positive, and while playing to other violinists can be daunting, I am as demanding on the audience as I am on the performer. The audience is encouraged to think about helpful advice that might benefit the performer, and also to acknowledge the aspects of the performance that worked well, especially areas of successful musical communication. In this way, performers not only have the chance to practise performing before a knowledgeable audience, but they also receive positive, reinforcing feedback. The audience members learn as well by spotting aspects of playing that might later benefit their own practice. The sense of camaraderie that comes from these types of performance classes can be hugely beneficial.

Students should also be encouraged to accept that performance nerves are completely normal. If a student has done their preparation and is technically assured and ready to communicate, what does it matter when something is not perfect? With the support of peers and audience, the student will no longer experience the detrimental effects of stress, but will find their playing enhanced by the creative excitement.” -Alex Laing (excerpted from The Strad article, Ask the Experts: Should Players Seperate Technique and Musicality when Preparing a Piece?)

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