The last month was pretty hectic for me as I gave many concerts in a relatively short time. It was wonderful to be back on stage to share music with live audiences again, yet I was reminded how difficult it is to be a performing artist, being vulnerable onstage regardless of how much one practices or prepares. I heard a story that even the legendary pianist Horowitz needed to be kicked out to the stage every time he gave a concert as he would hesitate to go with jittery nerves. Really? Him? One of the best pianists in history? We certainly know that regardless of one’s proficiency this field of the performing arts never gets easier over time.
Last month one of the concerts was a three-day series where a repertoire of each concert did not change. I certainly and hopefully wished that a performance would get easier each day after completing a victorious journey.
The reality was far beyond what I had hoped - each concert felt completely new, raw, and vulnerable all over again. It was a new day, different audiences, different feeling, and even different me at the piano. If I were a tour guide on an Appellation trail, after triumphantly completing a rigorous trail to Maine the very next day I’d feel like I was somehow pulled back to Georgia to start all over overnight. In the morning of each concert I was lying in the bed thinking ‘Would I have the courage to walk this trail again?’
But then once a concert began I was somehow back to a life where my senses were heightened, finding new beauty and treasure from each corner and being joyous to share music despite the fear and doubt in me. I was alive.
After a solo concert in Encinitas a member of the audience came to me in tears, holding my hand tightly and sharing that the very hour of the concert would be something she would never forget in her life and would give her fuel to relive it every time she would think of it, and thanking me for that gift. At that very moment I was actually beating myself up a bit about having made this and that mistake, thinking how I could make some sections of the music better next time and collecting data to practice more later.
On that day I had a quiet moment with myself and reminded myself of this mantra. The mantra that I want to live with, the mantra that I need to keep reminding myself of.
“Artists are not like athletes. We cannot win gold. We cannot ‘beat’ other creatives. We cannot come first. Sport is objective. Our craft is subjective. Creating to ‘be the best’ is a waste of energy. Instead create to connect to the people who need you, because they’re out there. Create in your way, because there is no right way. Take the pressure off, and focus on your unique brand of magic.”
What is your unique brand of magic? Just remember, you can only do that.