Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Motivation and self-esteem

I'm having a little trouble here.

I'm not feeling comfortable about this Schumann performance and am trying to analyze why. Yes, it's a difficult piece, and yes, I know it won't be perfect (whatever "perfect" means), but (as the guy I took a lesson from earlier this week put it), no one's going to die.

I think the difficulty lies in what my piano teacher describes as "being mean" to myself. In fact, he ascribes to the philosophy of "strict but not mean." What this means, in a nutshell, is holding oneself or one's students to the highest standard while not denigrating the person or self-flagellating. He concludes:
To be mean is to instill fear. Fear gets a certain result. It gets what the teacher wants or great rebellion. It does not get a creative result, a free result, or a musically adventurous result. These are much more valuable than just right.
Students are first and foremost fellow musical travellers. Respect them and care that they learn how to do things right. Sometimes it’s necessary to be firm and direct, but weaknesses in the playing never justify personal insult. Let people be themselves and they are usually quite wonderful. They also do their most expressive playing that way.
(Click the link to read the entire piece.)

Maybe I'm pressuring myself more because having quit my job, I feel I have to prove something -- though not sure what. That I'm "serious" about this? That I have to make it all "worth it"?

The answer, however, is NOT to avoid practicing (like I'm doing at this moment, at almost 11:30 on a sunny Wednesday morning) but to practice without saying bad things to myself, like, "You can't do this"; "You are not good enough to play this piece"; "This is going to sound awful"; and "WHAT was I thinking???"

Way too much of this has been creeping into my practice sessions, with the result that I feel I've been beaten up by the time I'm done. I'm going to try to shift my attitude from here on out, with my goal being to approach practicing the cello in a positive light: as exploration, adventure, communing with the composer, challenging myself technically and artistically, and figuring out how best to create an enjoyable experience for myself as well as the orchestra, conductor, and audience.

And if I don't quite manage to do that, I'll have to try not to hate on myself for hating on myself! Tricky stuff ...

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