Seeing to believe is not enough

Dear #ClassicalMusic Fan,

You have probably heard the phrase

“Seeing is believing,”

which is a very sad way to approach life as it removes the opportunity for mystery and faith, two very innate human qualities according to Oxford University in 2011.

On the other hand, have you heard of this phrase?

People never learn anything by being told, they have to find out for themselves.Paulo Coelho de Souza
Author, The Alchemist

I have known my student Brian for quite some time, and we recently had one of his monthly Skype coaching sessions.

Over the years we have discussed many issues of what creates a brilliant performance, including the “why” behind the physical effort.

Although he could “see” what had to be done, he never quite “got it.”

He seemed to understand what he was trying to achieve, and believed it was the right thing to aim for, but never seemed to achieve it.

Brian had been working for quite some time on a passage of music he was having particular difficulty with, so I finally asked him to play it during our coaching session. I shared with him my observations and asked if he would like to try something a little different. Which, of course, he did. (It’s always polite for coaches to ask for permission to teach – it’s a delicate boundary).

“Try doing this…” I said, and gave a little advice.

He tried it.

My computer screen suddenly lit up like a Christmas tree: Brian’s face was beaming, his eyes glistened and cheeks glowed red, and his perfect white teeth shone through his camera.

“I GET IT!” He yelled. Literally.

It took me a little by surprise, but we spent a few moments enjoying the moment and exploring the fact that after years of teachers telling him how to do something, and my having mentioned the same thing a few times in our coaching sessions, Brian finally grasped what we were all on about because he experienced it for himself.

He had known it for years, understood what needed to be done, and had even seen his teachers and others do what he was trying to do.

But he had never experienced it.

He couldn’t transform his knowledge into action.

Seeing and believing was not enough for Brian: he had to have that personal experience.

Finally, during our coaching session, so much suddenly made sense to him and he was thrilled!

The rest of that coaching session remains a bit of a blur to be honest because we were both on cloud nine, enjoying Brian’s transformation.

Our few sessions since then have taken a different direction and are now much deeper in topics, conversations and explorations. One thing I occasionally have to put the brakes on for is his enthusiasm! Now Brian “gets it” through his own personal experience, he cannot wait to experience more and dive into everything anyone ever told him about performing and sharing live music.

Have you experienced such a revelation in music?

I’d love to hear about it.

And then, perhaps, we can develop ways to use that experience to help make the world a better place to live:

http://www.stephenpbrown.com/coaching

 

Know the world is a good place to be right now

Dear #ClassicalMusic Fan,

Happy New Year!

That’s it.

Letter done.

Oh wait, that’s not a “lesson” though, is it?

I mean, how does me wishing you a Happy New Year help you accomplish far more than you ever thought possible?

And I promised you a lesson every weekday.

D’oh.

So here it is:

Regardless of what you have going on today, find yourself five minutes and lock yourself away somewhere – even the bathroom if you have a crowded house.

Take your phone with you, plug in your headphones.

Sit back, relax, close your eyes, and listen to this piece of music:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6AM7wHOT8Tc

There.

Now you can get on with your day refreshed, with more focus and energy, and knowing that the world is a good place to be right now.

Do this regularly, particularly on Holidays and during dinners with relatives, and you’ll reset yourself to accomplish far more, than had you not taken that little break.

For more tips like these on a regular, more personal basis that work for you, sign up for my coaching:

http://www.stephenpbrown.com/coaching/

 

What’s good and what’s not about that performance?

Dear #ClassicalMusic Fan,

I’m going to do something really very special in the New Year.

In my monthly printed bulletin for performing musicians (full-time, part-time, hobbyist), I’m going to demonstrate one aspect of my coaching: the Performance Review.

Let’s look at a video on Youtube or Vimeo of a recital.

(A music recital consists of performances by one performer at a time, or perhaps a performer with a piano or guitar accompaniment.)

And I’ll review it.

At first I thought I’d just pick a video at random, but that doesn’t give you any confidence because it might not be all that “random” in reality, so how about YOU pick a video for me?!

It can be a video of your own performance if you’re brave enough, or of anyone’s: Do a search on Youtube for “recital” (you might want to add the name of an instrument as well, such as violin or marimba or something), and pick one of those videos that is at least 10 minutes long. Clearly they have put themselves “out there” in the world for all to see so they should not mind if I make a comment or two, right?!

Email me the video’s URL link.

And I’ll add it to my list for review.

When I review their performance, we’ll get it transcribed for my bulletin so that subscribers can actually see the kind of things to look out for in their own performances – recital or otherwise.

Hopefully you’ll be one of them.

Of course, if you want me to actually review your own performances without sharing it with the World of SPB, then that’s actual coaching which you’ll have to pay for.

You can do that from this page:

http://www.stephenpbrown.com/coaching/

Otherwise, send me a video URL and then sign up for my monthly newsletter when it’s published next month.

I’ll let you know when you can do that 🙂

 

Careful you focus on the right things

Dear #ClassicalMusic Fan,

Have you gotten goose-bumps during a concert?

When you perform, have you experienced them spine-tingling thrills, or hair-raising moments?

It is very likely you did at some point.

And when you think about it, those are the moments in live music we crave, right? Doesn’t matter if they occur in concert, in rehearsal, during a lesson, or when we’re practicing at home… we love those moments!

So how come we don’t get them as often as we’d like?

  • One reason is that we think they are easy to come by.
  • Another reason is that we think once we’ve experienced them we now know how to get them again, and all we have to do is repeat the steps that created them last time.
  • Another reason for some is that those moments have become the ultimate goal – the purpose of live music.
  • Another reason could be that we chase those moments so hard that we don’t actually allow ourselves to experience them. Musicians who are exclusively technical have that problem.

So what’s up with that?

We’ve become goosebump junkies.

There’s nothing wrong with goosebumps – they are great, wonderful, terrific and downright beautiful moments.

Much like coffee.

But too much coffee, and too much watered-down coffee, we no longer feel its effect and taste its marvelous subtle tastes. We become junkies needing more and more, with stronger artificial flavors, and eventually we need medications to help us stop twittering and shaking from too much caffeine.

Same with those musical goosebumps.

Instead of making those moments the ultimate goal, we need to make music – and the sharing of it – our ultimate goal. When we do that to the best of our ability, those goosebump moments occur more often, mean more, are much stronger, and are a pure delight.

But they are not our focus, they are not our goal, they are not ‘the reason’ for sharing live music with each other.

As Tim Keller inferred: Exuberance without discipline is futile.

Joy without effort is pointless.

We must focus on letting our music speak to the world.

When we do so together with others, the result is often a few goosebump moments. But look for and expect those moments to happen, and your music-making is worthless. Pointless. Ain’t gonna happen.

Focus on your technique, give attention to listening, exaggerate what needs to be expressed, and let your instrument (including the voice) sing.

I’m getting goosebumps just thinking about what happens when you do!

We all need help balancing our effort with our desire for pleasurable experiences. Teachers can often hint at such matters, but that’s the primary domain of coaches. A coach helps you keep things in balance, and helps you accomplish far more than you ever thought possible.

Don’t believe me?

Book a free 30-minute consultation with your favorite US-based classical music coach from the UK who’s been around the block a few times, and you’ll be pretty convinced, I’m sure:

Sign up now for a session next week:

http://www.stephenpbrown.com/coaching/

 

Did you learn by trial and error too?

Dear #ClassicalMusic Fan,

You know, most of the time music teachers teach instrumental or singing technique.

Which is very important.

But students tend to learn performance etiquette and techniques by watching, following, and trial and error.

What a pity!

Here’s what someone said after their first coaching session with me:

“My first coaching session with Stephen was totally inspiring! Overall, I learned a bunch and was both challenged and stimulated to think differently about my approach to a concert career lifestyle!” Melissa Petrescue, piano

Melissa’s life has changed dramatically since that first coaching session, and I’m sure yours might, too.

No matter if you want to perform full-time, part-time, or just occasionally for fun…

Perform Better.

Confidently.

Get coaching!

http://www.stephenpbrown.com/coaching/

 

Who’s telling your story?

Dear #ClassicalMusic Fan,

This holiday season did you watch any of your favorite movies?

I did.

More than a fair share, perhaps!

One was the original Broadway production of Into The Woods on Youtube, and another was The Muppets Christmas Carol.

Do you know what they both had in common with each other?

A narrator that bridged the story and the audience.

Many stage productions of Into The Woods dress the narrator up as a fairy-tale character, which actually takes away the connection that a regular jacket & tie narrator brings. And in the Muppets Christmas Carol the narrator Gonzo and his side-kick Rizzo are as much watching the action as you are, creating a marvelous bridge between the story and you.

Who’s telling your story?

Or, are you a narrator?

Depends what story you are trying to share with the world, right?

Some biographies are interesting, and we learn a lot from them, but it’s more exciting and engaging when the story is bigger than one individual. All the best plays, musicals, books and movies are about something bigger than the main character.

So, what if “live music” were our story?

That would make every performer a narrator of sorts.

And how can we best tell the story, bridging the gap between the music and the audience?

That’s the life-long journey we are all on.

And I’d love to help you along that journey.

Find out more about my coaching programs here:

www.stephenpbrown.com/coaching

Do you keep your promises?

Dear #ClassicalMusic Fan,

Why am I sending you a letter on a Holiday?

Because it’s a weekday, and I promised I’d write to you every weekday.

Almost 1/3 of the planet’s population (2.2 Billion)1 celebrate Jesus Christ’s birthday today, and 83% of the countries in the world have bought into the commercialized version of Christmas (which was originally a Mass for Christ, or Christ’s Mass) and for them, today is a National Holiday anyway2

Although I do have readers of these daily letters in Russia, China, Qatar, Israel and Tunisia, the vast majority of readers are, probably like you, in the West and therefore taking the day off.

Enjoy!

I’m still keeping my promise that I’d write to you every weekday with a lesson that will help you accomplish far more than you ever thought possible!

So, here are the lessons for today:

  1. Keep your word, and
  2. The greed of consumerism has the ability to change the world dramatically.

I also believe the power of live music has the ability to change the world dramatically, and we can all play our own little part in our own little corner of the world.

Let me help you see that and accomplish that.

Get 30 minutes on the phone with me for free:

http://www.stephenpbrown.com/coaching/

 

 

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

 

 

Footnotes

1. Source:World’s Muslim Population Will Surpass Christians This Century, Pew Says, accessed 12/24/17

2. Source: Countries That Don’t Celebrate Christmas, accessed 12/24/17