Keep charge of your own life
Don't make compromises about the path you want to follow – stick to it, and hopefully you will become successful with it. There will be good times and bad times. Sometimes you will get positive feedback, sometimes you won’t. That isn’t something that should change the course of your actions or your musical thinking.
Be on stage whenever you can
Find out as much information, and get as much experience, as possible. Confidence comes with experience, and stage experiences are what give us the most confidence. You may be on great physical and technical form and practising a great deal, but once on stage, everything is different. Performing condition is very important. It’s far more difficult to build up confidence if you rarely perform.
Don't rely on competitions
Sometimes competitions can be the only way for youngsters to get attention. But often success at one competition only lasts until the next competition. There’s a spotlight on you as a winner for a very short time, so it’s not the most important way of building success.
Take a good, deep breath and go slowly
It can be hard to relax on stage: nervous tension brings physical tension. Try to find a balance, so that you have just enough tension to give you power and energy. If we have too much nervous energy, we tend to play much faster than is necessary. To calm down, play everything slowly and take the notes one by one. The result will probably still be very fast! Muscle-wise, one should be without stress.
Make time to practise
I use all my free time to practise. This is a must. I had a flight this morning and I have a train journey this evening, and in between I have been practising. When I arrive in my hotel tonight, I will do more work for tomorrow’s rehearsal. That’s life, unfortunately.
Always try to get enough sleep
We all have to lead athletic lifestyles. Sometimes it’s tough: early flights and late concerts, and sometimes travel overnight. But still we have to find time to get enough sleep. The body needs rest. That’s crucial. I don't meet friends in the evenings: most of my friends either have sporting lives or are musicians, and everyone needs to be on the best form for their performances the next day. Be it a chess game or a concert, or any profession that requires you to be in your best condition, if you go to discos at 2am you're unlikely to do as well!
Photo: Harald Hoffmann