In the second instalment of a four-part blog series, practice and performance consultant Adam Hockman shares some post-performance strategies
As the music concludes, the audience applauds and you take your bows, it may feel like the day is over. But it’s not. Performing on stage in front of familiar and strange faces is an act of courage. Being that vulnerable requires energy and focus, and it’s an accomplishment worthy of still more of your attention.
It’s tempting to move on to the next thing on your calendar: tomorrow’s rehearsal or an upcoming performance, for example. I want to propose that you instead prepare yourself to stay in the moment and to also capture your immediate reactions to what just happened. Let’s mine the day for all it’s worth.
It doesn’t take long to forget or misremember our thoughts, feelings, and actions during a high-stakes event. With performance comes stress and adrenaline, which can enhance and compromise our working memory and ability to form accurate long-term memories. The more you can respond to your performance in that moment, the more you can enjoy it, and also learn from it. Just as we can anticipate and plan the non-musical details prior to a performance, we can also approach what comes afterward with a similar level of regard.
After the Performance
Tip 1. Use your phone to record your impressions. Jot down or dictate your thoughts about the performance. This takes a minute or two—you can do it while you’re packing up your instrument and other materials. Give some thought to questions like:
● How did I feel—positive, negative, or neutral—about myself, the performance, my collaborators, the audience, and most importantly, the music?
● What were the strongest moments in the performance? What were the weakest?
● Did I meet the musical objectives I set for learning and performing this piece?
● If this was a second or third performance of the same piece: How did this performance compare to the last one?
● How can I prepare to do better next time or in my practice?
Later on you’ll review a video recording of your performance, but for now, it’s all about your first takes.
Tip 2. Once you’ve had some time to come down from the performance high, greet and spend time with the people who came to hear you play. They want to connect with you, and part of expressing appreciation is showing that you want to do the same.
I’ve attended hundreds of student recitals where audience members gather outside the concert hall to greet the musician(s). Most post-performance interactions boil down to musicians saying ’thank you’ and ’I’m so glad you’re here’; and conversations that invariably land on the relief of the performance being over and what comes next. Our goal is to do more with the actual moment, so let’s try something else:
● Talk about the performance that just happened—how you felt about specific parts of it, and what felt right or challenging for you.
● Share anecdotes about what you played—the composers’ lives, historical events from when the pieces were written, and interesting tidbits related to the music. Provide a window into the rich and fascinating world you have chosen as your profession.
What you say will depend on the listener: your teacher, a musically informed friend, a relative who has no musical training but loves classical music. Regardless, you are sharing the gift of knowledge about music, and that deepens human connection.
Tip 3. As you are greeting and sharing, ask a trusted music colleague or mentor if they would be willing to give you feedback. You want to find someone who can offer meaningful observations about your performance, within a week of that day, in person or over a video platform like Zoom. If possible, find someone who has heard you play more than once, because that person will have insight into your progress across time.
Tip 4. Celebrate after the performance with the people who traveled to hear you play—it can be a reception, shared meal, or a group walk around the city. Whatever you do will mark this performance in yet one more way you can remember in the years to come. Try to engage in rich conversations, and stay away from spinning about how relieved you are that the performance is behind you.
Tip 5. Send follow-up emails or text messages to people who came to hear you play. This includes people who watched you on live streams and recorded performances. Acknowledge anyone who posted a comment or otherwise supported your playing that day. These quick outreaches signify gratitude, humility, and professionalism.
Make every performance count—on the front and back ends. Every performance you give is an opportunity to grow and to bring people closer to classical music and to you.
Adam Hockman is a practice and performance consultant on the faculty of the Heifetz International Music Institute. He applies his training in behavioural and learning science to music practice, performance, and teaching. Learn more at adamhockman.com.
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