Free of the curse at last! To this point, I have been cursed to never play Bach even remotely well in public. J. S. Bach is one of my very favourite composers to practice and learn, for even after years of studying one of his pieces, I find something new and interesting in every practice time. Performing these pieces, however, is another story.
Every time I played any Bach for a performance, by memory, a finger would slip somewhere, and I would lose my place. Considering I’ve only played piano for three years, and have only performed in recitals twice a year since I started, I’ve had little performance experience.
Nerves are my worst nightmare.
They cause me to stop thinking, and I lose the capacity to react cognitively to anything. Forcing myself to perform Bach a lot, however, helps. If I can perform Bach “successfully,” I can do so with anything. It’s just overcoming the nerves.
The past couple years as a music performance major have taught me that it is impossible to not be nervous, and it’s actually a good sign that you’re human, so overcoming nerves means that you don’t let them control you, you simply let them happen. It ties into the practice of meditation, which Buddhists practice as a core discipline.
The point isn’t to avoid thought altogether; it’s to focus on no thought, but if distracting thoughts occur, you simply let them pass, which easily ties into nervous thought. Sure, you wonder what if something were to go wrong, but then you let it pass, and the anxiety doesn’t consume you or debilitate you.
Performing is dangerous, and that’s why I love it, but you have to be conscious of what you’re doing, so the key with nerves is to let them pass and remind yourself that you do actually know your pieces. I’m just really excited that I’ve finally reached the point at which I can learn this, for it does take time.
My advice to newer students is to be patient with yourself and let whatever happens happen. You will learn.