Avoiding errors vs. achieving excellence (Part II)

A teacher of mine from a long time ago once told me that mistakes in performance are like if someone walks in front of the TV while you’re watching a show.

This always stuck in my mind.

The person walking in front of the screen temporarily messes up the line of communication that you have with the TV, but it doesn’t effect your understanding and appreciation of the story, characters and setting. You still enjoy the show and by the end, you probably won’t even remember the person who walked by the screen.

Once I understood that idea and could translate it to performance, I realized that mistakes were fine as long as the piece went on. We shouldn’t aim for mistakes or be okay with them in practice, but if they happen then we move on.

So how do you explain this to a student who’s 100% committed to getting a piece perfect? My little brother was like this. He’d walk away after a recital and as people were congratulating him, he would reply with the exact number of mistakes he made.

“I made 17 mistakes”

Instead of focusing on mistakes I have made performance about memorable moments.

“You have to make people want to jump out of their seats to cheer for you.”

This is what one of my teachers would always say.

“Where is that moment in the music?”

“Where do you grab their heart?”

He always talked about achieving excellence. About making people feel something. And that’s what I hope for all of my students. I dream that they perform to inspire others, to move people, to achieve excellence.


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