Georgia Music Education: Athlete vs. Musician

Some days you barely feel like practicing. Other imagesdays, everything feels difficult and uncomfortable. The entire piece you completely memorized, played it through countless times in rehearsals with no problems, and then suddenly you went blank in the middle of a live show?

Over the years, sport psychologists and athletes have come to understand that there are certain physical, mental, and emotional states that are optimal for performing up to one’s abilities when it counts. And that the difference between great performances and excellent ones often come down to the athletes’ ability to get into those optimal states at will. Top musical performers work at this just as hard as they do at the physical part of their game. These key physical, mental, and emotional states are just as relevant to musicians as athletes.

Dr. Noa Kageyama is a sport and performance psychologist and he helps people answer these hard to answer questions. He is a faculty member of The Juilliard School. Juilliard alumni have collectively won more than 105 Grammy Awards, 62 Tony Awards, 47 Emmy Awards, 26 Bessie Awards, 24 Academy Awards, 16 Pulitzer Prizes, and 12 National Medals for the Arts. He became frustrated his senior year.  Despite doubling his practice time, he wasn’t playing all that much better, and he remained nervous and inconsistent on stage.

“Deep down, I knew I was missing something. But I hadn’t the foggiest idea what.” Dr. Noa Kageyama

Research now tells us that practicing effectively is a skill. A skill that can be learned, which will not only help you learn faster and take your playing to a level that may have eluded you to this point – but can also make a huge difference in how confident and secure you feel on stage.

“It’s called the “resumptive drive.” Or the Zeigarnik effect.”

We all know what it feels like. Whether you call it stage fright, performance anxiety, nerves, or jitters – it’s not much fun. Many musicians, like athletes, know they had talent. And they all knew about discipline, sacrifice, and what it took to be successful. Although, the uncomfortable feelings and emotions hold them back from performing.

“Musicians and athletes get very few shots at realizing their goals in what are often relatively short careers. On top of that, consider how incredibly small the margin of error is.”

Listen to the doctor and keep in mind the tips below when you feel you are not getting your fully optimized performances.

  1. Energy Regulation – Learn How to Regulate Your Stress Response
  2. Preparation- Learn How to Practice (More) Effectively
  3. Confidence – Learn How to Build Confidence (without lying to yourself)
  4. Courage – Learn How to Increase Courage and Trust in Your Abilities
  5. Concentration – Learn How to Quiet the Critic in Your Head

Often we believe the difference between gold and silver or no medal is less time than it takes to blink.