Performing Under Strange Conditions

Just a few days ago I had the opportunity to play for a Chinese American cultural exchange. My colleague who was flying out of the country couldn’t make the performance and was asked to sub for her. 

The gig was given to me a week in advance, and I normally have performances scheduled a month to two months in advance. I took the gig because I thought it would be a good opportunity to be challenged and play in a venue I wasn’t used to for the first time on such short notice. 

I arrived at the venue plenty of time before my call. I figured I’d go backstage and ask the manager if I can get an idea of acoustics before they open the house. The lady said, “I’m sorry but we can’t do that...” 

In my head I go, “ARE YOU SERIOUS?!”   

I walked away towards the green room, shook my head,  took a breath, and started to warm up. 

To be honest, I told myself, “I don’t have control of the situation, so I might as well make the most of it.” 

Amazingly, the tension and nerves that I usually get before a performance decreased dramatically. It was great! I’ll tell you why. 

It was one of the few occasions where I had the chance to play a couple movements of Bach and play for people who weren’t familiar with his works. This was an opportunity to experiment with my interpretation of the E-Major Partita I chose to play. 

It was interesting. I stood up straight, I played with confidence, and I took risks. I didn’t know anyone in the audience, and maybe that played a part in this experience because I wasn't trying to prove myself to a colleague or a friend. I was playing to prove to myself that I can do it.  

Then I started noticing how I felt after the performance. I kind of kicked myself a little bit because I made some musical decisions that led to intonation issues, but I wasn’t upset at myself. 

Again, they didn’t allow me to have a sound check, get a feel of the stage, nothing! 

I just did the best I could, forgave myself for any mistakes I would make on stage, and focused on sending a message through to the audience. 

So, what’s the moral of the story? 

When you perform, sometimes you're not going to have the luxury of a sound check. You may not even have the luxury to warm up! If you perform, you always need to be ready. An important audition may be brought to your attention last minute, or someone important who's well connected in the music industry discovers your playing. Whatever the situation may be, you need be ready to deliver. I guarantee you’ll always leave the experience learning something, and it could actually change the course of your life just by doing. One experience, one decision. That’s all it takes. 

Go out there and perform in a place that makes you uncomfortable. You’ll gain a unique experience and gain exposure that will help you in the long run! 


I’ll leave you with a famous quote by Leonard Bernstein, 

“To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time” 


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