Monday, October 7, 2013

Hanging out backstage

I already wrote a bit about what and what not to do just before a performance. Among my suggestions are:

  • Don't play entire pieces before a performance. The distraction of nerves can make for lapses, and then those lapses will haunt you when you're playing the actual program. 
  • Don't review your entire program backstage. This practice invites self-doubt.
  • I also don't advocate creating ritual to your backstage experience. What happens if you don't have enough time for your ritual? Does it mean that things won't go well?
So, don't play, and don't review. What are you supposed to do? Those green rooms can be dark and lonely places!
  • I don't think it hurts to check a few things, such as tempi (with a metronome) and landmarks. Just don't become obsessive about it.
  • Meditation has a centering effect. Breathe and relax while focusing positively on your upcoming performance. Visualize success.
If you're not an advanced meditator, you can only do so much--and backstage time can be fairly lengthy. With that in mind, it's not a bad idea to get your mind off of the performance itself. Try to read. Play a game on your smartphone. Of course, always be aware of time so that you're not caught off guard when it's time to go. 

I've often found that backstage crew can be very, very poor people to talk to before a performance. They're often not that interested in the concert, and they can be quite silly. Your backstage time should be used to clear your mind and your nerves, so even if you're trying to take your mind off of the performance, be careful with how you do it.

I always bring snacks and water for my time backstage, and I always make sure to have something to eat at intermission. My sense is that digestion takes away some of my nervous energy. At intermission, I usually need some energy, and food helps in that way, too. Bananas are known for their stress-reducing properties, so I tend to bring a couple with me as well. Because the stress of playing seems to dry out my throat, I always make sure that I have plenty of water on hand.

None of these suggestions are, of course, germane to the memorized performance, but, as memorization takes more focus than playing from score, it doesn't hurt to remind yourself of these good habits. In an ideal world, backstage time would be fun and exhilarating. But more often than not, it isn't...so be prepared!