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Loving what we do as musicians

Hands playing piano

Loving what we do as musicians

I haven’t always loved playing the piano; in fact, there have been huge swathes of time, months and years, when the very instrument that inspired me in the beginning, has caused huge stress and distress. There are aspects of the music profession that I have found particularly challenging as a pianist, to the extent that I no longer give concerts which are connected to earning my living. I had to take a number of years out, away from playing altogether, to stop associating it with stress and anxiety, and regain my emotional and musical balance. It felt completely right to do this, and it was from that place that I discovered the energy and desire to help and support musicians with the stresses that we all have. These stresses can show themselves in all sorts of different ways: physical and mental tension, performance anxiety or simply a falling out of love with the instrument and everything that goes with it.

In recent weeks, I have felt a strong calling to come back to the piano with a fresh approach. I no longer have any desire to learn music for something, I want to learn music simply because I love it, because it sets me alight. So much of my performing career was involved in learning music other people were playing or singing; now I allow myself to learn music, I want to learn.

I am starting to do what I advise musicians to do in coaching sessions: I give the best of my energy to what means the most to me and what I love. This means that I am now putting my piano practice first. I carve out time for it even when there doesn’t seem much time available to carve out. This isn’t easy because so much comes in to challenge it. The daily pulls on our time, the computer, the phone calls, domestic chores, the ‘oughts’ and the ‘shoulds.’ I do my best to put the piano first even when I have a big teaching day or I’m away giving a talk-masterclass. It’s not always possible, but it’s the intention that makes the difference.

What I am doing is building a rich, nourishing relationship with the piano. Practice is no longer coming from obligation, a ‘trying hard’ approach, it's coming from somewhere far more meaningful. I truly believe that this is the basis for healthy, inspired performing; nerves struggle to get a grip when we love what we do.

The knock-on effect of this simple choice has had a way bigger impact than I expected. I feel inspired at a deep level and this then feeds the rest of my day. The chores get done more easily and even when they don’t, I stress about them less.


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