Whenever I get on stage for a ‘big’ playing occasion, I’m a bundle of nerves – or perhaps, more accurately, awash with adrenaline. The result sounds something like the following (I’m the trumpet player, and these are not the Tradjazzers):
‘That’s not water,’ I tell her. ‘It’s terror.’
Now I must admit I don’t sound a hell of a lot better than this even when the adrenaline hasn’t got the better of me, but I do find this kind of experience incredibly annoying. I feel like I’m making a total goose of myself, and letting down my fellow band members into the bargain.
The performance above took place at the Grampians Jazz Festival in February. After I got home from the Grampians, I decided it was time I finally ‘did something’ about this problem.
Looking around the web, I came across an article by Dr Noa Kageyama. As it happens, I've been a subscriber to Dr Kageyama's bulletproofmusician newsletter for around 18 months, and have always found his articles most interesting. However, until my latest encounter with stage fright I had not seriously thought of taking the plunge and signing up for his online course, which promises to address exactly the problem I had been experiencing based on insights, particularly, from sports psychology.
Well, there’s nothing like a terrifying experience to motivate new learning – and new spending, too. It took me only a few minutes, and a $AUD 320 Visa payment, to enroll in Dr Kageyama’s course.
I’m already very glad that I did. Dr Kageyama's course 'bulletproofmusician' consists of seven modules, named Energy, Preparation, Confidence, Courage, Concentration, Focus and Resilience.
'Yeah, yeah', I hear you saying, 'I know all that stuff.' If that isn't your inner voice speaking, it most certainly would have been mine until recently. However, I think I'm fast becoming a convert. So far, I’m only part way through the second course module (Preparation) but already my understanding of the mental side of playing music has expanded remarkably.
Perhaps it’s because I’m ‘just’ a trumpet player — I know trumpet players do have a reputation for being somewhat toward the meat-head end of the musical intelligence and sensitivity spectrum -- or perhaps it’s because I’ve had little formal musical training, but for whatever reason, I have always tended to view trumpet playing as a physical activity to be mastered by building muscle, which in turn I thought was to be achieved mainly through repetitive exercises.
From the get go, however, Dr Kageyama’s course has challenged my most fundamental assumptions about how to approach music making, enlarging my horizons in the most unexpected ways.
Obviously it would be unfair to Dr Kageyama if I was simply to repeat here verbatim the material he presents in his course. However, I think I can say that in his first module (Energy), Dr Kageyama gives a very clear description of the phenomenon of stage fright, covering its physical, emotional and cognitive aspects. He then goes on to describe, slowly and very carefully, a pre-performance routine he calls ‘centering’ which is designed to help a musical performer settle and redirect some of the ‘charge’ associated with stage fright in a positive way.
All this material is presented in a most engaging and persuasive way. Dr Kageyama himself comes across as a charmingly self-deprecating, calm and grounded mentor who is NOT promising the world, but who IS pointing the way, I believe, to a credible way of improving one’s own musical performance under stress. The course materials (PDFs, videos and audio files) are clear, beautifully designed and very well paced.
On the strength of what (relatively little) I’ve said about the course itself so far, I’d hardly expect any reader of this blog to rush out and sign up to Dr Kageyama’s course here and now. However, if you’re even the least bit intrigued, I would strongly suggest you sign up at www.bulletproofmusician.com to receive Dr Kageyama's free newsletter, and sample for yourself a little of his style and of his insights.
In future postings here, I hope to expand more on my adventures as a student of the bulletproofmusician course. And and who knows, perhaps one day I’ll have a ‘success’ video to post too.