Wednesday Wisdom: Thoughts on Performance


Ever wondered why so many music students dislike performing?

I sometimes wonder about the way many in our culture tend to view performance.  Personally, I don’t feel that performing is a showcase where we demonstrate how good we are.  I feel like it is an opportunity to share something we love with someone else, and hopefully help them feel something good, or provide comfort, or even better, inspire them to want to have music in their life, too!  I wonder how we would all feel about the act of actually performing ourselves if we viewed performance as sharing rather than showing?

Perhaps we could focus on how a performance made us feel, instead of how the performer did.  As music students, it is necessary at times to “critique” a performance in order to learn from it, but that shouldn’t be the only focus (in my opinion).  When that DOES become the primary focus, then no one wants to put him/herself out there.  It then becomes easier to leave music-making or performing to the “professionals” or those with “exceptional in-born talent.”  What a shame!

Here is why I think music-making, both as an individual and with others, is for everyone.

Research tells us that all children are wired for music.  ALL children, not just those born with “talent.”  Ever considered HOW that talent became real?  Well, perhaps we were all given a measure of it (maybe some more than others) but likely in some it was actually developed.

There is a story told of a pianist who performed an incredible recital.  A gentleman thanked  and complimented him afterward stating that he “would give 10 years of his life to play like that.”  The pianist simply replied, “I did.”  Sometimes we forget that anything worth having requires sacrifice and work and intentional effort.  This can be daunting in today’s busy and activity-filled world.  Watch for easy ways to make music part of your home life in the future article, “Making Music Part of Our Family.”

Young children performing.  When my children were young, I learned that performance at a young age can be tricky and even detrimental at times.  It is not so much an age issue as it is a readiness issue.  I learned that when I “encouraged” my son to “sing for Grandma” when he was less than willing, that I was infringing on his agency.

When children want to perform or share what they can do musically, then by all means, enjoy that together!  But when they are not willing, that’s okay, too.  Pushing the situation will not yield the result you want.  If the child is given many experiences to make music with others (friends AND family) in a safe environment where his ideas are accepted and welcomed, and where music-making is fun, he will gain the confidence and willingness to one day share AFTER these and other appropriate foundations have been laid.  Some of us were pushed into performing, and we wonder why WE do not like to play or sing in front of others!  You’ll know the time is right because the child will likely initiate it.  For now, focus on those INFORMAL music-making experiences – enjoying music together as a family.

What can I do to encourage my child to perform, or share?  

Family Recital.  Many of my piano families over the years have held a regular Weekly-ish Family Recital with just their immediate family.  Because this is a regular occurrence, informal, and not a big deal, their children actually look forward to it.  The parents invite everyone to share, but don’t make the child perform if he doesn’t want to.  They model active listening, interest, and respect during the performance.  They focus on enjoyment and feeling rather than how the child did.  Rather than saying “you did well,” they say, “I enjoyed hearing you sing” or “I am so glad you wanted to share your piece with us.  I felt happy when you did!”  The parents participate in group singing or in other musical ways, even if it is out of their own comfort zone.  They remember that they want their children to be more comfortable performing that they are, so they make this sacrifice to set an example.

12906Families with young children can PLAY together musically.   I’ll share some ideas of how to do this soon!  Watch for the article titled, “Making Music Part of Our Family.”

Why have students perform formally at all?  Because this gives them confidence to accept opportunities like accompanying in church.  The student also…

  • learns that what they have worked so hard to achieve can bring comfort and joy to others.
  • learns that they can accomplish worthy goals, achieve and progress, that THEY CAN DO HARD THINGS.
  • receives much needed validation, admiration and praise from peers, family and others in their life.
  • receives natural motivation to work toward and prepare for a deadline or commitment.
  • learns to prepare better and better each time.
  • learns that things don’t always go as planned, and that is OKAY.

When a spouse doesn’t support this endeavor.  Do what you can to get on the same page, but if your efforts are not yielding the result you want, think about these ideas…

  • Ask your partner to attend Parent Meetings.
  • Accept and love ANY positive way that they can support your child in this journey.
  • Be OK with their way being different than yours.
  • Thank them for what they DO do.  “Honey, thanks for working hard so that our children can have music in their life.  It means so much to me and to them”
  • Share your child’s musical accomplishments with your partner.  Let them see how happy it makes you and your child.
  • Consider accepting what you cannot change in them, and work to change what you can change in yourself.
  • Consider that family relationships are more important than getting what we want.  Love is the ONLY motivator, the only fuel which powers change.

Fun with Parents on John Kanaka

Enjoy the journey.  This time will pass quickly, so enjoy each moment.  Your focus on the enjoyment will keep things fun for your student and family, and will help your family bond together musically.  It will create memories that “music time with the family is a good time.”  This will reinforce music as a priority in your family life and in the life of your children.

Play inspiring and uplifting music in your home often.  You can do a lot to affect the choices your children will later make in their own musical preferences.  It may not show up until adulthood, but it will show up.  Give them choices from options you approve of.  Let the kids (and the husband) have a say.

Love, love, love.  Love music, love what your child does musically, and love the time together.  Be happy and your kids will, too! ♥