MEDIA: CROSS-FERTILISATION OF KNOWLEDGE ASSISTS MUSIC PERFORMANCE

The Performers’ Salon – Carmel Liertz’s Performance Confidence social media news blog – highlights a variety of topics to interest all aspirational music performers. On special occasions (as in this special end-of-year issue) outside performer-educator researchers from Australia and other countries are also invited to report on their new projects.

Cross-fertilization of knowledge is vital for music professionals, though not always tangible in our everyday professional lives. Assisting us to feel informed, connected and inspired, the cross-fertilizing of knowledge deserves multiple platforms to push forward new ways of ‘thinking’ and ‘doing’. Here is one place we can witness insightful performer educators reaching out for the expansion of creative, collaborative, and holistic approaches to enhance Learning, Teaching and Performance.

Holistic approaches to Learning, Teaching and Performance are now regarded as essential for all levels of music education in the 21st century. For the tradition-based field of music education this has been a slow shift.  However, the significance of an eclectic and integrative approach to music performance became clear to me as an apprentice teen pianist working alongside experienced music theatre performers, theatre actors as well as classical and jazz performers – all outside of my instrumental studies with renowned holistic-minded music educator, pianist, composer, musicologist, Larry Sitsky. Observing elite athletes gave me added performance insights at that age too. Later, I would hear my piano professor at the Munich Music Academy recommend observing elite gymnasts’ focus and co-ordinated mind-body rhythmic movements.

Cross-Training’ and crossing domains enhance specialized skills. Music performers during student days well understand the need to have a portfolio of skills to survive in a fiercely competitive world. For peak sport performance, elite athletes have long incorporated ‘cross-training’ – additional sport skills along with their specialised skills – as integrated weekly training. Back in the 1970s elite sport performers adopted ‘mind-body’ training programs to enhance their technical skills, and these continue successfully today. The renowned behavioural psychologists stepped across fields assisting with the establishment of sport psychology at that time. Albert Bandura established his (1977) Self-Efficacy Theory, which was immediately applied to Sport Performance, then to other domains – Education and finally, Music Education and Music Performance. Self-Efficacy Theory became the foundational basis for my (2002) research: Developing Performance Confidence: A Holistic Training Strategies Program for Managing Practice and Performance in Music. (The resultant ‘training program’ as book/ ebook is featured at the end of this issue).

Here now for your enjoyment are brief reports from three inspirational performer educators about their new ways of ‘thinking’ and ‘doing’.
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NEW CLASSROOM MUSIC EDUCATION BOOK – A PREVIEW

In 2015, Dr Sylvana Augustyniak, Australian music educator of over thirty two years, academic researcher, national/international academic writer, composer and author will release her new textbook, Product-based Learning in the Music Classroom.

Sylvana Augustniak

Sylvana Augustniak

Geared to students improvising and composing in the classroom at stages 4-5 music, it encapsulates a 21st century holistic learning approach through Collaboration, Critical Thinking, Communication and Creativity. Whilst maintaining the integrity and content of traditional learning areas, this book supports the new Australian National Music Curriculum.

The book evolved from Augustniak’s empirical doctoral study as well as her classroom strategies developed since 2007. It is suited to all levels and differences in musical ability – from the novice to the expert. With a clear procedural process from the initial stage of knowledge gained from the teacher, then through the collaborative exploration of the processes involved in improvising and composing, students become actively engaged in a fun way. Along with the additional novel features to assist and develop students’ critical thinking and confidence in their ability, this book promises to be of enormous benefit to high school/college level music teachers and their students.

Product-based Learning in the Music Classroom will be available as soon as possible in 2015. See Linkedin:au.linkedin.com/pub/dr-sylvana-augustyniak/50/357/467, Sylvana Augustyniak or book title.

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NEW THESIS – ‘PRACTICE STRATEGIES OF AN ELITE INSTRUMENTAL PERFORMER’ 

Deborah de Graaff, renowned Australian concert clarinettist, competition prize-winner, educationalist and researcher recently completed her PhD at the University of New South Wales entitled, Practice strategies of an elite instrumental performer: A case study under test conditions, comparing quantitative data to coded Think Aloud and interview.

ABSTRACT

The aim of this research was to determine how elite instrumental musicians set about learning unfamiliar and difficult repertoire. By focusing on one distinguished oboist in particular, this study discovered how he organized, strategized and motivated his practice. Two challenging test pieces were selected, each to be learnt in a demanding context, allowing the researcher to capture a variety of practice strategies and skills. Three important outcomes are presented: (A) The development of new techniques for measuring music performance, including a ‘Note-time Playing Path’ for pitch and tempo visualisation, and protocols for assessing pitch and rhythmic accuracy. Application of these tools found that the musician’s pitch errors occurred within 3 notes distance – before or after the location of the target note on the score; (B) The Model of Elite Practice was proposed; (C) The performer’s passion emerged as a powerful strategy for efficient practice. The model divides general practice strategies into four sequential levels:

(1) The Problem defines the problem to be solved: to learn, e.g., “get my head around the notes”; self-efficacy, e.g., “to believe that the work is achievable”; affinity e.g., “to connect with the music”; planning e.g., “to plan my practice time”; and regenerate “to rest a tired hand”;(2) The Cognitive Path which is classified as either General Task, Metacognition or Self-regulation; (3) The Action which applies an explicit strategy (such as repetition, goal setting, switching attitude and beating time) to address the performance problem of level 1; (4) Skills, defined as a collection of tools, are recruited by the Strategy (level 3) to most efficiently fulfill the goals driven by the Problem (level 1). These skills include processing notes, processing rhythm, motivation, persistence and memorization.

The thesis calls for greater attention to the newly proposed Action and Skills levels of the model, which emerged as integral strategies to this musician’s practice. For example, “Switching attitude” from negative to positive at Level 3 was considered a novel strategy. With careful application, this study’s findings could make music learning less effortful, more enjoyable, and less time consuming – as it may need less time to achieve a finer product.

https://au.linkedin.com/pub/deborah-de-graaff/17/607/192/nl

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PROJECT TO EXPLORE A THREE-WAY EXCHANGE BETWEEN THREE PERFORMANCE DOMAINS

Marie Vassiliou

Marie Vassiliou, soprano, educationalist, researcher, singing professor at London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama reports here on her upcoming 2015 project.

My next project will explore the three-way exchange between singing, instrumental and drama expertise, focused around Clerambault’s dramatic cantata, Médée (1710) for soprano, violin, viola da gamba and harpsichord. The project will take place in the UK Spring Term and will be conducted by an instrumental specialist, a drama specialist  and myself, a vocal specialist.

Having had some limited opportunities to co-teach over the last 9 years within Guildhall and also to take part in numerous professional development workshops with other members of staff, and also attend the utterly inspiring iCON seminar with performer-teachers from around the world, I feel it is extremely valuable and important to our development and renewal as teachers and artists to exchange ideas in this way and experience what happens when there are three experienced professionals from three different disciplines in the teaching room together. This kind of opportunity to learn from each other’s teaching and expertise in action and to exchange ideas across our different musical and acting disciplines is invaluable; it is very different from collaborating with teachers from the same discipline.

The background to this idea is a research project, which I carried out earlier in 2014, as part of an MA entitled, Fearless Performance: understanding, teaching and learning fearlessness in vocal performance.

I am interested in continuing my research and embedding it in my teaching by looking at one particular area, which became an important part of the original project – looking at texts and how to embody a character, in order to promote fearless performance and a state of flow in performance. Activities that help to keep a singer present or ‘in the moment’ will promote fearless performance and therefore reduce or eradicate some forms of performance anxiety. www.marievass.com

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CROSS-DOMAIN LINKS OF INTEREST

Positive Psychology (Martin Seligman; Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi,1998) expressed in all fields. www.positivepsychology.org

Mind-Body Medicine   http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/allinthemind/mind-body-connection/5882006

Understanding and Applying Jazz Modes   www.decodamode.com

Looking for a meaningful holiday gift for a musical friend or relative? The gift for a life-time would be the book/ebook:
Performance Confidence: A Training Program for Musicians at www.performanceconfidence.com www.youtube.com/watch?v=06vSXl-IS88

 

WISHING YOU ALL A VERY HAPPY CHRISTMAS AND EXCITING NEW YEAR!

MAINTAINING FRESHNESS AS A PERFORMER

How do the great performers do it, maintain their freshness as a performer and surprise audiences by re-inventing themselves through their performance? Here are some useful tips:

1. Take regular time out. All top performers throughout history have been aware of ‘time out’. Looking at new material and looking across the board of performance and even to other fields are therefore essential habits and part of the package of being a performer. A complete break for R & D (research and development) can allow a trajectory into innovative ventures that set new benchmarks in one’s field and influence others.

2. Maintain a global outlook for what’s happening generally in performance, and get a sense of what the Zietgeist presents or requires. Often your own inspirational, creative concepts can be measured by what else is happening globally, or indeed, what is not happening locally.

3. Allow sufficient time for performance preparation. Though this may sound obvious, performance preparation generally takes longer than one thinks , allowing for life’s surprises along the way. Allowing sufficient gestation time for new material to sit comfortably in performance practice gives one confidence – well worth the nurturing and polishing – for a desirable sparkling performance.

3. Maintain your health and fitness with a daily strategies program for mind-body health and fitness.  One is setting a positive example to others in one’s performance. With every part of you involved while performing, the mental, physical, technical and emotional aspects all need to to align naturally.

4. Keep your novel performance concepts private! Especially if solo performing, it’s wise not to reveal your next performance ‘move’ (other than perhaps to your most inner trusted source). A trapeze-like balance is required, for one often needs to talk through or trial one’s new concepts. Allow your own past experiences, past disappointments, and your gut instinct be your present guide as to how your new project should unfold.

5. Enjoy the process and feel thoroughly inspired and confident in your performance preparation. This enjoyment and freshness will carry through to an inspired performance.

6. Practise visualising your upcoming successful performance. Image your confident performance regularly and success will be truly yours.

My health-oriented book, ‘Performance Confidence: A Training Program for Musicians’ assists all types of musicians – from aspirational students through to professionals – to achieve what is suggested here.

New Book Review

Carmel Liertz’s book, ‘Performance Confidence: A Training Program for Musicians: Mind-Body Awareness, the 21st Century Approach to Performance Confidence’, epitomises the holistic approach for the mind, body and soul in regard to nurturing the performance development of musicians. The book is based on sports psychology that systemically transfers in a cross-domain approach to music. With her background in music performance, education and research, Carmel Liertz has created an integrative strategies program for performance confidence, which demonstrates that nurturing the mind-body with appropriate nutrition before performing, exercising to strengthen mental and physical agility, as well as using psychological strategies to enhance musical performance can provide a positive skillset for managing practice and performance effectively. The new book review presents a truthful, sensible and modern approach to successful performing. I also endorse this book as a pre-requisite for senior high school music students who will perform for their Higher School Certificate and early tertiary music students at university. Every music library should have a copy.

Dr Sylvana Augustyniak, Music Researcher, academic writer, journalist, musician and educator, Sydney.

Nutrition to enhance practice and performance

Are you aware that there are foods that can alter mood, foods that make you feel calm, focused and energised?

Wouldn’t it make sense to be eating the ideal foods before your practice and performance in order to optimise your practice and performance? Musicians using my confidence training program have discovered that the type of nutrition they eat before they start work, during practice sessions, and before they perform makes a positive difference to the musical outcome, as well as giving the necessary energy and preventing fatigue.

Though nutrition can be a complex topic there are some general guidelines you can note immediately for eating the optimal nutrition before practice and performance. A performance-type nutrition is appropriate for professional athletes and musicians who practise regularly.

Performance Confidence: A Training Program for Musicians found at http://www.performanceconfidence.com/outlines these guidelines along with the optimal energy pyramid. I suggest you trial this performance-type nutrition for two weeks with the following food type proportions:

50%-60% carbohydrate-rich foods; 20%-25% protein; 20-25% essential fatty acids.

Becoming familiar with such terms is useful for the sake of your general health. The ‘carbs’ label is the least well understood as many people are not aware that carbs are in fruits and vegetables as well as grains. A plate of food will contain at least half the plate for carbohydrate-rich food choices including vegetables, and the other half of the plate will contain combined protein and essential fatty acids.  (‘Carbohydrate-rich’ is a better term than ‘carbs’ because most foods have more than one component such as vitamins and minerals.) All becomes clear in my easy-to-read training book – with tables of these 3 food groups within Nutrition as a strategy for peak performance. Individual body requirements considering the GI factor and gluten free are also discussed.  Did you know for example that by deleting wheat and dairy (going ‘gluten-free’), your nervous system and immune system can be given a positive boost?  That is because gluten is known to be inflammatory. You may soon realise that ideal food choices for pre-practice and pre-performance can make a real difference to the way you feel during practice and performance – creating a sense of calm, focus, alertness and energy.

 

 

 

Deep Breathing – use as enhancement strategy!

Would you like to be able to calm yourself instantly? The secret is in deep breathing for performance. Try six deep breaths, taking longer on the out-breath, in order to slow your breathing. Your mind-body will respond immediately in a positive manner.

By expanding your lungs with deep and rhythmic breathing you are are massaging the lymphatic system and creating the relaxation response. You are also refreshing and clarifying the brain with much-needed oxygen. We inevitably end up shallow breathing when tense, stressed, or even while engrossed at the computer, or during music practice. So it’s good to become aware about when this is happening, as otherwise you could be  missing out on optimising your practice time.

Did you know that deep breathing can be used cleverly in Practice and Performance at just the right moments  to refresh and revive?  Obviously one place is the actual pause sign in music. But there are many other suitable times when you could catch a  moment for a deep breath. Why not check out my book, Performance Confidence which contains plenty of examples. This all-important confidence-enhancing strategy is one of six for my ‘mindbody’ strategies program – to gain and regain performance confidence.  While each strategy separately is well known to create concentrational focus, give a sense of calm, and sustain energy, the six work together for a super-charged Gestalt effect – the end result being more powerful than the addition of each.

The holidays could be a great time to trial these strategies while going about your daily life, especially while recovering from the year and festivities, as well as assisting to motivate and get yourself back to health. Yes, these strategies are simultaneously health-enhancing strategies. Just note the difference in yourself over two weeks of use. Gradually you can start applying them to your practice, which is easy with the book’s guidance. You could even become your own performance coach. What a great start this could be for 2014!

Wishing you all a happy Christmas a and a refreshing, health-enhancing break!

 

A Nurturing Discipline for Quality Practice – Carmel Liertz

Have you noticed that when you are being kind to yourself, you have good feelings about yourself, feel a relaxed focus and have a great mindset to do well?

This ‘recipe’ could be used for quality practice.

The Problem:  It can be difficult to remember to be kind to yourself in practice sessions, particularly when you feel under pressure to get things done. It does require discipline to be aware of your mindbody instrument – learning to stop negative self-talk, and learning to stop for regular breaks to re-energise. Your sense of purpose (from sense of pressure) may feel so intense that you think, ‘I’m on a roll, must not stop!’  The passion, drive and perseverance are essential positive attributes for staying goal-focused and disciplined to get music learned and polished for performance. We don’t want to lose these. But at the same time we must learn to nurture ourselves in the process.  One could say that the same mental and emotional pacing required during performance is necessary for practice.

By pushing oneself on without sufficient breaks, any of the following can easily develop: tension and stiffness, brain fog, headaches, dehydration, a spike in blood sugar levels. You may not notice these negative signs until it is too late when you finish – dissatisfied and exhausted.

The Solution: Try practising in shorter, quality practice blocks which correlate with your mindbody fitness and concentration. This could be 30 minutes, 45 minutes or up to 90 minutes (if well-fuelled), with rejuvenation breaks between these practice sessions. (Even 10 minutes practice can be beneficial if a gap presents itself). Using the break between practice sessions to review what has been achieved will give you the necessary feedback on strengths and weaknesses, as well as motivation and insight for how to proceed. Nutrition breaks are also essential for refuelling the mindbody. ‘Performance Confidence’, the book/ebook, goes into great detail about this, demonstrating how to use such specific strategies, singly or in combination, to enhance your practice results. Many of these concepts you may not have heard of, or considered before. However, they are used by elite performers across various fields.

Dr. Ericsson (renowned researcher of ‘Deliberate Practice’) found that the best performers generally practice no more than 90 minutes – beginning in the morning, taking breaks between sessions, and training/practising no more than four and a half hours in a typical day.  While musicians may not often think about keeping their mindbodies fit for long-term practice, Ericsson emphasizes that individuals must avoid exhaustion and limit practice to an amount from which they can completely recover on a daily or weekly basis, in order to maximise their gains from longterm practice. Experienced performance coaches would say this makes perfect sense – avoiding exhaustion which can lead to chronic fatigue, preventing muscle fatigue and injuries, so as to be able to maintain a quality practice schedule.

Suggested Mantras for quality practice:

Listen to your mindbody                 Be kind to yourself.