No one told me to do this, but I seemed obsessed with watching all types of elite performers on television. Leonard Bernstein held me spellbound with his multiple gifts of communication. I also absorbed the sounds and touch of famous performers’ recordings in my parents’ collection. Around that time, my father took me to my first ‘live’ piano concert –to be seated on the stage (by chance) a short distance from the elder statesman piano legend, Arthur Rubinstein. I still remember his sounds, the deep impression his interpretations and heightened sense of communication imprinted on me, as he appeared to change his persona for each piece of music. That was the conscious moment I decided I wanted to be a performer– my first life-changing experience!
My tertiary music studies began at 16 (at conservatorium, then university) with additional parallel professional activities outside, involving all types of music – theatre (coaching actors/singers for plays, musicals, music director in performance), jazz in restaurants, classical radio broadcasts and ‘live’ concerts as soloist and accompanist. I didn’t realise then but the gifts of improvisation and photographic memory allowed me a wide variety of work possibilities. (I truly believe these attributes should be a necessary part of all music courses.) At 23, I became a music lecturer at the South Australian Teachers College involving additional on-campus performance duties. Although this was a dream position, after a year, I decided it was time to grasp my childhood vision of studying performance in Germany. A scholarship to the Munich Musikhochschule gave me my second life-changing experience.
I ended up staying ten years, absorbing the arts, culture and gaining extraordinary opportunities as performer and teacher. The Munich experiences shaped my life forever. On returning to Australia I started over in many ways but eventually got back to lecturing, presenting, and gaining a research grant for pioneering ‘Videoconferencing for Music Performance and Teaching’, thereby connecting with famous teachers for master classes at a distance –heralding the way of the future.
My third life-changing experience came when I chose to return to university to research ‘Performance Enhancement’, triggered by tertiary students asking for help to overcome the common performance challenges not being addressed in the performance curriculum. Exploring sport psychology literature, I read ‘Mental Training for Peak Performance’ for elite athletes, as though it were for musicians, and realised Sport Psychology fitted the needs of music performers, as it was oriented towards every aspect of training – ‘practice’, ‘lead-up’ and ‘performance. The resultant in-depth case studies trialing my newly-created strategies program for music performance enhancement revealed the surprise finding of tertiary students discovering ‘confidence’ in their diverse practice and performance experiences (while not knowing each other). This academic journey of ‘putting it together’ was life-changing for many reasons. Besides the cross-disciplinary research demanding a new holistic approach, there were the personal challenges I experienced along the way. I discovered I had chronic fatigue (while researching that fairly common affliction in elite athletes), and at another stage broke my elbow by falling on a tiled, wet floor.
However, both these major incidents became simply part of my research journey, as the strategies program I was creating proved ideal for healing both afflictions. When I realized that this mind-body strategies program developed performance confidence as well as a mind-body health, I knew I had created something unique. I was soon back to performing and felt I was obviously meant to be on this experiential research path, to learn for myself and serve others. I gained resilience from the obstacles as my clients have done since. It is only a few years back (while packing up my materials to move house), I was suddenly struck with the thought, ‘Oh, you’ve been on this performance enhancement path virtually all of your life!’, recalling the insight I gained as an eleven-year-old observing elite athletes, and incorporating this intuitively into my learning, practice and performance during my formative years.
I have now brought together all the threads of my life – performer; teacher; researcher; performance coach; presenter and author. I see how these areas overlap, interconnect and enhance each other. My special research interest remains ‘Inter-relationships between Stress, Mind-Body Health, and Performance’, which I consider imperative for our fast pace of life and increasingly demanding work portfolios. My personal take on life is that we must regularly nurture our mind-body instrument – give it space for reflection and recuperation, in order to allow our unique spirit to flourish. My holistic strategies program encourages this unique ‘mind-body awareness’ approach. With my special guidance, clients gain inner riches with internal and external successes they can draw on forever!