- Introducing myself – Carmel Liertz’s background
- Themes of the moment – the Zeitgeist
- The musician’s special role in today’s world
- ‘We are all in this together’ – feedback and suggestions
Introducing myself – Carmel Liertz’s background
Being essentially a passionate person who enjoys developing insights across various fields, I remember the day many years ago when I exclaimed to myself: ‘Everything is related to everything else!’
Fast-forwarding back to childhood, my love and natural talent for the piano revealed itself round 4 years of age when I can remember playing familiar melodies with the appropriate chords. Listening intently to my parents’ collection of piano recordings of Paderewski playing his ‘Minuet in G’, Gieseking’s Mozart, Julius Katchen’s Chopin, and Solomon’s Beethoven, I would also try to play whatever I heard. From the beginning I simply loved chords, and heard harmony (I now realise) as shifting colours in music. Finally at 7 I was allowed piano lessons. When 11 I was invited to perform Chopin on a children’s television programme. At 12, I was church organist, and by 16 I was playing regularly in concerts and as restaurant pianist, theatre pianist and repetiteur. So it was clear that I would be multi-faceted. My improvisation ability allowed me to cross many areas, and encouraged my brain to do likewise. Learning in all areas has been for me a life-long pleasure.
In Brisbane, Australia, I was blessed during those impressionable teen years (14, 15, 16) to have weekly Queensland Conservatorium piano lessons with renowned Australian pianist /composer /teacher / musicologist, Larry Sitsky. I became enveloped in the classical world of music (though never stopped improvising and listening to jazz pianists). Larry Sitsky set the stage by sharing his many activities during my inspirational lessons – sometimes showing me his latest composition, giving a glimpse into his early research on Busoni, and of course, illuminating the way by demonstrating piano performance. I soaked up this holistic teaching, which also encouraged piano composition (developing my structural understanding) and music listening outside of lessons (broadening my musical view). Among the ‘ah-ha’ moments were his demonstrations in how to devise creative practice solutions for any challenging musical passage, a practice I still teach today. He also became a significant mentor, assisting me to gain at 16, a full-time scholarship to that conservatorium. The many insights gained during those teen years shaped me into the person I became – one who enjoyed the combination of teaching, performing, coaching, researching, presenting and writing. One cannot underestimate the life-changing effects of inspirational teaching and learning through the detailed and broad vision of such a master teacher. Other major influences during those teen years were Artur Rubenstein’s musically powerful sense of communication in a ‘live’ performance, along with Leonard Bernstein’s and Andre Previn’s classical and jazz renditions from afar. The university music degree course that followed was a totally different experience, providing the necessary life lessons in persistence.
As a new graduate, I enjoyed immensely serving as the Queensland Conservatorium’s official accompanist with performance opportunities coming from all directions. This was an extremely rare time in Australia when the politics allowed the arts and creative artists to flourish. Accepting a teachers college lectureship took me to another end of Australia at 23 and provided a living as resident performer, instrumental teacher and lecturer. However, this also re-ignited a teenage desire to study further in Germany. A year later, a German scholarship for piano, pedagogy, and accompaniment studies at the Munich Musikhochschule finally appeared as my dream come true. Living in Munich for 10 years meant experiencing the German culture and history, as well as regular close-up concerts with such luminaries as Maurizio Pollini, Emil Gilels, Annie Fischer, Martha Argerich, Murray Perahia, Friedrich Gulda, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, and others. Two young talented students I had the privilege of teaching during that time have since become recognised German music artists – Ludwig Eckmann (film composer and sound engineer) and Sylvia Dankesreiter (concert pianist).
Some years after returning to Australia, a new developmental phase began with my research journey into music performance. This was prompted by the questioning of my university students, as well as my own realisation that performance psychology principles needed to be incorporated into performance practice. A Vice-Chancellor’s Award Grant gave me the opportunity to pioneer work in ‘Videoconferencing for Music Performance Enhancement’ – enabling trials between institutions to access master performer teachers across the country. Just prior to this, I had personally experienced this technology as a university performer teacher, receiving a most enjoyable videoconference lesson with Prof. Lev Vlassenko, then Head of Piano at the Moscow Conservatoire, while he visited Sydney. So he was in a piano studio many hours away from where I was playing at the piano. Deciding on academic research for performance enhancement (as a mature-age student) brought about the desired enquiry, research methodologies, and the creation and trialing of an educational training program for performance enhancement. The combined outcome from tertiary students using the program was totally unexpected – newfound ‘Performance Confidence’. Thus, the first training program for developing performance confidence was presented in 2002, using my ‘Mind-Body Awareness’ approach based on sport psychology’s proven performance principles and Bandura’s Self-Efficacy Theory . My aim was to fill the gap in music performance education and enable music students, teacher performers, and concert artists to manage practice and performance confidently in stressful, competitive learning and performance environments. The comprehensive training book followed in 2009 with the accompanying ebook version in 2012-13. Elite sport training programs use holistic training approaches. Especially noteworthy is that in the intervening years, the fields of health and medical science also advocate these ‘mind-body’ strategies for everyday health and performance.
Since 2002, I have been confidence-coaching all types of musicians for success in managing practice and performance, assisting with preparing for exams, gigs, concerts or competitions, and assisting teacher performers and concert artists to remain on top and maintain wellness in their demanding daily work. I also continue to monitor closely the research of health/stress/performance inter-relationships to benefit my clients and me. Institutions and performer teachers nationally and internationally began acquiring Performance Confidence: A Training Program for Musicians, and soon after glowing reviews arrived.
After so many years of detailed endeavour, it is a joy to see that this holistic training method for performance confidence was included in International Piano Magazine’s roundup of new international piano methodologies in their Sept/Oct 2014 issue.
http://www. international-piano.com (p.41, 43).
My journey continues in the healthy performance direction.
The Zeitgeist points to unrest and trauma in all its forms with only uncertainty at best. While we are connected instantly technologically speaking as never before, a personal disconnect with one another grows, and demanding our attention are further relational issues such as disharmony with the planet and its environment, a mindless need to add to the damage of the natural environment, and inevitable diseases within ourselves. We ignore at our peril that human beings are designed to be part of nature. Climate change is controlling not only our weather but affecting the planet, its land and sea environments, unique fauna and flora, and – at any moment – our local environment, food supplies, health, work and our psyche. Though we may be overwhelmed with all that is being exposed daily in the media, some positive signs of a new paradigm in thinking are surfacing, mainly from a ground swell of ‘awareness’ in increasing numbers of people across the world. We should not ignore these signs. We need to be part of positive world change if we wish to see the changes we desire, for we are all in this together. Inevitably what affects others affects us. Doing nothing is not an option. The political is personal and the personal is political. Fortunately signing online petitions is one easy method available to assist with making positive change happen – helping those less fortunate who are experiencing atrocities, but also bringing about political change when enough people make the effort to make a difference. Otherwise, ‘silence like a cancer grows’.
Musicians cannot work isolated from world events. Dealing with uncertainty simply has to be considered in life and career equations.
Some of the major themes of the moment commanding our attention:
- CLIMATE CHANGE ; INCREASING NATURAL DISASTERS
- ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANCE
- HEALTH AND WELLBEING
- TRADITIONAL FORMS OF HEALING
- ‘WE ARE ALL ONE’ (DESPITE OUR DIFFERENCES)
- CONNECTEDNESS – WITH SELF, OTHERS, NATURE, THE ENVIRONMENT
- SCIENCE MEETS SPIRITUALITY (Bruce Lipton, Deepak Chopra, and other medical science researchers)
- ‘THE BIOLOGY OF BELIEF’ (Bruce Lipton)
- FINDING OUR INNER VOICE AND EMPOWERING OTHERS TO DO THE SAME (Stephen Covey)
- MEDITATION – A WAY FOR INNER AND OUTER PEACE (Deepak Chopra)
- POSITIVE PSYCHOLOGY (Martin Seligman)
Musicians are especially in an ideal position to be positive voices in a troubled world. By understanding their own need for health and wellbeing, musicians can transmit the significance of music and music-making for general health and wellbeing. Research is just brimming with the positive attributes that learning any form of music offers – from gaining self-confidence, enhancing IQ, improving health and well-being, and alleviating chronic health issues. But there remains still a huge gap for ground-roots recognition of society’s need for all types of music. So musicians and music institutions everywhere have a valuable role to play locally, nationally and internationally.
It is clear that musicians making the most impact are those who have found their individual voices, their unique qualities, and are fearless about striking out along different paths, having learned to communicate sincerely and optimally. Without doubt, self-belief plays a major role in developing the necessary courage required to gain confidence, to develop persistence and success (whatever success may mean for the person). We know that no amount of technical brilliance by itself can move people emotionally, or make up for a lack of self-belief. So the question for me is, “Why aren’t we working more intensely on self-belief?” My training program /book /ebook has been created especially to address this. www.performanceconfidence.com
Creating or re-creating inspiring music can be so powerful that it can create peace anywhere – for some time at least. So let us keep playing and singing. Thankfully, music is the universal language that speaks to all nationalities and breaks down boundaries. All musicians have a say in how they might play a part in this. Finally, I’d like to leave you with the thought that the influence to empower others positively and effectively lies in the hands and voices of all great communicators, including those of musicians and music educators. The musician’s catch-cry could be: ‘Let me make a difference!’
I would welcome your feedback and suggestions for themes of interest to discuss in future Newsletters. As we are all connected throughout the world at this particularly significant moment in history, it is surely of utmost importance that we support each other, while keeping each other motivated and inspired, to do the work we feel is our life’s purpose. Making positive thinking a daily habit is essential! By feeling passionate about whatever we choose to do, positive energy can transfer to all those with whom we come in contact. Imagine the ripple effect of positive energy reaching out locally, nationally and internationally?
– Carmel Liertz