Last semester, at Fullerton College, I met and developed what I suspect will be a lasting friendship with a fellow pianist, who we will call "Jessica", because that is her name. While she always demurs, I insist that she has a talent for piano coaching. Sometimes I just listen to a performance and I think it's so hopeless that all I can think is that I hate it, and I tune out. She on the other hand, always seems to be able to come up with something both constructive and appropriate (good comments are neither too trivial nor focused on musical elements currently beyond the student's grasp - the latter direction is the way I tend to err, I think).
I have not always listened to her diligently, that is, some comments of hers I may have heard and remembered but been skeptical enough not to give them great consideration. Among these was an observation that my tone suffers when I lean forward. I thought "interesting... maybe" or something along those lines, until my new teacher this semester (at Pasadena City College) made the same observation. That can't be ignored!
Okay, so maybe a person can get lucky once. But on other occasions, when I would make a serious performance of a piece, Jessica would yell at me "Breathe! Breathe! You're not BREATHING!" I'm not passing out, what's the problem? But last week, when I was not expecting any problems in the Bach Prelude I would be playing in my Applied Music class, what followed could only be described as a debacle. The students were kind in their comments. But key was that one of the most frequently recurring observations was that I was not breathing.
So later when I practiced the piece in tempo, I realized that indeed I was holding my breath. So now I am making some effort to gain control of this supposedly involuntary function when I perform. I noticed then when I exhaled, things immediately became much easier. This no doubt was greatly helpful when I played in a little scholarship competition at the end of the week; $500 was up for grabs and the judges elected to split it between me and the resident wunderkind. No disasters this time!
So, Jessica, anything else I never listened to you about?