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March - March Madness - Part 2 - APTA festival - overcoming performance anxiety & networking 190520

I am finishing my March post because I have some free time now. I brought my laptop on my vacation with me so I had started this two part blog at the end of March so forgive the tardiness of this second post. (I added more to this blog today)

On March 8th, I participated in the APTA festival for the first time and decided to do something new to push myself and that was to perform more than 1 piece for adjudication - I performed 3 - a Bach Prelude, a Schubert Waltz and a Duke Ellington jazz piece. I was able to try out my preventative measures to alleviate performance anxiety and I will tell you they they all worked fabulously. My recital class was scheduled 8:15 pm. So that morning , I went to a step workout class where I really pushed myself so it was a hard workout and a half hour before I was scheduled to perform, I ate a semi-ripe banana ( at about 8 pm). In addition, I planned what I was going to do. I was going to play the Bach and Schubert pieces by memory so I practiced them by memory. But the Ellington piece I already knew was a far way from being memorized so I decided that I was going to have the music in front of me at the adjudication so I also practiced my piece, reading with the sheet music as well. This was something new for me as I have never played a piece at an exam, recital or festival unless I had memorized it. So I did really well at the festival in terms of quelling my performance anxiety. I felt quite calm while playing and when I had memory lapses with the Bach piece, I was able to correct them almost immediately. With the Schubert piece, I played it the best I have ever played it - I think the success of this piece was due to the stars aligning and the calming factors I had in play as I have had unsuccessful runs afterwards with this piece. A sign that I need more time to master it. And with the Elllington piece, I was able to play relatively well with the music even though I was playing it straight instead of swinging it. I was to learn how to do that later. So to recap my performance at the APTA festival taught me that there are concrete steps that you can take to control your anxiety - 1) vigorous exercise to release existing tension and stress, 2) planning how you will play the piece in terms of realistic goals whether you really have it solid in your memory or if you actually do need to have the music and if so, do your practicing with the music 3) eat a ripe banana about a half hour before performing. Those were my learning achievements of my APTA reciital experience but I had further surprising expeiences.

When I first reached the APTA festival venue, which was the Renfrew Baptist Church, I re-connected with someone who I had not seen for several years. At that time, she was the neighbour of my friend, Pam. Her name is Nikki Herbst-Walker and I had remembered her mentioning that she was a piano teacher then. She was surprised to hear about my piano journey and I also gave her a business card for our adults learning music support group. After my adult recital class was over, which was the intermediate class for levels 5-8, I joined Edel at the junior class for levels 1-4. There were way more adults at the junior one(I counted 7) as there was only my friend, Kathy and I, at the intermediate class. ( Edel had come to my class to give me support and then left to go to the junior class to give her support to another group member, James, who was playing in the junior class to give him support as well. Edel is the vice-president of our group.) Later when the junior class was over, Edel and I talked informally to a few of the participants to inform them of the existence of our group and to encourage them to join us. We distributed some cards to these learning pianists. I was surprised to get an e-mail from one of these learning pianists, Kathleen, a few days later about her interest in joining our group. I use the term 'surprised' because usually Edel and I try to recruit but people don't really take us up on our offer of joining our peer support group. It turns out that Kathleen is actually a student of Nikki's as Nikki informed me in a follow-up e-mail. In addition, Nikki had visited my website and learned that Robert was my teacher who she told me is a personal friend of hers. So yes, this world is really small. I also saw Jennifer Latta at the festival, another piano teacher who Edel and I met at CASSA adult piano camp last year. Lastly, while I was volunteering for the APTA festival, I met and talked to Kay Alexander. We had a long interesting conversation and as a result of that conversation, I asked if she would give us a masterclass which she did on the evening of May 7th to 4 group members. So you can see that the festival turned out to be an excellent networking event for me! I hope to participate next year.

I am proud to announce that we also have had two community service music concerts on March 16 and May 11 at Carewest Royal Park. Eri, who is studying classical guitar, came to both of these concerts and she is one of the seasoned performers that we will be partnering up with in our future concerts. My friend, Kathy, has agreed to also perform with us and I have also just recently connected with a cello player, Judy, who is part of a trio - the other two being a violinist and pianist. Judy's trio is willing to partner with us as well to do community service concerts. I will be looking to book another concert in June shortly. The community service mandate of our group is progressing nicely. I will keep you posted on further developments on this front.

Lastly, I want to talk about how important it is for music students to listen to music and attend live concerts. This is something that Robert encourages me to do - he states that critical listening is really important. Your focus is to really hear all that the performers are conveying in the piece. Of course when you are at a live performance, you are paying full attention but when you are listening to a CD, it might be tempting to do something else while listening but multi-tasking is not good for critical listening. Give it your whole attention. I have come to really embrace this in recent months. On our spring break trip to Toronto which was the last week in March, we attended a number of music events - the Dear Evan Hansen musical, a TSO concert featuring Schubert and Bruckner and a jazz concert by the Mark Eisner quintet at the Rex. Back in Calgary, I attended a Westwinds Spring Band Concert (Elena, one of our group members, plays in the Silver Concert Band), a Woodhouse Big Band concert (my friend, Madhu plays alto and soprano sax)and on the last day of April, I attended the Melissa Aldana concert as part of International Jazz Days. Melissa is considered a savant - I heard her do things with the tenor sax that I have never heard anyone else do. She was totally amazing! And on May 10, I attended a CPO concert featuring piano concertos of Bach and Liszt. Previous to this concert, I did my homework and listened to the piano concertos at home beforehand. I definitely preferred Bach to Liszt at that concert. And on May 31, I am attending a classical guitar concert at Koi - Stephen and Eri will be playing. And I already have plans to attend another CPO concert and two jazz concerts so far! So many music events and so little time!

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