I can do this!

Here’s the best-ever visual of a Sonata Piano Camper performing during the March Sonata marathon concert.

Photo by Todd Pinter

Yes! You can do it! Photo by Todd Pinter

Carrying a sign like this over her shoulders poked at her great sense of humor and allowed her to play well! Once you’re up on the stage, you CAN do it, whether battling or celebrating your inner demons while performing. You’re up there and you are DOING it!

We all can be uncomfortable on stage but sometimes you have to put yourself in uncomfortable situations to help you work through your anxieties. Perhaps it’s helpful to share an experience I had a few years ago traveling with my family.

Back in the winter of 2011 our family traveled to Costa Rica for two weeks of fun in the sun. Before our departure, I promised our two teen boys that I’d do everything they were going to do while we were there. I stated this out loud because I can be a chicken and I didn’t want to disappoint them nor, truth be known, myself. I knew the flight alone was going to be a challenge for me. But, off we went.

Upon our arrival, I struggled with the the van we were in taking us up and down dirt roads traversing mountains with precarious cliffs on one side of the road. Worse, there were no guard rails protecting me from what I thought would ultimately be a rollover sometime on our trip. Thankfully, the driver remained calm and I started to relax because it was so beautiful.

Heading for the mountains, note the dirt roads

Heading for the mountains, note the dirt roads

My first challenge was a zip lining excursion. I have a thing about heights. Always have, perhaps because I’m just a whisker over 5’1″. The boys heartily reminded me that I made a promise to follow through. During the orientation part of what to expect up on the metal zip line, we were all asked who might like to be taxied. I was the only one who immediately said “me, me!” I did not want to be left alone hanging on a skinny piece of twisted metal midway. I cracked up that a complete stranger was my “taxi driver” who immediately wrapped his legs around me like a monkey. After one zipline section, several people asked to be escorted like me. Maybe they liked the company I was experiencing! Challenge #1 had been completed and I managed more than a very good time. This made me feel proud.

Starting out with the gear on

The belts and helmets were pretty cool

This gave me pause

But this gave me pause

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A taxied Polly (thankfully, too)

Hanging bridges so you get a sense of the heights we climbed

Hanging bridges so you get a sense of the heights we climbed

Next upon us was white water rafting. If heights are an issue for me, fast moving water is even more of a fear. The entire car trip to the riverbanks was spent white knuckling my doubts about getting into the raft. When we arrived, life preservers were handed out. I put mine on and thought to myself: no way.  The raft captain wouldn’t have any of that, he kept encouraging me and telling me to trust him and so I got in with loads of trepidation. The river started off peacefully but gradually got more wild as we continued downstream. However, something happened to me in the process. The fear totally shifted when I allowed myself to feel the raft floating on the water and noticed how calm the water felt under it even when it was going around rocks and slamming against surrounding banks. Despite water up my nose and in my eyes, I loved every moment of this despite my incredible fear of drowning. The river trip was, by far, my favorite thing to do in Costa Rica even though it initially was my most dreaded event.

Now blue helmets

Blue helmets, paddles and life preservers

Am I really doing this?!

Looks like I’m missing! Am I really doing this?

I seem to the one swallowed up

I seem to be the one swallowed up

Riding the water - what an awesome sensation

Riding the water – what an awesome sensation

Almost there

Almost there

I will try to remember the positive outcome of all the fear I worried about the next time I’m doing something uncomfortable. Hopefully those of you reading this will remind yourself to just go for it when the last thing you want to do is perform. Another gentle reminder is that performing can be like running – the first mile is no fun but once you find your rhythm, the rest of the run will go that much easier. Focus on the things that will help guide you, whether it’s the complimentary comments you received during your lessons, hearing the sounds you’re making at the moment, delighting in the meter of a piece or the rhythm of the notes or getting into the character or emotion of the piece and noticing that it’s coming across to your audience. Allowing yourself to accept the fear but at the same time be in the moment with the music will carry you far.

Right now: imagine the piece you’re going to play and get on with the show and say to yourself “I can do this!” The sky is the limit!

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The sky is the limit!

About Polly van der Linde

Pianist, teacher, director of International Piano Camps in VT, for adults and children of all levels of ability
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2 Responses to I can do this!

  1. lya says:

    what a wonderful experience! regards

  2. Hi Lya, Sorry I didn’t respond to your comment – I’m just seeing it now. Thanks for reading my blog

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