February 24, 2011
I remember a teacher telling me that I needed to be more of a warrior. How I was practicing and approaching performing just wasn’t cutting it. I needed to be more courageous and fearless. This is an area I’ve taken on for myself quite seriously, and I think I’m improving. Having role models and supportive mentors helps, but at the end of the day I have found it’s something that takes personal time and commitment, as well as patience to get to that cool warrior status as a performer.
What is a warrior? Wikipedia defines a warrior as “a person experienced in or capable of engaging in combat or warfare.” According to the Random House Dictionary, the term warrior has two meanings. The first literal use refers to “someone engaged or experienced in warfare.” The second figurative use refers to “a person who shows or has shown great vigor, courage, or aggressiveness, as in politics or athletics.”
I think the important part of this definition is being “capable” of doing something that takes a lot of guts, and this requires the said vigor and courage as well. And, we could easily add music at the end of the above definition, after politics or athletics. For sure music-making asks us, requires us, to be warriors.
I’ve been reading Don Greene’s “Performance Success”, and his website is also chock-full of warrior training exercises. One exercise, or suggestion, that I like the most is “constructing your boundary”, which “shields you from anything that is task-irrelevant…keeping your focus within your area of control.” Examples of boundaries include a musician from the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra who uses a ring of fire as her boundary, another musician based in LA surrounds himself with a group of lions, all facing out, and another one uses a moat filled with alligators to give a sense of security while performing. I think my favorite is a singer in NY who uses the image of a clear plastic eggshell, and then right before she goes onstage she zips herself up inside it.
The most useful exercise so far for me has been “Centering Down”. Here I’ll simplify the steps involved, and it’s worth to read the book yourself to get the full picture. The seven steps are:
1) Form your clear intention (ex: I will now play Schubert Variation no. 5 well)
2) Pick your focus point (below your eye level, a specific location)
3) Close your eyes, focus on your breathing
4) Scan for excess tension and release it (think about what “Key Muscles” you tend to tense up–for example for me I focus on the Neck, Shoulders and Throat)
5) Find your center (deep in your belly)
6) Repeat your process cues (this is different for everyone, but as a wind player I like “keep the air flowing”)
7) Direct your energy (this is a GO FOR IT feeling, direct energy out like laser beam and focus on making clear intention a reality)
Fantastic! Being a warrior performer is within our grasp, and worth the time invested. I’d be curious to hear your thoughts and other strategies you’ve used to towards becoming a fearless, courageous, and more warrior-like performer.
Laura Lentz ©2011
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