Earlier this month I was getting ready for a gig and agonizing over what to wear. Long dress? Short dress? Pants? All black? Color? As usual, I had a closet full of clothes and nothing to wear. I settled on a nondescript, semi-formal, all-black outfit and hoped I would not appear on camera.
When I arrived on site and met my collaborator, I thought, “He’s so lucky. All he has to do is throw on a black suit, and he’s perfectly dressed for any occasion.” And then it hit me. I, too, can throw on a black suit, and who’s going to stop me?
The more I thought about it, the more appealing wearing a suit became. If I’m required to wear all black, I can wear a black blouse under the jacket. If I’m feeling bold, I can swap in a colorful blouse or statement jewelry. If it’s cold, I can easily layer both tops and bottoms. (I swear by Uniqlo Heattech.)
A suit may not be the right attire for every occasion, but it’s an easy, safe default for a collaborative pianist. A girly-girl at heart, I’ll keep wearing dresses in warm weather, but for the other 9 months of the year (thanks, Boston), don’t be surprised to see me in a suit!
Assuming one is adequately prepared, why do mistakes still happen in performance? Some possibilities from my personal experience:
a) Distraction: Thinking about something non-musically related and performing on auto-pilot. Sometimes auto-pilot works just fine, but switching focus back to music is when things go wrong.
b) Evaluation: Thinking, “That could’ve been better,” or “This is going well!” Whether positive or negative, evaluation means I’m thinking about what already happened instead of listening and being in the moment. Not much different from a) in effect.
c) Self-doubt: Thinking, “Do I remember the fingering/notes here?” “Can I play this part?” Obviously the answer is “yes,” but the second I doubt it, I screw it up.
d) Forgetting: Some things require extra concentration or intentional counting to execute, and I don’t remember to do it unless it’s written in my score. (I’m sorry to report this worsens with age.)
e) Accidents: Sometimes mistakes just happen because we’re human.
Stay tuned for Part 2: Strategies to avoid f’ing up!