A musician’s biggest fear is that they will be on stage, in front of an audience, and not be able to play. Sometimes the cause is stage fright. Sometimes there is a problem with equipment or sound. Perhaps you have a fever of 102, or maybe you prepared the wrong music.
Last night, I had a duo gig with saxophonist Jim Ferris. For the first set out of three, I felt great and was thrilled with how I sounded. Then, as if on cue, the bottom fell out and my hands wouldn’t respond and my mind went blank. I have no idea why that happened!
Today, I took a keyboard lesson with Steve Anderson at UNC. I had spent the week diligently preparing the material he had laid out. We played scales for a while, and I felt pretty good. Then when we switched over to practicing jazz tunes, I froze up and got very nervous. I found myself struggling with things that had been easy for me to play a few hours earlier.
It feels terrible when you can’t play all of a sudden. It can feel like there is a spotlight on you and everybody thinks you are a dummy. In reality, it’s not as bad as it seems. In music, unlike other professions, you can just walk away unharmed. I try to acknowledge that I did the best that I could, and keep practicing.
Sometimes, shows where someone messed up the music really badly can be the funniest and most memorable! Three or four years from now, I will look back and wonder how in the world I messed up something so simple.
And after all, those embarrassing moments are great motivation to sit down and practice harder.