Plans for the 2021-2022 school year
Needless to say, this coming school year feels anything but "normal," mainly because last school year was very unusual. The effects of COVID are the main reasons for this, and even now, after re-opening and half the country being vaccinated, there are still questions that loom. Almost all of my students meet with me in person now, but whether or not to organize a recital in November/December still hangs in the air, primarily due to concerns about the Delta variant and what potential this may have for children.
Nevertheless, I've been moving forward and plan to have a recital around that time (possibly November 13th, or later), and if new recommendations arise from public safety officials, I can always have that same recital, as planned, on Zoom -- the tricky part is figuring out how I would facilitate that, since I've never held a virtual recital before.
De-sensitizing (Oh God, they're all looking at me!!)
I've spent the last several months thinking about performance anxiety ("stage fright") and what role this plays in my life. It's also a little bit frustrating that it may be hard to book any performances in the near future, since some people are still hesitant to gather in large groups. My experience performing in front of large groups is, in many ways, a "love-hate" experience because on the one hand it's something I really want to do, and something I'd like to continue trying. This desire stems from a simple longing to share my own compositions with others, and the joy of having that connection with the audience. On the other hand, I've been known to experience the anxiety I mentioned, which usually manifests itself with trembling hands, a "shaky" foot and dry-mouth (very typical symptoms of performance anxiety). With this in mind, I've been pondering ways that I can manage these annoying symptoms.
I sometimes tell people that it's good to find experienced people, especially if they grant you their time to let you "pick their brains". I've been fortunate enough to do this--not to mention that I've been reading a book about a pianists' journey through stage fright--and a common suggestion is to gain more experience in "small" settings, like a group of 10 or 20 people. I've already taken action with this in mind, by sending an email to a coordinator at Enloe Hospital to see if I can volunteer to play their piano for their residents, on a volunteer basis.
My other idea is to try and organize some kind of "performance group", or a group of friends (or acquaintances/colleagues) who would all perform a short piece of music in a small-group setting. If I were able to find like-minded people, it would be a win-win. So far I have made a list of people who might possibly be interested. The next step is to contact these people and find a place to have these small performances.
The idea behind all of this is to "desensitize," but of course there are other methods that could possibly help me manage stage fright symptoms, which I might try as well (breathing exercises, meditation, running just before a performance, "tightening" exercises, etc.).
More $$$ for recording equipment??
As usual, I have been making efforts to record myself and to post more YouTube videos of my songs. One of the approaches I use now is that I record myself constantly. This way, it won't seem as intimidating or scary when I play a song that I plan to post online, because I'll be "used to" the awareness of being recorded. This has actually worked quite well, and I was also blown away because I had no idea that I cursed so much.. (watching the playback videos of me practicing astounded me, as I noticed myself cursing like a sailor when making a mistake :D ). The idea is that I'll record myself so much on a regular basis, even during practice sessions, that during a "real" recording session it'll hardly even occur to me that I'm being recorded, allowing me to play more "freely" and without inhibitions.
I still use ProTools software for my recording, which ends up with "okay" results, depending on what you compare it to. I conducted a whole series of tests this week and plan to do another series of tests in the coming days. I may have found an even more "ideal" approach, involving a medium volume level from the piano but increasing the gain on my editing software. But instead of boring people with details, I'll go right into the main issue: should I spend more money on better recording equipment? (And more time tackling the learning curve that comes with the purchase?) One way to put it is, quite simply, that I have more hours now at the Sutter County Superintendent of Schools, where I work part time (and a promise of a raise), more private students, and a significantly higher overall income than before. So I'm thinking that in the near future the answer to this question might very well be "yes".
Only time will tell, and by that time there may be some crisp sound quality coming out of those YouTube videos... or at least I hope.