Active listening. Josep Caballe’-Domenech delivered his dress rehearsal message Saturday afternoon insisting that actively listening to every single part of the music is our most important charge. No players buried in their music stands--he wanted awareness. And it’s not just the individual musicians who must actively listen, the conductor also listens and responds to feedback. Alan Gilbert, music director of the New York Philharmonic on conducting, “One of the ways to make your sound better is to make it really obvious that you’re really listening and that it really matters to you what it sounds like.” He goes on to say, “As soon as it’s apparent that your ears are open and that you’re interested and you’re following the contour of the sound, then that very contour is affected by that.” Caballe’-Domenech is a fiery conductor who demands our best. In spite of the hard work, playing for him is a most rewarding orchestral experience. To be tuned in to each note and every nuance is beyond compare. It’s electrifying. When playing in the zone your senses are heightened. Constantly receiving feedback, musicians react with split-second precision. And just like he said, the orchestra is not a stage full of individuals playing their part; it is one instrument responding as a single organism.
In this scenario, musicians get feedback from their stand partners, section leaders, concertmaster, and conductor. Rehearsals are full of verbal feedback; in performance feedback is exclusively non-verbal. Musicians use their specific training to listen and respond to a huge number of variables--pitch, dynamics, articulation, style. They take the notes of the page and along with the interpreter, the conductor, and the information practiced and retained from rehearsals they work together to create a spontaneous musical experience. At the end the audience delivers even more feedback by way of applause, cheering and maybe even standing to show appreciation. By the time the performance is done, I know where I stand.
What happens to a musician when they can’t rely on feedback? Or their traditional notion of feedback is turned upside down? I’m also a member of a new kind of orchestra-the Twtr Symphony. Made up of musicians across the world recording remotely, it’s a whole new concept. “...While we approach performance in a very different way than other symphony orchestras, it is our extensive use of social media as a tool for connection which sets us apart." ~ Composer Chip Michael. We met first through social media by tweeting our personal plans, projects and experiences. Our feedback began as a supportive forum, then one by one we auditioned and became an orchestra.
When I started I had more questions than confidence. Alone in my studio with a piece of music and a click track, where was the feedback I wanted? What I got instead was harsh. The click track was a stern taskmaster. The playback was cruel. Neither were willing to bend--or lie. I found myself delivering my finished recording with tentative words, “if you need me to re-record just let me know.” With no stand partner to smile and no audience to clap I was looking for some kind of positive feedback, reassurance or a little pat on the back, hoping that my playing was good enough. After I sent my recording I had even more questions. How do I fit in the group? What does the orchestra sound like?
Maybe I was getting the feedback I needed all along. What happens when conventions are altered? We adapt. True I wasn’t getting “normal” feedback. Instead of concentrating on what I wasn’t hearing I had to look and listen a little bit harder. What was I really hearing? Enthusiasm. Excitement. And lots and lots of support. The Twtr Symphony is an orchestra that supports the group and supports each other. Just like the conventional orchestra I mentioned above we are more than individuals recording separate parts--we are united through support, sharing and investment in the outcome. That’s the amazing thing about social media--it really does connect us. My questions were replaced with confidence and trust. And I’m glad to be part of the adventure.
It's transition time. Back from a week of camping after finishing the summer opera season I'm trying to get back into some kind of routine. Oh, if only I could remember my routine. Practice. Exercise. Cook. Schedule students. Add 9 months of rehearsals and concerts to my Planner. Ah yes, it's coming back to me now. The school year reads like the back of a shampoo bottle--lather, rinse, repeat. Unfortunately my current lack of momentum makes a routine seem hopeless. So even though getting back to a regular daily schedule is at the top of my priority list it's also dead last in my consciousness. I need an Inside Out Makeover
more than ever. Which brings me to the next article in this series…..
Are you confident? Do you know someone who is? That's the first thing I notice in another. How they carry themselves. How they interact. How do they do it? Confidence is my Achilles Heel. And I envy those who possess it. After struggling with a lack of self-confidence for half a lifetime I have finally discovered the magic formula. It requires effort but the rewards are plenty. It doesn't require money or study; it does require….. acting. Just a few subtle, internal changes can make you seem
self-assured.Walk with purpose.
A confident stride goes a long way towards boosting your self-esteem. And it's best done in heels. Not only will they see you coming; they'll hear you too. YouLookFab's post, "Why High Heels are Fabulous,"
points out that increased height, shapely calves and the all-around girliness of high heels can make you look and feel fabulous.
This spring I was surprised to discover I had lost enough weight to wear a favorite pair of shorts. I dressed them up with a cute top and high-heeled sandals and headed for the market. I felt so pleased with my spring outfit and sassy heels that I strutted into that store like I owned the place. At the entry a fellow shopper pulled down his sunglasses to take a second look. At checkout, a clerk half my age flirted with me. I could hardly believe the effect of my purposeful stride. I left the store with a wry smile and renewed confidence. Posture.
I'm not going to tell you to stand up straight. Your mother already did. What I will share is a tip I learned from public speaking. In order to stand with an air of confidence you should first rise to a standing position, stop and take a moment to pull yourself up to your full height, take a breath, straighten your shoulders and then walk. This process may feel like it takes an eternity. Time is on your side. It may feel quite uncomfortable at first. As if all eyes are on you. Well, they are, but in a good way. Trust me. You will rise to any public occasion while exuding confidence and composure.Focus on your positives.
We all have good points and bad points. Why draw unnecessary attention to your negatives? Anna Quindlen wrote a hilarious article on this subject that has stuck with me through the years. "Putting Up a Good Front"
describes a woman who looks supremely confident and pulled together on the outside yet is hanging by a thread on the inside. She's me. And she's Everywoman. Read it and see yourself. Then the next time you leave the house with the hem of your skirt held in place by staples you'll laugh.
Confidence isn't a mask that hides imperfection's shame. It's knowing you can "act" self assured while realizing you're human. It's having the courage to get out there and strut your stuff.
#3 Power Wear
Third in a series on giving yourself an Inside-Out Makeover
, this step encourages you to find your special power garment and wear it to radiate confidence and authority.
I didn't notice my new attitude until this spring. Just like the previous year, my husband gave me a shoe shopping trip for my birthday. This time it was easy to choose. I'd heard so much about the barefoot running shoes Vibrum Five Fingers, I couldn't wait to try them. It was love at first step. I felt powerful and I felt free. In touch with nature I relished feeling the earth beneath my feet. Athletic and strong I was ready for challenge. Pliant and vulnerable I quickly adapted to the varied terrain.
Last year's gift was another story. I had barely celebrated my birthday when Mom's health took a turn for the worse and she died 5 days later. It was weeks before I was in the mood to shop for birthday shoes. But when I finally did, I made an interesting choice. I picked tough chick shoes. Black patent, strappy, towering heels covered in studs. Don't mess with me shoes. Armor for my feet. Although what I was really trying to protect was my heart.
Last year: warrior. This year: road warrior. Anyone who knows me is familiar with my love of shoes. But I was still surprised to see my confidence (or lack of) so obviously demonstrated in my footwear. And that got me thinking about power wear.
Wonder Woman has her unbreakable bracelets. My kids had blankies. There are days when we all could use an extra measure of self-confidence. Your power garment makes you feel invincible and keeps you safe. It's an item of clothing that makes you feel your best. It can be a signature item or your own little secret. It might be a special gift or a cherished heirloom. It's significance is your symbol of bravura. Whether it's your treasured earrings, those fabulous boots or even the most delicious perfume I'll bet you already know your power wear. Put it on the next time you need a boost. Better yet, wear it every day.
A few weeks ago a colleague and I were in the green room preparing for a concert. "I don't think I could ever wear skinny, white jeans" she said, "they would show every bit of cellulite." This woman is tall and reed thin and makes clothes look fantastic. I managed to mumble an agreement all the while thinking she would look stunning in skinny, white jeans. My mind was racing, "I wear skinny, white jeans and I don't look anything like her. Maybe I don't have any business wearing them."
Oh dear. It was a meeting of inner critics disguised as girl talk. Actually, I think we have similar image issues. We obsess over the imperfect details--our own details
--and trust that's all anyone
sees. To have a positive impact on your body image I believe in a two-step process--accepting yourself and dressing the body you currently have.
In January when I noticed my extra pounds I took another look at myself and my routines. My fashion attitude had taken a turn towards comfy sweats. It may sound trite but I had let things go. During the holiday break I wore roomy sweaters and baggy jeans. I skipped hairstyling and makeup. It was time for a pick-me-up. The internal shift towards acceptance is gradual--but it gets a boost from taking care of your outward appearance.
Feet hide from view in winter boots and cozy socks. Why not do something just for me? My first step-- a pedicure. Even if I'm the only one who will see my pretty toes. When Valentine's Day rolled around I wondered how to do something sweet for myself. I made an afternoon date at the Nordstrom cosmetics department where I had a Bobbi Brown
makeover and tried a new perfume--Grapefruit by Jo Malone
. In a few hours I looked and felt delicious and it didn't cost me a dime!
Next, the clothes. For me, clothes are creative expression. They reflect my mood, my sensibility, my whimsy. Putting them together is a little art, a little technique and a little more disguise. I'm a huge fan of makeover shows like "What Not to Wear
" and I have been for years. I love to see the positive and empowering transformations. Their advice "dress the body you have," is repeated on every episode. My current favorite resource to dress the body you have is the blog and so much more, YouLookFab
. On this excellent website you'll find body type guidelines, style advice and a welcoming, supportive forum. Using YLF tools
I went back through my closet to find the clothes that worked together and followed rules for my body type while making me feel my absolute best.
Newly accepting and freshly adorned I'm back to myself again, inside and out. And feeling confident allows me to support my gal pals too. Next time I see my friend I'm going to tell her to go shopping--because she would rock a pair of white, skinny jeans!