Flute Punch

Failure, Part 3: The Strategic Encounter

Posted on: October 1, 2012

In my previous 2 posts, we looked at examples of failure, the need for failure, and why the fear and impact of failure is so much greater for younger musicians in particular. I suggested thinking of performance as a pie. As musicians, we look at performances as indicators of our talent. Do we have what it takes to succeed under pressure? So if we bomb a performance, especially if we have only experienced very few performances in our lives, that failed performance takes up a much bigger percentage of our psyche than it would for a performer who has a lot more experience.

We look at failure as being something we can’t control, which is somewhat true. Certainly, a primary defence against failure is preparation. (Which reminds me, I need to practice, LOL.) But a lessor known defense is to provide yourself with safe opportunities to fail. Suggestions!

  • Record yourself at home
  • Perform at church or for family (these are usually safe and forgiving audiences)
  • Perform at nursing homes (this helps the residents as well as yourself)
  • Take every audition you can, even if you’re on the younger/less experienced side of the other applicants
  • Do a lot of sight-reading
  • Play in every ensemble you can

Quantity is vital here. Remember, you are building your performance pie. What will you learn from all this? You will learn what success and joy in performing feels like. You will also learn how to fail. More specifically, you’ll learn:

  • How to keep your cool when things aren’t going well
  • The warning signs of an impending failure
  • How to “correct course” when you feel those warning signs
  • How to fake your audience into thinking everything is great (see the first bullet above)
  • That it won’t kill you

Last word: We need failure like we need salt – not too much, but definitely a bit sprinkled here and there. We need it to really develop as musicians, and as human beings. We also need it because every time we live through it, we learn that while our failures help make us who we are, they do not define who we are.

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1 Response to "Failure, Part 3: The Strategic Encounter"

Very well said! Forcing myself to sightread something new each time I practice has not only helped my playing, it has also increased my confidence. “Faking it” has proved most helpful in my performances.

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