At a pre-performance lesson, 12-year-old Tim played through his piece from start to finish, then shook his head. “No, that wasn’t good. Let me try again.” The piece was Fur Elise and he had invested a lot of time and effort into learning it. As his teacher, I wanted to go over a few points with him, but instead I agreed to listen again.
This time the piece flowed and Tim played with a confidence that had been missing before. As he played the final chord, he looked up grinning. “I did it!”
“Congratulations!” I said. “How did you do it?”
“I just imagined there were a million Julies in the room, all supporting me and cheering me on.”
It was a startling vision. The room crowded with a million me’s. Did he come up with this idea all on his own?
“One of my teachers told me about it,” Tim said. “You see, when the audience is with me, I go up – up – up” – he sat taller and raised his hands over his head. “But when they’re not with me I just go down.” He slumped in his seat. Tim performs on stage in theater productions so he’s quite tuned in to audience response.
It was brilliant. No matter what mood the audience was in, Tim found a way to always have the support he needed to give the best performance he could.
As a teacher I spend plenty of time guiding my students through the nitty-gritty details of learning a piece. I also have my bag of tricks to help them enjoy playing expressively. This experience with Tim has made me aware of another element in the mix –the support and encouragement that we give to each other.
Most students receive encouraging comments, smiles, and hugs from parents, friends, and relatives. Adult students also need encouragement, and if it isn’t forthcoming they can create their own support group by letting friends know what they need.
When students receive support like this regularly, their confidence grows. They’re able to accomplish their goals, play the music they want to play. Many students love to try on the role of teacher by showing siblings and friends how to play a song on the piano. They will mimic the kindness and patience they have received from their own teacher. The loving energy of support gets passed on down the line.
At some point though we all need to learn how to support ourselves. Others will not always approve of us or be there at the exact moment we need them. This is why this visualization is so valuable. Through the power of imagination we can transform the support we’ve received and multiply it by a million. Our belief in ourselves rises up and suddenly it’s happening. We are playing the way we always knew we could.
We all have innovative solutions like Tim’s just waiting inside us. The next time you come up with one why don’t you spread the word so we can all benefit from your brilliance?