Creating a gratitude practice can open up a world of confidence for the classical musician
The simple, daily practice of gratitude helps us shift our perspective from scarcity to abundance. As classical musicians, we exist in a space that is highly competitive, requires rigorous discipline, and where the level of excellence is both inspiring and intimidating. If we aren’t careful, our world can begin to close in on us. Messages, internal and external, of all the ways we fall short in our playing feel constricting - putting pressure on us to feel like the only way through is by being perfect.
Coming to terms with the elite nature of being in the field of classical music while also moving through it with confidence and grace can be tricky. We aren’t satisfied with less than stellar performances and we do want to play our best, but perfection is not achievable. That’s the beautiful and sometimes frustrating thing about being a musician. There are always ways we can improve, interpretations to explore, and nuance to massage. The music we play is So Rich - there are endless sonic landscapes for us to experiment on, but we can easily become overwhelmed by the same thing that makes our calling so amazing.
It is important that we find a way to savor the richness of classical music rather than become constricted by the challenges inherent within it. Gratitude can help.
When we begin to shift our perspective from one of being performative or “good enough” to one of WONDER and DELIGHT, the world opens up to us. Instead of a difficult technical excerpt causing you tension and stress, it becomes an opportunity for you to focus and improve a certain aspect of your technique. Or rather than being afraid of a big solo in orchestra, gratitude allows you to feel the gift of playing this incredible piece with talented colleagues. Or the finals of a concerto competition become a chance to feel proud that the work you’ve done has yielded such great results and encouragement that the committee clearly likes what you are doing.
The cool thing about gratitude is that it is transferable - when you intentionally look for wonderful things in any area of your life, the positive expansion you experience covers all areas of your life. So, the spiderweb covered in dew or the hug from your friend transfer into greater resilience in your practice session. The elderly couple holding hands or the shape of the leaves dancing in the wind support your mindset during rehearsal.
Beauty begets beauty. Nourishing thoughts create more nourishing thoughts.
How to Gratitude
Activate your senses. Smell the wet earth or the freshly cut grass; observe your feet on the pavement or the bird feathering her nest; listen to your spoon stir your coffee or the sound of your colleagues warming up; taste the sweetness of a peach or the coolness of your ice water; open your case, take out your instrument, and feel the cool metal under your fingers.
Activate your sensitivity. When you receive a compliment, when you witness a kiss, when you experience an amazing concert, or when you have time to do what you love, allow yourself to savor how good it feels.
Say thank you: in your head, on the page, out loud to a friend, to the universe on a starry night. Just say thank you. Again and again and again.
We are drowning in gifts and beauty. Receive it. It’s there for the taking.
Next Steps and Additional Resources
Here at The Musician's Mindset, we have some incredible resources for developing and implementing mindset practices that will transform how you perform on stage.
Founder of The Musician's Mindset
Katie is dedicated to helping musicians overcome stage fright and believe in their own unique artistic voice. She believes live classical music is a powerful antidote for the division, pain, and loneliness pervasive in the culture and strives to support all artists to confidently share their work with the world. She lives in Cincinnati with her husband, three kiddos, a dog, a snake, and a goldfish named Orca.