How a tool that shows us the stars can help us when we are on stage.
The other evening I visited the Cincinnati Observatory which houses the oldest telescope in the Western Hemisphere. It’s made of brass and mahogany and has been magnifying wonder for close to two hundred years. It’s housed in a building referred to as “The Lighthouse of the Sky” which could have been the inspiration for the set of Hugo with it’s ancient cranks and pulleys. The dome is pulled by hand to rotate, pieces of metal and glass elegantly constructed to allow a sliver of the sky to be seen at a time.
And in the middle stands the telescope. A telescope whose mission has always been to be “The People’s Telescope.” Yes, the Observatory has employed astronomers who used the telescope to calculate and measure the stars and map our piece of the night sky. But the beating heart of the telescope is to allow people like you and me to have a moment with the universe. A moment of awe, of wonder, of serene contemplation.
It serves as a portal to a landscape we can barely glimpse with our just our eyes. It opens our imagination to what could exist in the vastness of the universe. It allows us space to reflect on our place in it all. It feeds a piece of our spirit with possibilities and dreams.
And you know what, dear musician?
You do the Same. Exact. Thing.
You stand at the center of the stage, but instead of telescoping out into the vast universe, you allow us to go inward. You create sound and color which shines light on the pieces of us that make us uniquely human. You make music that stirs our emotions, gives voice to something that exists outside of language, and stirs awake that which had been numb and depleted by the routine of life.
Dozens, hundreds, thousands come to listen to your music. Not in judgement, but in hope. They come to be fed. They come to be seen. They come because you offer a beautiful portal into themselves that they can’t find any other way.
There is a star map written on each and every person’s heart - a map created by experience, by emotion, by knowledge, by wisdom - and your music allows people to read their own, unique design.
You are the telescope that allows your audience to stand in awe of their own humanity.
3 Things to Remember On Stage
Here are three things to remember as you stand at the center of the stage, in the front of the round room, and begin to open the portal to your audience’s heart maps:
1. It is not about you. As beautiful as your playing is and as many hours you have spent refining your interpretation of the music, the moment you weave together melody and harmony on stage is the moment your audience is brought to that secret place within themselves. They are not listening for intonation or tone color or articulation. No, their hearts are cracked open wide and they are experiencing your music on a somatic and soul-filled level. They are all absorbed in their own personal star map.
2. A heart does not demand perfection. The heart of the human longs to be touched, ignited, and expressed. It doesn’t long for perfect. It longs for vulnerable. That is why a performance from a youth orchestra playing Firebird with all the uninhibited, messy passion of teenagers can stir us to tears while the same piece played “perfectly” by a professional orchestra can leave us feeling empty. Be brave. Become enraptured with the music and your audience will be swept away, too.
3. The fear means you’re all in. Tremor in your hand, adrenalin in your veins, sweat on your brow … these are signs that you are invested, that you care, and that you are ready. Take some deep belly breaths, repeat your affirmation, and ground yourself to the earth. You don’t need to fix the fear. Acknowledge it, allow it to move through you. And know that all you need to do is show up just as you are.
When I peered through the almost 200-year-old telescope, I felt a deep sense of connection. Thousands of humans have looked in that same eyepiece and wondered at the majesty of the universe. We all had our own unique experience using the exact same vessel.
The same is true with music. When you play, you are creating connection between every human who has ever heard that piece of music.
You are the vessel for their unique experience.
That is a profoundly special thing.
Be encouraged. The work you do matters.
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.
First, check out our Personalized Mindset Tools Quiz to discover the mindset strategies perfect for YOU!
Join the waiting list for my FREE mini-course, How to Stimulate Your Vagus Nerve and Calm the Heck Down.
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.