Put on Your Game Face

Performing music successfully takes a number of skills.  You must master the technical demands of your instrument, learn music that is often challenging, and find a public venue where you can play.

One area that can easily be neglected is your stage presence.  The aura you portray on stage has a profound effect on your playing and on the feelings experienced by audience members.

If you look sheepish or embarrassed, these feelings will creep into your performance.  It’s difficult to play convincingly when your thoughts and body language betray you.

Like all musicians, I’ve had my share of things go wrong on stage.  My music has fallen to the floor.  A string has broken (most recently while I was soloing during a jazz gig).  I’ve had memory lapses, played wrong notes, missed cues, started the wrong song.

Luckily, I’ve been able to overcome these difficulties because of some great advice I’ve received from teachers and mentors:

“No matter what, keep going.”

“No one will get hurt because you made a mistake while playing music.”

“Always look confident.  The audience notices this.”

And, my favorite: “Put on your game face and keep playing.”

Like a baseball pitcher staring down an opponent or a poker player who is bluffing the rest of the table, you need to develop your game face.  Even if you have to fake confidence, you should always look like you’re ready to play the world’s best performance.

This means that, at all times when you’re on stage, you show nothing but confidence.  You want to be in control of the stage and the audience.  You need to feel that you belong on that stage.  Stand tall and do not let anything get you down.

The most difficult time to keep your game face is when a mistake happens in a performance.  But, we are all human and are bound to be less than perfect.  So, when the inevitable does occur, keep going and don’t change the expression on your face.  It doesn’t matter if you or one of your fellow musicians made the error–just pretend it didn’t happen and move on.

Much of the time, the audience won’t even know anything happened!  Often, even the other musicians in your group won’t notice if you played something wrong.  You can’t let on that anything happened.

On stage you are more than a musician.  You are a performer.  An actor.  A manipulator of the audience’s emotions.  Before you walk on stage, get in character and stay that way the entire time you are in front of the public.

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