This research has been conducted between 2014 and 2016 during my master’s degree studies in violin/viola at Codarts. At the beginning of my studies I asked myself the question: what do I want or need to learn in the two years that are lying ahead?
It didn’t take very long to find the answer. The first objective I wanted to achieve was more physical and mental relaxation in performance: I wanted to feel more relaxed on stage in both ways, and I wanted to be more secure about myself and my musical decisions. I decided I wanted to improve this because I had noticed my tendency to put myself down. This negative self-talk created physical tension and had a negative effect on my performance, especially during auditions. I wanted to get rid of the negative thoughts and to learn to focus on what was really important, namely, the music. I believed this would help me to not only improve my playing but also display a more visually present personality during performing. In addition, I wanted to be able to give a deeper exposure of the music I played. I wanted to enlarge the musical contrasts and to pass on the musical expressions as deeply as I had in mind. Until then it had happened to me that my dynamic range, musical decisions, colors, and musical lines were received in a different way by my audience than I thought I had communicated, i.e., played them, so I wanted to be able to play bigger musical contrasts and thus expand my musical horizon and be able to share this with the audience.
How could I put these two goals into a valid research project? Many of the goals that I had wanted to reach could be found in the work of a concertmaster. Since 2008, I had been the concertmaster of several orchestras, one of which I had played with for many years. However, the tasks related to concertmastership I’d only learned on the job. I’d already discovered that being an orchestra member asked for responsibility of both the individual and the section and that concertmastership meant much more than that: concertmasters need not only to take care of musical and physical/leading aspects of the group, but also of mental and social aspects. I found that a concertmaster shouldn’t show low self-confidence, because this could have a negative effect on the first violins and would possibly spread to the rest of the orchestra. Besides this, I knew that the physical leading of a concertmaster needed to be very clearly visible and interpretable by the orchestra. However, when I watched old videos of myself leading, I saw I led in a timid way, even when I didn’t feel timid. I felt that I could improve my skills by gaining a more informed background and profound knowledge of the topic by doing research about the physical/communicative, social, musical, and the many other, often subtle aspects of concertmastership.
All of these considerations led to my research question:
How do I improve my skills as a concertmaster by developing the physical, mental, social and musical aspects required of the job?