Individual session logbooks and performance logs
The logbook entries varied in style, reflecting very different personalities. Many of the themes and goals however were shared. All (even the younger and/or or non-English native speaking) participants provided extremely articulate and insightful comments.
Insights from the individual participants can be found in the table on the right.
The logbook entries of participant 1 were full if ideas, strategies and insights as well as evidence of reading and applying literature about musicians’ learning.
The goals started with getting to know the team, exploring musical expression, focus, and objective observation of themself. In the second session, goals moved towards time management, having space for discussion & sharing views and feedback and improving trust during playing as well as exploring establishing and keeping task focus & dealing with distraction during playing. The goal for the third session centred on letting go of (over) control whilst playing – physically and cognitively, and to be an objective observer whilst playing: “experiencing the experience”. In session 4 the focus was on having endurance and confidence. The goal for session 5 was to ‘celebrate’ and ‘have fun’ through performing a demanding piece.
Challenges during the sessions were connected with timekeeping and giving objective feedback.
Participant 1’s strategies were creative and well matched to the goals, and the insights reported were astute and inspired. Comments about the sessions included noting how a high empathy and flow of communication and decision-making occurred, and that efficiency of the meetings progressed over time. Over the period of five weeks, this musician developed in their ability to learn from both positive and negative outcomes.
I’ve tried the method of ‘imagine yourself as in a practice room during performing’. It was interesting to see how my muscles immediately adapted to the mindset and relaxed in turn. I played the piece, very slowly and focusing on the musical direction within the phrases, instead of allowing the challenging passages to cause tension over my body. I felt that I was improvising among the notes, which was exactly the point! It was an amazing experience for me and I am really grateful to have the opportunity of being able to explore this on stage.
This participant made two performances at the end of the project, with four days in between. The performance logs listed engagement, expression, enjoyment, connection with the pianist, self-confidence and flow as important criteria. Both performances were scored highly (self-report). A striking insight was that the exam (2nd) performance was missing stress: stress is a really significant component for engagement and without it, one may miss the ‘flow’ – focus does not bring flow.
Participant 2 used the project to explore and understand how stress affects their performance and gain objectivity and ways to focus. Goals began with getting to know the others, try out and observe strategies and enjoy expressing themself via music. In subsequent sessions, goals involved more specific and gradually longer passages of music. Finally the goal was to be in a state of flow whilst performing.
The strategies used involved stepping out of and expanding the comfort zone, increasing of task difficulty & complexity over the sessions and trying new ideas, strategies and ways to focus. The results included collecting useful technical insights as well as being able to extract valuable information and insights from each session (even from disappointing performing experiences), and building up trust resulting in a feeling of confidence for the exam: I saw the importance of ‘excitement’… not stress […] I know that I will do my best and it will be great!
The performance log for the exam showed a satisfaction that this participant was able to play in an authentic way that demonstrated their actual level, fulfilling their goal of showing what they learned during the year, express their feelings and telling a story with the music: I played more like me, I was not imitating anyone during my exam and it felt / went very well. I played every passage correctly and freely. Reflections also included a desire to learn more self-trust and show more ‘fire’.
Participant 3 was interested in playing difficult repertoire and challenging themself to play under pressure, using the peer group to see what was coming across. Other goals included building confidence, improving performance both technically and musically and finding more ease/efficiency and therefore endurance. The goal for the final session was to keep a musical focus (in anticipation of the upcoming recital). These goals were explored by developing strategies for focusing more on musical intention and less on technique, finding ways to use less effort and tension, finding more characters connected to the music and playing by memory. Challenges experienced included playing in front of others, playing without involving too much tension and staying in the moment.
The sessions brought insights about balancing aspects of playing and knowing what to focus on and resulted in more confidence and joy: My joy and love for playing were really present and I had a good time, which was evident and also coming back to me from my peers. This moment was very significant for me and I am eternally grateful to have felt this way – in flow and fully engaged – on stage, sharing with other musicians. A huge, remarkable step in the right direction and very visible and audible for the audience.
The participant made two performances with performance logs with 4 days in between. The second (exam) performance was preceded by a week of intense stress and nausea. In spite of this and the extremely demanding program the participant had a very positive experience: was able to play expressively, navigate the physical challenges, remain focused on musical intentions and enjoy sharing the music better than expected.
The goals of participant 4 revolved around avoiding performance anxiety. Over the sessions this was expressed in a more positive way e.g. finding a state of flow, using external focus of attention (musical intention) and playing with more musical nuance. The process involved practicing how to recover from mistakes, looking for more physical ease, focusing on connection between notes and imagining the ‘ideal’ player. Challenges included formulating the right kinds of questions – avoiding yes & no answers as well as too much and complicated responses, and being able to stay in the moment and not tensing up too much whilst performing: […] remind myself to search for ease from the beginning of the performance and try to enjoy and be present in the performance no matter what happens.
The goals for participant 4’s exam were looking for ease and enjoyment, and staying present no matter what happens. The performance log indicated that these goals were reached. Reflections included wanting to search for the right kind of external focus to facilitate more ease in physically strenuous passages.
Participant 5 wanted to try out some of their ideas and strategies in front of others in order to get more insights in order to be able to play with more flexibility and ease, and for the last session the goal was to experience enjoyment.
Strategies involved working on focusing on connecting notes, inner hearing, anticipating the next notes and musical fragments, using cross-brain exercises and affirmations, and creating clear characters for each phrase. This participant was able to take risks in front of the group and make good use of their feedback. The process resulted in more confidence, how to warm up and prepare – both physically and cognitively – immediately before playing, and insights about what to focus on during each piece: I felt more flexible and buoyant!; more often I was able to stay concentrated on the character.
Participant 5’s exam performance goals were to find enjoyment in playing and sharing the music and to maintain a musical focus, and the success was reflected in the comments. They attributed the success to the high level of preparation and interaction with the ensemble. Although endurance was previously a concern, it did not pose a real problem in the performance. Reflections mentioned recognising a development of self-confidence and growth mindset: it’s important to recognize my own transition to a growth mindset, where I’m able to approach more difficult repertoire and come up with a plan to learn to play it.