The Two Skills

In last week’s studio class, we had some more nice duet performances with good discussion about blending sounds and matching style.

I also had time to give one more short talk.  This week’s topic: The Two Skills.

I believe that, in order to succeed, you need two skills.

1. Trombone Skills
2. Pressure-Handling Skills

We spend a lot of our time focused on the first skill but less on the second.  It reminded  me of an old college colleague who, for whatever reason, simply did not get nervous for auditions.  It just didn’t occur to him, I guess.  He wasn’t the best player in the studio but sometimes better players would suffer from nerves and play worse when the pressure was on.  Something like this graph:


I believe that the ability to remain focused and play well under pressure is essentially a separate skill that can be worked on.

We talked about some different strategies for this…

  • Play in front of other people (especially people who make you nervous).
    This can be as simple as dragging a friend into your practice room and playing for them.  It might include playing at a local church or nursing home.  ASU has a great program called “Jury’s Out” which helps students get out into the community to perform their jury pieces.
  • One student mentioned the excellent materials by Don Greene, which can help performers redirect and re-focus that nervous energy towards specific goals.
  • I talked about something I call the Hopeful Shield, on which I did a 2011 blog post.  Basically, instead of constantly repeating to yourself that you’ll play great (which is often accompanied by an annoying little voice replying with, “No, you won’t”), think in a hopeful way about how great it would be if you really nailed it.  By imagining a great performance and how wonderful that would be, you are also conjuring up mental images of success which in turn helps to direct your thinking in a positive direction.

Each new phrase is another chance to nail it.
Just think how great that would be!