Day 9: Finding Flow
On a national concert tour you perform your fair share of concerts and workshops, but you also run a ton of masterclasses. I work with piano students of all ages and levels: young kids learning from primary books to semi-professionals at the universities. One commonality, that I have found, is that students expect me to simply criticize and fix their performance. Since that is their expectation, and the expectation of their professors and teachers, I do the opposite.
I received my training from a set of teachers who promoted the Socratic method and a more intuitive view of the pedagogical process. There are so many challenges that we face as musicians, but I enjoy focusing on the most relevant challenge in today’s classical musicians – communication.
Especially as pianists, we are faced with our decreased visual impact (blurred by our positioning on stage) and the difficulty of making the least musically-designed instrument (the piano), musical. How are certain emotions manifested in the sonic world? How do we use them to elicit a state of wonder in audiences? The answer, if mastered, is the major difference between a good musician and a great one – between a child prodigy and a prodigy-turned-artist.
The musician must risk it all, become vulnerable, shut down the conscious mind, and find the state of flow – that is the answer. Only in this state, can musicians really shake the souls of audiences and communicate through the sonic world. Child prodigies do this naturally, but as they grow up they often forget how to be led by their subconscious inner-mind, and instead the self-critical outer brain ruins the performance. Biologically we can look to neuroscience to learn that the lateral pre-frontal cortex is what needs to shut down and we, as true artists, need to surrender to the rhapsodic journey of artistic performance.