We all want to be the musician who’s cooler than a pack of menthols in all performance scenarios. Exposed orchestral solo? Easy. Recital? They play one every week, more if possible. Big concerto with a major orchestra? Why not. No matter what the details, everything comes out Newport smooth.
But public performance makes the rest of us mere mortals a little anxious.
The solutions to this anxiety range from chemically treating the symptoms — with things like beta blockers or booze — to meditation, exercise, yoga, and (oh yeah) obsessive preparation. Happily, the Royal College of Music in London has come up with another, more modern solution.
The RCM designed its own performance simulator. You put on concert finery, and sit backstage getting nerved up while watching the audience on a “monitor.” At the appointed time you’re sent out to your doom by the stagehand. In front of you as you walk onto the stage, on a screen, is the “audience,” a recording of people sitting uncomfortably still — really, just looking way too attentive — in a small concert hall. But not for long. They applaud, they cough, and they holler when you finish. They also boo! Occasionally, a mobile phone goes off.
It’s a strategy to prepare musicians for the high-pressure performance in a safe setting, and it just might work. Click the above link to see pianist Varvara Tarasova run the gauntlet, and try not to laugh when the audience boos her. I failed.