Willpower and Vision

Willpower and Vision


As you prepare to practice or perform, remember that reality is largely a matter of perception.

Once I went to play for a friend of mine outside of Rome.  I wanted to run through a recital program for him and get his feed-back.  He’s a super-virtuoso pianist and I assumed that he’d have a beautiful grand, but when I arrived at his place in the countryside, I found a beat-up, old, awful upright with a couple notes missing, horrifically out of tune, and with keys cracked to the point of inducing blood if struck at the wrong angle.  Complementing this, he had an old electronic keyboard with a couple notes sticking, a squeaking pedal, and occasional electronic sound malfunctions such that the octave around middle “C” had to be avoided as much as possible.  He invited me to take my choice.


My heart sank.  What’s the point of playing through a program if the instrument can’t come near to giving what you put into it!  Bad pianos are the pianist’s curse.  But I had come to play and ran through the first piece.  What a disaster!  I felt like cursing at the instrument and rolling it out the front door.

How can you play on this?  

- I just play…

And he sat down and demonstrated a few suggestions.  A beautiful grand sang to me.

How do you get that sound out of that thing!!

- I simply refuse to accept what it gives me…

It was like talking to Yoda.  My eyes were opened.  It would have been laughable had he not just proved it.

Use the force echoed through my ears…

I massed my willpower and vision together and went through the rest of my program.  Gradually I found my way, and my musical vision started translating into actual sounds.

After that, I went back often, whenever preparing to play somewhere, both for my friend’s warm, intelligent advice, and to prove to myself that I could overcome his piano and make it sing.  If I could convince that box of my intentions, I would be strong enough to play any instrument anywhere at any time of day or night.

Strength does not come from physical capacity. 

It comes from an indomitable will. 

- Gandhi


Musicians are spoiled.  And singers are the worst!  How many times have I had to coax professional and not-so-professional singers out of a lethargic, I-can’t-possibly-sing-today self-pity…?

When you have a performance, running away is not an option.  Apologizing to your audience because you’re a little under the weather is not an option.  Not having slept well in an uncomfortable hotel room is no reason to feel sorry for yourself.

Ideally you’ll be in the best possible form for every performance, but rarely is that the case.  Muster your willpower and vision, and simply refuse to let your intentions be ruined by anything or anyone.  Rise above your situation.  And more importantly, rise above yourself and prove yourself worthy of the stage.   Realize that although it may be your concert, it’s not about you.