“The Heart of Performance”
In your life and onto the stage…
(Written for the students in my ‘Heart of Performance’ class)
Let the sweet breezes of possibility flow through your mind
Let the tight density of dogma,
Rules and restrictions
Soften into chiffon transparency;
Allowing the light of your truth
Your brilliant light to shine through you
Dazzling with enthusiasm
and pure joy.
Let the gift of your artistry be the blueprint
for your living,
and your living artistically will burst forth
in authentic and inspired performance.
Notice the wings you were given!
Sitting on the branch they fold in
Twisted, tight and aching for flight.
You don’t need permission to fly,
or a certificate or degree…
Just trust your creativity and let the wings open!
The breath of truth will lift your wings to the sky
And oh, what a view you will have!
The heart of performance is born
from a clear intention to be part of this wondrous life-dance,
To trust your steps,
Engage your partners,
Seek out great mentors,
and join the legacy of contributing hope, beauty,
and love through this Divine gift bestowed upon you
the gift that flows through you,
illuminating the inspiration that dwells deep within,
crying out to be released!
and aching to be embraced.
Jody Graves (2014) Inspirato Co.®
As I continue to teach, practice, perform and give public lectures I am convinced more than ever that celebrating the journey into mastery is more important than the perceived “goal”. Our current cultural climate is so “clock-driven” and the idea of simply spending time, without limits, in developing our artistry is not honored as it could be. Being creative, and deepening artistically in our field takes time, and it is the tiny incremental steps of the daily work that add up to those inspired and confident performances. Sometimes the profound moments of great music-making happen when there is no audience…and this is just as valid as when it happens on stage. Celebrate and honor your process as you practice and learn music. Enjoy the daily steps of each practice session, and remember that the juice of artistry is indeed in the journey…the concerts are over in an instant, but the question is, what draws you to the piano or your instrument of choice in this moment? Are you motivated by a deadline…or inspired by your passion?
As I was en route from Tel Aviv back to Spokane I thought I would share a few thoughts about the experience here in the West Bank region (my fourth time doing this kind of work/performing etc. in the Middle East ) and with the Edward Said Conservatory of Music. (These are just a few ‘snapshots’ of my day-to-day experience…I continue to resonate deeply about the situation, and will write more when I have some quiet time.) The competition I judged is held over a 2-week period, and includes western instruments and Arabic instruments. There are 4 international jurors for each instrument, and each instrument has 3 category levels. Students competed from several cities, including Gaza, and those who could not travel into Jerusalem competed via web cam. Several times students who had been given a ‘pass’ were denied at the last minute, so some would travel all the way back to their city, and compete on the web cam from their local music school. One boy from Ramallah in the upper piano division (age 16) had never been to Jerusalem, and had a pass for the first time…he was so excited just to see the old city after he played. (Ramallah and Jerusalem are about 30 miles apart) I also performed and gave master classes in several branches of the conservatory…they are so excited about finally getting a permit to re-build the music school in Gaza, though this will not be easily or quickly done. They are simply grateful to have 2 pianos this year instead of one. (Puts a perspective on our practice room situation at the university for sure…) Everywhere I play and teach the students are so eager to learn and understand more about classical music, and the conditions of the conservatory, depending on the branch, are drastically different than we would expect. I was so moved once again by how excited the teachers and students are to connect with people from other countries, and especially performers/teachers who can offer pedagogical ideas and demonstrate the nuances of artistic delivery in music that is still quite new to this culture.
I experienced first- hand the long lines at checkpoints by traveling between cities alone and on foot. I was in Jerusalem on ‘Land Day’ last Friday (it was big on BBC news but perhaps not in the U.S.) and witnessed the dramatic protests, military, skirmishes, etc…. not to mention one horrific scene in the Damascus gate area as I was trying to get through. I was determined that the students I was to teach were going to have as “normal” a day as possible, in the midst of this annual demonstration. And 2 days later in the same place I was walking with the Palm Sunday procession from the Mount of Olives through Lion’s gate…I walked with the groups from Africa because their music was amazing!
The daily experiences were incredible, and I was deeply touched by the sincerity and passion the people here have for music, education and developing positive relationships with people from all parts of the world…and in the ESNCM they do this with music, and the growing activities in musical study that are happening here. In every school there are signs about peace and understanding, and how to focus on this in everyday life. It took me over 4 hours to travel 30 miles to teach one day….and many of these teachers do this several times a week. After teaching for several hours, I played a concert, and then returned to Bethlehem which took another 3 hours. (All public transportation or on foot.) In the midst of conflict, difficulties, and un-predictable daily scenarios that we cannot imagine, the people I work with here in the Middle East are trying to elevate the human spirit, and especially to provide something meaningful for the young people … and it is having a profound effect. So much of my experience is beyond words at the moment, but I plan to take my journal notes and put something more cohesive together than my current rambling. Music indeed serves as a universal language as we know…and in the current situation in the Middle East, it is one of the expressions that IS making a difference.
salaam alaikum, Jody
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Below are just a few gathered thoughts that I share with my students and colleagues in lessons and workshops. We must indeed stay aware of the profound impact our musical gifts have in a hurting and confused world. Every time we play or sing, we are adding something positive and beautiful that resonates beyond physical hearing and into the heart and mind. Our work as artists is never “extra-curricular”. It is, and should always be regarded as necessary. You don’t have to convince anyone with your words… just keep teaching, drawing, writing, dancing and playing music. If you love what you do, then you can only offer it in a loving manner. If that is your authentic approach, then there is no room for stressful competition and agitation. You can come to your art as a competitor or a contributor….you decide.
– I will practice in full awareness that music has been gifted to me…and my ‘play’ at the instrument is my gift back to the world.
– I will recognize that I must first have a desire to listen, before true listening can happen.
– A musician ‘doing’ is not a musician ‘being’.
– I will always seek to honor the score in a genuine way. I will prepare the music with care and commitment, knowing that it is about the music and not about me. I am just a channel for the gift and talent. Learn to understand the balance of ego and spirit!
– Nervousness is a normal part of performance….but I have control of my “nerves”…they are the connection to my heartbeat…..and with a healthy understanding, will be transformed into an excited anticipation for a positive, successful performance.
– I will be creative in my practicing…and be curious about the many ways to know the score so well that I could write parts of it out from memory.
– I will seek out opportunities to share my music with others…at school, at home, with my colleagues, in retirement centers, etc. The music I play is always a gift to those who hear it!
– I will go to the instrument with a feeling of joy, knowing that my gift of music is just that…a gift to be shared with people who are hungry for something beautiful!
– I will approach practicing and preparing for performance as a treasured opportunity, and not an obligatory chore.
– It is important for me to be practicing and performing…to delight in the music, and share it with anyone who wants to listen. It is not useful to judge and doubt the gift!
– I will remember what it was like as a small child to go to the instrument with excitement, and re-capture the pleasure of being inside the sound!
– I will clear my mind and focus every time I practice and perform…allowing the music to “play me”…rather than me “playing at the music”!
– I will utter a small thank you and acknowledge the blessing of being musically gifted every time I go to the instrument.
– I will let honest mistakes be an opportunity to grow, and I will recognize this as part of the journey to understanding who I am, in relationship to the music that I love, and the people I love who are listening.
– Transformation and mystery are part of the profound impact of music…I must let go, get out of the music’s ‘way’ and believe that this happens every time. Every note of music resonates with the harmonic vibrations of the universe, and I have been anointed to offer this most beautiful acoustic art…to allow the music to join the eternal dance of harmony, rhythm and melody…and to know that music cries out to be released as a treasure that transforms the receiving soul!
– Any time we play music, we are healing a world that is hungry for beauty and peace. As musicians, we provide the sound-elixir that resonates deeply in the human heart. Our music transcends language, culture, and the socio-political barriers that seem to separate us at times. Our music, indeed, brings us to a deeper understanding that we are joined together in harmonic unity…if we can truly hear.