I've been revisiting this great TED Talk by Amy Cuddy on how "Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are"—it has come up several times this week as students prepare for orchestral/grad school auditions, recitals, and just in general as they find different ways to approach being their best selves on stage.
As performers, sometimes we focus so much on the external nature of execution that we lose our sense of feeling grounded. Judged by details and normalized standards, it easy easy to feel that everything that is noticed is an abberation or mistake instead of what is a success. This pressure often makes students shut down, cave in with their posture, and ultimately not play as well. It is something I think about a lot when I'm teaching: I don't want to only be complementary, but focusing too much on what needs to be improved doesn't help a student feel empowered to perform at his/her best.
These aspects of performing have made me very interested in music that empowers the performer to make creative decisions and play with the different kinds of energy on stage (Andrew Norman) and reveals contradictions in how we interact with the world around us (Anna Thorvaldsdottir, Jagoda Szmytka, Ted Hearne, Scott Wollschleger). When I play this music I feel present, grounded, bold, articulate, and I feel my own body language strengthening and building a positive feedback loop.
Which, in and out of the classroom, has been making me think a lot lately about how I address failure/strength and my surroundings through both the more comfortable lens of music and the more abrasive lens of daily life in a large city. Can music help us/our audience/our students to think critically about power dynamics, inequality, contradiction? If so, how do I empower my students to do that?
As Feldman says, the important thing is "to ask. "