Last Sunday I performed a sextet with fabulous musicians from the Oregon Symphony, as well as the Brahms Clarinet Trio (watch it here). I felt immense gratitude percolating behind my concentration, enhancing my experience with feelings that didn’t detract but rather improved my focus.
Think of gratitude as a background operating system in your consciousness, a pedal point in the fugue of your focus.
You have the ability to orchestrate parts of your consciousness in performance. Your consciousness has many levels—thoughts, feelings, emotions, subconscious desires, memories—of which gratitude is an integral part, able to be influenced by the power of your choice.
But do we always have the choice of gratitude?
When you or another performer misses a cue, has a memory slip, flubs a note, or even breaks a string (watch here for an amazing performance of Hamilton Chefitz’s brilliant recovery), how you respond will impact the next few minutes of your music.
What if you simply said “Thank You”?
If you are anything like me, you will undoubtedly think that this is a coward’s response.
Because gratitude is soft.
Or is it?
The courage to say “Thank you” when the forces of the universe conspire against you is more powerful than you think.
Think of the typical responses: frustration, embarrassment, guilt, shame, anger, etc. These may be excellent prods and motivators to improve when we re-enter the practice room, but how will they improve the notes you are going to play immediately next? In fact, I’m sure that some part of these negative emotions will come through your music and touch the audience in some way.
It takes a great strength of character to say “Thank you” when something happens to you that you don’t like.
But I believe the best musical artists are those who are searching for spiritual growth in addition to technical perfection. They know that an expansive presence in their heart doesn’t diminish the intensity of their concentration.
So take the vibration of Thanksgiving and extend it into the next month—into those Holiday gigs that you’d rather not be playing.
Begin with the why of gratitude, but then move beyond the reasons into the flow of gratitude—the genuine warmth of heart, upward flow of energy, and unshakable peace and serenity from which your best work comes.