Music and Emotions.

I have been told by friends and teachers I am emotional. I looked up the meaning of ''emotional'' in the dictionary : ''characterized by intense feeling; (of a person) having feelings that are easily excited and openly displayed.'' 
My cello teacher, L. Lesser, told me to try to reign in my emotions a bit, ''take a step back'', act ''cold'' when playing. I never completely grasped the meaning of what he was saying. If I could not let myself be inspired by the music, why play? So I continued on, with emotion.
A couple years ago, I prepared for an audition with, amongst others, an excerpt for Mahler 5, which I love. Of all the music I had to prepare for the audition, I felt Mahler was the one I connected with most and understood best, and would be easy to perform. 
I practiced the Mahler excerpt with just as much care as the others. When the time came to audition, I walked onstage, conjured up my feelings for this excerpt, and played. It was all downhill from there. The sound was not focused, the timing of the shifts was not right, and it did not flow. Later that day, I received comments on the performance: ''unfocused, dragging, uneven.'' Emotions did nothing for me, or Mahler. 
This was not the first time I ''fell'' in a performance. I struggled to understand where I stumbled with this piece. Why could I not execute this music successfully, when it spoke so much to me?
I had learned to use emotion to fly over fear. It seemed to carry me well and to inspire me to deliver the music above technical difficulties. Why was I stumbling in performances? Why did I make mistakes on physical moves that I had perfected through much practice? 
I realized it was my emotions that were interfering with my playing. When I dwelt in them, I was not present. I could not listen to the music, react to the sound, or make my next move; and so I would ''trip''- make a mistake. 
When I really listen, I experience all the emotions that the music stirs up in me, but what is different now is that I let them go and am able to move forward. Through this practice of attentive listening I am alert to the music, and free to play in the moment. 

I walk on stage and prepare to perform a piece that I love. I take a moment to quiet my mind, and listen. As I play, I focus on letting the music speak through my instrument. I finish the piece and stand up to bow. I am grinning, inspired by music, energized by the performance. I am happy my hard work preparing for this event has paid off. I performed well. 

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