A couple years ago, I crossed paths with a musician whom I had gone to school with, but never got to know at the time.
She said that she remembers practicing in the room next door to me one day, and how she left to go eat dinner, returned an hour or so later, and was impressed to hear that I was still hard at work on the same passage I had been practicing when she left.
At the time, she thought I must be incredibly dedicated and detail-oriented to be working so diligently on a single phrase.
The reality, of course, is that I wasn’t dedicated at all. I was incredibly frustrated. Spinning my wheels. And expending a ton of time and energy for very little gain.
It’s the reason why I had such a negative relationship with practicing for most of my life…
I didn’t understand why things often didn’t improve all that much even if I repeated it 50 times. Or used a metronome. Or practiced slow. Or used different rhythms.
I also didn’t understand why sometimes things would get much better – but then the next day, when I returned to the practice room, all my progress seemed to have disappeared overnight in my sleep.
And why sometimes, no matter how much I practiced, it felt like things were getting worse, not better.
And why it was that performances were so hit or miss, even if everything sounded great in the practice room, and I felt totally prepared.
Looking back, I can see that the problem wasn’t a time or effort issue. I was just spending waaay too much of my time engaged in practice activities that don’t lead to effective learning.
Fortunately, things did eventually change. When I went to Juilliard for my masters, I took a sport psychology class with Don Greene, where I learned that there was a whole research literature devoted to studies on effective practice, and clear, actionable guidance on what the most effective practicers and learners do differently.
As I began incorporating more of these concepts and strategies into my daily practice, I started to feel differently about practicing. I didn’t mind it so much anymore. I even started to kind of enjoy my daily practice time (wha…?!).
Because for once in my life, I felt like I was actually accomplishing things in the practice room. And I became increasingly confident that these improvements were not the fleeting and temporary improvements I was accustomed to, but lasting, reliable, permanent changes that I could count on. And not just in the practice room, but ultimately, on stage too.
It’s been a couple decades now since that pivotal shift, and I’m on the faculty of The Juilliard School, Cleveland Institute of Music, and New World Symphony – but as a performance psychologist, not a violinist!
In pursuing a Ph.D. and working with a diverse range of musicians over the last 20+ years – from concert soloists and international competition winners, to Broadway musicians and members and principal players of major orchestras, to biochemists, surgeons, architects, and engineers who continue to practice diligently in their spare time – I’ve learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t in the practice room and on stage. All things that I wish I would have known decades ago.
If you too have wondered how to keep nerves from getting in your way on stage, or how to get out of your head when performing, or how to avoid procrastinating in your daily practice, you don’t have to guess or figure these things out yourself through trial and error. The research in this area goes back decades – and your questions do have answers.
So whether you’re preparing for college, grad school, or orchestral auditions, a recital or competition, or would simply like to be able to play more like yourself in lessons, in weekly church services, or for a gathering of family and friends, I’d like to help.
Performance Psychology Essentials is a live, online, 4-session course. An interactive series of classes where you’ll learn how to develop and utilize the key mental skills and strategies that enable musicians to be more effective in the practice room, and perform more optimally when it counts.
It’s not just a brain dump of abstract theory. We’ll cover a specific set of concrete and practical mental skills and practice strategies. Things that will not only help you develop your skills to the highest level, but demonstrate those skills as well. Especially when the pressure kicks in.
We’ll meet once a week via Zoom, go through the relevant research in four essential psychological skill areas, test out a range of exercises and techniques together as a group, and then I’ll show you how to gently integrate these new skills into your daily practice through some weekly practice mini-challenges.
"Just wanted to say that this was the best online course I have ever attended. The platforms you used and the resulting levels of interactions were so impressive and made it as close to the classroom as can be.
In terms of content, I am now in a different place to where I was when I started. So incredibly useful. It has transformed the way I practise."
"This was an amazing class and helped me more than anything I've ever done toward getting more comfortable playing.
When I first started this class, playing for my instructor (whom I've known and studied with for over 20 years) was still a frightful experience. No matter how much I practiced and felt comfortable with the music, when I started to play for my lesson, it fell apart.
The practice strategies were amazingly helpful. My instructor noticed the change in the first lesson I took after starting the course.
I just celebrated my 75th birthday. You've proven that an old dog *can* learn new tricks!"
We’ll meet via Zoom every week, for a live, 90-minute session where you’ll learn about and try out the essential skills and strategies described above. I’ll share the theory and research behind the skills, and then we’ll experiment with the skills live, so you’ll feel comfortable integrating the new skills into your daily practice during the week.
There will also be weekly practice and performance challenges (i.e. mini homework assignments), so you’ll have some structure, and know exactly what to do every day. These assignments won’t be too time-consuming – just 5-10 minutes per day – and will help you learn these skills more quickly.
And what if you miss a session, or can’t make it live? No problem – there will be recordings.
Session #1: Saturday, Oct. 8
1-2:30pm Eastern (5-6:30pm UTC)
Session #2: Saturday, Oct. 15
1-2:30pm Eastern (5-6:30pm UTC)
Session #3: Saturday, Oct. 22
1-2:30pm Eastern (5-6:30pm UTC)
Session #4: Saturday, Oct. 29
1-2:30pm Eastern (5-6:30pm UTC)
With time zones and schedules being what they are, I know it’s not always going to be possible to attend live. But the course is designed to work just as well whether you can be there live or not.
All sessions will be recorded and uploaded to your account, so you can catch up whenever you get a chance.
Plus, you’ll have access to a privately hosted forum (rather than a “private” Facebook group), where you’ll be able to get feedback from other participants and ask me questions if you get stuck and would like some help applying a new concept to your specific situation.
And to make sure you have the support and guidance you need even after the course ends, you’ll have access to this forum not just for the duration of the course, but for a full year afterwards too!
And in case you ever need a refresher of the concepts, or just want to connect to a community of supportive fellow learners to jumpstart your motivation, as an alum, you’ll have lifetime access to future sessions of the course.
"The course was so enjoyable and very, very informative. I learned heaps and heaps! So thoroughly researched, and attractively presented. I especially appreciate all the wonderful visual stills and video examples you provided. Making the info multi-sensory like this helps provides instant cues that anchor the info and makes retrieval of the info so easy.
I'm looking forward to tidying up my notes and creating a little booklet I can refer to, and keep practicing the strategies. Being able to access the session recordings was terrific, not only because of the time zone difficulty, but because being able to pause and make notes, or go back over a section where you casually dropped a particularly wonderful gem of info, was brilliant. Thanks again!"
"Thank you very very much for such a thrilling and informative course. It was extremely helpful and enlightening in multiple ways. I just loved it!
The 90 minutes with you on Zoom each week just flew past thanks to your wit and incredible talent of explaining things so clearly and in so many different ways. The way you engaged us all with your questions, interactive teaching, and informative, amusing clips and examples from sports etc. was just pure genius. People who are laughing aren’t nervous and you used that brilliantly.
I was fascinated with so much of the information you gave us - some of it counterintuitive yet making absolute sense once you explained it.
Despite it being a large group, I felt related to on a personal level both by you and (through your guidance and leadership) by the others, which added greatly to the experience.
I feel I’ve come on in leaps and bounds in terms of confidence and that I am well supplied with tools for both practice and performance in the future and for that I thank you profoundly, Noa."
So…who is this course for? Is it for high school or conservatory student who is aspiring to a career in music? Or for the adult learner who doesn’t expect to perform all that much, but would like to show more of what they are capable of in lessons, or the occasional jam session with friends?
Well, I know that the smart, business-savvy thing to do is to create a program that appears to target a very narrow and exclusive audience. And yes, it’s true that different people have different learning goals and needs, and there is no one-size-fits-all formula for peak performance.
But in working with a wide range of musicians over the last decade or so, from advanced middle schoolers to conservatory students to adult beginners to experienced amateur to professionals who have been playing for decades, it’s been nice to see how much we have in common, regardless of our age, experience, or level of playing. And also, how broadly applicable and useful many of these relatively little-discussed and unintuitive practice and performance strategies can be, whether we’re hoping to be more effective in the practice room, manage nerves, get into the zone, or play more freely on stage.
So whether you’re in conservatory, picking up an instrument as an adult, or coming back to the instrument after some time away, I hope you’ll feel welcomed in joining a cohort of curious and inquisitive learners for this live, online, 4-session crash course on the essential practice strategies and mental skills that I think could make a world of difference in your day-to-day musical life.
If, on the other hand, you are a professional musician/educator, you’ll probably find the Performance Psych Essentials for Educators course to be a better fit, as the focus is not only on learning to use these skills yourself, but on how to teach these skills as well.
(More details on that version of the course are available here.)
If you have any lingering questions about whether this might be the right fit or not, feel free to send me an email and I’ll be happy to chat further about it!
"I had no idea what your course would entail - I just knew the topics were spot on (performance and practice). I seriously thought about my reticence to perform - it seemed like an important part of musical friendships (I'm an amateur), but I didn't know how to overcome my panic reaction.
What I loved about your course was that you didn't ask us to analyze the fear of performance or poor/boring practice routines, you gave us tools to do what I want to do well: practice and perform. Your setup was fabulous - I could follow your outline while I participated in the classes. The homework was clear, structured and meaningful. And videoing was a huge step for me, now a regular part of my practice. The crowning glory was the breakout groups - I can't even remember being nervous! Amazing!"
I grew up in a house in the middle of the woods, outside of a small, rural community. It was a quiet and peaceful place to grow up, but there weren’t a ton of other musicians around.
So for most of my life, I felt like I was practicing all alone, and missing out on all of the fun my friends were having, as they rode their bikes, played soccer, or came up with crazy new things to do like playing soccer on their bikes.
That changed when I went to my first summer festival.
Because for once, when I was practicing, I knew my friends were practicing too. Whether they were next door, or down the hall, it felt like we were all in this together. It never felt like I was missing out on anything. And with everyone just a few steps away, practice breaks were way more fun too.
All this to say, you can absolutely go through this course on your own and get a ton out of it. Many past participants have even made new friends in the group. But if you have a specific friend or practice buddy in mind that you’d like to go through the course with, that can add a whole other dimension to this experience as well.
I’d like it to be as easy as possible to add in this social element, so I’ve created an option at checkout where you can get your practice buddy their own account and “seat” in the class for $99 – that’s 50% off the regular price.
And what if the course sounds terrific now, but you discover once you dive in, that it isn’t quite what you were looking for?
If at any point before the second live session on Oct. 15th you decide that this is not a good fit, just let me know, and I’ll be happy to process a full refund. Easy peasy.
The sessions will be recorded and uploaded as soon as I can upload them to my host (usually within a few hours after the course ends). So you’ll be able to “play along” with the exercises we do during class, and submit your homework into the group along with everyone else.
And part of the reason for my creating a private forum for this training, is to ensure that we can all communicate with each other asynchronously, regardless of whatever time zone we may be based in.
It’s tricky to set a minimum age, as I’ve had students as young as 12 in my pre-college classes, and most have been super engaged, curious, enthusiastic, and independent learners.
So while I’m inclined to recommend that participants be age 18 or above, if you have a younger student that would like to participate, just email me, and we can chat about whether this would be a good fit for them at this time.
The Educator version of this course covers 80-90% of the same skills and strategies, but the focus is not just on learning and applying these skills in the practice room and on stage, but teaching them as well.
This Learner version of the course is really intended to be a place for students and adult learners to learn these skills and connect with each other. If you are an educator and would like to integrate more performance psychology techniques and principles not just into your own playing, but into your lessons as well, I’d recommend waiting until the next educator session begins. Click here to join the waitlist and get an email when the course re-opens.
The short answer is that there is fair amount of content overlap between this course and Beyond Practicing. But that’s sort of by design. Over the years, I received a number of requests from Beyond Practicers for more live guidance, as well as some accountability and opportunities to engage with other musicians. Which is what prompted the development of this Essentials class.
I worried at first that there might be too much overlap, but the Beyond Practicers who have signed up for the Essentials course (BP alumni are eligible for a 50% discount, btw) have said that they really enjoy the live experience as a supplement to the self-study aspect of Beyond Practicing. So I feel pretty confident that you’ll enjoy the experience as well – but if you have any questions or hesitations at all, feel free to email me and we can see if this might be a good fit for you.
After completing checkout, you’ll receive an email confirming your enrollment. Just reply to that email with the name and email address of your practice buddy, and I’ll be able to use that info to manually create their account, and send them a welcome email with their login credentials.
If you’d like to explore some of the most essential skills and techniques in the course live, with a cohort of curious, thoughtful, supportive, and like-minded educators (and a few mildly irreverent or benevolently sarcastic folks mixed in to make sure we don’t get too serious), that’s also an option!
Starting Thursday, February 3rd, we’ll meet via Zoom once a week, and go through selected strategies related to effective practice, managing nerves, and achieving flow states under pressure. We’ll do some in-class playing experiments (don’t worry – you’ll be muted!), short weekly homework assignments, and small-group breakout sessions to help you integrate these new skills into your teaching.
This 6-week live course is normally $199, but is available at 50% off the regular cost when bundled with Beyond Practicing. For more details about the live course (and dates) CLICK HERE.