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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, things would get 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 or transfer very well to performance.
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 performers do differently.
Learning about the mental side of practicing and performing was transformative for me. 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.
It was also cool to see how developing my mental game enhanced everything I was learning in my lessons. I was able to more fully demonstrate on stage, the musical insights that my teachers were sharing with me. Nerves began to feel more like excitement. And I wasn’t only playing more accurately, but feeling free to be more musically expressive and take risks as well.
Best of all, it was empowering to know that this wasn’t a lucky streak of random good days, but the direct result of the new mental skills I was developing. That it was something I had control over.
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, or would like to be able to play more like yourself in lessons, weekly church services, or for a gathering of family and friends, or are thinking you’d like to help your own students develop these skills at an earlier age, I’d like to help.
Performance Psychology Essentials is a live, online, 5-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."
THANK YOU for the wonderful classes! It was so great to have the opportunity to learn from you in as close to a real, 'live' way as the world currently permits! The material was wonderful, and the presentation, pacing, time-keeping, and opportunities to interact and ask questions were all equally as wonderful. I have LOTS of super useful concepts and strategies to digest, practice and teach to my students, thanks to everything I've learned from your blog posts, 'Beyond Practicing' and now, 'Performance Psychology Essentials'!
FWIW - I've grown to appreciate what I learned in class even more in the weeks since. Now, having some additional tools to work with and the confidence to teach these concepts and strategies to my students, I've witnessed a truly remarkable difference in their week-to-week progress - and in my overall joy, seeing them progress past things that had been challenging them in their lessons!!
From a purely 'business' perspective, your classes (and practice plans) are equally great! These are things that NO ONE in my world of American Roots music teaches or really even talks much about. Being able to offer the strategies I've learned from you is something 'unique' that I can now offer, and that set me apart from others teaching this type of music.
"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!"
I wasn't sure I could use the knowledge on my students who are mostly young kids that are early beginners, but I decided that I needed it for my own benefit as well so I decided to sign up.
I ended up gaining a lot of mental insight into my own brain while practicing and performing. A lot of the techniques taught were eye-opening. Not only have I been able to improve my musicality, it also provided tools to me as a music educator to pass on to my students.
This might make me sound perfunctory, but I liked everything about the course. I liked all the studies that were presented, and how they can be pertained to music practice and performance. I loved the video clips of famous artists and their interviews presented during the class. And I loved the discussion sessions and hearing other peoples' perspectives and experiences too.
I would definitely recommend this course to other teachers, because I feel that while music educators may be well qualified to teach technical skills, a lot of them are not prepared to help solve mental problems their students face.
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: Practicing for Pressure
Sunday, April 16, 2023
1-2:30pm Eastern (5-6:30pm UTC)
Session #2: Beating Anxiety
Sunday, April 23, 2023
1-2:30pm Eastern (5-6:30pm UTC)
Session #3: Getting Into “the Zone”
Sunday, April 30, 2023
1-2:30pm Eastern (5-6:30pm UTC)
Session #4: Playing with Confidence
Sunday, May 7, 2023
1-2:30pm Eastern (5-6:30pm UTC)
Session #5: “Graduation”
Sunday, May 14, 2023
1-2:00pm Eastern (5-6:00pm 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.
"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!"
Before signing up, I was worried about having to interact with inflated egos, and know-it-all types of teachers. But of course, that wasn't even an issue, and I found all interactions to be helpful and enjoyable 🙂
I have hard-working students, but I'd hit the proverbial wall with a few of them in terms of practice techniques and lesson performance. Taking this course sparked my own creativity in how I approached certain things with individual students, and in turn renewed my excitement in working through their challenges with them, instead of against them. I've been on a two week teaching break, and can't wait to start fresh with everyone this week!
I liked hearing your specific ideas for and stories about sharing these concepts with students. I'm sure it's all trial and error, until we find our own way to approach teaching these strategies, but it was nice to have a starting point and know what students may/may not respond to. I appreciated hearing what other teachers do as well, particularly the piano teachers who have really young students.
I would 100% recommend this course to other educators. I think that much of the way music is taught (in private lessons, public schools and especially higher ed) is based on a patriarchal, alpha-musician system, that can be abusive and damaging, and counter-productive to fostering musicals skills and love for performance. I think any way we can rock that boat and shake things up is a step in a better direction. There is a sense of whimsy in your approach that matches my own teaching style, so that really resonates with me. I love that a practice strategy can have a cute name and a cute meme, and then be a simple but powerful tool to help someone evolve as a musician. The classical music world could stand to lighten up a bit, and I think courses like yours are a fantastic way to help people break free from the mold, get creative, and start thinking outside the box! The results are better practicers, more confident and competent performers, and a more pure love for studying and performing music.
"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."
I was initially intimidated by the list of very accomplished, conservatory trained musicians coming from around the world to this course, but I was very pleasantly surprised by how warm and inviting all of the participants were. Noa did an excellent job of fostering a community through this course.
I enjoyed that the "homework" was always discussion based and compelled us to interact with one another to pose questions about teaching concepts we've been struggling with or to share our insights. I feel very privileged to have had this opportunity to interact with so many kind and thoughtful musicians.
As a cellist with a music library containing nearly every treatise, essay, manual, method book, scale book, and etude book on cello technique and pedagogy, this is the first course I've taken that has so neatly and concisely addressed performance psychology (and in a non-instrument specific way!).
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? The middle school band instructor? Private studio teacher? Professional musician on the audition circuit? Conservatory faculty member?
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, 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 wherever you may be on your musical journey, I hope you’ll feel welcomed in joining a cohort of curious and inquisitive learners for this live, online, 5-session course on the essential practice strategies and mental skills that I believe can make a world of difference in your day-to-day musical life.
But…how will it work to have such a diverse range of participants in one cohort?
Although everyone will attend the live sessions together, when you enroll, I’ll have a few questions for you that will help me put you into a smaller group. And within these mini cohorts, the focus of your homework assignments may vary slightly. For instance, educators will be focused not just on learning these skills for their own playing, but on teaching them to their students as well. Those who are auditioning, will be able to set up times to play for each other in a “virtual practice room” or seek out accountability buddies to keep each other on track.
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!"
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 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.
(Or, two monthly installments of $99.50)
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 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.
The last couple years, I’ve been teaching separate learner and educator versions of the course.
There were some differences – but truthfully, the differences were related primarily to how the homework was framed and formatted, not the content itself.
As time went on, I also became less fond of the artificial distinction between “learner” and “educator,” as we’re all learners, just at different points on our journey.
There will be subgroups or subcohorts if you will, to make sure that between the live sessions, you can engage with those who have similar goals or are in the more immediate vicinity of where you happen to be on your journey. But everyone will attend the live sessions together as a single group!
(Or, two monthly installments of $99.50)
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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.