Music is often called a universal language because it seems to speak to the emotions of disparate groups of people. In this light, some believe music has almost magical powers toward helping people find common ground with others seen as unlike themselves. So is music a uniquely powerful tool in building human empathy?
Many people choose to pursue a music career because they were so passionate about music as kids. However, recent research suggests that if you want to end up passionate about what you do professionally, instead of taking inventory of pre-existing passions, you should identify what you can become exceptionally good at.
To get the most out of their practice sessions, musicians should strive to keep their minds highly engaged. Much conscious thought is required in the goal setting and strategizing that facilitate the learning of new skills. When practicing, autopilot is the enemy. But preparing for a public performance may be a different story.
Being passionate can mean different things to different musicians. While some freely pursue a musical life because of the joy it brings, others are driven by compulsion, and they experience much stress along the way. Does it matter whether one's passion is harmonious or obsessive, as long as it gets the job done?
Exceptional young performers—both artists and athletes—are amazing to behold. Some key contributors to their talent can get lost in the nature versus nurture debate. Child prodigies who enjoy continued success have passion for what they do, and take advantage of opportunities afforded them.
There are a variety of reasons why musicians feel anxiety when taking the stage. Many times the source is what's going on inside the performers themselves—their own thinking. Changing performance-related thought processes can be a challenge, but well worth the effort.
Musicians and arts advocates may be well intentioned when they propagate research-based articles about the benefits of music activity to the human brain. Some media reports, however, do not hold up under closer scrutiny. There are some important reasons to think twice before jumping on the neuro-bandwagon.
Research has shown that a bias for physical attractiveness, though culturally defined, is present throughout the music world. Because people build expectations from an interaction of things seen and heard, looking good may offer musicians advantages that are quite profound.
Some musicians have great difficulty accurately hearing their own performance. Sometimes they are so preoccupied with physically performing that they are unable to monitor what their music actually sounds like. A look at these underlying cognitive skills can help.
Some musicians seem to accept performance anxiety as a fact of life. Believing that a drop-off in musical quality from rehearsal to concert is unavoidable, their only strategy for managing stage fright is to over-prepare through additional practice. There are, however, powerful sources of anxiety that are not addressed by merely practicing more.
Live music has a special power to evoke human emotions, some extremely intense and meaningful in the contexts of our lives. As performers seek the emotional rewards for themselves onstage, they also strive to provide similar peak experiences for their audiences. There are many factors in play that make live performance so engaging for musicians and music lovers alike.
When great musicians are on stage, the music seems to flow from them. It happens almost organically, naturally driven by passion, free of contrivance and strain. Because of this, some may come to believe that performance success depends on shutting off the intellect. However, research suggests that thinking may be the most powerful resource toward fulfilling performances.