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20 May Lesson Learned.

It may have taken the sum of my whole life up to now, but I think I’ve finally learned the basic methodology behind music performance. It goes something like this…

  1. Have something to say.
  2. Work on saying it until you’re ready to share it with others.
  3. Let go.

If I remove one of these steps—or, just as importantly, if I add another step—the whole thing starts to tumble to the ground like a house of cards.

As anyone who knows me well could tell you, I’ve rarely been guilty of the removal of steps. (Adding, on the other hand? Guilty as charged.) And as any artist will tell you, each of those three steps carries within it a creative process that has its own beginning and end—knowing a good idea from a bad idea, creating versus finding, the healthy repetition and ritual of practice, the importance of nutrition and hyrdration, discovering the zen of performance….

But letting go is the most important and most difficult step that I’ve learned in all of my time on this planet. The real letting go started with the first step, and it spilled effortlessly over into the others. I could never truly let go onstage and feel completely liberated and confident in how I performed until I felt that way about what I was saying.

“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”
—Teddy Roosevelt

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