In the busy month of May I was focusing most of my practice opportunities on lesson material rather than orchestra repertoire, so at rehearsal when I was the lone cellist (for the second week in a row) I accepted my lack of preparation and decided that I would just relax and do my best. It worked. I played well … but now I have some questions.
Maestro chose pieces I was able to follow easily. I counted carefully. Watched him more carefully than usual. Checked key signatures, tempos, meter, repeats and was acutely aware of any changes that came along. Luckily he began with pieces that we’d rehearsed before; then he chose some where the cello was not too exposed.
Hmmmm … Showboat. Never looked at that one. No problem. I’ll just be really really careful. Oh neat … I recognize these tunes.
Maestro was easy to follow. Listening to the violins helped me with intonation. I recognized that I had a familiar I-vi-ii-V bass accompaniment to “Can’t Help Lovin That Man” … I even hummed the melody in my head as I played the bass part.
Three pages finished … good … heading to the last page OK … great … Old Man River … melody. It’s always a treat when the cellos get some melody. But WAIT… I’m the ONLY cello! However, by the time I realized the fact that I was the only one playing melody I was finished with my “solo.” And I’d done it just fine – very easily with no pressure or tension.
Then we played it again. That time I knew the solo was coming. The ill-effects of apprehension began to creep into my head and my hand. Stress, tension, self-doubt. Although I played it fine it was so much harder the second time around because of the anxiety.
Why couldn’t it be just as easy to play as the first time through? What is this stressful phenomenon, what causes it, and how can I learn to avoid it?