I recently played a short recital for a small, local audience. I was performing a few pieces I'd played frequently before and another piece I was performing for the first time. After the performance I found myself re-hashing how everything went. I was very dissatisfied with my performance of the new piece. I found myself going over the specific places that didn't go so well. Although assessing performances is a useful practice, I found myself experiencing some negativity and frustration.
While I was in this negative frame of mind, the host of the recital called me and thanked me for the recital. And told me that one of the audience members (someone I didn't know) had just lost her husband - the funeral had been just a few weeks earlier. This grieving audience member told the host that the new piece I had played felt like "heaven" to her and helped her feel peace.
It was a reminder that my performances aren't about "me." Music is a language of communication and has the power to touch peoples' hearts, and heal peoples' hearts - EVEN through a performance that needs work. I still practiced over those spots that needed work, but the negativity I had felt completely went away when I remembered why I was doing it. I felt gratitude for the beauty music has brought into my life - even when our individual performances still need some work. The next time I performed that same new piece I found myself imagining an audience member who might be hurting and needing to hear/experience something beautiful through the music. -Stephen Beus