Mistakes, and Recovering with Style.

We all make mistakes, right?

I had a professor in college who used to say “Go ahead and make a mistake…but make it big, and make a different one every time.” Words to live by, even if it’s easier said than done.

There’s a lot of pressure in classical music to not make any mistakes – to reach for perfection. It’s a worthy quest, but not something that’s possible for most of us mere mortals.

When I was teaching, my students would often stop when they made a mistake and want to start over from the beginning. At the best, it delayed building the stamina they’d need to get through a full piece…at worst, it actually routined the mistakes and pauses into their performances. I used to play a specific tune for them at the beginning of the year, and would revisit it periodically during the year when the pressure to be perfect caused paralysis-by-analysis. The tune was a live recording from Berlin, when Ella Fitzgerald and her band were taking a first stab at the hit tune “Mack the Knife.”

(Suffice it to say that she doesn’t so much remember all the words.)

The other takeaway? Is that it is a wonderful testament to being in the moment, for committing, for letting go of perfection and embracing spontaneity.


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