April 2016

The last month has been totally dominated by international travel. My trip to Dubai, Hong Kong and Singapore was wonderfully stimulating and enriching with some exciting invitations for future trips coming up over the next year.
As a relatively new city in the United Arab Emirates, Dubai is fast establishing a good classical music scene. It doesn’t yet have a conservatoire, but it does have an impressive Centre for Musical Arts, a music tuition hub for under 18’s. I met the founder and director of CMA, Tala Badri, who set the whole venture up without any financial support from the government. It is a phenomenal achievement, giving the city much needed music lessons. I have been invited to go out there, possibly in September to give my talk/master class to the teachers, along with some private coaching.
Hong Kong and Singapore

I really enjoyed spending a week in Hong Kong and getting to know it again, having left 20 years ago. It has changed so much. New buildings, new reclaimed land, new airport and even the iconic Star Ferry has been shifted further down the harbour, something that can only happen in Hong Kong!

My work at both the HK Academy for Fine Arts and to some of the English Schools Foundation schools was fascinating. I had been concerned about how the Chinese would handle the whole issue of performance anxiety, especially around the issue of ‘loss of face.’ It was different from what I had expected. I had thought that the four students in the master class would find it particularly awkward and exposing, but they didn’t appear to. The students performing (particularly obvious in the conservatoires) sat on the front row, away from their fellow students. They were clearly singled out as the performers. In my understanding of the situation, this preferential treatment balanced out anything that could be considered exposing or vulnerable. But when all the students were given an opportunity to book individual sessions with me later, unlike their British counterparts who fight to grab a slot, there was not one single booking from the Chinese students. I imagine that booking an individual session around the topic of nerves would have been very exposing. It was clearly where the loss of face might have kicked in.

I wasn’t at all surprised by the degree to which some of the Chinese students were hard on themselves. This was particularly evident at the schools. Three out of four students who performed were paralysed by nerves, hating the whole experience. They simply couldn’t see that there was anything good about their performance, and were highly self-critical. Just this on it’s own would have been enough to send their performance anxiety levels through the roof.
Some students from West Island School at my talk/masterclass hosted by Island School.
In Singapore, I had another completely different challenge. At the Singapore Raffles College of Music, I had a room of about 30 students and a microphone, which I thought I wouldn’t need – but I did. A good third of the students either talked all the way through or were busy on their phones. I repeatedly asked them to stop talking and put their phones away but it was an uphill battle. Even the staff were talking. 80% of the students were from China and I gather that in China this is completely normal behaviour. In big, international orchestral concerts in China, it’s quite common apparently, to see the audience eating, chatting, talking on mobiles and walking in and out. With that as a comparison, I felt my challenges were quite mild!
More publications to come…
The book based on the Beyond Stage Fright interviews has been put on hold for a while because some other possible publications will be taking precedence. I am in correspondence with one of the publishing companies about a possible collaboration around helping school children with their nerves for music exams. And discussions are under way with another music publisher for a book and digital resources for pianists on the topic of nerves, freedom, prevention of injury and more. I am delighted that the mainstream music publishing companies are going down this route; it is yet another indication that the topic of performance anxiety in musicians is being taken seriously.
New ideas – now to be revealed in May!
In the March newsletter, I mentioned that I am exploring a new vehicle for getting information about performance anxiety out in the open, to support musicians. I had hoped I would be ready to give all the details about this now, but it’s been too big a project, so I am now aiming for the May newsletter.

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