Over the years, I have received many pieces of advice for the days leading up to a performance, including, but certainly not limited to, the following:
We are so inundated with advice, many pieces of which directly contradict each other. It can be overwhelming and downright confusing. So naturally, I'm going to offer you one more.
What I offer tonight is about your music - the actual sheet of paper, not the abstract concept or expressive nature of performance, but the paper you have been literally and figuratively sweating over for weeks.
Here it is:
Erase your brackets.
You know the brackets I mean, those thin stripes of graphite reminding you each passage you still "can't play."
Erase them, because if you are anything like me, they are no longer helpful practice guidelines, but rather signs that might as well look like this:
This relates directly to the previously listed advice on expectations. Brackets remind us that we have tended to fail right there, right then. Over time, that reminder has become an expectation, and I struggle to find a more disheartening pre-anything thought than the expectation of epic failure.
Rather than expecting the best or the worst or whatever is most likely to happen, I invite you to expect nothing at all. Listen to what you are doing - this is when the real music comes into play now, not the paper kind - and try to be just a little bit surprised.
You might just surprise yourself in a good way.