stress level will be reduced. This is especially when sight-reading!

Tip 9: Prepare, prepare, prepare!

If you are comfortable with the musical content, your students will sense that you’ve got their back, be more willing to take risks, and learn more efficiently. If you are not comfortable with the music or musical subject matter, they will sense it. You may inadvertently transfer stress to some students. And when you can’t be 100% prepared, be honest with the students that everyone is working together on something new, and that mistakes may be a normal part of the process. How can we help students prepare for

performances, auditions and other anxiety- inducing situations?

Though targeted

toward students facing written exams, Ben Bernstein’s Test Success presents specific strategies that can work for musicians. Bernstein was somewhat of a child piano prodigy, and his musician’s mindset is clear in his work. Teaching these strategies to students well before a big event can decrease anxiety, and even may improve learning and performance during regular learning and rehearsal situations.

Tip 10: Journaling. Before a

big event, audition, competition, or performance, encourage students to write out what they expect, fear, and hope. Ask students to include information about how they have prepared. These reflections can be completely confidential, or you might offer students the option to share them with you. “Getting the nerves on paper” gives students the opportunity to work through their fears and stressors. Often, these reflective statements end with a list of things students already have done to prepare, and a realization that things will probably go just fine.

Tip 11: Mental rehearsal/ visualization. Encourage students to do this alone, or even talk through the music or event together. When working on a specific piece of music, insist that the student take several seconds to focus, then “play through” the music in his or her mind in real


time. Students who have recurrent mistakes while playing tend to rush while visualizing, thus ending sooner than the teacher would. Real-time visualization provides an opportunity to help students to learn to relax into the music and plan ahead for tricky passages, while being fully aware and present in their actual performance.

Tip 12: Postural exercises,

breathing, and sensory awareness. When under stress, it is common to lock one or more joints, take shallow breaths, and withdraw from our surroundings--real physical responses documented in many research studies. These tendencies further disable cognitive function by starving the brain of blood flow and oxygen. Build new habits by getting students to try these countermeasures before rehearsal run-throughs, and encourage students to use them any time they feel stressed: Check body posture and spine align- ment, feeling your bottom connect to the chair, with both feet connected to the floor. If standing, keep knees loose, weight cen- tered evenly over the feet, and feel energy flowing up from the feet. Move your head around, keeping the neck as relaxed and tall as possible. Breathe deeply and let all of the air out; do this at least three times. Breathe in confidence, remembering your work pre- paring for this moment. Breathe out doubt and fear. Before starting to play or sing, look

around briefly and see the shapes and col- ors, smell the air, feel the instrument or music in your hands, and hear the silence before starting the performance. What about you, the teacher? How do

you handle the million things coming at you every day? Teaching is usually listed in the top 10 of stressful professions. While this article directly addresses strategies to help students, some may work for you as well. If you are looking for more ways to keep yourself calm and focused, check out David Rock’s Your Brain at Work. This compila- tion of neuroscience and proven strategies uses real world scenarios to show you ways to be more productive and less stressed-out, even when school and life seem to drain all of your energy.


Looking For In-Person Training?

“Learning And The Brain” is an organization dedicated to connecting educators with the latest research and its implications for classroom application. Visit https://www.learningandthebrain. com/ for resources, conferences, seminars, and summer institutes.

References And Further Reading:

Aronson, J., & Juarez, L. (2012). Growth mindsets in the laboratory and the real world. In R. Subotnik & L. Miller (Eds.), Malleable minds: Translating insights from psychology and neuroscience to gifted education. Washington, DC: Department of Education. growth-mindsets-in-the-laboratory-and-the- real-world

Beilock, S. (2011). Dealing with academic stress: Simple psychological interventions can reduce stress and improve academic performance. Psychological Science Agenda, 25(9).

Bernstein, B. (2012). Test success: How to be calm, confident and focused on any test. Oakland, CA: Spark Avenue. Brooks, R., Brooks, S., & Goldstein, S. (2012). The Power of mindsets: nurturing student engagement, motivation, and resilience in students. In S. L. Christenson, A. L. Reschly, & C. Wylie (Eds.), Handbook of research on student engagement (pp. 541- 562). New York, NY: Springer.

Dubner, S. (Producer). (2016, May 4). How to get more grit in your life. Freakonomics radio. Podcast retrieved from http://

Interview with Angela Duckworth. Listen starting at 16:30 for discussion specific to deliberate practice.

Duckworth, A. (2016). Grit: The power and passion of perseverance. New York, NY: Scribner.

Dweck, Carol S. (2016, 2001) Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York, NY: Ballantine.

Halvorson, H. G., & Higgins, E. T. (2013). Focus: Use different ways of seeing the world for success and influence. New York, NY: Hudson Street Press.

Pink, D. (2009). Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us. New York, NY: Riverhead Books.

Rock, D. (2009). Your brain at work: Strategies for overcoming distraction, regaining focus, and working smarter all day long. New York, NY: HarperCollins.

MAY 2017

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