Finding Center: Strategies to Awaken Energy, Clarity, and Focus for Peak Performance; Lesley McAllister; January 11, 2019

Presenters: Dr. Lesley McAllister

The moments before a performance are perhaps the most important and also the most overlooked period in preparing a musician for either success or failure onstage. Teachers must know how to respond when students approach performance with fear and trepidation or regularly underperform. The best practicers are not always the best performers because the two skills are governed by different hemispheres of the brain. When teachers provide students with practical tools to use in the weeks, days, and moments before performance, they provide the foundation for achieving flow, or complete absorption in the task at hand. Students must use the moments before performance to obtain a clear mind, awaken their energy, and engage the necessary muscles for both deliberate and spontaneous performance. Centering is a technique used in meditation, yoga, tai chi, and martial arts that serves all of these functions while alleviating anxiety and engaging right brain function. The “center” is an actual physical spot in the body that lends strength and energy to the opening notes of a performance. This workshop introduces many different strategies for centering, including breath awareness, mindful movement, imagery, tension release, and self-talk, with sample pre-performance routines for students' unique performance profiles.

Lesley McAllister is Associate Professor of Piano and Director of Piano Pedagogy at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. In addition to teaching piano pedagogy, she also teaches courses on performer wellness and class piano and directs the Piano Laboratory Program. Dr. McAllister holds degrees from the University of Houston (BM), Florida State University (MM), and the University of Oklahoma (DMA). An active clinician, she has presented at such national conferences as the Music Teachers National Association, the College Music Society, and the Group Piano and Piano Pedagogy (GP3) Forum, as well as the International Society of Music Educators conference. Her research interests include imagery, relaxation techniques for performance anxiety, mental rehearsal, and yoga for musicians.  Published several times in American Music Teacher, she was awarded the 2010 “Article of the Year" award by the Music Teachers National Association. She has also been published in Clavier Companion, Piano Pedagogy Forum, and the MTNA E-Journal. She is the author of The Balanced Musician: Integrating Mind and Body for Peak Performance which was published by Scarecrow Press in 2012, and her book Yoga in the Music Studio will be published by Oxford Press.