Fearless Performance by Jeff Nelsen

Who's it going to be?

As I write these newsletters, I'm conscious of the fact that I'm sharing what I think, and that what I think guides and creates who I am. It's the same think/am sharing when I play my horn.  It's the same when I speak to my friends, my students, my wife, my child, and beyond...and speaking is performing.
Performance is a constant circle of building and sharing, as well as possible, of who we are.
I should qualify that.  Performance is a constant circle of building and sharing of who we are.  Good or great performance is this circle of building and sharing being done as well as possible.
Just performing, versus creating good or great performance is up to you.
When we perform, we share who we are. 

During lessons that I'm teaching, often there are moments when things are very simple, yet very complicated.  This is fine. This is life. But when the person speaks with hopes of a black and white answer or agreement and they don't get one, sometimes they dislike the complication.  
"Just tell me what to do here." has been said. 
Are those the words of a creative hire-able or marry-able solution-based person you would want to join forces with? Yeah not so much...


Personally, I love the muddy middle-ground! This is where regurgitation ends, and YOU appear.  This is where you get to choose. Un-Black-and-White-ness means you're free to figure it out for yourself, make that mix of creative choice and high standards as good as possible, and go share that!!  ...and then repeat the whole Build/Share circle again and again... 

Question - "Should I take time on this note or that note?"

Black and White Answer - "This one."

Freedom-and-Opinion-Creating Answer - "Well, you can do that on either note.  It really depends on how and why you do it."
You choose
When you hear a possibly ambiguous answer, there is still a critical moment of choice in your hands.  Is this a problem that you didn't get the clear answer you wanted, or have you just been given an opportunity to choose for yourself?
THIS moment of assessment is when you REALLY get to develop who you are.
I'm writing about about this topic this week because I spent some time with a good friend and colleague, mezzo-soprano and arts advocate Carla Dirlikov. I watched her thoughtful interview about her extensive experience performing as Bizet's Carmen and was moved by her comments.  I was especially inspired when she mentioned that Carmen really knew who she was.
"I honestly admire her. I admire her sense of value...and that's something that people don't really understand because people think, "Ohhh, she's a femme fatale and she's this home wrecker."  But actually no, she's someone who really knows who she is, and she's someone who stays true to herself."
Carmen really knows who she is. And Carla brings that to her portrayal of Carmen.
Task for Today - Make it YOU.
Do you know who you are?  
This is who you bring into every performance, and what you share every time.  For every performance, it's not "What do you have for us?" but it's something that goes way deeper.  
"WHO do you have for us?"
And then all you can do is share that!  So yes, it's about "What's it going to be?" but you can and must go deeper.
Make it YOU
Today, in preparation, answer yourself the question of, "Who am I in this idea?"
Answering that question will take you down new avenues in your pursuit to:
Learning what to Love Well and what to Let Go will equip you to know who you are and enable you to share that.
The more you try to act, the less real it is. Don't go out there to try to be who you think they want.  No matter how much you know about what they want, you must go be you!  That's what you're doing anyway, so know this during preparation too!  When you prepare, you can include things you know they want in what you Build...so you build a you that is who they want, but when you cross your magic line from back stage to onstage, the goal is to be yourself. 
As Carla says in her interview, "I think that that is the purpose of life. I think that's the mission in life, is to know who you are."

...and if that doesn't end up being hirable or 2nd-date-able, keep building.

Less is more.  
Your final pre-performance question is always "Who's it going to be?"
"It took a tremendous amount of confidence for me to believe that I didn't have to do anything." - Carla D
It took Carla confidence and a ton of good preparation.


My life's goal since high-school has always been to exist as I am, and have that be enough.


"I exist as I am, that is enough, 

If no other in the world be aware I sit content, 
And if each and all be aware I sit content. 
One world is aware, and by the far the largest to me, and that is myself, 
And whether I come to my own today or in ten thousand or ten million years, 
I can cheerfully take it now, or with equal cheerfulness, I can wait."                                   Walt Wittman - Leaves of Grass 

In your next performance, for both your audience and your peace of mind - clearly answer this one simple question:
Who's it going to be?
I look forward to seeing YOU soon,
"Have no fear...YOU and HERE"
Here is a valuable book for you. 
  • Dweck's definition of the difference between Fixed and Growth Mindsets 
    • "In a fixed mindset students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that's that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb. In a growth mindset students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. They don't necessarily think everyone's the same or anyone can be Einstein, but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it."

Jeff Nelsen
Jeff Nelsen


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