LIDIA, Cellist and the importance of learning to work without fears of mistakes

Context : Lidia is 26 years old, has been playing cello for 16 years and is on the way to be a professional player. She was raised in Vigo, Spain. During 3 years, between 23 and 25, she experienced a major physical shoulder problem. An intense 1 week quatuor workshop gave some insights. Here she goes :

“I was really involved with my instrument when I was a kid already, it was personally important and filled with emotions. So it was already a very demanding background and on top of that my school was very competitive in a destructive way. It was a lot of pressure, like if you don’t play good, you have no friends. In the school environment, if someone does mistakes his social life collapses because nobody wanted to have a friend who does not play well.

So, pressure was not only coming from the teachers. It was a general atmosphere. But approach from the teachers was bad too, like if practice does not hurt (in a physical way) it means that you are not playing good. The way of focusing on the technique, skills, was not efficient. You had to repeat hundred times if needed.

A lot of tension came from the fear of making mistakes. Younger I used to have skin issues because of the stress of those fears. Also at 10, I was told that I was already too old to start playing, and that only added pressure. I used to practice 8 hours a day between age 19 and 21. What happened is that at 22 I got injured. My shoulder bone came out of its place. That is easy to fix but because of all the tension and physical work, it took a long time to recover. 18 months without playing at all !! My muscles in the shoulder were devastated from too much of inefficient work.

Then I had to start again, it was like 1mn a day then 2, etc. Long and slow process. In the healing process I met my physical therapist, Nabor, specialized in professional sports. He taught me how to be efficient without abusing my body. The technique was to visualize every movement. Very precisely, each finger, each sound, each movement, the breathing, energy, emotions. Like in real except I was lying down. At that time I was playing real 15mn a day ! And it worked. I was able to pass all my exams for orchestra, chamber music and cello. I had to admit it worked to play little but in a very efficient way.

And that also is what my workshop teacher taught me : where you are playing something hard, to smile, to enjoy what you play, to have an open physical position (not to roll onto myself). And he always says that nobody does perfect on the first trial, and to be patient and allow mistakes. The important thing is to be able to recognize and analyze the mistakes and then to correct them in a very intelligent way which means to be factual and not emotional about it (like saying to oneself “you are bad” and to suffer. To not identify the mistake with yourself and your music. It is important to keep in mind that music is something I do for pleasure and that I share for pleasure).

This approach in work really changed my all life. Because making mistakes in life is also the natural way of learning. So by integrating in my “dna” that natural fact, it helped me to have a successful personal life, and also to feel positive, peaceful and happy J