I’ve always loved playing the accordion, but I used to be terrified of playing the accordion in front of people. When company came over to visit, my proud parents would always insist that I get out my accordion and play something. (Don’t make me do this!) I’d drag my chair and music stand into the living room, then trudge back to my bedroom and reluctantly get out my accordion and music book.
Playing for company at home was bad enough, but recitals were even more terrifying. No matter how many times I’d practice standing up and saying “My name is Jane Christison, and I am going to play ___________,” I’d always get sweaty palms, a nervous stomach, and sometimes even a nose bleed before the performance.
For some reason, and I’m still not exactly sure why (fate?), I went on to study accordion with Joan Cochran Sommers at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music. Part of the Bachelor of Music degree was performing with a group called The Accordionaires. We practiced three afternoons a week, rehearsing and perfecting our parts. Early on in my freshman year, we had our first performance. We were hired to play for a banquet at a restaurant located high above downtown Kansas City. (I got my first taste of the glamour of “showbiz” by riding up on a service elevator that smelled like rotten vegetables.)
There I was in my hot pink chiffon dress (picture the Lawrence Welk look), gold shoes, opera hose, and rhinestone earrings. I was so excited to be in costume and performing that I forgot all about being nervous!
The reason it was such an enjoyable experience (besides the really cool outfit!) was that we had prepared in advance. We had our music in order so that we didn’t have to stop and shuffle pages between numbers. We had rehearsed and learned our parts. We had practiced smiling. We knew when to set down the accordion and pick up an umbrella for the dance routine. (Oh, I forgot to mention the part about taking dance lessons!) Each member of the group was totally prepared for the performance.
Before you play in public, practice, practice, practice, so that you are totally prepared and ready. You may still be scared to death, but you will be confident because you’ve prepared in advance.
The next time you play in public, you may still be nervous, but it WILL be easier than the first time. And the next time will be even easier still. The more you perform, the easier it becomes. And when you become comfortable performing, then you’ll be able to make eye contact with your audience, maybe even smile at them once in a while. Show them that playing the accordion really is FUN! They’ll enjoy it, and you will too!
Jane Christison has two videotape workshops available to help you become a performance-ready accordionist: “Playing the Accordion for Fun and Fame!” and “Squeezing Money Out of Your Accordion: How to Be a Professional Money-Making Musician.” You can order the videotapes by contacting Jane Christison, PMB 216, 12046 W. 95th St., Lenexa, Kansas 66215-3803, phone (913) 492-3883, phone toll-free (888) 401-3883, fax (913) 492-3888, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.musicwithasmile.com.
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