Make Art, Not Perfection

I can’t say I’ve ever given a perfect performance. I often walk away thinking I could have done something differently. As an artist and musician, I need to be always improving. On stage, I make choices about the way I play and how I perform.

Perfection is not playing a song or piece through without any mistakes. In this age of pitch correction, it's important to remember slight imperfections or mistakes are often what make a piece of music so beautiful. It’s the human touch that connects us to music and each other.

Live music is about spontaneity. My mentor/piano teacher once told me every performance should be different. At first I didn’t understand, but he explained it could just be a moment or a look that changes. He insisted performers, musicians or other artists must never repeat themselves. This has become my mantra. I vow to never give the same performance. I want to be always growing, always changing.

I believe there is an “it” factor when it comes to music. Something intangible that can’t be articulated. Something otherworldly happens when we play/write/record music. Not everyone can do it, and we must not take this gift lightly. We must respect this power and honor the talent bestowed upon us.

As a piano student, I immersed myself in the study of classical music. More than any other genre, perfection is revered when performing classical music. Listening to an opera or a solo piano recital, mistakes are glaring and viewed as unforgivable. Critics gloat and tomatoes fly. In college, I would spend between two and eight hours in a practice room every day, desperate to perfect those impossible measures in a Beethoven concerto.

As musicians, we place unreasonable standards on ourselves that can be counterproductive. These standards cause insecurity, and we start to doubt ourselves and the choices we make on stage.

Letting go of the idea we need to be perfect is hard. Our culture loves to build people up, just to tear them down. Imagine 1,000 pairs of eyes following your every move. As you fall, 1,000 cell phones document the misstep, immortalizing your failure on YouTube for the entire world to see. The greater your popularity, the bigger the numbers and the farther the fall. It’s no wonder some performers have a debilitating case of stage fright.

Performing is scary, but also exhilarating and rewarding. That’s why musicians do it. We aren’t total masochists.

Musicians take what they do seriously, sometimes too seriously. Perfection doesn’t come from only sitting in a practice room and endlessly going over your part. I’ve grown the most as a performer when I let go and trust myself. Doing that is more difficult than learning the parts I need to play or sing. Practice lays the foundation. The walls, furniture and paint come from actually performing.

Whether I’m performing for five people or five thousand, I intend to give the best of myself for every performance. It may not be perfect, but perfection is so… well boring, right? I’d rather be honest and real.

So go practice your ass off, but don’t do it to be perfect. Do it to be the best you.

I’ll be performing at NYC Pride this year with my band, The Paisley Fields. If you’re in the NYC area, come to the Queer Music Festival at Rockbar on Thursday, June 25th.

http://www.rockbarnyc.com