Any musician who performs has been in the position of having to play a concert with too little sleep. We may be traveling and don’t sleep well in hotels. Or perhaps a performing opportunity has popped up unexpectedly and the only way to have the music learned and memorized is to work well into the night. Students are known to cut sleep in order to try to accommodate all of the other demands of university life. Occasionally sleep-deprived performances are unexpectedly good. More than one pianist has told me that because she was so tired, the critical, judgmental voice in her head that often monitors performances was less active and she more easily entered a flow state. But more likely, we musicians don’t talk about the performances that didn’t go well when the reason was lack of sleep. Continue reading
My last semester of college was difficult. My senior recital was scheduled for late March, I had grad school auditions, a tough course load, was teaching quite a few students in the school’s prep division, and of course was practicing a lot of hours for my senior recital. One evening as I was trying to memorize the Bartok Sonata after a particularly trying day, I was so tired I put my head down on the piano and drifted off. As is the case in many music schools, the practice room doors all had small windows so other students could look in to see if anyone was using the room. I have no idea how long I was out, but I was awakened by a couple of voices saying “wonder what she’s doing. Must be a new way of memorizing.” Turns out they may have been more right than they, or I, knew.