Back in the day, when I regularly took ABRSM graded exams on violin, an expression used to come up time and again on the exam report forms: ‘it was a convincing performance’. As a 12 year old I wasn’t entirely sure what this meant, though it sounded good. I now feel, having practiced as a community musician for a number of years, that I have a better understanding of this word in relation to music. Being committed to a performance, to a song, to an activity, means to believe in its worth, and to bear witness to that by leading the activity or song with an abandon that helps the people being led (or being played to in a performance context) believe that no other piece of music will do right now – this is the right piece of music for this moment. It helps the participants (or audience) trust the performer/leader that this music is of significance, and we’re not just passing the time.
As I look back over the notes made during the last few years, the learning points coming out of them seem to be time and again ‘be more confident’, ‘present this song/activity more confidently’, ‘speak more clearly and boldly about this activity’, ‘don’t be afraid to get up and lead from the centre of the circle’, ‘hold my nerve’ – this learning is not something that could be taught (apart from in theory), but something I just had to experience for myself. Being confident is a state, and whilst I can act confidently whilst facilitating, this is no substitute for being confident, because without confidence how can the music be convincing?