Julie Jaffee Nagel, Ph.D., is a graduate of The Juilliard School, The University of Michigan, and The Michigan Psychoanalytic Institute. She is the author of the book Melodies of the Mind and an acclaimed writer and presenter on performance anxiety and music, career choice, and music emotion. She is in private practice in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Visit... her website at www.julienagel.net More

May/June: Perspectives

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Change When you think of the word "change," what comes to your mind? Without trying to think too hard, or second guess if I am after something specific, find a piece of paper and a pen/pencil (remember those?), or go to your computer or other device of choice (haven't we all changed to rely heavily on electronics?) and make a list of what come...
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March/April 2018: Mind Matters

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What is your performance fear? I just returned home from doing an interview with Dave Wagner, host par excellence, at the WRCJ-FM in Detroit. It felt wonderful to walk into the studio on a frigid morning here in Michigan and to be warmly welcomed with Dave's greeting, "I look forward to talking with you about combating stage fright." Dave's comment...
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Jan/Feb 2018 Mind Matters: Stage fright and symptoms: cause or effect?

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When you think about your stage fright, what are two or three fears or anxieties that come into your mind? When musicians contact me about this painful problem, I typically hear two prominent complaints among many others. These are anxiety about having (1) memory slips and (2) technical failures. As we talk about these anxieties other topics evolve...
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Mind Matters: Thinking about thinking

What do you think about when you think about performing? Take a few minutes before reading further and make a short list. Below, I have listed some frequent responses about performance that I have heard from teachers and students: • I am afraid I will make mistakes. • I will feel embarrassed if my performance does not go perfectly. • I freak out ab...
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Mind Matters: Stage fright on my mind

Stage fright is on my mind for various reasons. I have spent my entire life dealing with it since my first memory slip at age six, and it has continued to arise in my career as a performer and subsequently as a psychotherapist. Stage fright is not a topic that is easily discussed or admitted, because shame is an embarrassing component of this anxie...
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Reflections on music's life lessons

I imagine that, in one way or another, you are caught up in the drama of politics these days. My feelings have been impassioned and vocal around the proposed elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). It is not unusual for me to write when my sensitivities feel challenged, as is cur...
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Music enhances our quality of life

I doubt that any musician (and many non-musicians) reading this article would argue that the survival of music and art is critical to our nation's well-being. The final words in the previous sentence are the title of an article I wrote in 2008 and just rediscovered when going through some files in my office. 1    In writing an opinio...
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Rethinking the master class

Recently, my husband Louie and I presented a joint master class at the Mississippi Music Teachers Association State Conference. We have developed a different format for these educational, and sometimes intimidating, sessions where a student performs before an audience of peers and teachers, and an invited guest teacher, by reputation a "master," ma...
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Mind Matters: Retirement

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Imagine this: for many years you and your students have created many personal memories and memorable musical moments. You have contributed to your profession and felt emotionally enriched and, sometimes, financially rewarded. You have established a home, found a satisfying personal and family life, and planted roots in your community. You have atte...
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Why do you play the piano?

For years, I have written about and counseled many people regarding their performance anxiety.  ​I have lectured on the topics of symptoms and symptom reduction, as well as deeper psychological issues that fuel stage fright. I have heard numerous comments about "wanting to play perfectly," "wanting the audience to like me," and "not letti...
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Mind Matters: Less is more

Full disclosure: I have repeatedly tried to write this column for a couple of weeks. I have thought about it for much longer. I usually have my Clavier Companion column completed long before it is due. I do not like last minute crunches. I have legitimate excuses. In the past couple months, I have been busy attending meetings, writing papers, and p...
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Mind Matters: The Odd Couple

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When I returned to graduate school in psychology, writing papers was a typical assignment. This was often the case in courses dealing with clinical material. I remember being assigned a paper in a class on Family Dynamics; we were asked to describe a family we were treating and discuss how the work was progressing. At the time of this assignment, I...
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Music lessons are life lessons

Have you ever been in a room full of people or at a table with friends where no one was talking with each other because everyone was texting?  Although "texting" is a relatively new verb in our language, I imagine that most people, in our Age of Cell Phone, would understand its current definition. While texting potentially makes communication ...
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To use, or not to use?

​ Peter Serkin uses it. So do Emmanuel Ax and Richard Goode. Sviatoslav Richter started using it.  As a faculty member in 1980, Gilbert Kalish promoted a policy about it at Stony Brook University; it was ok to use it during degree recitals. Many top competitions prohibit its use. Its use has been discussed and debated at great length in recent...
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What happens in Vegas should NOT stay in Vegas!

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​I am writing this just after returning from Las Vegas, where I attended some wonderful programs at the 2015 Music Teachers National Association Conference. I also presented sessions as part of a Pedagogy Saturday track that explored the psychological and physical health of musicians.  Las Vegas is a city of sights, sounds, foods, and a t...
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Creating cherpumple

You may wonder what baking a cake and giving a performance could possibly have in common, and I have to admit that I never thought about it until the other day. There is something helpful to be learned about yourself in everything you do.  Recently I read an article about a remarkable dessert called the "Cherpumple." You can learn more about t...
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Do perfect performances exist?

Do you remember how old you were when you started playing the piano? How old were you when started lessons; when you played in your first recital? I recall picking out tunes on the piano when I was four years old. My first piano was a little white toy with twenty-four keys. By the time I was five, my mother had bought me a large upright piano, and ...
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Mind matters: Perspectives

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I am delighted to inaugurate this regular column. As both a musician and a psychologist/psychoanalyst, I have dealt with many varied and complex issues that music performers and teachers of all ages struggle with. This obviously includes stage fright, but it encompasses so much more. I am sure that all of you have known students like Robin, wh...
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