Due to my tinkering, I have endured a tumultuous relationship with the horn over the past few years. After finishing my DMA, I could still play pretty well, but I started having to work harder to keep things in check. My playing was no longer effortless, and this was due to my embouchure setup being completely wrong due to all of the changes that I had tried to make. I am one of those rare people that actually enjoys practicing, but for a while, I just didn't even want to look at my horn. I began to practice less and my embouchure finally broke, which was not a fun experience. I even sold two of my previous instruments, because I just felt so depressed, and I didn't believe that I would ever play again. It was rough, but for some reason, I couldn't get away from it. I don't think I ever had Focal Dystonia, but I do think that I changed my embouchure so frequently that I developed a severe case of Embouchure Overuse Syndrome. It was so bad that at one point I struggled to even produce a sound. I am pleased to say that my embouchure is currently back in its natural setting, but I'm still trying to gain back range and endurance.
This whole ordeal has created mental scars that have produced a level of performance anxiety that I have never felt before. I will admit that I struggled with anxiety for many years, even during my doctoral studies, but the level of anxiety that I have felt during performances over the last two years has truly left me handicapped. I think we all have dealt with the adverse effects of "dry mouth" and adrenaline, but this has been much worse. I don't think I even suffer from dry mouth anymore. On the contrary, my body just completely shuts down. I'll try to attack a note and nothing will happen. Loud stuff accompanied by other brass instruments is usually fine, but heaven forbid I have to play an exposed passage at piano.
This all leads to the reason for why I am attempting to start this blog. I'm not doing this for sympathy or for attention, because you can ask anyone that knows me, and they will tell you that I don't want attention. This is because I have a fear that goes beyond playing the horn, and I need to address it. Through this blog, I will do my best to catalog my process, discuss ideas and concepts (good and bad), and hopefully create a product that will help myself and our vast community of musicians. I am also going to be reading a lot of books on performance anxiety, and I hope to talk to other musicians invested in this topic as well. My thoughts and findings from these books and conversations will be discussed too. Also, I may share and discuss certain exercises that I have used to get back into shape and re-train my embouchure. Since the whole point of this is for me to face my fears, I will even post videos of my playing, maybe once every two weeks.
At the beginning, I will probably post a lot of different entries, but once the first assault is over, I hope to post one or two entries per week. As the process unfolds, I would like for you, my audience, to leave comments. I welcome constructive criticism, but I do ask for everyone to try and stay positive. I have too many negative things in my brain right now, so I don't need to add anything else. If you have questions, ask them. You can send me an email if you don't feel comfortable posting publicly. Lastly, I welcome you to this journey, and I really hope that we can figure this stuff out.
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