Blog of the Week: My Fear of Being a Soloist, Fear of Playing from Memory

Orignially posted by Jennifer Roig-Francoli on at

I mentioned in my last post that Life keeps giving us new challenges to grow from.  My current challenge has to do with performing and memorization.

Alexander Technique Cincinnati musiciansI haven’t done much playing from memory since my early 20’s, when I was used to performing solo repertoire from memory on a regular basis. One of the reasons is the following. When I was about 22, I had a negative experience while playing a very challenging solo piece with orchestra, the Chausson Poeme, which instilled a lot of fear in me about playing from memory in public.  So it wasn’t until decades later that I began daring to play new pieces in public again. I still do it very rarely.

You might wonder what the negative experience was, so I’ll tell you:

I was performing as the soloist with the orchestra, with perhaps hundreds of people in the audience, when all of a sudden I realized that I had been playing the entire first page mindlessly, completely on automatic pilot! It was almost as if I had been unconscious and was suddenly waking up from a coma! My shock in coming back to myself was tremendous. Thankfully, I was able to keep on playing without making any mistakes, and nobody noticed. But I was so shaken and disconcerted that I could have performed such a difficult piece in such a public situation without any awareness of it at all. My mind was NOT there, and I had no idea know where it/I was!

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