Fearless Performance by Jeff Nelsen


Hello from London!


I am half-way through an incredible and inspiring week at the International Horn Society's annual symposium- this year being held in London, England.  As I was stepping on the plane, I realized that this is the first time in many years that I have attended a symposium without playing a concert (or several concerts). In fact, I didn't even bring my horn with me! It's such a different and wonderful experience to be at a symposium and be sitting in the audience, applauding my friends and colleagues. I'm able to be here and be fully present, not running in and out of things for rehearsals or concerts of my own.  I love being here every year, where I get to learn so much about the horn as well as support some incredible horn playing, and hear all the new pieces that are being written for the horn.  I am fulfilled.  

Yesterday, I presented a talk on Fearless Performance. I got to chatting with someone after the talk, and found myself telling that person something that I actually find myself explaining to many people. 

Fearlessness is not just a magic light-switch that one day clicks on. You're not all-of-a-sudden going to become fearless. It takes work. Lots of it.  In fact, I work at it all the time.  Day-in, day-out. And actually, I'm quite happy if I have an hour that goes by in which I don't have a "fearful thought." 


A lot of the fearless work we do both on and off the stage comes in the form of choices. When we are performing, do we choose to fear, or do we choose something more important than fear such as the love of beautiful music, an excitement for our audience, or the ability to give a precious gift to somebody else?


(Thank you Robin Williams for all of your incredible gifts you gave to our world.)

Wouldn't it be thrilling if we chose to pay attention to things other than our fears and the "bad times"?

At my week-long Fearless Performance for Musicians Seminar this past May, I met Johanna Nordhorn, mezzo-soprano.  She is an IU graduate, now living in St. Louis working as an opera singer and voice teacher.  Since May, we've been in contact a lot- talking about my different fearless tools as well as some of her breakthroughs and ideas.  I thought I'd ask her to sit down and write about an experience she'd recently had in one of her rehearsals.  I hope you enjoy reading about the choices she has made, and is making on a daily basis....and know that we are all making these choices all the time.  


What is the first step?  Choosing something more important than fear.

Here's Johanna:

Criticism, Peer-Pressure, and Other Gifts

How we receive criticism is crucial to our sanity as musicians and people. I recently discovered a really valuable lesson during a rehearsal process that brought up some of my toughest challenges. 
I saw that I had a choice: 
A) I could shut down at any sign of criticism, spiraling into a puddle of insecurity and becoming less productive overall (which I've done many times before)
B) I could view the entire process as a precious gift, and each remark as a helpful piece of guidance. 
I chose B. It wasn't an easy choice, but looking back, I'm so proud of myself for choosing to take remarks as guidance instead of criticism. 
I know that this can be a difficult choice when you're surrounded by peers you perceive to be better than you...but stop hiding under the covers! Learn instead.


Don't let your insecurity about something be the barrier that keeps you from working on it. Be brave. If you can shift your perception from fear of judgement to gratitude, you will always come out ahead.


-Johanna Nordhorn- Fearless convert and opera singer

Jeff Nelsen
Jeff Nelsen


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