My journey began at the age of 2 when I said “oa wike mugas” (so I am told) and was given my first violin – that “violin” being a Cracker-Jack box with a ruler taped to it. Midway through kindergarten, I gave my first performance with orchestra as a student of Dr. Shinichi Suzuki (founder of the Suzuki Method) in Matsumoto, Japan, and shortly thereafter, made my TV debut on WBNS-TV’s Front Page Saturday Night.
Practice, practice, practice
From an early age, I practiced every day, 365 days a year. The work did pay off, garnering opportunities to perform as a soloist with the Columbus Symphony, Springfield Symphony, Welsh Hills Symphony, and Oberlin Orchestra. I also performed on radio broadcasts for WOSU-FM, WCBE-FM, and Israel’s National Classical Music radio station. A fellowship to the Aspen Music Festival allowed me to play alongside world-famous conductors, emerging concert artists, and future orchestra members and principals. It’s been my good fortune to have had coachings and master classes with musical figures like Isaac Stern, Leon Fleisher, Emanuel Ax, Janos Starker, Max Rostal, Yfrah Neaman, and Natalia Gutman.
My life revolved around music for as long as I can remember. Along the way, I learned all about discipline, sacrifice, and what it takes to be successful. But I also came to see that this wasn’t quite enough. Despite my successes, I struggled with inconsistency and felt that my playing often fell short of what I knew I was capable of. It was frustrating to play so well in rehearsals and then sound like a different person in performances and auditions.
Like many musicians, I just assumed that I needed to practice more. I figured the nerves would fade away at some point. Neither was true; sometimes I’d sound great, sometimes just mediocre. I couldn’t figure out how to control it.
It certainly wasn’t my teachers’ fault. I am lucky to have studied with many remarkable musicians and teachers; a list which includes Stephen Clapp, Ronald Copes, Franco Gulli, Paul Kantor, Masao Kawasaki, Roland & Almita Vamos, and Donald Weilerstein. I could not have asked for a better or more complete musical training. Yet, I knew there was more I needed to learn – I just didn’t know what.
A whole new world to explore
My second year at Juilliard, I signed up for a course titled “Performance Enhancement for Musicians” taught by Dr. Don Greene. It sounded interesting, although I was pretty skeptical that an Olympic sport psychologist and former green beret could tell me anything about being a concert artist. To my surprise, what I learned that semester changed not only how I performed, but how I felt about performing. My whole approach shifted. Even my practice habits changed dramatically.
I was hooked. Sport psychology opened up a whole new world of skills to learn, skills that I knew would help me become a more complete musician and performer, but to which I had never been exposed. After finishing up my masters at Juilliard, I went to Indiana University to pursue a doctorate in psychology. I was determined to learn the secrets of peak performance and find answers to questions like “Why do some people thrive under pressure while others choke?”
Fast-forward to today
It’s been many years now since I made the decision to put my violin down and pursue psychology, but I haven’t looked back and remain committed to helping people learn what it takes to shine under the bright lights. Much of my work is divided between working with individual students and professionals in the performing arts, and high-achieving folks in other fields who likewise are seeking to exhibit better poise under pressure and maximize their potential in their chosen craft.
I am on the faculty of The Juilliard School in NYC and the New World Symphony in Miami, FL where I help talented musicians prepare for orchestra job auditions. I conduct workshops and “webinars” on performance enhancement and overcoming performance anxiety, and have done so for institutions including the New England Conservatory, Peabody, Indiana University, Northwestern University, and the U.S. Armed Forces School of Music. I’ve been a speaker at seminars such as the Starling-Delay Symposium and National Orchestral Institute, for organizations such as the Music Teachers’ National Association and the National Association of Teachers of Singing, at summer programs like The Perlman Music Program, and in online/media programs (hear a clip from WNYC’s Soundcheck).
The point of this blog
I started this blog so that I might share with you what I have learned over the years from both my musical background and my psychology training. It is my hope that you find the information on this site to be helpful as you strive to become a more confident, dynamic, and inspiring performer. If you have questions about something you see on this site, or if I can help in any way, please feel free to send me a note.
Noa Kageyama, Ph.D.