In this Preshow Rituals segment, Jacomo Bairos, from the Nu Deco Ensemble, reveals what he does before taking the stage. You can check out the rituals, after the break.
I personally have used a pre-concert ritual for years to bring me clarity, calm, and inner focus. Conducting a concert is a mentally, physically, and emotionally charged event. There is simply no way to not be fully involved when standing in front of a group of world-class musicians, and the act of expressing, showing, producing, and conducting music live in performance is one of the most draining and intellectually stimulating activities I have ever done.
Rarely, but sometimes my adrenaline, nerves, or audience distractions can get the best of me. My goal and job is to elevate the live performances to the highest possible standards I can set, and there are many people who rely on me to do my job well. The goal is to have as many people as we can enjoy and have their lives transported somewhere new through our music. Our composers, arrangers, collaborators, musicians, and audiences (around the world!) all have expectations and I am the one at the very end (after the music is written, rehearsals finished, and sound checks done) meant to deliver. If I think about it all, then I will get nervous, which sometimes happens.
Before I walk out on stage, I have several mantras I recite to myself quietly in my room:
I AM MEANT TO SHARE MUSIC
I AM HERE TO SERVE OTHERS
TONIGHT WILL BE AMAZING
PEOPLE ARE HERE TO ENJOY AND BE INSPIRED BY YOU
I AM MEANT TO SHARE MY LOVE AND LIGHT WITH OTHERS
Then I do a few breathing and pranayama breathwork to stimulate my cognitive activity while also connecting to my physical self. Then, with these thoughts I put out into the universe, I allow a minute of reflective gratitude for the ability to be able to do what I get to do with musicians for audiences and others. I have always felt that the breath is like the remote control to your well-being and when directed with intention and that it can truly elevate your consciences in any moment.
Directly before the performance begins, I stand off-stage close to the entrance up against a wall or dark corner and do one last 2 or 3 minutes of breathwork. The body and flight-or-flight nervous system is trying to bubble up. In truth, I want a little bit of these nerves in me, so that I can be a bit on edge, however, not too much to where I lose myself in the moment. These last few minutes of breathwork allow me to experience calm and peace before I walk out so that hopefully I do my job the best I can and deliver a performance that people on stage and in the audience will find meaningful and life-enriching.
Collectively at Nu Deco, we also take a moment before every performance to have a group circle that includes our leadership, our musicians, and guest artists, where we reflect on the rehearsal week, performances ahead and show gratitude for one another. These circles help center the ensemble, provide a space for any last-minute technical notes, and also serve as a reminder of the importance of joy in music-making, both individually and collectively.