The extraordinary potential of our abilities resides in our focus and awareness. Specific habits can elevate this potential

A man sitting on a bench looking out over a vista.
A man sitting on a bench looking out over a vista.
Photo by Daniel Salgado on Unsplash

As an orchestra conductor, I’m interested in exploring the power of our mind, and specifically how to focus the mind as we perform. I want to understand why some performances go further than others — how sometimes we can reach a peak state in our performance when we go into our “zone.” What is that zone, and how do we get there?

I want to increase the consistency of the power of my mind — its ability to create, to understand other people, to see connections and relationships between things…

Performance is motion. As a leader, you’re a catalyst for this motion.

The author, a professional orchestra conductor, at work.
The author, a professional orchestra conductor, at work.
Photo courtesy of the author.

Performance is motion.

If you’re a leader, you’re a catalyst for this motion — sometimes a guide, often a teacher, many times an observer.

When I walk out onto the stage and stand on the podium in front of an orchestra, I’m excited. I bow to the audience and turn around, glancing over the sea of musicians’ faces ready to play, feeling like an awkward dance partner. The energy is intense and the anticipation is slightly torturous. It’s hot under the lights.

Starting anything is tough — starting something creative like writing, performing a concerto, starting the race. I look…

Training to hit that sweet spot — engaged, focused, excited, a bit nervous—that puts you at the top of your game

The author conducting an orchestra.
The author conducting an orchestra.
Photo credit: Todd Rosenburg of author

You step out into the stadium, stage, auditorium, conference hall — in front of an audience of 1,000, 20,000, or two million. What will you do? How will it go? How will you harness your mind at this moment?

You walk to work, sit at your desk, open your mind. Today you strategize one of the big ideas of your life that transforms your business and takes your thinking in a new direction. How does your mind come up with the answer you’ve been seeking for so long?

The more I conduct (and the more I think about how we…

When I’m conducting an orchestra that’s hurtling at breakneck speed, I can’t make a mistake or there will be a train wreck.

Performers play the cello at a concert.
Performers play the cello at a concert.
Image source: Lindrik.

Orchestras are powerful, spontaneous, glittering sound machines. They produce extraordinary performance with relatively little preparation. In fact, many top professional orchestras rehearse on average for four rehearsals before a concert, in some situations as little as one rehearsal, and often they find themselves reading music on sight and producing excellence in the moment.

I conduct these orchestras, and time is big money for those who hire us. Every moment counts. A film orchestra records music at top form and top efficiency to make it within budget. …

How music can help every child grow into a happy and successful adult

Samoylova Svetlana via Shutterstock

As an orchestra conductor, I can attest to how music has empowered my brain and changed my life.

I started out as a simple kid growing up on a farm in Saskatchewan and through music I learned the potential that I didn’t know I had.

Music is invaluable to children in many ways — brain development and growth is a major one, but there are so many other empowering ways that music will change your child’s life now and for the future.

Whether your child is a budding scientist, contractor, teacher, doctor, entrepreneur, or professional hockey player, they will have…

As a performer, I am present with the intensity of performance energy, and I notice the energy of life.

Photo by Marco Chilese on Unsplash

Standing onstage, ready to conduct an orchestra, I get an experience of intensified, compact, sped-up energy. The moment we start is like the combustion of a rocket — the explosion of a fire. The performance is like driving a Ferrari. We’ve got to be ready enough, prepared for the moment, and capable of managing the direction of the energy, but we can only do so much — the energy takes over on its own. We’ve got to be as much ready to go for the ride as to drive the car. …

And recognize the growth potential in the moments where you take a chance

Photo of a sunrise over a field.
Photo of a sunrise over a field.
Photo by Federico Respini on Unsplash

Once upon a time, I took my first step beyond my upbringing on a wheat farm 4 miles east of Foam Lake, a Saskatchewan town of 1000 people, and started on a journey towards the podium as an orchestra conductor, in a world that doesn’t have much of a tradition of women who come from farms in Saskatchewan. In fact, I can safely say that am the only woman conductor in the entire world that comes from a farm in Saskatchewan. …

We train and practice our skills, but training our minds to focus when we’re nervous is how we reach our potential

A spotlight shines on a person who is about to perform.
A spotlight shines on a person who is about to perform.
Image credit: Nagaiets.

As strivers, we are used to “doing”. We relentlessly push ourselves to meet our goals, every day, as we prepare for every big day. As performers, though, we need to think about “being” to truly find our best self.

When I conduct an orchestra concert, I pace backstage before the concert, tapping my baton on the walls while I manage my nervous energy. I can usually transform this energy now into positive adrenalin when I run out onto the stage. But I’m working at being a better, more present, performer all the time.

There have been many times when I’ve…

Be a better parent by creating an empathetic relationship with more listening and less conflict

Close-up of the hands to two people sitting across from each other at a table.
Close-up of the hands to two people sitting across from each other at a table.
Shutterstock Credit: vchal ID: 371954932

I’m blessed with two boys, both teenagers. (I don’t always feel blessed about the teenager part). I made the mistake once of encouraging my oldest son to join the debate team in his school, and now I’m paying the price. Every conversation that we have about responsibilities, manners, work ethic, or morality goes into this debate mode of high combat, and he seems all too successful at rebuttal.

With this son, I have the sense that he’s a sleeping giant. If he’s mostly going in the right direction, it’s best to try to leave him to maneuver on his own…

And tap into your spontaneous, creative mind more often

Photo credit: Ivan Kruk via shutterstock ID:275161592

Some days, writing is like climbing a sand dune. We work and rework, but we can’t gain traction and frustratingly our words and ideas seep away from under us.

Sometimes, though, when we sit down to write, our ideas flow out of a higher state that combines our thought, reading and imagination into one flowing moment. We transcend our normal day-today struggle and connect to a flurry of inspiration that surprises and amazes us. This is a performance.

I’m an orchestra conductor. I’ve conducted concerts that transform and take us “beyond”, and also, as a writer, I’ve experienced the fleeting…

Tania Moonen

Orchestra conductor, writer. Exploring performance, mind, leadership and how music teaches the art of living.

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