What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?
I think the biggest challenge has been finding techniques and strategies to deal with the mental pressure of performing in a professional schedule. There are certainly other challenges, such as the physical problems – strains and injuries – that most musicians have from time to time, and the challenge of approaching the preparation of passages that initially seem impossible to play. But behind all this is the necessity to develop a higher level of concentration, which means an ability to negotiate distraction, and ways to cope with non-optimal outcomes – the sort of mortifying failures that can sometimes trip us up because we are human and fallible. My experience is that mindfulness meditation has been very beneficial in mitigating stress and improving brain function in performance situations, and there is some research that backs it up, which I think is very important. Nowadays I would always choose to go with evidence based practices because that guarantees a better probability that I am devoting time and energy to something that will work. I also think that the more we can learn about the psychology of performance, the better able we are to manage ourselves. Noa Kageyama’s Bulletproof Musician blog is a great resource for information on the latest research. But there’s always a certain mystery about the whole business, no matter how scientific we are.