Book Review: It’s Performance Day! by Cathy Collinge Herrera

Cathy Collinge Herrera’s book “It’s Performance Day! Success in the Spotlight” and companion e-zine "It's Performance Day! Complete Interviews" are published by Theodore Presser.  The resource features the author’s reflections and experience gained from a multitude of diverse performance environments, plus highlights from interviews with more than 80 performing artists from around the world, providing insights on how to handle the day of a performance, for optimal success in the spotlight.


 

There is no known fool-proof cure for performance day jitters. There isn’t even a rule that it must occur only on performance day. Unfortunately, even with today’s science, musicians everywhere will continue to fall victim to performance anxiety; fortunately, some have lived to tell the tale.

Enter Cathy Collinge Herrera. With her extensive experience as a performer, educator, and event organizer, she is no stranger to the many emotions, obstacles, and mental games afoot on the day of a performance. In her book, It’s Performance Day! Success in the Spotlight and the companion e-zine It’s Performance Day! Complete Interviews, Herrera has expertly compiled every worry you’ve dreamed up (and those you never thought of) pertaining to performance, and safely put them to bed with tales of her own experiences – and the experiences of over 60 other active performance professionals.

Herrera has separated the book into two parts: the first outlining her experience as a performer with the occasional guest interjection, and the second serving as a 60-plus performer round table discussion that is framed around eight questions posed by Herrera herself and some of her curious students.

This book is a gold mine of anecdotes and interviews. Herrera has distilled years of studio class into one resource. Whether you’re a budding performer who hasn’t yet established their own pre-performance routine, or a seasoned performer who abandons a performance day routine entirely (Herrera’s interviewees were split almost exactly down the middle!), you will still find the whole reason for the book: if not to teach musicians the beauty of a performance day routine, then to teach the practice of regular self-reflection in all areas of life.

For myself, I am struggling to pick just one favorite part of the book. First, there are the small but mighty sections that use science-based research and several interview responses to help the reader build their ideal performance day diet that suits their body, energy levels, and comfort. Then, of course, there is the treasure trove of notated warm-up routines, tried and true, to keep the musician grounded and confident just before walking on stage. Where I spent the most time, however, was the section titled “Getting Centered,” which focused on this theme of pre-performance routine. Like a baseball player up to bat, kicking dirt and thumping the soles of his shoes, we too have our conscious and unconscious rituals we develop in the practice room and take with us on stage. As Herrera says, after all, we are “essentially athletes.”

Much of this book is timeless, but there is one section that speaks to our current time: “Performance Day Online.” Not only does Herrera codify virtual performance etiquette in a way that hasn’t been done since the pandemic began (including equipment needs and home stage setup), but she addresses the lack of “backstage” when you’re on screen, and therefore the backstage routine that just flew out the window.

This book’s wholesome approach to modern performance should be very comforting to new musicians, and an excellent teaching resource for those more experienced. Herrera’s voice in every page is very nurturing, while giving us every confidence in her advice.

 

Book Review by Laken Emerson, The Flute View Magazine

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