Welcome to The Bulletproof Musician!

Hi! My name is Noa Kageyama – I’m a performance psychologist, and am on the faculty of The Juilliard School. But once upon a time, I was that sleepy-looking 2-year old learning how to hold a violin.

Like learning any other skill, everything was pretty much rainbows and unicorns at the very outset, but it wasn’t long before I began experiencing stretches of frustrating practice days, where it felt like I was stuck – or getting worse. And on stage, I struggled with nerves, worries about memory slips, cold, clammy, shaky hands, a racing heartbeat, doubts, fears, and all the rest.

No matter how much I practiced, or how many bananas I ate, I never could figure out how to beat anxiety and perform my best when it really mattered.

Until I went to Juilliard, and took a class simply titled “Performance Enhancement,” taught by sport psychologist Don Greene. I had never heard of this branch of psychology, but what I learned changed everything.

What do elite performers do differently?

I discovered that that top athletes don’t just train physically, but engage in a ton of mental training as well. Furthermore, they understand that learning a skill and performing that skill are two very different challenges – and that success in each requires a different type of practice.

Which might sound pretty obvious. And I suppose on some level, I already knew this as well. But what I didn’t know, was how to put this knowledge into action. What does mental training actually look like? How exactly is practicing for skill and practicing for performance different? How the heck does one manage nerves, or “practice” confidence or focus?

Answering such questions is what this blog is about. Taking what researchers have learned, and what great musicians have been saying for decades, and figuring out how to put all of it into action. Both in the practice room, and on stage.

Becoming "bulletproof"

– Step 1 –

To help you get started, I’ve hand-picked two articles to read first, that describe some key concepts and will give you a sense of what you’ll find here:

– Step 2 –

With hundreds of articles in the archives – on topics ranging from optimal memorization strategies to whether good-luck charms work – it might be a bit overwhelming to try to figure out where to start.

But not to worry! I’ve put together a short assessment that will help you identify your mental strengths and weaknesses – and direct you right to the articles that will be the most relevant and helpful to your playing.

It takes just 4 minutes – and is kind of fun. I mean, who doesn’t love online quizzes? Click the button below to get started.