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Musicians' Ultimate Checklist for Performances

I'll admit, I am a list maker. I have a checklist of things I need for performances, and I have added items to it based on my experience. Having a performance checklist helps make sure I have everything I need for a performance and avoids last-minute panic.

1. Instrument

I almost forgot about including this item on my list until my friend reminded me. I am a pianist so I only worry about it when I play contemporary music, but non-pianists/ singers, this is important!!!

2. Outfit

You may think this is a no-brainer, but believe me, I have once arrived New York after an 8-hour drive only to realise I had left my luggage in the apartment. Running around, shopping for dress and shoes two hours before the shops closed was an experience I will never forget. The dress in the photos is what I bought in that trip. Always check that you have clean clothes ironed and ready, and make sure to practise or rehearse in them before your performance.

3. Scores

You may be able to buy clothes if you forget them, but you may not be as lucky with scores. When I go to performances on a plane, I make sure to carry it in my personal bag (where you put your most valuable items so that you never forget them!). I am glad that although I left my luggage in the apartment before I went to New York, I had the score in my personal bag. Always have the score with you in a safe place, i.e. IN your bag. My friend placed her part on her bag, and after she came back from the washroom the music was gone. Nobody found it. As a result, she had to play from the full score (she was fantastic so it worked, but you don't want to go through that!) If you use an iPad or digital device like I do, make sure to have it fully charged and that the Wi-Fi is switched off so that it does not ring or update in the middle of your performance. You don't want to be performing and worrying about the device.

4. Page Turner (A Friend or a Pedal)

If you need a page turner (and/or collaborative pianist), make sure to confirm the date, time, venue and dress code with your page turner, and communicate when you want your pages be turned, whether there are repeats or tricky page turns. Whenever possible, rehearse with your page turner. It is also a good idea to memorise several bars before and after page turns in case anything happens. If you use a page turner pedal, check that it is connected to the digital device, charged, and bring spare batteries.

5. Jacket and Gloves

No matter where I perform, I always bring a jacket with me. It can be a sudden change in weather or an exceptionally cold room. If you tend to have cold hands before performances, bringing a pair of gloves or a hand warmer would help.

6. Water and Snacks

Performances require energy, so I always bring warm water and two bananas with me. Sometimes I bring nuts with me as well-- something that boosts my energy and is easy to eat before or between performances.

7. Trim Nails and Put On/ Bring Makeup

Make sure your nails are trimmed, and if you are putting on makeup, check that you have everything you need. I always bring a lipstick, some hairbands and hair clips with me.

8. Check Your Occasion

If you are having an audition, bring the invitation letter, your photo ID and the documents needed. If you are performing outdoor, it is never a bad idea to put on bug spray. I have more than once seen musicians being troubled by bugs on stage-- a bee circling a pianist and a fly that landed on the head of a solo bassist then stayed till the end of the performance.

9. Logistics

If this is a place you have never been to, it is always useful to visit the venue beforehand so that you don't end up getting lost before the performance. Plan ahead to make sure you give yourself enough time to warm up and get ready in the venue.

10. Your Routine

I usually get a light meal 2-3 hours before my performances. If you keep a journal that helps you focus, bring it with you. If meditation, visualisation or mental practice helps, plan it in your schedule. If watering your plants gives you good mood or if talking to someone you love reminds you why you are performing, do it. Experiment what's best for you.

We may not need the same items every single time, but having the list available means we free mental space to focus on the performance itself. Being mentally and physically prepared help us share the music effectively on stage. Hope this helps, and feel free to share it with your friends and students!

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