We were thrilled to speak with Annie Bosler, a world class French Hornist who has played with John Williams, Josh Groban, Michael Feinstein, Itzhak Perlman and Paul McCartney. Annie has performed for famous shows such as Glee, The Ellen Show, Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and The 2020 Grammy Awards ceremony.
Surely such a high-level performer is long past any concerns of stage fright or performance anxiety, right? That’s not always the case. In this conversation Annie shares invaluable insights on how top-level professional musicians think about and actively tackle performance anxiety.
We talk about:
- The relationship between performance anxiety, flow states, and getting into “the zone”.
- The specific components of Annie’s own peak performance toolkit and what you might like to try for yourself.
- The lessons she learned from interviewing some of the original Hollywood studio musicians of the golden years.
This conversation will enlighten your overall view of performance flow states – and leave you with some specific tips to help you reach your full performance potential.
Watch the episode:
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Annie: Hi, I’m Annie Bosler, and I co-authored College Prep for Musicians, and I also produced and directed 1M1: Hollywood Horns of the Golden Years, and this is Musicality Now.
Christopher: Welcome to the show Annie, thank you for joining us today.
Annie: Thank you for having me, I’m super excited to be here.
Christopher: You have an incredibly impressive CV in terms of the musicians you have performed with, and you are a french horn player, to boot. A fascinating individual to begin with, but you’ve also co-authored a really terrific book and produced a very interesting movie, and given talks that are super fascinating. There’s a lot to talk about, but I wonder if we could start at the beginning and learn a little bit about Annie Bosler the musician. Where you came from, when you started, and what your own musical trajectory has been like.
Annie: Sure, so, I actually grew up in South Carolina on a farm, a beef farm with cows, and so for me, I was kind of a little bit of the black sheep in the family in terms of, the one who did music. Now that I live in Los Angeles, everybody’s like, “What are you doing?” I grew up, very fortunate to be get to drive an hour and a half each way to take french horn lessons, and one of the big highlights of my high school career was I got to play in an all-state band, which, I know a lot of people have done such a thing, but for me, it was really a game-changer. We played a piece, Nimrod, by Elgar, from the Enigma Variations, and it was one of the things where I was sitting on stage at all-state, and I was just in this wash of sound. If you know the piece, there’s not honestly that much of an amazing french horn part, and so it was being in this huge wash of sound and I just, it just changed my life and I just said, “I want to be in the middle of this sound forever.”
Annie: That just is basically what started everything, and so from there I went on to do my undergrad in french horn, and I had a similar experience when I went off to college and I got to hear the Pittsburgh Symphony on a pretty regular basis. I had never heard Alpine Symphony, and so I think I was a freshman, and I got to go sit in the Symphony Hall, and it was the same experience. I mean, granted, I wasn’t in the orchestra, but I was in the audience, and the same wash of sound happened again. It was so intense that I cried the whole performance. I mean, I’ll start crying if I talk about this too much, but I cried the entire performance. I cried the whole bus ride home. I cried for the next hour after it, and I just said, “I have to be a part of this.” That took me then to Los Angeles for a Masters and Doctorate, and I’ve been very fortunate to get to do many different things where I get to be in this wash of sound all the time. I feel crazy fortunate to be a professional musician.
Christopher: Amazing, and I won’t reel off the names of all of the incredible musicians you’ve played with over the years, but I wonder if you could pick out a few highlights? I know that you were recently performing at the Grammy’s, for example.
Annie: Yeah. I was really fortunate to get to play at the Grammy’s just this last weekend, with Ariana Grande. I played second horn there, it was a lot of fun. I’ll tell you the one that I would say is my parents’ favorite highlight, which is funny because my mom’s always like, “What kind of concerts are you doing? Okay.” Then, but when I called about this one, she’s like, “Oh, you’ve really made it.” It’s, I got, I was really fortunate to get asked to play on a CBS special which honored The Beatles, and I think in my lifetime, I never ever once thought I would get asked to play with Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, the two remaining Beatles, but we did and they had four french horns on the stage, and we did Sergeant Pepper Lonely Hearts Club and also Hey Jude.
Annie: It was one of those things where we showed up not knowing at all who we were going to play with. They just said, “It’s a special honoring The Beatles,” and we didn’t know which artist we would play with. To get asked to play with them, obviously, is beyond a highlight. When we showed up on stage, we had just known we were playing Sergeant Pepper’s, and then we were asked to play Hey Jude on the spot. It’s a good thing the horn section had, we all had listened to it, known it well, but, so we just put the chords in with the group and it was just amazing. My mom and dad obviously were over the moon, but I think for them, that was a, “You’ve now made it in music.” Even though I had done millions of concerts before that, that was a big highlight, so.
Christopher: It’s hard to beat playing with Paul and Ringo.
Annie: I, yeah. I just, I can’t describe it. It was, and it was world live national television, so it’s not a tiny bit of pressure, but.
Christopher: Well, that’s one of the things I most wanted to talk about with you today, is musicians and pressure. Obviously this would be a theme in your book, College Prep for Musicians, where certainly in the US, the audition to get into the college to study music is a huge thing and potentially a seriously intimidating thing. That, yeah, I’m sure many of us who haven’t gone that route can only imagine, the intense pressure for teenagers. Obviously, performance anxiety and the pressure of performing is something that pretty much every musician and music learner has to grapple with at some point. I’d love to hear a bit of your perspective on that, and maybe we could begin by just talking about how you experienced that for yourself growing up, before you became such an expert in the topic. What was it like for you?
Annie: Sure. I mean, I’ll be straight-up and honest. I deal with it every day. I deal with performance anxiety no matter what concert I play. I think any professional that doesn’t say that they do at some point might not be telling the truth, because I really do. I think everybody does do it. I think some people have more tools and more experience, and they’ve learned to tackle it, but I’ve felt everything from all the physical symptoms to, definitely the mental symptoms where you’re going to miss this note, this is not going well, whatever. It’s something that I work on, honestly, all the time. I’ll tell you when I first experienced it, was I was fortunate to play college tennis. That was part of my college experience, I was on the tennis team there, and I would find myself honestly choking in matches. What would happen was, I was always better than the player, and I would get to the point where I should have beaten the player, but I would always feel that I wasn’t good enough to win somehow or I wasn’t good enough to tackle it, and so I had a coach …
Annie: This was, honestly I dealt with this mostly before college, but I had a coach in high school. His name was Bill Jolly. He’s like a second grandfather to me, honest, or a third grandfather to me, honestly, but he basically taught me how to win. What he taught me was, there’s all sides. The physical side to playing, and there’s the mental side, but he taught me a lot about visualization. My dad also was a college football player, and so he grew up listening to things like Maxwell Maltz Psycho Cybernetics, which if people have never listened to, that’s a great start. Anyway, so I tackled it really through tennis before I hit the music side, and so I would do a lot of visualization on the court and off the court, trying to really recreate points in my head and work on closing points and winning points.
Annie: The way that translated to music was, I started to use the same … Excuse me, I started to use the same visualization process when preparing for auditions and preparing for big concerts, or concerts. For me, the visualization is something that not a lot of musicians know about from the athletic side that I think is super important, and the way you do it is, you just start from the beginning. You picture yourself, you picture the stage or the place you’re going to perform, even if it’s a lesson or you’re going to go play duets with friends or whatnot, you picture yourself walking into the room. You picture yourself, all the feelings that you’re going to feel. If you’re going to feel nervous, you picture it, and then you picture everything up so when you sit down, you play, and then if anything goes negatively in your mind, you, I always will pause and try to … You accept it, don’t say, “This is terrible,” but you accept it and then kind of pause, and then walk yourself through it in a positive way.
Annie: Whenever I give talks in front of musicians, I will do a visualization, and I always ask them. I’ll say, “Okay, pick a piece of music in your head, and visualize it from start to finish.” Then, when we’re done with that a minute later, I’ll say, “Okay, raise your hand if you made a mistake,” and literally 90% of the room has made a mistake while listening to it in their head, which is hilarious to me, because you haven’t even played your instrument. The visualization is really fascinating because on the sports side, you’re working out the points in your head and you should always be winning the points, or at least seeing a positive version of it going through. On the music side, you’re seeing the same thing happening. You’re seeing a positive experience take place of that piece, and so I think it’s something that a lot more musicians can use. My husband is also a french horn player, and when he or I are preparing for big auditions, we always talk about it a lot. “How’s your visualization going? Are you seeing yourself play great?” I think that’s something that everyone can use.
Annie: If you like, I’ll take it back a second to all the other sides of performance anxiety, because there’s obviously a lot. There’s the physical side and the mental side, but I would say every … Preparation is a very big part of me handling performance anxiety on a day to day basis, and also really making sure I get a lot of sleep. If, I find that the chatter in your brain, and to be honest, I didn’t really understand that other people heard chatter in their head until I was in my early twenties and I came across Don Greene’s, the famous music performance psychologist, I think he’s been on your show before. I came across his material, and then I was like, “Wait, other people hear things in their head?” I was like, I just thought I was this crazy person who heard voices in my head that were telling me how I was going to play this piece. Then, once I realized that those existed and I could actually control them, or at least, not control them but use them to my advantage.
Annie: One of the big tools I use of Don’s that I got from one of his books is that you name the voice in your head, and I always think that you give it a funny name. Something you don’t encounter on a daily basis in your life, so I used Bartholomew because I don’t have any Bartholomew friends, and mine’s a, I actually think my voice is a female voice in my head, but I call him Bartholomew just because I like that one. Whenever, technically it’s a she, I guess, comes in my head, I send it outside the door. If I’m on stage, I pick a door, and I saw, “Bartholomew, you’re going to go outside that door and you’re going to stay there until I’m done, and I will pick you up on the way back. We’re still hanging out, but you’re going to stay there until I’m done with this performance,” and so there’s multiple … If I’m in a show, there’s often 10, 15, 20, maybe 100 times, I say, “Bartholomew, you’re there.” That’s where, I use that tool all the time.
Annie: I’ve used things, I mean, honestly, I’ve tried so many things before, but I would say the other big factor I think is hydration. Whether you’re a string player, a percussionist, a pianist, particularly when it’s particularly voice, hydration is huge. I’ve talked to a lot of nutritionists over the years about how much should you hydrate, and the biggest number I’ve gotten is take half your body weight, turn it into ounces. Let’s just say you weigh 120 pounds. That’s 60 ounces of water. That’s what you’re supposed to drink every single day. That’s not Gatorade or Coke or coffee or tea, that’s straight-up solid water, and I think for things like dry mouth, just climate, altitude changes, if you happen to be traveling to play a show, this is super, super important. The water is really key and clutch in terms of this, and so what I do is if the concert’s on a Saturday, I try to count basically 72 hours out from that show, and that’s when I start to hydrate. I’m always constantly preparing, and my husband, he plays lots of big studio stuff, and so he’s all the time carrying, he has has a 32 ounce bottle of water and I can’t even tell you the number of times he fills that. I mean, he’s a little heavier than I am in terms of weight, but he’ll feel that up just a ton of times a day.
Annie: The last thing I would say that’s really big in terms of the chatter is sleep. I think, I have a one-year-old, which we were talking about earlier, but I have a one-year-old right now and so sleep is sadly something that’s few and far between sometimes. It’s a constant battle to get enough hours. I always find if I don’t have enough, that chatter is crazy loud, and going really strong. My recommendation is, just try to get sleep. There’s all these books and things about how many hours you should get. I think it’s up to the person. Some people can function great off, I know some big-time professional french horn players that only get six hours a night and they function fantastic. I know others that get eight to 10, and that’s great, but I think it’s just up to the person. There’s many programs out there you can try.
Annie: Just to go back to it, I think I experience it on a daily basis. I work on it on a daily basis, but the difference, I think, between someone who doesn’t do this day in and day out and someone that is a professional is that, I would say, there’s just more tools, and you have to find the tools that work for you and just have a gamut of tools in your tool bag, basically. You just go to them if something’s not working, so that’s what I would say in terms of a crash course in dealing with nerves.
Christopher: Fantastic, thank you, yeah. I know that solely, to hear from someone like yourself who’s played with the big names and had such a fantastic career, to hear that you experience performance anxiety and that you are actively using these kinds of tools that people hear about as part of your toolkit, that in itself I think is hugely valuable, because I think otherwise, there’s a risk that we see them as the crutches that beginners need, and real professionals wouldn’t need to do all that stuff and actually, as you say, the vast majority, if not all professional musicians, experience these symptoms and have their toolkit of ways to handle it, or reduce it happening in the first place.
Annie: I’ll just throw out there real quick, too, there’s a great documentary by John Beder. I’m pretty sure it’s called Composed. He goes, I think it’s an hour and a half long. I saw it premiered in LA, it’s fantastic, but he goes through musicians that … He talks to hundreds of musicians, and he does lots of surveys, and we’ve had a lot of conversations, he and I, about different things. He proves that, that so many musicians are dealing with what we’re talking about, and just how do they deal with it? What do they do? I think there’s a lot, between Don Greene’s material, John Beder’s documentary, I think there’s a lot of places and ways that people can look into getting their, sorry. I think there’s a lot of ways people can expand their toolkit.
Christopher: Absolutely, and one thing I loved in your talk, The Healthy Musician, which I saw a video of online, was that you shared the survey you had done of hundreds of musicians, asking them, “What’s in your toolkit? What do you use regularly to cope with this stuff?” We’ve already touched on a few, like visualization, and being careful about sleep, and hydration. The other two that really stood out were meditation and breathing, which maybe go hand in hand to some extent. I wonder if we could talk a little bit about those.
Annie: Sure. There’s a whole world of meditation, and there’s thousands of ways to meditate, spiritual ways, non-spiritual ways. Personally, I use one, there’s a voice teacher named Irene Gubrud, and her stuff, I met her in Aspen at the music festival and she was a voice teacher there, and she also ran a meditation class which honestly changed my world. She has a bunch of different types of meditations, and my favorite of hers is just straight-up a breathing meditation, which I feel like as a wind player, a brass player, we breathe. That’s something I need on stage, and I find, particularly for me, if I feel nervous, my breath is one of the first things that go. My philosophy on it is that it’s just like practicing. It’s like playing a million third-space Cs, or whatever. If you, the more you meditate, the more you have it in your system, and it’s a recall. You can recall it on the spot, on the stage, and so for me, if I start to feel uber nervous, I’ll go back to the breathing. I’ve done her tapes so many times that I can literally hear her voice in my head and my whole body just goes like, “Oh.” It’s amazing.
Annie: Another thing I just learned in the last few years, because I’ve been fortunate enough to work a lot with Dr. Don Greene, is he has a centering technique and he sells it on his website, winningonstage.com. I’ve started using his also in the last several years, and so between Irene’s and his, I feel like I’ve got a really good toolkit of kind of things to hone in on. I mean, nothing still goes perfect. I play french horn, but, I feel like I have some good tools to go to. Don’s, it’s centering, and it takes a whole to master it. I mean, not a while, but repetitions. What I would say with that is, it’s interesting, because I use, for his centering technique, I use the stand pole. Basically one of the things is, if your eyes go above eye level, it usually means you’re accessing left brain. If I’m kind of up here talking, I’m thinking and I’m accessing left brain, but if, so he picks something below eye level, and so, and left brain is where all the chatter is. It’s something below eye level, so centering takes you there, and it’s a process.
Annie: He has kind of three different forms of it, basic, intermediate, advanced, and once you get through all the forms, then you can start to do it really quickly. I bet I have centering down to a blink of an eye, that’s how fast I can do it. For me, if I look at the stand pole I’m centered, and so all of the right-left brain stuff, right brain is a lot of visualization. Sometimes, sorry, visual stuff, like movies, that kind of thing, in your brain. If you’re starting to daydream a little, that’s right brain. Left brain is more the chatter, and so for me, if I center, it’s, boom. I’m right back in, and so I bet I center 150 times a concert, sometimes, or if I’m in a recording session, because a lot of the times what happens is they’ll go to a different instrument, which means they record the strings, then the brass and the winds, and then percussion, or however they decide to do it. We’ll be sitting there for sometimes 45 minutes, and then you have to come in a bunch of times to record your parts, and so every time I’m centering, centering, centering, centering.
Annie: If you, I’ve watched some other players too. It’s kind of, Don calls it the wink-wink club. If you’re on stage and you see people kind of do this thing, you can kind of tell who’s centering and who’s not, or who’s using meditation and who’s not, by how they approach their entrances. I would say I’ve watched some big-name folks who do similar things, and it’s really cool to see that happening. My husband uses it all the time, I use it all the time. I think meditation, and just, there’s … Centering is great. There’s a million forms of meditation out there, so there’s, you can meditate on a feeling. You can do everything from breathe into your heart, really open that up, feel feelings of love, feel feelings of calm. The visualization is obviously great. You can meditate on a word. I mean, there’s just so many different types of meditations, and so my one biggest piece of information, I would say, is it takes practice. It’s something that you could use, even if you’re not on stage as a musician. Let’s say your professional life is you talk, or you lead meetings, or you just have to write a really intense email. Learn to use one of these skills and do it over and over, and then it will actually bleed into your playing on the stage, and all that kind of thing. I hope I answered the question.
Christopher: Absolutely, and I really appreciated a comment you made in that talk, because you just said something about centering and how you can do it now in the blink of an eye, and you said something a bit similar about meditation in that talk, which was, now that you’ve done meditation regularly, you can kind of remember the feeling of being calm and at peace, and just tap into that directly in the moment. That’s definitely something I’ve found really valuable from meditation is, yes, it kind of sets you up for the day and yes, you kind of develop this mindfulness, but it also just gives you a very visceral sense of what it means to be in that ideal state and that’s something you don’t need to sit there for 20 minutes to get to, necessarily. You can just kind of channel.
Annie: There’s even a great app out right now called Headspace. If you have it, I think it’s an annual fee, but it’s got all kinds of different meditations. Kenny Warner has a great book called Effortless Mastery, so, and I mentioned Irene’s stuff and Don’s stuff. There’s so many different great tools, again, for your toolkit. That’s the most important, I think, is just, fill that kit up with all kinds of stuff. If something’s not working, you go to the next thing. That’s at least what I try, but again, I still play french horn, so you know.
Christopher: We’ve talked a little bit about the kind of toolkit you can have to, as it were, stop bad things happening and avoid performance anxiety, but there is a flip side, which is kind of the getting into the zone or getting into flow, that you talk about a little bit when you speak. I wonder if you could share your experience with that, and maybe the relationship between performance anxiety at one end of things, and being totally in the flow at the other end of things?
Annie: Sure. For me, I first experienced what I would call the zone when I was playing tennis. It was a wild thing, because I had always, there’s a fantastic tennis coach that I used to go every summer and work with. He taught at Clemson University in South Carolina and his name’s Chuck Kriese, and he wrote some amazing books. He’s really big into the mental side, and he would always talk about the zone. In tennis, they call it treeing. It’s like, there’s all these different terms for it, but I never experienced it until one tennis match one day, and I just, it was crazy fascinating. The ball was coming across the net, and it just literally felt like the whole things was in slow motion. It was almost like I could see every particle or every thread or hair on the ball. It’s just coming across the net, and you go to hit it, and you hit the ball, and you’re back in real time, and then it comes back at you and it’s just back in slow motion. This experience was surreal, and I just was like, “This must be the zone.” I didn’t think about it in the moment. It was after the whole match was over, and honestly, the entire match was like that. It was the coolest feeling ever, and I was just in it, just going through the motions. I mean, I won the match. It was like, again, I was right in the moment for the whole thing, and so I kept thinking to myself, “Wow, I wonder if I can experience this on horn, or in music?”
Annie: It wasn’t until I was in my, I guess it was my Master’s or Doctorate at USC, University of Southern California in LA, when I was taking an audition, and I … It was like we were talking about earlier. I had put in all the, we were preparing for an audition for someone to play principal horn on Ein Heldenleben, which has giant horn parts. I did all this prep. I was super ready, and I was always the person, I would always do good in auditions but I’d never really want something, on horn. I’d been doing great in tennis. When I first met that coach that I was telling you about, Bill Jolly, he took my tennis game from, I was 104 in the state, to four, in six months. That’s what he had taught me, all these mental and physical skills about how to take things to the next level. In tennis, it was like I always, trying to figure out, “How do I get to this next level?” I mean, sorry. In horn, I was trying to figure out, “How do I get to this next level?” I was curious if I would experience this on horn, and so I was, I did all the preparation for Ein Heldenleben.
Annie: I was super prepared, tons of repetitions on every excerpt, and then was doing tons of meditation. I hadn’t met … Sorry, at that time, I didn’t know Don’s centering technique, so I was using Irene Gubrud’s meditation. I was doing that, I did it right before I walked into the audition. I did it several times earlier in the day, and I really could feel and recall that real centered, calm feeling that I was feeling from her meditations. I walked into the audition, I played everything down that they asked, and it was literally like the whole audition went into slow motion. I’m playing the opening to Heldenleben, but it felt like it took a year. I did the next excerpt, it felt like it took another year. It was, the whole thing was in slow motion. My time was, from what I know, great, but I came out, won the audition and I got to play principal horn on that. I know that’s a college audition, but to me, that was the first gateway into, “Whoah, I can actually do this on french horn.” It was just mind-blowing, and honestly, it opened up a whole other level, and it really connected, for me, the sports to music. Music connection, in terms of the mental game, so that’s when I first experienced the zone and that’s what it felt like to me.
Annie: I’ve asked a lot of top level professional principal horns, “How many performances a year are you happy with?” They said, “A year?” They’re like, “In my lifetime, I’ve been happy with three.” To me, that was another mind-blowing thing, and it’s like, to think about someone who in my opinion is so amazing, and who I never hear miss notes, to hear them say, “I’ve only been happy with three performances in my life.” I would also say the same thing for me. I’m not positive I could count how many performances I’ve been happy with, because it’s like, you can always pick something apart, but I think when you experience something like the zone and you can get yourself there more often than not, the world is very happy with your performance. If that makes sense.
Christopher: Absolutely, and this was something I was really keen to ask you about, because these days, a lot of people are talking about flow, and getting into flow. I think what we just discussed in terms of performance anxiety and centering and so on can really help someone get into that flow state of kind of effortless high performance, but I feel like what you just described is even a notch beyond. It’s so much more intense and vivid, and I’m really curious to know, for you, is that standard now? Anytime you’re in a high stakes situation, you flip into the slow-mo mode and everything goes amazingly, or is that the rare extreme of what you’re generally aiming for and expecting?
Annie: No, I would say that it’s the very extreme for what everyone is aiming for. If you go watch any, I mean, I would say the top, top athletes in their field, I think, can get themselves there the fastest. I would say the top, top musicians, the same, or maybe they, yeah. I mean, I would, yeah. I would say the top musicians, the same. I experience it every so often, but I think … I mean, granted, I said I have a one-year-old right now, so my sleep is not that amazing. I would say, when all the factors align, when you get the great sleep and you’re really prepared, and you have the water, and all these different physical things, and you’ve been meditating or centering and really working on the mental game, I think they align more often. I would say the zone is something that we’re always chasing. I don’t think it’s there for everybody, all the time, because there’s too many variables. I think you experience it sometimes for a few measures in a concert. Sometimes you experience it for a phrase, sometimes you experience it for half a page. Sometimes you get the joy of being there the entire time.
Annie: I would say, for professionals, I would probably say that most everybody is chasing it all the time, and it’s like that … They always talk about, I’ve surfed a few times in my life, enough to catch one or two waves. You catch that one wave and you’re just like, “Oh my God, I’ve got to do this again,” but, I think it’s the same for the zone. You catch the zone and you’re just like, “I’ve got to find that again.” I would say for anyone that’s experienced it, and you want to get back there, look at your toolkit, and what are you missing? Then, for anyone that has never felt it, just keep adding to your toolkit and kind of look at your preparation or your mental game, or how you’re preparing your physical self and just see kind of where you might have some holes, and try to work on that. I would say, I feel like I’ve had some great concerts in the last year and a half, especially since having a kiddo, but, or I’d say two years, but I would say I feel like for me, the zone has happened for measures at a time, not necessarily for an entire performance lately. I probably personally need to get back to my own toolkit as well, if that makes sense.
Christopher: It does, thank you, and that’s so fascinating to hear about. I love that in this instance, the concession prize is you perform really well and you avoid performance anxiety. If you don’t flip into that particular optimal state, it’s still, you’re doing all the right things, so it’s not like a, win everything or lose everything. It’s all kind of part of becoming a high performance musician.
Annie: Yeah, and the study I’ve never seen, which, if anyone out there is interested in doing a dissertation or a study, I would be curious to see, of those three performances or five performances that the top, top, who we consider the top in professionals experience, is that, are they in the zone for those or are those just their average day? Does that make sense? Then, but then the ones that they’re describing as their top three, are those … Sorry. I don’t know if I’m explaining this right, but what I would say is if those top, the ones that the top professionals are considering their highest achieving performances, are those in the zone and everything else they’re doing just an average day, or kind of where does all that fit? If anyone wants to do a dissertation or a study on that, I’d be very curious to see where all that falls.
Christopher: For sure. A lot of this comes up in your book that you co-authored with Don Greene and another author, College Prep for Musicians, and I know that there are certainly some in our audience who are going for that college degree or auditioning to get in for that college degree, or they may be parents of kids who are aspiring to. I wonder if we could just share a little bit about what’s in that book, and why it’s so important that that manual exists for people.
Annie: Sure. I was very fortunate to co-author College Prep for Musicians with Dr. Don Greene, the peak performance psychologist, and Kathleen Tesar, who’s now the head of admissions at Julliard. We tackle it from three different angles. I tackle it from the teacher-student angle, Kathy tackles it from the head of admissions angle, and Don tackles it from an audition, performance angle. I think it’s a great, very valuable tool. It’s something I wish I had had, when I was growing up, and part of the reason, at least my passion for co-authoring, is that when I was growing up in South Carolina, my parents, I had a general contractor father who played college football, and my mom was a farmer, or is a farmer, and so, we didn’t have much background in terms of what to do for someone who’s interested in majoring in music. That’s really my passion, and since then, one of my specialty areas is I really work with a lot of high school students who are planning to go off to college to major in music.
Annie: The book is fantastic. It goes through all these different sides. It really is a guide and walks you through how to cover every angle of doing the college admissions process, everything from how to do your pre-screen tapes to taking the audition. Don goes through a lot of his techniques, and he tailors them to high school students, which I think is fantastic. They’re also very, a good entry level, so for anyone listening that might not want to get into his centering course or into some of the other courses he offers, or his books, honestly, you could read, I think it’s chapter six and seven on his material, and it would be great entry level into all of his techniques, including mental rehearsal, visualization, preparing for auditions or preparing for big performance. Then, Kathy tackles the book from the admissions side, which is amazing because there’s always so many things, as a student or a parent, you’re wondering, “Well, how does this really work?” She kind of goes into all of those, and she’s got almost 30 years or 30 years plus of experience in college admissions, so I feel like we can cover a lot of factors and really make it accessible to someone who is really interested in going into music.
Christopher: Awesome, thank you, and as I said, I wanted to make sure we highlighted that, because I know there are some in our audience who are just like, “Amazing, I’m so glad that exists. I’m going to go buy it now.” As you say, actually, I remember from when I spoke with Dr. Greene, those chapters in that book are a really great summary overview of his work, whether or not you’re aspiring to a college degree. They are kind of universally relevant. There was one other project I know you’ve done which I was really eager to hear more about, and I might feel really stupid in a minute, having asked this question, but I want to know why it’s called what it’s called. That’s your documentary film 1M1: Hollywood Horns of the Golden Age.
Annie: Yeah, so, I … First of all, so 1M1 is what you see when you go to a recording session and you see on the stand. A film, when you record a film, it’s divided into usually eight reels. They kind of piece the film into that, separate segments. It obviously goes back to the history of making films, and so they don’t necessarily need to divide it necessarily into eight reels now, because it’s all digitally filmed, but so the number in front stands for the … Sorry, so the number in front stands for the reel, and then M is for music, and then the number at the end stands for the cue. Within a reel, they could have, I don’t know, five cues of music, or 18 cues of music, or 47 cues of music. It just depends, and so, how short the cues are, or how long, or how much music they want or not. When you go record a film, you don’t always know the name of the film. Sometimes they’ll give it a random title, a working title is what they call it. You’ll show up, and sometimes you don’t even really know what you’re recording. Then, so it’s always 1M18, that means reel one, music cue 18 is what you’re working on. That’s where the title of the film comes from, so 1M1 would be the first cue of the first reel. The first thing, usually, you would hear in the movie.
Annie: That’s what it comes from, but the, so the film is, it’s a real huge passion project. I started it in my early twenties, actually, and have basically done everything wrong in film-making in terms of making a documentary and had to come back and redo half of it. It goes through the history of film told through the eyes of french horn players, so it goes through the history of studio music. I was really fortunate when I first started this that there were about, I guess, about 13 or 14 horn players from the beginning generation of studio musicians in Los Angeles still alive, so the guys that played on Bambi. They did everything from Bambi all the way up to Jaws, and that whole generation of folks. I was fortunate. I spent, I don’t know. It’s still technically going, because I’m still working on the rights to some things that are in the film in terms of music and pictures, but the project was really about a 10 year project, and so I did 165 hours of interviews.
Annie: I was fortunate to also get to interview John Williams for the project. He’s amazing, just an amazing human, obviously, but just great to interview. I got to interview John Williams, and then the Mancini family was fantastic. They offered some of their archives to the film, and so it’s a big passion project that tells the story of film music through the eyes of french horn players, which in my opinion, there’s a lot of good horn parts. It doesn’t get better than that, and, yeah. That’s what the film is about, and the project’s about. Sadly right now it’s in the screening process, so I have to screen it if people want to watch it, but the trailer is online and there’s a website up about it. Very soon, hopefully in the next six months to a year, we’ll have it out so that people can watch it and see it.
Christopher: Amazing, and yeah, I’m eager to see it myself, having watched the trailer. I’m glad I now understand the title. I don’t feel too stupid for not having known that. That’s quite a cool insider tip.
Annie: No, it’s one of those things where, yeah, if you don’t know, you don’t know, but it’s like a … 1M1 is, yeah. Anyway, we’ll leave it at that.
Christopher: I have to ask, as someone who does a lot of film and TV score performances yourself these days, were there any really interesting tidbits or insights, or did talking to those kind of original crew change your perception of your role and how you play in those situations?
Annie: Let’s see. Yeah. I mean, what was really fascinating about doing this project is, all of this generation of guys honestly kind of became like adopted grandparents to me. When I did my recitals for my Doctorate in USC, it was amazing, because half of them, or all of them, would sometimes show up to the recital. Everybody in the, my other professors or even some of my friends were like, “Annie, what are you doing? Why are these people here?” You’d have 10, 15 of the most historical french horn players, at least from Los Angeles, in your audience.
Annie: I really developed an amazing relationship, and through that, just got a lot of really great, valuable information, everything from just how to kind of keep the mental, they would all talk about the mental side. A lot about sight-reading, and how important it is to be a good sight-reader. Los Angeles is an interesting city, just even outside of recording work, in that you can show up and have to sight-read an opera for someone the same night because they got sick, or sometimes there is no rehearsal for a concert. It’s just, you show up and you play the show, or there’s one rehearsal and it’s just an hour before the show. I’m sure that’s the same in multiple other cities, but as a freelancer, we experienced that quite a bit. Just the importance of sigh-reading, and just honestly the history of french horn and just the studio scene. I think just the importance of it in film, and just kind of how it got from where it is to where it is now, and mostly through great players that were here. I think that that’s been really interesting. I’ve gotten to interview the older generation plus the current generation, and the generations in between, and so just learning the history has really been fascinating and helpful, and makes you really honor the tradition that is LA. I think that’s been the biggest thing I’ve learned from them.
Christopher: Fantastic. Well, I have really enjoyed kind of digging into the world of Annie Bosler. You have such a variety of interesting projects and expertise, and poking around your website was a really good time. I’d really encourage anyone watching or listening to do the same. It’s anniebosler.com, and of course we’ll have a direct link to that and each of the projects we’ve mentioned in the show notes. Annie, any parting piece of advice for our audience on the topic of performance anxiety or musicality in general?
Annie: No, I think your show is great. I would say, listen to a lot more podcasts to get more areas, but I would just say, for anyone that’s dealing with nerves, just try to put more things in your toolkit. Try to help it out. I mean, it’s like I said, I’m always working on it. I’m always open to new things, and I’m always trying to see how I can help myself too, and so, ask professional friends, if you have them. Try to see what they really do, and try to have an honest conversation. I think you’d be surprised how many people really are working on this all the time as well.
Christopher: Wonderful. Thank you again, Annie, for joining us today.
Annie: Thank you all, so I really appreciate it. It’s been a lot of fun.
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