Overcoming self-doubt and ‘Impostor Syndrome’ in music

Violinist Natalia Harvey on age in careers

BY STEPHANIE ESLAKE

 

When Natalia Harvey, 25, attends her rehearsals for the Australian Romantic and Classical Orchestra, she’s the youngest player in the room.

So how does she feel?

There is no doubt the violinist enjoys her time spent with the other musicians. She praises their support. But despite her well-earned place in the group, Natalia still finds herself feeling intimidated and a little out of place.

For Natalia, it’s not a matter of inexperience. She’s studied at the Australian National University, and the Australian National Academy of Music, while picking up an orchestral scholarship with the Canberra Symphony Orchestra in 2010 and taking out a string of other awards in the years since. These are all outside her role as a casual member of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and other leading Australian ensembles.

But Natalia is certainly not alone in her experience, and we wanted to know why a talented young musician should feel self-doubt when entering a career in music performance. Natalia shares her personal story, and gives her advice for CutCommon readers who may feel a similar challenge in understanding the strength of their own skills in a new environment.

 

How did you come to perform with ARCO?

After working with Rachael Beesley through various ensembles in previous years, she invited me to play with ARCO for the first season this year – so this is actually my first time playing in the orchestra!

At 25, you’re the youngest player in the ensemble.

Young freelance musicians face many challenges and it’s always daunting to be one of the younger ones, but I’m very fortunate to have colleagues who so freely and happily offer their support, guidance and wisdom. Each experience is a valuable opportunity for learning and growth. I’m honoured to be surrounded by so many seasoned professionals.

How has age affected the way you feel about your role? Have you ever felt intimidated, or even affected by experiences such as ‘Impostor Syndrome’? 

I’ve definitely felt intimidated being the youngest performer, and I do often experience ‘Impostor Syndrome’!

As for the former, there are so many great musicians to look up to and I’m just keen to learn as much as I can from them. It’s also the case that no matter how young you are as a professional, there will always be someone younger and ‘better’ (‘better’ being totally subjective!). In that way, it’s important to remember that everyone has something different to say through music, and because of this it’s impossible to compare yourself to others. Moreover, you won’t survive as an artist if you do.

As for the latter, ‘Impostor Syndrome’, I think self-doubt is quite common in the music profession; we tend to be perfectionists and over-analysers. I don’t think I’m alone in often feeling like a fraud, and in feeling like I can never do enough! I think this is related in a strange way to the issue of confidence.

It’s amazing how much confidence affects everything – social interactions, your energy levels, your ability to think positively (which then greatly affects your skills and your performance). In this way, I think I am a fraud, as I subscribe to the philosophy of ‘fake it til you make it’! For me, thinking about simple things like posture, breathing, body language and realistic positive self-talk helps my confidence. Most of the time you’re only at war with yourself.

What advice would you give other young musicians who find themselves the youngest players in the room?

The number one thing I’d say is to keep remembering why you do what you do, and everything else follows from that. Seek to improve, to learn, and to figure out what you want to say as an artist. I think being a good musician is about being a good listener and a good communicator. If you believe, as I do, that music is ultimately about making connections with people, then those are the skills to foster.

 

 

Natalia Harvey looks forward to performing with talented and supportive musicians in the Australian Romantic and Classical Orchestra when they present Italian Romance – Beethoven and Mendelssohn on March 24 (Melbourne) and 25 (Sydney). Tickets and more information online.

 

 


If you’re concerned about feeling unconfident or experiencing ‘Impostor Syndrome’ and would like to find out more, we recommend visiting the headspace website.


Images supplied. Natalia: Nocturne Images.

 

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