Mark Bain talks Performance Under Pressure

17 May 2024

Having faced many high-pressure situations, TSO Tutti Trumpet, Mark Bain, is well placed to coach and educate fellow musicians in dealing with pressure. We had a chat to hear about how his knowledge and skills paved the way for his business venture, Performance Under Pressure (PUP).

Mark Bain

Thank you for joining us Mark. Tell us about PUP, what are the services you offer and what is the impact your work can have?

Performance Under Pressure is a performance coaching business that I founded in 2019, which is dedicated to empowering musicians to master their craft. At PUP, I specialise in helping musicians prepare, practice, and perform effectively using cutting-edge, research-based strategies for peak learning and performance. My services include working with individual musicians, conducting presentations and workshops at schools and organizations throughout Tasmania, Australia, and internationally, and offering online courses at various times throughout the year.

The impact of my work extends far beyond the stage. By equipping aspiring musicians with the tools and knowledge they need to succeed, I've witnessed incredible transformations in their confidence, skillset, and career trajectory. It's immensely rewarding to see talented young musicians blossom into self-sufficient artists who pursue their passion for music with purpose and determination. As I continue my journey with PUP, I aim to empower musicians to achieve their dreams and make a lasting impact in the world of music.

Having studied music and worked as a professional musician for decades, what inspired you to set up PUP?

My journey with PUP began at a pivotal moment in my career as a professional musician. While auditioning for orchestral positions during my studies overseas, I started exploring performance psychology to improve my audition success. This newfound knowledge not only secured my position with the TSO but also revolutionised my approach to performance.

Simultaneously, my passion for music education fueled the desire to continuously refine my teaching skills. Seeking to bridge the gap between performance and pedagogy, I immersed myself in the science of learning and peak performance. The wealth of research I uncovered was a revelation—there were so many insights and techniques that I wished I had known about during my studies!

Realising the transformative potential of this knowledge, I felt compelled to share it with fellow musicians embarking on their own musical journeys. Thus, Performance Under Pressure was born. Fast forward five years, and I've been privileged to witness the growth and success of countless individuals I've had the pleasure of working with. This experience has been immensely rewarding, as it has allowed me to positively contribute to the development of both individual musicians and the broader music community.

While PUP is specifically focused on music making and musical performance, are there some skills and learnings that are transferable both across other art forms and other industries?

Absolutely! The principles and strategies I teach through PUP are highly transferable across various disciplines and industries. While PUP is rooted in music-making and performance, the insights and techniques I share have proven invaluable to individuals from all sorts of professions. I’ve worked with NBL referees and dentists, students facing tests and exams, radio presenters, and the list goes on! You can apply the same set of skills to so many different areas of work and life.

Much of the research underpinning my approach originates from domains outside of music, making it universally relevant to different learning and performance contexts. Whether it's cultivating the right mindset, harnessing motivation, mastering effective practice methods, leveraging cognitive science, or navigating performance psychology and managing nerves and anxiety—these principles can be adapted to suit individual circumstances.

At its core, my approach to performance remains consistent across all domains: clarify your personal and performance values, acknowledge and accept distractions during practice and performance, and then refocus your attention on what truly matters. By committing wholeheartedly to your core values, even in the face of anxiety or doubt, you can unlock your full potential and achieve success in any performance situation.

Do you have a highlight moment since opening PUP in 2019? Working with a particular organisation perhaps or a particular break through that you helped facilitate?

I've had the privilege of collaborating with so many remarkable individuals and organisations over the years, each contributing to a large number of memorable moments and breakthroughs. While there have been countless highlights along the way, the most gratifying moments for me are when a client experiences a breakthrough in their ability to think critically and problem-solve independently.

As a coach and teacher, my ultimate goal is to empower musicians to become self-regulated learners and performers. Witnessing a musician move from dependency on external guidance to confidently navigating musical challenges by themselves is incredibly rewarding. I often joke with my clients, encouraging them to "become so good at teaching themselves that they put me out of a job!” While this may seem tongue-in-cheek, it underscores the essence of my approach—to equip individuals with the skills and confidence to tackle their musical journey with autonomy and resilience.

While this journey towards self-sufficiency may take time to fully develop, every session and presentation is an opportunity to nurture these vital skills. It’s amazing to see musicians take charge of their musical approach, and I always get excited when I see glimpses of this in sessions. But fortunately for me, I'm not out of a job just yet!

Spreading your time across PUP, performing, tutoring and examining, I imagine your spare time is very precious to you. Is music involved in your down time as well or do you use this time to explore other passions and interests?

You're absolutely correct—life is quite busy these days! When I manage to carve out some rare downtime, I consciously choose to step away from anything music-related. Given that music is such a significant part of my daily routine, even attending concerts can sometimes feel like an extension of work. Instead, I prioritise quality time with my family, going out for a nice meal, working in the garden, or catching up on AFL games—especially when my beloved Port Adelaide is playing!

My wife deserves a special mention here; she's my motivator and helps me break free from the couch and embrace the outdoors whenever I have a free moment. Without her gentle encouragement, I'd likely find myself lounging around at home, accomplishing very little!

While PUP is undoubtedly a passion project that fuels my energy and enthusiasm, I also devote considerable time to various other endeavours outside of my performing and coaching commitments. One such role is serving on the board of the Tasmanian Youth Orchestras—a responsibility that allows me to contribute to the development of young musicians in a different capacity. It's a role that complements my work with PUP and the TSO, providing me with a well-rounded perspective on the music industry and is an incredibly fulfilling position to serve in.

Thank you so much for Mark to take the time to chat to us. Take a look at PUP's website or contact Mark directly to find out more.

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