Your Worst Performance Nightmare Comes True

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Since today is Halloween, I thought I’d share one of my favorite musician horror stories.

Portuguese pianist Maria João Pires wasn’t having a nightmare. She was fully awake, on stage, and in complete shock as the orchestra began playing a different concerto than the one she’d practiced.

What happened next? Well, thanks, in part, to the calm conductor staying confident in her abilities, and thanks also to the power of her own memory and genius, everything turns out ok in the end. Watch the video to experience the panic, embarrassment, and ultimate triumph!

And next time you feel unprepared for a show or mess up a little bit on stage, remember Maria and the conductor who stayed cool and coaxed her towards an amazing performance.

Have you been in a similar situation? Did you recover? Let me know all about in the comments section below.

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  • Jim Byrne

    In a band many years ago – at an important showcase concert; after a five minute build-up with drums, bass and extreme drama we come the part where I swing my arm and hit the first big (very big) chord on my guitar. I wasn’t plugged in.

  • Jim Valley


  • Lisa Monet

    When I was first dating my husband, the band I was in had arranged for him to do a guitar solo on one of our songs. He came up, was all ready to go, we got to the part in the song where he was to join in—-and I sailed right through, with my vocals, completely squelching his chance to do the solo. My band mates were momentarily shocked, then greatly amused. All was good-naturedly forgiven, and he ended up marrying me anyway.

  • Ha. And you knew that he was the forgiving type from the start.


  • Kicklighter

    I played a show behind a singer named Willie Hightower who had a popular r&b song out (If I had a Hammer). I meant him right before the show and we ran through a couple of songs. I was young and just starting out. The place was packed with fans right up to the stage. I was struggling and couldn’t remember the songs and was making mistakes and between songs Willie turned to me and over the microphone said If you can’t play it right get off the f-ing stage. I was playing through a large tall amp about 5 feet high and I walked around back of it and slid down out of sight and didn’t come out till the show was over. Crushed and embarrassed but I lived on to play another day.

  • Ooof. That's brutal. Glad you lived to play another day.


  • Thomas Levin Jr.

    In the dim, dark past, back in the early days of my playing career, my band was headlining one evening to a packed house. Moments before we were to start our set I realized my guitar tuner was on the blink. The guitarist from the opening band then kindly offered me the use of his tuner……..a new fancy chromatic tuner. My tuner, a much simpler and cheaper model, only recognized standard tuning pitches, no half steps, etc. So, while my keyboardist, a seasoned player and performer, was working his way thru a powerfull intro to our first song he was also keeping an eye on me as I was frantically trying to figure out how to use this blasted tuner. He finally got my attention and let me know that he couldn’t drag out the intro any longer, plug in and start the song. Thinking I had it all tuned up properly, the moment of truth had come. The keyboard intro ended in a run down to a nice full drone ready for me to layer my guitar work over the top. Well…….that was the plan anyway. I remembered I took a pose, started to move my fingers, and then…my world suddenly stopped. Some how, some way, I was a semi-tone or two out of sync with the rest of the universe. I was in complete shock, but kept playing this horrible collection of crooked twisted notes. I looked over at the keyboardist and either out of utter embarrasement he was trying to slit his throat with his finger or he was trying to tell me to stop playing. It didn’t look like he was drawing any blood, so I figured I should stop playing. Then, while the laughter echoed on for what seemed like hours, I re-tuned. To this day, I’ll never forget the look on the faces of those in the front row. Especially the guy named Ronnie Montrose.