28: Chris Gekker on the Power of Visualization in Being a Peak Performer

CGK_107_Low_Res_2_2Chris Gekker is Professor of Trumpet at the University of Maryland School of Music. He has appeared as soloist at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and throughout the United States, Asia, and Europe, and can be heard as soloist on more than thirty recordings, and on more than one hundred chamber music, orchestral, jazz, and commercial recordings. Deutsche Grammophon selected him to be included on their 2005 CD compilation “Masters of the Trumpet.” He moved to Maryland in 1998, from New York City, where he was a member of the American Brass Quintet for eighteen years, principal trumpet of the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, and on the faculties of the Juilliard School, the Manhattan School of Music, and Columbia University.




  1. You should aim for performing at 80%. Every now and then you’re at 100%, other times you’re at 40%. You practice for 100% and realize you’ll be at 80%.
  2. Always Contribute. This means knowing when to be heard, and when to be quiet.
  3. Everyone has some semblance of musicality in them. But performers need to perform.
  4. You can’t motivate anyone to love music, but you can create an atmosphere that will cultivate a love of music.
  5. There have been all-time great performers who had to deal with really serious stage fright.


  • Visualization
    • Know the difference between the conscious and sub-conscious.
    • The brain can’t distinguish between the sub-conscious and the conscious.
    • Rehearse variations of the performance in your mind. Making a mistake and recovering, seeing where parents are seated, etc.
    • In real life, there are variations, but you’ve visualized variations so you’re used to them in your sub-conscious.
  • You can change a person’s settings and they’re no longer an expert.
  • Physical factors
    • The ability to do well is a metabolic adaptation for the task required.
    • You play a sonata, it’s 14 minutes of playing. Same with a Mahler symphony.
    • Trumpet is proven to be more difficult physically than any other instruments.
  • Different performance settings require different conditioning.
  • There’s no hard and fast rule on the value of physical conditioning as it pertains to performing. You should want to be in good health, but not so you can play the trumpet.


  • “It can always go better.”
  • “You must be your own worst critic. But you must also have an innate love for what you do.”
  • “It’s one thing to have a good year or two, but it’s quite another to have good decades.”
  • “The experts that musicians respect and admire look up to musicians for their ability to get on stage and perform.”


About the author, James Newcomb

I'm a full time MusicPreneur. Every now and then I play music. Send me an email at!

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