This post contains some light spoilers for Coco. I suggest you stop reading if you haven’t watched it, so that you don’t spoil the movie experience for yourself.
I watched Coco on my birthday yesterday, and what a fantastic present it was to myself: Easily one of the best animated films I’ve seen, and an undisputed choice for Best Animated Film of 2017. There are lots of great themes in the movie: The importance of family; the concept of death and memories; and of course, music. If you’ve been reading some of my blog posts for the past few months, I started learning the violin last year and I’m aspiring to reach a competent, solo-playing level. Coco is a very inspiring film for all beginner musicians and performers everywhere.
There’s a very important scene early in the movie, where the protagonist Miguel is having a conversation with another street musician. The musician encourages Miguel to have the courage to play his music, rather than practice in secret. Miguel returns to his “hideout” later on, and makes a declaration to himself: I cannot continue to play in secret for the rest of my life. What good is the point of playing and practicing music for yourself only?
Later on, in the Land of the Dead, Miguel takes part in a music competition. His partner Hector, is stunned that Miguel has never played in public before, and volunteers to take his place. Miguel refuses, saying that he has to overcome his fear eventually.
There is a great support conversation in Fire Emblem Fates between two characters, Azura (a singer) and Laslow (a dancer):
Azura: Music and dance never lie. I don’t mean to offend you, but sometimes, I don’t think you’re entirely truthful.
Laslow: What?! You’re calling me a liar?
Azura: Yes, but let me explain! I’ve seen you dance in front of the others before… You have great technique, but your dancing lacked the passion I saw the other night. Now that I’ve seen you dance in private, I know you’ve been holding back.
Laslow: I thought you would understand. I get nervous dancing in front of other people.
Azura: This may sound harsh, but dancing like that is unfair to your audience! Practice in secret all you want, but when you step on stage, you’re there for them! You must dance with confidence so they can carry your strength into battle.
Azura: I didn’t tell you this, but I used to get stage fright. My mother was so talented… I knew I’d never measure up! I always worried people would make fun of me.
Laslow: Really? I had no idea.
Azura: One day, Queen Mikoto pulled me aside. She told me my voice was beautiful. I could either learn to sing with confidence, or I could waste my talent being afraid. That was a turning point for me. I decided to be brave every time I stepped on stage.
Even I get nervous when practicisng in front of my violin teacher, out of fear for making mistakes. I once performed in a mini-concert organised by my teacher featuring all of her beginner students. Of course I was a nervous wreck and I actually played a couple of wrong notes. But again, to quote Azura: You could either learn to perform with confidence, or waste your talent being afraid.
Practice as much as you can, practice with passion. Then go out and perform it for the world to see. Be brave.