Dealing with Performance Anxiety

Dealing with Performance Anxiety

As musicians, most of us at some point in our lives will have the opportunity to play his or her instrument onstage for an audience. This performance experience can be a rewarding one. Yet for many, this can be a very frightening thought. If you are someone who struggles with nervousness, or even paralyzed by fear of performing, know that you are not alone. Even the most famous professional musicians have battles with nerves. Everyone gets the jitters from time to time and the key to overcoming this fear is different for each individual. By first acknowledging your fear and practicing helpful exercises, you can learn how to master even the worst of butterflies!

Step 1: Do not let a bad performance destroy you or negatively affect future performances. If you have had an upsetting personal experience onstage, know that it is not the end of the world. As musicians, we put our heart and soul into our music, so while a less than great performance can sting, it is important to know that it happens to everyone. Get back up and confidently try again. Performing takes practice!

Step 2: Common symptoms of nerves include, but are not limited to, shakiness, shallow breathing, numbness,cold/hot sweats, upset stomach, and often a false sense of timing. Go somewhere you can have a few moments alone and just close your eyes while you take a few calm, deep breaths. Remember that all the hard work has already taken place and this is simply a time for you to celebrate your work, accomplishments, and your love of music. Your audience wants you to succeed as much as you want to! So think of performing as a group effort or perhaps imagine yourself alone with your instrument onstage. Either method of thinking can help!

Step 3: Promise yourself a reward for after the performance. Whether it’s a well deserved ice cream cone, going to a movie, or a night at a friend’s house, having something to look forward to can keep you from getting too wrapped up in the experience. That way, no matter what happens on stage that day, you have a positive reward waiting for you afterwards!

For more helpful tips on performing and learning to deal with nerves, ask your teacher. It is more than likely that he or she has struggled with similar problems, so don’t be timid on the subject. Be open to discuss it freely with a willingness to experiment. I wish you a lifetime of happy music making!

-Hannah Carnett

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