Performance anxiety

Posted by
Erin Nichols
 February 6, 2018

I know there are probably a lot of you readers who are participating in State ISSMA Solo and Ensemble contest this weekend, and I wish every one of you the very best of luck! Luck doesn’t really have anything to do with it, though, does it? We all know that it comes down to preparation and practice–but how many of us know a piece like the back of our hand, only to get in front of an audience and freeze? It’s certainly a very frustrating situation, but rest assured it is also very common. Performance anxiety can manifest itself in many forms, from something as small and annoying as sweaty hands to full-blown panic attacks.

I found a great article from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America with some helpful tips on managing stage fright that I thought I would share with you. This article was not written for musicians specifically, so I have added some of my own thoughts as well.

1. Shift the focus from yourself and your fear to your true purpose: contributing something of value to your audience.–You have made it this far, right? You are among the best student musicians in the state! And having an audience means that people care enough about you to travel and support you.
2. Stop scaring yourself with thoughts about what might go wrong. Instead, focus your attention on thoughts and images that are calming and reassuring.
3. Refuse to think thoughts that create self-doubt and low confidence.
Practice ways to calm and relax your mind and body, such as deep breathing, relaxation exercises, yoga, and meditation.–It sounds very simple, but healthy and purposeful breathing truly makes all the difference in the world. Beginning about a half hour before your scheduled time, be done practicing and focus on taking deep, relaxing breaths all the way down into your belly. Breathe in and out for a count of four.
4. Visualize your success: Always focus on your strength and ability to handle challenging situations.
5. Make connections with your audience. Stand or sit in a self-assured, confident posture. Remain warm and open and make eye contact.–This one often gets forgotten. Smile and thank the judge and your audience. Even if you feel nervous, a smile can change your whole demeanor.
6. Give up trying to be perfect and know that it is OK to make mistakes. Be natural, be yourself.

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