Flute Punch

Performance Anxiety

Posted on: January 30, 2014


Solo & Ensemble contest is just a few days away, and as always, it has me thinking about the inner game of music performance. Here’s a few humble thoughts on the subject.Wonder Woman!

  1. Be honest about root causes of anxiety. I believe musicians walk around with a shared, unconfessed fear: “What if I botch this performance, thereby wasting countless hours of my life I spent practicing?” It is a risk we take as performers, and we can do 2 things to address this fear: 1) Perform multiple times, not just once. 2) Reflect on the improvements we made to our musicianship over the course of weeks/months practicing that will serve us in the future, not just for one performance.
  2. Practice focusing through distraction. Have some people distract you — cough, talk, throw cotton balls, whatever. Anxiety is just internal distraction.
  3. Rebrand anxiety as excitement. Trying to stifle nerves will make them worse. Instead, say to yourself, “I’m EXCITED!”
  4. Go Wonder Woman. Standing in the Wonder Woman pose for 2 minutes has been clinically proven to boost confidence.
  5. Laugh. I think people play better right after laughing. Grab a cell phone and check out Awkward Family Photos, or stupid YouTube videos, and have a good belly laugh before you perform.
  6. Enjoy others’ performances. Don’t just show up for your performance time — stay to hear more music and support your friends and classmates.
  7. Remember that people want you to do well. I think this is even true of your competitors, whether they realize it or not. Think about the last time you watched anyone perform, live or on TV. You wanted them to do well, right? I believe as human beings, we’re programmed to feel this way.
  8. Own your piece. When you are ready to perform, at that moment, you are the expert in the room on your piece — you, and no one else.
  9. Be proud of yourself. Assuming you have spent time and effort preparing, you have nothing to be ashamed of. Allow yourself to enjoy being the musician you are. There will always be someone better than you, and someone worse than you. What matters is that you are alive and participating in the most distinguishably human act of creating art!
  10. Aim to achieve the highest compliment possible. And what is the highest compliment? Getting a 1 from the judge? Beating out your competition for State nominee? Those things are great, but not the ultimate compliment. In my opinion, if someone says to you, “What was the name of your piece? I really like it,” that is the highest compliment. It means you presented music that others enjoyed.

Thanks for reading, and good luck to all the students performing this weekend!


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