brass band performing“The key to harnessing on-stage energy is to use it for music-making purposes”
The Musician’s Way,
p. 186

Let’s say that you’re walking on stage to begin a performance.

Your heart’s beating somewhat fast and your hands feel cool; maybe your mouth turns dry.

Are you eager to launch into your program or worried that things could go awry?

That rapid pulse, parched mouth, and general jitteriness result from adrenaline being released into the bloodstream – a response that naturally occurs when we feel excited or threatened.

Thing is, adrenaline can charge up or undermine our creativity depending on how we handle its effects.

For skilled performers, the energizing effect of being under the spotlights actually helps us play at our best. For student musicians, though, on-stage adrenaline can unsettle and even overwhelm.

Here are 5 ways that rising performers can channel on-stage energy into creative power.

5 Ways to Handle On-Stage Adrenaline

1. Breathe

When adrenaline surges, our breathing can become shallow and hurried. So, on stage, let’s remember to inhale deeply into the abdomen and fully exhale.

And if we feel edgy before a show, 2-to-1 breathing is a potent technique that quells nervousness and refocuses our energies.

2. Release

In tandem with breathing, it’s vital that we release tension and project easeful body language. As we exhale, for instance, we might let our shoulders widen and our spine lengthen.

Such breathing and releasing can trigger profound effects, helping us be fully present and opening us to the performance experience.

3. Listen

Heightened listening activates our sense of purpose. During a performance, we should listen intently to ourselves and our coperformers, soulfully shaping every phrase.

Moreover, as we immerse ourselves in our music making, we cease focusing on ourselves, and then self-conscious jitters can subside.The Musician's Way book cover

4. Image Ahead

As we listen, we also have to sense where we’re going. We need to be fully present as we execute phrases and simultaneously sense how we’ll play or sing upcoming ones.

Such awareness, based on a foundation of deep practice, anchors our security and liberates our imagination.

5. Trust

Uninhibited performances are unlikely to occur unless we trust in our preparation. How do we build such trust? By preparing thoroughly, practicing performance techniques, and then using what we learn to better our artistry.

We don’t chase unattainable perfection. We understand that a life in music is about endless adventure and refinement.

For more strategies that ignite artistry in performance, see Part II of The Musician’s Way

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© 2011 Gerald Klickstein
Photo licensed from Shutterstock