“Confident performance is not a fluke, but the product of imaginative and consistent synthesis of technical and emotional work.”
-Frank R. Wilson
The Musician’s Way, p. 146
Musicians who grapple with performance nerves typically hear plenty of clichéd advice.
“Just perform as much as you can,” goes one refrain, “you’ll get the hang of it.”
But as current research reveals, that conventional wisdom about beating stage fright doesn’t ring true. In fact, approximately 25% of collegiate and professional musicians live with disabling performance anxiety.*
If we’re looking to curtail persistent nervous interference, repeating what we’ve always done isn’t going to bring new results. To craft confidence, we need specific knowledge and skills to be able to take command on stage.
Reacting to Stress
Bear in mind that security in performance doesn’t result from purging all nervous symptoms. It arises from knowing that we can perform well whether we feel jumpy or not.
As we gain facility with performance skills, we undergo less stress overall and are equipped to cope with any nervousness that remains.
Still, stress in life can’t be eliminated. Actually, much of the time, stress itself isn’t the issue. It’s how we react to stress that determines whether its effect is positive or negative.
“If we’re looking to curtail persistent nervous interference, repeating what we’ve always done isn’t going to bring new results.”
Expert performers understand what ignites their anxieties, and they always have coping mechanisms to call on. They experience arousal at a show, but it’s largely of a constructive type that gets them fired up to perform. If detrimental effects emerge, they initiate countermoves that transform tension into enthusiasm.
You can be that competent in your own self-management, but you must uphold the conviction that anxiety troubles have solutions.
Building Performance Skills
If you suffer from performance nerves, whether moderate or severe, don’t surrender to any belief about it being an incurable burden. You can triumph over its limiting effects and be the performer that you aspire to be.
But it won’t happen overnight.
Performance anxiety doesn’t yield to band-aid solutions. Nor does it abate on its own.
It takes patient effort to reverse anxious habits, especially long-held ones, and replace them with secure knowledge and skills.
“It takes patient effort to reverse anxious habits, especially long-held ones, and replace them with secure knowledge and skills.”
Part I covers practice strategies that enable us to learn music deeply – an essential component of crafting confidence. Part II maps out ways to master performance skills and perform securely under pressure. Part III tackles occupational health, creativity, and career sustainability.
Like no other book, its 360 pages empower musicians to overcome obstacles and unlock their musical potential.
Preview the text for free at Amazon.com.
*See The Musician’s Way for more research into the causes, effects and remedies for performance anxiety.
The 3 Roots of Performance Anxiety
The 5 Main Types of Performance Errors and How to Handle Them
Assessing Your Performance Skills
Conquer Stage Fright with Task Mastery
© 2018 Gerald Klickstein
Some content adapted from Chapter 7 of The Musician’s Way
Photo © fizkes, licensed from Shutterstock.com