Confronting Performance Anxiety | Student Blog

Wednesday, Feb 26, 2020
Amy Sze
Admissions Blog
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Amy plays violin onstage
© Bob Houchens

Managing performance anxiety is a universal necessity for artists.

Each time we perform or audition, it can feel as if the whole of our lives is being distilled into just those few moments. We expose ourselves and push ourselves to the cliff's edge to give the best performance. This can be a daunting task.

I love performing, yet at the same time, I can get very nervous and shaky. Sometimes, I even get violent tremors in my left hand at the beginning of a performance. My dad suggested incorporating the shakes into my vibrato, but no. No. Typical dad advice, but no. It can get pretty bad. It's frustrating that I can't always control how my body reacts in these situations.

I've tried many coping strategies and have by no means perfected a solution, but I have found some ideas that help me. Most beneficial to calming my nerves has been taking care of myself in the best possible way I can before a performance. This means getting enough sleep the night before, eating enough the day of, and being as prepared as I possibly can. I put on my “Sunday Best” out of respect for the audience and myself. There is truth to Billy Crystal’s SNL Fernando Llamas quote, “It’s better to look good than to feel good!” If there's time, I try to work out beforehand. All these factors are conducive to ensuring that my body and mind are in top shape and not unnecessarily distracted. Presenting my best self on stage entails self-care.

Along with rehearsals and practice, I also try to tak e advantage of sound checks. Physically and mentally running through an upcoming performance cuts down on the chance to be rattled by the unexpected.

It's normal to be anxious/eager before a concert. I remind myself that this is, in fact, good. I look forward to that excitement. The nervous energy is imperative to preserving the vigor, exuberance, and concentration needed for a memorable performance. Transform that anticipation and those jitters into musical excitement!

Getting nervous before auditions or performances indicates that you care and want to do well. Sometimes, reminding myself of why I’m doing this in the first place is all that I need to recenter myself. There is nothing I love more than performing because it’s the most exhilarating feeling in the world to be able to express yourself without speaking a single word. Music is the way I can truly convey my feelings with the world. Camouflaging that passion with the fear of not pleasing the public or not getting everything right is missing the whole purpose of sharing music. I also remember that the anxiety goes away once the performance gets going. When I remind myself of this, it gives me the perspective to be a little less nervous and that much more eager for the show to begin!

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