Guest Post By: Julie Nagel author of “Melodies of the Mind”and “Managing Stage Fright: A Guide for Musicians and Music Teachers”
Understandably, anxious performers wish they could get rid of performance anxiety – and do so fast! As a therapist, I wish I could fulfill their wish – but I must share the unwanted news that I cannot supply this “magic”.
There are no guarantees that intensified practicing will lead to an emotionally and technically secure performance. While teachers help students practice intelligently and effectively, there is no such thing as a perfect performance. Perfection is wish that ultimately will raise anxiety, since perfection is unattainable in life and on stage. But a lack of perfection (or “perfect” performance) does not mean that there cannot be satisfying, good, and exceptional performances.
Frankly, it would not be helpful to totally “get rid” of performance anxiety. Appreciation of one’s personal best is an important lesson for music teachers to convey to their students, and this lesson needs to be continually emphasized. Attitude can facilitate anxiety reduction as much as, or sometimes more than, aptitude.
Try these 13 tips to help you manage your stage fright. Mental preparation is as crucial as repertoire preparation.
- Demonstrate a non judgmental willingness to talk with students about performance anxiety.
- Validate students’ feelings. Do not tell them the will be “ok”. They are not feeling “ok”.
- Inform students it is not desirable to get “rid” of performance anxiety. In fact, it is not possible to do this.
- Help students transform anxiety into positive energy.
- Challenge the notion of being “perfect”. Help students strive for the best they can.
- Emphasize the idea that sharing music vs. proving oneself can lower anxiety.
- Let students know that it is “cool” to talk about what they feel in a safe environment. (What is said in class stays in class!)
- Emphasize that “perfection” is a myth— there is no such thing as “perfection” except in our wishes and imagination. There is no “perfect performance.”
- Emphasize that there are competent performers, not omnipoten
- Involve parents and teach them about child development, anxiety cues, and learning tools. Involve a mental health professional and a pediatrician to contribute to discussions.
- Refer to a mental health professional when teaching tools are not sufficient.
- Emphasize that performance anxiety reduction strategies need to be approached as seriously as practicing for musical performance. Mind matters.
- Convey the attitude that musicians are more than the sum of their musical parts.
Performance anxiety does not have to undermine or intimidate performers and/or teachers. An emphasis on sharing rather than proving has provided significant anxiety relief to many performers.
Good luck and enjoy performing.
Julie Nagel is author of “Melodies of the Mind” (Routledge Press, 2013) and “Managing Stage Fright: A Guide for Musicians and Music Teachers” (Oxford University Press, 2017). She is a contributing editor to Clavier Companion. Visit her blog at www.julienagel.net where she writes about stage fright, career choice, and music lessons as life lessons. She is a graduate of The Juilliard School, The University of Michigan, and The Michigan Psychoanalytic Institute and is in private practice in Ann Arbor, Michigan.