Dealing with Stage Fright

The best performances I’ve given are the ones where I am wholeheartedly focused on the music and not about how nervous I feel. I still get nervous every time I have to perform in front of others and I don’t think the nerves will ever go away! What has changed over the years is how I deal with the nerves when they come. The question will always be, “Will I let my nerves take over my performance or will I drown them out with the music I have prepared?”

I believe it’s important to accept and embrace your nerves when they do come. When you acknowledge what you’re feeling, it gives you the freedom to decide whether you will let the nerves overwhelm you and impact your actions negatively or whether you will choose to let them go. Whether it’s the feeling of sweaty hands, stiff muscles, or butterflies in your stomach, nervousness and anxiety can show up differently for every person. When I get nervous my muscles tighten up and I can’t shift positions or bow as freely as I normally would. My sound doesn’t open up as much as I would like and my playing tends to be more timid. I can recall which performances I’ve done where I felt free to focus on performing the music in front of me and other times where I know I was listening too much to the voices inside my head telling me repeatedly to calm down. 

How I feel about an overall performance depends a lot on what was going on in my mind during the performance, the part that nobody actually sees or hears! Performing involves not only extensive preparation on the technical intricacies of learning the notes but also a preparation of the mind that comes with time and practice. Everything that goes into learning and performing on an instrument comes with regular practice and a commitment to overcome your fears.

My hope for each performance is that the next one will always be better than the last. When I finally come to experience a performance where I don’t let my nerves take over, when I can focus on making music and having fun in the process, then an overwhelming sense of accomplishment and pride fills me and that’s what keeps me yearning for more! When my nerves don’t rob me of the joy that comes from playing music then I know I have had a good performance.

Here are two helpful articles that explain what performance anxiety is and how to use your anxiety in more healthy ways:

1) What you may not know about performance anxiety

2) How to make performance anxiety an asset instead of a liability

I started reading this book over the summer called “Performance Anxiety Strategies: A Musicians Guide to Managing Stage Fright”. I hope to share some highlights from the book in a later post so stay tuned! You can buy it on Amazon here.

Sophia Hsiao

Sophia has been teaching violin privately since 2013 and has enjoyed learning more about how to help her students reach their musical goals. See her biography here.

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