Harmonia School is excited for all of the students who will be performing on our fall recitals! Whether you are a seasoned performer, or this is your first time singing or playing in public, we want to equip you to feel confident. If you struggle with stage fright, know that you are not alone! Most musicians, even professionals, battle feelings of anxiety when walking on stage. Lynne Latham, founder of Latham Music, shares the following tips on Children’s Music Workshop in an article entitled “Stage Fright Management.”

Waiting backstage, the familiar symptoms return. The palms moisten, the stomach becomes queasy, the heart beats harder and faster, breathing becomes more shallow, the knees feel weak. Is it possible to overcome the body’s natural defense mechanisms? To use the surge of adrenalin in a positive way to enhance instead of hinder a performance? Of course it is. It just takes some understanding and practice.

Fight or Flight: The Human Body in Survival Mode

Those familiar feelings are caused by the production of adrenalin. How do you minimize the negative effects of adrenalin? By changing your perception, by viewing the physical changes as excitement, not panic. By learning to slow down, breathe deeply and focus that additional energy into a passionate and exciting performance. This takes practice.

Prepare, Prepare, Prepare Again!

Lack of preparation is a leading cause of stage fright. If a performer is unsure of his or her technical ability to pull off a successful performance, that adds even more pressure and jitters. Especially in the public school setting, there is rarely enough time to fully prepare students for performance.

Act the Part

Performing is as much “acting” a part as it is executing a technical feat. Attend a live performance featuring a professional artist on their instrument, and pay attention not only to the “music” being performed, but the “music” being portrayed – pay attention to the body language, posture, and breathing of the person on stage. Try to imitate this when you practice. Amazingly, the body becomes more relaxed, the breathing deeper, posture is better. You have reached outside of yourself and removed the internal pressure by pretending to be someone else. Focusing on something external actually improves focus on the task at hand, which is a secure, confident performance.

Visualization

Potential memory slips are often a source of anxiety for performers. To remove this internal pressure, write a story about the work to be performed, putting specific feelings, actions and pictures with each section. Then, close your eyes and “run” the story in your head. Think about how important it is to communicate that story to your audience through your playing.

Before your performance, go off alone, close your eyes, and imagine playing the piece you are performing in a safe place (at home in your bedroom, on a relaxing beach, etc.). Allow that peaceful feeling to carry into your performance.
Finally, practice performing! Play or sing your piece in front of anyone – your family, your friends, etc. The more “real time” performance practice you have, the less frightening the actual performance will be.

Diet, Sleep, and Other Management Skills

  • Avoid caffeine, weaning yourself as early as two weeks prior to a performance. The increased adrenalin flow will be much harder to control.
  • Avoid processed sugars (i.e., candy, soft drinks).
  • Eat a good meal, high in complex carbohydrates, low in sugars and fats. Pasta is an excellent choice, along with fresh vegetables and fruit.
  • Arrive at the performance as rested as possible, establishing a consistent sleep pattern two weeks before a performance.
  • Do not compare yourself to other performers!
  • Try to remember to breathe deeply before beginning any music-making. Good oxygen flow to muscles will steady nerves.
  • Find a quiet, safe place to relax before performances.
  • Laughter is a wonderful tension release!
  • Always remember that music-making is fun!