My passion is to help others in the community, young, old, and everyone in between, find relevance and joy in learning, performing or listening to classical music.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Personal checklist for keeping performances anxiety-free

Ah, the joys of performing.

So how many of you musicians out there think I'm being sarcastic when I say that?  Raise your hands high, don't be shy!  Dealing with performance anxiety for many is a lifelong pursuit and for good reason.  Getting up on stage in front of a lot of people, performing by memory, singing in a different language, performing athletic maneuvers with our hands or voices that have taken hundreds of hours to master, takes no small amount of bravery and determination.  In the past year or so, thanks in part to where I am in life, I have reached a new philosophy, a new state of being in regards to this whole topic.  The good news about this?  I now find performing ecstatically thrilling pretty much regardless of what, where, how, for whom, and with whom I'm performing.  And because I love performing even more than I ever have, any nervousness that I might feel beforehand, I now tend to just translate into feelings of anticipation.  Sounds too good to be true?  Perhaps, and maybe you think I need to tone down the enthusiasm, but that's part of my new way of dealing with nerves...maybe it would be best if I just get down to the nitty gritty with some practical tips.  Over the next week I will share with you a list of crucial tips that I keep in mind every time I approach a performance.  I would say I pull this list up in my mind about a week prior to a performance and then during the performance itself to make the performance the most nerve-free and excitement-full possible...

Tip #1:  What's learned, is learned
Except for unusual circumstances, if I don't have music learned, technical passages down, memory cemented, fingerings figured out, a week prior to a performance, I figure it's really too late to do so, so it's really better to figure something else out.  I decide to cut the piece out of the program if possible, perform with the music (since that usually won't lead to the end of the world or my career!), stick to my old fingering even if it isn't perfect...I have discovered that if I keep trying to cram in perfection until a performance, I will be distracted by my expectation to get those things right during the performance.  As a result, many undesirable things happen - I usually mess those very things up, the performance is unmusical because I am distracted, and the performance is boring.  Not so good.

Stop by tomorrow for Tip #2!


  1. I really like this post and I'm looking forward to the rest of your tips! I've been informally researching music performance anxiety on and off for the past two years and I'm always really interested in musicians' takes on the subject and how to manage.

  2. When all else fails, or perhaps even much sooner, there's always the beta blocker, propranolol.

  3. Thank you for your comments. And yes, David, there are beta blockers. I've never tried those specifically for performance anxiety so I can't personally comment on their effectiveness but I know many musicians that rely on them so thank you for passing that on!