Saturday, March 17, 2007

On “Stage Fright”

This weekend my NC flute students are participating in a adjudicated event. They have all worked hard on their music and are well prepared. Each student was coached with piano in their lesson this week and performed their music for peers in a masterclass/concert.

The focus on performance preparation this week has reminded me of some things I wish to share.

We all have some level of nervousness when we perform, whether music, dance, drama, athletics or public speaking. Adrenaline—the natural chemical we produce under stress—elevates heart rate and respiration. This can cause some people to feel very hot or to sweat in performances. It can also cause the heart to beat so fast and hard that it is more difficult to count rhythms and rests.

This same adrenaline can allow us to accomplish great things under stress, such as great athletic achievements or actions of super human strength in the face of emergency, such as lifting a fallen tree off a loved one. Some adrenaline is certainly useful in musical performance (and can even help a performance be the best we have ever done), but too much is problematic; managing its release is very useful. Here are some suggestions, based on my years of performing experience, for managing the release of adrenaline.

Literally ground yourself: feel the floor supporting your skeletal structure--feet, legs, hipbones, torso, and head. Unlock your knees and ankles and release your tailbone.

Breathe deeply, allowing your spine to lengthen as you release your breath. With each inhalation or “inspiration” imagine the entire phrase of music you will perform with the air you are taking in, then recreate the phrase as you release your breath.

Remember you are in control. Take time to compose yourself before you begin, and, most importantly, remember that you chose to be there. You are not a victim! Be joyful that you have the opportunity to study music and have a chance right now to do something that you really enjoy doing.

Think large rhythmic units to keep your place. Always be where you are now, not where you were when you made that small slip. A mistake is so unimportant if the flow of the music continues afterward. Graceful recoveries from errors are truly appreciated by your audience.

The art of music performance is a process, and presenting music gets easier each time you do it. You are taking a positive step toward overcoming stage fright simply by performing.

I am proud of each of my students for their hard work and for the individual ways they distinguish themselves as they grow, both musically and personally.



Anonymous said...

Reading this post was a great refresher for me. As a student, who is preparing for a recital, you have helped me reflect on all of my prior performance expericences and my mixed feelings concerning of how I was able to control the adrenaline flow. I really find your post inviting because it discusses many of the topics that we have been covering in my Alexander Technique class.

Catherine said...

Thanks so much for your comment! All the best on your recital! Enjoy!