More About Stage Fright
Posted on "Cello Chat" by Maeve S.
Does anyone have any advice on how to handle stage fright?
I have been doing ~a lot~ of performing since I graduated
last year (when this problem began), and it is becoming so
horrifying. I can deal with just being nervous; it makes me
feel more alert. But this stage fright hits me in the middle of a
performance, and I feel like my heart's going to explode from
the terror. It happens in symphony, chamber orchestras,
quartet...everywhere. I want to try other alternatives before
drugs, but breathing and thinking positively havn't worked for
me so far. Thanks in advance for any ideas,
Answer From Matt T.
Definitely stay away from the beta-blockers. I have found
that the best way to for me to deal with stage fright is to get
on stage as much as possible. When I was preparing for my
graduate recital a few years back, I had a terrible stage fright
problem. But, in the two months before the recital, I
arranged 5 relatively low-stress performances of the recital.
Each performance got better and better as I experimented
and learned how to direct and control the nervous energy.
Towards the end of the series, my accompanist became
amazed at my ability to actually play BETTER on stage than
in rehearsal. I had learned to direct the nervous energy in
such a way that it actually enhanced the performance. My
recital went really well.
But, regretfully, the story does not end there. After my
recital, I did not perform again for several months. When I
finally did play for others, I found that my stage fright was
back in full force.
I think that there are two primary factors in preventing stage
fright (also known as performance anxiety). The first, and
most important, is preparation. The more prepared you are,
the less of a factor stage fright will be. However, despite
what others have said here, that is not a cure-all. Leonard
Rose never overcame his stage fright, he took beta-blockers.
I would bet his preparation was pretty good :-).
The second factor is treating performance as a skill to be
practiced, or perhaps as a muscle that must be exercised
regularly. Play for anyone who will listen. That could include
friends, family, senior citizens, etc... And when you do it,
pretend it is the real thing. Don't talk to them before to let off
tension, dress up like the real thing if possible, and make a
grand entrance. Every time you should try to convince
yourself that you are about to make your Carnegie debut.
Finally, stay away from sugar and caffeine the day of the
concert. They'll kill ya!
Answer From Tim Janof
First of all, please refer to the Technique Tips portion of the
ICS website for some discussions on overcoming stage
I have some additional thoughts on this subject. You might
try telling yourself the following messages over and over, like
mantras, not only while on stage, but also before concerts,
perhaps even for several months prior to the concert:
1. "I deserve to be seen. I am worthy of being seen."
2. "If I make a mistake, I am not bad."
3. "If I make a mistake, I am still ok the way I am."
You might also ask people that you know will be in the
audience the following questions (preferably friends at first),
"If I make a mistake, will you still like me? If I make a
mistake, will you still respect me as a person?" If they say
"no" to either of these questions, then raise your emotional
shields, since anybody who would say "no" is a jerk, which
has nothing to do with you. If you are feeling really
courageous, ask these questions of the audience before you
Say the above mantras and ask the above questions as much
as you need to. After awhile, you may even start believing
them, deep down that is.
Answer From GK
Stage fright could be a result of you feeling that you are not
prepared enough for the performance. I know that when I
get scared that it is usually because I have so much going on
that I haven't had alot of time to get ready.
Please don't turn to a medical solution, like beta blockers or
something like that. Eat a banana, it has a calming effect, it
contains a natural relaxant. I don't know why orchestra
makes you scared, the entire performance is
not resting solely on you, same goes for chamber music, solo
I can understand. Maybe even focus is the problem, your
mind wanders while playing and you think about the
audience, and that might be why you get scared during a
performance, when your mind wanders, try to notice it
wandering, this also has to do with focus, but don't allow
your mind to think of anything but the music. I hope this will
help. Good luck.
Answer From Vito S.
What GK said about preparedness could have a great effect
on how you feel on stage. Something that should help is
getting on stage before the concert starts. Sneak on, look
around, breathe, and think that I can do it. Before anyone
arrives for the concert, sit yourself and your cello down and
just play the music. Once you hear yourself on stage you
should start feeling a great deal more comfortable. Also, try
and dress comfortably, because any other physical
discomfort will really make you feel terrible about going on
stage. Relax before the concert, close your eyes, and focus
only on the music and the conductor, nothing else is there
and nothing else matters.