Being in front of others can make one feel quite bare. Exposed. Unprotected. Performing music, whether singing or playing an instrument, takes courage. There are so many variables and so many of those variables are simply out of the performer’s control. What will they think? How will they react? Am I good enough? Is this performance good enough? Do they like the music? Did they notice my mistake? These questions and others like them can torment the performer’s mind. Questioning one’s ability and comparing oneself to others adds insult to injury. Add to that butterflies in the stomach, shaking, dry mouth, memory slips, sweaty palms and hands…boy, oh boy…performing is FUN!!! Once on the way to an audition I nearly fell off a paved sidewalk on level ground. I remember times since, feeling ill prepared and my nerves getting the best of me. Not a pretty sight, not a nice sound.
Feeling prepared, knowing you have something important to offer, knowing the music is worth listening to and simply focusing on the task at hand helps turn nervous energy into ENERGY.
The adrenalin rush we all receive whenever we are in front of others can serve us or slay us. Adrenalin works like fire: controlled it is a great tool, unchecked it is a destroying menace. To perform at the highest level, musicians must learn to control adrenalin and turn it into a friend instead of foe. Whenever we commit one-hundred percent to a musical performance the energy adrenalin gives is actually very beneficial. Feeling prepared, knowing you have something important to offer, knowing the music is worth listening to and simply focusing on the task at hand helps turn nervous energy into ENERGY.
Another problem faced while in front of an audience is the sensation of being out of control. From the stage it may seem as if those “out there” are huge while the performer feels miniscule. In his book, The Performer Prepares, Robert Caldwell addresses techniques in dealing with nervousness and stage fright. One technique he recommends is the performer imagining himself as tall as the building in which he is performing. The performer also imagines the feeling he would like to share filling the performance space, then at the height of this feeling he imagines himself through the eyes of an audience member. This takes practice BEFORE the actual performance. Feeling in charge and knowing the listener is for you and not against you makes a huge positive impact on the presentation.
Performing and sharing music with others takes more than talent or giftedness. It is an act of selflessness. It is the act of sharing a very personal and precious gift with others who may reject or criticize that gift. It is an act that transcends reason and intellectualism to reach the very heart, soul and emotions of the one for whom the gift is intended. The singer, the player, the music itself attempt to reach the deepest depths of the individual to make an impact that far exceeds what words alone can do.