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CONFIDENT MUSIC PERFORMANCE: Part 4 - Positive Strategies for Coping with Fear

Unhelpful Reactions to Fear of Performing

Oh, fear, you tricky little devil! Sometimes it can make us react in the most unhelpful ways. Here are eight common reactions many of us have probably experienced:

  1. Fight or Flight - When fear kicks in, you're ready to either fight like a ninja or sprint like Usain Bolt - all in the name of survival.

  2. Les Misérables - You're torturing yourself with thoughts of epic fails before a performance, like forgetting the lyrics or freezing up completely, leading you to be in a miserable state. You might sacrifice opportunities to avoid the challenge completely, like thinking someone else should take your role or putting off learning a tricky piece until the time feels right.

  3. Robots Anonymous - Ever tried performed in a zombie-like trance because you have blocked out all thoughts to escape the stress? I have! Let's just say, my youthful performance videos where I could have sworn I was 'smiling' are actually a collection of me in a dissociative state.

  4. The Artful Dodger - Who needs a performance when you can fake a sudden illness or come up with the most creative excuses to avoid it altogether?

  5. Procrastination - Why start preparing now when you can procrastinate and end up a nervous, insecure wreck later? Sounds like a solid plan, doesn't it?

  6. Avoidance - Completely avoiding playing or singing due to acute stage fright, which eventually plummets your self-esteem because you are allowing the fear to control you.

  7. The Buck Stops Elsewhere - Blaming others or external factors for one’s own shortcomings to avoid personal responsibility. i.e. Blaming the teacher for choosing a difficult song or saying you were distracted by noise or movement in the audience.

  8. Becoming Detached from the Audience - Who needs the audience anyway? Pretend they're invisible and deliver a performance so bland you could use it to cure insomnia.

Positive Strategies for Coping with Fear


Ready to tackle fear with a smile? Here are some positive strategies to help you conquer those anxieties and shine like the star you are:

  1. Embrace Your Fears - Give your stress and tension a big bear hug! Acknowledge your fears, laugh at them, and watch them lose their power over you.

  2. Prepare Thoroughly - Practice, practice, practice! No, seriously, practice some more. Being prepared is half the battle won. More on this later.

  3. Confidence through Repetition - Performing frequently makes it less of a major event and more of a familiar routine. When I was cast in a lead role in a musical it was a huge relief. I became so used to going on stage, it became as easy as any other job.

  4. Reverse Roles - Anxious performers feel exposed and vulnerable. Imagine the audience or jury panel in their underwear or naked to feel more secure by comparison.

  5. Shift the Focus - Redirect your attention away from tense body parts. For example, think about moving the tension from your jaw to your toes, or focus on deep breathing instead of your stiff shoulders.

  6. Chill Out - Relax with some meditation, yoga, or deep breathing. Zen mode: activated!

  7. Spot a Friend - Find a friendly face in the crowd and serenade them. This creates a positive connection with the audience. I always tell my nervous students to find my face in the crowd and perform to me as if it were any other singing lesson.

  8. Connect with the Audience - Remember, the audience is there for you because they believe in your talent. Show them some love, and they'll return the favour.

  9. The Paradoxical Approach - Make those hands tremble and knees shake on purpose. Even deliberately committing a small mistake can also help to alleviate anxiety. Embrace the nerves and watch them fade away. It's like reverse psychology for stage fright!

  10. Visualise Success - Visualise a successful performance in detail well before the event to create a self-fulfilling prophecy.

  11. Get Lost in the Performance - Focus on the love for your work and the joy of sharing it with others. In group performances, create eye contact with your peers to open yourself up to connection.

  12. Use Your Imagination - Add flair to your performance by inventing a storyline that fits the mood you want to project. This shifts your mind from worries to artistic expression.

  13. Spread the Love - Helping fellow performers is the ultimate distraction from your own fears. Plus, it makes you look like a superhero in the process!

  14. Believe in Your Talent - Critics, schmitics! Don't let them rain on your parade. Remember, even The Beatles got rejected from a recording company. So, keep rocking and focus on your passion for your art!

  15. Enjoy the Ride! Performing is fun, remember? Many performers take themselves too seriously and miss the moods, emotions, and even humour intended by the composer. Look for the beauty and craftsmanship in the music, and the difficulties will be easier to face. If you enjoy the music, so will the listeners.

Personal Musings:

Back in the day, I used to perform like a robot on autopilot, shutting down my emotions to survive the anxiety. My biggest problem was a lack of perspective: I thought every audition or performance was going to make or break me. However, being prepared both emotionally and technically has helped me maintain perspective. No single performance, exam, or audition is the be-all and end-all of my career. Remember, the art is what matters most, not your fears or insecurities.


PART 5 CONTINUES… How to Prepare for a Confident Performance


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