BBC Music Magazine examining stage fright or performance anxiety. The article touches on several musicians’ antidotes, philosophies, and analysis.An interesting article is circulating from
One point the article doesn't really lean into is something I've learned from taking improv classes: the use of failure. Musicians are so tightly wound and so focused on perfection that we forget that we're human. Improv class (theatrical improv, not musical improv) allows you to embrace a failure, lean into it, learn from it, and use it without shame. It's a hard concept to understand, but once you do it's like a freedom of sorts. When you grant permission to make a mistake, it actually can free your mind for a better overall performance.
The first time I learned of permission to fail was in an improv class. The class was in a giant circle, and we were playing one of the many improv games designed to help free minds and cultivate creativity. Someone in the class messed up, and then yelled: "I failed!" to which the entire class celebrated along with the person by cheering and clapping in support. I was utterly confused! Why would anyone celebrate a failure?
That is until I failed during a game and learned what the point was.
Failure is temporary, and if you are surrounded by people who "have your back," it's not a big deal.
The difference is standing on stage, alone, with an audience who may or may not have your back if you fail at one musical phrase or another. You can't help but take it personally. And then, like the article mentions, if someone in the audience is a critic or VIP, that changes the perception, too. Yet, when you look down the tunnel of all the things that can go wrong during a performance, there are also a lot of things that can go right.
The mere practice of improv classes has helped me with my own performance anxiety and perspectives. It’s a constant work in progress, and from every improv class I glean something important. Besides learning to "let go" and not worry about making mistakes, improv teachers are blunt with their observations of student’s work. One comment caught me off guard and shook me to my core. "Do you think your audience wants to come see you just shake your head when you make a mistake or are unhappy with something?"
Improv skills are a constant mindset, like Jedi tricks on ourselves. While I've suffered stage fright here and there over my career, I've found that when I make time to remember there are people who need to lose themselves in music, people whose last concert might be this particular concert, people who are attending for the first time, and people who are trying their darndest to get a moment away from their own hectic and stressful lives.....then you own yourself again. The trick is to remember that point over the other pitfalls. It's a choice, and it must be practiced every time. Every. Time.
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