Our students are right in the thick of Recital preparation for the Christmas Recital on December 14th. Many of us become very nervous when we have to perform in public. It always seems like that piece we could play perfectly at home or for our teacher suddenly falls apart when we get in front of a big audience.
I agree, performing in front of an audience is scary! I’ve sung in front of crowds of thousands people on several different occasions. SCARY! Some people think I never get nervous anymore, but the truth is I do. Every time I get up to sing or play the piano, my stomach is in knots, and my knees are shaking. I’m not kidding! Even the most seasoned professionals struggle with nerves.
Being nervous is simply a fact of life. It’s never going to go away. But, there are definitely some helpful steps we can take to overcome those nerves and even use them to our advantage.
Don’t be Afraid of Nerves
Many of us make our nervousness worse by letting it make us afraid. We start making up all kinds of disaster scenarios. I’m going to trip on my way up to the piano. My fingers will be shaking so badly they won’t be able to play. I won’t remember where middle C is. There will be a tornado, and the piano and I will be swept away in a giant funnel cloud never to be seen again!!! Fear makes us think some pretty ridiculous things! You may be shaking, but I doubt anyone will ever be swept away in a giant funnel cloud.
Remember, nerves are normal! Even the pros get nervous! Don’t be afraid of what will happen, you’ll just stress yourself out more! Breathe. Stay calm. You WILL make it! My own personal experience says you WILL make it! And, I have tripped on my way up to the piano, but I still made it!!
Practice is probably your best defence against nerves. The more you practice, the more confidence you will have in your ability to perform. Don’t just practice for yourself, do a mini-concert for your family. Play for your friends at school. Play for your dog! The more your practice playing your piece, the less you will have to feel nervous about. You will be building up confidence each time you play!
Realize Your Audience is on Your Side!
When I finally realized that people enjoyed hearing me play and sing at recitals, it did wonders for my nerves! I was always worried everyone was thinking horrible things when I was performing. “Ew… she hit a wrong note. She must be a horrible piano player.” “Ugh… that high note in her song was so flat. She really shouldn’t sing that kind of song.” But, guess what?! No one EVER thought that about my performing! The truth is, those listening are your biggest fans! We understand the nerves you are feeling, and we are cheering you on!
Smiling covers the multitude of mistakes! Even if your nerves make you mess up, a nice smile will make a mistake much less noticeable. Your audience will feel so much more comfortable with your performance if you are smiling. If you are enjoying what you are doing, they will enjoy it too! Smiling will remind you to be excited about performing, instead of nervous. The more you love what you do, the more others will love it too. They will be so excited about your performance, that they won’t even notice a little slip here and there!
One last thing to remember about nerves is that they are just energy. I always tell my students that an energetic performance is a GOOD performance. Just take that nervous energy and focus it into your music. Make it part of your performance, and you will be singing or playing with more confidence than you ever realized possible!