Performance Anxiety

Posted: 6/23/2007 2:14:02 PM
omhoge

From: New York, NY

Joined: 2/13/2005

To me, Performance is part of our technique regardless of musical style.
For those of us who experience it, managing performance anxiety or stage fright is a critical part of our practice. More than one accomplished player I know has confrimed it and I've experience it severely in my musical life. I believe there are techniques for it just like the other musical aspects. There were a couple clear moments of improvement for me late in life and far apart.

"it's not about me"
The first came when I had to sing in front of people and conduct other musicians. What got me through was realizing that it wasn't about me personally, but about a musical job to do and I had a particular role in it to make the music and ritual happen.

"nobody's gonna die"
In reading the writings of Kenny Werner, Kip Rosser, and William Benzon, it's been helpful to be reminded: keep perspective, a wrong note does not kill anybody; ultimately there are no wrong notes; music is a primary and universal human pattern; we are all musicians, it so happens certain of us are playing at the moment; the theremin is not impossible to play; the collective act of musicking, including both players and listeners, forms an additional cognitive structure that informs the player's performance.

"so lucky to be here, it can't get worse"
After making it through a massive storm that prevented several scheduled artists and a good friend from appearing, and after many unimaginable technical issues that extended even into performance, it turned out to be the most relaxed performance I've ever given. I just felt so lucky to even have made it there with everyone, that nothing worse could happen, and even if the power went out or I fell on my ass, we'd all still have a good time and a great story to tell.

Just some more thoughts on how we do it.

Posted: 6/26/2007 12:16:10 PM
kkissinger

From: Kansas City, Mo.

Joined: 8/23/2005

If one has practiced diligently and the music is consistantly great in rehearsal, why would it be less-than-wonderful in a live performance?

Performance Anxiety is a normal feeling that most of us have felt at one time or another. The anxiety can translate into physical symptoms that include muscle tightness, an elevated pulse rate, and feelings of impending "doom". Any such symptoms can prevent the music from reaching its potential.

One's interpretation of those "nervous feelings" determines whether the anxiety will exist in the background or step forward to interfere with the performance.

We humans attempt to attach meaning to our feelings. Thus, our brain tells us that there is some reason for the anxiety -- problem is, the reasoning may be false. If one is well-prepared to perform, then to reason that the anxiety is due to a lack of preparation is false reasoning. If one has played through one's music many times without 'falling apart' then to reason that the anxiety means that the performance will 'fall apart' is false.

When such thoughts surface, try substituting an antidote thought such as: "Though I am present to nervous feelings, my rehearsals have been predictably solid, my dress rehearsal was successful, and I am ready to perform." or "I am ready to perform and there is no reason that things won't go well."

Should we, then, tell ourselves that the feelings are meaningless? Well, only if they are -- intentional self-deception doesn't do much good. However there are reasons for performance anxiety and, to know the real reasons is to avoid the trap of false reasoning.

Here are some examples of understandable anxiety:

1) the situation is unfamiliar: a new location, new audience, never-before-played music, unfamiliar sound system

2) lack of control: working with sound, lighting, or other musicians with which you've never worked or rehearsed

3) technical problems -- to feel stressed when things aren't working is reasonable. [i](note: equipment setup and takedown should be rehearsed the same as the music itself.)[/i]

When the unexpected happens prior to the performance, just deal with the situation, accept that to feel nervous is normal under the circumstances, and remind yourself that you have performed well under pressure before.

Performance anxiety is ever-present, however excellent preparation and a clear mind can keep the anxiety from distorting one's thoughts and perspective.

[i]-- Kevin[/i]
Posted: 6/29/2007 2:32:19 PM
Thomas Grillo

From: Jackson Mississippi

Joined: 8/13/2006

Late, as usual seeing these. Thank you both for pointing out the cuases, and possible ways to deal with stage fright.

I've been performing in one form or another with opera, and barbershop choruses, and quartets for nearly a third of a century, and each performance brings with it those dreaded fobic reactions. The key one for me is, What will they think "IF",,,. And, Am I going to get it right this time?", or "Do I look ok?" Evin though I've gone over the work for as much as a month, sometimes when the camera is on for a youtube shoot, evin though I know in my heart that if I mess up, I can erase, and redo that shot, I still get those over the big rollercoaster hill feelings.

It used to be much worse when I was working in commercial radio, and reaching for that big switch that turned on the mic to let 3,000 listeners hear what I had to say about the weatcher each morning made me feel as though I were walking out into an arena to fight lions with a cardboard sword in front of thousands of blood thirsty war mongers, betting on the lions, no doubt.

It's a very real problem, and it's not something you can easily dismiss as one of those "get over it" things.

It's caused some actors, and professional musicians to fall prey to the pitfalls of aclohol, and drugs, or worse.

Lets face it folks, as humans, we're the most "UN" natural creatures to walk the planet. Hear we are, doing the most unusual things a creature can do, standing in front of thousands of other creatures, doing something completely "not" normal, like waving our hands about near the most abnormal musical instrument to hit the stage, and expecting ourselves to feel as normal as if we'd just set down in front of the TV.

These feelings are going to happen. How to deal with them is indeed a valid question.

Stage fright ranks right up there with other fobias.

It all boils down to being out of one's comfort zone, and faced with a situation to which one is not entirely in control of, or has little information about. (..And evin if we do know all about what makes us nervus, in some cases.)

In some cases learning more about what frightens one can help one overcome the fobic reactions to whatever triggers the reactions, while other times, repeated exposure to the trigger at more, and more frequent intervals, and increasing durations, along with learning about the things which make us nervus can go a long way in learning how to overcome stage fright, and other fobias.

Sometimes, there's just too many variables in play to do much of anything about.

One thing is certain as far as I'm concerned, someone once told me to think of each performance as just another rehearsal. That's a bit hard to swallow when faced with bright lights, cavernous reverb, or dead accoustics, with hundreds, if not thousands of people "out there" watching you, and you can't see them for all the lights. But, by gosh it really does work, especially when you realize, hey, thank heavins for all those bright lights blinding me, and keeping me from seeing all those other creatures out there. Than, it suddenly becomes much easier to think of it as, "just another rehearsal".

Do the feelings go away? No, but they are not as pronounced when I try to think along those lines.

Sometimes I have to just spend a few minutes in the greenroom relaxing, and meditating a bit. Other times, it helps, if the stage management permits it, to go out before the audience gets there, and walk the set, or stage, exploring a bit, and evin sitting out in the audience section for a few minutes.

Does this work for everyone? certainly not, but hopefully, this may help someone out there. At least you'll know, that you're not alone, and it's not unreasonable to feel stage fright. In fact, if we didn't, there might be something very wrong with us.

These feelings are just part of our natural defense systems at work. Unfamiliar situations u
Posted: 6/30/2007 1:12:22 PM
kkissinger

From: Kansas City, Mo.

Joined: 8/23/2005

[i]"I've been performing in one form or another with opera, and barbershop choruses, and quartets for nearly a third of a century"[/i]

A statement that makes an impression, for sure!

[i] I was working in commercial radio, and reaching for that big switch that turned on the mic to let 3,000 listeners hear what I had to say...[/i]

Impressive.

[i]...about the weatcher each morning made me feel as though I were walking out into an arena to fight lions with a cardboard sword in front of thousands of blood thirsty war mongers, betting on the lions, no doubt.[/i]

This, too, makes an impression. Seems an exaggeration to suggest that to talk about the weather incurs stress on the level of fighting wild animals in the arena. Most people wouldn't get too stressed about saying: "Today it will be partly-cloudy with a low of 62 and a high in the mid-80s."

Incidentally, it is raining here today.

[i]It's a very real problem, and it's not something you can easily dismiss as one of those "get over it" things.[/i]

Yes, Phobias are very real to people who are so afflicted.

[i]Lets face it folks, as humans, we're the most "UN" natural creatures to walk the planet.[/i]

I've never thought about this. To be at the top of the food chain is reassuring, though.

[i]Hear we are, doing the most unusual things a creature can do, standing in front of thousands of other creatures, doing something completely "not" normal, like waving our hands about near the most abnormal musical instrument to hit the stage, and expecting ourselves to feel as normal as if we'd just set down in front of the TV.[/i]

Since I haven't played live Theremin to thousands of people I really wouldn't know.

[i]These feelings are going to happen. How to deal with them is indeed a valid question.

Stage fright ranks right up there with other fobias.[/i]

I always thought stage fright was a normal part of performance. Never occurred to me that stage fright is a phobia (neurosis) on the level of agoraphobia or claustrophobia.

[i]It all boils down to being out of one's comfort zone, and faced with a situation to which one is not entirely in control of, or has little information about. (..And evin if we do know all about what makes us nervus, in some cases.)[/i]

I always considered "working outside of one's comfort zone" to be analogous to "pushing one's boundaries". I can't imagine staying in my "comfort zone" all the time. Would be boring. To stretch one's self suggests to me a healthy approach.

[i]In some cases learning more about what frightens one can help one overcome the fobic reactions to whatever triggers the reactions, while other times, repeated exposure to the trigger at more, and more frequent intervals, and increasing durations, along with learning about the things which make us nervus can go a long way in learning how to overcome stage fright, and other fobias.[/i]

I'm not getting how this applies to Performance Anxiety. Most of us don't perform every day for thousands of people. For me, action cures fear more than thinking about fear.

[i]One thing is certain as far as I'm concerned, someone once told me to think of each performance as just another rehearsal. That's a bit hard to swallow when faced with bright lights, cavernous reverb, or dead accoustics, with hundreds, if not thousands of people "out there" watching you, and you can't see them for all the lights.[/i]

Jeez... I just wouldn't know. I've not played my theremin for such throngs of people.

[i]In severe cases, prefessional help is called for when dealing with fobias that are so sever, they put jobs, or evin one's own, or others' wellbeing at risk.[/i]

Your post makes a convincing argument for this.

[i]I've seen it happen all too often.[/i]

I've lived a sheltered childhood.
Posted: 6/30/2007 6:08:01 PM
Thomas Grillo

From: Jackson Mississippi

Joined: 8/13/2006

You've never read the weather with low vision. That's challenging to say the least.

Have you ever worked for a 911 call center? Do that for a few years, and you'll understand.
Posted: 6/30/2007 6:39:18 PM
Thomas Grillo

From: Jackson Mississippi

Joined: 8/13/2006

To clarify one point, when I was working in radio, my job description was sound board operator. All I was originally supposed to do was load tapes, push buttons, and take meter readings. Not be the air talent. That title was bestowed upon me when the air talent failed to show up one day, and I was forced to take matters into my own hands as the boss was out of town, and no one else was available to take over. It was that day that I was talking about. After that, I wound up doing it all the time.

Kevin, You're right, that to most folks, reading weather is nothing. but when you're legally blind, and have to do it under the above circumstatnces, yes, it feels just like you're fighting lions with a cardboard sword. Trust me on this one.
Posted: 6/30/2007 7:54:14 PM
Thomas Grillo

From: Jackson Mississippi

Joined: 8/13/2006

Oh, and did I mention, that "I" suffer from mild to moderate performance anxiety? I was speaking from a first person perspective, and nothing I said was an exaggeration. To normal folks, most things are little. To those of us who suffer fobias, little things are huge.

P A cost me two otherwise wonderfull careers.

Ok, 'nuff said. Sorry to babble on.
Posted: 7/1/2007 1:01:56 PM
omhoge

From: New York, NY

Joined: 2/13/2005

It's often joked about, but Lev Termen also pondered a resurrection machine and from it's birth the Theremin has conjured every sort of metaphysical, aether and electromagnetic even healing related conjectures. But it is true that, though not totally organic, every principle and construct of the Theremin is natural. Something about it and especially how you play it causes noticeable mental shift for many people.

Suffering finds it's way naturally with many forms into human life, and I'm honestly sad for it. Lots have found the Theremin to be helpful, and I hope TW is ultimately helpful to folks interested in it.
One of the greatest organists I ever knew was blind from birth and he was never known to mention or refer it at all.

The comfort zone is an tricky thing.
Live performance usually has a tight rope walking quality to it in that the performer could conceivably fall and usually the most exciting stuff happens when everyone is out of and free of their comfort zone. I thinks it's critical to know your zone well and mark it's changes; to know when to hang out there and especially when you've been there too long.

Actually getting beyond the comfort zone to me is more exciting than scary. What scares me out of it is always the same old poop that scars me when I'm comfortable. It's learning to keep your poise and stop thinking that pays off best for me; clearing out the anxiety and watching the music happen. Like I said, in a way that's a technique just like the rest of it. If you work in terms of technique I thought it's worth talking about, that's all I meant to ask.

Posted: 7/1/2007 2:09:11 PM
Thomas Grillo

From: Jackson Mississippi

Joined: 8/13/2006

I must admit, that after working with the theremin for a year, and doing the youtube shots, my level of anxiety is a lot less than it was years ago. My first theremin gig at the guitar shop was a lot less stressing at the start than I thaought it would be.
Posted: 7/1/2007 2:44:41 PM
vonbuck

From: new haven ct.

Joined: 7/8/2005

I'll play in front of anyone, anywhere, anytime with or without prep time or rehearsal. I've played with people i've never met and old friends. i played solo theremin in church for a wedding. Performiong music in front of people has never been a problem.
talking to people, even one on one scares me to no end.

Andy

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