Performance anxiety – Shake it Off

A familiar topic
It’s a week in which almost all of my students will perform. During a time when I was taking a lot of auditions, I remember feeling the competition among other musicians was really a war of nervous systems. I learned much later on this was somewhat true. Some of us have very sensitive nervous systems which make us particularly prone to anxiety.

Managing expectations
Parents can talk to their children about how there is no such thing as perfection. Teachers can talk openly with students about their level of comfort playing, for instance, from memory in front of an audience. Not all students will have an issue playing in front of an audience but teens and tweens in general seem to be experiencing a greater level of anxiety compared to before the pandemic.

A new approach
For the past two years I have sent an informational email to parents prior to the annual spring recital. The first bullet point says that the recital is meant to be a joyful opportunity for students to share their music. If a student does not feel comfortable playing from memory, they are encouraged to ask to use the music. I realize this is very different from the way many of us who studied at a conservatory were trained.

Shake it off
Performing on the violin really does not have to be a hazing designed to weed out anyone with a sensitive nervous system. Very sensitive people make excellent musicians because they literally feel more. My yoga teacher has us shake out and dance after a challenging balancing posture. I think this is an excellent activity to do with students to clear the air before performing.

Violinist Linda Beers is the creator of the Inspiration for Violinists, a 50 card deck. Each card has a unique image and text inspiring musicianship, mindfulness and spirituality.

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