Overcoming Stage Fright
It is an exciting time for all members of our MLA community – our upcoming recitals are a fantastic opportunity for our students to showcase their talents. However, some students may be feeling anxious about their performance. This anxiety may be in anticipation of the concert or experienced just before a student steps out on stage. Whatever the case, stage fright is a common experience! Although it may be an unpleasant feeling initially, it is easily manageable with a few helpful tips! But first, we must understand what stage fright is and how it affects our students.
What is Stage Fright?
Stage fright can be considered a form of anxiety, and like most anxieties, your brain and body are mistakenly interpreting that danger is present. Humans have evolved to respond to danger with fear, and this has motivated us to remove ourselves from the situation in any way we can.
There are many reasons why a student may feel scared about performing. For example, they may be scared that they are going to make a mistake or that their performance is going to be boring to the audience. Whatever the case, although there is no actual threat, the experience of fear can get in the way of performing.
How to Overcome Stage Fright
The first step to overcoming stage fright is to emphasize that the student is not alone. Many iconic and successful musicians have experienced and overcome stage fright. For example, John Lennon was known to throw up before stepping out on stage, and Adele once ran down a fire escape to avoid performing. Now that the student knows they’re in excellent company, here are some practical tips for overcoming stage fright!
Before the day of performance
- Visualise a fantastic performance
Positive visualisations such as connecting with the audience can not only help the student stay calm but sets the student up for success. From athletes to public speakers – visualisation is used by all performers to increase concentration, improve quality of performance and build confidence.
- Exercise to release endorphins
Whether the student enjoys running, team sports or dancing – exercise is one of the best tools to manage anxiety. As long as the student saves some energy for the performance, exercise in any form is always beneficial.
- Watch something funny
Encourage the student to watch YouTube videos of things they find funny. Or suggest that they text a friend that always makes them laugh. As it turns out, laughter produces endorphins just like exercise, and we know that endorphins counteract feelings of anxiety.
On the day of performance
- Get rid of excess adrenaline
Sometimes, small actions have an impact on the way we feel. A little bit of movement is a great way for students to feel ready for their performance. For example, the student can jog in place, shake their limbs or jump up and down.
- Breathe slowly
It is natural for a student to breathe faster when they experience stage fright. A common technique for managing all forms of anxiety is to breathe slowly – breathing in and out through pursed lips. A rhythm will naturally occur where the out-breaths last twice as long as the in-breaths, and this is known to be soothing to the nervous system.
- Avoid coffee & energy drinks
We know that a student experiences adrenaline before a performance. Ingesting stimulants such as caffeine only adds to this adrenaline! More adrenaline results in heightened feelings of anxiety. Ultimately, we suggest that our students choose another beverage before their performance!
Overall, stage fright does not mean that the student is not meant to perform or that they’re not good at their instrument. Perhaps the best advice from any seasoned musician is to take every performance opportunity, as the more familiar the student becomes with stage fright, the easier it is to manage. In the meantime, emphasize that the student is facing their fears, and that’s a brave thing to do. That courage will shine through their performance, and the audience will love them for it!