It would be naive to pretend there is no such thing as 'performance nerves'. I experience that pre performance feeling as pure excitement: nervousness is always viewed as something negative, whereas excitement is quite positive. Our performances are enhanced by adrenaline: that is the 'secret sauce' of many a performance which can transport us to the next level. But what about the students who are hit with debilitating nerves? First of all, thorough preparation is a MUST. It goes without saying that the musical aspects of the piece must be in control for confident performances. The preparation must be consistent and thorough. Learning to perform is another part of this process: have students perform at nursing homes, for family and friends, for other students, in short, ANY warm body is a potential audience member! These impromptu performances must happen more than once a week so that the performance itself becomes a little more routine. The art of keeping centered and composed when being in front of others takes time to develop. Help students develop a pre-performance routine, which helps build self comforting skills. Make sure students are reading about the psychological aspects of performance (Don Greene has an excellent website and there are many books on the topic). Remind your students that this too is a process.....and to paraphrase Jeanne Baxtreser, former principal flute of the NYPO, as long as the butterflies fly in formation, it is all good.
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