My Professional Development for Instrumentalists class had a watershed moment yesterday. There are a number of instrument types represented in the class and my job is to lead them in discovering career options for themselves as musicians.
I asked students to perform for each other and for me at the beginning of the school year. I wanted to learn more about the students by observing their relationship with music. You can discern a great deal about an artist by the way that they connect with their art. Every student expressed discomfort and fear at the prospect of playing and being judged by their peers…and by me. I was not surprised. Impromptu performance is often difficult for performers for many reasons.
Performance/audition anxiety is a particular problem for these students, as they will have to audition to be admitted into a college program in performing arts. Additionally, as professional performers, they will be performing for a living! It is very important that they learn to manage their emotions.
I saw an opportunity to share some of the tactics that I have used over the years to minimize audition and performance anxiety. Anxiety is a huge part of the life of most performers. It is something that is grappled with and often never overcome.
For the last three class periods, we have read materials that I have put together about the psychological causes of anxiety as they relate to musicians or to anyone who is called upon to make public presentations. Individuals required to present in corporate or business settings have also contacted me for consultation on this topic. Performance anxiety is an extremely common condition.
During these three Professional Development class periods, students asked questions and revealed their innermost fears and concerns about auditioning and performing. It was inspiring as we began to explore the many causes and remedies for performance anxiety. It was absolutely cathartic. I asked students to spend a few of their private moments outside of class to apply some of the things that we discussed to their own performance anxiety issues. They were to envision themselves in a performance situation, assess what physical or emotional sensations they experience and apply the discussed tactics.
I am delighted to report that yesterday, every student came into the classroom with their instrument and announced that they were ready to play for each other and for me. I was thrilled. Students played violin, guitar, cello, trombone, flute, piccolo, saxophone and piano. This occasion marked a milestone in their self confidence. After they all played, they asked me to perform something for them. I sang La Vie En Rose, accompanying myself on piano. The students enjoyed the fact that I shared myself with them as they had shared themselves with me. It was a lovely exchange.
We had a wonderful, unplanned hour of enjoying each other and sharing great music. These delightful students did not wait for the perfect moment to share their music. They took the moment at hand and made it…absolutely perfect!