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Let's Fight Stage Fright!

Updated: Apr 17, 2021

Do you love making music? You have been practicing and improving your craft.

So why is it so hard to take that perfect living room performance on stage?

If you panic from behind the curtain, then you are not alone.

Rihanna opened up about her nervousness both performing and speaking with people. Despite adoring fans and a confident image, she said "Still I get shy and awkward and have stage fright".

Taking your passion for music on stage can be daunting to both amateurs and the highly skilled.

It's hard to believe that even Eddie Van Halen, one of the greatest guitar players of all time had suffered from extreme stage fright before performances.

Barbra Streisand forgot the words to a song during her 1967 Central Park concert and wouldn't perform live again for 27 years.

Adele revealed that she is "scared of audiences".

Carly Simon had a panic attack in the middle of a concert in 1981. She admitted to her audience that she was paralyzed with fear. Her loving fans immediately stepped in to support and help her through.

Clearly, talent and technique are not always synonymous with performance skills. The good news is with the right strategy and mindset, the technique of performing can be learned!

Recitals and auditions are breeding grounds for "deer caught in headlights" faces, shaky limbs and sweaty palms. Now, I hope I can help you knock down a totally rad attitude that has really made the difference for both me and my students.

Here are 10 ways that have often saved the day:

1. Practice a lot! Being prepared helps you feel less scared. Bring your sheet music or lyrics. You might not use them but you will be comforted to have your material with you, just in case.

2. Pretend it is the show. When you are at home preparing for your performance, imagine yourself having a successful and enjoyable experience. Play or sing your songs in the same order as they will be in the show. Practice in front of a mirror. When you do the real thing, it will seem like you have been there before.

3. Perform in front of a few friends - often! Come out of the shadows.

The more you open up and share your music with others, the more it will become second nature to you. (A tip jar or case are optional!)

4. Get to the venue early. Running late creates more stress. Give yourself plenty of time to become calm and centered in the space. If you can, go on stage and get a feel for the room while it is still quiet and empty. If you are a pianist, try out the piano ahead of time. Pianos all have their own action and sound. Make friends with it! If you are singer, try some gentle warm-ups. Find a spot backstage where you can remain focused. Stay near positive people and try to avoid frenetic energy and situations.

5. Be in the moment. No two performances are alike. Don't try to replicate a past moment. Make beautiful music now!

6. Let your nerves be your passion power! Those butterflies in your stomach are giving you energy. Your senses are heightened. These are the moments when great things can happen. If you are nervous, that means doing well is important to you. You are more likely to succeed if you truly care. Take a deep breath and do as well as you can on that day. Some days will be better than others. Give your all, even if you fall. If you make a mistake, keep going. The overall performance matters more than a mistake or two that hardly anyone notices. Remember that a flawless performance without any emotion is a useless thing. Make music from your heart.

7. Recite positive affirmations. This might seem silly but when those negative thoughts come creeping in, quotes from your music heroes can keep you solid. Instead of saying "I hope I don't forget my lyrics" or "I'm going to mess up like last time", memorize and internalize this quote by Ella Fitzgerald ... "Just don't give up trying to do what you really want to do. Where there is love and inspiration, I don't think you can go wrong."

8. Don't compare yourself to others. It doesn't matter if the act before you was phenomenal. Remind yourself that it is an honor to be able to share the stage with such sensational performers. This can inspire greatness from you in the future!

9. Do it for you. You worked hard. Embrace your moment in the spotlight. You earned it.

10. Do it for them. You have an opportunity to make people feel amazing with your music. Music connects people. It is a universal language of the soul. You have been given a gift you can share. Make your performance less about showing off your skills and more about giving your audience a moving experience.

The child in you is rooting you on! There was a time before you became self- aware that you dared to dream. Your music is still in you. Perform your song!

Rosanna Ferro is a composer-pianist-vocalist.  Rosanna graduated from Berklee College of Music. Her musical "The Price of Admission" was performed off-Broadway in New York City. She wrote the film score to "Just Stop" for Sundog Theatre's 2021 NYC film festival. Rosanna sang and played her original songs at Michiko Studios Singer-Songwriter Showcase in Times Square. She has played piano at numerous cabaret venues in Manhattan. Rosanna is on the teaching staff at Riverside Music Studios in NYC and Quality Music Lessons in Salem, NH. 

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