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A RESPONSE TO STAGE FRIGHT

by SARAH ATWOOD
First-year MM Violin

 

 

What’s the scariest moment you’ve had?

I get scared easily, so I don’t watch horror movies (I know, what an embarrassing thing to admit during Halloween)! People who actually like to scare themselves on purpose confuse me, but there’s a difference between “recreational fear” and unwanted fear – such as stage fright. Stage fright can take many forms, some of which I think should have the more appropriate title of “stage fear”. When I think back to times I’ve been really scared, many of them were before (and during) recitals, auditions, and also lesser performances that didn’t have any consequence at all. So what, exactly, was I scared of?

It wasn’t as easy to pinpoint as the feeling I got from (accidentally) switching to a channel showing Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, that’s for sure. I wasn’t simply nervous about performing– I actually like to perform! Instead, it was as if my whole conception of myself as a good and acceptable human being was hanging in the balance. How can we let self-worth be determined by such a pithy criteria of playing “well enough”, “mastering” shakiness, and making a “good impression”?

As musicians, we constantly put ourselves up for evaluation and critique. I’m learning (belatedly) to remember that I still exist as a human, albeit inside the mummified layers of dedicated violinist. At the risk of going all sentimental, our worth as humans does not depend on how perfectly we can perform as musicians. High standards are good in every aspect of life, but if you don’t always “measure up” it isn’t a matter of life or death! Even if I miss that fast run in Don Juan, I will still be an acceptable human being (and probably walk over to Starbucks to nurse my frustration over a hazelnut macchiato).

We’ve chosen a life filled with nerve-wracking and scary moments, but we don’t need to let them decide our adequacy as people. Some performances may matter more than others, yes, but music cannot actually hurt you or anyone else (usually, it heals)! So, we can all remind ourselves to be kind and realistic with our hearts and egos. Nerves are normal, so when you stand up to play you shouldn’t be crippled with terror– leave that for when you’re watching all those crazy horror movies!

Shining

We should be less like this guy …

Joshua

… and more like this guy on stage (Joshua Bell)!

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