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Performance Anxiety

I’ve experienced many terrible things in my life, a few of which actually happened            – Mark Twain


I loved that Mark Twain quote provided by Dr. Vanessa Cornett-Murtada this summer at a seminar she gave at a music teachers conference entitled,

Crush the jitters! Strategies for Performance Anxiety Management

Dr. Cornett-Murtada specializes in the treatment of performance anxiety for musicians and had some great insights and strategies for alleviating the stress that we and our students feel when entertaining others:

1. The best solution is physical exercise. 5 minutes of aerobic activity 10 minutes before performing.

2. The mind can not process negatives. When we say to ourselves, “Don’t make mistakes” or “Don’t play badly,” the brain perceives, “Make mistakes” and “Play badly.” Focus instead on what you WANT to happen. “I will play well and enjoy the experience.”

3. Deep breathing really works! There is a nerve connecting the diaphragm to the hypothalamus which is the part of the brain that gets activated when we experience fright. When we take deep breaths, the brain calms. Try controlled breathing: breathe in for 3 counts, then breathe out for 3 counts.

4. Creative visualization is another great technique. The same part of the brain and nervous systems get activated when you imagine playing as when you are actually playing! Visualize a wonderful performance. The more senses you can engage in your visualization, the better the experience. This takes practice, so start now! Remember, that which preoccupies our thoughts tends to become our reality.

5. Performance anxiety isn’t all bad! It brings us increased energy and concentration, mental acuity, and reminds us that we really care about what we are doing.

Please visit or revisit my blog, Recital Season for more thoughts about playing in front of others and additional relaxation techniques.

With love and music, Gaili

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