“I’m so nervous. How do I not get nervous when I’m playing my solo?”

How many times have we heard these words uttered to us as music teachers and also music parents?

One of my Jazz Band students (Elementary) just uttered these exact words right before our portion of the Spring Concert this week. Aside from the fact that it breaks your heart to hear this coming from such a young student, unfortunately it is too common amongst musicians of all ages.

The sad thing to see was that he was visibly shaking, taking shallow breaths and his eyes were filled with fear. This is normally a confident kid, sometimes a little too confident.

Why do we get so filled with fear when we are performing?

Many studies have shown that fear of public speaking reigns as the #1 biggest fear amongst people. It’s rated higher than the fear of dying!

The idea that we may look like a fool in front of others can be so devastating it could stop a person’s career dead in its tracks. Some feel that they are “not good enough” and that their career could be ruined by that one performance not being “perfect.”

Many performers approach a performance as if it will make or break them. This adds soooooo much pressure to something that is supposed to be fun, enjoyable and entertaining to everyone.

Here’s a couple of ideas to shatter some of those common myths:

  • Yes you want to do your best at every performance, but making a couple of mistakes will not ruin your career.
  • There is never a “perfect” performance. Professional musicians, actors, speakers, performers will tell you they make mistakes all the time; they just know how to cover them up well enough so the audience does not suspect anything happened.
  • If you worked diligently enough on your part, piece, speech etc., and you can honestly say you performed to the best of your ability, that is ALL that matters!
  • Life is a journey filled with ups and downs. We need to make mistakes to learn, so embrace the mistakes as a learning experience to make us even better in the future. (Of course, no one wants to make mistakes in public, but what’s more impressive and inspiring is watching people recover from mistakes and succeeding! Think of Dan Jansen’s (Olympic speed skater) story. Now that’s true determination and the will to pick yourself up and go on.)
  • Can anyone on the audience play your part better? Most likely, not.
  • The audience WANTS you to do well! They want you to succeed, and they are rooting for you. (It took me a long time to realize this myself!)

Going back to my original story about my nervous Jazz Band student. What was really interesting was what transpired next. Two other students, who are very accomplished young musicians, piped in their own suggestions on how to deal with that nervousness.

Here’s what they said:

Girl Bassist (also a very good clarinetist and singer):

                         “I just block out the audience and pretend they are not there.”

Boy Trumpeter:

                       “I just get focused on the music.”

Sometimes, young (and even teenage) students learn best from their peers.

Here’s what I said:

  “It’s okay and normal to be nervous. Use that energy to play a great solo. And have fun! That’s what music is all about.”

What would you say to this 10 year old student? I would be very curious to find out. Let me know in the Comments below….

(BTW, he played the best solo he ever played!)

 Action steps:

  1.  If you liked this article, please share it on your social networks.
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  3. Check out my articles here for more tips to Nail That Audition!


(Image Credit: Copyright: pahham / 123RF Stock Photo)