Performance anxiety

I am restless in my seat as I wait for my name to be called on stage. I concentrate on playing the notes in my head but, with all the anxiety, even with months of practice it all seems fuzzy to me now. It is my first time performing an advanced piece, Mozart’s “Rondo Alla Turca.” I set my music on the stand, place my hands in position, and suddenly forget the intro. I stumble through, nervous and shaking, and instead of feeling the music and letting my hands do the work, I’m intently reading the sheets note by note. Rather than letting the harmony of the piano engulf me (take me to another world), I treated it as a chore while performing in front of an audience. Feeling defeated, I manage a smile and a curtsey before I make the shameful walk down stage. After nine years of experience I did not expect such a poor performance out of me.

During a high school class of my senior year, a guest speaker visited and challenged students to solve simple riddles in front of the class for a generous donation. One by one the students would casually approach him. He would make direct eye contact, and almost all of them would begin to stutter, some even sweat, and end up failing because of the pressure from the guest speaker and class. In my classmates I saw myself performing my recital piece on stage–too nervous to think while letting my emotions take over. Intimidation, such as stage fright, is something we constantly encounter, but knowing how to handle the situation is how we learn to overcome it.

I am accompanying the Banyuhay Choir at my church’s 19th Memorial Service, a ceremony held at the end of every October to commerarate the dead. Given only two weeks to learn fifteen songs, I was apprehensive of my upcoming performance. As I sat on the piano bench, shaking, with notes of a bunch of different songs buzzing around in my head, I remembered what I had learned from the guest speaker. I analyzed my emotions rather than dwelled on my anxiety. I play these songs with ease every day. Today is just another day, I thought to myself. With this reminder I relaxed; my hands stopped quivering, my heartbeat slowed and I was in control. I played gracefully and confidently, even closing my eyes at times from falling so deep into my music. I was amazed at what I could accomplish by analyzing the situation and taking control.

Of course, not all obstacles in life can be taken on with this approach so easily. It doesn’t allow me to face crowds fearlessly, but it helps me face them more confidently. I don’t allow myself to be intimidated by minor obstacles because I’ve learned to take control. As impossible as a task may seem, having the right mindset puts me in the direction of my goal and I can take on any challenge life throws at me.

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