I. You’re not alone
- Everyone gets nervous. The most experienced and successful musicians learn how to make their anxiety work for them.
- Accept that you may be nervous.
- Perform as often as possible.
- Being prepared is the best antidote to anxiety.
- Always memorize, but use the music.
- Don’t feel guilty for not preparing more.
- Prepare well ahead of time, then let your music rest and come back to it.
- Practice performing a piece without stopping on the first attempt.
- Arrange a mock audition or a recital run-through.
- Picture success. Imagine how a world-class performer would accomplish your task.
- Ask yourself, “What’s the worst that can happen?” It’s probably not too bad.
- Before the event, visualize everything in great detail: how you walk out on stage, acknowledge the audience, and tune, what you are wearing, how you shape every phrase, how you feel afterwards, etc.
- Create a narrative for your music. Where is it set? What emotions does it evoke? What do you see, hear, feel, taste, and smell?
- Don’t put too much stress on one audition or performance; if you blow it, it’s not the end of the world.
- Take pleasure in your playing; focus on the music, not technical perfection.
- “The avoidance of failure is not the same thing as the pursuit of success.”
- Turn off judgmental inner voices. Just play, don’t evaluate. Go easy on yourself.
- Calm your mind and focus your thoughts.
- Be energized, optimistic, alert, and self-confident.
- You can’t control what the audience or jury thinks of you, so just concentrate on playing.
- Any audience wants you to play well.
- Concentrate on what you are playing that instant. Don’t dwell on mistakes, and don’t fear that passage coming up.
- Develop performing rituals.
- Challenge yourself, don’t compete against others.
- At an audition or a competition, try not to listen to the other flutists. Choose warmups to benefit you, not to impress them. Long tones will help more than a race with the flutist next door.
- Don’t hold back; give 100%.
- Learn from failure.
VI. Physical relaxation
- Remind yourself to breathe slowly and deeply.
- Consciously relax all the muscles in your body, one at a time.
- Before playing the flute, do some stretching exercises.
- Study the Alexander Technique.
- Hold the flute lightly rather than jamming it into your chin and hands; use light finger action.
VII. Nutrition, sleep, and exercise
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine, or sugar.
- Eat a light meal that is high in carbohydrates (pasta).
- Drink plenty of liquids.
- If possible, travel a day before a performance.
- Avoid sleeping pills the previous night.
- Regular exercise builds up the body’s tolerance of anxiety.
VIII. For Further Reading:
Bruser, Madeline. The Art of Practicing: a Guide to Making Music from the Heart. New York: Bell Tower, 1997.
Caldwell, Robert. The Performer Prepares. Dallas: Pst…Inc., 1990.
Cameron, Julia. The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 1992.
Dunkel, Stuart Edward. The Audition Process: Anxiety Management and Coping Strategies. Stuyvesant, NY: 1989.
Green, Barry and W. Timothy Gallwey. The Inner Game of Music. New York: Anchor Press, 1986.
Greene, Don. Audition Success. New York: ProMind Music, 1998.
Greene, Don. Performance Success. New York: Routledge, 2002.
Havas, Kato. Stage Fright: Its Cause and Cures. London: Bosworth, 1953.
Herrigel, Eugen. Zen in the Art of Archery. New York: Pantheon Books, 1984.
Krüger, Irmtraud Tarr. Performance Power. Translated by Edward H. Tarr. Tempe, AZ: Summit Books, 1993.
Loehr, James. Mental Toughness Training for Sports: Achieving Athletic Excellence. New York: Plume Books, 1982.
Restak, Richard. Mozart’s Brain and the Fighter Pilot: Unleashing Your Brain’s Potential. New York, NY: Three Rivers Press, 2001.
Ristad, Eloise. A Soprano on Her Head. Moab, UT: Free People Press, 1982.
Sadie, Stanley, ed. The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. London: Macmillan, 1980. S.v. Psychology of Music,” by Natasha Spender.
Salzman, Mark. The Soloist. New York: Random House, 1994.
Schneiderman, Barbara. Confident Music Performance: The Art of Preparing. St. Louis: MMB Music, Inc., 1991.
Triplett, Robert. Stagefright: Letting It Work for You. Chicago: Nelson-Hall, 1983.
Werner, Kenny. Effortless Mastery: Liberating the Master Musician Within. New Albany, IN: Jamey Aebersold Jazz, Inc., 1996.
Wilson, Frank R. Tone Deaf and All Thumbs. New York, NY: Viking, 1986.