Performance Anxiety: Frank’s Ritual

piano-ology-performance-anxiety-franks-ritual-featured-image-by-alexandra-koch-from-pixabay Image by Alexandra Koch from Pixabay

Allow me to wrap things up by sharing a simple, yet powerful, ritual that I use to center and focus my body, mind, and spirit as I sit down to play…

It’s something that I do routinely… not just before each and every performance… but also before each and every study-practice session.

On my piano keyboard (not on the music stand, where it can easily be forgotten or ignored) I place an index card with five short and sweet verbal cues: breathe, smile, gratitude, C3PO, sing!

Let’s talk about what each cue means to me, as well as the desirable physical and emotional responses that each cue automatically triggers.

Cue #1: Breathe. Deep, slow, deliberate belly breathing… in through my nose and out through my mouth. Doing so slows my heart rate, focuses my attention, and calms me down… every time.

Cue #2: Smile. I smile and feel better… every time. This is the beauty and power of the mind-body connection at work.

Cue #3: Gratitude. For so many things easily taken for granted… for my eyes, ears, fingers, and freedom. When I am grateful, I do more than filter out every negative thought. I do more than just feel better… I feel fortunate. Because I realize what a privilege it is to be sitting in front of a piano with the opportunity to make music. In fact, I realize what a privilege it is to have the opportunity to have stage fright! : )

Cue #4: C3PO. Before I begin, believe it or not, I do a subtle C3PO impression. Yes, C3PO from Star Wars. I find that his playful (is this the right word?) arm motions put my entire body in an open, receptive posture that automatically avoids the closed, defensive posture of the fight, flight, or freeze response.

Cue #5: SING! Not out loud, but in my mind’s ear. I try not to play a single note until I hear the music in my musical mind. So, I sing the music in my head and then I simply play the music the way I hear it! THIS is where the music is… all of it… the notes, the rhythm, the phrasing, the emotion, the technique, the artistry. When you play in this zone, it’s as if nothing else exists and you become the music!

{Demo the above on video?}

By the way, although it took some time to read about the five aspects above, realize that all five can be performed simultaneously… and will work their magic, silently and inconspicuously, in just a handful of heartbeats.

So, now YOU have homework to do…

Using what you’ve learned in this series about your own emotional and physical responses to stage fright, design your own ritual. Make it your own. Find or create something… an object, an image, a poem, a positive affirmation… something unique, something personal… a tangible reminder that you can place on your keyboard.

And make this ritual a routine preparation for every study-practice session and every performance until it becomes second nature.

Doing so will not just help you to survive the performance… Doing so will take your playing to a whole new level.

Doing so will do more than make you feel better… Doing so will transform what used to an ordeal into a celebration of life!

learn more: Performance Anxiety: Micro-Lessons