Let's get honest about what we're really afraid of
So much of our fear as performers is caused by our concern about how other people will respond to our art. Will the audience understand what I’m doing? Will the audition committee like my playing enough to advance me? Do the other members of this ensemble feel like I’m playing at the same level and contributing artistically? Is my teacher proud to call me their student?
That makes sense, right? As musicians, one of our main objectives is to connect with other people, whether it is the audience, our colleagues, or an adjudicator. The whole reason we create is to share ourselves with others. We want our work to add value to other people’s lives and for them to leave the performance changed or moved in some way.
Fear and doubt rise up when we don’t know how other people will react. Of course it does! We can’t control their mood, their openness to receiving art in that moment, whether they had trouble parking or fought with their partner before the concert. Maybe there is bad blood in the audition committee which influences the deliberation process or maybe someone’s concentration dropped during your round?
Everything about everyone outside of yourself is out of your control.
Anxiety wants you to believe:
that the more you worry the more likely you are to succeed.
that your perfection will assure a positive outcome.
Anxiety, my friend, is a LIAR.
No amount of worry or preparation or perfection from the performer will ever guarantee another human’s response to your music. The system is just not built to work that way. It just isn’t.
So, what do you do instead?
You are faithful to the creation of your art and then you release it to the universe to be received.
Yes, you diligently prepare; you study; you refine; you pursue excellence and develop a vision for what you are creating. You work to bring the closest version of the music in your head out through your instrument. You open your senses, allow the tender parts of your soul to guide you, and make an authentic piece of art that represents you.
And then you let it go.
Once the notes are played, it is no longer your responsibility. The music is free. Free from expectations or striving or worry. It just exists and then makes its way into whoever has an open and willing heart. It’s like all these butterflies fluttering around the hall. Some land on poison plants and wither, not because they weren’t beautiful but because the plant was inherently wrong for them. And most others land on flowering plants where they drink nectar and pollinate the plant creating symbiotic nourishment.
How your music is received is none of your business. Your job is to simply make the purest, most authentic art you can.
No anxiety required.
Next Steps and Additional Resources
Here at The Musician's Mindset, we have some incredible resources for developing and implementing mindset practices that will transform how you perform on stage.
Founder of The Musician's Mindset
Katie is dedicated to helping musicians overcome stage fright and believe in their own unique artistic voice. She believes live classical music is a powerful antidote for the division, pain, and loneliness pervasive in the culture and strives to support all artists to confidently share their work with the world. She lives in Cincinnati with her husband, three kiddos, a dog, a snake, and a goldfish named Orca.