While most musicians are in a COVID-induced performance dry-spell, being an Artist in Residence for the Collington Community has been cause for one of the busiest performance seasons of my career. And I love it. I really love performing.
Just writing that makes me smile, because I couldn’t have said that I ‘love performing’ even a few months ago. In fact, performance anxiety has been a huge mental hurdle in my life…it’s a miracle that I’ve made it to this point!
For anyone who battles ‘performance anxiety,’ I understand how frustrating it is to work incredibly hard at your craft and feel betrayed by your body and mind when you’re on stage. I want to offer you some hope—
Performance is a skill!
Too often we throw around the term performance anxiety as if it’s some incurable disease that we must live with, causing many of us to acquiesce to our performance deficiencies without a hope of trying to overcome them.
I used to get so frustrated that my performances were never as good as my practice. But looking back- why did I expect this? I spent hours practicing alone in a room…and not on a stage in front of people. Why do we expect to play perfectly when we haven’t built the skills to perform?
Often times we mislabel inexperience as performance anxiety (at least certainly in my case.) Once we’ve convinced ourselves that we are the victims to performance anxiety it’s too easy to block-out our disappointing performances and decide they are flukes. Or try to close our eyes and ignore our adrenaline-filled bodies.
But what if all we need to do is get into a growth mindset and reframe our performances as intentional and thoughtful practices of performing?
I implore you to try looking at performance as a skill, and treat your performances as an opportunity to learn, grow and teach yourself. If it’s a skill it requires dedication, observation, and of course- experimenting.
Hopefully, seeing performance as a skill will give us the freedom to observe, analyze and experiment with how we perform. It certainly takes trial and error and many mistakes!! And perhaps the most frustrating part of all, is that we need to relinquish the dream that the ‘perfect performance’ can happen overnight. Or that it can happen by purely practicing alone for a million hours!! Instead, if you’re willing to go through the process of teaching yourself to perform step-by-step, you’ll get there over time. Really!
Anyways, I don’t think there will ever be a day that I perform perfectly...and I’m okay with that. I’ve learned to love performing and communicating through music even when I'm hearing all my imperfections. And certainly my performance skills are getting better all the time- what's not to love about that? So hopefully, we'll all get there soon!
Keep me posted on how your performance journey is going!?! ;)
Cheers to skill building!