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Cassie Belk Instructor: Malcolm Campbell English 1102 September 26, 2013

When performance anxiety exists, where do I go?


Standing in front of an audience their Easter Island faces challenging you to make them feel, glowing for that sickening moment for you to fail, I thought that was the toughest ask. Wasnt it the case theyd utter in their stony judgment that you were only as good as your next performance. But when sight blinked out like a ruptured bulb, a globe roasting to a bang in the belly of a microwave, the doctor queried cool with the years of medical intrigue as to whether I minded someone sitting in all for the benefit of learning you understand. I sense the student breathing, the thump of blood through their eyes as they gawp and gulp experience. Amazing, they exhaled as though my eyeballs were jiggling in a ring and catching fire. Unusual the specialist intoned a textbook case, an opportunity to advance the territory of science. Almost miraculously unusual. Never been a case thats quite like this. Not that I have read about and I read many things. My stomach shivered with the pop of glass. I blinked and craved for this little act to fail, to welcome the drop of this theatre curtain that hoists the flag of seeing. To be infused with light wrenched from the dead. To joyfully trade glances with mortals. I will even forgo This audiences gentle hand clap. Graeme Turner

As I take the stage, my mind is reeling with information. There are people staring at me and expecting an amazing performa nce. I know that I can play my music because Ive been working on it for six months. However, I am still nervous. I am shaking and my hands are sweaty. My mouth has gone dry. At this point, I am visualizing all of the things that can go wrong. I could trip and fall. I could mess up a piece. Then I wonder what can I do to cope? There has to be a way for me to get over the performance anxiety and to have the performance of a lifetime.

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Apparently, there is more than one type of anxiety, state anxiety and trait anxiety. Trait anxiety is anxiety that is chronic and pervasive across situations and is not triggered by specific events. State anxiety is anxiety that occurs in specific situations and usually has a clear trigger (Huberty). Performance anxiety has to be a branch of state anxiety. A performance is definitely a trigger which is needed for someone like me. Im not typically stressed so my performance anxiety does not come from trait anxiety. This is interesting and leads me to believe that there are ways to overcome the state anxiety. I just have to know how. When I begin practicing for a performance, I find myself analyzing the score. In this, confidence can be found. By analyzing the score, one discovers how to best approach the piece. Is it in sections/movements? What is the style? Questions such as these are asked and answered. It is even a good idea to look for a second opinion. After one feels like they know the score very well, he/she should look for someone to help give them a second opinion (i.e. a private lesson instructor). Thorough study of the score and preparation of the music is essential for any successful performance (Haid). Now that the preparation is complete, one can continue and actually look at how to practice the piece. Many of the same questions are asked and most fall into place because of the score study. This process is a way of breaking the performance into smaller and more manageable units. It gives the performer small things to work on. They do not get caught up in the extensiveness of the performance because they see small chunks. This is a technique recommended by psychologists as well. It is called modifying the task (Huberty, pg. 6). Self-control techniques are popular. It involves putting yourself in the mindset of the performance without actually being there. The idea here is to desensitize oneself to the performance. A suggested way to do this is to write down different situation in a situational

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diary. Since humans naturally think about the worst possible outcome, the performer will already know all of the possible outcomes. There will be very few surprises just because the performer knows best where his/her problem areas are. Also, the performer should spend time performing for a small group of friends. This will get the initial, oh my, Im playing for people, out of the way. There are also many different types of yoga techniques that can be used as well. One of which is the Feldenkrais method. The Feldenkrais Methods goal is to make one more aware of the body. The idea is for the performer to be able to control the bodys impulses. This is important in that it would allow the performer to be able to control their heartbeat and the fightor-flight response mechanisms which would reduce symptoms such as shaking hands, heavy breathing, and dry mouths. The only disadvantage to all of these techniques is that it takes time. What if I forget something or something changes last minute? Because, lets be honest, something unpredicted always happens. For example, my accompanist for my recital that takes place in a month was diagnosed with cancer. I am still without an accompanist. This is added stress that I do not need at the moment. An option I have for a quick fix is medications. There are two different types: illicit and prescribed. Most performers are open-minded only towards the prescribed. Too many dangers of addiction and abuse come with illicit medications (with alcohol being the most common). The most common prescribed medication is beta-blockers. Beta-blockers block betaadrenergic substances, such as apinephrine (adrenaline) in the autonomic nervous system (involuntary nervous system). They slow down the heartbeat, decrease the force of the contractions of the heart muscles, and reduce blood vessel contraction in the heart, brain, as well as the rest of the body (Nordqvist). So beta-blockers really do no harm on the body. It is just a

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soothing agent that calms performers down. However, the want/acceptance of medications being used as a coping mechanism for performance anxiety seems to be directly related to the level of experience the performer is. This may be due to the experience of negative aspects linked to a musicians career, such as poor financial rewards, the competitive nature of the job, and uncertainty about employment. These factors are likely to increase the pressure on musicians to succeed as they advance in their career (Struder). We are just looking for the quickest and easiest solution for the problem of performance anxiety. We already put in so much time and effort into one performance that it would seem preferable to go the easy route and take a pill. It just chalks up to if you are okay with using this kind of coping method.