Musicians cope with stage fright

Posted on: June 30, 2014

“Stage fright is like madness; it comes without warning, out of a blue sky,” writes Ivan Hewett in Thursday’s (6/26) Daily Telegraph (U.K.). “Many musicians have similar terrors, and often they involve alarming physical symptoms such as a racing heart and trembling fingers. Classical performers are especially prone to it, because accuracy and virtuosity are at such a premium. Make a mistake in a jazz break, and few will notice; make one in a string quartet and everybody will.… There are various ways to tackle this debilitating condition. One of the most popular is also one of the easiest: you just take a surreptitious swig from a hip flask … or you pop a pill. These dull the feelings of anxiety that can lead to mistakes.… They also treat the symptoms not the cause, says Aaron Williamon, head of the Centre for Performance Research at the Royal College of Music. ‘Cognitive therapies are very effective. It’s a matter of getting the musician to think about the situation in a more rational way. For example, instead of thinking that the audience is the enemy, and the performance will either be perfect or a disaster, you retrain the performer to accept that there will inevitably be a few mistakes, and the audience is on their side.’ ”

Posted June 30, 2014