ImageI was just reading a post on Twitter on how to overcome stage fright.  It as quite interesting – you can check it out on Music Clout (title Stage Fright).

Got me to thinking about my own experience with stage fright, and fright in general.

We all have our fears.  Some we seem to be able to live with because, perhaps, what we fear does not come up that often.  Or, perhaps, we have taken steps to create a “work around” and we avoid those situations so we don’t have to feel it.  Either way, I would be inclined to doubt someone who tells me that there is nothing that they fear.

From my perspective, it is not so much what you fear, but what you do in the face of that fear, that determines whether it has you or you have it.

I used to be quite nervous about going on stage.  When I began to get back into singing (after an over 10 yr hiatus) I could feel that familiar shakiness, dry mouth and surge of adrenaline as I thought about my turn at the microphone.

I thought I could mask it quite well until one epic show at a larger venue a few years ago.  Circumstances lined up so that I truly felt a vulnerability and unease about my upcoming performance – I did not know the guys with whom I was playing, the production of the show was such that we only were given a bare minimal time to rehearse, and it was a huge production and a very large audience.

Man, that was scary, but I made it through.  Not my best performance by far, that is yet to come!  It was adequate and I am cool with that . . . because I took that experience, analyzed it, and realized that it taught me a great deal.  I am grateful for the lesson.

I would like to say that I am over my apprehension of performing with little or no rehearsal time, that I can fake my way through it and come out on the other end, having kicked ass .  . . but that would firmly have me boating on the river of Denial.  That will, most likely, always cause me a bit of dry mouth, but for another reason . . . it is not a good situation to be in for any performer.  It should be avoided.

There is no substitute – no BS, no valiant words, no amount of bravado or fake courage – that can make up for a solid game plan which includes hours upon hours of rehearsal (alone as well as with your group) and visualization of the performance scenario.  These two elements engender confidence and provide a strong platform on which you can truly show at your best.

And then, just get out there and do it!  You have to practice applying your skills in order to gain the kind of experience that continues to build your solid foundation as a performer and ENTERTAINER.  I am learning, as I watch more seasoned performers interact with their audience, that there is another level to performance, another skill, that is vital to success.  You can just sing well, and play well and that will get you so far . . . but if you truly wish to become a performer that folks remember and recommend to others you must learn how to invite your audience to know who you are by the words and welcome of which you speak between the songs, as well.

I had the pleasure of speaking with a dynamic, skilled performer and native son, Alan Jefferies, at one of my recording sessions last Fall.  He had come in with another talented musician and Fredericton native, Kyle Cunjak, as he recorded some great upright bass tracks on a couple of my songs.  An accomplished musician in his own right, Alan also plays with David Myles, and he commented on David’s ability to engage his audience.  He said that he has learned so much from David with regards to this skill.

I have learned a lot from them both.  Getting up and singing a song is one thing – as a performer it is what I have practiced and do best – but the talking in a coherent, engaging manner in between gives me cause for pause.

I have been thinking about his comment and have been paying more attention when I watch seasoned performers.  It is like exercising a muscle – each time you train it works easier, gets stronger, and becomes more flexible.  I am currently in training, and can hardly wait to observe a true Canadian legend, Gordon Lightfoot, in concert when he comes to Fredericton in May.  Should be EPIC!

I have to say that as time goes by, with practice, it is getting easier.  I now do not feel fear (it has morphed into excitement and anticipation aka pleasure) when I sing.  And I am encouraged by the conversational aspect of my performances, as well.  It feels better each time.

But . . . put a guitar in my hands and that is a “bird of a different feather.”  I have been playing guitar for a little over a year, mainly so I can impart my vision for my original works to the great musicians with whom I play, and a couple of times I have found the courage to take my guitar to our music circle.  Whewww . . .

Talk about blasting me out of my comfort zone!  The modicum of coolness with which I began my song abruptly ended when I missed one chord change . . . back came the shakes that accompany the adrenaline fuelled fight or flight response.  I made it through, barely . . . and I needed a cool drink . . . of water  lol . . .  after that experience.   . . . Won’t be playing guitar on stage any time soon – will leave that to the pros – but in those moments I discovered another layer to performance and an even deeper appreciation for the musicians with whom I work.  Practice, knowledge, and experience make for a stellar performance not only occasionally, but every time.

It is good to discover your fears.  You cannot feel and deal with . .  and heal . . . fear within yourself that you deny.  As with the famous 12-Step process – Admitting it is the first step – and we are all recovering fear-addicts.

Admittedly, sometimes fear serves a purpose.  It means you will not step off the CN Tower, or run up and hug a grizzly bear . . . or swim naked with Great Whites – anything that involves becoming something else’s dinner is, generally, good reason to heed those feelings of fear.

However compelling those reasons may seem to be, we all know when the fear we feel is truly for self-preservation or if it is a concoction of our vivid imagination – those dark fantasies that strip away our ability to live our very best life.  Fantasies in which we are captive, in a prison of our own construction – a prison from which we alone hold the key.

The key is made of the good stuff . . . allowing the vibrant good will, care and love that we so generously extend to others . . . to decorate our own home.  To be kind and compassionate with ourselves as we struggle to discover who we are – to uncover our fears and discover our strengths . .  through living our lives on purpose . . . by following our bliss.  It does not matter where your bliss takes you, its interpretation is you living your very best life  Whether it be in business, science, finance, health care, or the arts . . . the only limits are the ones you put on yourself.

Anticipation, enthusiasm, inspiration .  . . excitement (even tempered with caution) should be our reason for being . . . never fear.

Each time I go on stage I carry with me that brass ring . . .

“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.” 

― John Lennon


Published by Paula D. Tozer

I am a writer, poet and singer/songwriter. I am a Toastmaster, motivational speaker, personal creativity coach, and workshop leader. My most sincere wish is to share my words with others, and that we both benefit from the exchange.

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