Stage fright. It’s a topic that often gets pushed aside at weekly lessons. As teachers, we tend to focus on how to play, how to memorize, how to read, how to create, and even how to perform but, we can overlook how to prevent or deal with performance anxiety.
I believe preparing students properly and in advance of a performance can curb anxiety (see The Five P’s of Performing) but, what if students have anxiety about performing regardless of their adequate preparation? When self-doubt and the fear of what others think creeps into our students’ psyche, what are we to do? How can we coach pianists to find the right balance of adrenalin, mental and emotional health to develop successful performance skills?
Answers to all of these questions are addressed in Julie Jaffee Nagel’s new book called Managing Stage Fright: A Guide for Musicians and Music Teachers. The well-organized, easy-to-read book is packed with sensible advice, insightful tips, and well-researched strategies. It’s a must-have for any music teacher’s library. That’s what sets this book apart–it’s not only for performers, it’s also for teachers of performers!
Each of the 13 chapters opens with a list of “Questions for Thought.” Sprinkled throughout each chapter are summary boxes called “Implications for Teachers.” These two features, along with Julie’s expertise and conversational writing style make it easy to glean the information and help you are looking for.
I just ordered my Kindle edition of Managing Stage Fright. As I read through it, Julie’s careful research has validated a good portion of what I do in my studio (whew!) and has offered significant information on how we as teachers can best approach the unique students AND parents who walk in the studio door. One chapter title that immediately intrigued me: Performance Anxiety Begins in the Nursery!
Check out Julie’s blog post below to get a sense of her writing style.
Personally, I’ve had to overcome significant performance anxiety over the years on my own. I’m so grateful that now there’s research, expertise and open discussion on the topic so teachers can help students who struggle with it. Thank you, Julie for the blog post and the timely book on such an important and often overlooked topic!
Once upon a time, many years ago, when I was a piano teacher, I was working with a young student, Maria, who had come to my studio from another teacher in town. Her mother explained to me that it was felt that a different approach would be helpful for her daughter. It was clear that her daughter loved music, and was quite accomplished at the piano, but her interest was waning. When this was discussed with her music teacher, my name was given to her as a reference.
At one lesson, not long after we began to work together, Maria was having a very difficult time playing a passage. As she tried harder and harder, I could sense her frustration. So I did what I thought was the best thing at that moment, and I asked Maria to stop playing so that we could talk. Maria started to cry, but also seemed relieved. As we spoke about some things that had upset her at school earlier in the day, Maria calmed down. We didn’t really solve anything about school, but Maria felt heard, respected, and understood.
Later that week, I ran into her previous teacher when I was downtown. She inquired about her former student. When I replied that when Maria had gotten upset, had put a great deal of pressure upon herself to get everything “right”, and that we had spoken about what she was feeling, the former teacher asked incredulously, “why did you let her talk?”
I was taken aback! How could you not talk with someone in distress? Read More