How to handle performance anxiety as a musician and a teacher

Performance Anxiety is something that many people experience. It always comes at the worst time and is often brought on by pressure. The fear of making a mistake in a pressured situation cause bring on a burst of anxiety which will dissipate once the performance is over.

The person suffering from the anxieties might experience symptoms such as:

Shallow or fast breathing
Increased heart rate
Shaking of body/hands
Feeling tearful/emotional
Increased sweating

These are just some of the symptoms. Many people that experience these symptoms will use various coping mechanisms to deal with them such as becoming withdrawn, refusal to perform the task at hand or general avoidance of the situation.

I want to look at this from the perspective of a teacher and a musician/student to explain how this can be better managed.

As a Teacher


As a music teacher, you might be faced with a student suffering with performance anxiety. This often takes the shape of a student who is reluctant to play a piece in front of you. In my experience of these situations, I have found that the key is having the student relax. Performance anxieties with a teacher often dissipate after a few weeks of lessons. I often recommend that younger students parents sit in on the first few lessons so that they are not totally thrown into a new and strange situation.

As a Musician/Student/Performer


If you are someone who performs music, you might experience these anxieties when dealing with the prospect of perform on stage or in front of someone you might be nervous about performing in front of. These nerves are normal, what you’re about to do is a big thing. Not everyone can pluck up the courage to get on stage and perform for people.

How to Cope


If you feel an onset of panic before you’re about to perform, take a second to gather your thoughts, reframe your brain to tell yourself your excited and take some deep breaths to calm yourself. Use a technique called 7:11 breathing, inhale through your nose for 7 seconds and exhale from your mouth for 11 seconds. The counting engages the logical part of the brain and the oxygen intake aids in calming down.

Leigh Fuge, MGR Music