Katelyn Holub

blogging about music, art, and creativity

How I Deal With Stage Fright

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Way back in fourth grade, I volunteered to tap dance in the school-wide talent show.  When I signed up, I didn’t even give it a second thought.  I loved dancing.  I danced all the time at home and in dance studio recitals.  However, when I signed up, I signed up for a solo act, which is something I had never done before.  I remember standing back stage, knowing I was the next act, and peeking around the curtains to see all the kids piled into the gymnasium to watch the show.  I was excited and eager, but the moment I peeked through the curtains and caught a glimpse of how many kids were actually watching the talent show –including the oh-so-cool fifth graders –I suddenly felt my heart leap into my throat, beating furiously.  I started trembling and doubting myself.  In fact, I was trying so hard to even remember how my dance routine started.  Next thing I know, I was on stage, the curtain rose, my song came on, and I utterly forgot the dance steps.  I was so embarrassed and tried to cover up by making up tap steps to go with the song, but my performance was nothing like I had rehearsed.  My nerves had gotten the better of me.

Over the years, I’ve had numerous other performances and public speaking situations in which my nerves got the better of me.  Through my experiences, I have learned some valuable lessons about not allowing my nerves to control and paralyze me.  Below are two of the most important techniques I’ve adopted in combating nerves, and they have worked very well for me.

1. Get into character. 

When I’m on stage performing, I’m not Katelyn.  I pretend I’m someone else—like I’m acting in a play or musical.  By taking on the character role of someone who is confident, animated, and enthusiastic, I can engage and connect with my audience without fearing that I’ll come off as stupid or boring because I know that the character I am playing wouldn’t have those fears.

At the same time, I don’t want to come across as inauthentic or fake, so I really think about the character I’m portraying on stage and make sure I’m maintaining underlying truths to who Katelyn is.  After all, I think real audience connections can be made when a musician sheds some of her onstage persona and reveals her vulnerabilities and life stories.

2.  Perform for _{you fill in the blank}__

Whether I’m playing for friends and colleagues or total strangers, I still get nervous.  Each group triggers different fears or nerves to come alive inside me.  In order to reign in my nerves, I’ve learned to pretend that I’m performing for just one person.  This one person is someone who I know would never ridicule me or think less of me for making mistakes and only wants the best for me.  So when I get on stage, instead of thinking about who is out in the audience listening, I just get in the performance zone and play for this one certain person.

Although my nerves never completely fade away when I perform, they’ve learned their place is in the back seat.  I’m curious to know how others of you deal with nerves when performing (and it doesn’t have to be performing music—it could be speaking in public).  What kinds of techniques work to calm you or allow you to perform your best?

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Author: katelynholub

I'm a law school graduate, singer-songwriter, believer, blogger, and general adventurer.

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