I have stage fright. Ever since I can remember, I have always been incredibly anxious in public speaking situations. As a piano student, the thought of the biannual recital made my heart race, palms sweat, and mouth go dry. Still, I continue to push myself to perform, stand up in front of people, and make myself vulnerable. Every time I play as a wedding ceremony musician, I start to shake. After the first song or two, though, I start to relax. My heart rate lowers, my breathing steadies, and I can play with confidence. My struggle has been figuring out how to bring my body and mind to that state of calm sooner, facing my fears by training my mind to realize it’s not as scary as it seems. The only way I have been able to work toward this is with practice. By deliberately putting myself in these “scary” situations am I able to gradually overcome my fear. 

As a singer, my nerves go haywire when I audition. Not only are other people listening to (and judging) my voice, my racing pulse and rapid breathing leaves me little air to support my voice, making it shaky and weak. Just today, I auditioned for a solo for my choir, newVoices. I walked into the room with a flushed face and nervous laughter, but I was able to calm down quickly and focus on my audition. What was the difference between this time and any other time I’ve stood in front of a crowd? To put it simply, I didn’t care. Of course I wanted to do well, but I realized that it didn’t matter much if I got the solo, I just wanted to sing my best. With the pressure off, I was able to focus on the music and be comfortable singing, even though the solo was high for my range.

Less than a week ago, I traveled to Baltimore for work, and while out exploring the city with my coworkers, we decided to try karaoke at an empty bar. Someone else broke the ice by singing a wonderfully bad rendition of “A Thousand Miles,” then I made my debut. With my friends cheering me on with enthusiastic encouragement, I became more confident as the song progressed. As I kept telling myself this was just for fun and no one was judging me, I was able to relax, enjoy myself, and do better than I had hoped. I kept this lesson at the forefront of my mind as I auditioned today – my goal was to prove to myself I could sing, not to get the solo.

I am also a first-time Aerial Dance Christmas Show performer. Having never really danced for a crowd before, this is new territory for me, but I plan on applying what I’ve learned through other performances to the Christmas Show. While everyone wants to nail their routine perfectly, any routine is boring without emotion. My goal for the show is to embody the song, have a blast, and hopefully get the moves right along the way. That way, instead of worrying about the specifics of the routine come performance time, I can focus on engaging the audience with a show, rather than nailing each pose. I’ll relax, have more fun, and I know the audience will enjoy it more too.

Own your routine! If you don’t execute a move perfectly, it doesn’t matter. The audience comes for an entertaining performance, and the only way you can provide that is if you step back, take a breath, and enjoy yourself.