Number 6, July 1, 2021
Can We Talk About Performance Anxiety?
What Is Performance Anxiety and How Do We Overcome Fear?
It’s natural to find joy and pleasure in the process of singing and I encourage EVERYONE to sing regardless of their goals – singing is one of the joys of life and my philosophy is that everyone can sing and should do so for the pure joy of it.
For many of us, though, singing in front of people is distinctly uncomfortable and can actually produce some nervous anxiety. As I tell my students, singing in front of people, whether it’s a jam session, church choir, band rehearsal or actual show performance, requires a distinct skill. So, today I want to talk about approaching this thing I call performance anxiety when it comes to singing in front of people.
Realize first that all performers feel nerves, even the most experienced, professional, seasoned performers will feel this. IT IS UNIVERSAL. If you feel nervous, you are in a big club! The nerves are so natural – they come hand in hand with the process of sharpening your focus and feeling the adrenaline that comes with anticipation and excitement of other people hearing you sing.
There are concrete steps you can take to help with the nerves, but first you should know and keep in mind the following truths:
- The audience is just like you: human beings full of imperfections.
- The audience is on your side. The people who will hear you are giving their attention out of honest interest, not a need to judge you.
- Your job as a performing singer is to give the song what it deserves: your focused attention, your best effort on the technical aspects of the music, and empathetic connection with the characters and storytelling.
- Let go of judging yourself; it only gets in the way.
- Art is never found in perfection, it is found in the honesty of human expression.
Start with a stretch in your shoulders and feel the body relax. Reach up with the arms, tilt and roll the head to stretch the neck, massage the jaw muscles to get them to release and stretch the facial muscles to get them ready to move.
Learn to breathe to calm your mind. Breathe in through the nose for a count of five, sending air into the abdomen (lower lungs) while keeping the shoulders and upper chest still; breathe out through the mouth on a count of five, emptying the lungs. Repeat at least 2 more times. This breathing exercise will calm the nervous system, settle your mind and focus your attention.
Know: You belong in the middle of a song, a sacred space of your heart, mind, body and spirit joining together to make a work of art.
Suggestion: If you have access these days to friends or people you live with, get in front of them as a performer and get used to singing for people. This will give you a track record you can call on so that you know that, when the spotlight is on you at an open mic or jam session for example, you’ve done this before and it is a good place.
See you next time for a discussion about more topics on voice production, performance and storytelling in song. Thanks for reading!
Blessings and love,
Award-winning recording artist, Broadway singer, journalist, educator and critically-acclaimed powerhouse vocalist, Susie Glaze has been called “one of the most beautiful voices in bluegrass and folk music today” by Roz Larman of KPFK’s Folk Scene. LA Weekly voted her ensemble Best New Folk in their Best of LA Weekly for 2019, calling Susie “an incomparable vocalist.” “A flat out superb vocalist… Glaze delivers warm, amber-toned vocals that explore the psychic depth of a lyric with deft acuity and technical perfection.” As an educator, Susie has lectured at USC Thornton School of Music and Cal State Northridge on “Balladry to Bluegrass,” illuminating the historical path of ancient folk forms in the United Kingdom to the United States via immigration into the mountains of Appalachia. Susie has taught workshops since 2018 at California music camps RiverTunes and Vocáli Voice Camp. She is a current specialist in performance and historian on the work of American folk music icon, Jean Ritchie. Susie now offers private voice coaching online via the Zoom platform. Visit Susie’s Website HERE
VOICE NOTES: A FOLK DIVA’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY Number 6
A twice-monthly blog on topics of voice production for Folk, Bluegrass and Americana styles.