How You Can Help Your Child Cope with Performance Anxiety

With less than a month to go, APA music students are hard at work preparing for their upcoming spring music recital.  Some students are focusing on memorization of their pieces, and some are working on dynamics, articulation, expression, and/or increasing tempo.  One thing all of us musicians may experience this time of year is something we call “performance anxiety,” otherwise known as “stage fright.”  For some it is worse than others, while some students may not experience much of it at all. 

 A common misconception about performance anxiety is that overtime it is something that “should” go completely away.  Being nervous about a performance isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  It means that you care enough about it to want it to go well, and caring is never a bad thing.  Instead of trying to “get rid” of all anxiety, you want your child to learn to embrace it and understand that it means they value what they are doing. 

 As we get older there are many situations in life where learning to work with performance anxiety becomes of utmost importance.  Some examples include:  presentations in front of large groups of people, job interviews, and even something as simple as socializing with people you are meeting for the first time. 

By participating in our recitals, APA music students are getting valuable experience performing in front of an audience.  They are learning ways to cope with performance anxiety at a young age, thus helping them have the tools to become successful adults.  Here are a few important ways that YOU can help your child work with (instead of against) their anxiety as the recital grows closer:

1.) Have your child practice performing their song in front of people as much as possible before the recital.  For example, have them play in front of friends, their family, or even ask their school music teacher if they can perform for their class.  The more experience they have playing in front of crowds, the better.

2.) Ask your child to imagine that they are at the recital EVERY TIME they practice their song.  I like to call this practicing in “performance mode”. Before they perform their song, ask them to imagine the stage, the audience, their instrument, etc.  Have them take a deep breath, relax their body, and focus on the song.  They should take the focus away from themselves and inner thoughts of how they are doing, and focus solely on what they are playing or singing, and the meaning of their performance piece.  We want them to enjoy the music as they perform and know that they are providing wonderful entertainment for their family and the audience members. 

3.) Remind your child that mistakes are okay.  Let them know that the audience will be impressed with their musical ability and the fact that they have the courage to get up on stage and perform.  Every time your child practices their song, have them challenge themselves to keep going and perform through any mistakes they make.  The goal is to keep their song flowing and once a mistake happens, seeing how quickly they can move on and continue their performance with the expression it requires.    

Most of all, remind your child that no matter what happens at the recital, they should keep in mind that their teacher, family, and everyone in the audience is proud of them and amazed at their willingness to be brave and share their talent with others. 

Tiffany Sullivan

APA Music Director

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