Not to be too wordy, or overbearing, but I know a lot of us at PW like a good read; we participate in PW to learn, to share and for general entertainment purposes.
Here is post I extracted from the archives about me messing up in front of 2500 people... some of you may have read it before, but I thought it would be interesting to those who have not.
The bottom line, as has been mentioned here, a lot of things can contribute to severe stage fright...
I was invited to perform the special music at my college graduation ceremony back in June, 2009. I was flattered to no end that they would ask me to perform at such an event. I had about 2 months to practice my song, (“Wind beneath my wings”). I practiced it and practiced it and practiced it some more and felt comfortable about my upcoming performance. Everybody that heard it told me how good it was and how much they enjoyed it.
A few weeks before the graduation, I got to practice on the 9 foot Kawai concert grand at the facility (a large church in the area) a few times. I thought I was all set. I was comfortable with my arrangement of the song and my playing and singing.
On the day of the graduation, (with an expected attendance of about 2500 people) I got to the church a couple of hours early and practiced some more. I felt really good about my pending performance. As a member of the faculty of the college, I had to march in with the faculty. While we were standing in line, a couple of the faculty members asked me what I would be performing and I told them ‘Wind beneath my wings”. They (two men) began to make jokes about my song. They were sarcastically singing “wind beneath my wig” and “you’re not my hero” to each other, like children, even though they were supposed to be educated professionals. Those silly comments by my colleagues really bothered me. In fact, it bothered me a lot, but I didn’t want to give them a piece of my mind at that moment; but the comments were even more detrimental to my nerves, my fear, and my performance anxiety.
Next, there was a quartet of professional musicians who were hired to play the marching music, “Pomp and circumstance” when the faculty and students were marching in and out. One played the violin, one the flute, one the cello and one the piano. They were very good musicians, by the way. And, for some reason I was extremely nervous to be competing with those professional musicians (even though it was not a competition, per-se). Plus, I was further intimidated because they were sitting so close to me when it was my time to perform. They were within arms length and I could just feel their eyes trained on me sizing me up and scrutinizing my musical ability to no end.
All this tension and excess anxiety that I was not expecting, more or less, got the best of me. In spite of all the practicing I had done and all my good intentions, I was as nervous as a cat. At the moment it was my time to perform, I was wishing I had declined the invitation to perform. The pressure was enormous. I thought to myself that I am too old and too poor of musician to put myself in this position. There I was, in font of all my colleagues, the president of the college, board of directors, local and state dignitaries, and community business leaders and all the graduates and their families. I began to feel really uncomfortable to the point of being nauseated and sick at my stomach.
As I made my way to the piano, through the maze of professional musicians, who had moved my microphone from where I had it to start with, and sat down at the concert grand, I was almost ready to have a heart attack! What was I doing there, I thought to myself. Why am I punishing myself this way, I thought to myself. Okay, it was my turn and all eyes were trained on me. There were TV cameras there and two large flat panel viewing screens for all to see. As I sat down at the magnificent concert grand piano and began to play, my wonderful introduction completely escaped me. I messed up immediately with the introduction. I thought to myself, O-my-God, I can’t believe this is happening!
Once I fumbled around with the failed introduction I was back on course and things seemed to be going a little better. I was trying to smile and act like I knew what I was doing. I tried to focus on my task at hand and my song that I had practiced probably hundreds of times. As I proceeded with the performance, things were a little better and the song was coming together and sounding pretty good, as far as I could tell. I remember cameras flashing and I would glance up at the huge monitor and see myself sitting at the piano. I knew I had to follow through and make the best of the situation. I kept thinking about those musicians sitting right behind me and next to me. I thought about how they must think I’m the worst musician they have ever heard, and what was I doing there. I thought to myself, O-my-God, I have screwed up in front of all my colleagues, administrators, graduates, and their families. While I was performing, I was fantasizing that I was crawling inside of a dark whole somewhere so no one could see me and I was at peace, and not under the immense pressure I was under. I thought about how my dream come true had suddenly become a nightmare.
As the performance continued, parts of it were good, as I had rehearsed it many times. Then, as my thoughts wondered and I lost my focus again, I missed a beat in the measure. Maybe someone who was not familiar with the song or music wouldn’t notice. But, I’ll bet those professional musicians sitting beside me noticed.
Anyway, the closer to the end of the performance I got, the better it sounded. The ending was much better than the beginning and I got a big round of applause from the audience. When the president of the college got up to introduce the guest speaker, he had some flattering words to say about me and my musical ability. So, the performance was not a total disaster.
What did I learn from the experience? The art of recovery from a musical fumble during a performance is just as important as the art of a flawless performance. Do nerves and anxiety play a role in a musical performance? Absolutely!
Sorry for the long post, but after I reread it, it did seem like a good read!!