Friday, November 25, 2011

Year 2: Week 12 – Performance Nerves

Last week, a fellow teacher asked after an orchestra performance if I get nervous. I confidently told him no, which was totally a lie.

Before my students perform I have normal symptoms of nervousness but I work very hard to channel that into calm and positive energy. If you talked to me right before a performance you might think that I don’t care but it’s more that I don’t want my kids to freak out and well, I don’t want to freak out either.

I can’t remember the first time I went up on stage to perform. For as long as I can remember I’ve been on stage first playing violin, then piano, then in school ensembles, marching band and well now I spend a good part of my life up in front of people as a teacher.

Yes, there are things that make me nervous. Anyone who doesn’t feel a twinge of apprehension getting up in front of a full auditorium of about nine hundred people to lead the singing of “America The Beautiful” doesn’t understand the importance of what they are doing.

Part of being chill before a performance is perspective. If one of my students makes a mistake on stage, or sings a wrong lyric, it’s not a big deal. No one died, it’s just music. Yes, we should try to do the best we can and concentrate but we shouldn’t fear mistakes so much that if they accidently happen we can’t roll with it.

The other part of performing is remembering that the performance isn’t only part of what we do. I’m not in the business of producing polished musical performances, I’m in the business of helping students have meaningful experiences with music and while performance is a big part of it, the process of learning the song and exploring the music beforehand is also important.

I often tell my students before performances that I’m already proud of them and that the performance will not change the pride that I have in all the hard work they put in. You may disagree with this lack of pressured focus on a specific event but I don’t like living that way and making my students freak out never brings the best in them, probably because it never brings out the best in me.

I made a decision a couple years ago that my students would never seem me loose my temper of stress out especially in relation to performance. Expression of these feelings leads to kids being screamed at, feelings being hurt and missing the point of being a music teacher.

If you prepare a group of students for a performance and they are making significant mistakes the day before the performance that’s your fault as a teacher for not picking appropriate music and/or not teaching in a way that they can be successful. So the only person you can really get mad at is, well yourself.

So prepare your students and yourself, keep some perspective and embrace that nervous energy.  All being nervous means is that there is something exciting about to happen and at least with a well-prepared school music performances, the potential for a great experience far outweighs the potential for a bad performance.

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