Jennifer Cluff

Canadian Flutist and Teacher

Stagefright and what you can do about it.

For flutists performing the first time, or for every time. :>)

There are four articles as well as links and book reviews in this series below. (Also see my reading list for flutists too).
And there are also some truly great books on this topic; See:
'The Performer Prepares': Robert Caldwell
'The Art of Musicianship': Philip Farkas (out of print/ see public library for interlibrary loan and see quotes below)

'The Secret of Musical Confidence.' 1994 by Andrew Evans (may be out of print/see your public library)

'Effortless Mastery': by Kenny Werner
'Stage Fright in Music Performance and Its Relationship to the Unconscious' by Michael Goode  
Radio interviews with Michael Goode:  
A stagefright book by Triplett is reviewed here.

Flute Stagefright Articles

  • 2. A Summary of Philip Farkas's book chapter on "Conquering Nervousness or Stage Fright" from his excellent book: The Art of Musicianship. This summary concludes with a beautiful and soothing poem that you can say to yourself anytime, anywhere, or read over just prior to going onstage.

Preparing for your first public performance:

Jennifer Cluff. 1995

Best advice: Prepare your performance well in advance!

Mental preparation for a public performance should begin several months before the actual performance date, or even before that, if possible. Mock recitals, or mock competitions are also a good idea, so that you can preview some of the things that will happen during the real event. So think deeply about all the 'ideas to be considered' that follow, spend concentrated effort in preparing your performance skills, and your reward will be "the best performance of which you are personally capable at this point in your life".

(Which is, of course, as good as it gets! Performing always seems to improve with time and experience, like most things!).

If you've never ever performed in front of any audience whatsoever, it's a good idea to start right now, preparing to play for your best friend, your favourite people, your family members, or even for a dinner party or community gathering.

Start simply:

A simple way to start is to prepare a piece of music that's simple and very beautiful. It should be something that moves and stirs you, and that you'd love to share with someone.

Find a recording of it, or a 'Music Minus One' recording, and/or have a pianist record the piano part onto a cassette tape so that you can play along with a stereo system many times before performing for your friends or family. You can even "play along" with a recorded flutist on their CD if the piece is simple enough for your skill level.

Or, if you're lucky enough to have a live accompanist, practice with them often.

When you feel confident enough to ask an audience to listen, put the stereo recording on (or signal to your accompanist that you're ready), and then fill the room with sound just as you do when no one else is there. If you're truly and deeply shy, your friends or family could listen from another room, or alternately, you could play while facing off to one side, and not actually looking at anyone.

Think only about the music, and don't pay any attention whatsoever to any thoughts that arise such as: "I wonder if they think I'm any good? I wonder if they're bored? I wonder if I'm going to mess up?" Just give your all to the piece, and let whatever mistakes or shakey-ness happen without criticizing yourself for it.

The reaction you'll undoubtedly get will be: "That was beautiful!" even if it was full of weird things that don't normally happen.

Just keep planning to allow people into your "music world" and your self-esteem will keep going up.

If for some bizarre reason someone criticizes you, just put it down to their being a critical person.

People who love music and human beings for what they are will always allow you to go through these early stages of performing-for-the-first-time without being negative or critical.

Those kind people are the ones who SHOULD be present at your first few performances. So invite them especially.

Good luck, and be brave with your sharing. You'll only need to be well and truly BRAVE the first few times. After that it will get easier! :>)

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#1: Performing in a competition for the first time:

If you have never before performed for a competition, there are a few hints for success that you'll need to consider. If you have only limited experience in performing you may want to read through some of the concepts below to see if you can relax as much as possible at the concert itself. It is possible to be so well prepared for the performance, that it will turn out to be easy, and a relaxed thing to do. The main idea is to know what will happen in advance, and to make it seem like something that you do every day. That way there will be fewer surprises and it will all start to seem like a familiar and normal thing for you to be doing.

Let's start by looking at what skills you need to work on in preparing for a competition or other public performance.

Hints for success:

A: Knowing your part and the pianist's part:

  • When preparing to play with a pianist, you will need a sufficient number of rehearsals with him or her in order to be able to listen to, and blend with, the piano tone and rhythms. You'll need to know your own flute part very well, so that you no longer need to be overly concerned about it. This will leave you the mental space in your consciousness to listen fully to the piano part, and work WITH the pianist as you play together. So know your part extremely well so you can free up your ears for the other part.
  • It's also a terrific idea to be very familiar with the pianist's written part, as well as the flute part that you've become so familiar with. Study the piano part while listening to a recording, or sing it through in your head from the sheet music,( if there is no recording available), in order to get a clear idea of the rhythms and harmonies. The more familiar it is, the more you will perform the piece as an entire "musical interpretation" instead of just a flute part in the air, all alone.

B: Posture and stage presence:

  • In a public performance you will want to stand like an elegant and calm person when you are playing the flute. The flute tone you produce should seem effortless, no matter what level of difficulty you're actually facing in a piece of music. So, your posture should be a handsome one (check it in the mirror), and your facial expression should be calm and serene. You should begin to practice with this posture and demeanor now, and from here on in, since it is the same presentation you'll always need in public. Whatever manner in which you practice will certainly become your public manner of playing, so it's good planning to make them one and the same. It is very important that you don't sway distractingly, move your arms around, or jar your flute off your lips when you play. Review all you have learned in lessons about how to stand very poised, and let your lung muscles (supporting the sound) do all the work for you. If you are resting your upper body on your strong torso muscles, the arms, head and neck can all relax, and stay still and upright. If your arms are relatively relaxed the flute can stay still so that you're in charge of it with your lips, and blow effortlessly.

(for more help with this see "The Physical Flute" book by Fiona Wilkinson.)

  • be especially sure that if you are likely to tap your foot while you play that you practice tapping just your toe inside your shoe. You will need to train yourself to do this because tapping your foot in public looks absolutely ridiculous, and you won't want to find out that you did it without even realizing it.

C: Take special care of your instrument prior to a performance (and take care of it always, anyway, to save repair dollars :>)

  • You should handle your actual flute like a precious object on stage, as well as all the time, since holding it roughly, or laying it down where it could get bumped or gritty/dusty can lead to expensive repairs later on. You especially don't want it to start malfunctioning right before a concert, so be very careful. Remember to handle it carefully when you're taking it apart or putting it together. Never squish the keys or pick it up out of the case by the key-work. Instead grip only the barrel where there are no keys.
  • Have oilings, adjustments and regular repairs and maintenance done to your flute earlier in the year so that it's not left until just a week or two prior to an important flute event. Repairs often take a week or more to 'settle' and you would not want to have a sense of insecurity about your flute when you're playing an important event. Sudden long bouts of practice can bring problems with the flute to the fore, as whatever mechanical problems existed are then made worse by sudden heavy use. So always have it maintained on a regular schedule so that it won't go wonky just before a competition.
  • Avoid letting any younger children touch or handle your flute without your careful supervision prior to a big performance. It's not worth the risk of having an accident.

D: Slow and careful practicing:

  • Practice your pieces very slowly in the parts where you still aren't able to play the passages perfectly. It does no good to speed up sections that are messy or have wrong notes in them. Circle the tough parts and really slow them down, so that you're perfecting them as if they were slurred longtones. Gradually you can speed them up and bit by bit add the tonguing, and the dynamics that they need, but don't try and do this all at once if the fingerings and lip actions are still difficult. Get the fingerings and lips perfect first. If you start slow practice early on then later you'll have time to run the piece from beginning to end looking for the hard parts that still need slow work.
    • When the concert or competition is about two months or more away, start running the piece from the beginning to the end, as if you were performing it. This is to build up stamina, so that your energy can last a very long time. Remember that the more often you run it from start to finish, the more likely you'll be able to do it only one time on stage without getting tired. As you get really close to the concert you can even try running the piece twice in a row so that you're well prepared to have double the energy that you think you'll need.

    E: Working with a tape and breathing silently

  • If possible, have the pianist make tape of the piece to practice with so that you can get the feeling of constant forward motion in the music. So often when we practice we stop and start so much, that we forget about the forward motion of the entire piece. When the tape is going you have no choice but to fly along with it, which is a different feeling entirely to playing alone. So start practicing with the tape at least two weeks before the concert. The tape will also teach you to play more in tune if you pay good attention to the tuning, and listen to the piano part just as much as you listen to yourself. Try and learn to hear yourself and the piano at the same time.
    • When you play with a tape or with a pianist, remember that you'll often have less time to breathe than when you play alone. So pay particular attention to taking big quiet breaths (review silent and easy breathing in The Physical Flute book by Fiona Wilkinson) so that you are able to be ready to take almost unnoticeable breaths during the concert. For places in the music where it's almost impossible to get enough breath, you'll need to be able to talk to the pianist about putting a breathing gap in to give you time. Be sure and mark these places in pencil so you remember to work on it with the piano, when your rehearsal comes up.
    • Use a tape recorder to tape your own solo part and listen back to it to see if you can hear what you "think" you hear when you're practicing. You'll be able to hear much more easily when you're not busy playing. Get a truthful example of what you sound like, and endeavour to make it the way you truly wish to hear it yourself.
    • Reminder: If on a non-stop run-through you still make a mistake or flub a passage, remember it and circle it so that later you can go back and slow it down and fix it. Areas of the piece that present problems have been called "blessings in disguise". When you fumble a passage, it is telling you: "You need to work on me HERE!" Be sure and take this to heart, and spend time pulling that section apart and putting it back together again slowly and securely in the practice room.



    If you have already pictured yourself doing something a hundred times before, you will do it as though you'd done it a hundred times before.

    If you have done something many times before, you will be relaxed, confident and have a sense of freedom when you do it again.

    Performing in public is not something we do every day, unless we're full time musicians giving a concert tour. So how the heck are we going to do it as though we'd done it a zillion times before!?

    Well it's scientific proven that people who are given a task to do are able to do it very easily if they've pictured themselves doing it ahead of time. They move smoothly and easily through the task, and feel very little nervousness at all. So, as you get closer to the date of the performance be sure and use the following mental exercise, both while playing your pieces through, and while sitting around without your flute. The more you picture it, the more likely you'll make it come true.

    And the key to this is that you should use "real time". Picture each aspect of the event in "real time" not speeded up. If you allow your body to register all the sensations of every minute detail of the performance it will believe that those actions have, on some plane, taken place already.

    So, to start you off on your own version of "pre-picturing your performance", here is a picture of you playing your concert in public (you can add your own details as required):

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    The Picture of My Performance:

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    I stand up with my flute and my music when my name is announced, and walk calmly up to the front of the stage. All the people are looking up at me waiting expectantly for me to do something moving and beautiful with music.

    I'm well prepared, I've had lots of rehearsals with my pianist (or with the tape) and I know that my pianist and I are capable of playing a moving and beautiful piece of music, that will make the audience feel delighted.

    I hand my extra copy of the music to the judge and nod respectfully. Walking back to the music stand, I put my copy of the music on my stand and adjust the stand to the right height so that my face and flute are visible to the audience and judge. (A stand that is too high will block the sound and stop the audience being able to enjoy seeing you play.). I take a moment and arrange the pages including any fold-out sections and assuring that all is in order with my sheet music.

    I nod to the pianist in greeting and warm up my flute by blowing quietly down the tube with all the fingers down. When my pianist is ready he/she will look at me and play an 'A' or a D minor chord to tune to. I play a few mezzo forte solid-toned A's (or D, F, A arpeggios) testing the dynamics. Then I push in or pull out the headjoint to tune up or down and check again.

    If I'm unsure of the tuning, I can take a minute or two to become sure.

    Now I am tuned, I turn serenely to the audience (who are all looking at me with expectant faces, and want me to really do well!) and send them a big warm thought of acceptance and sharing. I am literally beaming them with good will and human warmth. I say to the audience: "I will be playing...(name the piece) by (name the composer). (Also mention if you are playing a certain movement only, instead of the entire piece, if that is the case.)"

    Now, I take a few seconds to focus my mind on the fact that I'm going to play the music on the stand. I put my flute up and get physically ready to play, my body is calm and poised, my arms hold the flute delicately and firmly, the energy of the music is going to flow in through my head, torso and chest. I take a second or two to center my mind on the piece and how it sounds, what the starting tempo is and how the first phrase will sound when it is played in tune. The sound will need to reach to the very last row of the seats, and to ring up in the ceiling of the concert hall, so I am going to give full lung strength when needed and listen so that when the echo comes back that it is ringing. I hear the rhythm of the piece, and how lively and "alive" it can be, and believe that the rhythm is entrancing and interesting.

    I turn and show my pianist that I'm ready to start, and give the downbeat of the first bar.

    As the piece begins, it is so beautiful and moving that it lifts the audience up and makes them feel pleasure. The music is coming through my body, but the message in it is for everybody. If it's a dance, it's making them want to dance, if it's sad, it's making them want to cry. My own lungs are easy and free, the muscles are supporting every phrase. From where I'm standing the music seems to be coming directly through my heart and spreading out to everyone in the room. The people are no longer watching me really, or even thinking about me, they are being transported by the music that is coming through me and the pianist together. We are working together to make the music as warm and inviting as possible.

    The flute's ringing is filling the room. We are hypnotizing the audience, and lulling them into the exact mood that the composer was trying to express when he/she wrote the piece. Every time the music changes mood, or grows in loudness or softness I am caressing it and in control of it. The piece is flowing through me. When finally it is at an end, it sounds like the close of a wonderful song. It is final, yet it leaves them wishing to hear more. I finish on a good solid last note of finality with a tapered delicacy and/or flourish or flair, so the audience knows the piece is over.

    They clap and smile, and are deeply affected by the experience. I bow slowly and gracefully, in gratitude for their listening, look at them all with deep thanks, nod in thanks to the judge and lightly take my music off the stand. Walking in a serene and poised manner I quietly move back to my seat.

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    If you imagine this scenario enough times, magically somehow this will become what actually happens, (with a few impromptu changes, of course,) but it will be more or less the realistic outcome, and you'll cease worrying about what's going to happen. You'll get a clearer and clearer sense of the whole event from running the above scenario through mentally, in advance, many times.

    It's extremely important that you "imagine the audience being moved" etc. so that you have them in mind as kind and accepting people and so that you play to them with an open heart. Human passion cannot be expressed any other way. And even one's enemies, (if you perceive that you have one, even! You may not!) will be severely softened by the realization that you have opened your heart to the cosmos and given yourself wholly to the performance.

    Your main role as an instrumentalist is to be a passageway for the message of the composer. You cannot be an open conduit unless you are free and unblocked. Therefore you must mentally set the stage for being free and giving by putting out the vibes that you are confident and communicative; and that the audience is there to be affected by you, and that in turn, you are there to convey the composer's best self.


    ~ Avoid wearing clothes or shoes that are uncomfortable. Rehearse at home in the clothes and shoes you will wear for the concert, so that you can be used to the way they feel, and they won't distract you.

    ~ Avoid "under dressing" for a stage performance. Use your best taste and dress as though this is going to be a very special occasion. The more professional you look, the more 'at ease' the audience will be in accepting you as a "Performer".

    ~ If you need to wipe your lips, or get sweat off your hands in front of an audience, do it as unnoticeably as possible, so that you look very dignified.

    ~ If you get spit between your lips while you're playing, and your tone goes funny, wait till the next breath mark, and try and get rid of it in the most subtle way. Practice this in advance if possible whenever spit-balls rear their tiny heads. :>)

    ~ Avoid looking too casual in your walk and stance, as though you don't really care about the performance. Pretend you're an actor playing the part of a famous musician or ballerina. Even if you're only a complete beginner, the audience will remember you as a professional if you look the part.

    ~ Don't stop if you make a mistake. Usually no one will notice the mistakes that you can hear, because they don't know the piece. So don't let it even bother you. Think of ice skaters, who actually land on their butts and have to get up again as though it never happened. Often they still win first place, even though they fell! Prove that you can recover in a split second.

    If you make a mistake, follow the music with your eyes and jump right back in as though nothing happened. Be as calm as you can, and see if you can synchronize yourself with the piano again. Keep going. At home, when you're practicing for the concert with the tape, try playing right- through-no-matter-what, on your run-throughs, jumping back in if there's a minor mistake. Don't stop!

    (Go back to the problem area again later in slow practice, and work on it until there is no worry about that particular spot.)


    You are playing the flute in order to keep music alive and to keep people communicating with each other in a beautiful and healing way. Keep this thought as your mental focus, and don't think about your own ego.

    You're a musician in order to benefit all of mankind.

    {Fame and fortune are difficult things to live with in reality, and certainly aren't deserved by those musicians who only play to make themselves famous or have themselves noticed for their talent.}

    Play for the sake of others, for the sake of the composer, for the sake of peace between people, and you will be a great musician.

    Let your heart sing out to everyone in the room.

    On winning and losing:

    After you've played and the judge has given out the remarks and rewards, try and ignore whether or not you won. Since only one person can win it's important to remember that you might not always be the winner (just as in any game.) If you are the winner, be kind to those who didn't win, since they might be upset. If you didn't win, remember that you may just as well be the winner next time.

    Often some of the most wonderful musicians in the world didn't always win their local competitions, even though they later proved to be a million times more capable that those others who did win. You can always improve, and stick to it, for your own reasons. Don't let anyone's judgement make you feel like you don't play very well. You can play as well as you like, it just takes time and careful work.


    Practice lots!

    And remember that any audition, competition or performance you do only represents what you did today. It doesn't mean WHO you are as a person, or what you'll do tomorrow, next week, next year.... :>)

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    2 Summary of "Conquering Nervousness or Stage Fright"

    The following notes are taken from "The Art of Musicianship" by Philip Farkas. Publishers: Musical Publications, P.O. Box 66 Bloomington Indiana, 47401

    Philip Farkas was a Professor of Music, Indiana University, The Solo Hornist and Horn Instructor at the Aspen Music Festival; Former Solo Hornist with The Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Boston Symphony, and The Cleveland Orchestra.

    I have edited and rewritten his chapter entitled "Conquering Nervousness or Stage Fright" in order to make it more readable for a younger, and/or more contemporary reader. Jennifer Cluff (editor) 1996

    There are three qualities that a successful performer must have:

    1. A technical command of their instrument
    2. Good taste in using this technique musically and artistically
    3. The COURAGE to do this in front of an audience.

    Perhaps the major cause of nervousness is not knowing whether or not the performance will turn out well. Therefore, any study or practice that will help to build accuracy and dependability prior to the performance is very important.

    Your practice routine must include confidence-building and accuracy-achieving procedures. Namely: the repetition of flawless run-throughs of the piece of music to be performed. If you are assured that you can play the particular piece or its passages many times without error, and feel therefore that you are likely to perform the music yet again without chance of error, then your confidence will improve considerably.

    Consider the following:

    "When finally that perfect run-through is accomplished, then and only then is the performer ready to start to practicing those passages. The previous run-throughs only demonstrated the many ways of how NOT to play the passage. Now, after achieving one perfect performance, the repetition process actually starts."

    This repetition of a perfected passage builds technique and confidence and programs your internal computer to produce a flawless run-through for you, despite any interferences that occur on the day of the performance. Program your internal computer to repeat flawless run-throughs by doing them as many times as possible beforehand.

    "Definitely there is no more potent cure for stage fright than the knowledge that you CAN do it, and the way to KNOW that you can do it is to know that you HAVE DONE IT ---perhaps hundreds of times. The more the better."

    It is also important to avoid being careless in practice of a perfected passage, and say: "Oh well, thank goodness no one heard THAT! I'll be more careful on the day of the performance," because you're creating too wide a gap between your relaxed carelessness in the practice room, and the sudden carefulness and public-performance tension when on stage. Our goal is to minimize the contrast between studio practice and public performance, and not to add carefulness ONLY at the concert.

    Therefore, in practice, pretend a thousand people are listening, and when on stage, see if you can relax, loosen tight muscles, and use 'positive thinking'. (Try imagining you're safe and very well loved.)

    "By using great diligence and care in the practice studio, and relaxing as much as possible while on stage, you can actually equalize the two attitudes so that practicing and public performance are more and more similar."

    Reducing adrenalin flow:

    Adrenalin enters the bloodstream whenever you face a dangerous or novel situation. This particular chemical causes "hyper-alertness" which can greatly add to a performance, but if present in excessive amounts can cause rapid pulse, dry mouth, sweaty hands, and trembling arms and legs. So to reduce the action of adrenalin we must reduce the sense of 'danger and novelty'.

    Firstly, reduce the 'danger' of making mistakes by the repetition of flawless run-throughs as previously discussed.

    Reduce the 'novelty' of appearing in public by doing it so often that it becomes a regular occurrence in your life. Thus the novelty will wear off.

    Seek out opportunities to perform in public; at schools, churches, clubs, homes, and social gatherings, and each succeeding performance will reduce the adrenalin just to the perfect amount -- when you feel excitedly expectant, alert and aware, and the excitement will give your performance an aliveness that will move the audience.

    Realize that physically you must stay in good shape. In order to play your best in concert you'll need regular exercises, healthy food, good vitamin intake, lots of fresh air and sound sleep. This will allow your body to be in optimal physical condition and will give vitality to your performance. This will add further to your self-confidence, which in turn will create a better performance, thus boosting your confidence even more. A musical life demands a healthy, vigourous and vital musician. Strive to be such a person.

    Calm your nerves with logic and reasoning: What's the worst that could happen? Some missed notes? Or perhaps a breakdown of the piece, forcing a re-start? These things happen to every performer at some point in their life, and are no big deal. People will love you and want to help you regardless of these occurances. "No one in the history of music has EVER given a perfect performance. But you can see if you can come as close to perfection as possible."

    Our lives as musicians are ones of eternal learning. We are all students of music. Perfection is never obtained, it is just the shining star we follow. Never let a less-than-perfect performance discourage you. In the universe nothing is "perfect". The concert setting is NOT a life or death situation (unlike the work done everyday by a brain surgeon) so, put it into perspective.

    Learn and go forward.

    Finally, spiritual strength in the form of faith, positive thinking, a sense of grace, and of "giving to the universe" and the idea that you are not up there on stage "unguided and alone" is all important to us. As humans, a sense of spiritual connectedness to all things in the universe gives us strength and makes us calm.

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    The following poem (adapted by J. Cluff from a Christian version that P. Farkas preferred) is a great thing to keep with you and to read, just before you're about to go on stage. Farkas suggested that music students write it out in their own hand writing and put it in a special spot, so that they can find it when they need it: inside their music folder, or inside a pocket or music case.


    I am in my right place

    I am now the person that Nature intended me to be.

    I am now fulfilling a destiny that in it's own way is perfect, and full of timeless grace.

    I am here where the universe has placed me,

    doing what Nature has given me to do,

    in the way that Nature shows me to do it.

    When I need to find new ways, Nature will prompt me to them.

    All results are in the hands of the universe, therefore, I will rejoice in what I do, and bless the way it is done.

    Nature must love and appreciate me as an expression of herself,

    and is everywhere evenly present,

    approving the work she is doing by means of me,

    for nature flows entirely throughout every human being.

    The universe creates and reigns over all of its works

    and whatever it creates is perfect, since nothing that's taken away can ever truly disappear,

    nor can anything new ever spring wholly from itself alone.

    All is of a whole.

    All changes and designs are teachings about the way we shall go.

    The universe guides me with its eyes.

    I am a part of the universe making itself.

    ************************* end Farkas document ~ J. Cluff. 2000.

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    3 Thoughts before going on stage:

    One of the easiest concerts to give, that can make you feel relaxed and free to communicate without fear, is performing for a Kindergarden or a Grade 1 and 2 school class. This kind of show is easy because from the first note you play, the children become entranced and enchanted.

    Very young children have not often seen or heard a musician play before, and you'll see in their faces a kind of rapture and wonder as the tone of your instrument reaches their ears. The sounds of your instrument become a fascination. They think: "How does someone do that?! What a lovely, lovely sound! It's like magic! It makes me feel as if I'm dreaming!"

    In a recital for young children you'll also find that it's no problem whatsoever speaking to them about why you love what you do, or to demonstrate different sounds that your instrument makes. There's no sense that you'll be judged or made fun of with the very young. In effect, they're "all ears" and this is a wonderful, and open-minded age, before any kind of thick skin has had a chance to grow over their young hearts.

    And when you perform a piece that you love for these children, you feel as though you're "giving your all" to them, because they are totally uncritical, are open-minded and are in a perpetual state of wonder.

    Transfer this scenario to any concert that you're playing:

    (some musician's suggest: "picture the audience in their underwear", but this suggested method, below, is much more giving!)

    Picture the audience as magically transformed back into small children. They are waiting to be transported into that state of wonder that they long for. The fact that they're in reality adults and teens only adds to their desire to be carried away to another realm, where magical feelings can overtake them, (and they can be, for a time, freed from the pains and worries that accompany adult life).

    The audience that sits before you always secretly hopes to recapture that childhood time of "perfect grace" that is so often missing in the everyday world.

    Picture your audience as transformed once again into those children, and staring at you in open-eyed rapture, hoping that what you do will carry them away to a plane beyond this one. And you will feel brave when facing a room full of open minds and open hearts. You'll be happy to have the courage to be yourself before them.

    On this page are some helpful thoughts to read as you're waiting backstage to go on. Enjoy the feeling of safety and the idea that the Universe has beckoned you to take this role of leading a magical journey for others.

    • I am in my right place and the universe is expressing itself through me.
    • I am bringing something of great beauty to this audience and the message it contains will draw all human beings closer together and bring harmony to them all.
    • I am bringing back to life the beautiful thoughts of the composer who wrote the music I'm about to share.
    • My physical size is getting larger and larger until I am as tall as the ceiling and as wide as the whole stage. When I am expanded to this huge size I am fearless and can keep everyone in this room safe from harm through the magic of the music.
    • When I am huge like this I can flood the whole room full of love and warmth and can absorb it back again from the audience.
    • When I fill the room with love and warmth I'm doing what the composer wanted to do with his or her music.
    • When the people feel this music inside their hearts, they'll believe that peace and sharing are the best qualities in the world.
    • Since music can save humanity from pain, then no matter what happens on stage, the good that comes from it will far out-weigh any mere human errors.
    • The more open I am to the universe, the safer I am within it. The power of the universe lives in me always, and I can open myself to that power and let it flow naturally out again through my heart.
    • I am safe, I am loved, and I am able to return that love, right now, through this music. The audience and I are exchanging this love and natural energy as I perform, and as they absorb the music.
    • No matter what, giving music to the world, however humbly, is the answer to helping us all find peace.
    • I am a part of the universe creating itself.

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    4. BOOK REVIEW of The Performer Prepares'

    By Robert Caldwell ~ PST Publishing; ISBN: 1877761265

    'The Performer Prepares':

    Robert Caldwell is a specialist in the art of performing, and is known for his workshops and master classes in this field. In the introductory chapter to The Performer Prepares, Caldwell states:

  • "When we study music, we study the objective parts of music -- ear training, theory, sight-reading, technique, and interpretation. But where do we learn to make something special happen in a performance, to involve ourselves in the music, to ignite our performances with fire, depth, or sensitivity? Creating inspired performances is the most important subject for us musicians who want to share our music, yet who can tell us much about how to do it? Perhaps part of the problem is that the subjective qualities of performing -- charisma, presence, nerves, stage fright, tension, conviction -- have been considered separately as psychological events, or as matters of personality and treated as though they have nothing to do with studying music. Yet, these qualities profoundly influence the way we make our music. In fact, I find they are the wellspring of our artistry."
  • Having studied in the both the field of sports psychology with Olympic experts, and in the field of musical performance [with legendary teachers such as Eloise Ristad, Barry Green, Joan Wall, Wesley Balk, Janet Bookspan and Joan Dornemann] Robert Caldwell also cites the influence of the work of Doctors Milton Erickson, Herbert Benson, Genie LaBourde, John Grinder and Dr. Richard Bandler.

    Caldwell's purpose was to uncover the various techniques that heighten a person's ability to perform while making those techniques easy to use and applicable to each musician's individual personality.

    Throughout the book, Caldwell follows six very different fully-trained musicians that he worked with in a recent Workshop, and describes in great depth and with candour the revelations and conflict resolution that effectively freed each one of them to give radiant, communicative performances.

    Some of the transformations are stunning.

  • "At one of my performance workshops, Gretchen, with a hopeless look on her face, told me that she wanted to share her music and to sing well. When I asked her what prevented her from achieving this, she said, "My breath is not working right. I'm not supporting the tone right, I think the tension in the back of my neck is holding back the tone."

    Her complaints were not uncommon to hear among singers and other musicians… I (understandingly) repeated them back to her, she was nodding her head emphatically. These were definitely the thoughts that distracted her when she sang.

    ----" But let's look at the larger idea of performing." I resumed. "Let's get an example of top performance -- let's consider rock musicians. I can think of a successful rock group who smashes their guitars as part of their act," I suggested. I knew that bringing up rock musicians as an example for top performing would surprise Gretchen, But I've found that different kinds of performing share a common thread, and I encourage performers to look beyond their own area of study. It can make it easier to distinguish what is important about performing.

    Gretchen tilted her head and looked at me through the corners of her eyes, skeptical about what I was saying. Her expression implied: 'What does smashing guitars have to do with singing opera?'

    I continued, "Imagine for a moment what might be lost if when they are smashing their guitars against their Peavy amps they worry to themselves 'Oh, I hope I am swinging my guitar right' or 'I wonder if I am supporting the swing with the proper stance?'"

    She grinned a bit and pulled her chin in, a sign she was considering my argument.

    "Isn't an opera singer who quizzes herself about whether or not she is using her voice correctly as she sings losing as much as a rock musician who quizzes himself about how he swings his guitar as he smashes it?" I asked. "Either way, a quality of one hundred percent commitment would be lost".

    ……."I know what you mean", she said at last. "I've seen children perform simple pieces of music, and they were graceful and beautiful -- even when they were just beginning." She paused a moment. "I think it's the way the child feels about the performance and the music, about herself…about a lot of things."

    I saw her eyes defocus and corner of her lips lift into a gentle smile. Her fluid expression suggested that she knew she was right on track. Her agitated ideas about her technique were slowing down and quieting in her mind. She had just expressed the realization that, in addition to technical achievement, how a person feels about her music, about herself, about everything on stage are also important for performance excellence." (Gretchen's progress continues below.)

    Caldwell has divided the book into several easily workable chapters, each of which contains dialogues, questions to ask yourself at each stage of preparation for a performance, and overviews that allow you to check your preparation of every aspect of an upcoming recital, competition or audition.

    His three main observations about the secrets of a radiant performance are clarified and explained in full detail, with self-accepting dialogues that guide the reader toward their individualistic and personal performance imagery and personal beliefs about their own upcoming performances.

    Caldwell observes that:

  • 1) "Top performers are conflict free at the time of the performance. Every shred of their energy is committed to what they are doing. And because no internal interruptions sap the energy needed for what they are doing on stage, their naturalness and involvement surpass those of other performers."

    2) "Top performers desire their performances; their bodies, minds, and music all fuse together in an atmosphere of volition….They love the music, the finesse of pulling off a tricky passage, the beauty, the risk --it could be any aspect of the performance that they love."

    Conversely "many (uncomfortable) performers have not thought about how their distaste for an aspect of a performance situation will negatively affect their performances." They will be unable to commit 100% to the performance until they've clearly worked through their objections with the help of the questions and answers (that Caldwell's workshops and book provides).

    3) Top performers experience an inner condition during their performance that is "rich and fascinating and results in a 'larger than life' or 'commanding' quality. A great deal of activity is happening on the inside -- all varied, complex and highly energized. If you could drop inside a top performer during the peak of his or her performance you would be stunned by the intensity and richness of what he or she feels."

    "These (three) qualities can put a handle on the otherwise elusive character of brilliance in performance and they lead to practical guidelines for improving performance.

    1. If your performance is riddled with conflicts, you will need to resolve the conflicts.
    2. If your performing lacks qualities you can commit to, then you will need to develop qualities worth committing to.
    3. If your performing is colourless and limp, then you will need to enrich or enlarge it."

    Caldwell sums up chapter one with the following statement:

    "Let's consider how a performer who tunes his internal condition so that it is conflict-free, compelling and rich will achieve a good performance. In the absence of any internal conflicts, all of a performer's expressions will appear to work together -- even the subtleties of her skin tone, breathing rate, and movements. These subtle changes in her overall appearance will correspond to subtle changes in her sound.

    The audience will see and hear the synchronization of these nuances, and, as they empathize with the performer, they will begin to sense their own inner experience synchronizing too. They will feel the performer's undiluted concentration and they will begin to concentrate as well. This quality of concentration on the part of the performer can transform a crowd into a single empathizing entity. An entitiy so involved you can hear the proverbial pin drop, or so involved that the applause after the last note is delayed while the audience, stunned, struggles to regain their sense of self. These are memorable performances."

    Following the above guidelines The Performer Prepares follows with chapters that deal specifically with:

    II Imagining the Performance

    III Refining the Performance

    IV Supporting the Performance

    V Artistic Grit

    VI Stage Fright

    VII Connecting with the Audience

    VIII Getting it all Together

    IX Evolving as an Artist

    At the book's conclusion there are appendices that sum up all the points made, and provide work sheets that outline the internal dialogue techniques with which to create your own notebooks and checklists for each performance as you continue to develop your personal awareness. Best of all, you can follow each of the musicians working with Caldwell in order to witness their ease and progress using this system of personalised thought processes. To rejoin Gretchen:

  • "It seemed that only a couple of short weeks had passed after my talk with Gretchen. She and I had worked with many of the techniques and ideas described in this book. She had prepared her inner experience for her time on stage. She had learned how to resolve her conflicts about her voice and performing and how to emphasize what was important to her about her music and her performing as she sang. Rather than harping on whether her technique was working correctly or not, she learned to fill her experience with what was special to her, and it helped her to actually reach her technical goals.

    When Grechen's final turn came up to sing, she had a twinkle in her eyes. She walked to the piano with a distinct lilt, a poise. I was already feeling pleased for her. Even at this point, it was obvious she was going to give a great performance. As she began to sing, a glow spread through her body and a warm silky tone coloured her voice and sounded with three times the volume and just as much ease. Her inner involvement captivated us. We became enchanted as the moment-by-moment charge of the music swirled around us. The instant she finished, the class spontaneously cheered. She had given the performance her all, and it was beautiful. It was magic."

  • A video taped performance capturing the "before and after" of one of the workshop performers, and the dialogue she undertook is also available as a companion to the book. The transcript of the video is included in chapter VIII of the book itself.

    If you have comments or questions about this review, do not hesitate to write to the author, J. Cluff. I couldn't recommend a performance book more highly, and feel it is a "must have" for every performing musician, and a "very must have" for those who feel frightened of ever performing. There IS a balm for your performance fears. And it is something you already know. That is the magic of this book.

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * end review by. Jennifer Cluff.

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    Other online reading & listening

    about stagefright and/or Performance Anxiety in Musicians:
    Interviews on mp3 with stagefright author Michael Goode:

    Online articles:

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    Use google or other search engine to find more......put in terms like stagefright help, cure, advice....

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    Book review:

    Robert Triplett's 'Stagefright ~ Letting it work for you'.

     Thanks to a fellow Flutenetter's list of excellent books a few weeks ago, when she asked for some input on the following titles, I was able to order from
    the library and read the fourth one below, making the complete list a real "must read" set:

    1. The Art of Practicing -- Madeline Bruser
    2. A Soprano on Her Head -- Eloise Ristad
    3. The Inner Game of Music -- Barry Green, Timothy Gallwey
    4. Stagefright: Letting it Work For You -- Robert Triplett
    1983 ~ Nelson-Hall, Chicago: ISBN: 0-88229-720-1
    Robert Triplett is an organist, professor and stage-fright
    leader, and has come up with some deep insights and
    psychological/physical approaches to working through stagefright.

    The book is reviewed on the cover by both Dave Brubeck and Leonard
    Raver (NY Phil. & Juilliard), and I have to say that there are so many
    components to the author's ideas that it bears a brief overview.
    Book Review:
    Triplett opens with a humble concession to reality: he too, as a young
    teacher and even today, as a stagefright lecturer, suffers from the
    self-doubts and worries that make preparation for public appearances
    more tense than he would like them to be. But, like Eloise Ristad in
    "A Soprano on Her Head" he has proven that the solution lies not in
    fighting the fright, but in moving through the worst aspects of it,
    and immediately finding that they resolve.

    It seems, according to his and Ristad's arguments, that human beings
    learn fastest how to conquor adversity by deliberately engaging their
    and doing experiments within the extremes of their imaginary visions,
    only to find that that, instead, the opposite traits combine with the
    fear to form successful outcomes.

    For example: When faced with a bout of stagefright, you may be able to
    recognize parts of your personality or inner self that emerge to act
    1. "The Critic" ~ Highly critical and bent on issuing orders about how
    you should concentrate harder, work harder and hold on tighter in
    order to avoid mistakes. This aspect of your mind can also intrude
    WHILE you are performing.
    2. "The Doubter" ~ Self negating and likely to imagine dark and dismal
    outcomes, this part of your mind is trying to save you from shooting
    too high and then becoming publicly humiliated or embarrassed.
    3. "The Weakling"~ Frightened and overly-sensitive, this part of your
    mind needs constant reassurance in order to display its sensitivities
    to art and music etc. or else it will cause you to shake, quake and
    attempt to escape.

    In order to deal with each of these states the opposite
    characteristics are eventually brought into play.
    1. Opposite the "Critic" is the "Commender" who rallies and praises.
    2. Opposite the "Doubter" is the "Believer" who has endless optimism.
    3. Opposite the "Weakling" is the "Risker" who loves a challenge and
    feels alive whenever reaching for the stars.

    The only way to engender the opposite to each stagefright weakness is
    to move INTO the weak area and experience it on purpose during
    preparation. Instead of the Critic, Doubter or Weakling overwhelming
    you and destroying any hope or confidence you had left, miraculously
    the OPPOSITE happens, and the energy begins to flow from the
    Commender, Believer and Risker.

    This discovery about human conceptual opposites emerging from
    eachother is revolutionary in many ways.
    So often we try and squelch or destroy or ignore our fears and doubts,
    when in fact the very skills we need are to be had easily by
    systematically working through our weak areas.

    Again, like Ristad, Triplett has noted in his many workshops that a
    person who has problems with shaking, sweating and feeling sick can
    simply NOT force themselves to shake, sweat and feel ill on command.
    Once they attempt to bring on their symptoms, the symptoms refuse to
    co-operate, and the opposite qualities become apparent instead.

    Insterestingly too, if a person trying to squelch stagefright refuses
    to deal with the actual fears they have, and squelch them using false
    "solutions", they will only become more stuck.

    Some of the false solutions that never work, but have been found
    throughout centuries of music teaching ar are:
    1. Attempting to appease the inner Critic by becoming a Perfectionist.
    This leads to intense body stiffness and double-thinking, and ruins a
    performance immediately and continually. The answer instead is to "act
    out" the internal critic, taking it to a laughable degree (all this is
    fully described) or by having a deep conversation in your mind's eye
    with the Critic, and instantly they will begin to dissolve and turn
    into the Commender instead.

    2. Attempting to control the Doubter by becoming a Dogmatist (rules
    for their own sake.) The answer instead is to move into the doubting
    space, meditationally and by experiment, and fully discover the roots
    of the doubts and the preparation that would remove the doubts for
    real. The Doubter then turns into the "Believer" without becoming the
    least Dogmatic.

    3. Attempting to control the Weakling's hiding and running away by
    falsely creating a mental "Protector" who will act overly-masterfully
    to protect the weakling at any cost. This Protector shuts down their
    ability to take in new information and to react spontaneously and
    becomes a bully and a short-sighted loud-mouth.
    If the Weakling is instead explored and embraced, the true opposite
    emerges, namely "The Risker", and the musical performance becomes
    tantalizing, ALIVE and full of creative ideas and subtlety.

    All this makes for fascinating reading, and Triplett includes numerous
    simple diagrams outlining the personalities tendency to synthesize
    these opposites during creative work.

    The outcome of complete synthesis of these opposites is a more
    balanced response to the excitement of performing where Stagefright
    becomes Self-Assurance and finally Fulfillement.
    Here are some of the other qualities as they emerge after

    1. Angry Criticism + Tranquil Commendation = Compassionate
    2. Confused Doubt + Focused Belief = Clarified Trust
    3. Fearful Weakness + Courageous Risking = Joyful Discovery.

    All this is very wise indeed, and has been carefully laid out to allow
    you to see how common it is for humans to move through these opposites
    to a synthesis.

    Next, after the intellectual concepts have been soothed and smoothed,
    the author very intelligently includes a chapter full of performer's
    5-day exercises for complete relaxation, Feldenkrais co-ordination,
    resiliency in the body's muscles, and freedom in the breathing, stance
    and arm movements for your instrument.

    Next follows a wonderful chapter full of deep meditations that carry
    you through the self-discovery and inner-wisdom that resides in your
    subconscious, so that you've meditatively sorted out, over the course
    of several sessions, just what it is that you believe your
    performances mean, and how to optimize the freedom of expressing
    yourself and giving freely to your audience.

    Finally there is a very intelligent chapter on whole foods and
    nutrition, as it relates to creating a healthy physical state that is
    less likely to stress easily.

    All in all I found this to be a wonderful book.
    I found it in the public library system, and would hope that it would
    be widely available for students and professionals for free in this
    What a great resource!!!
    Jen :>)

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