If you have ever had to stand up in front of a group of people, give a presentation at work, entertain people in some way, you may have experienced stage fright. It is a normal reaction to putting oneself out there. Before performing a rehearsal for my one-woman show in front of eight of my friends, I found myself with serious anxiety. Trying my usual techniques: workout, meditate, read, distract the mind any way possible, I calmed down. The workout always works. It usually takes about 10 minutes of cardio for the butterflies to take wing. The meditation is still not working for me. I fall asleep. You are not supposed to fall asleep--duh. You are supposed to relax in an awakened state. Will continue striving to relax awake--not compatible with my type A personality. Reading helps distract the mind, but I fell asleep with that too. Hmm. I wasn’t tired, so maybe the adrenaline was taking a break.
I went about my morning (my performance was at 3:00 p.m. in my home), and found myself with still two hours before sit-down at the keyboard. The butterflies were returning. ugh. I thought to myself, “I wonder if other pianists have this problem.” So I went online and looked up “famous pianists with stage fright.” It was hilarious. I read that one contemporary performer, who is highly respected today, got so hysterical before performing with the orchestra that the conductor had to slap her across the face to get rid of her hysteria. My hero, Arthur Rubinstein would get so nervous, he was to have said, “My fingers are like spaghetti. I’m never doing this again.” Ashkenazy, a highly-respected conductor and concert pianist ostensibly jogs across the stage to the piano so he can calm his nerves. All this comforted me greatly.
My piano coach told me that Glen Gould would record the same measure numerous times before allowing the recording guy to move on. Of course, Gould was quite eccentric, but then, so am I. She also told me that one concert pianist made a mistake in his performance and shook his head back and forth, chiding himself, all the way to the end of the composition. Unbelievable! Yay, it’s not just me.
Personally, I would rather stand on a stage and perform in front of 500 strangers than perform in a small room in front of a small group of my friends. Some people will say, like my father, “You won’t perform well if you’re not nervous.” Bull. That’s not true. I am much better relaxed. Just ask the walls.