Recital Reflections: Claiming small victories over performance anxiety

I have never liked recitals. Or auditions. Even playing my solo for Solo & Ensemble. I have always been more comfortable performing when there was at least one other person on stage with me. Some people will tell you if you get nervous it means that you aren’t prepared enough but I think that statement is not entirely accurate.

On October 3rd I played my first faculty recital at Anderson University.  During the performance there were some issues related to nerves or letting my mind wander. While this recital was not perfect, I am claiming it as a personal victory because in the past I would have let any number of things that didn’t go how I wanted them to loom over me and negatively impact my performance. But this evening was different. I was able to observe things as they happened and let them go, get back in the zone, and continue to sound and perform in a manner that I had worked toward.

I have taken auditions where my time was spent practicing excerpts, exercises based on those excerpts, and fundamentals to make all of those things easier and still have become nervous during my time. One of the best way to “over prepare” as my professor told me to do, is to practice your materials and practice performing them in situations that make you uncomfortable. This means playing for people who make you nervous or you think will be more critical of you than you would like, or in the case of an audition preparation I was doing, leaving my phone on overnight and having people call me asking to hear excerpts at 3 a.m. (Trying to play the Credo excerpt from Bach Mass in B minor at 3 a.m. is NOT FUN). In preparing for this recital I purposely went into a rehearsal not warmed up in the event something like that were to happen. I played many snippets of this recital for my students. During the final dress rehearsal I even invited a retired professor to come listen.

Before any performance you should be certain of three things:

  • Work on the material not only to your teacher’s satisfaction, but to YOUR satisfaction

What this means is making sure you’ve taken your time with the metronome, tuned certain tricky spots, and even record yourself to hear what you sound like. You may be missing things due to focusing exclusively on executing the materials.


  • Be sure you have performed it several times, in many different situations and circumstances

As stated above: record yourself! Even if it’s just you in your bedroom, recording yourself still puts some pressure on. Play for your friends or ask your band director to play in front of the class. Nerve wracking? You bet! However, you will feel better to have it out of the way. Try playing your materials without as much warmup time as you would like, or while you’re hungry.


  • Know that above all else, you’re out to share the joy of music with those listening and have fun.

No one is rooting for you to fail. In recitals, auditions, or even solo and ensemble everyone wants to hear you perform well. They are there to hear great music, so you might as well give them what they want!

If you have any form of performance anxiety and are having difficulties working through it please speak with your band teacher, private instructor, or you may contact me for more information about things I have done to live peaceably with it.

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