Performance Anxiety

My Alexander Technique teacher the other day told us about a guy named Don Greene who does a lot of work with performance anxiety. Fascinating guy–I mean, a former Green Beret who is now a performance coach. It sounds like his main thrust is on helping to focus or channel the energy we bring to any moment, whether audition or performance or whatever, into a positive force rather than letting it work against us.

I’m intrigued.

At the same time, I’m not myself bothered enough by performance anxiety to invest in the books and such.

Or am I? I am a musician, but I don’t love performing.  I love making music with other people, which is why conducting is so amazing–rehearsal no more nor less than performance.  I have always felt like my choirs and orchestras are like a “performing audience” (to quote Huijbers) of their own, and in a real “performance” we simply need to perform for ourselves and one another but with other people there to listen. The connection, the interaction, the experience together of the music is what’s important.  All that shtuff of entering and bowing and dressing in tasteful not too feminine but not too masculine blacks and shaking the right people’s hand and coming out for various bows and stuff…not my thing. I do it because it’s expected. But the making of the music–that’s the good part.

So maybe the reason I don’t have much performance anxiety is that I seldom really “perform” per se?




  • I’d be interested to know how other conductors feel about this. I find that when I’m leading an ensemble, there’s so much call on my attention (not least, monitoring and managing everyone else’s mental and emotional states) that I haven’t got time to experience anxiety.

    I do find myself clicking into a more alert and focused state before a performance, but that is as much as anything about chaneling all the extra energy that the other performers bring to the occasion.

    Having said that, I spend 20 minutes in a combination of Alexander Technique and mental centring before every rehearsal – so I think I share your sense of continuity between the challenges of leading an ensemble in rehearsal and in performance.

    Another useful resource on performance anxiety I recently discovered is

  • J.

    Thanks for the resource; I’ll be checking that out!

    The “energy” piece is interesting…as conductors, we work with the energy of other people, but in solo performance it’s just us, our own energy. And also as conductors, the whole “channeling the energy” piece is part and parcel of what we do every day, in rehearsal and performance and every time we do what we do, whereas it’s not necessarily the same for solo performers…

    I have to think about this!

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