Nervous about performing? – You’re not Alone

Regardless of being an accomplished vocalist or beginner vocalist, performing can conjure a myriad of emotions.

If you’ve ever grappled with any of the following thoughts as you’re about to set foot on the stage, then you may share similarities with some of the world’s most reknown performers.

  • Am I good enough?
  • What will others think?
  • What if I make a forget a lyric or hit a wrong note?
  • I’m shy and performing is way out of my comfort zone.

If any of these thoughts are familiar to you, you’ll be relieved to know that you’re not alone. Some of the most eminent performers in music history share these exact same fears.

The common conjecture for audience members as they watch performances by established artists is to assume that the performer is fearless, confident, and unperturbed.  What many often don’t realise, is that underneath the confident exterior of some of the greats, is their humanly battles with fear and anxiety.

London Born pop/soul sensation and grammy award-winning artist Adele, is amoung those very familiar with performance anxiety and stage fright. She shares with Rolling Stone Magazine how she battles panic attacks and then proceeds to talk about how during a show in Amsterdam, “I was so nervous I escaped out the fire exit.”   Obviously Adele has learnt to manage her anxiety overtime, so it doesn’t heed her ability to share her passion with audiences.

World renowned Barbra Streisand, one of the highest-selling recording artists of all time, talks publicly about her battle with stage fright and performance anxiety.    A 1967 live performance in New York’s grand central park became the catalyst for Streisand’s developed fear of performing, yet Streisand explains how she learnt to deal with her on stage insecurities by studying the flamboyance of drag queens.

Similarly, music legend David Bowie was believed to have coped with his on stage anxiety and extreme shyness through the development of an on stage persona. To watch footage of Bowie’s performances you would likely perceive him as an outgoing and flamboyant type, however away from the stage he was reported to be extremely shy.  On the rare occasion Bowie would agree to take part in an interview, he would reveal a side of his character far removed from the eccentric, outlandish character he had created, best known as Ziggy stardust.   Bowie’s fictitious onstage character granted him the freedom of expression that he lacked in everyday life, and set his mind free of his anxiety.

Despite what many may think, some of the world’s best performers are positioned somewhere on the shy end of the continuum.   Joe Piscopo, a close friend of the Legendary icon Prince, discusses the off stage persona of Prince by affirming that “He’s not like when he struts the stage.  You’d think he’d carry that off-stage but there was none of that. He was very shy.”  Prince was a phenomenal performer who could easily have been mistaken for an extrovert based on his on stage presence.

Lady Gaga, another extremely successful artist, who may easily be mistaken for an extrovert as far as her music is concerned.   She too however admits to being an introvert, as she says ” I always feel shy in the Hollywood scene. I feel a bit like I did in high school, like I don’t really fit in,”.  In an interview with the Mirror, Lady Gaga says “I openly admit to having battled depression and anxiety and I think a lot of people do.”  Lady Gaga hasn’t let this stop her ability to have a hugely successful career in music.

Successful performers coming forth and sharing their experience with fear, anxiety and introverted tendencies, can help us all to realise that we are not alone, and that our feelings and fears don’t have to inhibit us in what we do with our lives.  

If performing is something (albeit a bit daunting) that you’re passionate about, it is worth seeking advice and working to develop the tools that help alleviate your anxiety so you too can bask in the glory of performance!

If you have any questions relating to this article, feel free to contact Melbourne Voiceworks at [email protected].


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