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The latest in my journey with managing performance anxiety

The Sensible Flutist: The latest in my journey with managing performance anxiety

Monday, February 20, 2012

The latest in my journey with managing performance anxiety

I was excited to play as part of Classical Revolution Philadelphia's monthly gig at One Shot Coffee. I've been wanting to hang out with them for a while and this was my first opportunity to come out and meet up with them. I was fortunate to have my husband be able to come so he could film my performance on my iPhone.

This was the result:

I'm OK with this performance, although I didn't feel in complete control and it is why I'm using these types of opportunities to sort out current issues before my Philadelphia and Virginia performances. My experience with performance anxiety has evolved into a delayed response that starts only after I've begun playing. Rather than mental chatter being front and center, it bubbles under the surface. Breathing becomes labored to the point it feels like I'm hyperventilating especially in softer passages.

So I certainly don't think it's a coincidence that I heard Alexander Technique teacher Jessica Wolf mentioned by Keith Underwood in his class I attended last Friday or again in another circle. What I wasn't aware of is her post graduate training course for Alexander teachers titled, The Art of Breathing.

As I reflect on yesterday's performance, I realize even more now that physical and mental stress is affecting my ability to breathe without interference while I'm performing. Essentially, performance anxiety induced tension is interfering with my ability to breathe well. Once I stop playing, muscular tension subsides and my breathing returns to a normal state.

I see improvements in my playing that I'm happy with but I'm on a neverending journey to produce the best musical product that I can. Focusing on one thing alone isn't the solution, but I want to continue bringing awareness to my breathing in my daily practice.

Here's a couple of great articles I've come across recently that have helped put things back in perspective for me so that I don't begin to overthink all the delicate complexities of playing a musical instrument:

Thinking vs Awareness by Jennifer Schneiderman

Frank M Sheldon's thoughts on consequences of End-Gaining

One of the greatest joys of playing music is the lifelong learning that accompanies it. Constantly learning, constantly reflecting, constantly sharing. Here's to the next one.

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At February 22, 2012 at 5:57 PM , Blogger anna said...

Hey great posture! Your nerves didn't seem apparent to me in your recording.

I have had completely debilitating nerves. I find friendly performances like this one and playing in groups so much better, but never managed to cope with auditions or more formal situations. Will be interested to hear how you go working on it.

At February 23, 2012 at 5:20 PM , Blogger The Sensible Flutist said...

Thanks, Anna! No, it's not readily apparent in the video that I was nervous but I certainly didn't have the internal awareness and poise that I wanted to have.

I had worked through performance anxiety in college where I was giving fearless, confident performances and was enjoying them. I took a hiatus from playing and having chosen a path different from those looking to make it in the flute world, I've run the gamut of various experiences when performing. The symptoms have gotten better, but they still linger.

Thanks for reading and commenting. I appreciate it!


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