Dealing With Nerves As a Music Major

Last week, I had to perform at a departmental, just me and an accompanist, in front of most of the other music majors. I was really nervous.

Not as nervous as the first time I ever had to perform at a departmental, but still, my hands were freezing, I purposefully avoided looking out at the crowd…

Needless to say, performing on my own isn’t easy for me.

But, here’s the thing:

Performing isn’t easy for most people. Everyone gets nervous.  

As music majors, we perform a lot. It’s something that’s definitely easier for some people than others. But, whether or not you dream of being in the spotlight, you’ll likely end up there at some point as a music major.

For someone who’s shy and quite the introvert, this was something that wasn’t easy for me to get used to. In fact, it’s something I’m still working on. So, what can you do to deal with nerves?  

Realize that nerves just mean you care (And that’s okay!)

One thing that my clarinet professor always says is that nerves just mean you care.

From professional musicians to professional athletes, being nervous is something that many people struggle with. We want to do well. And we don’t want to disappoint other people, or worse, ourselves.

But, feeling nervous is okay and can actually be helpful in some cases. This realization is the first step to stopping nerves from hindering your performance.

Perform for others as often as possible

Perform in studio class, for friends, put out a call on social media and have people FaceTime you. The more you perform, the more comfortable you’ll feel when you have to do it.

For me, before auditions and juries (performance finals), I ask friends to call me. I also ask fellow clarinets if they have a minute so I can play for them.

This means asking people you’re nervous to play in front of too. It’s all about practicing getting nervous so that you can get used to the feeling.  

Realize that 100% perfect performances are impossible

Yes, you’ve practiced tons. And yes, you might mess up. But, it doesn’t matter.

No one is going to notice the same things you do, especially if they don’t know the piece as well. Heck, they might not even be paying that much attention.

Throw out the rear-view mirror while performing and keep going no matter what happens. Don’t let making a mistake stop you from having a great rest of your performance. Even professionals don’t always have perfect performances.

Take a few deep breaths and be confident

Practice enough so that you feel as ready as you can be. Even if you don’t feel the best about a piece, be confident and just do the best you can at the time.

Try to channel your nerves to work with you instead of against you. Believe in yourself and you’ll get far.

I know that a lot of this is easier said than done. Nerves aren’t really something that go away, just something you get more used to.

Dealing with nerves is a constant work in progress for most people. Different people have various methods and techniques for dealing with nerves. By performing in front of others often and preparing well, it does get easier.

Remember, nerves just mean you care, and that’s okay. Good luck and (try to) have some fun!

Looking to get more out of your practice sessions? Read my last post: 5 Tips for Better Practicing