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5 Tips to Cultivating a Poised On-Stage Presence

If you suffer from stage fright or are reluctant to play in front of others, continuing to develop your courage to perform in public is important if you want a career as a string player. 

At some point, in-person symphonic and other concerts, stage musicals, dance performances, etc., will return. Meanwhile, Facebook Live, Instagram, TikTok, and other social media outlets offer “live” performance opportunities to you now (see tip #5). (Many aspiring career-oriented musicians are using this time to grow their fan base on social media — something you might want to consider doing yourself.) Thus, continuing to cultivate your comfort on-stage will help you transition back into performing in person in the real world when it’s time.

Here are our five tips to help you cultivate a poised on-stage presence when it’s your turn to stand in the spotlight again.

1. Practice breathing and calming techniques

In every article, we’ve posted about hints for overcoming stage fright and pre-concert jitters, we’ve cited the importance of breathing exercises and visualization techniques. We’ve written similar posts for music teachers, recommending they include these practices as a part of normal class time to make them more approachable for students.

Now that you are distance learning from home take that advice to heart for yourself. Set aside at least five or ten minutes of practice time and dedicate it to finding the breathing exercises that work best to calm you down. Additionally, practice visualizing yourself calmly walking from behind the curtain onto the stage and confidently playing your piece in front of a large audience from start to finish.

Healthline.com has a post dedicated to 8 Breathing Exercises to Try When You Feel Anxious. Start there and see which one(s) work best for you.

2. Take advantage of opportunities to play in front of your class

The large majority of high school, college, and private music students are using platforms such as Zoom and TeacherZone to “go to class,” or practice together. If stage fright is a concern for you, ask your teacher if you and your schoolmates could solo in front of the class (if that isn’t already happening). If solo opportunities currently exist, be brave, and take advantage of them. Practicing your courage to play in front of peers will pay off when it’s time to play in front of an audience again.

3. Cultivate your on-stage persona

Almost all professional musicians develop an on-stage persona of sorts. For some, such as cellist YoYo Ma or violist Tabea Zimmerman, these personas are very natural extensions of who they are in real life. For others, such as violinists Amadéus Leopold and Lindsey Stirling, their onstage self is an alter-ego, aka an “onstage persona.”

While onstage or public personas can certainly help your professional musician “brand,” they are also helpful if you’re nervous or shy about performing. Imagine who your professional persona is. Who do you want to be when you’re on stage? What clothing do you wear? How is your hair done? How do you walk? How do you greet the conductor? The orchestra? How do you acknowledge the audience? How do you carry your instrument? How do you move as you’re playing? How do you bow? Or curtsy? Now, visualize stepping on the stage and into the spotlight as that persona. Visualize this persona delivering a fantastic performance with confidence and joy. Feel it in your body. The result? Bid farewell to the bulk of your onstage jitters. (By the way, this type of visualization is how many Olympic athletes successfully prepare for their competitions.)

4. Enter a music competition

If you’ve never entered a music competition in the past, online options may be just what you need to ignite your embers of inspiration. Far less demanding in terms of traveling and the rigors of performing in public, online competitions allow you to compete from the comfort of your home, while still performing for an audience.

Not only can this help you develop your courage to perform in public, these online auditions and competitions are wonderful additions to your future musician’s resume.

Examples of upcoming competitions include:

Read our post, How to Prepare an Audition Video, to learn more on how to submit a professional-quality video.

5. Perform using Facebook Live

Why not put together your own solo concert, and broadcast it via Facebook Live? If you have roommates or have cultivated your own “social distancing pod,” get a friend or two to perform with you to take the edge off the jitters.

While Facebook Live performances are viewed in real-time just like a concert, the comfort of your own surroundings can create a mid-ground for jumpy nerves. That said, you don’t want to forget that behind the lens of your camera are the watching eyes of your live audience. Review our tips on how to involve the audience to form a stronger and more engaged connection with your followers.

You've got this!

Sheltering-in-place and the era of distance learning can be the introvert’s and stage-shy performer’s dream. While there is plenty you can do to continue growing as a musician during this time, in-person public performance opportunities are sparse. While we wholly appreciate the ways sheltering-in-place makes less stressful performance situations, we hope aspiring strings musicians such as you continue finding ways to have courage and play on! Your audience eagerly awaits you.