As Halloween approaches, I thought I would do a segment on one of the most common fright musicians get: the one right before going on stage.
The list is long of the symptoms striking the performer about to step in front of the crowd. Sweaty palms, sweaty forehead, sweaty neck, pretty much, sort of drench into a sweaty mess. Which doesn’t mean that you’re hot. Actually many people report they’re experiencing cold while they’re sweating profusely. Some people breathe rapidly and some others get trembling hands while a third group has a dry mouth and throat, and some unlucky ones get all of these symptoms at once. But these, believe it or not, are fairly mild symptoms. Will it be difficult to get on stage? Yes. Impossible? No.
But what about nausea? I don’t know if you heard of people puking before they’re about to appear in front of the public. That’s not a joke. You become literally sick to your stomach (Does this expression comes from that condition?). And what about vision changes? Can you imagine? You can’t rely on your eyes anymore. That’s got to be a real treat when you’re supposed to sight read your music while you play. And what about panic attack? That will knock you out for a spell.
Did you know that Rachmaninoff had such bad stage fright he wrote the beginning of his 2nd piano concerto to be played easily so that he could progressively get into the mood? Here’s a link, you’ll see what I’m saying:
All right, I just listed some of the symptoms concerning stage fright, here comes the next tit bit: is there a cure, or at least a treatment?
Yes and no.
Yes, because different medical website advise you for example to practice your heart out or limit caffeine before a show, or think of the audience as a friend and focus on the smiley faces. And maybe those instructions work on many people, but there are also the absolute incurables, the one for which no trick will work. What are they supposed to do? I do not have a great method for those people experiencing stage terror. I can only recognize their plight and hope that the love and passion they have for music will overcome the fright they have of the audience. I sympathize with them, it is not funny at all. In United States, the thing that most people are afraid of is speaking in front of a crowd, in other word: stage fright.