Musical Performance Anxiety - Coping Cards
When we can help a student can get musical performance anxiety under control (or get rid of it all together), we empower the student with the ability to appreciate and enjoy their singing strengths and realistically address any weaknesses. We can help the student (or ourselves) appreciate the good in our singing. We can start to accept what we cannot or do not need to change and develop strategies to improve those that need improvement. (Ideas spawned from “Musical Performance Anxiety, Journal of Singing, September/October 2011, www.http://bit.ly/Ma3fLY .
Someone struggling with performance anxiety must have assistance to “cognitively restructure” or target dysfunctional thoughts and beliefs people have which say that they are ‘inferior, cannot succeed, insincere compliments’ and place them behind. The constant struggle to perfect our music sometimes invites these voices to call to us and it may be hard to turn the negative voices off.
A good way to combat these thoughts is using ‘coping cards’. These are therapy/work cheat sheets which help the singer remember what they already do well. These cards can serve as affirmations for the person to remind them of the value in life- what they do well, what will help them calm down in a nervous situation. Have the nervous student write down 3 things that they know they do well when singing on 3 different cards. For example, “(I have a gift and can learn to develop and share that gift with others”, “I communicate the meaning of this piece well”, and “I have a beautiful lyrical line when I sing X phrase”. Some of these cards can be developed with the teacher to remind the student of what others also say about his/her singing.
Poor self-esteem is often the main culprit. First look at:
1. Accepting who you are.
2. Capitalize on strengths (See card ideas above)
3. Strategically deal with weaknesses (nerves, etc.) by tapping away at them bit by bit.
Working with strengths to address weaknesses allows someone to use ‘reasonable thinking’. A reasonable thought is “I have talent that deserves to be developed and I can do that and be comfortable sharing that gift.”
The physical act of looking at the cards re-affirms the positive thought or their abilities to help a student with nervousness. When practicing, have them look at the affirmation cards to help them get over anxiety. Repeat the exercise going into a small performance and again for a larger performance.
Using ‘coping cards’ may be very effective moving into a first big performance in addition to continually working on the interpretation and characterization of the music one is singing.
What do you think about ‘coping’ or ‘encouragement’ cards? It never hurts to have a personal cheerleader in your corner.