Strategies for Young Performers to Stay Calm on Stage

 

At MX Masterclass, we understand that every performer, at some stage, experiences the inevitable flutter of butterflies before stepping into the spotlight. For young talents, mastering these nerves is crucial—it directly impacts both the quality of their performance and their enjoyment of the event. Dedicated to nurturing aspiring artists, learning to remain poised under the spotlight forms a core part of our curriculum. Let’s discuss the strategies we teach our young artists to help them conquer pre-performance jitters and shine when it matters most.

 

Defining Stage Fright

 

Stage fright, often referred to as performance anxiety, is a common challenge for performers of all ages and experience levels. It manifests as a mix of physical and emotional reactions—such as nervousness, a rapid heartbeat, or sweating—when faced with the prospect of performing in front of an audience. This anxiety can occur in various situations, from auditions to live performances.

 

Performance anxiety is remarkably common among performers, affecting a large majority at some point in their careers. It's important for young performers to recognise that experiencing stage fright does not reflect on their talent or dedication. Instead, it's a natural response to high-pressure situations where performers feel they are being scrutinised by an audience.


Many established performers have shared their struggles with stage fright, illustrating that it can affect even the most experienced artists.

 

Techniques to Manage Nerves Before the Performance

 

Mastering one's nerves is an essential skill for any young performer. At MX Masterclass, we equip our students with several effective strategies to ensure they remain calm:

 

Breathing Exercises: 

 

Deep breathing is a powerful tool for managing anxiety. The '4-7-8 method' has proved helpful for many—inhaling for four seconds, holding for seven, and exhaling for eight. This technique helps regulate the nervous system and maintain focus.


Mental Preparation: 

 

Visualisation and positive self-talk are key. We encourage our students to imagine themselves succeeding, focusing on the smooth flow of the performance rather than potential errors. Positive affirmations bolster confidence and mitigate negative thoughts.


Physical Preparation:

 

Proper warm-ups are critical. These might include stretching, vocal exercises, or gentle physical activities designed to release tension. We also advise keeping hydrated and avoiding heavy meals before a performance, to avoid any physical discomfort.


Routine Building:

 

Encourage performers to develop a pre-show routine that can include listening to music, reading, or other calming activities. This routine can help create a sense of familiarity and comfort, which can be very calming.


Mindfulness and Meditation:

 

Introducing mindfulness exercises or guided meditations can help performers center themselves and focus on the present moment, reducing anxiety caused by worrying about the future or dwelling on past performances.


Peer Support:

 

Establishing a supportive peer network can be invaluable. Sharing experiences and coping strategies among peers can help reduce the feeling of isolation that often accompanies stage fright.


Rally Yourself:

 

Positive energy can dramatically alter your mindset before a performance. Like a football team gearing up for a match, young performers can benefit from group huddles or individual pep talks. Tell yourself, "I've got this!" or "This is going to be great!" Such affirmations can transform anxiety into excitement and anticipation.


Relaxation Practice:

 

Finding your personal relaxation technique is crucial, especially when there’s a wait before performing. Some performers might benefit from listening to a calming playlist, others from practicing yoga or mindfulness. It’s about discovering what best helps you maintain a calm and focused state.


Embrace Nervousness: 

 

It’s natural to feel nervous. Rather than seeing this as a setback, view it as your body gearing up for the challenge ahead. Acknowledging and accepting these jitters as a normal part of the process can help you use them to your advantage, turning nerves into an energising force.


Prioritise Self-care:

 

Self-care is as important as rehearsal. Ensuring you get enough sleep, eat well, and stay active can make a significant difference in your performance. Staying hydrated is also essential for both optimal vibration of the vocal folds (sometimesee referred to as the voice box) and concentration. Sipping (not gulping/glugging) enough water every few minutes throughout the day (we recommend at least 2 litres) will give your body and brain the hydration it needs to work at its maximum potential. These elements help manage stress hormones and keep you at your best, both physically and mentally.


Mock Performances:

 

Regularly scheduling dress rehearsals or mock performances in a simulated environment can help acclimate young performers to the feeling of being observed, making actual performances less daunting.


Anticipate and Plan for Setbacks

 

It's wise to prepare for the unexpected by acknowledging that slip-ups are part of any performance. Instead of labelling them as mistakes, view them as inevitable incidents and focus on how to handle them effectively. Incorporate potential challenges into your rehearsal process, creating 'speed bumps' to practice overcoming obstacles smoothly. This approach ensures that when a live performance comes around, you'll handle any mishaps with ease, as they won’t feel significant anymore. At MX Masterclass we’ve created a team attitude of embracing our ‘mistakes’ and learning to not be afraid of them. After all, if you don’t push yourself outside of your comfort zone and risk making a ‘mistake’ you’ll never grow!


Manage Your Pace

 

Nervousness often leads to rushing, which can result in errors or muddled speech. To prevent this, employ tools like clocks, timers, or metronomes during practice sessions to help regulate your pace. Training yourself to maintain a steady rhythm will improve your control and ensure clarity during your performance.


Feedback Sessions:

 

Constructive feedback is crucial. Having open discussions with instructors after performances or during rehearsals where feedback is given in a positive, constructive manner can help performers understand that mistakes are part of learning and growth.


Professional Counselling: 

 

Even if you've followed all the previously mentioned tips and techniques to manage stage fright, some performers may still experience severe anxiety that can significantly impact their ability to perform. In such cases, seeking support from a counsellor or psychologist can be immensely beneficial. These professionals are equipped to offer tailored strategies that address the individual's specific needs, helping them build confidence and effectively reduce performance anxiety.

 

Role of Teachers in Managing Nerves

 

Our teachers, play a pivotal role in helping students manage stage fright. They create a supportive and understanding environment, teaching coping mechanisms that address both the physical and emotional dimensions of performance anxiety. Using practical exercises during rehearsals, which simulate the pressures of live performances, helps build our students' confidence and familiarity with the stage.

Learning from Each Performance

Reflection after each performance is crucial for our performers' growth. We encourage our students to keep a performance diary, where they can record what went well and identify areas for improvement. Engaging in discussions about these notes with teachers and peers at MX Masterclass provides deep insights and reinforces the learning process, turning each performance into an opportunity for significant development.

Final Thoughts: Embracing the Stage with Confidence

Mastering the art of staying calm before a performance is as important as any technical skill taught at MX Masterclass. With regular practice and expert guidance, our young performers can transform their pre-show nerves into a dynamic energy that enhances their stage presence.
MX Masterclass help young performers grow into confident and capable artists, ready to take the stage. Visit our performances page to see the culmination of their hard work and dedication in action.