STAGE FRIGHT? ME?
by Anne Minnery – Country Singer
Anne Minnery is a female country singer with an array of CDs to her credit. Anne has had #1 Country hits on many internet radio stations and has performed in the USA, Canada and Europe.
I am one of those people who suffer dreadfully from stage fright. I find that I am fine until about 2 minutes before going on stage and when my stomach starts to churn. Then, as soon as I hear my name called, my mouth suddenly goes completely dry. Worse than that, when I start to sing I find that my stomach is fluttering and my chin quivers. Once the first song is over, I seem to settle down, and by the second and third songs I am in full control again.
I have tried everything I can think of to get over stage fright. I have attended lectures, read books, looked on the internet for ideas and talked to singing coaches. The only thing that really seems to work for me is ‘comfort’. If I am comfortable in a setting or a club and know members of the audience that seems to help. I used to sing at happy hour in a piano bar in Greenwich Village in New York called “Rose’s Turn”. At the beginning I had all the prior problems that I mentioned, but the more I sang there the more comfortable I became and I found that the symptoms seemed to disappear – all except the dry mouth – that I still had. My singing teacher told me to bite the inside of my cheek or bite down on the inside my mouth to try to get a bit of moisture going, but nothing seems to work.
Then I discovered another horrible tendency I have
and that is to allow my mind to wander while singing. I have had to really talk to myself about this and force myself to stay focused on the song from beginning to end. I have read that people are so worried about forgetting the first few lines of a song that once they get past that part they let their guard down and then they run the risk of forgetting the middle part. That describes me to a tee.
What I have found works
in helping me get over my stage fright is “control”. If I have done all the rehearsal necessary and know all my patterns and moves, then my nerves don’t seem as bad. And, as I mentioned earlier, if I know the place and feel comfortable in the surroundings it helps too. However, how many times are we going to have the occasion to get used to a place before we have to play it? Mostly, we just get a gig and have to show up and perform. So, I have to use other tools at my disposal.
My sister is an entertainer with tons of confidence
and is completely at ease speaking with the audience. She can work an audience better than anyone else I know. I asked her once why she never has stage fright and she told me “Because I know when I get up there that I am the best singer in the room and that I am the best person to entertain them”. This coming from a person who is quiet and unassuming off stage. But, she is right..she KNOWS that she is the best when she gets on stage – and she is. She takes command of the stage and is totally at ease with her performance. Why? Because she rehearses her material so well off stage that it is second nature to her when on stage. She knows her lines so well that if something unexpected happens (and when doesn’t it in a live show?) she is able to handle it and move on. She told me that the audience deserves the very best from a performer and that comes from the performer providing the very best she or he can.
I had a wonderful singing coach
who once told me that I had to be so well rehearsed before a performance that I knew each song as well as I knew “Happy Birthday”. We all know that song so well, by heart, that if the walls started crumbling around us while we were singing it, we could still carry on while moving out of harm’s way. She told me that I had to know each and every song as well as “Happy Birthday” – to OWN each song, make it mine. And that I had to own not just the first few songs but the entire repertoire of songs. Another trick she told me was to always ‘eye’ the parameters of the room or stage, not only what was in front or at the side of me but at the back as well. She said this could be done quickly while entering the stage area and while saying hello to the audience. Her reasoning for this was so that the singer would own her space and give her a sense of control or comfort..
I am getting better at focusing, I have noticed.
I have learned the hard way that I must stay completely focused on the words and meaning of each and every song and to sing it from the heart, not just mouth the words. If I am in touch with the meaning of the song, I don’t lose focus – not as much.. A good trick I learned was to actually say the words of the song out loud during rehearsal. Each song has a story or message to convey and by speaking them we commit them better to memory and to heart.
I hope by sharing my story of stage fright I have helped some of you who suffer from the same thing. There are probably many of you who have never suffered the fear of being on stage like I have but this article is for those who have, and who may have an even worse case of it than I.
There are many books on dealing with stage fright and I can recommend a great internet site run by Art Nefsky that has online help available at www.nefsky.com. Give it a try. It is fun and has some great ideas. Hope it helps.
By Anne Minnery – used by permission
** Stage Fright – I used to have it in my early days as a performer. Thanks Anne for sharing your helpful tips. **