Facing anxiety (February 2013 Lesson)

Last Saturday at my lesson I was reminded that when I feel anxious, that anxiety transfers to my playing and can be heard by all. Even after 3 years of lessons, I still feel intimidated when I sit on the organ bench of a pipe organ at the beginning of a lesson. The pipe organ is much more grand and awesome than the old electronic instrument I practice on at home. And Michael (my teacher) is there too watching and listening ready to critique or give approval of my performance.
I began this lesson with the hymn “O Master, Let Me Walk With Thee” as I was confident in my ability to play it. What I didn’t consider was my anxiety level. It was uneven and rushed and wrong notes were played! This hymn should bring peace and my initial attempt was quite the opposite. After a few attempts, I calmed down and was able to play it successfully.Michael and I had the anxiety talk again. I should be relaxed from the start. How do we conquer anxiety?

In this video, “O Master, Let Me Walk With Thee”, is played by Frederick Swann.

At the 30 second mark of this video of the camera pans over the audience of several hundred.  Just the thought of playing for this many people provokes anxiety.
With more practice and patience, I will gain confidence reducing the anxiety, at least that is what I am telling myself. The first step is making it through a lesson without anxiety.

Have you ever had to overcome public performance anxiety? How did you do it?
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Lenten Organ Recital at FCC of Ann Arbor - 2/15/2013
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Heidi Bender writes about her experiences of learning to play the organ. She started on the adventure in 2009.

She also writes on her website Tons of Thanks, which helps people write thank-you notes. Heidi is also a cat lady who writes at The Joy of Cats.

8 thoughts on “Facing anxiety (February 2013 Lesson)”

  1. I am so happy to have discovered your blog (after you commented on mine — http://www.insanity.blogs.lchwelcome.org) because although I have played the organ for nearly five decades (!) I still experience some performance anxiety. What is really important (and helpful) is to “practice your performances” — that is, to always practice as though you are playing in front of an audience of thousands. Always play perfectly — never allow yourself to make any mistakes! If you are making mistakes, then you are playing too fast! I consider myself a shy person, yet when I get on the organ bench, I can feel confident if I have practiced properly. “I can do this!” You can, too!

  2. Hi Heidi,

    Public speaking has never been one of better qualities. I was always super happy when finished leading a CPR class and could pass out the tests.
    I guess it is practice, practice practice.
    Pray and find the exact Bible verse that is about anxiety to repeat a few times on way to the lesson.

  3. Take a Xanax…you won’t feel a thing!! Just kidding, of course. I wish I had some words of wisdom here, but speaking publicly was always a very nerve wracking adventure for me. I think the more you do it, the more comfortable you get with it. Yet, even the “movie stars” talk about the anxiety they have when they have to go on stage, so it isn’t just you. Say a Prayer beforehand. That should help.


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