Paralyzed by fear, my first ever public performance of “What Child Is This” over the Christmas Holidays should’ve been renamed, “Child, What is this?”
By Charles Lawerence (For a little background on how the author got to this point – see Confessions Of A Middle Aged Guitar Student)
I performed for the first time at a church in December. I played a song I knew well and had played for 3 years. It didn’t go well. My hands shook and I stopped playing at times. I figured I was at a church and my audience was probably more forgiving than most. They say to forgive those who trespass against you—and I did some serious trespassing with my playing that night. It was a duet, but even with the safety of a singer drowning out my mistakes.
I tried to pretend I was playing at home, but I kept ducking as if a frying pan from my girlfriend’s hand was headed toward me. I guess that gives you a clue into my personal relationship status, but she’s actually had nice things to say about my playing. But when you practice the same 4 songs for 3 years, there has to be some improvement.
I did fine with the song during rehearsal, but when performance time came, I know I choked. I’ve spoken to even the most experienced performers and more often than not, they have times when they feel the same way. Why couldn’t I perform the way I rehearse? Playing for the dog and the furniture is no problem, but when it’s people of your same genome, things get a little tricky.
It must be that human need for approval or at least not to become an object of ridicule. You don’t want to feel like you’re the Jerry Lewis of the musician world, unless that’s your shtick which could earn you some serious cash if done properly. Pretty lady!! La la la!
I think some musicians put on the hair, makeup and costumes to distract the audience from the mistakes, or they turn it up so loud that all they hear is the primal beating of the drums. But lots of people like that. Nothing wrong with it.
They tell me that with practice, I’ll get over the shakes. A master guitar player once told me that some musicians take a heart medication to make their hearts slow down during performance. I don’t drink or take drugs, but I might try some Earl Grey tea and deep breathing next time.
Or maybe I should just not worry so much about pleasing the listening public.
As Ricky Nelson sang, “You can’t please everyone, so you’ve got to please yourself.”