I have been actively performing, concertizing in front of audiences in many different combinations now for the past 5 years.
Yesterday I led the county CG Ensemble of 16 players in our final concert of the season which included playing in the guitar2 section-
having moved from guitar 1 to fill a gap; arranging and performing with a group of colleagues in a quartet format of a piece I arranged; playing three guitar/ flute duets with a highly experienced colleague; playing two solos which are new additions to my performance list. On top of that I rehearsed the ensemble, rehearsed with colleagues, secured and prepared the venue, developed and edited the program, arranged solo artists and rehearsed them. I actively promoted the concert and was the main speaker during the performance.
Five years ago I was almost incapable of even considering the thought of playing in front of an audience having had several bad experiences and
lacking the understanding of how to achieve my dream of being a performer.
It has not been an easy road but I can now say that I have the confidence and desire to play in front of people and share my music.
It is a joy to feel the music touch other people and it is a thrill to hear the applause and have positive responses from a large audience.
It makes all the hours of preparation and work enjoyable and exciting.
The turning point for me was working with a professional opera singer who took me under her wing, supported and developed my ability
to function well under pressure and demanding I find the necessary technique and musicality to support her voice in demanding repertoire .
If you can imagine the technical requirements to play CG-unamplified- with a powerful high soprano voice
then you might understand that It required that I completely revolutionize and create a means of playing that would go beyond my standard.
How to work with anxiety? Almost all professional musicians I have met and work with suffer from various levels of stress related to performing.
One level of stress is the anxiety preceding the event. This is normal. Generalised anxiety about a recital or concert on the day - is normal.
It is a great way of activating a tremendous amount of energy in preparation, practicing and rehearsing during the weeks and months before the event. A very high level of alertness on the day of a concert is- normal. There are a few, rare, artists who exist without any form of stress, anxiety or nervousness.They are very,very, very rare creatures or they are liars.
Playing in front of an audience requires the desire to risk yourself. It is normal to have a fear of failure-that is a risk. It is normal to be aware of the fine balance required to perform well or go down in flames-another risk. It is normal to fear embarrassment-that is a risk.
I can say from experience that during a performance something will go wrong, something will happen to you that did not happen to you during practice or rehearsal or when you played the piece in front of your test audience. If you can name your worst nightmare I have probably lived it.
Think for a moment what is like to be in the audience. Think how you feel when an inexperienced artist has issues.
Do you enjoy seeing them suffer?
I've read lots of good advice on this thread so forgive if I offer a few grains I've learnt the hard way.
1. Develop a strong, indestructible technique that consistently works under tremendous pressure.
( this requires taking the risk of performing as there are no other substitutes)
2. Work with non-CG professional musicians.
( they will require that you think and play music that isn't based on guitar ideologies)
3. Get involved with charity concerts, churches, nursing homes and schools.
( this is how I started, and how I became a full time teacher and university tutor)
4. Be honest.
( are you willing to work hard, develop your skills and put the hours in to achieve your dream?)
5. Keep going.
(practice performing by playing through mistakes and mental blocks)
6. Negative voices.
(if your hear negative/ critical voices while you are performing create an image of the voice and tell it to go and wait while you play.)
7. Never let the audience know that anything has gone wrong.
( you are an actor on the stage and the role is performing not melting)
8. Find the joy.
( smile and show that being in front of your audience is the best thing that has ever happened to you)
9. Learn from your mistakes.
( the days following a performance make a quiet mental note of what went well and what didn't go so well).
10. Never give up.
(never give up)