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Nerves made my first recital a total flop!


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After some brooding over this post, I have a couple of follow-up thoughts/questions. First, do you respect and like your teacher, sheree? Second, what expectations do you have of yourself as an adult beginner? These are really very fundamental. If you like and respect your teacher, and if you believe that you are learning from her and mastering skills in some kind of order, then all of this torment is a breech of the connection with her and what she does. Second, if you are learning, practicing and experiencing mastery of skills, why would you feel that anyone was entitled to subject you to any sort of criticism? Does your husband do multi-layered complex tasks at mastery level on the first try? Put a violin into the hands

of someone at the "****tail party" and see if they can play a caprice! Did your teacher tell you that she would not continue with you as a student unless you played? If after evaluating your progress yourself you felt that you should not, would she have cancelled you as a student? It has long been my belief that the more child-like the adult can become as a beginning student, the more they will be able to progress, and the same vice-versa. If you want to play, if you are happy with your progress, if you practice and succeed, you may move along even faster by placing yourself in the violinistic shoes of some of the little guys and gals who thought they were hot stuff by playing half of "Twinkle". Examine your own thinking about this before bowing to your unnecessary embarrassment. And then, how were you convinced? Are you like Gilbert's "doesn't think she dances but would rather like to try?"

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5 mg (or so) of Inderal, or one of the other beta-blockers will eliminate those outward signs of state fright. Get a Rx from your MD. It keeps well in the refrigerator for many years.

Many professional performers use this stuff for performances (in which they will be heard as individuals) and for auditions. There may be some shame associated with it - but so what? I don't know anyone who uses it for orchestral "tutti" performances. There are some contra-indications, so you should get your own doctor's recommendation.

It does not eliminate the excitement - only the shakes, or for wind players - it restores the diaphragm and useful lung capacity

One "user" writing here a few months ago had actually "kicked the habit." Gotten over stage fright using a beta-blocker and now doesn't need it any more.


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Thank goodness that my first recital was with a group. Nobody could actually tel that I forgot how to play anything. I just went through. I believe it was my teachers way of breaking us in gently.. We were all adults (20-45). It has been four years now...I still play terrible, but at least I can play terrible in front of people.


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...jumping ahead two days since my previous post...


I have to admit I was calm, collective and cool until just before I had to play. THEN I started to shake uncontrollably. My knees even started...I thought they would fall out from under me. I thought "someone let me off this ride". However, I'm proud to say I made it through my 2 pieces in one piece and no tomatoes were launched.

It's been a couple hours since I played and I'm still shaking! Who needs coffee...just get up in front of people and you get the same affect.

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I've had many bouts and battles with performance anxiety including running off stage in tears, forgetting how entire works sounded, hands shaking so hard and with such iciness...

...I understand completely of what you have written.

When I began accompanying my choruses decades ago, I could barely get through the scores required. I was a complete, total flop and really ruined a lot of works we had rehearsed with care in the classroom. That was actually about 1978 or so.

But after about five years, the veil lifted and I just didn't have that anxiety anymore. I don't know what happened to it. I guess something inside me just got tired of battling with me and decided to take a rest.

I love performing now with my kids--and with other performers. But it did not happen quickly--it took a lot of performances and a heckuva lot of falls on my part. A lot of embarrassment. A lot of guilt for screwing up works that should have gone smoothly. I sure did prepare better and more, but somehow, at some point, I just couldn't be bothered anymore with the anxiety problem. I had to look beyond the problem. The problem belied my effort--made my work appear to be shoddy, when, in fact, my work had been good. It was kind of an insult to my work--and the enthusiastic efforts of my kids-- for the shakes to "get me." I was angry at times, and despondent at other times over the performance anxiety. But after about five years of many bellyflops, things had improved to the point that I was fine. Most of the time.

Oh, one other thing. At one performance at which I was really wired, a physical education teacher shouted at me, "Theresa! Will you PLEASE calm down! You're making me crazy!" She hurt my feelings, but big deal. Somehow realizing how my high-wiredness was affecting someone else helped. I've thought a LOT about her yelling at me over the years, and I don't want to do that to anyone else ever again. She helped.

Oh, I have a voice recital to accompany next Sunday. I am terrified for the record. Why? Especially after what I've written above? Because there are a lot of art songs on the program and I've got too much respect for them! But I'll just keep talking to myself and reminding myself that I must be cool for that boy I'm accompanying. He doesn't need my nerves to upset him.

Anyway, stick with it. Don't give up. If you end up with a lot of horror stories, know that one day they'll all be in the past and that eventually you'll get up and play for just about anyone easily over time. Do volunteer, if you've got the time, to play for little kids. They love having grown-ups from the outside world come in and take time with uthem! And little kids don't mind mistakes at all. Tell them about your first recital. They'll be very sympathetic.

Unlike your husband! Shame on him for teasing you! That really annoys me. But that's another story.

Best regards,


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weefiddler, congratulations! Your description of "wanting to get off this ride" is EXACTLY how I felt--the roller coaster was going up and there was nothing to do but hang on! (and boy do I hate roller coasters!)

To Ann: I love my teacher and of course I wasn't forced to participate, but she and I both thought it would be fun and I really thought it would be no problem! I felt that way the entire time until my name was called and it was time to go up there. I had no idea I would be almost paralyzed with fear. I would never have agreed to it if I had known my fright would get the best of me.

To Theresa: my husband and I tease each other equally (good-naturedly), so I can't take the high road there. I just wish I hadn't given him another episode to relish (don't worry, I'll get him back later)!

To Andy: have you ever taken the Inderal? Is a beta-blocker what they give people with heart problems? Just curious.

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I gave up the violin for a few years from the age of 16. On my first semi-public performance after I re-started, I discovered that my nervous energy, in this 'public' environment had grown tenfold. I heard about beta-blockers & discussed them thoroughly with my G.P, who agreed to prescribe them for my next performance, he warned me to acclimatize myself to the tablets for at least a week beforehand, which I dutifully did. Within 2 days I noticed that my 'mental' neurological state was much more relaxed whilst thinking upon my next performance.

Unfortunately, neurological suppressants slow down not only one's mental neurology, but also one's physical neurology, the two states are intertwined so to speak ! Therefore, although you may feel psychologically calmer with these tablets ... so does your entire body's reflexes. In my experience...my fingers' just would NOT, (no matter how hard I tried,) respond at usual speed, i.e. my brain would send the signal to my fingers & arms, but there was a most definite nano+ second delay, which really messed things up more. I tried halving the tablets, then quartering them ..... same problem !

You have to learn to battle these adrenalin rushes without medical interference I reckon.

I'm not slanting anybody who found this medicine complimentary to their playing, merely sharing my personal experience.

It took me much more time to address my 'playing in public fear', than it ever has to address my technical failings in playing the violin. In the end (if it's so bad !)...You almost have to 'eat' this fear, ... take it inside and play with it, turn it into an imaginary & pliable toy, (plasticine or play-doh,) and then mould it to a shape of your own liking.

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I think your GP was wrong in the way he told you to use the med! Over the long haul, even small doses of Inderal have a depressant effect (also they are contraindicated for some asthmatics). Why would you want to be aclimated to it? Also, if you take it with no immediate emotionally challenging situations to face, you will notice no benefits.

I only use a cut-up pill - about 5 mg dose for a performance (I cut up a 20 mg pill into quarters). If I take it 40 minutes before the performance I have absolutely no reduction in physical playing ability and no negative symptoms in my playing ability - and there are no after effects, if any, until several hours after the concert.

Alcoholic drink would increase any physical or depressive effects.

I have noticed a compounding effect if I use the beta-blocker for concerts on two successive days. These have been my experiences since first introduced to this medication 24 years ago.


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I can really relate to this one! One thing no one else has mentioned: certain kinds of preparation can help a lot. Understanding the structure of a piece (the key, modulations, ABA, etc.), even in a simple piece. Practicing "backwards": start with the last measure or phrase, work on it till you can play it perfectly, then move to the previous one, and so on until you reach the beginning. Practicing very slowly with a metronome (especially challenging when memorizing). The more different "angles" you have on a piece (intellectual, muscle memory, interpretive) the more confident and comfortable you will feel when you perform.

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Weel done Sherree, it's good that you actually got up and did it otherwise you would be kiking yourself not having tried it at all.

I've been playing about two and a bit yars but I taught myself for just over a year and I've been having lesson since september. I recently did my grade three. However it was not there that the problems started......

It started in about 1999 when I did my grade five piano, I was so nervous but I calmed myslef down with the thought, I've worked hard and I owe it to myself to do well, actually this though went staright down the tube when I got into the exam. I played three pieces, started to cry, the examiner found me a tissue in her bag, I then stopped crying, did some scalles, tried to play one three times, then refused to do it and then I left and I laid on the sette in our common room at school and cried for two lessons. I felt pretty stupid.

Determined not to do the same mistake again for my grade three violin I adopted to attitude of 'if I pass, I pass and if I fail well nevermind because I know I can play my pieces and what the heck, I can play Queen of Sheeba' (Which I love.)

The first piece was fine it was a fast baroque piece, and then came the Brahms lullaby. There was so much bow wobble you couldn't even pass it off as vibrato. I managed to get out of the exam room though before I started crying. I just burst into tears whilst putting my violin away.

I'm so glad there are others out there like me, I ove playing in a group but by myself and I'm fine i I have to play something different in that group and I can do that but it's standing up in front of people.

I leave school this year and would love to play in the end of year concert but I don't think I will be!!!!

I wish you all the best Sherree and anyone else who has taken it up at a later stage. I think it's great.

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Andrew, you could be right...although it may not be my G.P's fault. I have often wondered if I had a particularly sensitive disposition when it comes to medication. I just felt strongly enough about the effects of beta blockers & the effect they had on me personally.

I have heard that they have been incredibly helpful to some people, & I did take this into account whilst administering the medication to myself; I halved it after the first day.... then halved it again. I didn't mention that before because I didn't think it was necessary, oweing to aforesaid reason.

I in no way condemn people for whom this medication is beneficial, and would like to stress also, that I would never mix medication with alcohol.

If however, these tablets are being used as a crutch, as opposed to counteracting genuine health problems, I would advise that the 'real' problem, were to be battled with 'mind over matter'.


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Thats great. Congratulations.


Originally posted by Squawker:

Boy, does this ever sound familiar. My first session in public was an annual Christmas event at my church last December.

Everybody there knows that I started violin lessons at age 52 and we have a little theater in December where choirs, children, musicians all get together and put on a public performance.

My music teacher is a member and she assigned me two Chirstmas songs (of my choice)to perform. Plus the music chairman also asked me to participate. I couldn't come up with an excuse not to. So I practiced for months, learned two songs & could play from memory. The church accompanist rehearsed with me several times and I thought maybe it would be alright.

Well, when it came my turn, may hands were shaking so hard, I had trouble holding onto the instrument. I couldn't get my fingers to set down on the correct strings and at one point I was afraid I was going to drop both the bow and violin.

The only thing I could do was struggle through and when I got done, the audience gave me a tremendous qpplause. Afterwards, several people (some I didn't even know) came up and hugged me and congratulated me for having the fortitude to get up there and do it. Even though everybody was so kind to me, I still felt it had been a disaster and the most humiliating experience of my life.

It was two days later when I happend to talk to another church member on the phone and he brought up the infamous performance. He told me he had been so impressed by my having the courage to start at my age and get up in front of everybody that he had decided he was going to start clarinet lessons. He had always wanted to and up to that point felt he was too old to start (he's older than me). That's when I finally felt better.

I expect the next time I have to perform (and there is no doubt I'll have to)it will be only slightly better. And then a little better after that, and so on.

One of these days, I'm going to be able to get up there and actually play something and do it right. They won't be able to get rid of me after that. And it won't be for the public recognition or anything like that. It'll be for the same thing it's always been, the music.

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Will, thanks for the kind words.

Sheree, I was hoping my story would help you feel better and it appears we've all got a very real and very common connection about first performances. And more importantly, your story made ME feel better! Thanks for sharing and for giving us all the opportunity to talk about our experiences.


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Hi everyone! I'm a new member, and I read through this entire thread with

great interest...I too am the only adult student my teacher has, and my first

recital is coming up Saturday (June 9). shocked.gif All of the comments in this

thread were very helpful to me (Thanks, everybody!), and it's good to know I'm not

the only adult beginner in the world who has to play in recitals with all the little


I began cello lessons 6 months ago. I've decided on the Bach "March in G"

and the Handel "Chorus from Judas Maccabeus", both from the Suzuki book 2. I

will be playing them as cello duets with my teacher.

I agree with Andrew about the Inderal! I've used it off and on for a number of years, and it helps me immeasurably! I used to be a church organist, and one Sunday I forgot to take the Inderal and my hands shook so badly I couldn't keep them on the keys! The Inderal just takes the edge off my anxiety, but doesn't seem to dull my senses or reflexes. It's truly been a lifesaver for me.

Wish me luck Saturday, and to all you other adult beginners...keep the faith!

We're all doing a great thing, picking up a difficult string instrument as adults because we want to follow a lifelong dream!

Yo Ma-Ma wink.gif (Get it? LOL)

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I played in a pre-recital workshop of my teacher's this past weekend. Mildly nervous -- just enough adrenaline to make it direct from music to fingers with no intervening brain. smile.gif

I listened to the tape of it yesterday, with a (non-musician) friend who loaned me the tape recorder. It was... er. Not what I would have hoped, let's put it that way. My nervousness caused me to kick up the tempo a notch with every entrance, and the pianist's own ideas of what the piece should sound like (we didn't have a rehearsal beforehand) resulted in yet another concept of correct tempo.

After swearing for a bit, I commented brightly that at least the kids I was playing for had been quiet the whole time.

My friend considered thoughtfully for a moment. "Perhaps they were busy keeping score between you and the pianist," she said.

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lwl--I had to laugh reading that one. In fact all of these stories are close to home. But lwl's reminded me of a concert about 4 years ago. I was playing first violin in a quartet of 5 people (One of the parts was doubled, but I don't remember which). We were all adults, either beginners, or (like myself)returning from a long hiatus away from our instruments, playing in the little kids' end of year recital/concert to an audience of parents.

We were playing the Brandenburg No. 3, which I loved back in early high school, but had just looked at again that year. Somehow, by joking nervously with each other before the start, the five of us talked ourselves into being probably twice as nervous as we would have been. And somehow I ended up starting at a breakneck tempo which was clearly 1-1/2 times or 2 times faster than we had ever played it. I can still remember my horror as the fast part approached, and I felt completely trapped by my own foolishness into this unreasonable tempo.

We got through it, amazingly enough, though with none of the finesse that we thought we had achieved in practice. The others said they were thinking the same thing as me, "How is the violin going to play the fast part at this tempo?!!" The head of the string department at the local college was in the room afterward, chatting with parents, and her one comment was, "Well, that was ... fast."

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I've got my driving test coming up and I desperately want to pass so I think I'm going to take a beta blocker.

If the beta blocker supresses the rush of adrenalin isn't that a disadvantage, isn't adrenalin meant to make you play better? Otr does the beta blocker let just enough through to make you play with an edge?

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