Recently, I performed at a small, local arts festival. I was nervous....really nervous.
These nerves were heightened upon our arrival at the venue. I had been given the impression that I was providing background music, not that I was performing to an awkwardly intimate audience of people who were expecting a good show.
This was the first time that I'd properly performed outside of school shows. There was a myriad of professional musicians there, all with many decades more experience than me. Of all the performers, I was the only one to be completely solo (others played in duets, or with a piano accompaniment). And worse still, one of the two pieces I was playing was 'Pachelbel's Canon' – as in the really well known piece with an really difficult passage in the middle.
Trembling, I sat down. I introduced the piece, and explained that I was taking a risk, as I was sure the audience knew how it was supposed to sound. There were a few polite chuckles, followed by the most horrible person on the planet, sat inches away from me, who said
“Yes, we do.”
I was shaking, my hands were slippy, my heart was trying to break out from my ribcage and I couldn't see properly...
But both pieces went really damn well. I didn't drop the guitar. I didn't fall of the stool. The audience clapped and some of them might have actually enjoyed my attempt at a performance.
Image sourced from here.
I imagine that everyone experiences these nerves at some point in their lives. They happen when we're doing things that are important to us. When we've worked our backsides of for months, or even years, we need the one moment that counts, the only moment where we're judged, to go right.
The chances of me ever meeting any of the audience members from that performance again are very slim, but for some bizarre reason, I still cared what they thought of me. I still wanted to get it right.
I spoke to my Dad, who also performed at this place, about the weird nerves. He gave me the best piece of advice ever, and I think it's something that anyone feeling nervous could bear in mind:
You're either nervous, or you're an idiot.