I thoughts the stage fright and audition phase of my life was over. I was wrong.

Auditions have always been a serious source of stress for me. Sweaty hands, forgetting lyrics, even mispronouncing my own name! My brain ends up being a mess. Naturally, back when I was auditioning for music therapy positions, I thought my experience would bring me some comfort. Nope! On top of it all, in the time of a global pandemic remote audition requirements have been more challenging. Here’s an example:

Record three separate videos depicting your musical approach to three clinical scenarios for three different populations and three different clinical goals. Oh yeah, and provide supporting documentation.

Now, this is something that my school definitely prepared me for (woot woot!), since it was a hybrid program and I was frequently required to send in performance videos. What isn’t factored into the challenge is how my brain processes the anxiety. Yup. Stage fright is simply the musician’s version of anxiety, and it is no joke. My brain’s amygdala rocks out my fight or flight response like it’s a day job and my prefrontal cortex, in charge of control, takes a 5-star vacation. Cue sweaty hands and wishing I was anywhere else. The funny thing about all this is the fact that if I make mistakes, I can simply re-record, right? Well, sort of.

Our brains have a hard time telling the difference between being chased by a bear and the anxiety we feel onstage. When I can see that I’m safe, my body can feel quite the opposite. I use that information to re-ground myself. I count five things that I can see AND physically touch. This tells my brain that these things exist, and according to logic, I can’t be in the woods running from a bear in my favorite stilettos. Try it. Look for five things around you and touch them, counting one by one. How do you feel afterward?

Another coping tool I use is deep breathing. I know! Here’s the thing, our brains need oxygen. That fabulous resource just happens to be readily available when we take in air, so why not use that to it’s greatest potential? 6 deeeeeeep breaths. You’d heard people say it and most of you rolled your eyes. I dare you to try it.

Remember, these things take practice, especially in the moment. For now, remember that anxiety is normal, especially in high stress situations. There are a ton of tools out there. Reach out if you‘d like some help. I’m always here.

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