Anne Inglis reviews Sharon L. Stohrer’s text for players on building confidence and conquering performance anxiety
The Empowered Performer: The Musician’s Companion in Building Confidence & Conquering Performance Anxiety
Sharon L. Stohrer
245PP ISBN 9798831764840
This book is addressed to all musicians who ‘hope, dream and wonder’. It is a firm nudge in the direction of enabling the taming of performance anxiety and then the empowerment that results. It is full of good advice and encouragement, with chapter headings such as ‘Stepwise Success’ and ‘Tell your Inner Critic to Shut the H*ll Up’.
I remember the pages of The Strad devoted to Kató Havas, and videos and books, especially her Stage Fright: Its Causes and Cures, with Special Reference to Violin Playing, which dealt with this topic decades ago; many performers found Havas’s tips helpful. Her writing was focused on string players and their problems engendered by stage fright, which in these pages do not need spelling out. The language has changed, and stage fright is often referred to as anxiety, although there are plenty of references to stage fright, too, as Stohrer doesn’t dissemble and aims to provide a useful process for an approach.
There is emphasis on preparation, and that there is no silver bullet. Stohrer calls the process of overcoming stage fright a journey, and that for some it might be a longer one than for others. She invites you to doodle and be honest on written reactions. Attention is paid to the different types of focus, for example narrow focus, often achieved with the use of breath as in yoga. And the methods of achieving this are included in your daily practice.
Topics addressed include fear and its place in a performance; breathing, the natural tranquilliser of exercise; and practical techniques for personal programming. There are pages of strategies, a section on self-analysis, confronting your inner judges, and the importance of both rest and fun. And there are plenty of resources mentioned, including apps.
I found this an invigorating book, and very generous in its advice. One feels the author is really on side and trying to help, and the mood is always positive and encouraging but not prescriptive or controlling. Anyone suffering or affected by anxiety could benefit from its pages; and there is plenty, too, for the non-performer that could support approaches to difficulties in daily life.