All performers grapple with the anxieties of stage fright. This is a Ted Talk tale of how one musician, Joe Kowan, found a remedy for his.
Joe Kowan is a Boston-based musician and graphic designer who has been struggling with stage fright since he first started writing songs at age 27. Despite his adorably expressed fears, he charms audiences with his own style of quirky folk and acoustic hip-hop, by turns poignant, salacious and comical. In 2009 he released the gangsta’ arts and crafts video for his original song “Crafty,” and in 2011 he was a finalist in the USA Songwriting Competition.
At the Music Junction, we coach our students to work through their stage fright in our two yearly recitals. Joe is an adult who had never performed before he was 30, but we have the advantage of introducing young children to the idea of being on stage in front of people while they are young enough not to have imagined all of the adult fears that contribute to stage fright. Encouraging your child to perform in front of an audience will integrate the experience into their development so that it feels more natural to them when they become adults. Everyone still experiences stage fright no matter how used to performing they are, but it can be managed.
The core reasons for stage fright are your inner fears – fear of failure, fear of being judged, fear of being vulnerable – so the main work for a performer is to address these fears. First of all, practice, practice, practice! If you know you’re extremely prepared, you’ll feel less likely to fail – and if you do, you’ll still know that you did your best. Second, stop worrying about what other people think! It’s a good idea to perform in settings where you know the audience has no expectations, so that you don’t feel pressured to be amazing right off the bat – like an open mic night, or a class or workshop. You can even try performing in a small group before going on your own to ease yourself into the experience. Lastly, perform often! You need to prove to yourself that you can be successful on stage, and then you’ll know that there is nothing to fear – that takes time and lots of opportunities to succeed.
We encourage all of our students, kids and adults alike, to participate in our Winter & Spring recitals. We appreciate it when parents get on board with prioritizing the recitals and encourage their young family musicians to be prepared and excited for the experience. Kids who have performance experience are learning a life skill that will help them in so many other ways – school presentations & leadership roles – and later, business presentations & job interviews.