Dealing with Nerves

By Claudia Fountain


How do you deal with nerves when you perform?


Calmness is essential when you perform -- in any field, whether it is theatre, sports, music, etc. I'm a musician, and the way a lot of musicians deal with nerves is by taking a particular drug to lower their heart rate, take the edge off shaking hands, improve concentration, and remain calm. Then they drink coffee to stay alert. Rather than resort to taking drugs, I choose to prepare spiritually, which actually heals the problem.

One of the ideas that helps me is from the 91st Psalm: "He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty" (91:1 KJV). I turn to this a lot to handle nervousness and trepidation about a performance.

There are two very clear instances when I knew I was safe in God's care and was able to be totally calm. When I was a senior in high school, our youth orchestra conductor wisely let six of us, who were all going into music in college, play one movement of a concerto at the Spring Concert. I was thrilled. Somewhere in the process, though, I thought, "What if I get nervous?" The thought that immediately came to me in response was, "I will not be nervous." I just kept my thought focused on that idea.

During the performance that evening, I left my position as concert master and walked offstage to come out to play my concerto. I was as calm as the flowers in my living room. I never got lost or forgot what notes were next. I felt the same calmness for my master's recital. I had lots of friends there who were showing me support. This could have made me nervous, but I clung to my affirmation: I would not be nervous. I knew the four pieces I was to play. I had practiced them and played the recital three times in preparation for that evening. I was adamant that nothing could disturb me -- not even a claim of nerves. I walked out on the stage as cool as a cucumber.

If I do get nervous, these two experiences remind me that I can be calm, that I am safe in the Almighty's shadow.