I suspect that every performer – singer, dancer, actor, athlete, speaker, surgeon, president! – has felt that “whoosh.” That moment when it’s time to do your thing to the best of your ability in front of other people who might look with judging eyes. That moment when the best of you is required – and where your own reaction to this tells you just how much you trust yourself. Abject terror means you’re not all that sure you can do it; mild jitters means you mostly think you can do it, but you might mess up and you care deeply about that; flying high means you trust yourself to be awesome – and/or, you don’t much care about judging eyes!
Let me be clear: I’ve never felt the latter before a performance – although it is a goal of mine for this year! During and after the show, I am reminded how much I love to be on stage. But beforehand? FORGET IT. I’m awash in self-doubt and all manner of “why-did-I-decide-to-do-this-again?” trains of thought. What mild masochist puts herself in front of others where she may – GASP! – make a MISTAKE? And worse yet, be judged for it? Eeek! Does it take a special person, indeed, to put oneself through this? A fool? Or perhaps an adrenaline junkie who just loves the “woosh”? Am I all of the above?
I’m not sure, but I do know that the stage continues to call me, time after time – despite the bouts of self-doubt. And I’ve slowly started to realize that my level of anxiety is inversely proportional to how prepared I am. The more rehearsed, the less the fright. But even more than this, I am learning to shed the habits I picked up in music school. As a classical voice student, I was told I had to be perfect, or nearly so, to get the teacher’s approval. For me, that led to a special brand of psychosis. Because I wanted so badly to be perfect, but who CAN be every single time – and moreover, who would want to be? As I transitioned into singing hard rock and metal, I realized that while vocal chops are important to this style of music, what makes this genre tick is its passion. Metalheads are nothing if not fervent beings. They are fiercely loyal to their bands of choice, and they always embrace a “metal” lifestyle – which has less to do with scary makeup and upside down crosses than people think. Rather, hard rock and metal are about the power of being true to oneself – even in your ugliest, most imperfect moments. And if someone doesn’t like you for this, they can go to – well, you know: somewhere with flames 🙂
Yes, that is the message of metal, and it has taught me about being a performer, too. Trying to be perfect will lead to performance anxiety. Living and breathing onstage as YOURSELF in all your beauty and imperfection is that path to freedom and joy onstage. And to be able to share all those parts of yourself with an audience who most likely relates to your struggles – does it get any better than that? I think that’s why the best hard rock and metal concerts have felt like religious experiences to me – a confessional and a celebration of life all at once!
As I am preparing for my upcoming Battle of the Bands performance this July (where the winning act gets to open for my rock idols – like Sebastian Bach – people who have inspired my vocal style!), I’m working on my psyche as much as my vocals and my pole tricks. I’m working on releasing my classical music roots in perfectionism. I’m working on remembering why I do music in the first place. Because it brings me back to the core of myself. I want to release any fear of imperfections and actually scream from the rooftops on July 14: “Whisky a Go Go, HERE I COME!”
Performers out there, what are your experiences with stage fright? And how do you cope with it? I’d love to hear your stories! Leave your comments below…
I’d also like to thank the beautiful, brave souls who may have overcome their own performance anxiety to enter this spring’s “Kelly Maglia Rocks” contest! I salute the beautiful women who took the plunge and put their heart and souls on video. Ladies, I am more honored than you know that you took your precious time to interpret my music! From Mel Nutter’s simple and honest grace, to Adrienne’s Strauss’s bendy, liquid, SEXY, to Jennifer Strand’s always innovative and clever movement, I was both moved and impressed by what you brought to my music.
And of course, here are our winners in all their glory! Click on each name to see her video!
FIRST PLACE – winner of custom Kelly Maglia and feedback from Nadia Sharif, Anastasia Skukhtorova, and Natasha Wang.
SECOND PLACE – winner of a Pandora’s box of Kelly Maglia goodies
THIRD PLACE – winner of a Pandora’s box of Kelly Maglia goodies.
PEOPLE’S CHOICE – winner of a $100 gift certificate to “Kelly’s Closet”
Thank you again, ladies, for putting your best selves forward and for helping me share my music with the world. YOU ROCK! Xoxo, Kelly