Stage fright can be a crippling thing; so many musicians, despite their incredible talent, just can’t find it in themselves to step on a stage. But like any fear, facing it is the challenge and the cure- as Joey Tribbiani once wisely said, ‘Face your fear. You have a fear of heights, you go to the top of the building. You’re afraid of bugs, get a bug.‘ In medical terms, this is known as ‘exposure therapy’. Here at The Music Place, we try to create as many opportunities as possible for our students to take that first step on stage, be it at our singers’ nights, instrumental days, band concerts or our twice weekly acoustic event, Underground Artists. This week, we interviewed Emily Sibley- avid music lesson taker, desk-person extraordinaire and (now) confident performer.
So Emily, when did you first perform on stage?
I performed on stage when I was younger in dance and theatre shows, but as I grew up my confidence started to dissipate. I gained confidence again with acting since I wasn’t myself on stage but always panicked when playing music or singing alone, as it’s very personal and I worry that people are judging me. My first ‘proper’ performance by myself (not singing in choir) was around year 8 (2013) as I was playing piano in orchestra. I would panic so much my hands would shake, I’d forget what the notes were and it would all be a blur, and so I wasn’t able to perform very well. After my grade 2 and 3 piano exams, in both of which I had a panic attack, I decided I wanted to just stay away from performing with an instrument and just sing alone, although my legs still shook a lot!
Would you say that forcing yourself to perform made your stage-fright better?
The first time I did Underground Artists I was terrified, my legs felt like jelly and my hands were shaking so, as a result, I played badly . Since I’ve been forcing myself to play pretty much every week, I’ve grown so much in confidence in both performing and in talking to people and I think (hopefully!!) I’m becoming a better musician because of it!
How do you feel about the prospect of performing now?
I still get nervous performing – but I think that’s just natural as it means I still care about it!! I’m more willing to try and put myself out there though and do more things, it’s even making me more confident as a person because everyone at the market is so lovely and it’s a relaxed environment so it really helped me get used to being up on stage alone!
What’s the biggest show you’ve done to date?
On Saturday 23rd June, I performed at a gig with Megan Holliday (another wonderful Music Place performer and Underground Artist.) We were supporting a band called ‘The Wagon Wheels’ at The Thwaites Theatre, Blackburn. It was definitely the biggest thing I’ve done in terms of music but I genuinely think if I hadn’t had the experience and confidence gained through performing so often, I wouldn’t have been able to do it. It even gave me the confidence to start a YouTube channel, though I haven’t uploaded much yet!
So there we have it, living proof of the power of exposure therapy (…pfft psychology’s easy). So you might be feeling a little shaky, and things might go wrong the first couple of times but practise really does make perfect. Face the fear! Step on the stage! Get a bug!
Have a lovely week everyone!