The Context of Performance Anxiety

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At its core, performance anxiety is the fear of the opinion or judgment of others. Now, opinion is always dependent on relationships or the role you play. What kind of performance is it?

  • Is it a classical concert?
  • A jazz festival?
  • A party?
  • An audition?
  • A competition?

Where is it?

  • In a concert hall?
  • A church?
  • In the park?

The opinion “others” have is often more dependent on this very context than on your playing, on you as a musician, or even as a human being.

The question that naturally follows is: What is your role?

  • In your ensemble?
  • Orchestra?
  • Band?

By “role,” I mean the part you play (1st, 2nd, … trumpet) and, more broadly, in your relationships with members of the group. So, the question is: Does the role fit you?

  • Do you want to continue to have this role?
  • Or should you affect a change?

It’s often sufficient to have a clear picture of the role. You don’t necessarily have to say or do anything. German philosopher Reinhard Sprenger wrote,

“The expectations of others are the expectations of others.”

This means that nobody can force you to even consider their expectations. You can choose your own role.

Fear of the opinion of others may be no more than a symptom of a role that doesn’t fit you. Or doesn’t fit anymore. Or has never been really yours. If that’s true for you, go for a change.

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