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Do I Have to Play in Front of People?

The short answer is, of course, “No.” You can learn an instrument and be happy just playing for your own enjoyment. Many hobby musicians do just that – but what if playing in front of people actually made music even more fulfilling?

Newer students are often intimidated by the idea of performing the music they have worked so hard to learn. They’re understandably nervous, and worry that they’ll make mistakes and disappoint those closest to them. They go to lessons, practice and improve…but refuse to share their music with anyone publicly. It’s okay to feel this way (and normal too!) – especially when you really care about music – and your family & friends.

Where this limiting belief becomes a problem is when it holds you back from taking a chance on something that might push you to even higher levels of success and fun with your instrument!

Here’s an example:

A young student diligently practices on most days, and is improving, but feels lonely (musically speaking!). Yet, she refuses to become involved with a low-stress youth orchestra that’s aimed at helping kids develop their musicality while having fun. Why? Because she wants to get better first.

The months pass, and she continues to feel conflicted, and one of two things is alsmost inevitable:

First, the most positive outcome: She takes a chance on the youth orchestra, and finds many players at a similar level! The opportunity gives her confidence, and she practices even more – and begins looking for other places to play with a group.

Second, she sells herself short, never taking a chance on the youth orchestra. She allows her fear of “messing up in front of all those people” to control her, robbing her of a chance at making new friends, learning new things, and growing far beyond the walls of her teacher’s music studio.

I have seen both happen repeatedly over the years; I’ve also seen people decide they really didn’t like the orchestra route, and wanted to find a fiddle meetup. Those are both valid and excellent routes to take – they both help enhance the student’s experience, and grow their musical mind.

My question is – how do you know you don’t want to play in front of people until you try?

The very first audition I ever did was when I was in 9th grade, in front of a bunch of parents and other musicians who were also going to audition for honors orchestra within the district. There was an on-stage portion, and one done in private.

Until the first notes left my viola, I was terrified – my hands trembled horribly! That primitive, reptilian part of my brain was convinced I was going to go down in flames.

I didn’t though. Sure, there were a couple of mistakes, small ones; but they weren’t big enough to knock me out of the running. I still got in, and it was a fabulous experience. I am glad I took the chance. In hindsight, even if I had failed, it would have been a great for me. Failure isn’t really permanent – it just means you’ve got more learning to do before success. In some ways, I welcome those failures because they actually give me more information than success. Sure, they hurt – but they’re still valuable.

My favorite part about that day was the applause at the end. I learned then, that no matter how much I love music (and I am one of those freaks who actually enjoys practicing) – the applause at the end means I was successful in bringing joy to those listening. Isn’t that what it’s about?

What’s holding you back from sharing your music with people?

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