Oxford University Press's
Academic Insights for the Thinking World

  • Author: Julie Jaffee Nagel

The origins of performance anxiety

Noted psychologist and educator Erik Erikson has written about human development from a biological, psychological, and social perspective encompassing the entire life cycle. His famous chart “The Eight Stages of Man” is in his book Childhood and Society (1950). I have found his ideas particularly helpful to understanding the importance of development in musicians, particularly so since children begin to study musical instruments at very young ages.

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Stage fright and mental ghosts: managing stage fright as a growth process

William: I played in a violin recital a couple of weeks ago. I had played the music many times before but in that concert I really messed up my finger work passages – one in particular – and then I started feeling that my memorization was shaky. I was a nervous wreck and couldn’t wait to finish. I cannot figure this out. I feel haunted that it is going to happen again and again.

JJN: This sounds terribly upsetting – both your concerns about your playing and your worries about trying to figure it out on your own and not being able to do that. Has this kind of thing happened before? Do you typically try to figure things out on your own?

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Reflections on music’s life lessons

I find myself reflecting upon my own experiences in music as a student, a piano teacher, a performer, a psychologist and a psychoanalyst. How did I get from “then” to “now”? Who assisted me along my winding journey? Do you ever wonder these things about yourself?

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Tips for addressing stage fright

An A B C model to conceptualize anxiety responses was developed by the American psychologist Albert Ellis (1913– 2007) as a self- help and clinical tool to help people identify and understand what Ellis called “irrational” thoughts and feelings. Ellis recommended challenging and replacing negative and irrational thoughts with positive alternatives represented by Letter B in the A B C Model.

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