I'll never forget the first time I played the piano for an audience.
It was my first concert and it was fairly full up. I was to play my first CD "La Jolla Suite" containing 12 pieces. There was to be one intermission and the whole concert lasted about 80-90 minutes.
Let me tell you that I was very nervous. So nervous I didn't think I was going to make it through. Suffice it to say that I really didn't enjoy myself. After many hours of trying to figure out why I was so nervous, the answer came to me - it was because I was self-conscious.
I was worried about how I looked, what the music sounded like, etc. I couldn't relax because I was too concerned about what the audience was thinking about me. And to this day, giving concerts is not my favorite thing. I realized that I didn't like being the center of attention.
What to do? For most people, myself included, playing in public is a fearful experience. Many suggest that you keep at it and eventually the fear will dissipate. But I ask myself why do it in the first place if you are scared. I have no hard and fast answers like many of the public speaking books would have you believe work. The truth of the matter is that some people are more comfortable in front of others. But one thing I think works is this: Start playing for very small groups of people and work your way up.
This desensitization process works better than most other methods because you learn that the audience is just made up of a large group comprised of smaller groups. If you can play for just one or two people and feel good about it, you are solidifying this experience. Then as you gradually play for more and more people, there is no fear because you do not carry it with you.
You see, if you play first for a large group, of course you will be self-conscious. But, by gradually building up, you don't create a situation where fear is generated in the beginning. Consequently, you don't carry it with you into larger performance spaces.
Edward Weiss is a pianist/composer and webmaster of Quiescence Music's online piano lessons. He has been helping students learn how to play piano in the New Age style for over 14 years and works with students in private, in groups, and now over the internet. Stop by now at http://www.quiescencemusic.com/piano_lessons.html for a FREE piano lesson!