About Me

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Atlanta, GA, United States
When I suffered a lip injury that ended my career as a classical trombonist, I thought my life as a musician was finished, but I fell in love with music all over again when Santa gave me a guitar for Christmas in 2003. Even as I was struggling with my first chords, I was planning a new performance career. As a trombonist, I performed with the Heritage of America Band at Langley Air Force Base, the Ohio Light Opera, and in pick-up bands for touring acts that included Rosemary Clooney, George Burns, and the Manhattan Transfer. Reborn as a jazz guitarist, I sing and play my own solo arrangements of jazz classics, am half of the Godfrey and Guy duo, and hold the guitar chair in the Sentimental Journey Orchestra. I have been a freelance music copyist since 1995, served as Director of Music at Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation from 2011 to 2017, and currently serve as Contemporary Band Director at the same congregation.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Stage Fright

As a guitarist and singer, I need to have steady hands and good breath control, so of course my stage fright manifests as shaky hands and a tight chest. I’ve been dealing with stage fright all my life. It’s a highly unusual thing, getting in front of people to perform. I’m shy and withdrawn by nature, and sometimes I question the wisdom in choosing a career path that puts me in front of people all the time.

Fortunately, my stage fright has decreased over time. Here are some tricks I use. Maybe this will help you deal with your own nerves.

  • Accept it. Don’t fight it. The worst thing you can do if you start to get the shakes is to suppress them. You’re experiencing a fight-or-flight adrenaline surge. If you try to suppress the shaking, you only make it worse. I usually start to get nervous about halfway through the first song. If I feel it coming, I literally think to myself, “Hello friend, I’ve been waiting for you!” Nervousness can be your friend. It’s a sign that you care, and if you’re able to channel it, you can use it to add excitement to your performance.
  • Breathe deeply and let it out. For me, the best way to release the adrenaline is to take a deep breath and blow out. It helps me to think that I’m actually blowing away the nerves when I breathe out. If I feel the shakes coming, I’ll immediately begin taking deep breaths.
  • Arrive in time for a good warm-up and quiet time. Some musicians have no problem showing up just before show time, but I need some serious alone time, preferably in the space I’ll be performing. I like to arrive early enough to set up my gear, make sure everything is in order, warm up a little, and then simply occupy the space for a while without being bothered.
  • Prepare! One sure way to get nervous is to come to a gig unprepared.
  • Deal with the now. If you just missed a note, don’t worry. It’s done and gone, and there’s no getting it back. If you worry about a difficult passage coming up, you increase the odds of missing what you’re playing at the moment. If you dwell on what’s behind you or ahead of you, it’s easy to get nervous and miss what’s happening right now.
  • Perform a lot. The main reason I’ve been able to deal with my stage fright is that I’ve been performing a lot. Although it’s not natural for me to be in front of people, the more often I perform, the more normal it feels.

Here's a site with some more useful tips for dealing with stage fright: http://www.happiness-project.com/happiness_project/2008/02/this-wednesda-3.html


  1. Most everyone in the audience is rooting for you and wants to like you and have a good time enjoying your music. Remind yourself of that. They didn't come to see you crash.
    I sweat profusely every time, even when I'm not that nervous. I don't know why, but it always happens. So I just get used to it and try to have a towel near-by.

  2. Good tips. I fight this all the time.

  3. An addendum: Remember that the audience is on your side. They're rooting for you. The only one judging you is probably you!