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daddio

Performance anxiety?

I've been playing live (and usually solo) for over 30 years but still get butterflies before a show. Sometimes, depending on a variety of factors, it can almost overwhelming. I've never missed a performance because of it and, in fact, have found that the few times I didn't feel it much, my performance lacked an edge.

I'm curious about other performer's experiences with performance anxiety. Do you get it? How do you handle it?

I have found that it doesn't seem to be as much of an issue when I work with an ensemble and I'm not up front. But if I'm fronting, it still happens.

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As you probably know, my wife is a professional singer and vocal instructor. This is the gist of what she tells her students:

Performance jitters are a physical manifestation of a mental condition. It's not the jitters that make you nervous, it's the “nervous” that gives you jitters. So first off, if you are mentally prepared for your performance, if you know your material and have confidence, you're off to a good start. But even with preparation, some performance anxiety is natural. If you want to get over performance anxiety, watch what professional athletes do before a game.

Prior to any game you’ll see athletes “warming up.” Hockey players skate around the rink and take “fake shots” at the goalie. Quarterbacks and pitchers throw the ball. Boxers dance and take jabs in the air. Batters swing the bat. Playing a sport (or singing, playing a musical instrument) requires you to manipulate your body to do physical things.

When you warm up, you use your mental abilities to ready your body for the physical task it is about to perform. So warming up requires both mental and physical activity. If your mind is occupied with the mundane tasks of warming up, your body doesn’t get the chance to react with the jitters.

So… do your warm ups. Play scales on your guitar. Sing your vowels. It’s as simple as that. I’ve seen some of her students go from “oh-my-gawd-I’m-going-to-puke” to “I’m-gonna-blow-the-roof-off-this-joint” in a matter of minutes. It’s really quite astounding.

As I said, a touch of anxiety is good because it give you the “edge” that you mention, but a bad case of stage fright can really affect a performance in a negative way.

As for me, I never get nervous, and never did. Performing is way too much fun.

Neal

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When I play in our irish/scottish band (which has been infrequent of late!) I am the "front man" for the group, saying all the funny stuff and trying to engage people - Often this makes me mildly anxious, because I feel a pressure to not only play well, but also produce something special which isnt there when we practice the material beforehand.

Over the course of time I have learned to take a step back - If things dont appear to be going well audience-wise, just focus on getting the music as tight as it can be before then trying to build up the "frontman" act again after a couple of songs. The music is always the most important reason we are there, and if we get that right, the rest can follow. I have found this works wonders. Its almost like you take a breather before gently warming up the crowd again.

When I play open mic things I have become wretched- not because of a lack of personality etc, but basically a lack of preparation - my songs become littered with mistakes before I eventually realise I have messed up the song so badly that there is no point continuing. I dont beat myself up too badly, but I do wish I got myself a bit better prepared and made the most of my skills! I also dont get overly nervous about them. I just crash and burn and then get on with whatever is next!

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Prior to any game you’ll see athletes “warming up.” Hockey players skate around the rink and take “fake shots” at the goalie. Quarterbacks and pitchers throw the ball. Boxers dance and take jabs in the air. Batters swing the bat. Playing a sport (or singing, playing a musical instrument) requires you to manipulate your body to do physical things.

Neal

I played sports for years and just prior to game time, got butterflies every time! It didn't matter if it was organized or pick-up, the anxiety of starting the game made me nervous. Usually, after a few minutes, it all went away! I hear professional athletes talk about it all the time. Even though they've played in some of the biggest games in their sport and they've got a ton of experience, they still get those pre-game jitters as well. I get them prior to a speech and sometimes even before I deliver a lesson plan! Currently, I've been taking piano lessons and I choke every time I play a new piece! It's as though, I've forgoten all of the notes and have to teach myself all over again. The pressure of the instructor sitting by my side makes it difficult for me to think and more importantly, relax! But usually, after bombing in the lesson, I go home and spend hours working on the material and then I can play it relatively well!

Even though I'm not a performer, I think these experiences are similar and more importantly, normal! Some of the top-notch athletes that I've heard talk about it, including Jerry Rice, say it gave them their edge and helped prepare them for the game! Even though I hate that jittery feeling, I'd have to agree with them! If you're getting butterflies, it's probably a good thing! :D

And if the "performance anxiety" gets too bad, worse comes to worse, there's always Cialis! :D

Billy

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I've been playing live (and usually solo) for over 30 years but still get butterflies before a show. Sometimes, depending on a variety of factors, it can almost overwhelming. I've never missed a performance because of it and, in fact, have found that the few times I didn't feel it much, my performance lacked an edge.

I'm curious about other performer's experiences with performance anxiety. Do you get it? How do you handle it?

I have found that it doesn't seem to be as much of an issue when I work with an ensemble and I'm not up front. But if I'm fronting, it still happens.

Boy I feel your pain Don. I get that when I perform musically and if I am giving a talk in an area that's new to me. The "edge" from the adrenaline is good up to a point and then it's dysfunctional. Of course excellent preparation is key, but I think if you have the beginning part so well rehearsed that it's almost hard wired it let's you go on autopilot for a short period so that everything is rolling and successful and then you're in a good groove and the adrenaline edge is beneficial. Of course if you're not as well prepared as you'd hoped and the very first stuff doesn't go that well then I know I will get more flustered and my hands (and voice) get termulous... I have been known to use a little propranolol or nadolol and that can be really helpful. I've been playing live a lot more lately and just being rehearsed and more prepared has made all the difference in the world. Unfortunately my level of musical preparedness is always lesss than that for a professional talk.

It's funny though, seeing this post from you, and that picture with you up there playing, I just imagined you as "cool as a cucumber" and couldn't imagine you having performance anxiety.

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I've been playing live (and usually solo) for over 30 years but still get butterflies before a show. Sometimes, depending on a variety of factors, it can almost overwhelming. I've never missed a performance because of it and, in fact, have found that the few times I didn't feel it much, my performance lacked an edge.

I'm curious about other performer's experiences with performance anxiety. Do you get it? How do you handle it?

I have found that it doesn't seem to be as much of an issue when I work with an ensemble and I'm not up front. But if I'm fronting, it still happens.

Boy I feel your pain Don. I get that when I perform musically and if I am giving a talk in an area that's new to me. The "edge" from the adrenaline is good up to a point and then it's dysfunctional. Of course excellent preparation is key, but I think if you have the beginning part so well rehearsed that it's almost hard wired it let's you go on autopilot for a short period so that everything is rolling and successful and then you're in a good groove and the adrenaline edge is beneficial. Of course if you're not as well prepared as you'd hoped and the very first stuff doesn't go that well then I know I will get more flustered and my hands (and voice) get termulous... I have been known to use a little propranolol or nadolol and that can be really helpful. I've been playing live a lot more lately and just being rehearsed and more prepared has made all the difference in the world. Unfortunately my level of musical preparedness is always lesss than that for a professional talk.

It's funny though, seeing this post from you, and that picture with you up there playing, I just imagined you as "cool as a cucumber" and couldn't imagine you having performance anxiety.

Preparation is definitely important for me. I can't imagine getting up without being prepared. I always open with a song that I know really well and that helps too.

Many times after a show I'll ask a friend who was in the audience, "Could you tell I was nervous" and they always say no.

A few years ago, I did a series of shows as a duo with my adult son who is an awesome musician. I would be trembling with anxiety before every show and he was always cool as could could be. He's a professional actor and he said he's never been nervous before a show and couldn't understand why I was.

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I get edgy when I know I am going on. I don't mind being in front of people, but I can be anxious about screwing up.

It is far better when I really know my material, I am much more relaxed. I am also more relaxed in a venue that I know well. Some of this is because I know the sound will work for me, and I can hear myself.

My biggest dread is becoming nervous mid-song, especially finger-picking! I can find my fingers turn into a bunch of bananas and the sound I am hearing is dreadful! I often revert to another style at that point. Of course, it doesn't help when I am distracted about the guitar sound and then realise that I can't remember the next line (and just pray it "comes" at the last second). There is so much to think about.

I am at my best when I have good monitoring, I hit the guitar and hear the sound I expect and then hear my voice come out as I expect - then I can focus on selling the song. If I am not hearing it as it should be, my mind goes all over the place and I get nervous. Then things fall apart.

I am scared that I might find myself in this place again, especially in front of an audience that doesn't know I can do better.

So, yes, perfomance anxiety gets to me :(

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I picture myself naked.

But yes.. we all deal with it our own ways I feel..

Very simply as a few of you feel.. if you know your material well.. that is a big plus.. and if the sound is good and you know the venue.. also good..

but maybe nerves for some make a performance.. and maybe not for others..

I sing all my own songs.. and I know them well.. that helps me..

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Great advice all around. I think Neal hit the nail on the head with regard to being prepared and warming up, though.

Another thing to consider is pretending (to yourself as well as to others) to be confident. Act as though you are confident. Tell yourself you are confident. Visualise yourself performing in a relaxed and confident manner. Don't just do these things just before you go on stage; do them at any time - when you're walking or driving down the street, in the shower, or drifting off to sleep.

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This is a great thread. You all give some excellent to people. Especially for folks like me who happen to be extremely shy and find it very difficult to get through that first song. :)

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If I'm up there doing a group of songs, I make sure to start with something that's really well broken in, that I could do in my sleep and that has gone over well in other performances. If anything I'm doing feels like more of a challenge, like if this will be the first time it's been performed live and I could possibly stumble over any of the lyrics, it will be later in the set. And since I've already had a good time with the first couple of songs, I'm not so nervous and not so likely to screw up. If there are any technical issues at that point, the audience is already on my side and will be more forgiving, I tell myself.

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I would tell all of you -

Don't worry, you sound awesome.

Because I've heard all of you perform (some live and in person) and on the entertainment scale you're all above average.

But I do understand. I played classical violin for years as a child and teenager. It's a bit different when there's a large orchestra helping to drown out your flubbed notes but I do remember getting physically ill before each performance. I was so afraid I would single-handedly ruin the entire performance.

But for all the anxiety, I remember that time in my life fondly and well. It's courageous really and good for us to push back against our anxieties and insecurities. It not only helps us overcome them but it makes the experiences memorable. I think there might be a connection between adrenaline and long term memory retention. Funny how adrenaline has a completely opposite effect on short term memory. :)

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I personally, don’t suffer from anxiety when I perform.............my audience does!

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ahaha :P good answer stars!

-----------------------------------

Thanks Jonie.. hope you included me in that thought :)

The odd thing is.. I still suffer from social anxieties..

much more than any nerves when I sing!

I think confidence and enjoying yourself is a big thing..

plus I'm good at making up lyrics if I forgot any lol..

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I'm never that comfortable. Always a nervous wreck.

First time out, I froze 2 lines into the second verse. I mean physically froze... When it finally became apparent that this wasn't part of the show, a couple of good Samaritans helped me off the stage.

So the second time out was complicated by fear of freezing. I went to the bathroom just before, and the nerves made me sick. I puked my guts out, got on stage and actually did OK.

That became a bit of a disgusting habit for awhile, and then the getting sick just stopped.

I totally agree with you that the nervousness gives an edge to the performance. I guess the trick is to keep it invisible enough that it doesn't become a distraction, or hurt the performance. The more I play, the better I am at that.

I guess there's safety in numbers. I notice that if I've got other musicians playing with me, it's a lot better. I suppose it could be from the focus now being spread over more people.

John

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Let me just state that I am one big ball of nerves. I have Social Anxiety Disorder, so I'm just a mess all the time, even in my everyday life. But when I get up on stage, it mostly goes away. Just allow yourself to have that nervousness, and acknowledge that it will probably go away after a few minutes. Also, the thing that helped me was confidence in my songs. The first time I played with my band, I was a little freaked out beforehand. But when I got up on that huge stage for sound check, I thought "look at all those people, chatting with their friends, eating nachos, drinking. If they only knew how hard I'm about to rock them..." :D

That seemed to work very well. My only problem now is speaking in between songs. I tend to get lost mid-thought and stand in silence for a few too many seconds.

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I've run a lot of training courses over the years and the dynamics of performance are similar. Know your stuff as well as you can but when you stop feeling the nerves, you stop being so effective.

From my limited experience of performing live, the same applies. There's no substitute for knowing the songs inside out. When they come out without thinking you can relax. But if you are too relaxed, you forget to know your songs inside out. A little pressure is a positive.

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I can't express how much knowing your stuff makes it easy :)

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Wow,

Great thread, from someone who hides and records in the shower and hasn't been on stage since the 7th grade.

I think if I ever performed in front of a crowd (and I doubt that would happen), I will take

Stewart's advice and picture him naked..........

Golly Stewart.......do you really think that would work? :lol:

Sorry, couldn't pass that one up.........it was just there....begging to be said.......

Tammy

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I have been performing for a living for over forty years....I rarely get nervous and probably, thinking back, never have......I sometimes get excited...there is a big difference.

Nervousness is usually associated with lack of confidence and ability, fear of rejection, fear you will mess up, fear of the unknown....and being out of your comort zone.

Excitement comes with knowing something pleasurable is going to happen and being confident about your ability to make it happen.

Smile...it puts you at ease, make sure you know what you are going to do (practice your material and routine well) and give it your best shot.....remember that the audience is there to have a good time..... they are on your side. If you mess up or something goes wrong smile and make a joke from it.....a good laugh at your expense gets folk more on your side.

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Great topic, I appreciate all the advice offered here.

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I always run thru my material several times the day Im going to perform .. I also tape a pc of paper to the back of my guitar with the 1st line of ea song..

What is intimidating for me is performing in front of other musicians

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knowing your material is a must -- if you can't play the song cleanly by yourself then how can you expect to do it with people watching?

my trick? a metronome. learn your tempos, practice, practice, practice, and be amazed at how crisp your stuff starts sounding.

as long as i'm engrossed in my vocal warm ups and playing my scales before a performance i'm dandy, i basically build my confidence up that my guitar ability and voice didn't magically disappear right before the performance haha.

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Neal has a good point..

Make sure you enjoy it also.. :)

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I can get excited, but later years also very nervous. Never when I'm just playing guitars, as the memory there more seems to be in the hands, but if I have to sing, I'm a wreck. I have suffered from stress in my day job in several occasions, and as a consequence, my memory seem to has been damaged, so I can't remember lyrics. No matter how much I practice, lyrics just can't seem to stick. After a couple poor gig's, I've stopped singing live. I just can't do it anymore. Doesn't matter much career wise as I'm past 40, but it still matters as a songwriter when I want to present my songs to publishers, producers and play showcases..

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I find avoiding coffee, tea, pop or sugar helps calm the nerves. God knows I'm jittery enough before playing in front of a crowd that I don't need any extra caffeine boost. As the others have said: know your songs well and start with something easy and well rehearsed. As far as the folks with really bad stage fright go - I guess it comes down to how important you feel it is to get your originals out there. Playing open mic night beats watching TV at home.

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I must admit I quite like the butterflies - it means I care about the performance and am gonna give it what I can. Im a nervous performer in front of any group (when going for job interviews I had to dose myself up on rescue remdey -never done that for a performance tho) so I am always proud that I get up there. My worse "performance" was in a small band performance where my keyboard player got very nervous and tried to play through with the keyboard turned off and thought no one would notice - it through the rest of us and didnt really help the sound we were going for.

As for pre-perfoamce rituals a bit of dutch courage for me, a nice local ale, pint of guiness or a good pint of Scumpy Cider always does the trick :)

As for picturing Stewart naked.. well I havent found that works particuarly well for me :P

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My personality has to change when I perform. Normally, I am quiet. When I perform, I become out going. When I am not performing, I slump down on the drum stool. But the moment the band leader raises his baton. I jerk upright into a very formal posture, with my ears straining for any key or clue in the music that lets me interpret the emotion of the music at that time for the best possible sound.

I am always aware that mistakes on the drums cannot be hidden and that everything I do is heard over the other instruments. Drums never blend.

Normally, in life I would try to stay in the backgound. But when performing you can't do that and still do the job right. That makes me nervous. But changing my personna for the length of the song not only gets me through it, but to some extent improves my skill.

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I must admit I quite like the butterflies - it means I care about the performance and am gonna give it what I can. Im a nervous performer in front of any group (when going for job interviews I had to dose myself up on rescue remdey -never done that for a performance tho) so I am always proud that I get up there. My worse "performance" was in a small band performance where my keyboard player got very nervous and tried to play through with the keyboard turned off and thought no one would notice - it through the rest of us and didnt really help the sound we were going for.

As for pre-perfoamce rituals a bit of dutch courage for me, a nice local ale, pint of guiness or a good pint of Scumpy Cider always does the trick :)

As for picturing Stewart naked.. well I havent found that works particuarly well for me :P

what! last time I flirt with you .. lol

another thing.. for me.. is my health, the main thing that fills me with nerves

is how my chest is gonna be.. will I be able to breathe ok.. will I cough.. get choked up a bit.. stuff like that..

I don't get nerves much with my performing.. I'm quite practised now.. but mainly just my silly human body..

where do i get a new one?

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I don't have much experience performing, yet....but whenever I did, it was a wierd, but comfortable place for me. I really liked it! I did a Hawaiian TV spot and it felt super (even though I wasn't rehursed like I wanted).

The jitters I got before my event with track in high school....now, that was too much to bare!!!

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Here are a few ideas that I have seen help.

If you can, go to the venue when there is no one there but the bartender. Go up on stage and do a couple of your songs. Then in the evening before the show, go up again and stand in the place you will be performing. After that the stage will feel like "home". I have done this for years. Being confortable with the "setting" really helps.

Routine. Establish a routine the day of the performance. It's what baseball players do. Don't get too OCD though in case something interferes with it. Years ago I played with a well known sax man who actually vomited before every performance! He was fine after he did that.

Hypnotism. Yea, I have seen it work to help pre-condition your mental state.

This may sound crazy but.... If you are a guitarist/singer say, get a harp holder or some other instrument you are not familiar with. Work out a song using guitar, vocal, harp or anything else you can play all at once. Get up and perform a song. It will be chaotic, but do it. When you get rid of the alien instrument/item, you will find performing with just your guitar and voice much easier. It's mental conditioning.

Above all, perform a LOT. That will do as much as any anything.

Good luck

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I thought this looked like an interesting thread by it's title. But, now I know it refers to musical "performance anxiety." So, nevermind.

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The first gig we ever did I stood there the entire set, rigid as a stick, expressionless, and sang. When it was over I went to the bathroom and threw up. It was horrible.

Over the years I got better but the pre performance anxiety always persisted. What helped was when we did a Divinyls concept show where I played a role. I had to "act" pretty weird to imitate Chrissie Amphlett - dress in a school uniform, do all the strange mannerisms of hers and all the rest of it but somehow this helped - to be someone else!

What ultimately helped the most was this one time when I had to perform on radio - an original song accompanied by a guitarist.

I knew I would be nervous and this was live so I was totally freaked out that I'd stuff it up, forget my own words (which I HAD done in the past!) or something.

What I did beforehand though was to imagine - envision strongly in my mind (I really focused on this) that the outcome of this experience was going to be nothing but AMAZING and positive! I "watched" myself in my head perform the whole song with confidence and singing well. Imagined the interview going well with me portraying myself as easy going, relaxed and confident. Saying all the right things, no fumbling over finding the right words to answer his questions etc... In other words I shaped my own experience BEFORE it happened.

It worked! I'm telling you it really did work!

I was far less nervous than I expected to be and everything went smoothly and extremely well.

So, visualizations of positive outcomes really do help.

Facing the fact that those butterflies WILL be there, and there's not a damn thing you can do about them (they are totally normal and natural)and just working WITH them, instead of fighting them, is just something that happens for MOST people.

If you're performing for any length of time you KNOW they will begin to dissipate.

The worst thing I found was to drink too much alcohol. :( One glass or maybe two before a performance for me became a prerequisite (although I would hesitate to advise this really, but it never affected my ability to sing)

I only ever did it once - literally got so drunk I could barely stand up straight. Shameful, shameful! Awful, lol!!!

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.....................

What ultimately helped the most was this one time when I had to perform on radio - an original song accompanied by a guitarist.

I knew I would be nervous and this was live so I was totally freaked out that I'd stuff it up, forget my own words (which I HAD done in the past!) or something.

What I did beforehand though was to imagine - envision strongly in my mind (I really focused on this) that the outcome of this experience was going to be nothing but AMAZING and positive! I "watched" myself in my head perform the whole song with confidence and singing well. Imagined the interview going well with me portraying myself as easy going, relaxed and confident. Saying all the right things, no fumbling over finding the right words to answer his questions etc... In other words I shaped my own experience BEFORE it happened.

Beautiful. :rolleyes:

And it will work in any endeavor we people of this planet choose to put our hearts, minds and souls into, won't it? ;)

It worked! I'm telling you it really did work!

.......................

Oh you don't have to try and convince us. We believe you. :)

Now I can go off to la la land. :rolleyes:

Pleasant dreams everyone. :)

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It sounds wonderful, and I try to calm myself and envision a good performance before I go on. Then I go on and forget everything! :rolleyes: I forget how to breathe, how to sing, I blow chords to songs I've sung for 10 years. If I didn't have a set list taped to my guitar I wouldn't remember my set! So ... I'm at the point where I am no longer awful, really (hey the crowd asked for an encore last gig!) .. it's just not as good as I want. I wish I could perform the way I do in rehearsal (which helps a little, I suppose, but doesn't stop the brain farts on stage.)

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This really interesting,

When I perform I feel very at home...

I do all my original work and practice practice practice

I recite poetry and when doing seashore poetry I blow the conch shell

At the beginning and then at the end...

I was in the "Siesta Key" one note band ...for several years where about 13 of us blew the conch shell at sunset each night on the beach...so I feel comfortable doing it

I do get anxious once a performance is scheduled but I picture a successful outcome in my mind..and I do usually go to the venue and practice..sometimes it's a place I am familiar with having been there before and that helps..

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