Overcoming Performance Anxiety

A student recently asked me how I approach performing. Do I still get nervous? How do I handle audience expectations?

Any nervous anxiety really boils down to one thing - what will people think about me and how I performed. We’re calculating judgement before we ever step in front of the crowd, which in my opinion is a bit egocentric. What’s more important? The music and ideas you are presenting, or what people think of you? Of course you should strive to be the most skilled singer you can be. Beyond that you are essentially giving your audience a gift, and that gift is a beautifully prepared and expressed performance of whatever music is your repertoire. If you serve the music, putting the music as your highest goal, any anxiety you have about yourself will take a back seat by necessity.

Life is hard, so we all choose some form of entertainment to relax. Your audience is a group of people who have chosen to relax and enjoy the music you’ve prepared for them with your performance skill. They WANT you to perform well, so they’re already on your side! If anxiety inhibits your performance you’ve stolen a good evening of entertainment from them. To paraphrase my favorite line from the movie Hitch: they said yes when they could have said no, and it’s your job not to mess it up! (Only your mortal enemy would buy a ticket hoping you’ll fail. If you have a mortal enemy, accept my congrats on being a comic book hero, and thank them for allowing you to live rent free in their head.)

The only thing you have to do is be prepared and remember the audience wants you to do well, even in an audition or job interview. In the case of an audition, your audience didn’t buy a ticket, but they DO want to hire someone great which could be you.

These are important questions for singers, but they also bleed over into daily life when we need to give presentations, impress clients, or guide a group of employees. Many scenarios put us in the performance position in front of an audience. Put the music or ideas first, and you’ll find your adrenaline behind your excitement to share rather than your fear of how well you share.

Allergy Care

For a singer, allergies can be a minor annoyance or a gig endangering struggle. Whatever the case may be for you, there are tools that can help. I, unfortunately, had to learn the hard way what works and what doesn’t. Here are my tips to help you learn the easy way to stay clear!

Sinus rinsing:

It is, as they say, a thing. No one wants to do it, but it is the singular best remedy for excess mucus. I find that using a neti pot daily can rinse out the extra mucus that drips down the soft palate into the throat. I’ve read it can also eliminate dust and pollen that you’re exposed to during the day. Total win!

How to do it:

I recommend a porcelain neti pot because it’s easier to clean and the material surface won’t hang onto anything the way plastic can. Use distilled water to avoid any harmful bacteria and warm it up in the microwave to be close to body temperature; lukewarm not hot or you’ll injure your nostrils. I also use pre-measured packets of saline solution by Nasaline. It’s less fussy than measuring the amount every time, and the ph of the non-iodized salt (NEVER use table salt) mixed with a little baking soda is gentle and non-irritating.

Nasal sprays:

I once landed in the ENT’s office - the first time I was ever there - due to allergies. The doctor’s mantra was, “sprays not pills.” Nasal sprays like Flonase do a great job of clearing hay fever symptoms without over-drying your throat. Our nose produces the mucus that hydrates our throat and vocal cords. You never notice this until illness or allergies cause excess mucus and then suddenly it feels like this natural function is a horrible problem.

Why not anti-histamines? These drugs reduce the body’s ability to produce mucus, and if used regularly they can cause an extremely dry throat which in turn leads to a stiffening of the vocal cords. How do I know? I once took anti-histamines for about 4 months straight, and THAT friends is how I ended up at the ENT wondering why my throat was so dry and tired. I didn’t do any damage to my cords, but I’m lucky. A dry environment can lead to vocal injury from strenuous use or coughing.


Every singer should own a steam inhaler. The end.

The fastest way to hydrate your throat is not drinking water, although that is also important. Steaming re-hydrates the cords and sinuses in minutes, and it opens up the sinuses when they’re congested. It’s a great way to recover from a long night of singing before bed, and a wonderful way to start the day. How often you steam is up to you and what you need. I have gone through periods where I steamed every day, and some where I only steam occasionally as needed. Use your body awareness; you’ll love the way your throat feels.

*Ridiculous yet necessary disclaimer: none of this information is meant to supersede that of your medical professional, blah blah blah, you know what I mean. Be smart people.