Doctor of Musical Arts (DMA)
Musicians spend countless hours practicing their instruments over the course of a lifetime. These hours are primarily spent learning how to manipulate the instrument through scale studies, etudes, and repertoire. However, despite intense and diligent effort, many musicians find themselves unable to perform for an audience without some kind of interruption in creativity in the form of mental and/or physical distractions. The symptoms of such distractions can include heart palpitations, muscle tension, shaking, feelings of fear and panic, and an inability to focus on the task at hand. The presence of these symptoms, typically referred to as “performance anxiety,” is, to some extent, common among performers of all ability levels. The literature on performance anxiety is extensive, and suggests a wide range of coping strategies. Although many of these techniques are effective to some degree, they do not typically address the problem of how to cope with anxiety during the performance, which is the key to being creative and free of distractions in the performance. I think the practice of mindfulness meditation can be effective in coping with performance anxiety, both on and off stage. In its simplest form, mindfulness meditation can be practiced in everyday activities, such as walking or washing the dishes. Thich Nhat Hanh, a well-known Buddhist monk and author of several books on meditation, describes the practice of mindfulness as being aware of what one is doing while doing it. By being more aware in all aspects of our lives, we can better deal with both the physical and mental distractions that occur onstage. Though musicians recognize performance anxiety as something that happens during performance, the anxiety (and how one deals with it) is not limited to just the performance, but is linked to everything else in one’s life. The practice of mindfulness may be one way of learning to feel and accept what is happening in the present moment, and ultimately we may be able to apply that attitude to performance.
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Oyan, Sheri, "Mindfulness meditation: creative musical performance through awareness" (2006). LSU Doctoral Dissertations. 3922.
Griffin M. Campbell