Many singers feel anxious about returning to the stage when Covid restrictions end. Performance anxiety specialist Teresa Shaw looks at how teachers can help vocalists prepare for live shows.
As we ease out of lockdown, a return to live gigs draws tantalisingly closer – a prospect that should spark joy in the heart of every professional singer.
But for some vocalists, the idea of stepping back on stage after a year-long absence invokes fear instead of excitement.
Many vocal coaches report that some of their clients – even pro singers with years of experience behind them – are struggling with confidence.
To find out how singing teachers can support students who have lost their performing mojo, BAST spoke to Teresa Shaw.
Teresa is a vocal coach who specialises in performance anxiety. She is a senior lecturer with Voice Workshop’s MA Professional Practice and teaches at the University of Chichester.
Where should singing teachers start if a student is anxious about returning to live shows?
Singers need to know that they’re not alone – other people are feeling the same way.
The critical thing is for the singer to accept how they’re feeling, instead of squashing those feelings, this is part of what’s called Acceptance and Commitment Coaching or ACC.
Often, we tell ourselves that we shouldn’t feel the way we do, instead of saying: “I need to accept that these feelings are part of my current reality. It is okay to feel like this, and it will pass.”
Lots of singers have kept their voices in shape during the pandemic with online lessons. Does this present any specific issues?
I suspect that people will find it hard to come out and expand themselves, not just vocally but physically too because we’ve been so inhibited for such a long time.
Everybody’s talking about social distancing but what we’ve really been doing is physical distancing – that’s a different thing.
Once people get back in the room with their teacher, I think they will have to do a lot of big physical work to start feeling open again. At the moment, lots of people feel very closed in and inhibited.
Performance anxiety isn’t new, but lockdown seems to have amplified underlying issues. How can teachers help with this?
Performers are naturally overcritical – that’s part of the beast! But I imagine lots of people are recording lessons and listening back to them, and that’s not necessarily going to give you a very realistic snapshot of what you actually sound like.
If you have Zoom lessons, you’re doing what you can, but the sound on Zoom is not always the best. People have to develop the right narrative about what’s been going on and what they’re basing their self-assessment on – it isn’t the real world.
We’re all going to have to come out of this strange environment that we’ve been in for a year and work out what is real.
Singers will have to get out there and be in rooms with people and trust the feedback that they get, rather than trying to self-assess all the time.
How do we start to change the narrative from a negative one to a positive one?
I would say to students who get the opportunity to perform with other people that it will be a joyous thing, exciting and wonderful.
Think of it as something that will be fun and that by performing, you might be helping others. Audiences will feel euphoric at being with other people again, so embrace it as a wonderful thing. Don’t make it fearful; make it a celebration.
If you’d like to learn how to equip your students with the skills and techniques to manage performance anxiety, sign up for BAST Training’s Focus On: Performance Anxiety and Mindset.
It’s a one-day special event on May 22 featuring top speakers who will explain how singing teachers can:
- Diagnose performance anxiety.
- Help students develop strategies to manage the condition.
- Build a resilient mindset.