Today we’ll be sharing an amazing story titled “Challenging Yourself on Stage” written by Bri C. It depicts an experience that many people can relate to and offers relevant and applicable advice at the end.
Ten-year-old Luke was unable to stop the nervous tapping of his feet. He scanned a neat violin recital program and counted how many songs until he played. One… two… three…he counted in his head.
For Luke, playing on a stage platform was the most frightening thing he could think of. Though Luke had played violin for nearly four years before, his teacher, Mrs. Toppins, only started having violin recitals recently. This was the first time he’d ever perform in front of people other than his own family.
Luke was very good in his classes at school, but when it came to giving oral reports, he often couldn’t sputter a single word- no matter how many hours he spent practicing in front of the mirror. Standing in front of people just scared him. They could be thinking anything about him.
Before he knew it, his call to the stage arrived.
Sheepishly, Luke made his way to the stage he would perform on. At the stage, he put up his violin. Mrs. Toppins silently motioned with her hands to put it down and bow—something he often forgot.
Blushing furiously, he pulled his violin into rest-position and did a slight bow and muttered, “I’m going to play Bach Bouree.” Some of the elderly people tried leaning forward to hear what he said because he muttered so quietly.
Luke rushed through the song, ignoring the lack of dynamics and his usual expression, and the fact that he was near tears. He didn’t use vibrato once. When he finished his recital song, he rushed down the stage, not even giving the audience a chance to clap for his failure. He plopped down by his big sister, trying to hide from everyone in embarrassment. After the recital, Luke’s mom drove home. The car was silent for the first half of the drive.
Finally, with a sympathy that surprised Luke, she said “I’m sorry your recital song wasn’t performed as excellently as you’d practiced it. I remember that same feeling you’ve had about being stage fright. In fact, the same things have happened to me except with different circumstances.”
“Really?! But you’re such a good musician! I can’t imagine something like that happening to you. You’re an orchestra conductor,” Luke blurted out without thinking.
“Oh, it has. Once when I was in dance as a 12-year-old, I was on stage and I blew it big time.” His mom laughed at the memory. “It was a horrible mistake. I set low expectations and didn’t practice enough. And I had the most important part of the dance.
“As I was heading for my big jump, my legs got all shaky like I couldn’t hold myself up,” she continued. “ It wasn’t because my legs hurt or anything; I was just stage-fright. I thought I wouldn’t be able to do my leap with my shakiness, so I stopped dancing, started crying, and guess what I did?”
“What?” Luke asked in wonder.
“I yelled ‘Sorry!’ to the audience and ran off the stage half way through the dance. The other dancers were left standing in embarrassment. You can imagine how they felt after that.”
“I didn’t know that.” Luke finally smiled, feeling a little better now that he knew he wasn’t the only one to get stage fright. “How did you get over it?”
“Well, I read something in my Bible just a few days after. Psalm 100.”
“What did it say?”
Him mom smiled. “The part I remember is ‘Make a joyful noise to the Lord all the earth.’ I know that I wasn’t playing an instrument, but I was performing on stage. From then and on that became something I remembered to do.”
“What do you mean?” Luke asked, confused.
“When you perform, you usually think that the main watchers watching you are the audience. Not so. We always forget the most important Watcher watching us. Do you know who that is?” his mom asked with a smile.
“I think it’s the teacher, since they help us get ready to perform,” Luke answered.
“That is true that she’s a big help with performing, but the teacher isn’t the most important watcher.” His mom looked over at him, waiting.
“If it’s not the audience or the teacher, I don’t know,” Luke finally said after thinking a while.
“Listen to Psalm 100:1 again: ‘Make a joyful noise to the Lord all the earth.’”
“Oh… I know! God.”
“That’s exactly correct! God wants us to use our gifts to bring him the most glory. You don’t need to worry about what others think about you as much as what God thinks about you. That’s why you make your music a gift to Him.”
“That’s a very helpful thing to think about. I’ll do what you did when you were 12. I’ll memorize that verse and whenever I’m feeling self-conscious about playing on stage.”
“That’s a good idea,” Luke’s mom said as their home appeared in view.
That was eight years ago.
Nervously looking at his program, eighteen year old Luke scanned through the list of performers. There I am, he thought to himself, the very last performer. Closing his eyes, he recited Psalm 100:1 in his head while waiting for the last note of his fellow pupil’s La Folia to complete. The fluent vibrato gave way to silence. Christy took a smiling bow after putting her violin into rest position. The auditorium filled with applause as she left the stage.
Though Christy was much less advanced with her violin skills, she was excellent and Luke thought she was the best at performing on stage.
Taking a deep breath, Luke knew it was his turn. Finally able to keep his feet from anxiously tapping against the floor, he stood up to arrive at the stage where he was expected to perform. After the auditorium settled down again, Luke stood up in his seat, gathered up his violin, and strolled to the “performance ground,” as he always thought of it.
He’d dreaded being center-stage as a child, but now he was equally as excited to share his music as he was nervous. Now he was equally as excited to share his music as he was nervous. He waited for his teacher to introduce him.
“Today I’d like to wrap up our violin recital with one of my most accomplished students,” Mrs. Toppings announced proudly. “This is my pupil, Luke Myer. He will be playing two wonderful pieces for us this evening. The first is introduced as ‘Violin Partita No.3 in E Major’’ by J.S Bach.”
Sitting back down, Mrs. Toppins gave him an encouraging thumbs-up. She knew that he’d always had stage-fright.
Muttering a silent prayer in his head, Luke bowed the way he had been taught.
“I can do this,” he thought to himself, forcing out of his mind memories of this failure at 10. Forcing himself to smile, Luke put his chin under his violin, put his rosined bow on the E string, and played high D.
The only thing he thought about was pretending the audience wasn’t there. While he played the incredibly difficult piece, he acted as if he was in his bedroom, playing with his natural expression he rarely did when in public.
Before he knew it, he was back on the E string, playing the last note of his long, long piece. Waiting for the note to stop ringing out, instead of forcing a smile, the almost-magical curving of his lips was impossible to break. The crowd applauded. Luke personally believed it was the loudest applause he had ever heard in his eighteen years.
Tips for Conquering Stage Fright
In this story, the main character, Luke, has some awful stage-fright. But his example of courage while playing on stage is impressive. There are a couple things we can learn in this story about playing on stage—something that can invite anxiety.
First, pretending that no one is there except you is a great help. A relaxed demeanor is more welcoming than if you think while you play, “Oh no, what if I blow it?”
Maybe because you are showing your musical ability while on stage, you care greatly what the audience thinks of your expressiveness. Pretend that you’re in your room practicing what really makes your performance your own. It will help you relax and perform to the best of your ability.
The second thing to remember when you are on stage is to really make the last half of your song sound brilliant. It’s what the audience will remember. Who cares if you mess up in the first half of the piece when the end sounds amazing? The end is what everyone remembers.
The last thing and most important thing you should remember when performing is to bring glory to God. He’s the one who has made music and the one who gives musical abilities. When you play on stage you should reflect who you are playing for just as Luke’s mother suggested. We should remember to make a joyful noise to the Lord.
With these three tips, you will feel more comfortable and do even better when you perform.
About the Author
Bri is a 9th grader. She likes to read, make clay sculptures, and play violin. She enjoys writing stories and this is her first time being published on Radiate Literary. Bri’s own experiences and school assignments usually inspires her writing. She enjoys writing stories that share life lessons–both to remind herself and share with others.