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Count Down: Managing Stage Fright

It is still November, but to me it almost feels almost like New Years Eve. I can imagine the Ball dropping at Times Square in New York at the stroke of midnight on Jan. 31. I am counting down now ……to November 30. The words of the song “Something’s Coming” from West Side Story come to mind.

For about 3 years, I have been writing a book titled “Managing Stage Fright: A Guide for Musicians and Music Teachers”. The process has involved much more than writing the chapters. I would like to share with you some of what I have been doing as we reach the Birth Day of my book on November 30.

The beginning of this time table began when I sent a letter of inquiry to the Editor in Chief of Music at Oxford University Press. From her first interested and encouraging reply to sending her an outline of possible chapters, to writing a brief synopsis, to describing my intended audience, and then submitting several chapter examples, the book has gone through many reviews, revisions, and edits. Receiving the news that Oxford wanted to publish my book was a very exciting moment. Then the intense writing process began.

All of the requirements to get a book from an idea to a proposal to an acceptance to a publication take time – and more time than you imagine. There are many people involved at each stage – and various lengths of time between sending in copy and receiving feedback. Sometimes deadlines come and go – and new deadlines are set. As the date got closer to publication, I was wrote blogs both for this website and for Oxford’s publications. Facebook messages and notices and comments began to appear. A special Author Facebook (Dr. Julie Jaffee Nagel Author) page was created for information about the publication and some “tidbits” from and about the book. I began to receive invitations to do interviews for webcasts, submit guest blogs, and some pre-publication presentations. It has been busy, exciting, and at times exhausting to keep up with everything.

I particularly remember two important decisions that were made concerning the book. The first was choosing a title. I did not want to convey to readers that one could “cure” stage fright or offer unrealistic expectations. But I did want to plant the idea that those who struggle with stage fright can understand what makes them so edgy and lose self-confidence in public, and that there appropriate strategies that music teachers can use to help anxious students – and themselves.

All the while, I wanted to be clear that music teachers cannot be psychologists any more than psychologists can be music teachers. I also wanted to write on a topic that has not received much attention regarding stage fright. Most publications – and there are not a lot of them – focus upon the performer. I wanted to reach out to teachers and parents and others who can assist anxious students. Because of my background in music performance, I also wanted to address musicians, but also emphasize how performance anxiety is common to so many people who appear in public. In that respect, performance anxiety and the information in my book, crosses the boundary of specific occupations. Thus, in collaboration with Suzanne Ryan, Editor in Chief of the Music Division at Oxford, we came up with the title of “Managing Stage Fright” . “Managing” came closest to what I wanted to convey.

The second decision that stands out was choosing the cover. This was much more difficult that it may appear. Again, my editors (and often my family and friends) were invaluable. But the choices were not so clear – at first. How does one show the emotions associated with stage fright in a photograph? Should I use something impressionistic like colors or abstract designs? I did not want to limit the cover to a particular instrument. I wanted readers to use their imaginations and experience emotion when viewing the cover as gateway to the book. After many many choices were considered and disregarded, I came upon the cover photo that you will see. After a long period of searching photos and not finding any quite right, it took all of a second for me to know that a spotlight shining on a dark empty stage was the cover I wanted to use when I came upon it. I hope it sparks your imagination to read further.

Every student and performer probably has been asked, “How long do you practice every day?” The question, “How long did it take you to write this book?” is typically
posed to book authors. In responding to the latter query,
I can say that it has taken this author more than three years but a lifetime to write this book on stage fright. As a performing pianist, I experienced stage fright, and as a psychotherapist and psychoanalyst, I have treated and made presentations to numerous others who experience stage fright. My thinking about this imposing
topic is lifelong and remains a work in progress. In one respect, this book is somewhat autobiographical. In writing about stage fright, I tapped into my winding
journey from being trained as a classically trained musician to a psychologist and psychoanalyst.

The common thread in my personal and professional journey has been my interest in relationships with people and my curiosity about what makes them “tick.” In this book, I share my experiences, research and clinical findings from my hybrid education, and lessons I have learned from my former (unidentified) piano students and patients. I elaborate on my own travels, travails, and discoveries about stage fright. I have found the journey energizing, rigorous – at times difficult, full of unexpected discoveries about myself and others, and yet always vibrant and satisfying. My personal journey will be ongoing after this book is completed. I hope your journey will continue after you finish reading the last chapter. The topic of stage fright is eternally fascinating.

It is my sincere hope that you will find this book informative, useful, creative, reassuring, and thought provoking. As we learn to understand and manage stage fright and integrate this knowledge into teaching and self- reflections about ourselves, my objectives will be accomplished.

Please visit my website (www.julienagel.net) and my Author Facebook page (Dr. Julie Jaffee Nagel Author) to learn more about “Managing Stage Fright” – I would love hear your comments and to celebrate its Birth Day with you.

4 COMMENTS
  1. Louis Nagel 2 weeks ago

    Congratulations on what know is a truly fine book and the benefit it will give to its readers.

    Reply
  2. Julie Nagel 2 weeks ago

    Much appreciate your endorsement – and your support during the hard work.

    Reply
  3. Henry Buchtal 2 weeks ago

    Dear Julie:

    I am fortunate in never having experienced stage fright. Although I have never been a performer, I have had to deliver speeches in front of large audiences. I have also had to lecture and actually enjoyed it. I suspect that politicians probably are not subject to stage fright either. What a shame that Donald Trump doesn’t seem to suffer from stage fright, and even he did, I doubt it would shut him up.

    All the best,

    Henry

    Reply
  4. Julie Nagel 1 week ago

    Thank you, Henry for your reply – you make a good point that many people experience stage fright who are not musicians – such as public speakers and other types of performers.

    Reply

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