Page 1


Table Of Contents Dedication




I ntroduction


C hapter 1: How Performers





Audience Perform

C hapter 2: Stage F right Uncovered


C hapter 3: The B attle



C onclusion


Work C ited




Dedication This book is dedicated to my loving family. They have helped me throughout my life and I love them more than anything. Also I owe a thanks to Red Rock for letting me use there facilities!



Foreword M y strive for constant perfection is a quality that can be painted on a relatable canvas. Mom and Dad grab a brush and paint each stroke of my life. I am born with art, genetically and influentially. Quite a few people can say the same but what makes me feel unique are my observations. Born in a family so tied together, so inseparably bonded, the makeup of my family can be compared to solid matter; its molecules are close together. It was Junior high school where it started. With a violin in my hand, I walked into my first orchestra class. Not a single day of violin lessons were to my advantage. Actually, I did have one advantage: I had a natural talent. I was able to pick up the violin and tune perfectly with the class. While I attended the class for two years, I was able to compete with the students around me except I couldn’t read musical notes or understand theory. One class period, my instructor focused his attention to the violin section of the orchestra. He stared me directly in the eyes and said, “I want you to play the last part of this Vivadi piece, just you.” My pale face had flooded with red blush. I couldn’t even describe how much shock ran through my body that moment. I held the violin under my chin and began to slowly bring the bow to the surface of the strings. I squinted harshly at the individual notes trying to make sense of it all. Using the memory of how the song sounded, I drew my violin bow and fired my best shot at the instructor. It sounded horrible. “Play by ear,” I call it. I have one specific skill that allowed me to play in the orchestra. When the collective sound of the cellos, violins and violas filled and echoed the room, I could absorb the sound and output similar notes that blended very well with the orchestra.


T his documentary is designed to portray my insight. This writing piece further dives into my personality and intuition. It is not the mechanics of my essay that can bring wonders, but the entanglement of my thoughts and unique perspective. Somewhere along the road to the creation of this essay, I began to understand my visual journey that followed with my research. A journey it was, to connect and communicate with other people that lie on my artistic canvas. Relating to these musical artists was a phenomenal occurrence. To indulge in the sweet spot of these musicians opened up my mind to a musical simplicity that fluctuates in every sentence of my essay. The inconsistency of my essay

births variety and assortment to satisfy a wide range of audiences. My purpose for writing this documentary research paper is to show how stage fright widely affects many individuals including myself. Also I wanted describe my personal adventure in which I overcome stage fright. During the research process, I revealed exactly what I had wanted. I had uncovered the inner depth of potential that lurked inside me. My musical talent has become clear after discovering my capabilities to perform. Future opportunities are in sight and playing piano develops as my newest interest. I am deeply inspired to expand and reach out to an audience.


Introduction L ights beam across the stage, wooden and warm. Fright develops from the surrounding environment while the audience glares steadily yet abruptly at you. And you, who exactly are you? Someone who has built the confidence to come up on stage and perform? Now you are shaky, insecure, anxious, uncertain and unsettled. The thing is, you can choose your outcome. Outcome one: You divide your attention from the audience and step foot in an alternate existence in which your spirit embraces your mind. You no longer have stage fright. Outcome two: You announce in the microphone that you have stage fright and kindly ask the audience not to judge. You continue to play without stage fright. After failing to impress or inspire your community of listeners, the audience loses interest. Conventional habits probably have you believing outcome two is a more manageable, effortless way to perform. Applying controversial opinions, the outcome could initially have gone many ways, but stage fright tends to occur because the audience will naturally judge you. The superior performance you put on display is just bait for the audience that will quickly devour any confidence that squirms its way onto the stage. It is best to show the audience you are confident and not afraid. That is the most powerful impact.


Currently, public speaking, a comparable anxiety to stage fright, tops the list of the most common, natural human fears (Psychology Today). Stage fright collects from the idea that human beings consistently strive for status and belonging. It is the fear of presenting or interacting oneself in front of a group of people. The collective presence of an audience instinctively causes the symptoms of stage fright. A neuroscience website stated that “stage fright is an emotional and physical response that is triggered in some people

when they need to perform in front of an audience — or even an anticipated or perceived audience� ( My story begins with the battle of such anxiety and seeking a solution. My fear of performing imprisons my chance to reach out towards an audience. Red Rock cafe has given me the opportunity to face my fears. I will perform at one of their open mic events. After documenting the experience of other performers at Red Rock, I will discover the outcome of my performance. That is the inspiration of my story.


Chapter 1: How Performers Make the Audience Perform P

urpose can be defined as impacting a society, environment, or a community. Anyone with ambition has one goal, to achieve a purpose in their community. It is agreeable that a computer engineer or a scientist, for example, have a clear purpose to benefit mankind, but what purpose does a performer have? Victor, a frequent musician at Red Rock open mic, described his purpose as essential to the Red Rock community. I asked him what effect he had on his audience. He said, “I have learned to pick up how other people feel and voice it and thats really what public speaking is really all about.” Victor believes that fulfilling the audience’s interest has a much greater impact than just performing with superior talent. Victor brought up Thomas Wades, a country musician, and described him as an inspirational singer. Supporting Victors theory, an article about the purpose of musicians stated: “In difficulty of learning, music lies somewhere in between speaking and writing. Most people have some musical ability, but it varies far more than their ability to speak. Dr Patel sees this as evidence to support his idea that music is not an adaptation in the way that language is, but is, instead, a transformative technology” (Economist).


Victor also mentioned about Thomas: “I remember watching a Thomas Wades concert and I love that guy. Why? because he doesn't care about his talent. He keeps moving and expressing his meaning.� Victor infers that Thomas is a musician who does not have stage fright and does not hold back to communicate his message to his community of listeners. I believe the purpose is to get up on stage, embellish the audience’s life and emotionally impact them.


I became curious about whether posting an album online would

impact the listeners the same way. I asked Victor if he would rather have his music heard or listened to he stated his opinion, “When I hear someone perform something and it is powerful, it makes me want to go up and talk to them. Here are these people who did something great and enriched my life and I can't go up there and thank them.” After hearing his opinion I began to understand the true purpose of a performer. I had realized my talent is publicly hidden and such talent has no inspiration until a community or even a couple of people are involved in my music. My stage fright is captivating my ambitions to become an influence, the sole purpose of a performer. So then I wondered if I overcame stage fright, went up on stage and performed horribly, would my awful performance impact the audience? I asked Victor how he feels about a terrible performance and he responded, “You would ruin the time up there and waste it. So really you don't want to just go up there and perform for yourself, you want to have them go up there and perform for you too.” He indicated a reaction from the audience was vital to affecting the community. Victor’s idea shows that overcoming stage fright and making an impact requires a strong connection with the audience. With that in my mind I asked Victor a rather unusual question: “Victor, can the audience have audience fright?” Victor thoughtfully answered, “My band member and I get a little crazy. I get up there and talk about some pretty dark things. Drug use, sexual abuse, fighting, and violence. I don't get to perform to my fullest ability and I have to tone it down because if I did perform to my fullest ability I would scare these caffeinated people who think they are better than everyone else. There is a sense of arrogance here.”


“I don’t care who they are or what they do I’m just here to do what I do.”


Shocked, not only by the limitation of the purpose, but by the arrogant sense of community at Red Rock. This remark brought my stage fright to a new level. I visualized thoughts of being judged negatively by the audience at Red Rock. I asked him whether the audience's arrogance gives him stage fright. Victor said, “It doesn't. I can see how it will for other people but like I said I become this alternative personality and this alter ego. I don't care who they are or what they do I'm just here to do what I do. There is nothing they can do to change me. That feeling saves me in these situations.” Will that feeling save me? How will I create and construct an alternate version of myself? I have learned that in order to make a powerful impact on a community of listeners, I have to venture out, express my message and have a purpose at the community of Red Rock. Robert Wilson, an innovation consultant who conducts speech seminars, wrote in an article, “Don’t let your fear of embarrassment keep you from it. Focus on the reward and take a bold step toward it.” My goal: Stage fright must go. My reward: I will have a purpose at Red Rock open mic.



Chapter 2: Stage Fright Uncovered A heavy, cotton woven sheet, taking length of a large stage, is placed over a clear, transparent box that encloses you. You are performing to your fullest ability and all you hear is the clapping of the audience, positive chatter, the motion of new audience members as they make their way into the rows of seating. Everything is going perfect for you. Unseen by the audience’s judgmental glares, performance continues flawlessly. Now, what if an audience member comes up on stage and removes the sheet from the crystal clear box? Watchful, judgmental eyes are what can ultimately lead to stage fright. Stage fright can also occur if you lack confidence in your music and you're afraid of posting your newly recorded track. Relevant to my journey to overcome stage fright, I want to focus on understanding my stage fright so that I can be the hero of my community. I want to make a difference and have the audience leave with my name on a piece of paper. My aspiration to perform and express my music is strong, but hindered by stage fright. I want to defeat stage fright, but first I must know what it’s all about. What do we fear more than death? Public speaking. When I did a presentation in class on the topic of WWII and the Nazis for example, I had experienced stage fright. During the presentation, my thoughts were constantly interrupted by my self-consciousness and fear of being criticized. My sentences were incomplete, I stuttered, and use many fillers such as like, um, and uh. Every time I am told to do a presentation I am afraid of having stage fright. I indeed experience fright about having stage fright.


S imilar sensations and symptoms of fearing death occur during a performance. Ostracism explains this feeling of death. The term is defined as the exclusion from a group. It was used in Greek to describe the banishment of an individual from a kingdom that was decided by the group of people themselves (Psychology Today). An animal in the wild, for example, survives off the gathering of food and the protection of the group of its species. There is always going to be a predator that threatens their

life and if the animal is ostracized from their group, they will be prone to their predator. Eventually the animal won't be able to gather enough food because it cannot protect itself and will die. That internal, psychological feeling drives humans to believe that they are experiencing a form of death, social death, when performing on stage. So technically we are just an animal up on stage. We are afraid of being rejected by a group or an audience and that is where the feeling of stage fright comes from.


I play piano. The songs I make up are very experimental and have never been heard by the public. If I perform those songs, I am afraid that I will be criticized and immediately ostracized by the audience. My sensitivity to the sounds of the piano allows me to create my own musical composure. Since I have stage fright, I will be stiff and firm when I play. In order to play expressively, a performer needs to be vibrant and flexible to portray emotion. I want to display my piano talent freely and not limit my expression.


“People are the least judgmental they could be in an open mic performance.�


Contrary to my opinion on stage fright, when I asked Armon, a musician at Red Rock, whether he has experienced stage fright, he said, “Yes I have experienced stage fright. People aren't judgmental. People are the least judgmental they could be in an open mic performance. People are so forgiving they don’t even notice anyway.” Armon believes that the audience at Red Rock is forgiving and open to accepting mistakes. That means I shouldn’t worry if I do bad or act frightened when I’m up on stage. Great! I will perform perfectly without stage fright tomorrow. The thing is that at Red Rock, I want to overcome stage fright and express myself with purpose. I have ambition to perform well and know my audience. I don’t want to just be a cute, stage frightened kid. I want to contribute something at Red Rock. When I asked Armon about his contributions he said, “I don't know if I have contributed anything to the Red Rock community, but I have definitely played some fun songs. I don’t think I play with the level of dedication I would use in an actual payed performance.”


We take this place seriously because here, people want to be entertained.”

I am deeply fixated on the idea of putting on a serious show and entertaining the audience at Red Rock. Opposing Armon’s belief, when I asked Victor a similar question of impacting the Red Rock community he said, “It is a battle ground. Game face on. We got to do the best of the best we have ever done. We take this place seriously because here, people want to be entertained.” The visualization of a battle ground will help me perform at Red Rock and conquer stage fright. During the week after writing this chapter, is the week I will go to Red Rock. I will defeat stage fright on the battleground of Red Rock Cafe. Chapter three: find out exactly what happened how it happened.


Chapter 3: The battle is Won Occupancy of Red Rock Cafe: Full. The energy of the crowd: They are lively and attentive. The lighting of the cafe: It is dim and warm. Time until I go on stage: One minute. My level of anxiety is high. “Next up, we have a new musician here tonight. Give it up for Adam!” Audience claps, cheers and becomes silent. Moments before going on stage, my rational thought obliterates. My reaction stimulates a sensation of having a nightmare. I scan the room and make my way to the stage simultaneously trying to awake from the nightmare. Nervous movements and sweat are obvious to the audience as I seat myself in the brown stained wooden chair. A piano is propped up in front of me. I attempt to reflect the advice Victor or Armon had given me, but the loud thump of my heart beating, what feels like 200 beats per minute, interferes with my ability to recall memory. I begin to focus on the audience’s facial expressions. My physical appearance hijacks my visual thought and I become insecure. The song I am about to play is a blurry memory and I focus keenly on the fright I’m experiencing. I say to myself, how am I going to make it?

“You cannot control stage fright and that is the scary part; you know there is nothing you can do.”


My whole stage experience turns out alright, if you were wondering, but how did it all play

out? Let’s take a step back from before I performed at Red Rock and fully understand stage fright. According to Donovan, a very insightful musician who performs at many open mic venders, stage fright is a matter of a natural reaction in the body that cannot be controlled. This made me curious. I was wondering if I was terrified about performing because I was simply afraid of the “uncontrollable” stage fright. When I asked him whether stage fright is under your control he answered, “You cannot control stage fright and that is the scary part; you know there is nothing you can do. I mean you can try to reduce the stage fright, but you cannot alter your state of mind.” Donovan had given me a sense that the aspect of control had no effect on my fear. Actually, wanting to control my fear could be harmful to my goal of overcoming stage fright. According to a post about the neuroscience of stage fright, “Studies have shown that these fears can be driven by any number of personality traits, including perfectionism, an ongoing desire for personal control, fear of failure and success, and an intense anxiety about not being able to perform properly when the time comes” ( These traits discussed by this website were to my disadvantage. With that in mind, I wanted to understand how I could decrease my level of anxiety before I perform.

An old psychological study on stage fright showed that practice and preparation would result

in less stage fright. An observation stated by the publisher: “It was found in a separate study that preparation for public speaking, allowed a person to reduce the anxiety they felt from stage fright and were able to perform better” (Lyons, 1984). This information shows us that singers who prepare themselves better will reduce their anxiety. “If the singer was more anxious to begin with, or if the singer knows that the audience expectations are high, then they may experience greater amounts of stage fright” (Byron D. Myers). Musical preparation meant that I had to compose of a guide to follow in order to overcome my stage fright. My motivation to perform was already set.


Now I looked to Donovan for advice. I directly asked him what advice he has for someone with stage fright. He said, “Remind yourself that is not important and do your thing if you want to perform well. Choose really simple stuff that will fit the environment that will fit the stage you are going up to.” This proved to be a steel sword in my battle. I would learn my environment and understand my audience. Shields are important as well so I pitched him the idea of creating an alternate identity and how it could protect me from the audience’s judgment. He answered, “Yes, the audience definitely judges you. They can't help it. And an alternate identity can totally help separate yourself from that nervous person that has stage fright. Crazy costumes can put yourself in this alternate persona.” Another idea spawned in Donovan’s thought and he advised to “close you eyes so you are not looking at the audience and lose yourself in the music. Do things that are low pressure and get accustomed to the music and the instruments.”

Decisions have been made. My plan forms around three main concepts: I am going to practice my song and practice playing it in front of my friends, avoid thinking or looking at the audience, create an identity that does not have stage fright, and finally I will become completely involved only in my music. This is how I will face my fear and play at Red Rock’s open mic stage.


My final experience in the moment: I am up on stage. My posture is confident and expressive. Each note I play satisfies me. The audience is just blur in front of me and the only thing I see is my piano and the lights. Embracing the moment, I feel refreshed, reborn, and I evolve into a new character in my story who does not have stage fright. I am the character who has overcome stage fright and I have become a hero for the people at Red Rock. I have won the internal battle that once strived deep inside of me.



Interpreting feedback from the audience after my performance gave me this sense

of true accomplishment. Like Victor said, It wouldn’t be rewarding or impacting any listeners if I had just simply posted my song on Soundcloud, a music sharing website. I gave the audience that night a purpose to be there. I had the responsibility to inspire the audience members and I had done so without the limitation of stage fright. In a sense, I felt like I was the audience’s hero, showing them I could defeat stage fright and inspire them with my talent and exceptional performance.

This documentary researches three individual interviewees and through them,

I have explored the deepest cave of my feelings. The outcome of my story is a success and with the knowledge I have attained, I was able to overcome stage fright. Now, I am able to confidently and fearlessly perform on stage. I have controlled my natural reaction and have discovered my potential to perform.



Work Cited Davis, Victor. Personal Interview by Adam Poltorak. March 4, 2013. Diamond, Stephen. “Why Music?” The Economist. Human Evolution. December 18, 2008. Web. Dvorsky, George. “The Neuroscience of Stage Fright and How to Cope with it” The Daily Explainer, George Dvorsky. October 10, 2012. Web. Jasmine, Armon. Personal Interview by Adam Poltorak. March 4, 2013. Knaus, Bill. “Stop Procrastinating and Overcome Your Public Speaking Anxieties.” Science and Sensibility. Psychology Today. February 28, 2012. Web. Myers, Byron. “Stage Fright and Performance.” Missouri Western Education. MWSU Psychology Research. December 5, 1995. Web. Ryan, Donovan. Personal Interview by Adam Poltorak. March 23, 2013. Wilson, Robert. “The Main Ingredient.” Robert Evans Wilson, Jr. Stage Humor. November 13, 2012. Web.