A History and Memoir of Stage Fright
Available June 2015
In the UK:
It begins with urgent motor impulses from the brain to the adrenal glands, which respond by dumping adrenaline into the bloodstream and putting the body on alert. The heart beats harder and faster. Breathing grows rapid to increase oxygen levels. Hands and fingers turn cold and clammy. Sweat glands shift into overdrive…
Fear is a biological phenomenon, and stage fright is a deeply seated fear. The great leveler, it cuts down amateurs, professionals, prophets, presidents, musicians, actors, dancers, lawyers, athletes, preachers, rabbis, teachers, CEOs, salesmen, advertising reps – anyone who has ever had to stand in front of a group and do something.
Playing Scared chronicles my efforts to come to terms with my own stage fright. It’s a fear that I’ve known intimately since I was a child, performing and competing in my hometown’s annual music competition. Stage fright was my undoing and it was what led to my giving up the piano when I was 19 years old.
I returned to it when I was 49. By then, I could hardly remember how to play a Bach prelude. But my stage fright? That was just where I’d left it.
I decided to give myself a one-year deadline to overcome it. I resumed music lessons, practicing four and five hours a day. I explored meditation, exposure therapy, cognitive therapy, biofeedback and other remedies, including the little orange pills known as beta blockers. I practiced performing in airports, hospitals and retirement homes. And at the end of the year, one day before my sixtieth birthday, I rented a public hall and gave a concert for fifty guests. It was the test of my life.