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Tips & Resources

Conquering Stage-Fright

By David “Mello-D” Sawicki

VOCAL INSTRUCTOR Suzy Marsh instructs the class on vocal projection at the Youth Under Construction Performance Course. (Image by Furman Barnes)

We’ve all been there. For many, it starts with giving a presentation in front of a classroom. A  series of feelings, from “the butterflies” to shaking, sweating, (or worse, vomiting) take over the body and sometimes make it near-impossible to speak or perform before an audience.

A published list of the most common fears puts public speaking and interaction before flying, disease, even death!* Now, just think- if people were not able to overcome this fear, there would be no teachers, lawyers, doctors or leaders to manage and direct us.

When I first started performing, I felt huge discomfort, as if I would never be able to do it. Then, one day, something inside me just “clicked,” and entertaining a crowd became fun and much less dreaded.

As a stage director and show producer, I’ve observed various forms of pre-show nervousness by performers. The ones most nervous are usually the least prepared, or were the cockiest in rehearsals.

The Youth Under Construction Performing Arts Course includes segments to assist performers to become more comfortable in the performing arts.

Vocal instructor Suzi Marsh offers this advice regarding stage fright: My first reaction is to create a different word other than “fright.” In other words, “reframe the mind set” “change the verbiage- change the thinkage” (a “Suzi-ism”). When you change the verbiage inside your head, you change the reaction inside your body and outside, in your behavior. Instead of using the words: “stage fright”, or “nervous”, we use the expression: “anticipating joy”. This silly expression can make you laugh and helps you to re-laxxxxxx a little. When you are “anticipating joy” you will be having a positive reaction inside and outside your body.

YOUTH UNDER CONSTRUCTION performers Steven Fagan, Raven Carter, Kevin Carter, Tyrone Davis and Ryann Taylor demonstrate poise and confidence onstage at the Millenium Theatre in Southfield last October. (Image by Steven Tennent)

Singing is a physical AND psychological endeavor. The more positively you visualize a performance and “anticipate joy” the more enjoyable the performance will be (this also includes athletic performance.) FROM FRIGHTENED TO ENLIGHTENED- More tips to help:

- PRACTICE! Both frequent and focused, will prepare you in advance for your presentation or performance. Procrastinating, or putting this off, is your worst enemy and could set you up for a less-than effort.

- AFFIRM! Repeating positive phases (“I can do this!” or “I am a performer!” or “I am worthy!”), with enthusiasm, will program the mind and support your efforts.

- BREATHE! Deep, slow breaths, using the diaphragm, is very effective in relaxing oneself.

- CONCENTRATE! While onstage, focus on the execution of your performance, not the audience reaction. Please understand that some degree of anxiety, especially at first, is normal. Challenge yourself to use the feeling

- WORK WITH IT- to fuel an attitude of “Okay, I feel it, and now I am going to shift it and calm down!”. The “scare” means you care, and that goes a long way when connecting with an audience.

For more on positive performance preparation, including advanced breathing techniques, come back to www.youngpop.org and click the “Tips & Resources” link. Call 248-545-4411 for more on the Performance Course.

*Murtagh’s Manual of General Practice


PS 22 ChorusPS 22 Website

PS 22 Chorus, a group of 60-70 5th grade students from Public School 22 in Staten Island, New York, are using pop culture and performing arts as a gateway to escape from the negativity that they often bear witness to in their everyday lives.

The chorus was formed in 2000, and through it’s success on Youtube, has become supported by many influential celebrities in the musical field.

Electronic band Passion Pit used the group for backup vocals on its debut album manners, which was then nominated for a video music award by MTV. They have been performed with David Cook of American Idol Fame, Katy Perry, Adele, Tori Amos, The Celtic Woman, Stevie Nicks, and many more. They were even lucky enough to perform at the 83rd Annual Academy Awards.

The kids are learning to hone their singing craft and are constantly being positively inspired by their director Gregg Breinberg. This is the same type of message Youth Under Construction strives to spread to it’s participants and it is great to have seen a fellow performing arts crew have such success in this area.


Support Partners

Youth Under Construction has a firm team of important supporters, who help us to continue in helping the youth fend off bullies while accomplishing their performing arts dreams.

Jim Tuman, National Youth Anti-Bullying Speaker

JIM TUMAN is an internationally known sociologist, educator, radio and television personality who has spoken to over 2 million people in more than 1,300 schools nationwide, asking them to examine their motives, goals, and feelings, and then make meaningful decisions about their futures.

he has developed a model for schools and communities to be more pro-active in their approach to creating a safe school environment, where kids can feel comfortable. The breakdown of family, at-risk issues, and the inability to get their voices heard are dominating the educational environment, and have proven Jim’s work to be of utmost importance.

Jim’s approach encompasses all factions that affect a young person’s life: their friends, their families, their teachers and educators, and the community at large.

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