Nervous Moments In Real Life…

…as opposed to me writing about it in the abstract 😉

I’ve talked about handling nervousness in a previous post, and I recently had a number of chances to walk the talk on that issue.

It seems like this past weekend I had an opportunity to do something I was afraid of everywhere I turned. So, I was able to see how I did on taking Seth Godin’s and Derek Sivers’ (founder of CDBaby) advice: “do things that you are afraid of” (I’m paraphrasing here). My sense of what this means is that anything that has grabbed your attention enough to make you afraid of it–well that is the thing you MUST do. If for nothing else that you confront your fear and learn that it can be dealt with…and it won’t annihilate you.

Nervous Moment #1

The first one was a church gig where I had to sight read some music. Usually I get sheet music and video and/or audio files to review a few days before I get to the rehearsal for the gig. Sight reading is more demanding (very little or no prep time) and therefore more stressful. Actually, just to be prepared, they had given us 3-4 tunes to sight read once we arrived at rehearsal, but we only performed one (I mention this only to point out its effect on my nervousness).

Sight reading in music is analogous to being handed a speech when you arrive at the venue right before you deliver the speech. You can look it over and rehearse it a bit (if you have time), but you have a very limited amount of time before you perform/deliver it in public.

Anyway…I was all nervous, but I certainly couldn’t back out of the gig, so I just went ahead with it. In the end it all went fine and the one tune we ‘sight-read’ sounded great, but the experience definitely got my attention.

Nervous Moment Numero Dos

The other bit of nervousness came at another gig this weekend. I showed up and one of my mentors, Curt Moore, was there to play percussion (conga, timbales and other accessories, not drum set–that was me). What a great surprise! I know Curt very well, and I have a ton of respect for his playing. But, this was the Spanish Xmas service for the church, and Curt is an expert on applying Latin rhythms to the drum set, and has an instructional DVD out on the subject (

So, I’m all nervous, because I am not an expert on Latin rhythms. But again–I certainly couldn’t back out of THAT gig! (I’d never hear the end of it 😉

In hindsight what saved me is the fact that we were playing songs in Spanish (as opposed to playing, say, Latin Jazz). So, I just played what was appropriate for the song (which is MY area of expertise) and everything went fine. In fact it was great–one of my best experiences EVER at that gig. Curt is fabulous that way.

As I review this, I realize that being a musician means it’s really hard to back out of situations that you’ve put yourself in. It’s hard for me to put my finger on it, but there’s this element, this idea that as a musician you can’t just ‘call in sick’ at a performance gig like most of the rest of the world (teaching gigs are different–you can call in sick for that).  Calling in sick as a performer just doesn’t fly–and you always hear amazing stories about people doing crazy stuff just to make a gig. Like musicians flying from Europe to NYC so they wouldn’t miss a Monday night gig with Gil Evans. Or producers commuting from Japan to NYC so they wouldn’t lose a coveted gig with SNL. Crazy stuff…

So then, hmmm. I guess the idea for me here is to dive in and confront my fears when appropriate. And, when I do get nervous, do that thing that makes me nervous–I’ll feel more empowered the next time I’m confronted with something that scares me.


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