In Sunday’s (5/31) New York Times, Sara Solovitch offers an excerpt from her new book, Playing Scared: A History and Memoir of Stage Fright. “It had been 40 years since my last recital, but the first time I played the piano at Mineta San Jose International Airport, my body responded right on cue. My hands turned wet with sweat, my heart pounded…. The airport was my teacher’s idea. Recognizing that I avoided any opportunity to play in public, she had decreed that the baby grand piano in Terminal B, just outside the Southwest baggage claim area, was an ideal place to practice performing.… Playing at the airport became my version of exposure training, a therapy that’s all about doing the thing you hate most.” Solovitch “explored every tool I could find—from deep breathing techniques to biofeedback and cognitive behavior therapy.” And she tried beta blockers, despite learning that “many classical musicians call the pill a crutch that delivers a dull and soulless performance.” The drug “didn’t erase my fear. What it did was leave me with an absence of its physical manifestations. … For once, I could think clearly enough to focus on my breathing and all the other advice I’d been gathering.”

Posted June 2, 2015