One thing I love about being a musician is that unlike brain surgeons, rocket scientists, and bridge architects, if I make a mistake nobody dies. Nobody even bleeds a little. One of my private students is a water treatment plant engineer. He designs the systems that make river water safe to drink despite the millions of people flushing up stream. If he makes a mistake, plagues will infest our land! (S’truth, look it up!) But if I switch the lyrics of a song I wrote and accidentally sing “First time we bit she kissed me”, it doesn’t cause a sniffle.
Arguably, the audience feels a type of pain when I fall on my face on stage, but that’s quickly followed by, at worst, a sense of relief that it happened to me and not them, or at best a hearty belly laugh at my expense. Laughter provides many health benefits as shown in scientific studies. It improves circulation, aids digestion, boosts the immune system, lowers blood pressure, reduces stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline and increases the response of tumor and disease killing cells such as Gamma-interferon and T-cells. So a mistake I make on stage not only doesn’t HURT anybody but it goes a long way toward HELPING people! I’m not saying I can cure cancer by singing the wrong words to Brown Eyed Girl, but it could happen.
So why are we afraid to perform? More importantly, why are YOU afraid to perform? Yes, you might mess up; you might FAIL. Here’s the thing; the only people who never fail are the ones who never try. Failure is a part of any artistic endeavor. Every great artist that you know has screwed up in front of people. The trick is to learn from each failure and improve. The quicker you fail, the faster you achieve mastery. The potential of mess ups are a part of live performance, part of the emotional high for the performer and part of what moves the audience.
Of course I HATE to look bad on stage and that motivates me to rehearse until I know my stuff cold. But, I never let it keep me from performing. Take a chance. Who’s it going to hurt?