Sage Advice For Performers by Emma McArdle

During SAGE Week, Year 11 and 12 students were involved in an educational workshop titled ‘Cognitive skills to manage performance anxiety’, presented by Dr Sarah Marshall, a musician, psychologist and counsellor. Dr Marshall holds a Master of Counselling, Master of Music Performance, and Bachelor of Music & Psychology.

The course was designed to help students discover how their actions can develop a performance culture that supports stronger performance outcomes and becomes a buffer against behaviours that interfere with performance goals, critical evaluation and performance appraisal. 

Workshop benefits:

  • stronger performance outcomes, performance evaluation and increased receptivity to feedback
  • recognise contributors to and influences on performance anxiety and poorer wellbeing
  • learn attributes and strengths that teach and support at risk students experiencing anxiety
  • understand contexts that reduce anxiety and improve self-efficacy
  • address negative perfectionism and re-align students to mastery goals
  • support students to connect, succeed and thrive in their development and learning

Student report by Emma McArdle 

Emma McArdle, IGS 2024 Music Portfolio Leader (pictured above) has provided the following report about the workshop during SAGE Week.

In Week 6, performing arts students from Year 12 were lucky enough to have the opportunity to work with Sarah Marshall, who holds a Master in Counselling and Music Performance, and a Bachelor in Music & Psychology. Sarah conducted the ‘Cognitive Skills to Manage Performance Anxiety’ Workshop. The workshop aimed to support students in managing their nerves – not only on the day of the performance but the days leading up to and immediately after. 

I attended the workshop alongside other Drama and Music HSC students and found it invaluable for many reasons. Here are my top tips which might be valuable to not only performers but anybody who is nervous from time to time: 

  • Squeezing a stress ball in your left hand, for some reason – and it has to be your left hand – reduces nerves. 
  • Fake it ‘til you make it. Before a performance, place your hands on your hips, roll your shoulders back, and lift your chin – think of a Superman pose. Fake the confidence! 
  • A trick to counteract the butterflies we all feel is to completely tense your body before a performance to use up that extra adrenaline.

It wasn’t all sitting down for us students though. One of the many activities was to determine what our IZOF (Individual Zone of Optimal Function) was. We were discovering whether we needed to be calm or energetic before a performance. To determine this, we performed a mini science experiment where one volunteer played a control piece, did a breathing exercise, played the same piece again, did jumping jacks for 30 seconds, and played the same piece of music again. We were all doing breathing exercises and jumping jacks along with them! 

In the two hours that we participated in the workshop, we discovered our IZOF, targeted our specific problem areas that we identified through an anonymous survey, discovered tricks to help with general anxiety, and most importantly, made music. 

On behalf of the performing arts students, we would like to thank Sarah Marshall, the music department, and SAGE Week for making this workshop possible. We will definitely be putting these skills to use in the new year!

Emma is excited about the 40 Years Young Anniversary calendar. When School returns in 2024, she will be inviting all students to be involved in the lead up to these major events. Thank you Emma for your insightful report.