Performance Stress and the Very Young Musician

Even very young children can experience performance anxiety when asked to strut their stuff. In a study published this month, Hélène Boucher and Charlene Ryan looked at how preschoolers react to the stress of a concert performance after a series of group music lessons. They observed anxious behaviors in children as young as age 3. So what’s the cure? It seems that part of youngsters’ nervousness has to do with the fact that performances are often in new locations, and this alone can make a young child fearful. The authors found that the children who were familiar with the concert venue were much less likely to be anxious. Also, familiarity with performing helped many students be more at ease in the concert situation. One suggestion is to have the young performers visit the location the day before and practice at the new site.

performance stress

The second performance is usually better than the first if this method is used. According to the authors, “gender was not a significant factor for any of the variables studied.” We all need opportunities to get up and sing or play in front of others. Read the entire article, “Performance Stress and the Very Young Musician” in the January 2011 Journal of Research in Music Education, vol. 58, no. 4.   Hélène Boucher teaches music research at the Schulich School of Music, McGill University, Montreal, Canada. MENC member Charlene Ryan is an associate professor of music education at Berklee College of Music, Boston, Massachusetts. Ryan is the author of the MENC/RLE book Building Strong Music Programs: A Handbook for Preservice and Novice Music Teachers. —Ella Wilcox, January 5, 2011, © National Association for Music Education (