I’ll let you in on a little secret: I hate performing.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love events. I love organizing them and putting them on, and I love attending them. I love being with friends, and making new ones; I love eating food and drinking sodas; I love watching others perform, and I even like showing other people my music. But I hate performing.
Why? I get incredibly nervous. I don’t understand it. I’m great at public speaking. I’m great at teaching. Put me in front of a group to talk: totally fine. Make me a part of a choir and put us in front of an audience? More than easy. Put me in front of a group to play and sing something I made up? Nightmare.
I think this all goes back to my first time performing my own music on stage in front of a large group of students in 7th grade. Long story short: I publicly humiliated myself. Forgot the words, got shut down by administration… I doubt anyone else remembers, but it was so mortifying that I didn’t sing out loud by myself until 9th grade. And even then I didn’t let other people hear the music I was writing. I used compose lyrics and songs in my head, write them down on paper, and then wait until nobody was home in my house but me. Then I would sneak downstairs to the piano, figure out my song until it sounded like what was in my head, and then sing at the top of my lungs.But as soon as the door opened and my family was home, the singing would immediately stop. I was so nervous that I couldn’t even perform in front of my family: the most kind and accepting people I know.
Over time I’ve gotten better at masking my terror of public performance, but sometimes it still comes back to me.
I played at a talent show for my church congregation shortly before Thanksgiving Break last November. They had a great Turkey Dinner and a buffet line, and I stacked my plate expecting to be able to eat. I took two bites and couldn’t do it. I got nauseous knowing that I had to perform in front of everyone within the hour. Fast forward to 15 minutes before my performance. If you were editing a documentary of this part of my life, you’d have to wade through fifteen straight minutes of awkward footage of me pacing back and forth across an empty classroom in the chapel. I felt like I was going to vomit my shoes right out of my mouth. Not a good feeling. This continued until I was right about to set foot on the stage.
While this experience is typical of my usual tendencies to freak out and want to vomit before I go on stage, what’s interesting about this experience is that for the first time in my life, everything changed. As I set foot on the stage, suddenly, I was completely calm, and I was able to go out with a completely clear head. My heart was pounding for sure, but I had my wits about me and I was able to have fun with the performance. Since then, my heart has been changing.
I’m completely aware of my faults as a performer, and I’ve been practicing rigorously to rectify them. But for the first time in my life, I have come to see and realize my strengths. Since gaining that bit of trust in myself, I no longer practice just to record or practice just to be able to play what’s in my head. I practice to perform. And – actually – it’s pretty fun.
The video below is footage from my audition at The Wall last October, performing my song “Girlfriend/Boyfriend.” My buddy Kyle shot it on his phone (unbeknownst to me) and recently shared it with me.It’s not perfect, but for all of my worry and freaking out before the audition – wanting to sweat, vomit, pass out, or all three – I think it turned out pretty good.I hope you enjoy it.
My name is Zach Collier, and I appreciate the recent, new-found confidence in my ability to perform.