Gareth Montanarello

Managing Performance Anxiety: Part 4

Updated: Apr 19, 2020

It has been a weird couple of weeks- I don't think anyone anticipated this virus causing such rapid changes in everyone's lives, but here we are. My recital has been canceled, along with the rest of my gigs and performances.

I've had to adapt my project a little bit, but I'll talk more about that later. If you are just joining, this part 4 of an 8-part series documenting my efforts to better manage performance anxiety in auditions and solo performances. I feel like I have been making some good progress, and you can read parts 1, 2, and 3 here.


Fancy. Not really.

Pretty much the entire country is on some form of lockdown or quarantine. All of my classes have moved to online-only and all of my gigs have been canceled, so I'm going to have minimal interaction with other people for the next few months. There are some plus sides to this, but it will make working on my project more challenging since human interaction is an inherent part of performing.

Since I am now unable to meet with people in person, I am shifting all of my performances to video calls. It's far from ideal but it's better than nothing. Thankfully, I recently got a new Zoom camera, so that has helped improve some of the audio/video quality.

Last time I mentioned how I experience the same feelings of anxiety when recording as I experience when auditioning. I have been putting that new camera to good use by recording myself at least once a day, and I treat each recording like an audition. I should start filling out checklists for these, too if I am treating them as mock auditions.

My Most Recent Performances

I have given four performances for this project recently: two before spring break and two last week over video call. Of the four, two weren't great, simply because I failed to prepare myself properly, but the other two went well because I learned and integrated some techniques from a professor at school. She offered a lot of (very!) helpful advice, but one thing in particular stood out above the others:

She suggested I develop a "persona" that I can enter before playing. I am a HUGE fan of Ein Heldenleben, so the persona I chose is one of confidence and heroism. Each time I go to play, I now try to embody those feelings of confidence and heroism as I run through my other centering and relaxation routines.

Thought Processes

I could write pages on this, but I'll try and keep it brief...

I am a perfectionist. I always have been. Perfectionism has affected pretty much every area of my life, sometimes for the better, oftentimes for the worst. It has helped me excel in school and music but it has also, paradoxically, held me back in those areas, too. Months of ambition and focused preparation have been thwarted by anxiety, and I have lost opportunities because the fear of failure caused me to back down from them at the last minute (cough Britten-Pears app* cough). I also consistently get to deal with the joys of imposter syndrome, especially when I walk into auditions and the people I'm up against spent more time on their degrees than I have even been playing bass. Fun stuff.

Here's some of what I have been doing to handle these feelings:

  1. Embrace the anxiety/discomfort/fear. The worst that can happen is things might not go as I hoped. Missed a note? So did everyone. Didn't get in? The work doesn't go away. After a while, the inevitable anxiety will be less terrifying.

  2. "Lower" my standards. Maybe not the best way to put it because my standards are still really high, but I have been working on lowering my threshold for what constitutes a "good" performance. It was well beyond what I am capable of on a really good day, but it is now somewhere more realistic.

  3. Validate what I can do well. At this point, enough people have told me that I'm a good musician that I should probably start believing them. Making a list of what I think I can do well, along with what other people tell me I can do well, has helped alleviate the imposter feelings.

  4. Stop procrastinating. Most of my procrastinating is tied to feelings mentioned above. I am taking control of when I do things by not waiting until I have the skills, feel less nervous, have the time, *insert other excuse here* and just doing them now. It has already upped my productivity/self-confidence levels this week and I feel great. I relearned a guitar solo, wrote some music, made three recordings of Parable (video coming soon), learned some electric basslines, and started prepping for an orchestra audition.

I've mentioned it before, but I keep reminding myself that everything on that list requires practice. Accountability, discipline, and patience go a long way with this, just as they do with bass.

*somewhat ironically, I could be spending two weeks this summer playing Ein Heldenleben if I had just submitted a tape...


Next week should be fun. I'm going to try some new techniques, write about them, and keep working on the things I'm doing now. The difficulty of this quarantine is eased by the fact that I get to put more work into the things that matter to me, musically and otherwise. Stay safe out there, everyone.

Please consider sharing or subscribing to my email list if you want to stay updated on future posts, too!

Also, since I know you are stuck inside, try out my 31 Day Scale Challenge! Do it. You'll love it.

Other Parts of the Series:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7


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