I still catch a case of the stomach-jumpies when I get on stage. Not all the time, but I’d say at least half of my gigs (including workshops, seminars, etc) have some added zesty to them. The key to beating the fright element is a trick of rebranding, rather than dissolving the fear. I’m finding that nearly everything in life benefits from this philosophy. It’s not about pushing the fear away, but taking the narrative away from the feeling.
You know, the one that looks like some kind of nightmare tag cloud of every insecurity or awful scenario you could possibly encounter. Here. I made one on Wordle for you.
Take away those words, and what you have is just a feeling. Something in your guts. Maybe some palm sweat. A feeling can’t stop you from playing the first note. A feeling can’t make you forsake your technique. A feeling is something you can play ball with; notice and move on with; transfigure into something that is a part of the performance experience instead of an insurmountable burden. Fighting the feelings and wishing them away only creates more conflict. Who needs that?
Of course, being prepared and making performance a part of your playing life makes it easier too. Like everything else, it gets easier with practice.
Finally, it’s good to remember what music is. It’s not something churned out of a conservatory, or reserved for only those who “deserve” it. It is our human birthright, and part of all of us. Who, in the history of anything, did it perfectly every time? And would we want that anyway? Life is short, and good. Enjoy it, even with a little nervousness thrown in on occasion.