The Jitters: On Stage and Pre-Flight

Morissa Pepose
January 9, 2016

So, I perform. I am a performer. And most of the time, I perform fairly well. This is not me patting myself on the back; it is simply an acknowledgement that my hard work typically tends to pay off. And, of course, my training in classical voice is not something I could have undergone by myself! So many teachers and friends have helped me develop my performance skills; it would be impossible to name each and every one of them.

            But there’s still always that moment before taking the stage, when I perhaps catch a glimpse of the audience or am maybe just imagining the worst happening: tripping over my heels, forgetting that next phrase, flubbing the words to an Italian aria, missing an entrance….Well! The list certainly could go on forever! To put it simply: I get the jitters. Though my body should know by now that things tend to work out, I can’t quite get it through that thick skull of mine!

            As I’m finishing up last preparations for my semester studying in Milan, I can already feel my body tensing slightly and my mind beginning to race. Have I forgotten anything? Looking at my endless list: I have the passport, the visa, check, check, check…but what about everything else? How can I possibly know exactly what to pack? What if I get nervous and forget all of my Italian? Or my shy tendencies come out and it’s a struggle to meet people and make friends? Will I feel awkward speaking in Italian? How does it all work?

            Again I’m imagining the worst-case scenario, even before I’m on the plane to arrive! Even before I step on the stage, and now before I’m even packed and heading to the airport. Those darn jitters! But here’s the thing: I have a technique for dealing with those nerves before a performance. I simply take a few deep breaths. And then, I picture the best-case scenario. That’s right! No more negative, nervous me; instead, I’m competent, prepared, confident me (in my head, at least). I imagine myself walking completely gracefully onto the stage, smiling warmly. I sing every piece as I’ve practiced them and, after one little mistake, I simply keep going; the audience is almost always a forgiving crowd and doesn’t even notice!

            Basically, this new image transforms into reality. By picturing the best outcome, I have nothing to worry about. I am mentally prepared for a great performance, and calm enough to deal with any obstacles that may come up. So, let’s apply this technique to my journey in Milan. I arrive with no luggage issues. I pack exactly what I need, and the few things I forget are easy to get once in Milan. Other students are just as nervous and out of their element as I am, which really just becomes something to bond over and serves as a common connection. And I practice my Italian, proudly, though with some mistakes, without feeling embarrassed. And that’s the key. I have nothing to be embarrassed about. Just like when I perform, I have something to give, something to say, something to sing. And now, having expelled those jitters (at least temporarily) from my mind, I am calm and ready to give, say, or sing…and, most importantly, to learn! 

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Morissa Pepose

<p>As an aspiring soprano opera singer, it is very clear why I chose to study abroad in Milan, the very city which houses the famous La Scala opera house! From St. Louis, MO originally, I currently study voice performance and Italian at Brandeis University near Boston, MA. I am an avid reader, dessert-enthusiast, and enjoy animals and taking leisurely strolls where I happen upon interesting people and places to explore. I am a triplet (with 2 brothers!) but am excited to be on my own, meeting new people and learning a bunch from locals and other students!</p>

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