Overcoming Stage Fright Before Your Bar / Bat Mitzvah

Hoping to plumb the psychological secrets to overcoming stage fright, we sat down with Julia Mendelsohn, renowned New York City music director, singer and vocal coach to many teen and adult Broadway performers.

Q: What’s the best way to overcome stage fright?

A: Experience. I performed a lot as a child and there were times when I thought I couldn’t go through with it. But what I learned to do was just go ahead in spite of the fact that I felt like I might throw up or my knees were knocking or my palms were sweaty. But it’s normal to feel those things. And, in fact, it heightens your performance. Fear is normal. But the anxiety of thinking about the performance in advance is always far worse than the actual act. It’s mostly the anticipation and waiting that makes you crazy. Once you get started you realize you’re alive and well and you haven’t died! Then you start to relax and even enjoy yourself.

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Q: Let’s talk about the unique aspects of Bar and Bat Mitzvah stage fright.

A: Well, for a lot of kids, it’s the first time they’re performing in front of people. It’s hard to be in front of so many eyes. It’s even harder when it’s an audience of all your peers and all your relatives.

Q: Can you share any tips for fighting off the anxiety?

A: The way around it is to do mini-test runs – little performances in front of very small audiences. Then you add a person or two, bit by bit. Another great thing is to remember to breathe when you’re performing. Give yourself simple tasks like swallowing or blinking that can really slow down your heartbeat. Another cool thing is to see other people perform at their own Bar Mitzvahs. And you see that everyone survives. Nobody dies – they all go on to turn 13 and even 14!