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The Life History of Performance Anxiety in Japanese Professional Orchestral Players: A Case Series

Shizuka Sutani, Taichi Akutsu
From: Medical Problems of Performing Artists: Volume 34 Number 2: Page 63 (June 2019)

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Abstract: This study investigated the life history of performance anxiety in Japanese orchestral players. Twenty-nine players in a Japanese orchestra completed the State Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) backstage immediately following a concert. Five players with the longest experience in the orchestra were selected for further data collection. Based on the results of the STAI, the researchers conducted semi-structured interviews to construct the life history of these 5 players in relation to their performance anxiety. In the process of narrative construction, a commentary from a psychiatrist was integrated to examine the underlying personality and ability to cope with the anxiety, as well as the contextual influences in the participants' life-long learning experiences. Results indicated that the anxiety was present throughout the players' musical development, from childhood and into professional status. However, their performance anxiety was reduced and transformed over time. The study also revealed that these 5 players tended to experience anxiety when playing with others and in large groups. The subjects tended to consider anxiety as a necessary psychological state-of-mind to maintain a professional level of performance and to deal with the uncertainty of group playing. Finally, the individual players found their own specific methods to reduce anxiety by focusing on musical expression and/or simply by gaining experience. Instead of generalizing the result, this study explored the life history of performance anxiety in this series of individual players in Japan.

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