In collaboration with ‘Complete Coaching’, an institute for coaching and psychotherapy, a research project has been carried out aimed at reducing stage fright among musicians. Stage fright is a common phenomenon in the musician’s professional practice, which is often not acknowledged, nor dealt with effectively. An important reason for this is that the subject is still surrounded with taboos.
The research group investigated the possibilities of using HeartMath training in dealing with stage fright. This method was already tested in sports environments earlier, which led to very good results. The research project started with six students of the Prince Claus Conservatoire in September 2009 and ended in 2010. The HeartMath method has proved to be a very effective instrument in reducing stage fright.
The full research report can be downloaded here:
Rapport Peak Performance and Reducing Stagefright
Pilot HeartMath with conservatoire students
The research was aimed at the application of the HeartMath programme for conservatoire students who suffer from stage fright. A pilot project adjusted to HeartMath training for music students was part of the research. Six students of the Prince Claus Conservatoire participated in this training and kept a blog throughout. They also carried out assignments.
Stage fright and heart coherence
The HeartMath method gives people better balance by means of self-direction of their thoughts, emotions and body language, which improves their performance. The programme works with excercises for learning how to deal with negative emotions and thoughts. With an ear sensor heart coherence is measured during the excercises. The fluctuations in heart coherence can be seen on a screen, and these can also be measured during playing.
Objective of the programme is to teach the student how to regulate her or his inner state of being. If the student is 'coherent' on stage, she or he achieves the desired 'flow' in which she or he is only concerned with playing. The programme works with the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory. This is a questionnaire which allows measuring of the development brought about by the training.
The pilot project
Six Classical Music students started this training in September 2009. The training consisted of two individual and three group sessions. Preceding the first session a public performance of the participating students took place. Stress levels of each musician were measured before the concert. Afterwards they were asked how they valued their own performance. During the last session in October each student made her or his own action plan with personal targets on which they worked until December. In December the training was completed with a public performance during which, again, stress levels were measured before the concert and the musicians' own evaluation of their performance afterwards.
The research findings showed that the training had a positive effect on the participants. What makes the method so effective is that it provides both more insight into the phenomenon of stage fright and into the sources which have led to the causes of it. The method provides concrete techniques to change stress reactions and to help integrating these into the study-behaviour of students. Provided that the training is adapted to music students, the HeartMath programme has shown to have a lot of potential as a method for reducing stage fright.
Article Peak performance & reducing stagefright in: Onderzoek aan de hogescholen: Brancherapportage onderzoek 2009/2010 (Dutch)
Summary research report Reducing Stage Fright
Researchers: Peter Mak; Ewold de Maar (HeartMath trainer)
Age Smilde (psychiatrist; external partner)
HeartMath & Ewold de Maar
Ewold de Maar is an international trainer in the business sector and the non-profitsector, a coordinator of HeartMath training in the Benelux and (top)sports coach. With his company Complete Coaching he gives workshops, trainings and individual coaching in the Benelux, Germany and the Netherlands Antilles. Ewold has extensive experience in management as well as therapeutic functions within mental healthcare. He has been training heart coherence trainers for the HeartMath Institute USA in the Netherlands since 2006.