Coping with pre-show anxiety

Getting butterflies in your stomach before a marching show is normal. In fact, it's often prevalent and severe enough to warrant its own medical term: Musical Performance Anxiety, or MPA.

MPA is most basically defined as a kind of persistent nervousness or distress before a performance, often inhibiting your ability to play. Fortunately, there are simple steps to take in order to help alleviate some of the symptoms of performance anxiety and to play your best, whether it's for a halftime field show or wowing the judges at your next marching band competition.


Breathing is the first key step in easing nervousness prior to a performance. Deep, slow breaths from your diaphragm are encouraged to get the most effective results.

Eat Well

Eating a nutritious meal is a pivotal part of relieving this kind of pre-performance stress. Dr. Darren Schmidt recommends eating meals that are high in protein the night or day before a performance, such as meat and vegetables. Your physical well-being affects your mental state, so taking care of your body and eating a balanced, nutrient-rich meal will help decrease any uneasiness.


Whether you're a conductor, a seasoned percussionist or a first-year member of the marching band, preparing yourself and knowing your material is always important, especially when it comes to coping with your pre-show jitters. This step works both on an individual level and with the rest of your band. For conductors and leaders, making sure your band is well-rehearsed and knows the material, the performance venue and each other is key in reducing performance anxiety.

Harness it

Perhaps it seems counterintuitive, but your anxiety can be useful. The right amount of nervousness can be an effective motivational tool, instead of an inhibitor to your skills and abilities as a musician.  If you're anxious, it means you care. If you can focus on these positive aspects of why you're nervous, instead of the more obvious negative ones, your performance anxiety can be just the kick you need to put on a great show.

For more marching band tips and techniques, contact Marching Show Concepts today!