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Old 02-03-2020, 04:57 PM   #1
Piping Potential
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Default Social anxiety and pipe band

Hello again. A local pipe band has invited me to play with them and it's my first time playing in a band. They are really a great group of people and it's an excellent way to expand my repertoire and hone my skills. However due to my social anxiety, rehearsals are very unpleasant. They feel like a 3 hour solo competition constantly being scrutinized and judged (fear of which is a symptom of SA). There is one member of the band in particular who makes relevant but abrasive critiques and I dread interacting with him. I'm one of the weaker players so I frequently make mistakes, and then that makes me even more nervous and then make even more mistakes, etc, etc.


Does anyone have any experience with this? Any suggestions on how to make this more enjoyable? Will it get better over time? I feel like quitting would be giving up a wonderful opportunity. But then I don't want to drag them down with my issues (especially in competitions) nor put myself through excessive stress. I have tried traditional therapy and pharmaceuticals with very little success.


Any help for this panicky piper is most appreciated.
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Old 02-03-2020, 05:29 PM   #2
EquusRacer
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Default Re: Social anxiety and pipe band

Greetings, Piping Potential. Even though mental health is my field, I'll avoid any armchair consulting, especially since you've seen professionals about your anxiety. But I congratulate you on exploring a band atmosphere, especially if one of your goals is to bring your game up, so to speak.

A lot has to do with band atmosphere. Is it supportive and camaraderie-driven? Is it more competitive in nature, and thus pushes buttons that may not be supportive to your goals. Even though our band competes, it's not a competition band, per se, and competition is voluntary. Still, we keep up a certain standard, and we provide positive support for those who may struggle, but--as your name suggests--have a lot of potential. That implies that though you may not be up to the band's standard, yet, you will be with the right support. Shaming, or other negative input, is non-productive for either the player or the band. And if you're self-critical, such will only make you feel 'naked' in front of others, unworthy, and all the more anxious.

Have a talk with your Pipe Major, for that person is the one who is important in setting the kind of tone for the band, as well as the support it should provide. If not, you may have to seek another band. Just know that all of us have been on a similar journey at some time in our lives; and the level of support we've received (or not) has been a big determiner on how far we've progressed. All the best. Michael
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Old 02-04-2020, 05:20 AM   #3
Pete Walen
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Default Re: Social anxiety and pipe band

I agree with EquusRacer/Michael on this.

Loads of bands and bandsmen have a rather stuffy attitude toward new players - which is ironic, I think. They demand perfection, but instead of smoothing the road gently, they come in with 00 grit sandpaper and tear people up, even if they mean well.

Here's how a couple bands I have played with have dealt with this.

Start with talking with the PM. Let them know you want to contribute and play well. Also let them know you don't feel you will be successful in doing so in the current situation. Rather than call out the player in question (I suspect the PM knows who it is and may not be aware of how it is impacting you) ask if there is someone (other than 00 grit sandpaper guy) you can work with individually and get closer to expectations of the band.

Make sure the movements are being played the way the band/PM wants them played. Loads of people crush their movements. Make sure they are as open as possible - then make them dead on with the tutor or PM. Make sure you aren't "trimming" a movement - dropping something out. I find this goes a long way toward getting people off a new player's back. It also may help with issues of "speeding up" if you open your grips, doublings, whatever, and play them exactly with the PM/tutor.

Performance/competition stuff tends to float toward the top of the "important to play perfectly" list. Other tunes, parade tunes, "walking around" stuff is considered important, but not quite as important as the other. (The higher grade you go, the less true that is, IME.)

Ask to start with the "walking around" stuff, the parade music where most bands really need to shine, even though many lower grade and non-competing bands write it off as "only a parade." A band that plays well and looks sharp will leave an impression on the audience and event organizers.

Right - Good luck! Don't let the buggers get you down - Now I'll get back to the back row where I belong. (When I'm not in the middle.)
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Old 02-04-2020, 05:52 AM   #4
Helvetica
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Default Re: Social anxiety and pipe band

Hi Piping Potential,


I am really sorry to hear about the anxiety your band situation is causing you. I don't doubt that the nervousness you feel is made worse by the fact that you are the new guy, and its possible that you don't know your band mates well. Opening up about mental health issues to people you don't know is an incredibly difficult thing to do, especially if it involves saying that a certain person (or persons) are causing you to feel stressed. It's a very delicate situation.


In my experiences with mental health related problems (both as a patient and as a friend/colleague of someone who is suffering) one thing I have learned is that almost everyone is extraordinarily nice and compassionate. If you open up about problems or concerns you have and are willing to discuss them, it can be enormously beneficial.


I'm not quite sure what to advise in your situation, it sounds as though a lot of your anxiety is related to one specific person. Is there a senior band member you would feel comfortable talking to about this? One possible scenario is that everyone else secretly thinks this person is out of order, and the band direction might try to change their behaviour.


I hope you find a sympathetic ear and keep on persevering.



Best wishes,


H.
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Old 02-10-2020, 06:14 PM   #5
Piping Potential
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Default Re: Social anxiety and pipe band

Thank you all for the suggestions and for the encouraging words! I've had a talk with the PM and aired all of my concerns and she was absolutely understanding and helpful. I think all that's left is time to get used to the pressure of rehearsals and competition and to try and be a little more kind and patient with myself.
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Old 02-11-2020, 09:35 AM   #6
Dan Bell
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Default Re: Social anxiety and pipe band

As a long-time PM/PS, I think it's really a problem if players other than whoever is leading practice are interjecting all the time and making corrections, especially if they are negative in tone. Your PM shouldn't allow that. It's not helping anyone get better, and it's a distraction from doing what you SHOULD be doing at rehearsal, which is focusing on instruction from whoever is leading the band.

That aside, the single thing that will ultimately build your comfort level in the circle is simply exposure. Do it every week for a year, and there's a good chance that every time out will stop feeling like a trial. You'll have good days and bad ones, but if your organization is decently-run, other players aren't judging you based on every mistake. What they're more likely to see is that you show up, work hard, and do your utmost to improve. Work ethic counts for a lot, at every level.
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Old 02-11-2020, 11:06 AM   #7
EquusRacer
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Default Re: Social anxiety and pipe band

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Bell View Post
As a long-time PM/PS, I think it's really a problem if players other than whoever is leading practice are interjecting all the time and making corrections, especially if they are negative in tone. Your PM shouldn't allow that. It's not helping anyone get better, and it's a distraction from doing what you SHOULD be doing at rehearsal, which is focusing on instruction from whoever is leading the band.

That aside, the single thing that will ultimately build your comfort level in the circle is simply exposure. Do it every week for a year, and there's a good chance that every time out will stop feeling like a trial. You'll have good days and bad ones, but if your organization is decently-run, other players aren't judging you based on every mistake. What they're more likely to see is that you show up, work hard, and do your utmost to improve. Work ethic counts for a lot, at every level.
I totally agree with Dan on these helpful observations. I would add one other observation.

I believe that performance anxiety can be complex in its origins. It can come from early life experiences and comments that get absorbed. There is a number of studies on 'negative core beliefs', and how those early messages and self-talk impact our behaviors.

On a more simplistic plain, whether in public speaking or musical performance, a lot of anxiety comes from that 'inner voice' telling us that we're not really prepared. In fact, there are a whole series of 'inner voice' books. Though I believe they started addressing sports performances, there is an "The Inner Voice in Music" (I believe that's the title). It's about that nasty second voice that says things like, "Oh, oh! Here comes that section that you always stumble over. Don't screw it!" (And then, of course, we the do).

I know that when I've given a lecture, and I'm not fully prepared, I'm a bit anxious. When I know the topic inside and out, I'm comfortable. Same with playing solo.

Finally, I would echo Dan's statement about the lack of judgment from other players. All of us have messed up, for instance when we go around the table doing solos on PC. 99% of us are supportive of each other. The 1% who are buttheads and do judge can just go elsewhere (and, eventually, they often do).
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