John F. Laskiewicz of Painted Post, New York, wrote with memories about his own stage fright when he was actively playing the accordion. He wrote, “The way I overcame stage fright was to have a friend or friends in the audience that I could focus on, and play to them—sort of ignore others that you think may be a little too critical of your playing. This gives you more pleasure in playing because you are entertaining your friends.” Having friends in the audience definitely relaxed him and calmed his nerves.
Arlene Abel of Turlock, California, wrote that stage fright may be inevitable for many people. “I played first bassoon in symphony and opera orchestras for years,” she wrote, “and never did get over stage fright! With the accordion it is a fun thing, but I still don’t do solos if I can help it.”
Matt Fitzpatrick of Colorado Springs, Colorado, wrote that one thing "worked pretty dang well once upon a time when I played guitar at a wedding last year. I made conversation with the strangers who were nearby—before things got underway. It made me relax a bit to know I had made some new friends. I love to play for my folks and friends, so it would only make sense that I would play better in a friendly environment. Or at the very least, smiling at strangers in the hopes you get a few smiles back. Even thathelps.”
Someone who called himself “Mr. Accordion” e-mailed to say that he has the same problem, though he has been playing the accordion for 30 years. He did, however, pass on a hint from his father, who also plays the accordion and has no problem with stage fright. His dad says, “Just take a good shot of whiskey!” (Mr. Accordion said the suggestion hasn’t helped him. “I only think I’m playing better,” he said.
Karl Schroder had a few tips for handling stage fright:
First, we are not playing classical music. Our crowds are not prudes, but plain folk. They will not care or even notice a tiny mistake or two; they will be having too much fun.
Second, your audience is your friend, or at least they should be. Have a dialogue with your audience. Speak to them. It does not matter if that audience is 50 or 5000—it always holds true. Once the audience is your friend, they will come away believing that it has been the best performance ever, no matter what.
Third, the occasional heckler: these people are not common, but they do pop up. You are the one on stage with the microphone. Take the heckler down a notch by giving it right back to him. The crowd loves it and they are waiting to see what you will do.
Fourth, if you plan to be a professional, get over it and just play the best you can in every performance. If you have to think about what you are playing, you are not ready to perform.
Fifth, keep your pieces simple through the first part of the performance. This gives you a chance to warm up before you go after the complicated stuff.
Jane Christison sent a whole article on stage fright: “Playing the Accordion for Fun and Fame!”