Baby Steps

I watched an old 1999 movie, Lost and Found, the other night, and found an encouraging word in it. In the movie, restaurant owner Dylan Ramsey is head-over-heels in love with his new neighbor, a French cellist named Lila and wants to gain her love. Now Lila has serious case of stage fright. She wants to audition to become a member of an elite orchestra, but just can’t work up the nerve to actually make the appointment and follow through.

So Dylan takes Lila to an empty outdoor theater with her cello, and tells her to play on the stage, right there. When she exclaims that there’s no one there to hear her, Dylan responds with two words, “Baby steps.” And so she overcomes her shyness and plays her heart out to the empty seats.

I related because I am 77 years old, and still experience stage fright. You’d think I would have gotten over that by now, having played at church all my life and taught music. Most folks have gotten old enough by this age not to care what anyone else thinks of their playing by this age. But no, the hesitation to pick up my hammers in front of people is still there. What to do … what to do. I think Dylan’s advice of taking “baby steps” to overcome the issue is rock solid. If you can relate, just start small.

  • Play outside on your back porch, where you run the risk of being overheard by a neighbor, but can’t see a possible audience.
  • Play for a family member deliberately. Not just as he/she passes through your practice room on their way to another room, but ask that person to sit down and listen to you play through a piece.
  • Invite one neighbor over and play through the same piece for that person.
  • Invite 2 couples over for happy hour, and strum (or hammer) a tune for them. Every time I play in my home for people, I am shocked at how much they appreciate my efforts and the instrument. Folks really do WANT to hear you play.
  • Play a solo for your jammin’ friends.

See how I worked you up gradually to more and more exposure? Don’t let the fear monster getcha! Start small with baby steps, but keep on moving forward by playing for a larger audience each time. The courage will follow and one day you’ll be ready to rock it for a full audience.

Happy dulcimering,



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