The art of balancing spiritual, physical and emotional attributes is a daunting task for any organist. The techniques with which an organist consolidates these attributes have a direct effect on the accomplishment of a definitive goal – a successful music performance. However, this portrays the ideal situation. There is a myriad of internal and external factors that obstruct the organist from attaining this ultimate goal and – in the process – create excessive stress and anxiety. Over and above the habitual performance nervousness, an organist’s anxiety level is exacerbated when performing on an unfamiliar organ, as every organ has unique characteristics that differ from all other. Moreover, the modern pipe organ – particularly the church organ – is a complex and intricate instrument that claims the highest skills and flexibility from an organist.
Performing music is inherently a stressful accomplishment that is intensified by continuous challenges, inter alia incessant preparation and the threat of criticism. Some music performers seem to thrive on stress while others choke under pressure. The music performer, however, is not intrinsically born with the innate knowledge and wisdom to manage the diverse anxiety-causing factors that are associated with organ performing. A particular kind of pedagogical training, namely coaching, is proposed as a technique to equip a scholar – particularly an organist – with tactics to manage performance anxiety. Parallels are drawn between the training of sports athletes and organists as coaching has valuable applications for both sports- and music performers.
The aim with the current study was to explore how and why organists experience such strenuous anxiety when performing a repertoire. These strains can often become too overwhelming for an organist to endure. For the purpose with the study, six experienced and qualified organists were selected by means of a convenience sample design. Their stress- and anxiety levels during music performances were identified by means of 12 open-ended questions. Being an experienced organist and teacher herself, the author was able to probe deeper into the topics introduced by the research questions. Particular consideration was given to the fabric of performance anxiety from three different approaches: behavioural, cognitive and psychoanalytical. In addition, pedagogical coaching was explored as a viable alternative to teaching an organist. Moreover, the organist’s unique characteristics were emphasised from behavioural, cognitive (gestalt), socio-cultural, and psychoanalytical approaches.
From the results of the empirical study is evident that all the organists participating in the study revelled in their organ performing. However, many situational and related aspects caused them habitually to experience feelings of stress, anxiety, loneliness and apprehension. Of particular concern to the organists was the inclusion of worship bands in the church. They experienced it as a threat to the church – resulting in a lowering of musical standards.
All of the stressful situations resulted in tiredness, frustration and sometimes exploitation in the organists. One main finding was that an organist imperatively needs to be coached and supported in coping with such adverse feelings. Coaching improves energy levels, self-help skills, better time management and further development of emotional intelligence. It can also increase the organist’s physiological state – improve a sense of awareness, enhance learning capabilities and increase self-confidence.
The all-encompassing conclusion reached was that – through effective coaching – the organist has a much better chance of overcoming inner- and outer adversities on the way to a successful and rewarding career.
Dissertation (MMus)--University of Pretoria, 2015.