Hey everyone! So I have been thinking about writing this blog post for a while, since it’s something I get asked all the time! People often tell me how confident I look on stage. They ask me how I remain so calm before a show, and why I never look nervous. I usually reply that I’m only nervous if I don’t know what I’m doing (a new piece or uncomfortable situation on stage). I think for everyone, when you do something for the first time, it’s always a little nerve wracking. Or maybe you’re the kind of person that just jumps right in. I’m a honestly the type to be prepared, but either way I’m usually pretty confident.
When I was younger though, I used to hate performing. When I got up at competitions and exams, I used to get very very nervous, especially when there was someone with a pen and paper ready to write down notes about what I was playing. It just seemed so technical. And while feedback is important, I’ve always performed better when I know that people are open to my story, and not just judging what I’m going to do.
At the end of the day though, professional performers need to put all those thoughts aside and deliver every time without fail. So how did I get over those times when my hands would get a little sweaty? Here are five tips, that I hope will help you to put away your fears:
1. Put away self doubt! find things to refocus on when you get there. When we are children we are so confident, so loving, so excitable. As we get older we learn to quash those traits we started out with, for various reasons. We were laughed at when we were very expressive, and felt humiliated so we learnt, just like a toddler touching a hot oven, not to touch it again- we learn not to show those feelings. Or we make a mistake and because of how it was handled by us and those around us, we learnt not to do something unless we could get it right- and that fear of making a mistake prevents us from trying, or it paralyses us on stage. I have so much fear from studying and playing the violin in my childhood that sometimes, (and I know some of you wouldn’t believe this when you see me confident on stage!) I feel like I can’t play. So what I do, is one of two things: A)I focus on the audience and what I’m there to communicate. B) I think of the emotion or story that inspired me to create what I’m playing.
These are habits that you can train yourself to do quickly, if you ever start going to that place where doubt creeps in. Try it!
2. Don’t confuse your feelings with facts. Don’t work yourself up with negative thoughts. Sit down and write out that negative feeling and then write the facts next to it. For example, here’s what a student of mine used to say a lot before performing: “I’m the worst violinist in the world”. That was her feeling in the moment. Fact: she was a fantastic grade 8 student! And for sure not the worst violinist in the world. When we are stressed, or anxious we come up with all kinds of thoughts and feelings around something that’s challenging to us. Make sure you don’t start embedding some of these into your mind as facts, remind yourself that they’re not, and write out some positive feelings in place of the negative ones.
3. Face your fears: go on stage more often! As often as you can! Even if it’s for family and friends, or one friend, or in front of the mirror. Record yourself playing! It’s a great way to see where you’re at as well – treat it like a performance, and listen back, focusing on improvements. Just do it until it becomes natural! Once, in Europe, I was asked to start my show on a trapeze. I thought it was a joke! I was a violinist and I had never been on a trapeze! I climbed up to see what it felt like, and my boss told the guys who helped me up there, to leave me there for a while! I was so angry I wanted to get down, but after a while, I started to feel comfortable up there. And by the time they came to get me down, I didn’t mind it at all. So if it’s performing in front of an audience, being on stage scares you then get on that stage! Not just when you need to perform- ask if you can go on stage before the show, a few days before even. Get used to the space, imagine what it will feel like, and master emotional control of that situation.
4. Have a support team: Find people that are positive, uplift you and are supportive of your goals. Those closest to you should be supportive and not create additional challenges. If you have someone around you that actually increases your stage nerves by the things they do and say, then take some space away from them, especially around a performance.
5. Remember why you wanted to perform on stage in the first place! You have a story to tell? You dream of being a performer? Unless you’re doing it because Mom and Dad said you have to…. Then during your performance, focus on why you started on the road to becoming a musician in the first place. I just focus on that inspiration and the story plays out in my mind and I forget all the rest of the things that pop into my mind. Or if I like the audience, I focus on them, and start to interact and then it becomes about communicating. We all have something special to offer. If you go on stage comparing yourself to those better than you, and thinking you’re not good enough, that is how you will play. Remember what drove you to pick up your instrument in the first place, be YOU and block the rest out. You CAN train yourself to do this.
If you want to read more about this topic, one amazing book that really helped me in my pursuit of stage command was The Inner Game of Music, by Barry Green check it out, it might be helpful to you too:
The most important thing is that you believe in yourself, even if at first you have to fake it until you make it. You know how sometimes when you smile when you’re not feeling the best, and if you wear that smile for a while, it sort of filters through the rest of you? Well, at least that’s me. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and put that confidence on, and let it filter through the rest of you! Perform like you know you can.
Hey friends, the last few weeks have been crazy busy! I have recorded a new album, almost done recording a new single and we’ve done a bunch of videos that are coming out one by one coming up… The crazy thing about pregnancy is that I have so many ideas, and things I want to do but I’m so much slower getting around LOL! So… I will be sharing with you what I’ve been working on over the next few months, and I’m so excited for that.
The single I’ve been working on is something really special to me, straight from my heart, the core of me- an original piece co-written and produced by Rob Wells, as I mentioned to you guys, it’s going back into my ancestry and discovering the sounds of Scotland and Ireland! Crazy journey. Can’t wait to share it with you. I also recorded another album with a beautiful harpist out east in Toronto, which will come out next year as well. I’m so excited to get out there and share it with you guys!
Strings: some of you have emailed me asking about what strings I use in recording. Most of the time, I use Pirastro Evah Pirazzi Gold but not all the time- I find they wear out more quickly than other strings that might not sound as rich and beautiful, but not far off and they last longer. It really depends on the situation and where I’m recording (the weather does make a difference too!). If you want to know more, ask me! Send me a DM on Facebook 🙂
Next week: a new video coming out! So you know I don’t usually do covers, but recently, I did a couple of videos of covers, exclusive to my youtube channel, (one voted by you guys too!) and next week there will be one more, filmed in the Rocky Mountains of Alberta, just in time right before the snow!
Hey guys! I get asked a lot why, as a violinist, do I perform at events, and I thought I would answer this question…. Some musicians don’t do it, but I love it. I’ve performed around the globe and seen parts of the world I probably wouldn’t have seen at this stage in my life if I hadn’t taken those opportunities. I’ve performed for thousands, and for intimate audiences as well. That might be enough for some people to jump at the idea of performing for special events, and corporate events… but here are the biggest reasons that I choose to perform at special events and corporate events around the globe:
Firstly, I like being surprised. Being an international musician and performing in a different city for every show is amazing! New customs to learn, new audience responses I need to be ready to deal with. I actually found that performing in a new situation every night, really helped me hone my stage craft: the way I move, the way I communicate with the audience, and my level of comfort on stage. Even though every situation is different and sometimes unpredictable, I find this really exciting, and it’s been a huge part of who I have become, and am still becoming, as a performer.
Secondly, I love intimate audiences and the chance to meet new people and new fans. Even if I’m performing for thousands, I always meet new people and learn so much, and it has taught me, and given me the chance, to create my show in a unique space or situation to fit the circumstances I’m presented with and create a truly phenomenal outcome- always possible with the right team supporting you.
This is my current events show-reel which has some highlights from performances around the globe, and a variety of situations from an intimate wedding for a friend to performing for thousands in the Middle East. I think it reflects how much fun it can really be! I love discovering other styles of music and cultures.
I have been asked so many questions, there isn’t always time to answer everyone, but now that I’m 8 months pregnant, I have loads of time to write some answers! I truly I love teaching, coaching and helping other musicians whenever I can. I’ve been asked so many questions, there are too many to fit into one blog! So I hope to answer all your questions one by one, on this site or via videos on my YouTube Channel. I can’t always write back on Facebook or Instagram, so I’ll be directing you guys here.
Fellow musicians have asked me so many questions about performing in the corporate entertainment market for example, what about sound? What if that is unpredictable, and how do I deal with it? Also, if it’s just me on stage, how can I engage the audience from start to finish? For many musicians who are used to having the entire focus on the music alone, these show situations are more than simply standing there and playing the music when you’re not in a concert situation, although, I love it when I get to do that to. Once I explain how I deal with any challenges that might arise, the next most common questions are, how do I get into this other side of the industry and start performing at events, and how do I build an entertainment career doing this? Can I still be me? Or do I have to mold my show to something that’s more mainstream to engage an audience that isn’t familiar with my music? I could write an entire book on this… anyway, for now, I will be releasing some videos on these topics on my YouTube channel addressing some of these very soon.
If you’re interested in getting more information, click here to send me a note! I’m very happy to have those conversations with serious musicians. Whatever path you choose, make sure you are doing it because you LOVE doing it! Love what you live & live what you love. It really is possible.
My dear friends & fans, most of you have probably noticed that I have baby #3 on board… and today I’m so excited to share that it’s a GIRL! We can’t wait to meet the newest addition to our family!
Motherhood has been one of the most amazing and craziest journeys I have ever been on. So much learnt, so much happiness and exhaustion too… but SO worth it, our adorable peanuts are to us, the most amazing little people. It’s definitely stirred up more creativity in me- I think I’m writing now more than performing, which is rare for me considering the last few years! So… news is… with all that writing… there’s an album in the works, and I’ll be sharing a single before the end of the year! Thank you to all of you who shared feedback with me, I’m definitely listening.
Speaking of writing… since I changed my stage name back to my maiden name, I have been inspired to explore my father’s family’s ancestry, and I’m planning to follow it all the way back to Scotland. Excited to be planning a trip to visit the Scottish lowlands where the Armstrong clan originated from and can’t wait to explore… So beautiful and mysterious… what stories are waiting there that might inspire my new album? The family and I will be off next year to find out, and explore the music of Scotland. Any suggestions on where to go/what to check out in Scotland? I’d love to hear from you! Send me a Facebook PM!
Hey everyone! It has come to our attention that there are a few Sophie impersonators out there online. So, to make things clear, I use only ONE email. I have only ONE Skype account, and on social media this is where you can find me:
*My Skype account says “this is my ONLY Skype account”, any others are fakes. If you’re not sure if an email is from me or anyone on my team, use the contact page of this website to get in touch and find out. All else I can say is… I guess imitation is the highest form of flattery! 😉 Sophie xo
Last night, I performed at the top of the Banff Gondola, and wow, was it an amazing experience! I arrived for a special event, and wow was the ride up the mountain beautiful and a little scary at the same time! I have to admit, my violin didn’t love the air pressure up there, but it was a super fun show, my violin held out and it was a great experience all around…
Don’t forget your jacket even if it’s not quite winter, it’s colder up the top than I expected! If you saw my instagram stories, you would have seen my ride up the gondola- are you on Instagram?