Nine Steps to Combat Performance Anxiety. And an Invitation.

Time flies while in rehearsals – it’s hard to believe it’s been nearly a month since I sat down and wrote something to share with my friends, students and colleagues! I’ve been busy memorizing lyrics and choreography and dealing with my all too familiar “friend” while singing solo – performance anxiety (or ‘stage fright’ as it’s more commonly known.) But more about that in a bit.

First, here are a few rehearsal photos and an invitation for Portlanders to come see the NW Senior Theatre spring show, The Times of Your Life, May 15th-18th.

I truly do not remember the last time I’ve had so much fun singing and swinging. The music in this show includes many of my all-time favorite songs, and I’m singing with a terrific, talented bunch of people. This is the irony…in one song, I’ll be singing with the ensemble or in a small group number – for example, swinging and singing backup in a trio for My Boyfriend’s Back – and be having a blast. Not a care in the world, having fun, connected to the music. Then, the other three women leave the stage, Mak begins playing the piano introduction, and I’m there singing alone on stage. Boom! I become self-conscious, the performance anxiety kicks in, my larynx gets stuck (laryngeal tension) and my vocal quality goes out the window.

This is a “battle” I’ve been fighting since I first sang a solo in the Raymond Presbyterian Church in elementary school. I kept thinking if I just sang more often, in public, it would eventually go away.

Guess what? I’ve finally figured out it never will.

Singing in front of an audience regularly certainly helps. A lot. But the fear never completely goes away. Something can always happen to throw you off and cause you to lose focus.

Well-meaning friends ask why I get so nervous singing solo. That’s a legitimate question. My first answer now (it would have been different two or five years ago), is why wouldn’t I?

The number one fear of many, many people is public speaking. Add singing to that, take it times 30, and let that sink in. Barbra Streisand and Carly Simon have both admitted to near paralyzing stage fright.  We all have our own vocal histories, possible traumas, experiences of being shamed. And public singing may just be the most vulnerable thing a person can do. Perhaps, also…stripping? (I don’t even want to THINK about singing while stripping!) And the truth is…we live in a judgmental culture. No matter how many brilliant vocal performances have 65,000 likes on a YouTube video, there will always be those 18 haters. There will always be people who don’t like you, or your voice.

I’ve had a couple of long conversations and lessons with my voice teacher and mentor, Linda Brice, throughout the course of these rehearsals.  The understandings and support I’ve received re: acupressure, energy healing, performing in an altered brain wave state (like self-hypnosis), and generational trauma are remarkable. I have no question I’m being fully supported by the Universe and that I am more dedicated to my passion for music and performing than I am belittled by my fears. I could write an entire book about these understandings.

For now, here’s a bullet list I hope will help you if you suffer from anxiety while sharing your authentic, creative self. Especially if it involves your voice.

  • Embrace the fear; invite it in. Don’t try and avoid it or push it away. It’s not going anywhere.  Thank your fear for trying to keep you safe, consider an “f you” kind of attitude, and announce that you will sing anyway.
  • Remember there is no place for perfectionism – that’s all about ego. Just having the passion and courage to show up is enough. The rest will come with time as you learn to share, unselfishly, with your audience. This is HUGE for me. I think I should be able to sing solo in front of other people just as easily as I do at home when no-one’s watching but my husband and our cat. Or a student. I’m a voice teacher, for heaven’s sake!  The block is only in my mind; but that doesn’t make the fear any less real. I have to allow myself to sing badly so I can learn and grow. Wo-man, does my ego hate that! *See below.
  • Keep in mind It’s not your voice that’s failing you; it’s the fear, resulting in an adrenaline and cortisol rush that causes laryngeal tension in your body, your vocal instrument. You need to learn to embrace the fear and sing through it anyway.
  • Really know and understand the music, the song. Allow yourself to connect with it, take yourself out of your self-consciousness and share the songwriter’s important message with your audience.
  • As I tell my voice students, when possible – if performance anxiety is crippling for you – sing songs in your first register, chest voice. We talk there all the time, so it’s easier when fear sets in. I am now working on belting much of my solo, except for one note that is too high. It keeps my voice more stable when I’m scared.
  • Embrace beta blockers. Prescribed pills can really help in this circumstance. At some point, you’ll realize you don’t need them anymore.
  • Imagine you have a performance warrior to help you. Feel the fear, breathe in, and sing anyway – like your warrior is helping you point your voice like an arrow to reach your audience. You can think of the fear coming into your body and working with it, instead of trying to resist it.
  • Develop a daily meditation and energy clearing process to clear your mind and body. And stretch!
  • For at least two full days before your performance, practice clearing tension from your body and keeping yourself in a calmer brain wave state. Stay hydrated. Most of us are in beta state the bulk of our daily lives; when we’re working, running errands, etc. Three to five deep breaths bring me right into alpha state, which is calmer. Theta waves occur when you’re sleeping, dreaming, intensely focused, also right before sleeping or waking up. (I once went into theta state while chopping vegetables for a meal.) There are other states as well; lots of information is available online. We are all able to adjust our brain wave state through our breathing.

*I fell in love with the musical Rent long before I had the exquisite opportunity to see Idina Menzel and Kristen Chenoweth in Wicked, on tour in Portland from Broadway. Two of my favorite singers, for sure, with very different voice types. Menzel played Maureen in Rent and Elphaba in Wicked. She is likely even better known for being the voice of Elsa in Disney’s Frozen films, and the song Let it Go.

Menzel sang that song at the 2015 New York New Year’s Eve party in Times Square. It was cold outside, snowing, and even Idina was probably nervous. Her performance was great, but it wasn’t perfect. A note or two could say to have been flubbed.

Did that make me love her any less, or make me want to watch less of her performances? Absolutely not.

I need to give that same respect and honor to myself.

So do you.

I’m eager to hear if these tips are helpful. Let me know on the blog!  

Next up I have a homemade taco seasoning recipe and who knows what else. 😊

Love Your Voice & Voice Your Love,


Tips & Tricks

The Sherwood library here in the Portland area recently had a Six Word Story contest.

 A friend of mine who lives in Japan recently moved and wanted some decorating tips.

Two of my voice students and I have been having the same vocal challenges singing certain songs this week.

What do these three things have in common? Absolutely nothing, except I couldn’t pinpoint one topic to focus on in this post, so you’re getting tips re: all three! Lucky you, right?

Right?! 😊

1)  According to the library, ‘There’s a literary legend that Ernest Hemingway, while having dinner with fellow writers of the famous Algonquin Round Table in New York City, bet he could write a story in just six words. They bet not. He grabbed a pen and a napkin and wrote: 

“For Sale: baby shoes, never worn.” 

They paid up and Hemingway called it his best work.

Creativity Tip: Try writing a few six word stories.

I jotted down a few but didn’t like any of them well enough to submit to the contest. It was still fun, though!

Flow is always available. Step in.

I like that, but it’s more like a self-help book than a story.

Two bottles. Three dead. In rehab.

Descriptive, but so heavy!

Why not? It’s early. Come on!

Sounds like fun, but could have led to the preceding!

Please share your six word stories by commenting on the blog!

2) Katie and I were having a Zoom chat and she walked around with her laptop showing me the Tokyo apartment she’d just moved into.  That’s the closest I’ve been to Japan, just seeing outside the windows. Her guided tour reminded me of the time I was separated from my first husband and living in a one bedroom apartment on the top floor of a purple-painted Victorian house in Salem. That place was a haven for me during a difficult time in my life. My good friend Julanne came over to help me decorate.

I’m no interior designer, but I do enjoy beauty, and a cozy, inviting look and feel in my home. I’ve lived in everything from a studio apartment to a large farm house on two acres. My personal style is more shabby chic than sleek metropolitan. Julanne’s specialty is helping a person create a warm and beautiful home using only items already on hand.

Decorating Tip: Arrange items in different small displays by color or theme. You don’t have to have an overall color scheme or theme for the entire house, or even one room. Think pockets here and there. That idea from Julanne has served me well everywhere I’ve lived since. Here are some photos from my own homes, including from where George and I now live.

3) The theme of vocal training this week has been that sometimes awkward transition between first and second register. What goes on here is the larynx tilts as the cricothyroid and arytenoid muscles pass the control baton back and forth as a vocalist moves between the two lowest registers. It’s natural for breaks to occur, along with shakiness and sometimes pitch issues. I’ve been cast in a new musical revue show (four performances mid-May) with the NW Senior Theatre company. Both solos I’ve tried out require multiple first/second register transitions. When performance anxiety hits (which it still does for me when singing solo) and my body tenses, I experience the same thing as my students have this week.

Vocalization Tip: When moving from first to second register, be as resonant as you can possibly be. Crinkle your nose if you have to, be overly nasal, with lots of breath. Get your voice right into the ‘mask,’ or buzzy spot, as it’s often called. It will help you keep power, stay on pitch, and lessen the chances of breaking and that quivery thing.

Here’s a quick video with more information about resonance.

And here’s one about registers.

Happy creating – I’d love to hear your thoughts on the blog!

Love Your Voice & Voice Your Love,


Books, Books and More Books (Just two, really!)

Most people know me as a voice teacher or performer, but I’m also a serious bibliophile. I just love books and words; I’ve written four books myself! Sadly, my cookbook is no longer in stock, but the other three are.

How about you? Do you love to read as much as I do?

If so, here’s one to check out.  

Pineapple Wedding – Pineapple Port Mysteries

Amazon US | Amazon CA | Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Amazon IN 

New to Pineapple Port? No problem! Each book can stand alone, but be warned, one taste of Pineapple Port’s charm and you’ll want to devour the entire series.


USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author Amy Vansant tries to marry off her detectives in this latest installment of the fun, thrilling, twisty Pineapple Port Mysteries!

A goat invasion at a local wedding venue pushes the owner to call on Charlotte and Declan of the Charlock Holmes detective agency for help. Short on funds, the new client offers to trade them a free wedding, pushing the detectives to search for other businesses willing to exchange mystery solving for wedding services. When someone murders a local celebrity chef, and his partner turns up as the suspected killer, they might have a caterer…

Charlotte and Declan aren’t the only ones working on their wedding. Mariska and Darla are determined to get Charlotte the perfect wedding gown, but that turns out to be more complicated than expected. Declan’s Uncle Seamus and his mysterious father want to help, too—but nothing is easy in Pineapple Port!

Go, Amy Vansant!

Now, here’s one I wrote several years ago that I basically never talk about. But it’s good. It’s really good, and it’s only $3.95. How do I know it’s good? Because one of my favorite authors told me once she started reading, she finished the whole thing in one sitting and that I’m a terrific writer. A writer can’t get a whole lot better compliment than that now, can she?

How do you be yourself in a world that celebrates conformity over creativity?

In just 23 entertaining and insightful pages, Laura Handke’s The Ten Tenets of Authenticity: How to Be Most Fully Yourself in Any Situation begins to seriously answer that question. Through investment in your own curiosity, solitude, and connecting with others to realize your potential, you’ll find a path to cultivating wonder which will have you living, ongoing, in your personal thriving zone.

Love Your Voice & Voice Your Love,


Do You Have Glossophobia?

Glossophobia: Strong fear of speaking in public, resulting in fear and anxiety.

A quick internet search tells me that while glossophobia may no longer be in the top three fears of most people (it was for years and years), it’s still extremely common. Glossophobia affects as many Americans as four in ten or more, up to 75% of the population.

Are you one of them?

Public speaking doesn’t scare me much, perhaps because of my background as a performer and in the theatre. But singing in public still scares the crap out of me if I’m doing a solo. It’s kind of embarrassing for a voice teacher to admit, but I know I’m not alone in this.

My co-star, Dan, and I had three performances of TOAST at the Chapel Theatre winter play festival after a short two-week whirlwind to prepare. Here are some photos from opening night.

As my husband and I were driving to the theatre for closing night, I found myself saying, “Sometimes I wonder why I do this to myself. It’s our third performance, and I’m still nervous! But then I remember the high after opening night…and there’s just nothing like it.”

I wouldn’t consider myself an adrenaline junkie. I don’t climb mountains, drive crazy or jump out of airplanes. (Not that there’s anything wrong with any of that.) Yet getting up on stage – whether to speak, act, dance or sing – activates the adrenal glands. It’s a physiological response to putting ourselves in what, for most people, is an uncomfortable and anxiety-producing situation. Adrenaline helps us focus…and it also makes our hearts pound and gives us butterflies in our tummies. That’s what was happening to me in the car on the way to the theatre.

Yet, in the end, it’s all worth it!

Why, you may ask?

*Because if you have a message to share, there are people who need to hear it.

*Because when you’re in a theatrical production, you’re creating a community, practically a family. Everyone in the theatre company relies on each other to make those couple of hours special for the audience, and consistent for the actors. Every person has to show up on time, and do exactly what they’ve learned to do during rehearsals, at just the right time. There’s no vision without a director. The actors have to not only learn the lines and blocking, but consistently embody the emotions of their character. If the lights or sound are off even slightly, it impacts the entire show, along with if costume items or props aren’t where they’re supposed to be. A play has a lot of moving parts, a musical even more, always with the intention of giving the audience a spectacular experience. That’s what they paid for.

*Because music, like laughter, is a Universal language. If you love to sing and feel music in your soul, there are people who need to hear you. You are the only person in the entire world who sounds just like you. Your voice is as unique as the irises of your eyes or your fingerprints.

If public speaking or performing is an issue for you, here are a few things you can do.

1. Book a voice lesson and learn some tools. I work all over the world via Zoom and speak some Spanish, si se habla Espanol.

2. Check out this article by Presence Training I found online. This is solid advice.

3. Join a local Toastmasters club. Toastmasters is the world’s largest speaking and leadership organization, and there’s probably a club right in your city.

Let me know how your journey unfolds!

Love Your Voice & Voice Your Love,


Chapel Theatre Winter Play Festival

Jeremy Okai Davis

Next up in our Chapel Theatre Winter Play Festival lineup for DANNY AND ROSE…!

Introducing Jeremy Okai Davis, a newcomer to the world of acting. Davis was born in Charlotte, NC but has resided in Portland, Oregon since 2007. 

With a background in the arts, Davis has always found inspiration in various forms of creative expression. From painting and photography to poetry and music, their artistic journey has been enriched by breathing in several influences. 

In addition to his artistic pursuits, Davis is a devoted parent, along with his partner Brittany, of two amazing children, Runey & Rhye. Parenthood has added a depth and richness to his life that has led to a desire to tap into human emotions and relationships through acting.

Jeremy is excited to make his debut at the Chapel Theatre and is thankful for the opportunity. He would like to thank his co-star Cecelia Shroyer, director Laura Handke and the amazing writer Michael Kurt.

Michael Kurt

Michael Kurt is an author, artist, and the co-founder of Berm magazine. From 2014 to 2021, Michael co-hosted the podcast Talking to Ghosts, which interviewed creatives about their lives and ran on a bi-weekly schedule. In 2021, Michael also self-published his first chapbook of fiction, called Heaviness Leaves The Body. After ending the Talking to Ghosts podcast, Michael and Wes went on to found Berm Magazine. In 2023, the video art piece In Distance Time Moves was selected to be shown at Moscow Contemporary, in Moscow, Idaho as part of the Timescape(s) group exhibition. In 2024, Michael’s short play Danny And Rose will be featured in the Chapel Theater Play Fest. 

Laura Handke

Laura Handke is an inspirational and energetic facilitator, writer, speaker and certified Transformational Voice® teacher, committed to helping others express themselves fully in the world. She teaches voice and piano. Laura is the author of Six Degrees to Your Dreams, an iUniverse Editor’s Choice award recipient, The Ten Tenets of Authenticity, and How Abella Found Her Voice. (Transformational Voice® is a registered trademark of Transformational Voice® Training Institute, LLC, and Linda Brice.) DANNY AND ROSE is her directorial debut.

Next up…the show I’m acting in that almost didn’t happen…


There’s a story behind this show.

I received notice that I would be acting in TOAST, written by Nanette Gatchel, the same time as I learned about directing DANNY AND ROSE. Yet somehow days went by without a first meeting or any scheduled rehearsals. My co-star and I were available on different days. His schedule for a film he was shooting was becoming heavier and heavier. We two, the director, and the writer, all live on completely different sides of Portland (which isn’t exactly a small, quaint hamlet.) And then a snow and ice storm hit, power and internet went out, trees fell, and the whole city became Cancellation Central. My co-star reluctantly dropped out, and then the director did as well.

I had been working on my lines and was over 90% off book (not needing to hold the script to remember lines) by then, so I just sat back and waited to see what would happen.

What happened was the co-owner of the theatre company, Corinn DeTorres, decided to direct the show herself and the actor who quit recommended a film actor friend of his to take over the role of Bill. (It’s a two-person show; I play Katherine, Bill’s wife.)

We met on ZOOM last Thursday. Had five rehearsals between Friday and Tuesday. Dress rehearsal is Wednesday night, and the show opens on Friday.

Those of you who’ve been involved in the theatre know that’s a short, tight time frame in which to put a show together. Especially one with complicated blocking (physical movement on stage.) I’m exhausted and my brain is full. True story: Yesterday, after rehearsal, I drove to the mall to get a costuming piece for the show. I had to go to four different stores to find something that would even remotely work; it was like the size goblins had come in and taken out virtually every knee-length nightgown and robe that would fit me. I finally found a black robe and decided to use a tunic-style tank top I already had on hand as the nightie.

Chaos! Mayhem, I tell you!

I literally walked out of three different JC Penny doors (it’s a big store) before I got to the parking lot where I had parked my car. I got completely turned around. It felt like that Viola Davis moment in the film EAT, PRAY, LOVE, when she said, “I can’t keep two thoughts in my head.” My brain is filled with dialog and blocking; there’s no room for anything else.

Yet, somehow, we’re a great team and we’re having a lot of fun!

So, it’s with great pleasure I introduce my dedicated, hard-working, energetic co-star, Dan Kyle…who is definitely getting the theatre bug!

Dan Kyle

Dan Kyle was born on April 24, 1972 in Portland, Oregon, USA. He is an actor and writer, known for Jason Rising: A Friday the 13th Fan Film (2021)South of Heaven: Episode 3 – The Long Walk Home (2019) and V-Force: New Dawn of V.I.C.T.O.R.Y. (2017).

I’m feeling confident now that this will be a show I can be just as proud of as I am my DANNY AND ROSE cast. If you’re in Portland and enjoy live theatre, come see the shows!

Chapel Theatre Winter Play Festival

I’m thrilled to be part of the Chapel Theatre Winter Play Festival again this year! It’s such a cool concept, in a charming venue in an old church. Local playwrights submit short 10-minute plays, directors apply to direct, and actors submit online auditions. So…none of us have any idea what play we’ll be in or who we might be working with ahead of time. And, we only have a couple weeks of rehearsal time before opening night.

This year is my directorial debut! I’m directing DANNY AND ROSE, written by Michael Kurt.

How does a new director prepare to direct their first show? For me, so far, like this. I read through the script two or three times and saw the play in my mind’s eye first, seeing the stage it will be on. Then I spoke with the writer. I interviewed other directors I admire, each of whom generously shared their time and expertise. Scheduled a first read-through with the writer and cast of two.

Directing a first show is a massive learning curve, just as is acting in a first show, or taking a first acting class. Blocking. Character development. Relationships and emotional transitions. I’ll be sharing more as the process progresses, but for now I want to introduce you to Cecelia Shroyer, who plays Rose.

Cecelia Shroyer is thrilled to make her Chapel Theatre festival debut after being just an audience member last year. She has been a longtime lover of the arts starting with acting classes in college. After an unplanned 13 year break from theatre, she got cast in 36 Conversations at HART Theatre in Hillsboro. She also played several roles in Sleepy Hollow at Beaverton Civic Theatre. The pandemic definitely put a hold on live theatre, but she participated in a few Zoom productions. Last year she participated in a staged reading called The Ransom of Granny Red Jeans at Stomping Grounds Arthouse. Cecelia is currently a graduate student in counseling at George Fox University. She also loves singing and playing the piano in addition to acting. The arts are so important and she is so grateful to Chapel Theatre and Laura for this opportunity.

Find the line-up and how to buy tickets here!

Next up: Jeremy Okai Davis plays Danny!

For the inner vocalist or pianist in you or your loved ones, I have gift certificates!  I’m also giving away one free hour of training for anyone who purchases a five-pack of lessons between now and the end of January. You can use the six hours for yourself, or for a musical family member or friend.

This gem of an eBook takes you on an emotional journey with Abella, whose dream comes true the morning of her 9th birthday. Her best birthday present ever is a real, live horse! Yet, before the end of the year, Abella is an orphan who loses the ability to speak her truth and express herself. This eBook includes videos for vocal training. Fiction readers will love meeting Abella, and the friends and animals who help her regain her voice and uncover her strength and purpose. Speakers and singers looking to improve their vocal quality and longevity will love the vocal training videos! Abella’s lessons apply to all of us who at one time or another want to make our voices heard. Is it a fantasy fable? Or is it a book on vocal training? Lucky for us, How Abella Found Her Voice is both. Find it here:

Love Your Voice & Voice Your Love,