Some of my organ students even have nightmares about that (me too, by the way). Actually, my worst nightmare about organ playing is like that: I have to play a recital but the music on the music rack is absolutely unfamiliar to me. Another version of the same nightmare would be if I have to play some pieces from memory, but I don't even know how they start.
Going back to this topic, people feeling stage fright or performance anxiety might get quite uncomfortable before performances. The hands start to shake, breathing becomes very shallow, a person might start thinking about the people in the audience, about their negative comments, about difficult places in some particular piece etc.
Naturally all these thoughts and feelings might affect not only person's general condition but also quality level of the performance.
So, if you are like me and have some performance anxiety what can you do about it? Is it possible to get rid of it entirely? I think as long it does not affect your playing, some anxiety might be a good thing. It gives you more focus and determination. Otherwise the playing might be too relaxed, even boring for others to hear.
I think the level of performance anxiety might have something to do with the actual ability to play the music confidently and fluently. The better you will know the piece, the more confidence you will have in your playing, and consequently, the less stress you will feel.
In addition, the performance anxiety might be reduced by mental focus. This does not mean that we have to try to exclude all external thoughts but instead we should strive to be in the moment. When playing some particular piece, try to shift your focus and attention from measure to measure.
So the take away message from this article would be this: whatever piece you are working on right now, try to achieve the level of fluency when you could play it with precision and without mistakes at least three times in a row. Even try to memorize the music. Keep your focus on the current measure. Then when time comes to perform it in public, the performance anxiety will not affect you as much.
By the way, do you want to learn to play the King of Instruments - the pipe organ? If so, download my FREE video guide: "How to Master Any Organ Composition" in which I will show you my EXACT steps, techniques, and methods that I use to practice, learn and master any piece of organ music.