6 Mar 2020

Confidence tricks: some tips for musical performance

From Upbeat, 10:11 am on 6 March 2020

Do you wish you had more confidence?

You’re not alone. Some of New Zealand’s most prominent performing artists and composers have struggled with issues of confidence throughout their careers. 

Can you learn to be confident? 

NZ violinist and creative performance coach Justine Cormack shares her thoughts… 


Justine Cormack

Justine Cormack Photo: Gareth Badger

Experiencing enough confidence has been a challenge throughout my career – and in many ways, it is still something I work on daily. It’s an ever-evolving thing for me and perhaps this is the case for many of us?  

I have often wished for more confidence, sensing that it would have an instantly positive impact on my performance abilities and success. Ironically, many times I have been told that I appear to be confident, but my personal reality has been otherwise. 

As a performer, I have come to understand that confidence is not something you ‘have’ or ‘don’t have’, but rather something you either ‘do’ or ‘don’t do’.  

When I discovered this for myself, I felt a significant sense of relief. Until that point, I was under the misconception that confidence was a way of being that was bestowed upon people. One was either a confident person or not a confident person. 

I now see that confidence is something that is built.  

Confident people are more successful at confidence because they ‘do’ confidence more often and it becomes their natural way of being. 

Confidence is like a muscle. If you use it more often, it gets stronger; if you don’t use it, it withers away. The saying ‘use it or lose it’ most certainly applies. 

Another way to look at confidence - or lack of it - is as a habit. Habits, good and bad, are things we are highly practiced at. We have done them repeatedly to the extent that they have become relatively unconscious.  

Unhelpful habits are hard to break, as they are so ingrained, but with conscious application new habits can be built, one step at a time. With each step, the habit becomes stronger, until it becomes second nature.  

Violinist Justine Cormack

Violinist Justine Cormack Photo: Garth Badger


Writing about confidence is a challenge as the complexities of its makeup are many, so I have written several blog posts that deal with confidence in different ways.  

Taking ownership of your confidence offers a simple way to experiment with different levels of confidence and observing the enlightening outcomes.

Acknowledging the positive delves into how important it is to support ourselves and acknowledge what is already working well within the creative process. This feeds into our ability to develop more confidence. 

Attitude is everything offers ways to notice your attitudes, try some new ones out and gain more clarity around the choices you are making.


A concept I find useful is to add a ‘filter of confidence’ into my attitude. Imagine a powerful theatre light shining down on the stage. Then add a coloured filter to that beam - the coloured filter now tints everything the light shines upon.  

Adding the coloured filter is like adding a confident attitude. Consciously adding confidence at the source of the creative process impacts hugely on our output.  

Pay consistent attention to your filter of confidence and notice when it dims or even disappears. This observation is cause for celebration. It’s a chance to re-engage confidence - to slide the coloured filter back into that beam of light. The reward is observing the positive creative outcomes of having that confident attitude in the mix - and it is usually a revelation! 

Violinist Justine Cormack

Violinist Justine Cormack Photo: Garth Badger


I also recognise how important the attitude of trust is in the equation. The ability to trust yourself and to trust others is a fundamental aspect of building confidence. With trust comes a letting go that invites confidence in more easily. 


Courage also plays a big part. Courage to let go, courage to explore, courage to be more successful. 


Finally, placing your awareness in your body, engaging with your centre and being guided by your own body’s intelligence really helps to quieten the mind and unlock a more creative reality.  

I have explored this process on my blog, most recently about the insights I gained while preparing for my ‘Beethoven Violin Sonatas’ cycle in mid-February this year:  'A reset from the inside'.