1140 Broadway #204
New York, NY 10001
(646) 410-4764

Overcome mental blocks. Enable peak performance.

Mental Strategies for Peak Performance

I specialize in the techniques of visual imagery, mental rehearsal, and performance anchoring that help performing artists, athletes, and business professionals with:

  • Confidence
  • Focus
  • Memorization
  • Motivation
  • Auditions
  • Handling criticism
  • Discouragement & burnout
  • Positive thinking
  • Getting "in the zone" more quickly and reliably
  • Creative blocks
  • Other life events that affect performance (ex: stress, sleep, weight, habits)

Whether you need to fix a problem, or you want a mental edge to support your best performance, I offer a personalized approach to help you reach your goals.

Brain changes in hypnosis and what they mean for performers

Brain imaging studies show distinct changes in the brain during hypnosis, and seem to explain several phenomena of hypnosis that can be important for performers:

Increased focus with less distraction
Hypnosis reduces the activity of the default mode network, which is active when a person is thinking, remembering and daydreaming. The DMN is not active when one is absorbed deeply in a goal-oriented task or performance. In the inactive DMN state there a loss of peripheral awareness and distraction.

Effortlessness and decreased worry
In hypnosis there is reduced activity in the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, the part of the brain involved in the emotional evaluation of errors. The dorsal ACC is also active during effortful performance. In hypnosis and states of deep absorption, actions and performance take place effortlessly and with less worry.

Decreased self-consciousness and enhanced immediacy of action
In hypnosis there is reduced connectivity between the parts of the brain involved in planning actions (dorsolateral prefrontal cortex) and self-conscious thinking (posterior cingulate cortex).

Greater awareness and control of physiological and emotional processes
In hypnosis there is increased connectivity between the parts of the brain involved in planning actions (dorsolateral prefrontal cortex) and sensing and controlling internal bodily processes and emotions (insula).

All studies are referenced fully here.


Public Speakers
Business Professionals


"John is a master at helping our singers develop the mental skills they need to be great artists. He has a remarkable understanding of a performer’s mental processes, and methods for moving past obstacles and preparing for important performances. We love having him as part of our programs."

- Sherrill Milnes & Maria Zouves,
Directors of the Sherrill Milnes VOICE Programs






Session fee: $200

Performance Anxiety

How Common is Performance Anxiety?


• Estimates of severe and persistent performance anxiety range from 15%-25%.

• A Dutch study found that 59% of musicians in symphony orchestras reported intermittent or less severe forms of performance anxiety that were severe enough to impair their functioning, with 21% reporting that they experienced performance anxiety at a severe level.

• A survey of 2,212 musicians by the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians reported that 24% of American orchestral musicians frequently suffered stage fright.

• A survey of 56 orchestras found that 70% of musicians had experienced anxiety severe enough to interfere with performance, with 16% experiencing this more than once a week.

• In a study of 19 Canadian orchestras, almost all professional orchestra musicians (96%) reported stress related to their performance.

• A survey of 1,639 musicians by the International Federation of Musicians (1997) showed that 70% sometimes experienced anxiety before their performances that was severe enough to impair the quality of their playing.

• Standard anxiety test scores showed high anxiety is approximately 3 times more prevalent among opera chorus artists.

Source: Dianna T. Kenny, The Psychology of Music Performance Anxiety (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), 86-87.

Commonly Reported Causes of Performance Anxiety Among Orchestral Musicians

• Pressure from self
• Not knowing how to manage physical arousal
• Inadequate preparation for performance
• Tendency to be anxious in general, not just in performance
• Health issues
• Negative thoughts/worry about performing
• Inadequate support from people close to you
• Excessive physical arousal prior to or during performance
• Lack of confidence in yourself as a musician
• Attempting repertoire that is too difficult
• Concern about reliability of memory
• Bad performance experience
• Concern about audience reaction/Fear of negative evaluation
• Pressure from conductor or section leader
• Pressure from or competing with peers, other musicians
• Generally low self-esteem
• Not knowing how to manage negative thoughts/worry about performing
• Technical flaws that cause uncertainty
• General lack of self-confidence
• Generally high level of self-consciousness
• Negative performance feedback
• Pressure from parent(s)

Source: Dianna T. Kenny, The Psychology of Music Performance Anxiety (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), 93.

Tips to Reduce Performance Anxiety

For most performers some nervousness is just part of the job. It can even be energizing and helpful. But sometimes nervousness can get in the way or become persistent performance anxiety or stage fright. Here are some tips to help performing artists handle nervousness and performance anxiety.

Remember that some nervousness is normal.
Even after one negative experience with performance anxiety it becomes easy to worry at the first sign of nervousness. Try to remember that some nervous excitement is normal and even optimal for peak performance. A realistic goal is not to eliminate nervousness, but to keep it at acceptable levels.


Most performers experience some physical sensation of excitement, nervousness, or “butterflies in the stomach” before any performance. In terms of physical sensations “nervousness” and “excitement” are much the same, if not identical. What you call the sensation, and whether you regard it as normal, or the signal of a serious “condition,” makes a big difference.

Cut nicotine. Reduce alcohol, caffeine, and sugar. Understand medication side effects.
Some of the most common substances that people use to regulate their moods, such as cigarettes and alcohol, increase anxiety. Even benzodiazepines that people take to reduce anxiety can have the opposite effect. If you are experiencing performance anxiety you should also watch your caffeine and sugar intake.

Get enough sleep.
Scientists at University of California–Berkeley found that a lack of sleep can activate the same type of neural activity seen in anxiety disorders. You need 7-9 hours sleep for optimal health.

Practice a daily relaxation exercise.
The body reacts to threats with increased levels of the stress hormone adrenaline. Under conditions of chronic stress, heightened adrenaline levels can cause the body to become locked in a physiological state of hyperarousal. In this situation, your natural counter response for relaxation will not take place on its own. It must be activated deliberately. Two of the best techniques to activate true physiological relaxation are:
- The Relaxation Response of Dr. Herbert Benson
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation of Dr. Edmund Jacobson

A simple and consistent relaxation exercise is a must for anyone who experiences performance anxiety. The key to any relaxation exercise is daily practice.

Learn to produce a positive mental state
If you do adopt a daily relaxation exercise, engage in this quick visualization exercise when you are most deeply relaxed during that experience. If you practice this regularly you can train yourself to enter a positive mental state quickly when you need to most. With your eyes closed, try to remember something what you feel like when you are most confident and/or having a peak experience with your art. For example, think of a memorable performance you gave, a positive review by someone whose opinion you respect, or what inspires you to be an artist. More important than experiencing the memory visually, try to fill yourself with the positive emotional memory of the experience. In other words, try to intentionally feel the physiological sensation that accompanies the emotion (ex: joyfulness or confidence).

Work on the issues that affect self esteem and confidence.
For most performers what happens on stage reflects the conditions of your life. If you lack self esteem and confidence in general, it can be difficult or impossible to feel confident performing. Your self esteem and self respect, how much you worry about the opinions of others, and the presence or lack of supportive relationships in your life can have a tremendous influence on your performance.

In summary, the psychological Law of Reversed Effect tells us that the harder you try to do something, the less chance you have of succeeding (ex: trying to recall someone’s name). Therefore, instead of trying to fix nervousness and fight performance anxiety, remember, some nervousness is normal. Feel it, don’t fight it. Take good care of yourself physically, balance your nervous system with a daily relaxation practice, and make a point of building your confidence and self esteem.