Covid-19 was the first time I had time to take a step back from the trajectory that I was on, focusing strictly on performance. The pandemic gave me space to think about where I was going and what I wanted to do. I had arts that I enjoyed doing but viewed them more as self care practices that worked for me rather than something that could spread further. When I started performing again the following year I felt more anxiety than I had before and needed to find new strategies to handle it. In preparation for my masters recital I created a collage that embodied what I wanted the performance to be and visual aids of corrections that my oboe professor had given me. 

The beginning of creating the collage was challenging because I initially tried to create a 3D model of lungs with flowers coming out of it. I bought glue, fake flowers and ribbon at a craft store and spent a couple days trying to make the image match what was in my head. It was frustrating because I could not figure out the mechanics of how to make this piece. It felt like it was starting to be counterproductive to the job that the finished product was supposed to serve as an embodiment of the preparation that I had put in this year.

I simplified it and started thinking about all of the things my professor had said to me throughout the year. It was really fun to pull images, even altering the pictures to fit how I saw it. 

I was very proud of how it turned out but it was not until I hung it up on the side of the stage and my accompanist and stage manager said back what it meant to me without my explanation that I realized that something I made outside of performance could translate my  internal thoughts. This collage was the first time I started having conversations with people in the music school about performance anxiety and sharing what I had learned through doing this activity. I learned that the art that I was making had power regardless of if I wanted to share it and that if something is not working it’s ok to readjust the method that you are working with. Collage is a method that has stuck with me. I have yet to try it with a large group of people but I am inspired by seeing how it has helped me with my wellness and am interested in how it would impact other people. 


  1. Katrine Sirnes Nesheim

    This is so nice to read, Sydney. It is so beautiful how art can help showing our feelings and thoughts (in relatively few pictures) and open ourselves up to others without saying anything. I like that you have used collage as a technique. Last year during the lock down, my class was given the task of making a collage at home. I actually chose to focus on myself before and after (during) the pandemic. I had to use magazines and papers that I already had at home, so I was not able to find pictures and print them. That is why I really enjoy collage myself because you often have to work with the motives, colors and letters you find in magazines. It would be so cool if you were able to create a big collaborative collage with others!

  2. Jennie Gubner

    This is great Sydney. It makes me want you to go back to your initial ideas of working with music students and facilitating art sessions to help process performance anxiety. I think it is really important work and that it could be really meaningful for you to be able to share/pass forward these tools to other students.

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