Debra Swersky
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My older sister is pregnant. The first baby of our immediate family. For a family of three girls it is only fitting that the “firstborn” be a boy. I’m calling him Little Evan Junior after his dad (“until the baby has been more formally introduced to me by his name…” - said by the mother-to-be). We’re all very excited for them and can’t wait to welcome LEJ into the family on June 21st. In short, and more to the point, I’ve got “baby” on the brain and was also recently doing some research on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs pyramid. 

Last week I finalized the details of the “one night stand” A Cappella performance* (that took place last night) and then faced the daunting task of actually telling people about it. I sent a heartwrenching e-mail to a few people alerting them to a “once in a lifetime” experience. There were so few iotas of my being that wanted to press send on that e-mail… which was the reason that I sent it. 

When I made the lofty goal of learning to sing one A Cappella song and singing it on stage in front of a group of people I knew that it was a goal that would challenge my abilities in ways that would make me highly uncomfortable. I haven’t sang anything since the 6th grade… and probably haven’t been “on stage” since then. But, I’ve been on a personal quest to “become a more comfortable public speaker” since I wrapped up my classes at Babson last year. In all of my discussions on the topic I realize that it’s not just “being on stage” it’s “how you feel when you’re on stage,” or, “how you feel about being on stage.”

As soon as I pressed send on the e-mail (to just a handful of people), time started speeding up, my heart started pounding, my thoughts went into a tailspin… everything around me seemed to be in “rush-mode.” For those living in Boston, it’s like getting off the train at Penn Station in New York City and realizing that the city operates at a different speed than where you were came from. I felt overwhelmed. 

I was unnecessarily sassy, snippy, jumpy… when asked what was going on with me, I didn’t have a good answer. I felt “fussy”... like a baby… stressed. It was a very uncomfortable feeling. I couldn’t figure out what was bothering me. And then it hit me. I had stage fright. I was Out Of My Comfort Zone. My Maslow’s hierarchy was being thrown out of whack… ugh.

As soon as I realized that I was experiencing stage fright I became hyper aware of what was happening to me. I reflected on the past 24-hours and was able to do a bit of mental course correction (and a bit of damage control). This was the point of the whole A Cappella experience, right? Take myself so far Out Of My Comfort Zone so that I would be able to become more aware of what “stage fright” feels like. My feeling was that if I could experience stage fright by doing something that is, inherently, something that I love and supposed to be fun, silly, and imperfect, that I could become more aware of what stage fright feels like so that I could manage my “symptoms” better.

And manage them, I did. I rallied my stage fright. Got excited about the performance. Practiced like crazy (including that night I spent 10-minutes serenading the dumpster outside our building), and knocked the performance out of the park. Yes, I was still nervous (I’ll always be)… but I had a lot of fun!

You can find the performance on YouTube.

* Many thanks to Collective Measures for their willingness to take me on as a project and for allowing me to crash a few of their rehearsals. You can book them by e-mailing

Debra Swersky