If you are playing from sheet music, you can make your life easier by preparing your sheet music or songbooks ahead of time. Get some plastic sleeves that you can put a page of music into and place each sheet in a sleeve. If you own a book, you can cut the pages from the book and insert the ones you need into the sleeves. Then, clip the sleeves in order into a ringed binder.
Using a binder makes it easier to turn pages without dropping your sheet music or fumbling with a bulky book. The music is all right there, and you will not damage the corners by trying to turn the pages too quickly. Another advantage of using the binder is that you can put all the written music for the entire performance in one binder. Then, you do not have to keep going from one sheet or book to the next over and over.
You might get some butterflies in your stomach when you play for a crowd. It is perfectly natural. The main thing to remember is to relax. Tighten up your muscles and then let them go. You will feel a sense of calm after you do this. If the situation is right, you can calm your nerves by talking softly to other musicians while you are waiting for the event to begin or the curtain to go up. Never talk when you will disturb the audience, though.
The most important thing to do when you get nervous is to think about the music. Let your mind drift away from the audience and the circumstances of your playing. If you have chosen your song well, concentrating on the music will carry you through the nervous times. You will not have to do much thinking about the event you are covering because the song will speak for itself.
There are times when you play with other instrumentalists, such as in a rock or country band. You might have written music, but often you will be improvising. Sometimes, you will be trying to imitate someone else’s version of the song you are playing. Be sure you know the goals of the group in this regard.
When you are playing with others, do not hog the limelight all the time unless you are the featured player. In most cases, you will be just one member of the ensemble, doing your own individual part to make up a balanced act. Remember to let others have their turns to shine.
If you accompany a chorus, you can lead them to a certain extent. You can set the pace according to the lead of the choral director. On the other hand, if you accompany a solo singer, your job is to provide just a framework for the singer. At the same time, you need to be flexible enough to mold your playing to the variations the singer makes in her performance.
Playing for public events need not be scary. You do not have to be a musical genius to do it either. Just do your best and your experience should see you through.