Jerry Seinfeld once cracked, "According to most studies, people's number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you're better off in the casket than doing the eulogy."


It's true that 74% of Americans fear public speaking and performance - author Sara Solovitch is among them. Solovitch began playing the piano as a child, and by age ten, she was comfortable with Bach and Mozart in her music lessons. As a teen, she attended the Eastman School of Music with sights on a career in music. Yet when the time came to perform in front of crowds at recitals, she was crippled with an overwhelming stage fright. Sara finally gave up aspirations of becoming a professional pianist when her fear of performance felt insurmountable.


Solovitch went on to have a successful career in journalism and to raise three children. In her late fifties, though, her long-lost dream began to nag at her. She started playing the piano again - in secret. But as Louie Armstrong said, "the music ain't worth nothing if you can't lay it on the public." So Sara gave herself a one-year deadline to tame performance anxiety and play before an audience. Solovitch chronicles this journey, from music lessons to meditation, exposure therapy, cognitive therapy, biofeedback, and beta blockers in her book, PLAYING SCARED: 

A History and Memoir of Stage Fright. To gradually build up her nerve, Solovitch performed in airports, hospitals, and retirement homes before renting a public hall and performing - for the first time since 1971 - for fifty guests, on her sixtieth birthday.


With PLAYING SCARED, Solovitch offers a thoughtful and insightful examination of the myriad causes of stage fright and the many ways to conquer it.




A History and Memoir of Stage Fright                                                     

By Sara Solovitch                                                                                                                


Publication date: June 16, 2015                                                                                         

ISBN: 978-1-62040-091-3                                                                                                                

$26.00 | 288 pages  


Sara Solovitch is a former reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer whose articles have appeared in Esquire, Wired, the Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Post. She has been a health columnist for the San Jose Mercury News and worked as a medical writer at Stanford University. This is her first book. She lives in Santa Cruz, California. 


For more information about the author and PLAYING SCARED, visit


BOOK TOUR: Talk, Q&A, Signings


June 18 at 7:30 p.m.
Santa Cruz, CABook Shop Santa Cruz
June 19 at 7:00 p.m.Oakland, CAA Great Good Place for Books
June 22 at 7:00 p.m.San Francisco, CABook Passage Corte Madera
June 25 at 7:00 p.m.San Francisco, CABooks Inc in Opera Plaza
Sept. 26 at 7:30 p.m.Davis, CAThe Avid Reader



A debut memoir by a health and medical journalist about the stage fright that forced her to forsake her promise as a musical prodigy. Interspersed with her own story, Solovitch provides plenty of context on performance anxiety in general: its roots (both in the individual and in the culture), its history of treatment, and its pervasiveness. To Carl Jung, "stage fright is a primal fear, awakening archetypal memories of ourselves as herd animals thrust outside the safety of the pack. Our predators-the lions, the sharks, the audience-smell our vulnerability and hover nearby, waiting for that one mistake." It is more common than commonly admitted among musicians and athletes, it often involves perfection that can never be achieved, and it frequently begins with the high expectations of dominating parents. The author suggests that the story of Moses, "who expressed understandable anxiety when asked by God to lead the Israelites out of Egypt," represents the earliest narrative of stage fright, a term that was first used by Mark Twain in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Solovitch shows the frequency of its manifestations, from the pulpit to the urinal ("shy bladder syndrome," more common among men than women), from the baseball diamond to the bedroom. The author discusses her interviews with Steve Blass and Steve Sax, two baseball players who were inexplicably unable to throw straight in front of a crowd (the latter recovered, the former retired). But throughout the wide expanse of this examination is the thread of Solovitch's own experience, as she prepared to play piano in a public recital to commemorate her 60th birthday and gave herself a full year to make herself confident, consulting piano teachers, sports psychologists, and other musicians who have dealt with and overcome similar jitters. For those who similarly suffer, and they are legion, the book suggests, the memoir offers comfort and hope.



Solovitch, who once pursued a career as a concert pianist, recounts her decades-long struggle to overcome the devastating and crippling stage fright that forced her to quit the piano at age 19. After 30 years, Solovitch, a former Philadelphia Inquirer reporter, takes it up again at her youngest son's insistence. With the help of a caring teacher, she begins to practice in new ways and realizes she's "learning to play for the first time in my life." But she's still unable to perform for an audience. After years of study, Solovitch agrees to give a concert at home for three people, which is a disaster. She then decides to give herself a year to get ready to perform a recital for her 60th birthday. Along the way she examines some of the psychological underpinnings of her condition (including a demanding mother who uprooted the family from Canada so that Solovitch could attend a conservatory in New York), discovers the benefits of beta blockers, tries exposure therapy (playing the piano at her local airport), and talks to well known sufferers, including former L.A. Dodger Steve Sax, who had a legendary case of "the yips" after being named Rookie of the Year. It's a tough road, and readers will find her story fascinating.



Further press information:


Milina Barry PR

Contact: Milina Barry


Contact: Summer Smith