This post is dedicated to one of my drum teachers, Kim Plainfield, as some of this information came from experience but the rest came from conversations I've had with him. How someone taught me so much about music without ever using a stick still blows my mind.
Sometimes we are under the illusion that seasoned professional drummers don't get nervous. This can't be further from the truth. On many occasions (both in person and via research) I've heard players say that if you ever become completely numb to the "buzz" felt right before you perform, you should stop doing it. I always understood "nerves" to be a result of the excitement to play in front people and the desire to do a great job for yourself and for those who will witness the performance of your hard work. At the same time, you don't want your nerves to get in the way of your performance. You have to know how to control them.
Here are some thoughts/tips that I'd love to share as they have helped me very much.
Believe That You Can Do This
If YOU don't think you can do this, why should anyone else be confident or enthusiastic about your performance? Would you want to eat food from a restaurant who's cooks and owners weren't sure whether you'd enjoy or even be able to eat their food? Be grateful and enjoy the fact that you get the opportunity and privilege to perform in front of others.
No amount of belief is going to replace repetition and diligent hard work. In fact, being prepared helps in any sort of situation. By this I specifically mean that you are familiar with all that you will be required to play as effortlessly as possible. If you're big fill feels shaky and weird when you practice it, how do you think it's going to be at the show? When you get to the gig, there are so many other things to concern yourself with that have nothing to do with what you practiced. It's just a different atmosphere. You want to be able to focus all of your energy on dealing with that "new information" and not that which is and was completely under your control.
Relax and Focus
Deep breathing and warming up are big helpers in allowing you to relax before you hit the stage. You want something to distract you from what's worrying you. Also, (by this point) you're executing something that you already can do, so keep your eye on the ball.
Realize that your band and the audience is on your side before you play the first note. If there is anyone hating on you, let it go. They are not important but your band wants you to do well because you are a team and every member needs to perform at their peek to get something happening. The audience is there to be entertained and experience something enjoyable. They came to get that from you if they are there. Take comfort in that.
Sometimes things go wrong…that's life. The sooner you become open to the idea that things don't always go your way for reasons that are out of your control, the sooner you can get to spending your time and energy on doing the best that you can.