Hybrid Arts Flutist



Posted on May 6, 2013 at 6:40 PM

Remember, the audience can see you during your performance, so they’re going to see the little things. Since last week’s post was rather pissy, I thought I’d be a little more positive this week. Let’s talk about the stuff we do, that the audience sees and enjoys seeing.

Like what?

The simple, silent leg applause that musicians give to each other is one example. Or the genuine smile while acknowledging applause. The look on your face when you hear a particularly beautiful part of the piece. Everyone being so IN to the music that we all move at exactly the same time. The look on your face when you play that beautiful solo.

All of this adds to the audience’s experience and they love to see us act like we’re humans.

Well, duh. We are humans.

Yeah, but some people see what we do as superhuman. They wonder just how exactly we can remember how to play all those darn notes, how we know where to put our finger on the finger board, how we know which stick will make the right noise on that one percussion instrument. The list goes on and on. Unless you’re a musician, what we do seems pretty superhuman. Hell, I AM a musician and I wonder about the humanity of some of my fellow musicians! They just seem to be too good for this planet...

When we do humanizing things, they truly love it. Now, some of these things we can control and some of these things just happen in the moment. Like everyone being in to the music and moving at the same time. We can’t always control the luck of the moment, so I’ll just focus on what we can control.

For example, I spent an entire month talking about dress code. Well, sometimes you’re allowed to break code in which case, have fun! Maybe it’s wearing goofy holiday hats during your winter pops concert. A particular section in one of the orchestras I play in always wears fun things when we can break dress code. One patriotic pops concert, they tied American flags to their bows so they would wave back and forth during “Stars and Stripes.”

It. Was. Awesome.

You don’t have to go over board. Just participate! I think spectacularly breaking the dress code (when it’s allowed!) is the ultimate humanizing thing.

Here’s another one: acknowledging and downplaying little logistical snafus. They happen, right? Stand lights randomly turn off. Forgetting your mute on the other side of the stage. Taking awhile to set up a chamber group. They happen and in the grand scheme of things, they’re no big deal (unless of course, they interfere with the performance of the piece, itself…). The audience will notice that it’s taking time to set all the stands. They’ll notice that the lights turned off and you kept playing. So acknowledge it and tell a little joke! “Who knew the orchestra had that much of the piece memorized?! Well done, guys!” or “As soon as we’ve gathered all the stands on the eastern seaboard, we’ll get started. I’m not worried. Bach isn’t going anywhere.” Again, it reminds your audience that you’re human, but it also tells them that that snafu was not a big deal and you’re not bugged by it. (If you are bugged by it, save it for later.)

The audience will notice if you go into the hall during a piece you don’t play on, so take the time to talk to them and tell them about yourself, the repertoire or the ensemble. Just like in this blog entry, use the visual aid of your classical music costume to start a conversation with a patron. If you show your excitement over the piece you’re watching, they will pick up on it and get more excited. “I love this symphony! This is one of my favorites and I never miss a chance to watch it performed!” or “Are you folks enjoying the performance so far? Thanks so much for coming tonight!”

At the end of the performance - no matter what type of ensemble you’re performing in - when the audience applauds, smile. I don’t care if you’re a substitute playing at the back of the second violins, a grizzled orchestra vet, or the newly appointed principal. Smile! Too many times, we stand without smiling. It’s odd, really. I smiled at my last orchestra concert and it felt almost wrong – like we’ve been programmed to never smile. It’s sad, when you think about it. Are we really so jaded that we think no one sees us when we stand to acknowledge the applause? Do we think the audience is only applauding the soloists and the conductor? Chamber ensembles and soloists don’t seem to have this issue, but orchestras certainly do. It makes me sad.

But YOU – yes, you – can change it!

Be yourself. Be a personable version of yourself (if you’re not already…) and enjoy being a musician. I know it’s hard sometimes, but during a performance, you can smile, be silly, and at least pretend to have a great time. Though, it’s highly recommended to actually have a great time.

Stay tuned for next week’s entry, THE LITTLE THINGS THE AUDIENCE SEES AND DISTRACTS THEM, where I discuss why it’s a really good idea to videotape yourself, practice in front of a mirror, and remember that you’re being watched.

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