Saturday, May 15, 2010


One of the things I really need to work on is how to relate to an audience as a performing musician. Whenever I work with a group as a music therapist, I usually stand in the middle of the group, or at least wander around among the members some. In trying to get people to make music you have to take some pretty heavy whacks at a mindset that gained the upper hand over the course of the 20th century as recorded music drastically altered how music making is viewed in technically advanced societies. There's the assumption that some people can make music and others can't, an idea that just doesn't compute in most "primitive" cultures where everyone just naturally participates in communal music making. 

When the Friday group goes out and performs as the Kenwood Players, the social dynamic is very different than my doing a music therapy session, and I need to stop being surprised by that and to figure out how to adjust and do what I want to do in the new environment. In any kind of performance situation there's a default set of expectations on the part of the "audience". I can work with those expectations, but I can't remove them in the short term.

The audience at the hospice event is unusual in two ways. Physically, it's sort of theater in the round. We're providing music for what is essentially an event in a park. Emotionally, just about everyone there is grieving for a loved one recently passed on. During the talks and the butterfly release that followed our playing, there were tears both from the lectern and in the audience. Knowing that tends to make me a bit tentative in relating to folks there while playing.

The main problem, though, is that being the organizer, music arranger, roadie and default leader of the band, I let myself get caught up in all the details of the performance and the ensemble dynamics and end up not giving the audience the attention it deserves, which is really pretty amazing, since they're why we're there. 

Using the guitar amp which lets me move around while the other players can all hear it is very helpful. As the arrangements settle into playability, there'll be less need to direct. The main thing, though, is to remember to make eye contact with audience members and do whatever I can non-verbally and musically while playing to connect with them. Between numbers I need to make sure they can hear me thank them for applause and to give them at least as much attention as I do to the players in prepping for the next song, just not at the same time.

Being extremely fortunate in having fine players in the group, I don't need to give them the attention I'm used to giving members of music therapy sessions, and instead give more of that attention to the audience.

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