How to Inspire Loyalty

We humans are social creatures who crave connection and support. Of course, being human, we are also very prone to missteps, faux pas, and mistakes. Loyalty is the special sauce that fosters the connection we need and keeps people coming back even after we mess up.

LOYALTY - A Characteristic of Attractiveness

Loyalty in the modern age

Merriam-Webster defines loyalty as strong support or allegiance, but in this case, the Urban Dictionary paints a much better picture of what loyalty looks like in our day to day lives. A loyal person is “one who doesn’t: cheat, lie, …go behind your back, or pick someone else before you.”

Loyalty is tethered to trust of the most personal kind. We are loyal to people we trust to do right by us. When someone we trust does something we consider out of character, or perhaps plain wrong, we have two immediate choices: we can decide our trust was misplaced and revoke it, or we can give that person the benefit of the doubt, and assume the intention was good even if the outcome was less than stellar. The second choice is the voice of loyalty.

Loyal to a Fault?

Loyalty gets a bad rap sometimes, especially these days when we read of powerful people demanding loyalty from others even when it isn’t deserved. But true loyalty can’t be demanded. You can’t guilt someone into being loyal. You can’t even buy real loyalty, all evidence to the contrary.

That’s because loyalty isn’t transactional; it’s relational. Loyalty isn’t owed it’s earned.

Here’s an example from the classical music world: Let’s say, as a young flutist you had one particular teacher who continually encouraged you and supported your ambitions. Perhaps she went out of her way to find opportunities for you to audition and perform. You knew she was on your side and doing everything in her power to help you be successful.

One time, however, she recommended someone other than you for an opportunity you really wanted. You were deeply disappointed, but because of your long-standing relationship, you understood that she was likely looking out for your best interests. Over time, this proved to be the case.

At some point, that same opportunity arrived again (opportunity DOES knock twice). Someone else handed it to you, and it was the turning point for your career.

Now, years later, as a successful professional flutist, you have the opportunity to publically recognize one person who had a profound effect on your success.

Who do you recognize? The person that said “Yes,” that one time, or the teacher who said, “No,” but grew you in so many other ways?

If life and loyalty is a series of transactions, then you’d recognize the person that gave you that one shot. However, loyalty is about relationships and being faithful to the people that made it possible for you to take that shot when the time was right.

You Have to Give it to Get it

So, how do you inspire loyalty in others? How do you make sure audiences and venues keep coming back?

You inspire loyalty in others by being loyal yourself. Make people feel valued, make them feel like they matter – because they DO. You must cherish your audience.

Put a little of yourself in every email, every phone call, every bit of stage banter, and make sure you are communicating that you value the other person’s contribution, whether that’s attention, regard, applause, opportunity, or advice.

Be on time. Every time.

This may seem out of place in a conversation about loyalty, but few things go as far to show respect and value in the world of professional music as punctuality.

Remember the adage, “If you are early, you’re on time. If you’re on time, you’re late. If you’re late, you’re fired.”

Being late (or even making someone fear you are going to be late) tells the people you are performing for, or with, that your time is more valuable than theirs is. It shows that you do not actually value them or their priorities as much as you do your own. That does not inspire loyalty.

Go out of your way to help people.

Look for opportunities to support the success of others. In so much as you can, without overextending yourself, try to say “Yes.” And though loyalty is not a quid pro quo, if you say “Yes,” from a place of generosity and goodwill, you will find you will be the first phone call when the exciting opportunity you want to say “Yes” to appears.

This is part of our series on the characteristics of attractive people. If you would like to hear the live discussion about this characteristic, head on over to ClassicJabber.com now.

If you are ready to learn more about how to build a profitable, fulfilling career as a performing classical musician, check out Concert University, and the free webinar that outlines 5 strategies for success.

Optimism: The Key to a Bigger Audience and a Better Career

No one has a life or career free from disappointment and failure. The overnight success of any musician, like the overnight success of any person in any field, is really a long story of repeatedly rising after a fall.

OPTIMISM - A Characteristic of Attractiveness

Optimism Sees Opportunity

Optimism is hopefulness and confidence in a positive outcome. So, how can one be optimistic when something has gone wrong? Refusing to acknowledge the failure doesn’t help – that’s not optimism, that’s delusion. An optimist accepts the failure, but instead of being mired down in useless negative thinking – Things never work out; I knew I wouldn’t get it; I’ll never live this down – they look for the lesson.

Optimism puts failure in perspective and sees it as an opportunity to do better next time. Your audition didn’t go as planned? Now you know what NOT to do next time. As Thomas Edison said when trying to invent the lightbulb, “I didn’t fail. I found 10,000 ways that do not work.”

To be optimistic, you must view failure not as a dead end, but instead as a T in the road – a place where you decide which way to go next on your route to eventual success.

View Failure as Inner Strength Training

Imagine we have two lab rats. One rat has always lived in a cozy little cage with a daily supply of cheese delivered directly to his bowl. The other rat has spent each day bumping into walls, turning around, trying to find a path to the cheese that is always hiding somewhere in the middle of an ever-changing maze.

Which rat ends up better prepared to deal with challenges? If we ran those two rats through an obstacle course, which would be most likely to win?

The one that hit the wall over and over again.

Failure teaches adaptability and resourcefulness. Easy success, being able to reach out and grab your cheese, actually reduces your chances for long term success. Why? Because you’ve been deprived of the opportunity to strengthen your resilience. When something changes, and things always change, you have no muscles to meet the challenge. Adversity and failure are the barbells of growth. Optimists sweat and suffer through adversity like everyone else, but they recognize that the strength they are gaining is going to get them closer to their goal.

The Power of Positive Pals

Optimism is a mindset. Often, if you want to change your mindset, you have to change your environment. Humans are social creatures – we tend to adopt the thinking of the people around us. If your group believes that there is no work for classical musicians, you’re likely to believe that as well, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. After all, people who have no work have nothing to teach you about how to find it.

If you believe that all the good gigs are taken, go hang out with people who took them. If you want to be successful, surround yourself with successful people. The beauty is that optimistic, successful people are much more fun to spend time with than negative nay-sayers anyway. Optimists foster hope. Their forward momentum inspires enthusiasm, and their energy attracts people, opportunities, and ultimately, success.

So the next time something doesn’t go as planned, don’t be despondent. Look for the lesson, then rise, grow, and conquer.

If you are ready to take your performing career to the next level, check out Concert University and the free webinar that gives you 5 strategies for success. If you would like to hear the live discussion about this characteristic, head on over to ClassicJabber.com now.

How Being Down to Earth Can Help You Reach New Heights

“She’s your down-to-earth friend whose pals are Julia Roberts and Tom Cruise,”
– Eric Deggans of The Petersburg Times, describing Oprah Winfrey.

If you are looking to grow your audience, Oprah Winfrey makes a pretty good role model. What has made her so incredibly popular for so long?

It’s this: though we all know that she is one of the wealthiest, most influential people on the planet, she still manages to come across as down to earth.

Down to Earth - A Characteristic of Attractiveness

You are focused on building a profitable career as a performing musician, not a TV personality, but learning how to cultivate and project a down-to-earth attitude is a critical key to connecting with audiences, and gathering support.

Practical and Unpretentious

Flighty, head in the clouds, high and mighty, up on a pedestal –  just like down-to-earth, these opposites conjure vivid images.

A person who is down-to-earth is grounded in reality. She may have big dreams and extravagant goals, but she also has a solid understanding of her current situation. She knows her strengths and weakness and what kind of work is going to be required to reach those goals. She sets priorities, recognizing that there isn’t enough energy in the world to manifest every whim or idea. Her head may be touching the clouds, but her feet are planted firmly on the ground.

A down-to-earth person doesn’t hold himself above others. No matter how successful, he doesn’t look down from on high, feeling entitled while oblivious to the people below. He’s right there on the ground, on equal footing with everyone else. That’s perfect because that’s where his audience is too.

Say What You Mean

Down to earth people are attractive because they are relatable. They are relatable because they make an effort to understand what is important, interesting, and of value to others. The choices that they make and the things that they say are based on the circumstances and people that surround them.

They define what they do in simple, concrete terms that show they understand the needs and interests of the people they’re talking to. For example, when convincing someone to hire them for a performance, they present reasons and benefits that matter to that person.

A promoter may not care that fill-in-the-blank composer is the most undervalued of the Romantic period and you are one of the very few musicians who has mastered his most challenging piece. However, tell him that the end of the piece is so dramatic that audience members find themselves holding their breath on the edge of their seats, and you have his attention.

This isn’t dumbing it down – this is taking into consideration the fact that other people are not obsessed with the same things that obsess you.  A down to earth person doesn’t need to flaunt an expansive, technical vocabulary because he has taken to heart Oscar Wilde’s sage advice: “Don’t use big words. They mean so little.”

Consider Context

As professional musicians, we know things about music and instruments that the average person has never even considered. Subtleties of sound stand out to us like black stripes on a white wall. Being down to earth doesn’t require ignoring those subtleties, but it does require we look at them in context.

You may be able to tell the difference between two instruments – you may know that one is significantly better than the other, but being practical means honestly assessing whether your audience can.

If traveling with the superior instrument requires a great deal more hassle than traveling with the lesser one, and the difference in experience for the audience is negligible, the down to earth person packs the lesser instrument and is on her way.

On the other hand, demanding that you be able to play only the very best, no matter the hassle, is not only impractical but also wildly arrogant. In essence, you are saying that what is important to you, because of your elevated status as an expert, is what is most important in the situation.

That isn’t down to earth, that’s diva-esque.  If Oprah can’t get away with it, neither can you.

If you are committed to building a profitable, fulfilling career as a performing classical musician, learn the five strategies for success in Concert University’s FREE webinar. If you would like to hear a live discussion about this, and other Characteristics, please visit ClassicJabber.com.

The Keys to Self-Respect

Self-respect, self-confidence, self-empowerment… we can’t have a conversation about success and fulfillment without tackling how we feel about ourselves.

Self-respect is the foundation of all other positive feelings about the self and the antithesis of the one thing we know we should avoid – selfishness. Healthy self-respect is built on a few fundamental truths that should be obvious but can be remarkably hard for many people, particularly creative professionals, to embrace.

Self Respect - A Characteristic of Attractivenss

You deserve to be here

You deserve to be treated well, to pursue, experience, and share happiness and success. Why? Because you ARE here. As a participant in this universe, those things are your birthright.

Self-respect has nothing to do with other people’s opinions

We all love to be admired and respected by others. Praise feels good, criticism feels bad, even if we know deep down that it helps us grow. However, other people’s opinions are their business. Whether someone likes you, your music, or your performance, is entirely out of your hands. Praise (or disregard, ugh) does not change your inherent worth.

Self-respect lives and dies by integrity

Integrity and honesty are the nutrients required to grow and maintain healthy self-respect. This requires not only being honest in your dealings with other people but also being honest with yourself.

Self-honesty is where self-respect often comes up against two opposing (and equally damaging) obstacles. The first is believing that you are not talented enough, good enough, or unique enough, to have anything of worth to offer. The second is believing that you are the best.

You are not the best. If you stand in front of a mirror every morning declaring, “I am the best (fill in the blank) ever!” you are kidding yourself. That isn’t self-respect. That is self-deception in the guise of self-adoration. There will always be people who are more “better” than you are. Even if there isn’t (and I promise there is), the world is just too big to make sure. You can’t be certain. You know it, and that doubt eats away at self-respect.

Growth breeds self-respect

So, you aren’t the best. That’s great news! That means you can continue to grow and improve. Everything we do, every person we meet, and circumstance we encounter changes us. Even the cells in our bodies are completely replaced every few years. Change and growth are critical to life.

As you pursue and achieve your goals, you are continually changing. Achieving success is wonderful, but it isn’t the most important thing. The most important thing is who you have become along the way.  

Become a person who strives to gratefully enrich the lives of others. A person who embraces his own worth and the inherent worth of every other human being. A person who uses her talents to improve the world in whatever way possible. Live to be a person like that, and you will be and feel worthy of anyone’s respect – particularly your own.

Are you looking to create a profitable, fulfilling career as a performing classical musician? Check out Concert University and the free webinar that will teach you five strategies to escape the feast-or-famine cycle. If you would like to hear the live discussion about this characteristic, head on over to ClassicJabber.com now

Loving Your Audience

There are specific personality characteristics that everyone finds attractive. Business publications aimed at fostering success and leadership in the corporate world are fond of publishing lists of these traits, and no matter the source (Forbes, Business Insider, Entrepreneur, Inc.) these same qualities appear again and again. 

Among the list is inevitably a variation on compassionate / warm / empathetic. Regardless of the word chosen, these are all just synonyms for loving. Though loving may seem a strange choice for a business publication, it’s truly the best description, and just perfect for the world of professional musicians.

Loving - A Characteristic of Attractiveness

Love is a Verb

This time of year, we’re likely to associate loving with red hearts, sentimental cards, and candlelit dinners, all kinds of emotional or romantic trappings that are entirely out of place in a professional environment – regardless of the profession. However, as Scott Peck reminds us in The Road Less Traveled, love is a verb. To love is to put someone else’s wellbeing at the forefront of your attention. In short, it’s the antithesis of being self-centered.

The Loving Classical Performer

So, how do we express a loving nature in a professional context? There are a multitude of opportunities that can be boiled down to two categories: loving actions and a loving mindset.

Loving actions include anything you can actually DO to let other people know that they are important. Great examples include forwarding an article that would be of interest, publically acknowledging someone’s accomplishment or accolades, sending a quick email to check in, or even a handwritten, “Thinking of you,” note. Keeping track of birthdays (social media makes this easy) and taking a moment to send a genuine non-generic message of celebration is always appropriate.

A loving mindset is obviously a bit more vague and hard to quantify, but equally important. A loving mindset is tied, as nearly all of these attractive characteristics are, to the why behind what you do. It is one thing to be good at your craft, to be a competent, even excellent performing musician. However, if you are dedicated to being the best performer you can be so that you can gather accolades and admiration, you’re approaching it from a self-centered, ego-centric space. Your audience may not be able to name that, but they can feel it.

However, if you are dedicated to something bigger than success and fame, if your why involves making the world a better place, enriching the life of just one person through your music, that will radiate from you – the people you perform for, and with, will feel that too.

In today’s society, showing genuine consideration for other people is an amazing thing. Small acts and invisible shifts in priorities make a tremendous difference in how other people feel. Feeling valued and cared about is addictive – give that to the people around you, and you will be irresistible.

If you are committed to building a profitable, fulfilling career as a performing classical musician, learn the five strategies for success in Concert University’s FREE webinar. If you would like to hear the live discussion about this characteristic, please head on over to ClassicJabber.com now.

Get Real: The Importance of Honesty

There’s a lot of talk these days about how dishonest our culture has become. People bandy about terms like fake news, spin, alternative facts. On a bad day, it can seem like people are willing to lie to anyone, about anything, just to gain some advantage. So, it’s no wonder that honesty is at such a premium. We’re all desperate for a little real talk, and we’re attracted to others who seem willing to cut through the crap and present the truth. But before we can be honest with others, we must be willing to be honest with ourselves – and that can be harder than it seems.

Honesty - A Characteristic of Attractivness

The Big Lie

Typically, when we say things like, “He’s living in a dream world,” or “She’s out of touch with reality,” what we’re really saying is that someone has deluded themselves into expecting the unreasonable, or believes that they are better, more successful, more important, than they really are.

However, the opposite tends to hold true for classical musicians. Many of us do live in a dream world, many of us are out of touch with reality – but the reality that we’re missing is how valuable our expertise actually is.

After years spent listening to expert teachers pick apart everything we do in order to help us improve, we’ve come to believe that this is how others experience our performance. We imagine a room full of people waiting for us to trip up, and then judging us harshly if we do. We forget that music is the language of emotion and that we are not only fluent at speaking it, but we are very likely the only expert in the room. Very rarely do we lie to ourselves by saying that we performed flawlessly; we tend to be brutally honest about our mistakes but we constantly lie about our victories. We disregard them; we undervalue them; sometimes we deny them entirely. This is the most dangerous kind of self-deceit.

Self-Deceit Causes a World of Hurt

As classical musicians, we are all passionate about classical music, about getting it back into the real world and using this language to communicate with people. Music helps people deal with challenges and emotions that they may not have realized they need to face. Your job as a professional musician is to make the world a better place by connecting with people using the language of music. That’s it. Not to play every note perfectly. Not to be lauded as the very best [insert your instrument here] there has ever been. To connect. To communicate. To improve. This is your mission.

How can you do that if you are lying to yourself about your abilities? You can’t. You’re too busy being self-protective and afraid of being found out. You’ve built a wall around yourself with a million tiny self-doubts and boulders of unworthiness – a wall of lies.

A Simple Exercise in Truth-Telling

We’ve become so conditioned to look for the bad and assume the worst that it can take some effort to learn to recognize everything we’re doing well and all we accomplish on a daily, even hourly basis.

Set a timer for an hour. At the end of that hour write down everything that went well. Not just everything that went well musically, but every little detail. Did you drink water without spilling it all over the floor? Write it down. Get through a measure without a massive mistake? Write it down. Learn to recognize what you do accomplish, not just where you slip. There are a lot of people who cannot do what you do, not only musically, but in everyday life. Chances are you have a lot of things worth celebrating.

Being realistic requires not only being honest about our opportunities for improvement but also our abilities.  

If you’re interested in digging deeper into how to create a profitable and rewarding career as a performing classical musician, check out my free webinar on Concert University.

If you would like to hear the live discussion about this characteristic, head on over to ClassicJabber.com to listen now.

Don’t be Desperate: Why Security Draws Success

Imagine you’re at a party, where you’ve been introduced to two strangers. One is laid-back and well-kempt. As you chat about your careers, you get the feeling that he has it together. He’s interested in what you have to say and happy to engage in a little friendly debate when your opinions differ.

The other stranger is a little frantic. It’s clear he’s at this party to make connections that will further his goals – though it’s a little hard to figure out exactly what those goals are. He’s quick to change his opinion to match that of whoever is nearby, and he seems like nothing so much as a drowning man searching for a life raft. He isn’t unfriendly, or inherently uninteresting; he’s just… desperate.

Which man would you rather talk to for the rest of the evening? Unless you are a glutton for punishment, you’d prefer the first. And why? Because he seems secure.

SECURITY - A Characteristic of Attractivness

Security and the Classical Performer

Security isn’t the first word to come to mind when thinking of classical performers – the word is more likely to conjure images of retirement fund managers. Even so, it’s an important trait to cultivate if you want to attract audience members, venue bookers, and yes, even strangers at parties.

So what exactly does security mean? What does it look like and how can you do it?

Security is simply the sense that everything will be ok – can meet your needs, your goals are obtainable, and no crisis is looming on the horizon. Is security about money? Yes. And also no. For most of us, meeting our needs and achieving the lifestyle we want requires a certain amount of money. Of course, that amount varies greatly depending on what we personally consider to be an ideal life. Thankfully, there are three steps that you can take to develop and display a sense of security, regardless of the size of your bank account.

How to Become Secure

Make a plan

Secure people know where they are going and how they’re going to get there. Things may change, they often do, but they have a plan in place. They are not just flying by the seat of their pants and hoping for the best. Consider your needs and figure out how you’re going to meet them. While you’re at it, make a backup plan.

Prepare

Now that you have a plan, gather the skills and tools you need to put it in place. While being prepared can bring to mind images of evacuation plans and basements filled with canned goods in case of natural disaster, it’s more helpful to think of being ready for the ordinary mishaps and unexpected opportunities that are more likely to arise.

If you know there is always a slow season, save money now to prepare for it. If you generally travel by car, make sure you have access to roadside assistance in case of a problem. If you spend a lot of time exploring unfamiliar places while traveling, bring an overnight bag so you don’t have to go all the way back to your hotel if the opportunity arises to spend the night somewhere new and interesting. Being prepared for any contingency goes a long way toward building a sense of security.

Expect the Best

The final piece of the puzzle is perhaps the most important. Security comes from having a mindset of abundance and possibility. Adopt the mindset that everything will turn out for the best. In negotiations, expect to win. This doesn’t mean that you will necessarily get everything that you want, but that you expect that what you end up with will be just the thing you need.

Remember that as a professional performing musician you are an expert. Very few people know as much about music as you do. You deserve to be treated well, and you should expect respect. Walk into any performance or negotiation expecting that you will be valued for what you have to offer. This expectation prevents you from being defensive and closed off and makes it much easier to present your audience with an authentic experience and your negotiating partner with the confidence that you can deliver.

There is, of course, a fine line between being confident in your abilities and worth and being arrogant. Interestingly, people that are arrogant are often the most insecure. They refuse to entertain other people’s opinions or praise other people’s strengths because they are afraid of being shown up. Avoid arrogance at all costs. It is the antithesis of security, and everyone can sense it.

If you’d like to learn more about creating a secure, profitable performing career as a classical musician, check out Concert University and register for our free webinar outlining Five Strategies for Success!



The Allure of the Single-Minded

In a world constantly bombarded with information, options, and distractions of all kinds, it can be difficult to remain attentive to one thing for five minutes, let alone long enough to see a goal through to the end. Perhaps this is why we are so impressed and attracted to people who know what they are about, what they are doing, how to do it, and how their contribution fits into the whole. Regardless of the reason, the calm energy of single-minded focus not only helps us achieve our goals but also draws people to us. 

FOCUS - a Characteristic of Attractiveness

What is focus?

Focus is the ability to aim at one outcome – zero in on one goal – without allowing yourself to be pulled off course by distractions or disappointments.

Imagine you are at a crowded gathering, speaking to an influential person. As you chat, that person never takes her eyes off of you; she asks interesting questions and acts as though you are the most important person in the room. That’s focus in the moment, and it’s a key skill of successful public leaders and entertainers. 

Now, imagine you are setting up a performance schedule. Instead of taking every gig that’s offered (a common problem for classical musicians struggling to make a living) you are selective – choosing only those gigs that serve your higher goal. That’s long-term focus.

Of course, it’s possible to focus on the wrong thing. If you’re focusing on technical perfection during a performance, focusing only on the dots on the page instead of communicating with your audience, your performance will come across as flat and you as performer – boring. However, if you are focused on delivering a particular experience to your audience from the moment they hit the parking lot until the moment they leave it is impossible to give a boring performance.

How to achieve focus

1. Eliminate distractions

We generally think of distractions as time wasters like spending too much time on social media or staring out the window. However, the most dangerous distractions are often just our second best goals.

Warren Buffet, the billionaire, was coaching Mike Flint, his personal pilot of ten years. Buffet asked Flint to write down his top 25 career goals on a piece of paper. Then he asked him to look at that list, and write the five most important goals on another piece of paper. When he’d finished this, Flint agreed that he should begin working on the first item of the short list immediately. Buffet asked him what he planned to do with the things on the second list, and Flint said since they were important, he would fit them in where he could.

“You’ve got it all wrong, Mike,” said Buffet. “The things on that second list are the Avoid-at-All-Cost items. Those are the things that will most easily distract you and lead you away from your most important goals. Don’t even look at that list until you’ve achieved the things on the short list.” It is impossible to do everything at once. Decide what you are going to focus on for now, and cross everything else off the list.

2. Learn to say no in service of a higher yes

Stop running around taking every gig offered. Decide on your desired outcome and only pursue and accept jobs that serve that purpose. This can be really challenging. It requires you to make a decision (at least for the short term) about what kind of performer you’re going to be. That’s ok. Eliminating options actually makes success easier and more likely – your energy isn’t diluted, it’s directed.  

3. Set your intention before every performance

Before you even arrive at a venue to perform, decide what outcome you want for your audience. What do you want them to feel? How are you going to facilitate that? Remember, your job as a performer is to communicate. Music happens to be the language that you’re using to do that, but WHAT you are communicating is more important than how you’re doing it. Decide ahead of time what your desired message is and focus on delivering that from the first moment until the last.

If you are ready to take charge of your performing career, avoid the feast-or-famine cycle, and achieve your goals, pop over to Concert University and find out how we can help!

(The Right Kind of) Knowledge is Power

We’re all attracted to people who know what they are talking about. Competency, intelligence – these are universal values. However, there’s something even better than spending time with someone who knows what they’re talking about. It’s spending time with someone who knows what YOU’RE talking about, or more precisely, what you’re interested in talking about.

Knowledgeable

Know your Audience

Just as we wouldn’t wear jeans to a gala or a tux to a football game, different venues and different audiences require different presentations. This is something performers inherently understand but often take only half-way.

Matching a performance to an audience is about more than how you dress or even what you play. It’s about crafting an experience that will delight and in order to do that, you must know what is likely to delight in a given situation.

For example, an audience made up of primarily music department faculty may be delighted by hearing the hidden history behind a particular piece – telling that story makes the performer seem knowledgeable. However, that same story shared with a general audience at a summer festival could make the performer seem arrogant and out of touch.

We all know someone (let’s call him Uncle Fred) who will talk our ear off about the same subject, assuming we share the passion, never noticing our eyes glaze over or our desperate search for an escape.

Don’t be Uncle Fred. Don’t present what interests you, present what is most likely to interest your audience.  

How on earth are you supposed to know what that is?

Do Your Research

Music is the language of connection, and if we are to connect with someone, it helps to know something about them.

If you are traveling to perform, take the time to learn something about the place you’re visiting –  local lore, important events, the city’s claim to fame. Even knowing something about the local sports teams can build a connection with an audience.

Chris Thile, from American National Public Radio’s live weekly variety show, Live from Here, does an excellent job of connecting with diverse audiences across the United States. He tells inside jokes, refers to places and things as a local would, expresses admiration for the things that make the local community proud. He seems to know and care about his audience (despite playing in a different city every week), and his audience loves him for it.

If you are performing at home, spend some time thinking about the audience you will be performing for and the kinds of things that may interest them. Research the pieces you’ll present with an eye towards trivia that would captivate non-musicians. Keep it relatable.

Knowledgeable people are attractive, but only if they’re knowledgeable about things we care about. Put in the effort to discover what those things are for your audience and you will be rewarded with a loyal following.

For more tips about building a profitable career as a classical performer, check out my free webinar here.

How “Understanding” Makes You Irresistible

Understanding is one of those nebulous words – it can mean comprehension, sympathy, mastery, agreement. Before we begin to unpack how understanding can play a key role in making you attractive as a classical musician, we’ll have to agree on a definition.

How Understanding Makes You Irresistible

Before understanding came to have so many shades of meaning, it was simply an adjective that described, “having insight or good judgment.” Seems fitting for classical musicians to settle on this classical definition.

The Trees AND the Forest

At heart, the kind of understanding we’re talking about requires having a deep awareness and appreciation of any given situation – be that situation small and specific (a particular performance, for example) or wide and all-encompassing (your life, your career, your relationships). It is about recognizing your role in the whole, identifying what is, and what is not, within your control, and always keeping your eyes on the whys. It’s about tuning into the small details, without losing sight of the big picture.

Your Role in the Whole

Let’s look at some examples.

In an ensemble, you must not only comprehend your part, but you must understand how that part relates to the whole. Are you a soloist? If not, don’t play like one. If so, how does the solo contribute to the piece?

What about conductors? As a conductor, it is my job to try to draw the very best possible performance out of the musicians I work with.

That involves a lot more than understanding a particular piece (though that’s obviously crucial), it involves understanding human beings and the courage that it takes all of us to do just about anything, particularly perform publicly. Truly understanding my role requires that I acknowledge that there are specifics that I do not know (whose car broke down on the way in, who got engaged last night, whose dog has been missing for a week), while keeping in mind general principles (someone is always going through something, compassion is always in order), so that I can help each musician access their very best. Achieving perfection is not my role (thank goodness, since perfection is impossible!) but guiding musicians toward their best performance is. Understanding the difference is critical.

What is Your Why?

As a classical musician, your job requires you to book gigs and show up at a particular time to give a particular performance to a particular audience for an agreed upon fee. Obviously, understanding (i.e., comprehending) all of those details is important. That’s very surface-level understanding, basic competence, if you will.

Deeper understanding requires knowing WHY this performance, WHY this audience. It requires looking at the big picture and how this one piece fits into the puzzle. What does the audience need from you? How can you provide it? What do you hope to achieve? What obstacles are likely to arise? And ultimately, is it worth it?

This isn’t an easy path. It will NEVER be an easy path. There are about a million things you could do with your life that would be easier than being a performing classical musician. But you chose this road. You didn’t have to. Most people don’t. It requires a great deal of courage, and courage is built upon a solid WHY. So why are you doing this? What’s your purpose?

Once you’ve answered that, pin your eyes to that why, keep looking at the big picture, and pay attention to how each small piece fits. Practice empathy – not only for the people around you but also for the circumstances of the situation.

This is true understanding, and people that possess it are naturally attractive. Not guided by ego, they understand that they are a piece of a bigger puzzle. That understanding draws others to them. And though it doesn’t make this path easy, it makes it worth it.

If you’d like to dive deeper into how to build a profitable performing career, while avoiding the feast-or-famine cycle, and playing the repertoire you actually want to play, I encourage you to check out my free webinar.