Classic Jabber Ep. 27 “Confidence”

Classic Jabber
June 7, 2019

Some people portray more confidence than others but we seem to find people who are confident as more attractive than those who are not! Why is that, and how do classical musicians come across in society? Click the link above to hear SPB in conversation with his friends and learn more about this.

Why Youth Orchestras Don’t Equal Youthful Audiences

Today, there are more youth orchestras than at any other time in history. Yet, there is still the misconception that only people over the age of 70 enjoy classical music. Why? Because when one looks out over the average audience at a classical performance, there is a sea of white hair.

So, what’s happening to these young people involved in music programs across the country, and indeed the world? Why aren’t they filling the seats?

Soccer and Symphonies

Classical music is not alone in this dilemma.

On any given Saturday morning, nearly every park is filled with hundreds of kids wearing shin guards and cleats, chasing a black and white ball around a field. Youth soccer is a huge industry. However, here in the US, that young enthusiasm hasn’t translated into a big passion for what everyone else in the world calls professional football.

Far more kids play soccer than American football, but you’d never know it if you judged by the sports adults watch. Americans seem to have a very hard time drumming up enthusiasm for the World Cup, even as we take our children to soccer practice every Tuesday and Thursday.

Classical music faces the same conundrum. Every evening, thousands of children are diligently practicing their instruments, yet nearly every classical performance is devoid of these young enthusiasts.

Checking Boxes, Not Building Passions

So why does youth involvement not lead to adult participation? In part, it is because parents sign children up for band, orchestra, and music lessons (as well as soccer) not to foster a love of classical music, but to foster the skills that come along with diligent practice of any team effort – persistence, teamwork, comradery.

As students get older, it is often they who sign up for these same activities, not because they love them, or are even particularly interested in them, but because they check off some box on some yet to be completed college application. Music: check. Sports: check.

The Missing Piece of Music Education

For all of the diligent teaching of scales, rhythms, dynamics, and working in concert with other players, there is often very little instruction in one critical part of music – listening attentively. There is a lot of focus on the individual student and even the group as a whole, but not much on the importance of music as community and communication.

Certainly, some teachers break the mold. They vigorously encourage students to go hear professional performances. They keep an ear to the ground, looking for opportunities and programs that will enthrall their students, and then put together groups to go en masse. These are the teachers who are most likely to run into their own students at the local symphony’s performance of Harry Potter – they’ve instilled a certain enthusiasm that grows even without direct involvement.

Programs and Preferences Are Important

Of course, it’s not always as easy as it should be for these teachers to find suitable performances. While it’s true that virtually every single classical performance is open to young people, it is also true that very few of them go out of their way to engage younger audiences.

I once invited a young cellist to come see a performance of an orchestra I was conducting. This 12-year-old had some interest in perhaps pursuing professional music, and we both thought it might be nice for her to see what a real orchestra does. She was enthusiastic to be there but was sound asleep by the middle of the second piece. There was nothing she could relate to in the music at all. There was nothing familiar, nothing to latch onto, so she got bored. When I mentioned this to the director of the orchestra, he said, “Well, that’s not my audience.”

He’d just missed a chance to gain a new loyalist, an enthusiastic player who may have attended performances for ten years before becoming a professional herself, and he couldn’t have cared less.

This is the wrong attitude to take. No, it isn’t necessary to cater specifically to a young audience, as we’ve discussed before, but you can be certain that a program that at least considers the engagement of all audience members will certainly be no less popular among the typical (read: older) members. 

First Things First

Yes, classical music has been shown to have many benefits. It makes you better at math; it increases your attention span. But the real purpose of classical music or any music for that matter is enjoyment, beauty, and emotional connection.

If parents and teachers focus exclusively on developing the brains, skills, and resumes of young players, they are never going to instill that true love of classical music. And that love is the key to developing audiences.

If you would like to hear the live discussion about this topic, 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.

Classic Jabber Ep. 26 “Craft or Career?”

Classic Jabber
June 28, 2019

Every year, thousands of students graduate from music programs across the world. These are talented, dedicated students, and yet, many struggle to build fulfilling careers as performing musicians. Why? Because they haven’t learned the skills required to build those careers.  Click the link above to hear SPB in conversation with his friends and learn more about this.

Craft or Career?

Benign Advice, Profoundly Mistaken

I can’t get enough of Sir Ken Robinson’s 2006 TED Talk, Do Schools Kill Creativity?

Yes, it’s old, but the topic, largely ignored by the Establishment (which includes educators and educational publishers), is still just as relevant today as it was 13 years ago.

I strongly recommend watching the entire talk, but if you’ve missed it until now, the gist of his argument can be summed up with this quote:

“Don’t do music; you’re not going to be a musician.’ Benign advice – now, profoundly mistaken.”

Sir Ken Robinson, TED 2006

Yes, Virginia, art is a real job

The vast majority of parents, relatives, and our circle of influence (including classical musicians themselves) were educated out of creativity and therefore deem non-business, non-management training to be non-essential.

After all, the point of acquiring an education is to land a job that will pay the bills, right? And, with the exception of a fortunate and famous few, who has ever made a living as a musician or artist?

In his talk, Robinson offered the example of Gillian Lynne, a little girl who could not sit still. She went to dance school to be with others like her and went on to choreograph some of the world’s most popular and influential stage works. She also became a multi-millionaire whilst at it.

How many of those around you who advise you to “Get a real job,” are earning as much as Gillian Lynne did?

Art is a “real job,” and you CAN make a real living pursuing your passion. But you have to know how.

You Need More Than Music Lessons

Creatives are really, really good at learning their craft but not so good at learning what to do with it – how to turn that craft into a viable living. It’s no wonder, we’ve heard for so long that it is impossible to make a living as a performer. We often don’t know where to turn, or where to look for good advice – advice that will help us turn our passion for live classical music into a decent income, a decent lifestyle.

We even hide (and I mean it, we HIDE) behind the seemingly altruistic conception that we are in it “just for the art.” That is a falsity just as bad as “get a real job!” I’ll say it again: art is a real job. And guess what? People get paid real money for real jobs.

Furthermore, there is nothing altruistic about struggling to survive, pay your bills, and live comfortably. If you are spending all of your energy just trying to keep your head above water, you have very little left to use for creativity. You aren’t able to use your gifts, connect with others, and help them make sense of their world through the language of emotion we call music. How on earth can that be altruistic?

You Need a Mentor

Despite what family or well-meaning friends may have told you, it is indeed possible to live comfortably as a professional musician. Thousands of people are doing it right now.

The problem is, as good as conservatories and music programs are at teaching the craft of music, almost all fall woefully short teaching students the business of being a performing musician. You have to seek out that education on your own.

Find a mentor or guide. Invest wisely in a relationship or program that can help you transform your life by taking your craft (in which you’ve already invested so much) and turning it into a lucrative career. Music can provide more than just enjoyment, connection, and beauty. It can also provide an income that enables you to live well and thrive not only as a creative but also as a human being. In other words, with the right help, music can be a very good ‘real job’.

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.

Classic Jabber Ep. 25 “Trustworthiness”

Classic Jabber
June 7, 2019

Have you noticed how some people are more trustworthy than others, but we seem to find people who are trustworthy as more attractive than those who are not! Why is that, and how do classical musicians come across in society? Click the link above to hear SPB in conversation with his friends and learn more about this.

You Don’t Have to Be So Serious to Be Taken Seriously

Classical music is serious business. Right? All those tiny notes, all that counting, all that Italian. Very serious stuff, indeed.

Many of us have spent years before teachers, adjudicators, and in competitions proving just how seriously we take our craft. We finally leave academia and discover that the rest of the world is just not that impressed with how seriously we take ourselves. They are, in fact, rather turned off by the whole stiff upper lip thing.

Why?

Because serious is BORING.

There’s a Reason It’s Called PLAYING Music

Hopefully, you began your life in music because it brought you joy, and not say, because you were forced into it by some terrifying schoolmarm who thought it would do you some good.

Learning to play well, being able to communicate real emotion through an instrument (voices included) is exhilarating! Expertly executing a tricky passage feels like flying down a rollercoaster at top speed and pulling into the station with your heart racing and your hands still in the air.

In other words, it’s fun.

And your audience should know it. They should see it, feel it, experience it right along with you because people like to see other people have fun. It’s how we spread joy. That joy that started this journey.

Cultivating Playfulness in Performance

There’s a misconception that playful equals sloppy. Not so. Playfulness is actually the masterclass.

We’ve all heard the expression, “Learn the rules so you can break them.” The equivalent here is, “Learn the music so you can enjoy it.” There is a difference between insisting on quality (which you should do) and taking it so seriously that executing a piece takes on an entirely different meaning.

Yes, some pieces are serious and deep. They call for a certain somber intensity. By all means, perform those pieces appropriately. But don’t include an entire program of that kind of music.

Make It a Game

Playfulness isn’t only an attractive characteristic for performance; it can also make the entire business of music more fun.

Turn choosing venues into a game.

Picture yourself playing in a particular space. Does it make you smile? Give you those little bubbles of joy? Book it.

On the other hand, if visualizing yourself on that stage makes you queasy or itchy, no matter what else it has in its favor, skip it. If you can’t even imagine yourself having fun, how on earth are you going to show your audience a good time?

Have a long list of business calls to make? Set a timer and see how many you can fit in before it beeps. Aim to break the record next time.

Joy is a Choice

Baring the few tragic events that inevitably occur in every life, each day, in each situation, you have the ability to choose happiness and joy. Playfulness is a way to get at that joy, and interestingly, it’s also what naturally happens when joy bubbles out of you.

Life is short. Look for ways to make it fun. You may be amazed by how many people will want to come along for that ride.

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.

Classic Jabber Ep. 24 “Responsibleness”

Classic Jabber
May 3rd

Have you noticed that some people are more responsible than others, but we seem to find people who are responsible as more attractive than those who are not! Why is that, and how do classical musicians come across in society? Click the link above to hear SPB in conversation with his friends and learn more about this.

Is Bigger Better?

The Western world is obsessed with size. Go big or go home. Be a big deal. Make the big time. And though these are just idioms, the sentiment carries over into the world of classical music as well.

Many academic music programs are focused on the old familiar model: eight semesters all leading to a big final recital, after which, of course, you’ll graduate, land a job playing in an orchestra and become a famous soloist like Yo-yo Ma.

News flash: that’s not the way the classical world works anymore.

With 50,000 music majors graduating every year in the United States alone, there simply are not enough orchestras and operas to go around. A big group of performers requires a big budget, a big venue, and big audiences. Based on cost alone, there are few cities that can support these big groups, and that means that many, if not most musicians graduating today will never hold a seat in a large orchestra.

This may seem defeatist, but it’s actually great news!

Without a clearly delineated path from graduation to an orchestra box, there’s much more room for performers to create new professional tracks and provide more engaging and emotional experiences for a much wider variety of audiences.

Small but Mighty

Who said bigger was better, anyway? What if we rethink the value of a smaller size?

Smaller groups, indeed even solo sets, electronic or otherwise, offer flexibility that is just not possible for massive ensembles. You can perform in smaller, more intimate environments, where filling a house requires drawing only 35 people, not 3,000. You can experiment with your programs and repertoire, creating different experiences to appeal to different audiences. Travel is a realistic possibility.

It’s much easier to make meaningful personal connections with a small number of people in a small room. And when you do decide to play a large venue, you can be confident that those people you’ve connected with will show up. They are invested in you because you’ve taken the opportunity to build a relationship.

Yes, it requires some creativity, some grit, and some persistence, but the pay-off is immense. You end up with a life of your own making – a career of your own design and that career can be as just as large as you like.

If you would like to hear the live discussion about this topic, 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.

  

A Beautiful Mind: Intelligence and Attractiveness

We’ve discussed many traits of attractiveness on this blog. Loyalty, empathy, compassion, adventurousness… these are all personal characteristics that can be developed, given practice.  Today’s topic, intelligence, is a bit of a sticky wicket.

Intelligence - A Characteristic of Attractiveness

Many believe that intelligence is inborn – that people come into the world with a certain level of intelligence, and that level doesn’t change much over the course of a life. This is the fundamental principle behind IQ (intelligence quotient) tests given to children.

The importance of intelligence, and whether it can be cultivated over time, is a hotly debated topic. We won’t be trying to reach a definitive answer, here. However, regardless of how intelligence works, there can be no doubt that it is a very attractive characteristic – but what is it exactly?

Intelligent Does Not Equal Smart

Intelligence is the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills.

According to this definition (which comes directly from the Oxford English Dictionary, by the way), intelligence requires action. A person who has read all of the Great Books, but can’t carry on a conversation about a single one is less intelligent than a person who cannot read at all, but understands the intricacies of electricity and rewires his house.

In other words, knowing a lot of facts doesn’t make you intelligent. Applying that knowledge for a particular outcome does.

Are You an Intelligent Performer?

As classical performing musicians, it is assumed that we have the knowledge and skills to play well. We know things about the music, the history of the music, the lives of composers that average people just do not know. That’s great. But it’s pretty much a prerequisite.

To be a truly intelligent performer, we have to be able to take that knowledge and those skills and apply them to the outcome we’re seeking to provide. That outcome is not to show off how well we can play. The outcome we’re going after is to better the lives of our audience – if only for the few minutes they experience our performance.

Being intelligent requires us to focus on the outcome – to flip the coin – so that we are no longer zeroed in on ourselves, but focused outward, on others. Being “smart” may get you As in school, but that’s about as far as it goes. No one other than your teacher cares how well you did on a particular exam.

But being truly intelligent? Applying your knowledge and skills to make the world around you a better place – that’s when the magic happens. That’s what audiences and others find attractive, and it can be yours regardless of your IQ.    

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.