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.

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.

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.

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.

Providing Context and Relevance in the Performance of Classical Music

Classical musicians are often accused of playing nothing but dead white men’s music. And though it’s true that much of the repertoire that appears in classical music programs were written by white men who are now dead, what these critics are getting at is something deeper. What they mean is that classical music feels irrelevant to their lives.

Context and Classical Music

Understanding the context in which a certain piece of music was written completely changes the experience of hearing that music. Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 was written to address a very specific set of circumstances in his time. Wagner’s Ring Cycle was very political in nature, Mahler had a particular purpose, a specific idea behind every single one of his symphonies. You can listen to a Mahler symphony and think it’s a great piece of music, but when you read the story behind it – when you understand the motivation – you have a much different, more profound experience of the piece.

Casual classical music listeners lack that context. People used to be very knowledgeable about classical music, but today, due to diminishing music education (and art education in general) the majority of the population is almost entirely ignorant about the lives and motivations of classical composers. Without context, of course, the music of dead white men feels irrelevant!

To address this criticism, many organizations have taken to intentionally programming music by living composers and under-represented groups. Unfortunately, without the name recognition enjoyed by the most famous composers, these contemporary programs often have even less to recommend them to audiences largely unfamiliar with classical music. For highly knowledgeable audiences, who’ve often developed strong opinions about various contemporary composers, these programs can even be off-putting.

What’s to be done then?

Perhaps sneak in a contemporary piece? Unadvertised and unannounced? For that matter, why tell the audience what you are going to play at all? How many people attend a classical music performance with no idea of what’s being performed? Not many. Why not?

Because they have no idea what they’re signing up for. 

On the other hand, how many times have you been provided a set list by a non-classical performer? Rarely, if ever. Yet, people still show up to watch Adele and Sting without any idea of which songs they are going to hear. Why does it work for popular musicians and not classical musicians?

It works because those popular music audiences are showing up for an experience. They may not know exactly what they’ll be listening to, but they know they are going to have a good time, they are going to be moved in one way or another, even if it’s just moved to dance.

As classical performers, we must make sure our audiences have the same expectation. We must instill confidence that regardless of the particulars, our listeners can anticipate a specific experience so that our name or the name of our ensemble is associated with a particular feeling. Feeling is always relevant.

Many orchestras are already on board. They offer different series, designed to provide different audiences with varying, but predictable experiences of music. The Florida Orchestra has a Masterworks Series featuring programming by the great classical composers, a Movie Series presenting the music of Harry Potter and other hits, and a Pops series. These three series offer three entirely different experiences while giving audience members a very good idea of what experience to expect.

A question often arises when thinking of programming like this: how much cross-over should we expect between audiences? Can we lure people into more “serious” programming by enticing them with something lighter or more familiar?

This question misses the point.

Every time you show up, perform, and your audience comes away better for the experience, you’ve done your job. You’ve succeeded. This holds true regardless of whether you played pieces by Mahler, Charlotte Bray, or John Williams. Create an experience relevant to your audience’s lives, and you make classical music relevant for all.  

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.

How To Be a Compassionate Classical Performer

Compassion is empathy in action. It’s about more than appreciating how others are feeling. It’s the sympathetic understanding of other people’s distress, coupled with a real desire to alleviate it. Compassion is an extremely attractive personal trait and a valuable social skill with a myriad of applications in the professional life of a classical performer.

Compassion - A Characteristic of Attractiveness

Compassion for your audience

Music is the language of emotion, and since compassion deals with emotion, we might assume that being a compassionate musician means trying to connect with and help our audience. That’s certainly a part of it. Music can be very cathartic. The right piece at the right time allows listeners to tap into strong feelings and process them without having to experience the situations that might ordinarily elicit those feelings directly.

Of course, we should be compassionate toward our audience! The trick is – unless you are playing to an audience of one, your listeners are bound to have all sorts of different things going on their lives – a wide variety of distress and joy – and you most often will have no idea what those things are, let alone how you might help. So, while compassion is a great goal when performing, it’s rather difficult to put into action.

Compassion for your colleagues

It’s easier to imagine how we can treat our fellow players with compassion. After all, we’re together in the same boat. Once you’ve been around the block a few times, you develop a deep sympathy for people new to the scene. Their struggles are familiar. You remember how hard it was, and you truly want to help.

And you should help. It’s only right that those at the top offer a hand to those coming up behind. But, there is such a thing as too much help.

If there is something you can do to make this journey a little easier on a fellow musician, by all means, do it. But remember, it’s the struggle, not the success that makes us stronger. If you help too much just because watching someone else struggle is uncomfortable for you, you aren’t doing anyone any favors. You’re merely alleviating your own distress.

Sometimes we “help” people who don’t actually need our help just so we can leave our own mark, or make sure something is done “right.” As Anne Lammott says, “Help is the sunny side of control.” If you’re guilty of this kind of helping, it’s time to get honest and realize that your help has absolutely nothing to do with compassion.

Compassion for the person signing your check

Perhaps the hardest (and most important) place to practice compassion is in your negotiations with venues and presenters.

When we’re trying to book gigs, it’s easy to take a “no” as a personal affront. We feel rejected, and it raises our defenses. But very often, the people making the decisions have strict parameters they have to meet. They must make hard decisions, and they’re often limited by things outside of their control.

For example, if you are trying to program performances in a national chain, the person you consider to be the decision maker is usually answerable to a faceless corporate office somewhere. They have a job to do, and like the rest of us, they are simply trying to do the best job they can. Though you may be flexible and see the opportunities in a given situation, many times the people you’re dealing with don’t have the same kind of flexibility.

No one likes to say no. Most decent people want to include as many others as possible (and most people are decent). Show some compassion for the situation the people you are working with find themselves in – help solve problems if possible. If there’s no way to help overcome the hurdles, be gracious. Even if you can’t book a gig now, a compassionate response makes you likable and memorable. You become the go-to when they have an opportunity that does fit.

Ultimately, the music business is a business of relationships. Compassionate people are the kind of people that audiences, players, and presenters want to be in relationship with.

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.

Why Are Classical Music Audiences Old, and Should We Care?

There is a lot of talk these days about the advancing age of classical music audiences. In truth, this conversation has been happening for quite some time. We’ve been hearing about it lately, but we’ve been talking about it for the last thirty years or so.

We thought we’d take a look at this stereotype and address a few pertinent questions: Is it true? (Yes) Why? (Many reasons) Does it matter? (Depends) Is there anything we should do about it? (Absolutely! The same things you should be doing for all of your audiences, regardless of age)

Compassion - A Characteristic of Attractiveness

Why are classical music audiences old?

Classical music has always attracted a more mature audience. Sure, when you look out from the stage you’ll see a handful of children and young adults, but statistically speaking, 42% of classical music concertgoers are 41-60, and 37% are 61 and over. These statistics have led to some panicky discussions about the future of live classical music, the often unspoken subtext being that the audience is literally dying out.

This is hooey, to use a technical term.

Yes, audiences are getting older, but the general population is also getting older. People are living longer and remaining active long past the life expectancy of 50 years ago. This means that people that enjoyed classical music in their 30s and 40s are still attending concerts into their 60s, 70s, and 80s. The longevity of our audience is hardly something to bemoan.

So, the real question is not, why are classical music audiences old, but rather, why don’t more young people attend classical concerts?

Time and taste

Retired people have more time to attend cultural events in general. Young people, say those in their 20s and 30s, are in the midst of building careers and raising families. When they finally get home from work, the idea of heading back out, fighting for parking, and sitting to listen to a concert just seems exhausting. If there are children involved, finding a sitter, or hoping for good behavior during a quiet performance can be overwhelming.

By the time people reach their mid-forties, many have already established their careers and have older children that no longer require sitters. By retirement, the day is wide open. It’s no wonder that these people show up to classical concerts more often.

Of course, younger people do go out. They do attend concerts, just usually not classical performances. Why is that?

The first reason is utterly subjective. As we age, our tastes and priorities change. Who knows why, but classical music seems to become more appealing the older we get. Even Sting, made famous as a young man in the rock band, The Police, has become progressively more interested in classical music. A recent album features a 42-piece orchestra and traditional British tunes.

Perhaps older people have simply had more exposure to classical music. Perhaps loud music and light shows just become less appealing as we age, making this year’s top rock concert easy to skip.

Or, maybe it’s about community. (It is)

Creating experiences and finding a tribe: the surefire way to reach an audience of any age

Attending any live event, classical or otherwise, requires a substantial amount of effort. Why should anyone bother? If it’s all about the music, why not just stay home and listen to recordings?

It isn’t all about the music.

It’s about the experience.

Many of us have shelled out cash to go to a show we weren’t particularly interested in simply because our friends were going. We went for the community, the dancing, the food, the drinks. We went because it offered us what we needed at the time– a tribe to belong to and a way to relax.

When we put classical concerts on a pedestal by demanding that they be all about the music (and our stellar, virtuosic performance) we are overlooking our audience and what they actually need. You are a wonderful performer, that’s a given, but if you want to develop and retain an audience (of any age) you need to become a wonderful programmer as well.

Classical performances of well-loved pieces from the 18th and 19th century given in a quiet recital hall are lovely. They definitely have their place and serve their purpose. But when you consider the needs those concerts fulfill (quiet, calm, enlightenment, and sheer beauty), you can also recognize the audience that is seeking to have those needs fulfilled – namely an older audience.

If you want to attract a younger audience (and no one says you need to), you must figure out how to design a program to meet the needs of those younger people. How can you make the experience most enjoyable?

If you’re looking for an audience in their 20s and 30s consider this:

Book a room in a trendy area or a location near where people work. Look for a venue with an onsite bartender and snacks. Consider doing several short sets that allow the audience plenty of time to grab refreshments and socialize. Choose music by living composers, or favorites from the 20th century. 

Remember, if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten. If you want a different audience, do something different.

Classical music audiences tend to be loyal. They come back year after year – of course they are aging. That’s to be celebrated!

Spend more time making your audience’s investment in you worth their while by crafting delightful experiences and less time worrying about your audience’s longevity, and you’ll find yourself with a thriving fan base and a long-lived career.

If you would like to hear SPB in discussion with his friends and fellow musicians regarding this topic, head 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.

Nurture Your Music and Watch Your Audience

Nurturing brings to mind images of mothers and gardeners – people who feed and care for living things, helping them grow and develop with attention and compassion. And while it’s obvious that a nurturing attitude is attractive in these people, it can be hard to imagine how one would nurture music. Nonetheless, nurturing your music is one of the most important things you can do to ensure that you and your performances make an impact on the world around you.

To nurture means simply to encourage, protect, and cherish something (or someone) as it grows. We’re big proponents of cherishing your audience – without them, you have no career. But how exactly can you nurture that audience or the music they come to hear?

Nurturing - A Characteristic of Attractiveness

Caring for music

Fundamentally, music is a language – a communication tool. In fact, music is the only universal language. Every culture in the world incorporates music in some way, and every human being can experience it. If you can speak, you can sing. If you have a pulse, you have rhythm. Music speaks of emotion, and it steps in when words no longer suffice. It’s extremely valuable, even indispensable, and as such, it deserves care and respect.

However, unlike a plant or a child, which exist regardless of whether anyone notices, music only exists when it is experienced. Yes, music is represented by notes on a page – but that isn’t actually music – that’s merely the instructions for creating music. Music is an experience and to nurture it you must cultivate the experience – give it value, allow it to have reach, impact, and touch lives. This is what we mean by nurturing music.

It’s about attitude

When we nurture something, we care for it beyond and before ourselves. We do what we can to help it thrive for its own sake – not just to serve our needs. Nurturing music is no different.

If you are using music as a way to gain fame or accolades, if every performance you give is really just a way of saying, “Look at me! Aren’t I amazing?” you are not nurturing music. You are nurturing your ego. Most of us have egos that need no nurturing – they are doing just fine on their own.

To nurture music, you must respect it for what it is and what it does. Music is a way of communicating something that cannot be expressed any other way. It’s a conversation with an audience. To nurture your music, you must nurture your audience – create an environment that allows them to experience the conversation and grow from it.

As performing musicians, we diligently practice pieces so that there are no breaks in our audience’s experience of the music – so that the piece can communicate without us getting in the way. We carefully craft performances designed to offer a particular experience. But it’s important to remember that what we are really nurturing is a moment in time. A very special moment, but a finite moment. Once we’ve delivered that moment to the best of our ability we have to let it go and do what it will like a pebble in a pond. It’s time to move on to the next pebble – to creating the next moment.

If you view music as all about you, it’s impossible to craft these moments or let them go. However, if you recognize that music is a language that has been around since the first heartbeat, and will be around long after you are gone, it becomes possible to see that you are but a piece of the puzzle, a little expression of this language of emotions.

And though all people are capable of making music, professional performers are the experts. You’ve been given special stewardship over this gift of language. If you take care of this gift – if you nurture it – you are nurturing the lives of the people listening, and they will grow in both heart and number.

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.

Be Adventurous & Be Attractive

When we think of traits we find attractive in others, some characteristics spring immediately to mind: kindness, reliability, humor.  At first glance, adventurousness might not be an obvious choice.

We tend to think of adventurous as a word to describe mountain climbers, world-travelers, dare-devils. But adventurousness is actually defined as the ability to cope with the new and unknown. In other words, an adventurous person is someone willing to step out and try something new.

Adventurous - A Characteristic of Attractiveness

Steve Jobs and Willie Nelson?

Steve Jobs changed the face of personal computing (and made a tidy fortune) by walking out to the edge of technology. He decided to build a different computer, in a different way, and became a lone journeyman in a new land. Of course, today, millions of people carry around souvenirs of his adventure in their pockets.

Similarly, in 1960, when Willie Nelson, quite possibly the best-known country songwriter of the last century, arrived in Nashville, he struggled to have his songs recorded. The country music establishment considered his work too off-beat and artsy to be commercially successful. Even Patsy Cline was less than enthusiastic about recording one of Nelson’s songs, Crazy. Of course, that song would go on to become a country standard recorded by dozens of artists, and ironically, held up today as an example of “true country” by people bemoaning the new direction of the genre.

There is NO BOX!

Both Jobs and Nelson pushed the limits of what was considered expected at the time. Some would say they were “thinking outside the box.” That cliché might be the most aggravating and misinformed use of language in popular culture. Why?

Because – to think outside the box assumes the existence of a box, and there is NO BOX.

If there is a box, what is it? Where is it? Who put it there?

Perhaps by box, they simply mean tradition. In other words, the way things have always been done by the people who have always done them. In which case, of course, that “box” is something we should all aim to avoid.

Cultivating a Spirit of Adventure

You aren’t Steve Jobs or Willie Nelson. So how can you, as a performing classical musician, be more adventurous?

Seek opportunities for spontaneity. These can be small – stop at a different grocery store, drive down a strange road just to see where it goes – anything you haven’t planned to do or thought too much about counts. Spontaneity sets you up to recognize possibilities in unlikely places.

Try new things, both in your personal and professional life. Experiment with a new piece of repertoire. Set up a performance room differently, or abandon the stage entirely and walk through the audience (if possible) while playing.

Not everything will be a success. You may try something new only to discover that the traditional way does, in fact, work better. At least now you know. And you’ll find something else surprising: people love to watch others take risks. Humans love to root for the underdog. If you allow yourself to take small risks and be vulnerable, especially if those around you know that you are pushing your limits, you’ll generate all kinds of enthusiasm, compassion and connection.

And when your adventures do lead to success? Well, you’ll be surrounded by an audience who feels genuinely excited to say that they were there at the beginning.

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.