Consciously Cultivate Joy

The developed world is experiencing more prosperity, convenience, and opportunity than could even be imagined 100 years ago. We’ve essentially eliminated diseases that used to kill tens of thousands of people, developed technology that allows us to grow enormous amounts of food, access education, and even travel 3,000 miles in a mere eight hours. Even so, the majority of people we come in contact with every day seem discouraged, unhappy, and anxious.

This is equally true among professional musicians, which seems particularly ironic. After all, music is beautiful – surely a source of pleasure and connection – and yet, so many musicians seem decidedly negative. It’s no wonder that we are captivated by those who seem to have discovered the secret to joy.  

But developing joy does not require a secret recipe. It simply requires practice. And the dividends are immeasurable.

Joy vs. Happiness

We all know what it is to be happy. It’s the elated feeling you have when something goes your way – you get the job, you nail the goal, the cute stranger calls you back. Happiness is wonderful, but it’s fleeting and almost always dependent on outside events.

Joy, on the other hand, is a much deeper feeling. If happiness is the bubbles, then joy is the underground stream. Joy is an emotion of well-being, a general feeling that you are on the right path, and that things are turning out for the best. It’s an excitement and confidence about the world and your place in it.

It is possible to be joyful and not happy. Unhappy things happen in every person’s life – people die or disappoint us, carefully laid plans fall through. But people who are genuinely joyful see these things for what they are – inescapable parts of the human experience, which is, despite the problems, still a wonderful thing.

It isn’t that joyful people never experience sadness or anger, it’s that they understand these difficult feelings to be the immune system of the soul, an indicator that something is wrong that should be addressed if possible.

The Vulnerability of Joy

Classical musicians as a whole can tend to be a pessimistic bunch. We focus on what went wrong, or what is likely to do so.

It’s a defense mechanism. After all, if you point out your mistakes first, then you can’t be embarrassed by someone else doing it for you. If you don’t get your hopes up, you can’t really be disappointed, right?

Wrong.

Those walls you build to keep out the bad feelings are not filters, they are fortresses. Nothing so bad can get in, true, but nothing so good can either. You are trading in hopeful expectation for premature disappointment and calling it “being realistic.”

Get Real

Many people call themselves Realists when in actuality, they are just Negative Nellies. They look at a world of good things, search out the bad, and say, “See, I told you so.” But just because bad things can and do happen, it doesn’t mean that the world is a bad place. On the whole, there is a lot more good than bad, and almost every “bad” thing carries within it the seed of something good if you’re willing to look for it.

Being willing is the key. Cultivating joy is a conscious practice. It requires being grateful, looking for opportunities, and expecting the best.

Here’s an example: You’ve planned a vacation to New York City, including tickets to a Broadway show. But when you get there, a blackout closes all the theaters. A disaster right? All that planning and saving down the tubes. You could choose to look at it that way. Or, you could consider that without a theater, all of the actors are spilling into the streets, putting on a once-in-a-lifetime acoustic performance and you’re there for it.

Choose Your Perspective Carefully

To use an example familiar to performing musicians, consider calling a venue to book a show. You can approach the conversation with joy or trepidation. Trepidation says this call is going to be difficult, it probably won’t work out, the person on the other end will be rude. Of course, you’re sweaty and anxious before making such a call.

Joy, on the other hand, says you are offering something of value that this person will want to take advantage of. You go in expecting the best. Of course, you’re hoping it will work out, but it isn’t just positive thinking that you’re relying on to save the day. Joy also knows that if this call doesn’t work out you will have gained more experience with these kinds of calls, and now have more time to work with people who will appreciate what you have to offer.

We all want to be around people who are excited and joyful about life and the path they are on. But why stop there? Why not practice BEING one of those people?

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. 42 “Favor”

Classic Jabber
September 9, 2019

Some people are better at showing favor to those around them than others, but we seem to find people who show us favor 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.

The Attractiveness of Being Knowledgeable

As a rule, we tend to like knowledgeable people. That is, of course, as long as they aren’t arrogant know-it-alls. There’s a big difference between talking with someone who can speak intelligently about a subject and a person determined to prove that they are more intelligent than everyone else.

Knowledgeable - A Characteristic of Attractiveness

Knowledgeable people seem competent, and in a world that can seem shaky, competency is very attractive. Furthermore, being knowledgeable shows a certain amount of curiosity about the world. After all, you can’t learn something without being curious about it first. Being around curious people encourages us because curiosity implies a passion for life which is inspiring.  

There is, however, something even better than spending time with people who know what they are talking about: spending time with people who know what you are interested in talking about.

The Knowledgeable Classical Musician

If you intend to study and play classical music in the confines of your own living room, it’s perfectly acceptable to be knowledgeable only about your instrument, the pieces you’re playing, the composer, and perhaps the context.

In fact, if your audience is only made up of classical music aficionados, this knowledge may get you through just fine.

However, if you’d like to have a vibrant performing career, you’ll have to develop the ability to connect with people who may have never experienced classical music before – people who do not know or care about the difference between the Baroque or Romantic period.

In other words, you’ll have to know your audience.

Do Your Research

Chris Thile, of Live from Here, is a fabulous example of a performer who takes the time to know his audience. Every week, Live from Here is broadcast from a different American city. The show features musicians of all genres, and often the audience buys tickets without having ever heard of the musicians that will be performing.

Why?

Because Chris shows up and acts like a local. He knows how the people in each city think of themselves, what the city is proud of, and what makes them laugh at themselves. If you listen to a broadcast, you’ll hear inside jokes that fly right over your head, but cause the entire audience to erupt in laughter.

How does he do that, and how can you do it too? Research.

If you are playing in a different town, it’s relatively straightforward. Google alone is a great tool. However, research works just as well in your own backyard.

If you are booked to play in a nonconventional venue, particularly one where the venue is drawing its own audience, do everything you can to learn about the interests of that audience. Perhaps there is an inside joke about the beloved owner. Maybe there’s a bit of well-known history you can allude to. If you are playing as part of a larger event, learn something about the event and the participants.

This isn’t to say that knowledge about the music you are presenting is unimportant, or shouldn’t be shared. Only to say that if you put in the effort to learn about what your audience is interested in and show that you are interested in them, you will be rewarded with a loyal following. And fans and followers is what a successful performing career rests upon.

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.

Developing Understanding

Understanding is the bedrock of empathy. There’s no doubt that empathetic people are attractive to others – after all, we all long to feel connected and supported. However, before you can be empathetic, you have to understand. Empathy is the emotional manifestation of understanding.

Understanding - A Characteristic of Attractiveness

Understanding has a host of gifts to offer beyond just building empathy, of course. When you understand the circumstances surrounding the composition of a particular piece of music – who wrote it, when, and why – that context colors and improves your performance of the piece. Suddenly, the music is no longer just notes on a page, but a communication from one human being to another. Understanding is the baseline of connection.

Tolerance vs. Understanding

A dictionary definition of understanding is sympathetic awareness or tolerance, but perhaps a better definition would be sympathetic awareness beyond tolerance.

Tolerance has become quite the buzzword, and over time it’s become a bit corrupted. To tolerate something now implies that you are putting up with it, despite not liking it very much. There’s no curiosity there, simply a willful disregard of disgust.

Understanding on the other hand, requires curiosity. And curiosity often requires courage. No wonder people shy away from it. Asking why people believe or behave or create as they do opens you up to discovering answers that may make you uncomfortable.

The Courageousness of Living

If you want to develop understanding, appreciating courage is a great place to start. Everywhere you look, you see courage whether you recognize it as such or not. It takes courage to just show up for life. Following through, making a million small decisions a day, all of that requires courage. Life is not for the faint of heart.

Pursuing a life in classical music requires an additional level of courage. You’re constantly putting yourself out there, facing rejection, facing failure. And the musicians around you are doing the same thing. Everyday. You may not know exactly what is going on in someone else’s life, but there’s one thing you can understand – they made the decision to get out of bed this morning and get on with it, and that deserves some respect.

Understanding Your Role

Sympathetic awareness begins with understanding the big why. Why is that person doing what they are doing? Why are we here, performing this piece? Once you understand the purpose, you can determine what your role in the whole is. Are you the leader? The giver? The receiver?

Once you understand your part you can demonstrate that understanding to the people around you.

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.

The People Pleasing Power of Creativity

Human beings are by their nature, creative. We imagine, invent, compose, and design constantly. Not all of these imaginings make it into the physical world, but they nonetheless are created in our minds. We all possess the spark of creativity.

Creativity - A Characteristic of Attractiveness

Even so, many people feel they need permission to be creative. Watching others be creative gives them that permission, and this is one of the reasons that we find creative people so attractive.  

The Trifecta of Creativity in Performance

We generally associate creativity with a specific creation. A work of art, a novel, or in the case of music, a composition. But this act of creativity is only the first of many involved in a classical music performance.

After the composer has created a piece, an artist then interprets the music – imbuing it with the emotion and dynamics she feels are most appropriate – creating an experience for the listener.

The creativity doesn’t end there, though. The final piece of the puzzle is the audience member. We know that if we ask five different people to tell the story they imagine while listening to the same piece of music, we will get five different stories. This is the creation that the listener brings to the table. And as a performer, sharing your creativity, this is the permission you give to your audience to experience their own.

Passion and Creation

Perhaps the most attractive, dare we say, sexy, thing about creativity is that it is born of passion. To create you have to care. That’s part of the reason that some places are more conducive to creativity than others, and why some people can be creative in careers that others find mind-numbingly dull.

You may have had the lucky experience of being taught something you weren’t much interested in by someone passionate about the subject. Suddenly, it’s more interesting, maybe even compelling. That’s the beauty and power of passion.

We aren’t all sparked by the same things, but we’re all drawn to passion and the creativity it breeds.  

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.

The Pursuit of Inner Peace

What is inner peace? Is it even real? Is it something we should bother striving for, and if so, how do we do it?

Inner Peace - A Characteristic of Attractiveness

The Journey Not the Destination

Inner peace is a harmoniousness of spirit that provides a sense of calmness and purpose regardless of outside circumstances. Sounds wonderful, right?

Bad news: inner peace is not an attainable goal. By no means does this imply that you can’t ever have it, only that it is an ongoing pursuit, not a singular accomplishment. There will be times when you experience this calm – when you think you have arrived – only to find yourself feeling anything but peaceful just hours later.

So the goal isn’t to live in a state of inner peace at all times (that is unrealistic unless perhaps you are a monk) but to strive to cultivate it as much as possible.

Acceptance is Key

It’s counterintuitive, but sometimes it can be easiest to experience inner peace when we are in the midst of near catastrophe. When things are obviously far beyond our control and we must contemplate the worst outcome we realize that no matter what it is, we’ll have to accept it. We won’t have to like it, mind you, but we’ll have to face it as reality and move on from there.

Thankfully, we don’t have to wait for some near disaster to learn this acceptance. Instead, we can practice living in the moment (as if there’s another moment we could live in) and focusing on the process while letting go of the outcome.

Auditions are a great opportunity to practice. When you approach an audition focused on how much you need the gig, worried about whether or not you will get it, you are focused on something over which you have absolutely no control. You could be the very best player, but if the director has decided that he is giving the part to his nephew, there’s nothing you can do.

Instead, approach auditions as a performance. You are there to communicate with your audience. How your audience judges your performance is not your problem. Not only does this kind of attitude help you feel more peaceful, but it also eliminates the scent of desperation that is an automatic turn-off to those considering hiring you.

Acceptance goes beyond just letting go of outcomes. It also means accepting who you are, and what you are capable of doing right now, where you are.

As classical musicians, we find ourselves constantly competing with others. There is a never-ending litany of comparisons going on in our head. Is she better than I am? Do they like his style more? Will I ever accomplish what so-and-so has done? Why can’t I just be an accountant?

The truth is, you’ve likely tried to do other things and found them unfulfilling. You are a musician. Accept that. Today, you are capable of what you are capable of, nothing more, nothing less.

Accept that.

If you must compare, compare yourself to who you were yesterday. Think about where you are going and look at how far you’ve come. Don’t compare your journey to someone else’s. You are you, not them. Accept it.

If you want to experience inner peace accept that you are who you are, follow your path to the best of your ability in the moment, and let go of the outcome. Inner peace is a process, so be process-oriented.

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.

How to Keep It Real

There’s a lot of talk about being authentic and “keeping it real,” but what exactly does that mean, and how do we, as performing musicians, do that? After all, to perform, on a basic level means to put on a show, and shows are inherently not real, right?

Not necessarily.

Keeping It Real - A Characteristic of Attractiveness

Share your passions

As we communicate through this language of emotion we call music, we are called to connect with the people in our audience, to share parts of ourselves. The easiest way to do this is to ensure that what you are sharing is something you care about.

Obviously, if you are part of a large ensemble, you may not always have the opportunity to decide what is on the program. But if you are able to program your own performances, choose pieces that express who you are, not who you think your audience wants you to be. As soon as you begin pretending to be someone you are not you’ve lost your authenticity.

Deliver Your Performance to People Not Rooms

Regardless of whether you can choose the program or not, you can choose how you deliver your performances. An audience is a general faceless thing, however, the individual people making up that audience are very real.

It goes without saying that you should be well prepared for any performance. Feeling confident about your ability to get through a piece goes a long way toward allowing you to be present, as opposed to alienated and anxious.

But, whenever possible, also memorize your parts completely so that you don’t need to even glance at a music stand. If you own the music in this way, you can focus entirely on making eye contact with the people that have come to hear you perform. As sappy as it may sound, while you perform, look into the eyes of the people in the audience. Try to make a connection. Send them your love and gratitude. You are giving them a gift, and by their presence, they are allowing you to do what you love. Let the people you play for see that in your eyes.

Let Go of Audience Expectations

In the western world, we have a pretty strict idea of how audiences should behave. We believe they should sit still, listen attentively, applaud at the correct times. Though this is, in fact, pretty standard behavior today, it wasn’t always so, and it’s still not true in much of the world.

If you are wrapped up in judging how the audience is responding to you (Why are they chatting? Why does that man keep getting out of his seat? What could possibly be funny?) you aren’t connecting. It may seem like you’re focused on their experience, but what you are really doing is focusing on yourself and how you believe you are being perceived.

In many places across the world, people do not sit quietly and listen. Sometimes they even pull out phones, record pieces, and listen back while you are STILL playing. This doesn’t mean they aren’t enjoying the performance, it simply means that your expectations of an audience don’t line up with their reality.

Composers of old never expected people to sit still for an entire performance. No one sat quietly through Beethoven’s performances. They were too long. Expectations are disappointments waiting to happen and they keep you from connecting. Even worse, they can cause you to try to capture the audience’s attention by being overly showy and cartoonish.

Give your best to the individual people in your audience, and let them respond to your authentic self as they will. You may be surprised to discover that they come to you later and tell you just how much what you’ve shared has impacted them, in a very real way.

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.

Learn to be the calm in the storm

We live in a last-minute, frantic world. Much of the time we’re rushing from one thing to the next, trying desperately not to drop all the plates we are spinning. No wonder then that we are attracted to people who move calmly, act deliberately, and refuse to panic.

Calmness - A Characteristic of Attractiveness

It’s grounding to be around someone who seems to inherently know what they have control over, and what they do not – someone who works to manage what is within their realm, and leaves the rest to turn out as it will. After all, in any given situation or environment, there is very little we can actually control. We are in charge of our contributions and our reactions, but the outcome is almost entirely out of our hands.

The calm performer

Music is a journey, and the performer is the driver. Our job then, when we play, is to do our best to allow our audience to be swept away by what they hear, without fear that we will run them (or ourselves) into a brick wall.

It’s impossible to relax and be transported by music if we are nervous for the performer – constantly worried that they will crash and burn. It’s like trying to watch an amateur figure skater, all the while knowing that they don’t really know how to stick the landing on a triple turn. We’re too busy holding our breath, feeding off of their panic, to really enjoy the experience. They are not calm, and so we are not calm.

Preparation goes a long way toward creating a calm, confident performance. If you’ve successfully played a piece a hundred times in practice, you are much less anxious about pulling it off in front of an audience. Still, life is unpredictable. Things do not always turn out as we hope they will. The trick to remaining calm is to learn to manage your reactions when things go sideways.

Keep calm and carry on

Pause, breathe, and consider the next right step. Don’t allow yourself to be carried away by fear or impulsive reactions. The modern world seems to praise busyness. We wear our franticness like a badge of importance, constantly running around putting out fires as though it all depends on us. After a while, that attitude becomes habitual. But habits are just the result of repeated choices, and they can be changed.

Choose to remain calm in the face of all the noise, and you’ll be able to offer something to others that very few can – peace of mind.

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.

Perfectionism in Performance

As classical musicians, we are raised in an environment that not only encourages perfectionism but often, seems to demand it. A culture that picks apart everything we do, actively looking for things to pick apart. So, it’s no wonder that when we leave that space and move into the world of professional music, we are conditioned to not only notice every misstep but berate ourselves for it. Professionals aren’t allowed to make mistakes, right?

Even so, they happen all the time.

Perfectionism in Performance

Get a group of honest, professional musicians together, and the stories they can tell about humiliating public mistakes will make your hair curl. There’s the piccolo player who dropped two entire measures of a solo at a retirement party for the highest-ranking musician in the Marine Corp. Or the flutist whose electronic set up wouldn’t even turn on in front of hundreds of people.

Failure happens. Perfectionism is an expectation of the impossible.

The origins of perfectionism

Other than our training, which by nature, seeks perfect playing, where does this impossible expectation of perfection come from? No doubt, the ubiquitous availability of recordings plays a role.

By the time we hear a recording, it has been edited and mastered for hours. An engineer carefully splices together the very best parts of several different takes, and the result is, well, perfect. It’s easy to believe that what we are listening to is the record of people playing music in a room, instead of what it actually is – a collage of everyone’s best moments.

Recordings are wonderful for a lot of things. They are a particularly helpful tool for practice. But they are not live performances, and they don’t reflect the reality of live performance. A well-made recording is like a well-written essay – it’s been gone over with a fine-tooth comb, checked for grammar and intonation. A live performance, on the other hand, is a speech. It may be well-rehearsed, but it is happening in the moment, with all of the passion, and unpredictability that each moment holds.

Dealing with imperfection

So what happens if you mess up? How do you deal with it?

Well, first you have to accept it. It’s happened, without a time turner that allows you to go back and do it over, there’s nothing you can do. Beating yourself up doesn’t repair the past, it only ruins the present.

Remember, you win some, you learn some. Look at the mistake honestly and see if there’s a lesson in it. Do you need to practice a particular section? Do you need to develop a contingency plan for faulty equipment? Or is it just an anomaly – something so unusual that it’s likely to never crop up again?

Perfectionism is a fear of failure and a fear of the unknown. Like everything else in life, if we let the fear of failure stand in our way, we will never have authentic musical moments. Think about why you are performing. Think about what you are communicating through your music. Choose joy, and it will be the joy people remember.

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.