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.

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.

Classic Jabber Episode 22 “Playfulness”

Classic Jabber
May 3rd, 2019

Have you noticed that some people are show more playfulness than others, but we seem to find people who are playful 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.

 

Classic Jabber Podcast Episode 20 “Intelligence”

Classic Jabber
May 3, 2019

Have you noticed that some people show more intelligence than others, but we seem to find people who show intelligence as more attractive than those who do 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.

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.

Classic Jabber Podcast Episode 18 “Compassion”

Classic Jabber
May 3, 2019

Some people are more compassionate than others, but we seem to find people who are more compassionate 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.

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.