Discovering your own uniqueness and using it wisely to connect with others
Even when performing in an ensemble, our individual uniqueness impacts audiences far more deeply than we’re used to recognizing.
Cloning our heroes
Many times we start life by replicating others.
Apprentices did this all the time – they spent years copying their master and doing things exactly their way.
Because the master produced what people were buying, so apprentices were employed to reproduce what the master did.
We still do that in music – we look at performers we admire, both on the marketed stage as well as locally, and want to copy them.
It’s a way to start.
But at no point will you ever be a clone of someone else, nor should you want to be.
You are you.
Your master or role model hasn’t lived the life you have, and therefore you should not expect to live their life, either.
No-one has experienced your life
It’s fun watching people discover themselves.
Since I began teaching at age 17, I told students (some older than me!) to copy me first.
But the moment they begin adding their own style and uniqueness to their music, that’s when I jump for joy and get excited. I’ve even scared a student or two with my enthusiasm about them discovering themselves! As with everyone, we then explored what happened.
We talked about their life, their desires, their preferences, their physical attributes I didn’t have, and so on.
It remains by far the most thrilling part of my job as a conductor – seeing an ensemble accomplish far more than they thought possible, not because they were copying anyone else, but because they found their own way, individually AND collectively, to be better musicians.
How do you do that for the rest of your lifetime?
Your uniqueness grows one feature at a time
This is perhaps one of the hardest things to do: identify what you like about your performing.
The way you play or sing, your posture, your sound quality, your sight-reading ability, your smile when you perform…
Whatever you identify, pick one that makes your heart leap a little bit… that one thing you do in which you find joy, or that makes you smile when you think of it.
Start with that.
Focus on that.
Notice when you do it, and try to do it more.
Build it up so much that you start doing it without a moment’s thought… you simply get to enjoy it on the back end as it happens.
Then, you can pick something different.
Something you like about yourself that replaces something you don’t.
Here’s a TRIPLE WIN lesson:
(Nurture your audience)
Consider why audiences can’t wait to attend concerts by one ensemble rather than another. It’s because of TWO things:
- The people performing, and
Everyone is unique.
Everyone has their own desires, experiences, knowledge, energy, and need to belong.
It just so happens that when an audience member’s uniqueness coincides with a performer’s, a deeper relationship is formed. The audience member will try their hardest to replicate that connection and attend performances by that group again. Sometimes that’s not possible, but when you, as a performer, acknowledge your uniqueness and the corresponding uniqueness of each of your audience members, you are creating something truly special that the world cannot replicate.
Nurture your audience – accept those who connect with what you do, and let go of those who don’t.