Audiences in an actual live environment can give their feedback through applause. If you’ve ever been to a jazz or rock concert, and in the middle of a song a performer does something a little bit special, the people applaud. The same thing happens at the opera or at a ballet. Have you been in those environments, where you’ve actually heard applause in the middle of a piece of music? Of course you have. It’s normal. Only in the 1930s with Toscanini did we start silencing people during live music concerts. And there’s a wonderful story about that. Toscanini’s radio shows were running over time, and they couldn’t figure out why, since the delay wasn’t written in the music itself. It was the fact that the audience was applauding between movements of a symphony, and it made the radio show run late, so they cut it out. Toscanini (being the dictator that he was) loved it and brought the silence between movements back into the concert hall. And less than a hundred years ago, that’s when people stopped applauding between movements of symphonies by Beethoven, Mahler, Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Brahms…all the composers. Those composers didn’t expect their audiences to stay silent. If you’ve actually heard Tchaikovsky’s sixth symphony, how on earth can anyone sit on their hands at the end of the first movement? When you’re at a classical concert, if an oboe has a really beautiful melody and the soloist plays it well, they expect the audience to applaud.
Give and take
The live music experience is an exchange, a give and take. Without feedback from the audience, performers don’t know if they’ve done a good job.
And I love this: if you cheer them on, whistle, applaud, jump up on your feet, and make as much noise as you can, you just let us know that we’re doing a good job somehow. And if you’re one of those people who tells anyone else to shush!, you’re missing the point. You’re missing the reason for being there. If you want to study and listen to the music intensely and purposefully without distraction, that’s why we have recordings. That’s why we have CDs and MP3s and other technology. But the live environment is a conversation, a give and take between performers and audience members, back and forth. The interesting thing about the fact that music works both ways is that music itself is bigger than just that performance.
Performers and audiences
A good performance is going to affect you. Whether you’re a performer, an audience member, a volunteer or a staff member, a performance is going to affect you long after the show is over. And I’m going to tell you right now that lives actually change. When you support live music-making, you can change your life. It happened to me when I was seven years old; I was a very quiet kid, just absolutely silent. For two years, I didn’t say a single word (my wife wishes that was still the case!). But when I was a kid, my parents were rightfully concerned. “Does he even have a voice? We haven’t heard anything.” Eventually, obviously, I did talk. But when I was seven, they took me to see my local community orchestra. We had seats in the front row of the balcony, and apparently I sat leaning on the balcony with my chin on the railing for the entire concert, except the intermission. On the way home, again I didn’t say a word. They were worried. Did they waste their money? And then, just as we reached our village, about a 40 minute drive later, Mum said, “did you like that? Was there anything that you enjoyed?” And apparently I turned around and said, “I want to do what that guy in the front was doing.” That’s the story my mother tells me, and I can believe it. My entire life changed by attending that performance.
It’s bigger than a performance
Twice in my life I’ve tried to give up pursuing music as a career and do something else, but it didn’t happen, and I always came back to music. It completely changes lives. Even if it’s not that extreme of an example, you could be experiencing sorrow or sadness or any other number of emotions. You may not even know what emotions you’re experiencing at the moment, but if you attend a good, live in-person concert, it will help you cope with those feelings. It will help you deal with those emotions. It’ll help make sense of them. Sometimes music will take you through anger and annoyance and it will help you express them. While you’re sitting in your seat, you can still express anger through the music. That’s the give and take part. And then when it’s done, you can then process it a lot easier. Maybe it’s even changed. Maybe you’ve even gotten rid of that emotion. Maybe you’ve replaced it with joy or something else. There are so many benefits to live, in-person music making, but it’s bigger than just the performance. So many lives are impacted. It’s bigger than the performers, bigger than the audiences, bigger than the venue. It’s even bigger than the music itself.
So it works two ways when creating opportunities to participate in live music, and brace yourself, because lives are going to change.
If you would like to explore building your own profitable performing career as a classical musician, let’s see if my experience of 30+ years can help. Schedule a free Breakthrough Session now.