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 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.