Skip to main content

Communication Skills

I've been thinking about speaking about music. Whenever I can I like to talk to the audience during performances, to give them a path into the works I'm performing.  I'm working on the script for my Musicians for Michiana show next weekend, and am always looking for connections that I can make to really make the music resonate.  I find it very frustrating to be in the orchestra and observe missed opportunities for that type of connection. Communication is important.

I had a great haircut a few months back.

When I raved about it, my stylist told me that she thought of her job as being more about  communication than craft, and explained that many people - like me - didn't really have words to express exactly what they wanted their hair to be.

I gave her vague images and emotional language about my hair, and she crystallized those into a concrete hair proposal and executed it. When I said, inarticulately, that I liked what she'd done and wanted more, she understood that to mean that I wanted, specifically, more texture in the back layers of my hair, and did just that. Although I have HAD hair my whole life, I don't specialize in hairstyling, and did not have the language to describe the change I wanted. This lady translated me back to me and gave me a great haircut.

Similarly, I believe that many people love classical music, especially contemporary music, but most don't know that they do. They don't know how to hear what I hear, or how to listen for the small details that make one piece different from another and special. This is something that I AM good at translating, and sharing in a friendly way. I'm proud of that.

Perhaps this is the case in many careers.  Certainly verbal communication is unexpectedly crucial in mine. In school I studied the oboe, and how to play it. That was my education. But being able to connect to people outside your own area of expertise - talking not only to musicians but to the general public ABOUT music -  is what our industry needs. It's an important way forward for the arts.

Of course it's easy and enjoyable to practice and to bury yourself in scholarship and scales and try to be the best performer around.  It must be fun to experiment on real and fake heads and hone your scissor skills.  It's not enough to be great at what you do.  Really, you have to be able to clarify for everyone WHY it's great, and why they should care.

Comments

  1. Thank you again, Jennet for touching on a subject dear to my heart,(and my ears). The value of every artistic manifestation is augmented immeasurably by the act of sharing. Sharing the experience of listening with someone is multiplied by at least two. There is a certain degree of pleasure in knowing-sensing that another soul near you is feeling the same thing, although slightly differently. This experience of sharing is further assisted and enriched further by the explanations given before the performance either by the performer, or a person assigned the task. Since I ‘ve been attending SBS I remember well one time you appeared and very articulately explained the piece , and in words and terms that non musicians were likely to understand and internalize. I was truly delighted a few days ago, when the News Hour, for celebrating Mozart’s birthday (the 27th) invited Rob Kapilow, a musician and composer to explain the genius of Mozart.(As if this could be done in one or two soundbites)! And by happy coincidence he chose the 40th in G Minor, and began by the playing on the piano the first 3 notes of the first movement. He was so clear and so enthusiastic that I was certain many viewers shared his excitement.( Happy coincidence because I played second violin at 14 at a concert that our conservatory performed, We began with the 40th). I wish that the S. Bend Symphony adopted this practice with some regularity. And since I just remembered it I must mention it. It is a series of lectures given by Leonard Bernstein at Harvard in the ‘70s.The title is “The Unanswered Question.” It’s available on the internet for free. He is really a true(was) teacher of music.
    Thanks again
    Dimitri

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Discouraging Words

I can remember at least two old cranky violinists coming to talk to young me about NOT going into music.  There was a session, for example, during a Rochester Philharmonic Youth Orchestra retreat in which a real RPO professional (who was probably 47 but whom I remember as ancient) told us that, statistically, no one who graduates from music school wins auditions for jobs because there are only like 4 jobs out there in the world and 7000 hotshots coming into the job market every week. 

Quit NOW. 

I may have misremembered the details of this speech, but I remember the emotional jolt.  It was designed to discourage.

Last weekend I was presenting at a Double Reed Festival, and heard some oboists grumbling about another presenter who had evidently given something of the same talk to a roomful of masterclass attendees and participants.  High school students and cheerful adult amateurs.

And look, there's an element of truth to this.  Classical music is not a growing field, and it is leg…

Generosity in Programming

I had the most interesting conversations with a few of my students after my first recital performance last weekend.  One thanked me for exposing her to so many interesting new pieces that she had never heard before.  One admitted unabashedly that his favorites were the familiar ones, the ones he already knew from his previous listening.  And both of these observations rang true to me.

See, I LOVE learning new music.  I really enjoy digging into a piece and breaking through an unfamiliar harmonic language to get to the depths of it.  To discover the composer's intention, and to find the universal emotion or experience at the heart of the work, and then to communicate that meaning back out to an audience.  This challenge is fun for me, and I think I do it well.

I have to be fair, though.  By the time I have put that kind of work into a new piece, it's not new to me anymore.  By the time I get it to the recital stage, it's an old friend.  I find great pleasure in performing i…

Self-Talk

When we started the opera cycle (An American Dream, showing at the Harris Theater tonight and Sunday afternoon), the four woodwinds were sitting stacked in a rehearsal room.  In other words, the flute to my right, the bassoon behind me, the clarinet behind the flute, just like in the orchestra.  And it was OK.  We were fairly close together, the room was resonant, and we were working on orchestral details.  But when we moved into the pit, this seating felt VERY isolating.  The four of us were far apart, on two different levels, the wall was right next to me, and intonation and ensemble were very much more difficult.  Our entrances and releases were not clean together, and because we had to balance to the singers on stage, I found my playing getting more and more tentative.  Don't be too loud, don't come in early before the clarinet, keep everything in the box, try to lead the entrances but stay in the texture... And it felt like everything that was not quite great was my fault…