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…

Shaq and the Oboe

Here’s my FAVORITE thing about that Shaquille O'Neal video everyone's sharing this week - it’s how HAPPY he is playing this silly game and how little he CARES what the oboe actually SOUNDS LIKE or how to play it. 
Almost as if the oboe is not a giant obstacle to overcome.

Instead of focusing on the CRAFT of the instrument, the precise fingerings, the quality of the sound, the finesse of the vibrato - his focus is on DELIVERING the SONG.   It’s on COMMUNICATION, not perfection.


What a LIBERATING concept!


When I am playing my best, I find that I can surpass the STRUGGLE and come to a place where my focus is on communication.   I can sing through the instrument, and I can use that voice to reach out and find someone else.  This is really what being In the Zone means for me - it's when I don’t have to engage with the OBOE and instead can be generous with my VOICE for the audience.


I seek and strive for this Zone all the time - it’s the whole point of practicing! I practice long…

Warming Up - Long Tones

I must not talk enough about warmups. I say this because recently, in my last lesson ever with a student leaving for college, I was mentioning something about my warmup regimen and his jaw dropped. Apparently long tones and intervals and scales with varied articulations are not part of his daily routine, nor had it ever occurred to him to use his band's warmup period to improve his playing. And I'm not telling this story on him, but on myself. Obviously I need to address the warm up period because it is fully half of the playing I do, and sometimes more.

Much of practicing is focused on learning a specific piece - either something you are performing at a specific time in the future, or an etude for your lesson, or the piece you're playing in band or orchestra. You are working on the specific problems or techniques that that piece requires. Of course you are working in as efficient a way as possible, and at the end of your practice period you can play the passage or pi…