image of pianist Kevin Harris and text "Speaking from the stage" Law of 80%

As a musician, how are you at speaking from the stage? Does your audience actually feel welcomed into the experience? And what specifically do you do to help listeners find their own relevant connections to the music you perform? To help, here is Speaking from the Stage—the Secret to Success for Musicians.

Invite audiences to be curious—to actively engage their imaginations

Years ago I had the pleasure of hearing jazz pianist Kevin Harris lead an ensemble at the Regatta bar jazz club in Cambridge. I had a great time and the evening still lingers in my memory largely because of the way Kevin spoke to the audience and welcomed us into his music.

The performance was an album release celebration for his recording titled “Museum Vol. 1.” In his remarks, Kevin introduced his band and spoke about the inspiration for the album. But before he played any of the music from it, he invited us to close our eyes and imagine entering a museum gallery space. I loved this simple invitation to quiet our minds and let whatever reactions we have to the music happen—to be open to it all.

When speaking from the stage, it’s about inviting listeners to put their everyday concerns on hold and let go of their worries so they can quiet down their internal chatter and be fully present. We all need help with this as we’re all addicted to our devices and our attention spans are only getting shorter in these anxious years.

How do you invite your audience to engage in a deep listening experience?

More than the content Kevin offered in his remarks, what has remained most in my mind is the calm intention I sensed behind his words.

Kevin is from Kentucky and grew up on Gospel, so maybe he comes by this naturally, but the intention behind the words was a kind of grace and generosity. The way he spoke welcomed and included us in the experience, as though we were part of the ensemble. His delivery made me glad to be there!

Speaking to audiences can be hard to work on—whether it’s for a concert or master class—no matter who’s in the audience. When we work on these skills, the focus tends to be on streamlining and organizing our thoughts, along with particulars of body language, and voice projection. All that is fine.

But the most important aspect of speaking to audiences is something else. Something more fundamental. It’s what teaching artist expert Eric Booth calls . . .

The Law of 80%

In the end, what we really communicate is far more than the content of our words. It’s our intention and purpose: our mindset and our stance to the world. This is the “who we are” that comes across loud and clear. It’s what Eric Booth—who for years taught teaching artist skills at Juilliard—calls the one Law: that 80% of what we teach is WHO WE ARE.

Note: “Teaching artist” is the fancy term used to describe a musician who actively engages their audience, whether it’s simply speaking briefly from the stage in a formal concert, or it’s designing interactive performances, workshops, or residencies.

Don’t be fooled by the term “teaching” here—this isn’t about rattling off facts, delivering curriculum, or offering quizzes. Instead, teaching artistry is all about facilitating a connection between the audience and the music you’re offering.

It’s the idea that when you walk out on stage you can’t hide—your audience really does see who you are, so you might as well come clean with the truth about what this particular piece means to you—and give your audience an entry point to find themselves in the performance.

Take a listen now to this inspiring short video (2:49 minutes).

I’d go further that the law of 80% isn’t just about speaking to audiences. It’s about bringing who you really are to your entire performance. It’s about learning how to stop letting fear, perfectionism, second-guessing, and imposter syndrome keep us from becoming the artists we are meant to be.

 

If you’d like to explore how coaching with me can help you bring more of your best self to your performances, check the details HERE.

Let’s get your brighter future going now,

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