MONDAY BYTES – June 9, 2014

What works best in terms of speaking from the stage? How do you introduce yourself and your music so that your audience feels welcomed into the music and set up well for an encounter with a work?

The one thing a performer can count on is that every audience will include a range of familiarity with the music presented. For some it will be a first encounter with the piece or genre, but there will most likely be experienced listeners as well, perhaps colleagues and critics.

Last month I had the pleasure of hearing jazz pianist Kevin Harris lead an ensemble at the Regatta bar in Cambridge. I had a great time and the evening has lingered with me in part because of the way Kevin spoke.

The performance was a follow-up to his most recent album “Museum Vol. 1,”  with evocative music inspired by visual art. He introduced us to his sound world and each work, encouraging us to close our eyes and imagine entering a museum gallery space.

More than the specifics of his descriptions or the background content he offered in his remarks, what has remained most in my mind is the calm intention we sensed behind the words.

He’s 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. Made me very glad to be there!

It’s something that can be hard to work on–speaking to audiences, whether it’s in a concert or master class, or for an interview setting.

When we work on these skills, the focus tends to be on streamlining and organizing our content, along with particulars of body language, and voice projection.

But in the end, what we most communicate is our intention and purpose: with our mindset and our stance to the world. This is the “who we are” that comes across loud and clear. This is the Law of 80% that Eric Booth talks and writes about in the context of teaching artist work and it absolutely applies to speaking from the stage.

Question for the week: What has helped you the most in speaking from the stage or doing any public speaking?

As always, I welcome hearing your thoughts and feedback!

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