In my last blog, we touched a bit on the idea that Great Playing Isn't Good Enough, and that musicians today have to be able to more versatile than in past generations. Business classes are a great idea for the college student, as musicians are not always the best source for this information. In the next few blogs, I will share with you some of the strategies I have learned (thanks to my time in Corporate America and trial and error) about for developing other skills that can help you become a more successful musician.
When it comes to a performance, my number one rule is: Know Your Audience. In order for a performance to be successful, you must know who you are playing for.
Far too often, we musicians will plan a concert, rehearse things to an appropriate level of performance, and just assume that people will come to the concert. This assumption is based on the fact that great music will bring an audience. Under some circumstances, this works. For instance, a large ensemble that regularly performs in a venue for numerous years can build up an audience that will support an organization no matter what music is performed.
New groups, such as chamber groups, don't have this luxury. Usually, newer groups don't perform at the same venue each time they perform. They also don't have the luxury of having built an audience base due to their tremendous performance and consistent location. Newer groups need to really figure out what their audience is. Here's a great example below.
Let's say you're in a chamber group involving your instrument, and are contacted by a local school district to give educational concerts in the elementary and middle schools in that district. These performances will be held as assemblies, and in some cases, up to 500 students will attend at one performance.
What would you play? How is this audience different from one that would attend a concert at a recital hall?
When planning performances, I always find that I have to balance what the group wants to play with what an audience wants to hear. I generally find that I can maybe perform one or two pieces on full recital (say 90 minutes) that the group or myself would want to play. The rest of the program has to be music that an audience will enjoy.
Next time you pick a program, think about your audience. What do they want to hear.
Until next time!
Andrew Smith currently serves as the Director of Athletic Bands at and Assistant Professor of Low Brass at Campbell University and is Principal Tuba of the Fayetteville Symphony. Andrew also maintains a low brass teaching studio in the Triangle region of North Carolina.