In the spirit of the new year, I’ve made a few resolutions.
1. I resolve to exercise. I resolve to involve myself more physically in every performance. I’m not going to sit there like a statue, all stern seriousness. I will ask myself: when I’m on stage, do I look like I want to be there? Do I look like I’m enjoying the music I’m playing, or do my expression, posture, and demeanor suggest that I can’t wait to get out of there? How can I possibly be appealing to an audience when I look like I don’t even enjoy playing for them? I know, it’s a serious job, I play serious music, it’s not frivolous, but think about the audience’s experience. Most of them are not musicians, not on the professional level, anyway, and most of them imagine that what an orchestra does is special, that we must really love music and enjoy playing it. This feeling may seem remote for many of us, since playing music has been our profession for so long, we forget why we got involved in music in the first place. But I resolve to recapture that joy and wonder and make it visible. I’m going to allow the music to move through me like I actually enjoy it, because I do! I’m going to behave as though the music and I are unified in rhythm and motion, in muscularity and momentum. I’m going to be carried along on the inertia of the composer’s intention.
Another simple exercise: I’m going to smile more. I’m going to smile when I see audience members walk down the aisle to the seats they paid for, I’m going to catch someone’s eye between movements and share that moment of anticipation: I know what’s coming next, and I can’t wait to share it with you! I’m going to beam with pride when the performance ends, knowing that I just brought joy or solace or beauty into someone’s life. I’m going to embrace their applause, I’m going to show gratitude for their support. I’m going to make it plain by my expression that I’m glad they came, and that I’m eager for the next time I get to share great music with them.
And I resolve to walk more, to the lobby specifically, to greet the audience warmly. Answer questions. Thank them for their attendance and their support. Ask them why they came, what they enjoyed most about the performance, suggest some upcoming concerts they might like, tell them something interesting or funny about preparing for this concert. Some people find the details of what we do mysterious, even fascinating. Connecting them with something personal can help foster their commitment to attending.
One evening I was in the lobby during intermission, chatting with anyone who seemed interested in meeting a white-tie-and-tailcoat-clad person, and I was asked what it was like working with that week’s guest conductor. I shared an anecdote about how the conductor’s luggage was lost, and missing his baton, had to conduct freehand. Seemed like an inconsequential tidbit, but the audience member found it delightful; they had never thought about traveling with a baton, and how that simple tool affects their job, and our collaboration, and what its absence might mean. I hope I’ve told more interesting stories than that one, but that concertgoer now had a new connection to me, my orchestra, my job; they now shared a secret that gave them an insider’s perspective on the mystery of orchestra playing, and it invested them in the process.
So that’s my new year’s exercise regimen. I know, it doesn’t offer much promise of weight loss, but it’s probably decent cardio, and I could definitely stand to smile more.