“I will cast this spell: I know I can open this door and show you something unforgettable and transforming, and I’m determined to take myself there and to take you with me.”
–Jeffrey Kahane, pianist (The Musician’s Way, p. 177)
When was the last time that you cast a spell from the stage?
If it’s been a while, take heart: I’ve found that nearly all musicians can learn to deliver spellbinding performances, but they first need to build up their stage power.
Stage power, as I conceive it, comprises 4 elements: stage deportment, stage presence, performance mastery, and performance artistry. Let’s look at each one.
1. Stage Deportment
Stage deportment encompasses the technical aspects of public presentation.
In The Musician’s Way, I divide stage deportment into 7 categories: attire, entrances & exits, bowing, setting up and tuning, performance body language, handling scores, and speaking.
By becoming fluent with all of these components, we broadcast self-assurance, and our listeners become receptive.
2. Stage Presence
Stage presence conveys personal energy. When we speak to audiences, for instance, our diction is an issue of deportment; what we say and how we say it transmits our presence.
There’s much more to it, of course, so check out pages 171-179 of The Musician’s Way, where I deconstruct stage deportment and presence and, in particular, underscore the primacy of showmanship.
Showmanship – or show-womanship – stems from our commitment to give audiences a great time no matter what the circumstances; it involves projecting irresistible positive energy (think of singer Tony Bennett).
It empowers us to have command over ourselves and our instrument such that, even when pressure levels soar, we retain control.
4. Performance Artistry
Now we’ve come to the point of it all: Artistry.
When we’re thoroughly prepared for a show and embrace our roles as performing artists, we can open ourselves to the moment and drench listeners with emotion.
We acquire artistic potency through, among other things, choosing accessible music, gaining interpretive know-how, practicing deeply, and trusting ourselves – we have to trust in our preparation and in what we have to say through music.
A musician’s stage power results from the sum of these 4 elements.
One way to gauge your stage power is to video-record a practice performance and then assign yourself a 1-5 ranking in each category, with a top score totaling 20.
Next, you’d target areas needing improvement and practice to grow your competence.
With steady work, the energy of being on stage will then rocket you and your listeners to unforgettable heights.
© 2011 Gerald Klickstein
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