Performing 101

One of the very few things that I know anything about in this world is performing. For whatever it's worth I submit the folowing blog entry. I'm going to make it the first of a series. Performing 101 There are millions of people or schools offering lessons on how to play an instrument, dance, sing, write songs, or tell jokes. There are countless workshops, books, dvd’s, cd-rom’s, and, for all I know, statuarey and samplers designed to instruct people in the “performing arts”. There is little, however, designed to teach people how to perform; what to actually do when you get on stage to present any of those other things. This column will attempt to fill some small part of that void. While I do not claim to be the alpha and omega of all knowledge and wisdom in this area, I do claim, having been an entertainer for thirty-five years, to have learned a thing or two. We’ll spend more time with general principal rather than specific techniques. Not all techniques will work for everyone. Although I may draw from my own experiences and the experiences of people I have known to illustrate one principal or another, keep in mind that I do a yodeling cowboy act. The things that I do on stage are unlikely to work for, say, a heavy metal band or an Elvis impersonator. The only way to find out which specific moves will work for you is to try them. If a given trick dies horribly then you porbably don’t want to do that again. Most of the actual learning proccess happens by trial and error. One of the things that we want to do here is to identify and, one hopes, avoid some of the more common errors. Let’s start with the basics. Performing is, first and foremost, a craft. I cannot emphasize this enough. It is an applied set of skills. Performers are as much craftspeople as carpenters, tailors, or photographers. I can hear the argument about that last one already. Not all photographs are art because not all photographers are artists. There is a huge gap between Ansel Adams and the annoying, intrusive jerk that your cousin Yolanda hired to take her wedding pictures. What the two have in common is that both are using the skills needed for the craft of photography. While the latter practitioner may, in fact, produce art, he or she is not an artist simply by having picked up a camera and taking pictures. Ansel Adams was able to achieve what he did through a good deal more than merely having an artist’s soul. He learned what he needed to know about his equipment, the use of light and shadow, and the reproduction of the images. That knowledge is what enabled him to communicate his artistic vision to the larger world. Similarly, you are not automatically an artist simply by virtue of having strapped on a guitar to stand up in front of a room full of strangers to sing. You had to spend a lot of time to learn to play your guitar, keyboard, trombone, banjo, nose flute, or whatever before you could get anything out of it that sounded like music. You had to spend a lot of time to learn to, sing before it started to seem natural coming out of you rather than sounding like a half-baked impression of someone else. Convincing an audience to understand and enjoy what you’re doing takes a similar amount of work. It is a separate set of skills from actually making the tunes happen. Performance is all about communication. Next: Allright. I’m on stage. Now What? -------------------------------------- I, of course, invite comments, questions argument, and whatever else you've got in response to the above. Just click the link the "Contact SLR" link (above and to your right). Be well. Stephen Lee

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