On Our Best Behavior

by Megan M. on April 1, 2007 (Music) |

I’m a big fan of Seth Godin—business, creativity, plain old thought process. You’d think I’d be posting this somewhere else, but really I’ve always wanted to say something about the good audience members, and what they mean to performers. I’m talking about any kind of performer, and not just me. You know—the ones who make performing such a pleasure.

Seth participated in career day, and presented to five groups of a total 75 eighth graders. He said it was obvious who had the Good Audience Skills, and who didn’t. Some were alert and interactive. Some were… somewhere else. But one thing was really clear.

“What I discovered: that the good audience members got most of my attention. The great audience members got even more… attention plus extra effort. And, despite my best efforts, the non-great audience members just sort of fell off the radar.”

Those good audience members, they were making something of the experience. In my head, I realize that it looks like an energy flow. The energy streams from Seth to the eighth graders. On some, it dissipates. But when it reaches others, it is absorbed and funneled back to Seth, stronger and brighter than it was before. Seth receives it and does the same thing again. The energy compounds and becomes stronger, more brilliant, more useful, more informative, more driving. The presenter and the audience members end up with an exponentially better experience.

The same thing happens to us in performance. The audience members who aren’t really involved fall right off my radar. But the ones who are, the ones who are investing their attention and emotion in me, they get my complete concentration and receive all the energy that I’m giving out.

I performed for a couple’s private Christmas gathering many years back. We were in a beautiful little music room with a perfect piano and a very small audience, maybe twenty or twenty-five friends of the hosts. I had never performed in a small space with my audience directly in front of me—so close! But something amazing happened. I got into the really difficult aria and a man in front started to lightly tap his foot in time with my vocal runs—very rhythmic, very quiet, but obviously enjoying himself! His enjoyment was contagious. Not only did several others pick up his rhythm, quietly with knees and fingers, but they increased my rhythm, and my energy, and my ability to sing fantastically! And I’m talking about Rossini, here!

I couldn’t believe it as it was happening, but it was wonderful. We were all delivering energy to one another. In fact, it was happening so quickly and so smoothly that it wasn’t even an exchange any longer—we were all in one place together, a big burning ball of light, a circle or a cone, something magical! Something incredibly fabulous happens when we invest ourselves in one another. It’s very difficult for me to find words that properly describe it.

So when Seth talks about how those Good Audience Members are in a much better position to join the information flow, I start thinking about how those Good Audience Members are in a much better position to really experience the music they’re listening to.

Be part of the performance, BE the performance, you’re fueling it!

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