I’ve been thinking about speaking about music. Whenever I can I like to talk to the audience during performances, to give them a path into the works I’m performing. I’m working on the script for my Musicians for Michiana show next weekend, and am always looking for connections that I can make to really make the music resonate. I find it very frustrating to be in the orchestra and observe missed opportunities for that type of connection. Communication is important.
I had a great haircut a few months back.
When I raved about it, my stylist told me that she thought of her job as being more about communication than craft, and explained that many people – like me – didn’t really have words to express exactly what they wanted their hair to be.
I gave her vague images and emotional language about my hair, and she crystallized those into a concrete hair proposal and executed it. When I said, inarticulately, that I liked what she’d done and wanted more, she understood that to mean that I wanted, specifically, more texture in the back layers of my hair, and did just that. Although I have HAD hair my whole life, I don’t specialize in hairstyling, and did not have the language to describe the change I wanted. This lady translated me back to me and gave me a great haircut.
Similarly, I believe that many people love classical music, especially contemporary music, but most don’t know that they do. They don’t know how to hear what I hear, or how to listen for the small details that make one piece different from another and special. This is something that I AM good at translating, and sharing in a friendly way. I’m proud of that.
Perhaps this is the case in many careers. Certainly verbal communication is unexpectedly crucial in mine. In school I studied the oboe, and how to play it. That was my education. But being able to connect to people outside your own area of expertise – talking not only to musicians but to the general public ABOUT music – is what our industry needs. It’s an important way forward for the arts.
Of course it’s easy and enjoyable to practice and to bury yourself in scholarship and scales and try to be the best performer around. It must be fun to experiment on real and fake heads and hone your scissor skills. It’s not enough to be great at what you do. Really, you have to be able to clarify for everyone WHY it’s great, and why they should care.