What’s Behind Your Eyes

I can’t believe I am writing another post that draws inspiration from America’s Next Top Model. (Read the first one HERE.) It is such a silly show and I am not proud of watching it. But I take my ideas where I can find them.

On that show, they are always talking to the girls about communicating through their photos. Apparently, it is not enough to be pretty, and to know how to use the light to catch the angles of your face beautifully. That is all craft, but the art is that you also have to be telling a story with your eyes and have something going on in your head. And suddenly this week that all popped into focus and made sense to me personally.

I played a gig a few weeks ago and was blown away by the playing of the excellent principal oboist. I was astounded by how much meaning and depth she could pack into her lines. Even single note solos were breathtaking in their clarity and sense of direction. Of course, the oboe playing itself was flawless and lovely, but her musicianship stood out as something really splendid.

By contrast, I recently had a young woman come in and play excerpts for me, preparing for an audition. And the oboe playing itself was just fine. No problems. But there was NO story, NO meaning behind the pretty sounds and correct notes and rhythms. I asked, “What are you thinking about in this phrase?” And she said, “I don’t know – doing it right, I guess.” Right there I flashed back to ANTM, and I got it. You HAVE to have that backstory in your mind. You HAVE to have a musical intention that you’ve made, and it HAS to be presented overtly.

I fall somewhere between these two extremes. I definitely have a commitment to the musical line, and I strive to deliver it. But I don’t always do so as strongly, as compellingly, as beautifully as I could. In the orchestra especially, I can fall back on playing prettily and not really pushing myself to give more depth, more STORY to the phrase I’m playing. This is what I’m working on now, and what I’ve been experimenting with this week in the opera pit and in my practice room.

And for this insight I again credit America’s Next Top Model. Thanks, Tyra!

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