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I'm not talking marketing. I'm not talking programming. And I'm not talking about anything that has to do with money or "making it."
I'm talking about the perfect audience in a very personal sense. It's a key, I think, to opening many doors for musicians of all ages and stages. Whether it's the nine-year old who's about to walk onstage to play for a handful of judges, the symphony member who is about to join 100 other colleagues in the concert hall, or the recording artist that is about to spend hours in the recording studio hoping for the perfect take - each of these musicians desires to do his or her best. But for whose sake? For whom are we playing? Are we trying to speak to and please each individual in the audience? If we are, isn't that asking a lot of ourselves?
A few months ago a friend posted a YouTube video on my Facebook page that answered this question for me in a powerful way. In the video a tuba player that played with the Dukes of Dixieland band, Richard Matteson, talks about a recording session he was involved in with Louis Armstrong. In the course of the session the band witnessed Louis performing for two very different but important audiences all within the confines of the recording studio's walls. And those very well-defined audience members, his wife and God, made the performances what they were - personal musical gifts that were were given with unconditional love coming from both directions. Here is the video so you can hear the story for yourself:
"I always play for somebody I love. That's all. You play for somebody you love, all the time. They wanna listen, that's cool. If they don't want to listen, it's still cool cuz I was gonna play for Him and her anyway."
Does this type of approach to performing exclude anyone else that might be sitting in the audience? Personally I don't think so. In my experience it's performances like this that hand the music and the musician's own self over to the audience in one powerful package that has the ability to move, embrace, and thrill whoever is open to receiving.
Perhaps this reveals something not-so-positive about me, but my personal audience is myself, all the time - not the perfectionist self or the practice room self, but the me that fell in love with music when I was a little girl. Performing is a gift for myself that I like to share with anyone else who cares to listen. If they like the gift too, that's cool. If they don't, that's still cool.
You'll still find me smiling and walking onto the stage again...and again...and again.