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Doing Authenticity?

MONDAY BYTES — January 26, 2015

Yes, I’m a Barbara Cook groupie. In her master classes and interviews she focuses on the business of being who you are, on letting the audience in. On being authentic.

It takes courage to be ourselves, as performers, as teachers, as people — and we’re often so busy chasing perfection, or trying to keep our persona in place, that we lose being real.

A few weeks ago I came across this inspiring account of one of Ms. Cook’s Kennedy Center master classes. Lots of tips here not only on how to perform and how to teach, but how to be a better person. This included the paradox that performing (and living) demands of us . . .

“To be as authentic as we know how to be at the moment, so that we can be more and more present in what we do. . .The more we can do that, the safer we are. The problem is it feels most dangerous, because what I ask people to do is in effect undress emotionally, so that’s very frightening and new. But this very thing that seems most dangerous is where safety lies.”

And over the holidays I found a video of one of her performances of a song I’d never heard before—a song whose message itself echoes her teaching philosophy.

The video makes real everything in the account of her teaching, in what she encourages in students. And the performance is so moving, so clear in its arc and message, that I’d put it in the rarefied category of “perfect” and in every sense authentic. This is Amanda McBroom’s Ship in a Bottle (4:45).

2 Questions this week:

What’s your latest “find” — an inspiring video of a performance or master class? I’d love to see and hear it!

For this new year, where are you turning to find insight and creativity?

For info on working with me: details are HERE.

Monday Bytes archived posts are HERE.

Words Shape Your Future

MONDAY BYTES — January 19, 2015

We’ve repeatedly invited a terrific speaker in, Jim Arnoff, to work with students at Manhattan School of Music, to focus on people’s presentation and networking skills.

Jim is an agent, a coach, and has a background in entertainment law. But what he focuses on with us is introductions: he asks each person to introduce him or herself and to say a few words about what they do and what they love about it.

Seems simple, right?

Of course, we’re all self-conscious and may feel awkward but he doesn’t focus on how we project our voices, our posture, or the expression on our faces—instead, he focuses on the specific words we use.

He draws a line down the middle of a white board and on one side is “+” where he notes any positive, self-actualizing, powerful, and energizing words as he hears them. This includes words and phrases like “fascinated by,” “dedicated to,” “committed,” and “I will” — words that inspire confidence and propel us forward.

On the other side is the proofreading sign for delete:

under which he notes any of the self-limiting, equivocating, and hedging language he hears in the introductions, immediately stopping people and asking them to do it again and swap in positive language.

In this category are words and phrases like “sort of,” “trying to,” “attempting,” “hoping,” “somewhat,” and “kind of.” These are words that signal doubt or negativity and they undermine our ability to do good work and be a positive force in the world.

It’s amazing how the language we use telegraphs our state of mind and how this affects our opportunities. If we change our self-talk, our mindset, and the words we use to introduce ourselves, we start to change the outcome of our present actions and therefore our future.

This is not “talk big and magic happens” — it’s not a recipe for becoming a narcissist with unrealistic aspirations. It’s simply about noting the power of words and changing the “negative tapes” that are often running in our heads and out of our mouths.

Our ability to enlist collaborators, donors, and audiences to our projects is based in part on how we communicate verbally—our words have a far more powerful affect than we may realize!

For extra help, check out this Forbes article: Is How You Speak Sabotaging Your Future? 7 Ways to Power up Your Language.

This week: Watch your language! And replace any self-defeating language with words that energize.

For info on working with me: details are HERE.

Monday Bytes archived posts are HERE.

Binge-Watching Mozart in the Jungle

MONDAY BYTES — January 12, 2015

I spent part of my vacation binge-watching the series Mozart in the Jungle (if you have Amazon prime you can blast through all 10 episodes for free).

The series is based on oboist Blair Tindall’s 2006 tell-all memoir, Mozart in the Jungle: Sex, Drugs and Classical Music. The book and series revolve around the misadventures in the profession for an up and coming oboist.

In terms of how this has been translated into a series, we might grumble at the inaccuracies in the portrayal of the working lives of professional orchestral and freelance players (and groan at the attempts to fake playing convincingly), but the series has some terrific story lines and it is absolutely binge-worthy. And thought-provoking.

There have been many movies made about musicians and composers but this is the first series I’ve ever seen that touches on such a range of real-life orchestral musician topics as the union, orchestra funding, board member clout, auditions, community engagement, succession of conductors, member morale, programming choices, performers’ career crises, performance injuries, drug use, and even how a new conductor needs to “win over” the band.

Maybe it’s simply a relief to have all these topics and story lines attempted so we can step back and take it in—get a fresh perspective on an “outsiders” view of the context many musicians work in or aspire to work in.

Amazon may not have gotten all of it right, but in terms of long-form narrative, and multi-dimensional characters and themes, there’s a lot that’s working well.

It’s also good to see these characters portrayed as people are driven in their higher pursuit—beyond fame, money. or position—to strive for artistry.

This week: As we start in on 2015, take a moment to look back at what you wrought in 2014: what you made, managed, initiated, facilitated, and championed—and congratulate yourself!

PS: Very curious what others are thinking about Mozart Jungled—would love to get your perspective!

For info on working with me: details are HERE.

Monday Bytes archived posts are HERE.