HELLO STAGE BLOG

What Musicians Can Learn From Public Speakers

She said; "if your performance makes up 100%, then what comes across to the audience is 55% percent visual elements, 38% sound quality and only 7% words or musical message."

I sat there, astonished.

How can the thing that teachers talk most about make up 7% in that math?, I thought.

I was a piano student, sitting in a workshop called 'Behaving on Stage' - it was for musicians, though the speaker mainly coached singers.

In some way, I never stopped asking myself:

How can it be that it really doesn't matter what the person says and it all matters how they say it? And, subsquently, how can I transfer what I'm observing in others to my own work as a performer?

One of the fields us musicians can learn from is public speaking. Today, join me on a visit to the 'Olympics' of that field: TED conferences. Their speakers are amazing, the topics, from all ranges of human knowledge.

All TED talks have a unique message that they convey. Some of the talks, though, stand out because of their message and the way they are delivered.

Let me introduce you to some examples of exceptional speaking performances.

Paper beats plastic? How to rethink environmental folklore is a talk by Leyla Acaroglu (1 million views) - she has beautiful stage presence and speaks with authority while staying friendly, casual and humourous. This talk is a delight from beginning to end.

In The way we think about charity is dead wrong (3.5 million views), Dan Pallotta delivers a serious message in an honest and authentic way, while keeping his sense of humour.

How schools kill creativity (33.6 million views) - education is important, but so are a lot of other topics. The way Sir Ken Robinson speaks about it is one of the elements that makes this talk so special and the most viewed TED talk to date. He is able to grasp the sense of urgency in us, to keep his tone conversational, providing insight from his personal experience and most of all, to entertain us.

Behind the slightly cliché title of The transformative power of classical music (7.1 million views) lies a superb classical music talk. Its aim: to make a broader audience interested in and connect to classical music, something all of us want. Benjamin Zander is the conductor of Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and a gifted author and speaker. His compassion and sense of amazement raptures his audience.

And finally, in How to truly listen (3.2 million views), Dame Evelyn Glennie, solo percussionist, brings us closer to her world, showing us that listening doesn't necessarily happen only through the ears. Her voice has such a presence and is deeply touching. It's a moving and thought-provoking talk and necessary for all musicians to watch.

So what does this have to do with me, you ask?

My answer is, can we perform in a way that it becomes all about our listeners and not about ourselves? That we don't take ourselves too seriously while playing or singing? That the moment we stop 'playing the piano' and start 'playing sounds on the piano', our performance can be about sound and become playful? Because sound is not a serious matter. It's just sound.

And so, I return to that percentage breakdown. How much thought do you give to interpretation and musical message versus your sound quality and overall presence? How important is the 'what' versus the 'how' to you? And what percentages are true for you?

Maria Busqué is a coach for musical performance and a freelance harpsichord player based in Berlin. You can follow her on twitter, @maria_busque visit her HELLOSTAGE page or find out more about her work at www.mariabusque.net.



Author: Maria Busqué / edited by Nina HELLO STAGE
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