Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Here's Lookin' at Ya, Fonzy

Here are some random strands that seem to weave together:
Masterclass Monday ... several bone chamber groups play through pieces. I had them play the same passage either pointing out or pointing at each other. What a difference.

Recent lessons ... I find some students chronically pointing down and under the stand as they play. The thing is, when they point out, they seem to sound better and they also *look* better.

Years ago in Baltimore ... I heard two horn recitals a few days apart, one a student, one a pro. The pro didn't have the best night. The thing was I went in with an expectation: "Here's a great player struggling a bit." Compare that to the student recital: "Here's a student who I am expecting to struggle."

Cincinnati Symphony Concerts ... Back when Marshall Carson was bass trombonist in the section, he used to sit off to the side of his stand and get his bell out. Tony Chipurn (who I knew could play with a lot of power), wouldn't point out with his bell. Way up in the nosebleed seats, I could hear Marshall clearly but not the rest of the section.

My Air Force Band days ... On tour, we were reminded to look our best: haircuts, uniform, posture. The saying, as I recall it, "People hear with their eyes."

I hated that saying but I gotta admit, there's some truth. How you look and behave affects expectations. It's very hard to listen with no pre-disposition. If you pick up visual clues that the performer is confident and poised, you tend to hear them differently.

So, what does all this mean?...
Stand tall, point your bell out there. It does really affect the projection of your sound *and* it affects others' perceptions of you.

What about that Fonzy part?
OK, I'm saying it helps to stand tall and look relaxed in performance. But what if you are nervous? What if you're a wreck?
Imagine you are in a high school play based on Happy Days. You have to play a "Fonzy" character. Back stage, you're nervous. But you need to saunter on stage and convince others you're the cool guy. Obvious, you're an actor.
Can you apply this to a trombone performance? Should you be an actor? Is that false, or is it a strategy?
One last thing: how you look may not only affect the perception of others; is there a chance that being a bit of an actor might affect your self-perception?