Friday, December 4, 2015

Performance class etiquette

Dear students,

Today during performance class, I saw one person texting, one person with an iPad open (with type pad attached), and one person doing needlepoint...all while classmates were singing. I addressed each of these people individually, but that should not have been necessary. It is very obvious how rude and inappropriate those kinds of behaviors are in class, especially when someone is performing right in front of you.

I know you're stressed. I know everyone needs a safety release, and sometimes doing something else when you're supposed to be paying attention feels relaxing. I get it; I really do. We're all tired. I'm also quite certain that you are all wonderful people, and these actions were not a mark of bad character. You're good human beings. It was just a lapse of judgment.

It bears saying, however, that if you cannot pay attention to live music for 60-90 minutes per week, this is probably not the career and degree path for you. If it doesn't hold your attention for that long, it's never going to work out in the long term. The artistic life is too hard for it to be only sort of interesting for you. Beyond that, you are all students of your craft: either you are doing it, or you are learning by watching others. Not one of you is so good that you can pass up the opportunity to learn from every single person that performed today. How does the person performing breathe, emote, gesture, enunciate, phrase? How well is it working for him or her? You can learn so much from watching.

On a practical level, it's also worth mentioning that, as voice students, the bar is set higher for you than the average concert goer. Whether or not you pursue a career in music, it is you that must educate those who don't know better. Whether it's a well-meaning but clueless relative who doesn't know how to behave at a concert or whether it's someone who just thinks concerts are the equivalent to movies, it's up to you to let folks know that those are breathing human beings up there on stage sweating and working to entertain the audience. Those performers can see when an audience member is doing something other than listening, and it's distracting.

More to the point, if you were to do any of those things in rehearsal with a professional company, one of two things would likely occur: you'd be fired on the spot, or you'd never be re-hired. Better learn that now. Get into good habits now.

I know the inability to pay attention without distraction is a disease in our society. It seems to be everywhere. But that doesn't excuse music students for violating the golden rule. You all know better. 

In the spring semester, anyone in my studio caught using a phone, iPad, or doing anything distracting during class will receive an F for the week. It will be as if you did not attend class, because if you weren't mentally present, YOU DIDN'T.

In the meantime, I look forward to fabulous juries and a wonderfully supportive atmosphere in the spring semester.

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