During my week with the Oregon Symphony, I was surrounded by 120 musicians onstage and 100 singers in the risers above. I could feel the exuberance and celebration resonating from the musicians all around me, overjoyed to be together again. It was a tremendous success and celebration.
The day after our final performance, I presented Compassionate Performance for a noontime concert hour at Pacific University. I was the last outside presenter before the students start sharing their own performances next week.
When I asked about this required class for the musicians, the proctor said “They’re learning how to be an audience.” Perfect.
What a great opportunity to talk about the WHY of music at this moment in time. I shared my experience of compassion with the woman in India. I told them about my realization that when we are in a state of compassion, we cannot judge ourselves or be judged. The focus of the mind is in a completely different part of the brain. When our hearts genuinely go out to someone who is suffering, we let go of the shackles that keep us bound in stage fright.
And who, this year, has not suffered?
We tend to think of our audiences as all the perfect images we see on social media. But no matter how well put together people may appear, they still have some degree of suffering. How can you live on this earth and not feel the tension, the loss, the disharmony that surrounds us?
We don’t need to feel sorry for our audiences (unless we haven’t practiced). But we need to offer them sound and energy that conveys connection rather than separation, love instead of fear, solace and refuge for the unspoken suffering.
We move audiences when we open doors for them to heal. Perhaps even in ways that they may have not even known they needed.
So I gave them a choice.
Every time we create music, we step into vulnerability. We can choose to embrace the suck of vulnerability (as I’ve heard Brené Brown put it) as we strive toward excellence, or we can wrap ourselves up in judgment and tension, creating inner voices that haunt our performances from the inside.
We have a window of opportunity. We can create a new culture around musical performance that helps foster compassion for each other, compassion for our listeners, compassion for ourselves.
As I performed my solo pieces, I modeled compassionate performance. I could feel that these students needed hope. I kept my focus on the music, on my heart, on the field of energy I was creating and holding. If something caught my attention as an imperfection, I noted it, and moved on.
I told them that as performers, we need to be more inspired, more filled with positive energy than the listeners so we have something genuine to share.
Where to find that inspiration needed onstage? From within. Compassionate performance is based on an inner journey, one that leads to greater understanding, greater wellbeing, and an expanding awareness of ourselves and others. Introspection, meditation, and a sense of adventure are prerequisites for the journey.
During the performance we practiced meditation together for a few minutes, breathing in, breathing out. The room started to relax. Inner doorways began to open.
Hope started to blossom.
Afterwards, the proctor told me the students were on the edge of their seats, leaning into the experience.
So what is compassionate performance? Sharing what comes from our own unique connection to the source of all that is. Feel it. Resonate. Infuse it into your notes.
Join me on Wednesday at 12pm Pacific for a live-streamed performance from The Old Church. Details here.
And if you’d like to hear the recording from my presentation, drop me a line and I’ll give you a link.