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“engaging” at Engagements

March 28th, 2009 No comments

tomjensenIt occurred to me, after finishing my Tiny Tots– “Inside the Orchestra” run with the Junior Symphony Guild (we saw 8,000 kids), that we, as musicians, have a difficult time interacting with the audience after concerts. Over the years I have learned to elicit comments from shy and timid preschoolers with questions like: “What did you like the best (besides me)?”

And it is equally important talking to grownups after a performance as well. I remember being at a reception recently, observing musicians awkwardly looking for punch and cookies and making conversation with patrons. Now patrons want to talk to artists– and sometimes the intimidation factor can be offputting for them. They want to be a part of the discussion, but don’t want to appear to be ignorant of the art form. I remember an adult asking a bass player about his “cello.” He replied: “No, it’s a bass!” One might instead say: “Yes, it looks like a cello, but it is bigger, it is a bass.”

But more importantly, it is advantageous to make audience members feel good about themselves. We do have an adrenaline rush after a performance and may want to discuss our work, but it is important to realize and recognize the validation of the people who come to see and hear us work. So, in the spirit of things to think about the next time you are choking down a brownie after a show– try these out for size:

“So, you are new to the Philharmonic Board of Directors– how did you decide to become a part of our organization?” Or….

“Bruckner is pretty heavy stuff, this was my first time playing this piece– did you know this symphony before you came? What did you think of it?” Or…

“Thanks for the kind words about my contra bassoon solo “(substitute your instrument here). ” Usually nobody remarks about it– did you study a woodwind instrument, or are you a vacuum cleaner salesman?” Or…

“What did you think of the concerto? I loved the way she plays the end– it was really fast, a virtuoso moment.”

Adults like to be asked questions– not too hard, but talking points that draw them out– it may be a future donor with whom you are conversing… and that’s always important.

So next time you are exhausted after playing two hours of Strauss waltz offbeats on your viola, take a moment to think of a fun question to ask a person who paid to hear you perform– try not to focus on the carpal tunnel stuff going on in your neck and shoulder.

Remember, it’s “showbiz.”

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Conductor’s Corner – Tom Jensen

March 8th, 2009 6 comments


My name is Tom Jensen and as a conductor I have cultivated a relationship with the Denver Musicians’ Association for the past 25 years. I appreciate the opportunity of this forum to share ideas and thoughts to better foster an advocacy for the arts that is not just lip service, but rather a place to get things done. I hope to illustrate positive concepts concerning, among others, management/union relationships; funding possibilities; community visibility; and musical relevance with respect to educational outreach.

For the past 23 years I have participated in a unique program called “Inside the Orchestra” which has been sponsored by the Junior Symphony Guild.  We hire anywhere from 15 to 34 union musicians for our programs and produced over 80 concerts this season.  Audiences sit in, and are surrounded by the orchestra– hence the name. Many of the players have worked with me for most of my tenure here in Denver– developing working situations that have spanned a quater of a century.  The goal of the JSG is to expand and grow– this year alone we added more programs than ever before, increasing our fall season by 31% over last year’s (seeing close to 25,000 children) and we hope to continue to thrive even in this current economy.

That said, I recently had an interesting conversation with national union activist Chris McKeever.  Over a couple of “sparkling beverages” I mentioned that we had just finished a successful concert run, but even with our new collective bargaining agreement, we still had musicians arriving late for rehearsals and performances.

Chris  laughed and said that musicians really aren’t union people.