I’ve attended two musical events this past month that got me thinking a great deal about the role of passion in not only the creation and performance of art, but in encouraging creativity in others. The first experience was at a recital given by a young classical singer for friends and family. It was one of her first full-length programs. She was flushed and nervous, but the setting was a lovely, serene chapel and the room was bursting with love, appreciation and respect for her talent. She responded by filling the space with her carefully-trained and sparkling tones. It was electric and moving. I overheard her voice teacher discussing the difficulty of such a performance with several of the attendees after the program, especially considering the young lady’s age and experience. They were comparing the training and concentration required for that type of vocal expertise to high level athletic events and serious meditation practices. It occurred to me that while she certainly has the talent and has put in the time and effort to perform well, the environment and the enthusiasm of the crowd contributed an extra spark to the event.
The impact of an audience struck me again the other night when I went to hear a new band performing in my little Shenandoah Valley town. They were an eclectic and versatile quartet of musicians toting a van-full of instruments from town-to-town on a month-long tour. I described them to a friend as “pink-skinned and untouched children with old, old souls”, and when they started to play in the smoky bar, I realized their talent deserved a room where they could be truly heard. At first they seemed tentative, and a few people in the crowd were talking over the music, but most of us provided rapt attention and encouragement. The band burned brighter and brighter with each song. The music and energy in the room moved one musician so deeply that by the end of the set, he was wiping away tears.
Both these events reminded me of great conversation I had a few years ago about how important the energy of an audience is to performers. I was chatting with a couple musicians about how draining truly passionate performing can be, one musician likening it to burning himself up in a bonfire each time. They both agreed that doing that night after night was exhausting and could end their careers prematurely, but that having the audience give back—in effect becoming an active part of the bonfire—makes all the difference in the world. So while most people don’t go to a performance with the intent to BE PART OF THE SHOW, the truth is an appreciative and engaged audience can elevate good performances to transcendent, and keep the embers of creativity burning bright. So feed the flame. Give as much as you get next time you attend a live show.