Saxophonist performs, with bassist in background“The performers who connect from the stage establish emotional relationships with their audiences.”
The Musician’s Way, p. 188

What endows a performance with the power to stir listeners’ hearts?

At a minimum, a spellbinding concert melds first-rate repertoire, prepared musicians, and a favorable setting.

If you peel back those layers, though, I think you’ll find a single factor at the core of any gripping performance:


Connecting with Audiences

The performers who connect from the stage establish emotional relationships with their audiences.

And those relationships are based on one thing: giving.

In a concert, performers give and listeners receive, and their mutual interaction lifts them all to a higher plane.

The Gift of Music

Whenever you give to someone, whether your offering is a song or something surrounded by gift-wrapping, the significance of your gift derives more from the spirit in which it’s given that from the item in the wrapping paper.

In performance, if you withhold this giving of yourself, or if your gift of music isn’t heartfelt, then it should come as no surprise when your audience withholds, too. To connect, you have to be eager to share your music with others and also believe in your ability to perform that music meaningfully.

Many musicians, however, find the responsibility of preparing a concert gift overwhelming. They may have unresolved fears, not know how to fashion interpretations, or lack performance skills.

Or they may pick music that’s beyond their capacities, and then they can’t be secure on stage.

Giving from the Heart

The choosing of unattainable music is a form of vanity that corrupts the spirit of giving.

Aspiring musicians who want to perform nothing but the hardest pieces are either looking to show off or to live in fantasy worlds. Either way, their selfishness doesn’t endear them to listeners.The Musician's Way book cover

To be openhearted on stage, you must choose material that’s within your reach. Then, instead of trying to have the flashiest prize in your gift box, you put forward the most artistic present you can.

Generosity and Authenticity

Although your generosity begins with the music that you select and continues with thorough preparation, your gift will be appreciated only if you uphold that generous attitude on stage.

As you perform, radiate the character of a composition. If a piece is about love, be in love; if it’s about joy, emanate joy.

And if things get rocky – maybe you drop a few notes, a coperformer misses an entrance, or some listeners start coughing loudly – stay positive and engaged, and give your audience the best possible experience.

Explore The Musician’s Way to discover far-reaching strategies that instill artistry in practice and performance.

Related posts
7 Essentials of Artistic Interpretation
Assessing Your Performance Skills
Becoming a Confident Performer
Choosing Repertoire

© 2014 Gerald Klickstein
Adapted from pages 188-189 of The Musician’s Way
Photo © bikeriderlondon, licensed from