Tagged: Performing arts

Epic Fall on an Icy Sidewalk: Life Metaphor?

No, you didn’t read the title of this post incorrectly– and yes, the epic fall was me this morning on the sidewalk behind my apartment building.  Being late for work, two dogs desperate to get outside to…you know, snow, slush, ice and super slick dress shoes were not a good combination.

Beware of Falling Stickmen

Beware of Falling Stickmen (Photo credit: GaijinSeb)

As we raced to the sidewalk adjacent to the park, the forces of the universe conspired against me.  The dogs pulled a little too hard, I ran a little too fast to keep up, my shoe was a little too slick, and there was a little too much ice.  I bit it– hard…like America’s Funnies Home Videos hard. Like, “Epic Fails of YouTube” hard.  And precisely at that moment of impact, when my left hip transferred its inertia to the immovable Earth, I had a revelation.

Sometimes, we get so caught up in the day to day necessities of life, we can be blind to the obvious.  We can overlook (as a matter of convenience) the decisions we make that can contribute to problems we’d rather avoid. It’s possible to save yourself from much heartache, headache, and worry by taking just a moment to regroup and plan ahead.

Many performers become overwhelmed by the challenges that can arise during the planning phase of any performance or event. Remember though, that if the small things aren’t dealt with, they can have much bigger implications later. Had I woken up 5 minutes earlier, I wouldn’t have been so rushed, if I had looked out the window, I’d have known to put on proper shoes to avoid the ice. The point is, with a little more planning I’d have avoided a (really) hard lesson.

In the performing arts, let’s all stop ignoring indicators of future problems. Let’s do a little bit more projecting and a little bit more planning. Who knows? Maybe we can avoid an epic fail like mine.

Stay tuned,

John-Morgan

Eunbi Kim and Murakami Music: a Tuxedo Revolt Profile

Eunbi Kim Murakami Music

One of the most fun things I get to do while writing this blog is to interview incredibly creative and dynamic artists who embody Tuxedo Revolt ideals. For the first Tuxedo Revolt Blog profile in 2013, I’m thrilled to profile my good friend and colleague Eunbi Kim.

Eunbi is an excellent musician, has a dynamic personality and an entrepreneurial spirit. As you’ll see, these three traits are integral to her artistry. Her recent performance at the Cell Theater in New York City, entitled Murakami Music, embodied Eunbi’s creative nature, pursuit of innovation in the performance of classical music, and the Tuxedo Revolt ideal to make classical music performances socially relevant. I sat down with Eunbi last week to talk about Murakami Music  as well as her creative process in creating the performance event.

The details at a glance:

 Performance name: “Overture” 

The Musicians: Eunbi Kim , piano and artist-in-residence

 Guest artists: Laura Snell, actress; Nelly Rocha, cello; Christopher Scanlon, trumpet

 When: Friday January 18th, 2013 at 8pm

 Where: The Cell Theatre (New York, NY)

 What: A preview concert of performances to be developed into large-scale projects at the Cell in 2013-14 during Eunbi’s  artist residency. Program included solo piano works by Debussy, excerpts of “Murakami Music” with music by Chopin, Schumann, and Beatles interspersed with live readings by actress Laura Snell, and performances by chamber group “Blink Ensemble” of contemporary works written by William Schmidt and Carson Cooman for piano, cello, and trumpet. 

Like many Tuxedo Revolt blog readers, Eunbi is a young artist, recently graduated with her Master’s of Music degree, and launching her career in the midst of the recession. Sounds a bit ominous (and a little too close to home), right? Yet, in the face of opposition, Eunbi is moving forward. These are Tuxedo Revolt ideals; to be optimistic, creative and relevant.  As a classically trained pianist, Eunbi sought ways to connect her performances to potential audiences and to make the socially relevant. She believes that she can, through her own innovation and creativity, sidestep many of the problems that plague the traditional performing arts– and  she is doing exactly that.

I asked Eunbi what was her point of inspiration for Murakami Music– you might find her response rings true for you also:

Eunbi is a thinker and innovator. But the most unique aspect of her artistry is her ability to seek out creative performance solutions that integrate the social elements she found missing in the performances of others. Thus, the Murakami Music project was born. In our interview, Eunbi’s face lit up when I asked her to describe the project and its origins.

 “I had the inspiration to create the Murakami Music program around one year ago when I thought about what I really wanted to say and create as a performer.” said Eunbi. “I had this idea in my head for the longest time of setting writer Haruki Murakami’s novels to music by taking selected reading passages and performing solo concert music with them.  He creates amazing texture in his works through heavily referencing music. I saw the potential in my head for a live performance. Then I found an amazing collaborator, actress Laura Snell, who is also passionate about Murakami’s novels, storytelling, theatre, and also music- she is an accomplished pianist as well.”

“We proposed this project to the Cell Theatre in Manhattan, which they accepted. We workshopped and presented it this past October with ideas of making it an evening length concert in the future. At the end of 2012, the directors of the Cell asked me if I would like to do an artist residency, which was really exciting. It meant that I would have incredible support to present new works and projects at the cell. Then, this idea of a preview concert came about where we could show short performances of this project as well as my project with Blink Ensemble- performing accessible contemporary music for an unusual instrumentation- piano, trumpet, cello.”

I feel that there is much to learn from Eunbi’s enthusiastic response. First, we must understand that ideas need time to incubate and/or percolate in our minds for a time before they are ready to be introduced to the world. Second (and most importantly), we must realize the when an opportunity presents itself to us, we must jump at the chance to bring our ideas to life.

For Eunbi, the idea for her project wasn’t perfected in her mind before seizing the opportunity to make it a reality. I asked Eunbi what kept her going on this project, how she and her collaborators managed to tie together all the loose ends, and what it took to bring this project from a thought into reality. Her response was not the lofty or idealistic response that you might expect from a classical musician, but rather– a response filled with determination and work ethic:

 “Truthfully, a deadline.” said Eunbi about what kept her on track.  “It’s unromantic but it’s the truth. There was also a sense of responsibility.”

 “We [the musicians] were all passionate about the concert and had so many ideas and dreams of its potential– but it can all become overwhelming when it has to be put into action. Creating something absolutely new and innovative like Murakami Music was daunting- it takes a lot of work and emotional energy (tons of self-doubt), more than people realize.”

“Even though I had the Cell’s support, there were lots of logistics and marketing that I had to take care of in order for the concert to be a success. There is responsibility to my audience that they have the best possible experience- they are my guests. There is responsibility to the other performers that I have an audience that will be there to support their creativity.”

You can see that Eunbi Kim feels a heartfelt and deep obligation to her audience– an obligation that transcends all aspects of the art she creates. From the music itself, to the logistics surrounding the concert experience, Eunbi puts her audience’s best interest  as a top priority.

Eunbi is a great example of a much needed mindset for performers today. We must break away from any notion that what we do as performers we do for ourselves. It simply isn’t so. Our performances help our audiences connect with our art–and us as individual people. We must take these connections into every level of planning, rehearsal, and performance we undertake when turning our ideas into reality.

Stay tuned for more artist profiles from Tuxedo Revolt coming you way!

John-Morgan

Auditions are a Funny Thing (I Think).

Kennedy Center at Dusk

Kennedy Center at Dusk (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’d like start off by saying welcome back and that I apologize for the hiatus in content last week. I was in the middle of a whirlwind of travel and preparation for a major audition that I took this last Sunday. I had been preparing for this audition for quite some time and last week was final push to the big day.

Auditions are a funny thing I think. They can be the most perilous moments or decisive victories of our careers. We strive for months to attain perfection in what may only be a 10 minute window for an audition committee of people whom we often can’t see behind a screen, or that we may not even know. But we train ourselves to meet what seems to be impossible circumstances nevertheless. We push our bodies to achieve a level of technical grace that we never before thought possible of ourselves. Many of you readers know exactly of what I’m talking about.

As I was walking to up the steps to the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. on the night before my audition (I was attending a National Symphony Concert prior to my audition the following day), I couldn’t help but feel the electric excitement about the imminence of my performance to happen the following day. It was a feeling of what some sports psychologists call “flow”. It’s that feeling where you have conquered your own shortcomings and you move past anxiety, you move past the way you physically feel, for I was getting over a nasty cold, but you suddenly feel as if you are floating above everything while still connected to it. I thought about this feeling– this energy about performing, quite a bit on my four hour bus ride back to NYC. I realized that what I was feeling was 100% pure authenticity about who I was as a performer, what I was doing, and why I was doing it.

This is the feeling I have written about many times  to describe what is  fundamental for effective performance. It is necessary for the kind of performance that grabs audiences and doesn’t let them go. When you have this feeling of mastery and of “flow”, you know it, and you feel like it is possible for you to do anything.

I had this feeling another time as well, when I played Richard Strauss’s Horn Concerto Op. 11 at the historic Paramount Theater in Kentucky a few years ago. You stand before the orchestra and you bare your soul to the audience and the orchestra. Does this sound a bit melodramatic? Yes, I’ll admit that it does– and it should because that is exactly what  music requires of us. Auditions are very much the same way only with complete anonymity.

You walk out onto that empty stage stripped of name, voice, face, gender, title, resume, familiarity. All you are left with are the sounds that you are able to produce. If they are hollow and purely technical, like exercises from a book of etudes, you can’t expect to grab hold of your audition committee and pull them to the edge of their seats. All they have is your sound, you have to be the one to infuse it with your soul, with your will and with your determination.

That is what I learned most from my experience this last weekend; that authenticity and truthfulness is centrally important to the work we do as performing artists. To truly make a connection with our listeners, we have to be in complete flow with the music, our instruments, and ourselves.

Stay tuned,

John-Morgan

Sorry Guys, the Arts aren’t Going to Die Out After All.

...Hope...

…Hope… (Photo credit: ĐāżŦ {mostly absent})

At the recent (official) launch of this blog and the the Tuxedo Revolt website, I also shared a gift with my email subscribers. I wrote a free download e-guide called The Tuxedo Revolt Declaration of Arts Independence (click on the link to check it out!).  With this guide, I wanted to more than to send a message of hope about the state of the arts and our careers as performing artists.  I intend to empower my readers, and challenge all of us in the arts to rev our engines and power charge our creative lives.

“To bring real change, you need conviction. What do you really believe
about performing with authenticity? What will you do to sustain your art
form? This Declaration of Independent Arts shares the Tuxedo Revolt views
on the performing arts as they are today. Its purpose is to inspire others to
take charge of the art they love and redefine their beliefs about what
performance means to them.”   –from The Tuxedo Revolt Declaration of Arts Independence

You need conviction.

You may already have strong convictions about performing. But surprisingly,  many performers don’t.  A love of the arts and of your particular art form should not be confused with convictions. Take a second to outline on paper what your convictions and values about the arts really are. What do you want most from your career as a performing artists. What are the tenets of your system of beliefs? I used the Declaration as a vehicle to outline what Tuxedo Revolt believes in. Once you identify your values, you are ready to take meaningful actions that will not only advance your career,  but make a meaningful contribution to the arts world.

Why Independence?

While I don’t stand on a soap box in Times Square ranting about how the arts are enslaved, I do believe that the performing arts, especially that of orchestras and music, have become too heavily reliant on outmoded institutions and their administrations. If  survival depends on evolution, and evolution depends on successful adaptation, then organizations like opera companies, dance companies, and orchestras can only survive by adapting to the demands of the present.  Remaining under the control of outdated and irrelevant institutions will stifle the changes necessary to survive.  In no way am I advocating that the performing arts don’t need administrators and organized entities to manage them.  What I do suggest however, is a massive reorganization of performing arts administrations.  When we shed our preconceived notions about what an arts institution should look like, then we are able to see possibilities of organizations behaving like a co-op and not a top-down hierarchy.

What can you do?

The first thing you can do is to draw a line in the sand between you and the rest of the world who refuses to adapt to the changes in the arts world. Immediately you’ll separate yourself from an old body of ideas and you will step into a place where you have freedom to make new choices without the approval of someone else.

Take stock of your values and convictions. Find out what about performing is truly important to you, then build your performances around this.

Lastly, don’t give up hope.  Don’t listen to doomsday prophecies about the future of the arts. Those negative viewpoint spell out the end of days for those who aren’t willing to be innovative and adaptive. As a creative person, you DO have the natural ability to adapt your art and your craft to meet the demands of today. You must only give yourself permission.

Download this advertisement free version of the Tuxedo Revolt Declaration of Arts Independence and as always, feel free to contact me with your thoughts and comments.

Stay tuned,

John-Morgan

Blueprint of the Tuxedo Revolt Blog

Glass calligraphy pen and ink

Glass calligraphy pen and ink (Photo credit: rushysgirl)

At the rebirth of this blog and site, I feel like I should take a moment and clearly define the concrete goals I hope to achieve within the first year of this site.  I’ll be honest here and tell you that the inspiration for doing this goal setting blog post comes from one that I greatly admire—The Art of Non-Conformity.  Goal setting is crucial to planning great performances, mounting large artistic projects, or just managing life in general! I think it’s a good idea to outline some explicit goals for you and other readers to know what to expect in the coming months.

So let’s get right to it then. What can you expect from me between now and June of 2013?

By my birthday, June 16th 2013:

1.         I will strive to write a minimum of 2 blog posts each week, between 300-600 words each. These posts will explore new ways of thinking about performance and examining the culture of performance around the world.

2.         Create a “Declaration of Arts Independence” to inspire people to think about the arts in new light and to encourage performing artists to seek out relevance with their audience. It will question current practices and outline new outlets for artistic expression.

3.         Complete at least 20 artist profiles of performers, educators, and innovators who are changing the game in performance practices around the world. These articles will offer a sneak peak  into the creative process of some awesome people. These will be included in my goal of 2 blog posts each week.

4.         I will earn an audience of 1,000 followers of this blog and site (so please, share this site with your friends).  Notice that I said earn. It is important for me to write about art in a way that is compelling and relevant to a wide variety of readers, but I only want you to like my page on Facebook or this blog if you truly identify with what I say. I hope to offer inspiration that truly speaks to you.

5.         Create at up to 6 podcasts discussing innovation in the arts and performance.  These may be interviews with others in the field of performance, or me alone, but they are all intended to help study and expand the range and possibility of performance practice across genres and even into your everyday life.

6.         Research and write at least two guides to help performing artists or anyone who wants to lead an original and authentic life. I am sure the genesis of these guides will spring from the blog posts I write. You can help shape their content by sharing feedback on the posts you liked best.

7.         Document through my writing and blog posts how I am setting an example for other performers to take charge of their artistic careers and personal lives and make the most of every minute. I will strive to be as efficient and productive as I can be to– as we say back home in Kentucky—“practice what I preach.”

I hope that you will be there with me for the journey I am taking this year.  I hope that you will provide input on what you want to read about or issues that you would like for me to address. I hope that you will be inspired in some way by my efforts and work.  As I have said from the beginning, this blog is not about me, it is about inspiring all of us to perform better and dig a little deeper in all aspects of life.