WHO is on the Other Side of the Table?

Performance season is approaching. As the world is opening up and restrictions are lifting, live concerts, recitals, auditions, and RCM (Royal Conservatory of Music) examinations are returning. This is all VERY exciting and a bit unnerving at the same time. 

I remember my RCM exams as a teenager vividly. I remember sitting outside the exam room door with butterflies in my stomach, my accompanist sitting next to me, and frantically reviewing lyrics and melodies in my head (praying that they would hurry up and it would be my turn soon so that I didn’t forget them!). All the while trying to look calm and composed on the outside. 

I would also listen to the singer performing ahead of me and …. COMPARE. Was my voice “as good”? Was I as well prepared? What will the examiner think of my voice after that “perfect” performance? Can you relate?

Comparison truly is a thief and not helpful at all. 

(Okay, let’s be real. This was the scenario for EVERY performance during my teenage years, not just exams). So, who is on the other side of that table anyhow and what are they thinking?

Having conducted countless auditions and adjudicated many competitions, I now know the answer. The person on the other side of that table is a music lover, a friend, and an ally. Truly. This person wants to see you perform at YOUR BEST. They aren’t comparing you to another artist or judging every nuance or technical faux pas. They want to hear you – the real you. They are genuinely excited to hear what you have prepared and what you have to offer the world through your music. They want you to be the perfect person for the role and they want to give you the highest mark possible.

What do I really want as a listener, adjudicator, and audience member? I want to be drawn into the story. I want to be captivated, moved, and transported somewhere else. I want the performer to be comfortable, confident, and compelling (I love me some alliteration). I’m rooting FOR you, not against you! That’s who’s on the other side of the table. 

The relationship between an artist and their audience is a special one. We get to connect with people we may not know personally in a meaningful way. We get to share music and important stories. 

How we communicate this is by knowing our music intimately. Facial expressions, body movements, and musical sound all play a part in how we connect and build a relationship with our audience. No matter the audience (parents, adjudicators, examiners, random strangers), it’s our job as performers to build a relationship with them through our music. Have you ever thought about that before?

Knowing our music intimately involves score study. More than just learning the notes and rhythms, we must know the message, the meaning, the subtle nuances. Score study will help you draw out those beautiful moments that will ultimately connect you to your audience. Bring your audience into your world. They are there for the ride! 

I have created three additional score study bookmarks for you to download as you continue on your score study journey (if you missed the dynamics and tempo bookmarks, you can find them here). After you score study the dynamic and tempo markings, the metre and articulations bring the dramatic impact and intensity to your performance. Add these colour-coded markings directly onto your score so they jump off of the page. Dive deeper into your scores this week. Your daily practice should incorporate score study (this is also a great non-singing/non-playing activity if you are feeling unwell and not up to playing).   

The next time you are performing for an audience or an adjudicator, remember, they are rooting for you. They are fellow artists, music lovers, and allies. Bring the audience into your musical story. Take them along on a journey with you. Your score studying will help you connect deeper with the story and bring it to life. 

Cheers to a fantastic week and happy score studying!


Andrea “rooting for you” Donais 

P.S. Share this article with your musical friends and colleagues.

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