Wanna Inspire your Artists?

HMG Logo 01Wanna help your students, ensemble, or cast perform beyond their current potential?  Tired of working so hard to get everyone on board.  Try going back to the 80/20 rule.

When it comes to leadership,
if you inspire 80%
you will perspire 20%.

I’ve never stood before a group that didn’t want to do their best on the project at hand. Truth.  And with that truth I have two choices:  inspire them to greatness, or be silent and thawart their creative energy.  It is a fact of human interaction…

When you acknowledge a behavior
you encourage that behavior to continue.

That’s true in both the positive and the negative.  I know directors who tell their group repeatedly that they are flat. Guess what? They continue to sing flat.

So instead, watch for the things in your rehearsal that are going right and call them out!  Verbalize how you are feeling about their creative efforts at every moment.  If you don’t, human nature is such that your cast will likely assume they are doing something wrong.

Silence is never interpreted as affirmation.

Yesterday was my first meet up with Nic, a new student.  Talented students like Nic are rare. Natural voice. Good Technique. Great style. Impeccable intonation. Yet behind all this talent was a steamer trunk of poor musical self-esteem.

Nic talked about high school. He was the only “non-reader” allowed into his concert choir. The director frequently bounced him from part to part. He was called on to sing in front of the rest of the class at a moment’s notice.

No wonder he had lead weights in his steamer trunk.

Nic was convinced his teacher hated his voice.  In his mind, she bounced him from part to part because she couldn’t find the right place to hide him.  She singled him out for solos because she was hoping he would sing it correctly in front of the class.

As a long-time choral conductor, I recognize the pattern. Nic’s teacher realized she had a gold mine here.  Nic’s amazing ear and vocal flexibility made him a choral chameleon.  He could float an alto line. He had basso profundo pipes, rare in the under 18 crowd. And who doesn’t love a tenor with the musicianship to lead his section? No wonder he was the go-to guy when it came time to demo a difficult passage.

What a tragic miscommunication.  Nic never understood the magnitude of his contributions. He learned his music quickly and accurately, even without reading skills.  He was bounced from part to part, an affirmation of his amazing flexibility.  He was used for demos because he was among the first to get it right.  I’m sure the director was thinking all these things.  But they never came out of her mouth, at least not in a way that Nic was able to hear.

What kind of leader might Nic have been if he had heard affirmation rather than silence?

There is an adage among actors that you must earn every pause in a production.  The same is true for directors.  You must earn the right to critique your performers.

It takes SEVEN positive comments
to balance ONE negative comment.

So inspire your people…Always…And then do it again!  Call them to their best artistic and creative selves.  Find what you like in their performances and affirm it.  It will grow.  Tell them often when they are doing it right. You will be amazed as they do even more things right.

Enthusiasm is contagious.
Let’s start an epidemic!

Inspire them with your affirmation and positive leadership and they will rise to every challenge you put before them.  I promise!

Lawyers. Braille. DaVinci.

HMG Logo 01I ordered my tea and settled in my favorite writing corner at Three Friends Coffeehouse. True to last week’s title, I was salivating post my next blog.

Serendipity!  Deborah walked in with her guide dog. While exchanging Good Morning! ‘s I discovered Deborah is law school graduate with a passion for legal issues that impact the blind community.

So, as the conversation progressed, I asked about her experience of  the availability of legal treatises in Braille.  Hey! Inquiring minds want to know.

She chuckled and added a dismissive, “My Braille skills suck!”

Conversation then turned to speech-to-text and text-to-speech technologies.  Duh! Why didn’t I see that one coming?

It was the perfect set up for today’s question.

Do you believe in hire education?

 No that is not a typo! Higher education teaches you answers.  Hire education teaches you to ask questions. A Creative’s best leadership skill is the commitment to be a lifelong learner!

A few years ago I realized that nearly everything I do at work involves skills I learned after I left college.  Digital audio. Computers. “The cloud.” FaceBook. Social networking/marketing.  Even ancient technology like MIDI was invented after I graduated (and no! you may not go there!).  It is amazing to stop and think how many regular features of both my work and my daily life didn’t exist ten years ago.

(Aside:  Yesterday, I saw a clip of a recent interview with the ‘N Sync.  The host played a file clip from a 1999 interview. There, on camera, ‘N Sync discussed the Internet and it’s potential to change communication and the entertainment industry. LOL. ROFL.)

A Creative ask questions.

Lots of questions!  Leonardo DaVinci had notebook after notebook of questions?  Answers to questions served as springboards for more questions.

Yesterday, my friend Kyle and I spent four hours recording five minutes of video for my new series, “77-Second Piano.”  Last night, I spent three hours trying to bring three camera angles into one editing suite, line up the audio, add titles, and find the “magic” to finalize the first video.  I went to bed with nothing to show for my efforts.

I have not failed.
I just found 10,000 ways it won’t work.
–Thomas Edison.

Failure?  Hardly.  Today, I approach my afternoon a bit wiser.  Will my software allow me to match audio tracks before I edit the video feed? Can I do cutaways with this software? Last night was a tutorial on the lexicon of video editors.  Today I will ask better questions, based on answers to last night’s questions.

All together, it is a lesson affirmed by KevMoKeys three years ago—

No creative endeavor is ever wasted.

Tenacity counts.  As a life-long learner, I love it when a task takes too long, and requires too much on-the-job training.  Each new skill learned opens my eyes to new possibilities.

As A Creative, what challenge do you face today?

What questions will you ask of your questions
to help you see your project in a new light?

Embrace your Creative Questioner!


Up a Lazy River with David — August 19

queenlogoIt’s summer!

How about a trip “up a lazy river” aboard  The Willamette Queen?

Docked at Salem’s River Front Park, The Willamette Queen is an old-fashioned, twin stern-wheeler, paddle boat. Toss in a gourmet dinner and entertainment by David Hastings, “The Honky Tonk King,” and you have a memorable summer evening reminiscent of Huck Finn’s adventures on the mighty Mississippi.

The cruise leaves the Salem River Front Park at 6:00 pm and sails up and down the Willamette river with a historical, and often hysterical commentary by Captain Richard Chesbrough.

While you enjoy the cool breeze and the wildlife along the river, David will fill the air with his unique mix of ragtime, honky tonk, and New Orleans jazz piano.  Expect to hear such favorites as “The Maple Leaf Rag,” “Waitin’ for the Robert E. Lee,” and “By the Light of the Silvery Moon”.

“The Honky Tonk King” is a moniker David earned when he played 20-hours a week at Shakey’s Pizza Parlor to finance his college education. (This has also been an ace up David’s sleeve when the grocery budget had too much month left at the end of the money.  Find a pizza parlor and play for an hour.  Eventually a manager  would offer him a pizza…probably to shut him up!)

For information and to book tickets for this exclusive dinner cruise, call (503) 371-1103 or visit The Willamette Queen.

Come on!  Let’s get “Rollin’ on the River!”

Bill Dickey’s Big Broadway Bash

Marquee BDBBBOn Saturday, June 15, 2013,  as part of Bill Dickey’s Big Broadway Bash, the PGMC performed for a near capacity crowd with the largest chorus in their 33 year history!  The three hour extravaganza featured 170 singers, a 8-piece orchestra, three smaller performing groups, and costumes and sets galore!

Full Tilt performs "Hello!"

Full Tilt performs “Hello!”

David was excited to contribute in several ways to the programming for the evening.  Eight of the orchestra arrangements were written by David, including the Overture for the evening.  As the director of Full Tilt, the PGMC Broadway sub-group, he co-directed and helped stage Hello! from The Book of Mormon.  He also directed and staged Keep It Gay from the Producers, and Time Warp from The Rocky Horror Show.

Full Tilt performs "Keep It Gay"

Full Tilt performs “Keep It Gay”

“It was a joy to work with this great cast,” David said.  “They worked hard for eight weeks to get every nuance just right.  They were so creative, each bringing their own perspective to the final project.  It is amazing what can happen when a bunch of uber-talented people get together.  The challenge as a director is to stay out of the way and not mess up the creative process!”

Congratulations to PGMC on a spectacular show!

Tracy Wows Auditions!

In the past two months, Tracy Webber, a student of two years, has really put herself out there in the audition circuit. As a result, right now she is working on three shows.

Little Shop of Horrors 2Opening September 13, 2013, Tracy will be play the lead role of “Audrey”, the flower shop assistant, in Little Shop of Horrors at The Gallery Theatre, McMinville, OR.

While working on “Little Shop,” Tracy will be assisting as an understudy for Once on This Island, the inaugural production of Enlightened Theatrics, Salem’s new professional musical theatre company. She was also asked to play a cameo role in the Albany Civic Theatre production of Thoroughly Modern Millie.

And Tracy thought there weren’t any roles out there for her to play…

“You’ve got to have a dream!
If you don’t have a dream,
How you gonna have a dream come true?”