Sometimes you go to work as a performer and forget that people are watching you. You get so comfortable on stage, as part of an ensemble, wearing black, existing in front of an audience, and going through the motions of performing that you become a little desensitized to the crowd of patrons watching the event.
A few months ago this turned on me in the most delightful way!
In March 2015 I was in Siloam Springs to perform with SoNA on the campus of John Brown University. We were performing a beautiful, yet demanding program that included Respighi's Pines of Rome and La Mer by Debussy. I was stressed out! My final Doctoral recital was just over a month away and I was totally distracted by the preparation needed for that. I was spending every spare moment I had trying to cram for that performance. I barely noticed when I stepped on and off stage for orchestra concerts. SoNA had just performed in Fayetteville the night before and I drove to our matinee performance early in order to practice backstage. I was the only one there for at least an hour and was frantically playing backstage. When I walked onstage for the concert I was happy and surprised (sometimes you underestimate the appeal or popularity of the ensemble you are a part of) to see a packed auditorium! We played the concert and it went really well. And then I jumped in my car and drove home as fast as I possibly could so I could continue cramming for my impending doom, aka recital. Admittedly I did not give a second thought to that concert.
You can imagine my total surprise when I received the following email:
Dear Ms. Murray,
First allow me to introduce myself. My name is Steve Bond and I am a Primary school Art teacher at Gentry Arkansas. I work with Summer B****, the Music teacher, who is friends with Kristen (SoNA member?) who provided me with your contact information. I share this so you may understand how this all came about.
During SoNA 's performance on March 8th at John Brown University in Siloam Springs AR, my daughter Hannah and I were fortunate enough to be in attendance. It was breath taking and we were left speechless by the beauty of the music many times throughout the afternoon. I complement you and your fellow musicians' for the experience. Thank you!
As you may know, visual artists are always looking for the Aesthetic wherever they happen to be.
That day I not only noticed the outstanding aesthetic of the SoNA performance, but I was also struck by your aesthetic as well. The line, form, poise, posture and expression of concentration/will that you displayed while playing was, in my opinion, the ideal image/representation of a concert violinist.
I have a vision of this as an oil painting. Please know that I am not a professional artist, just a Art teacher. And you should also know that I am not professionally trained. In fact, I don't really even know if I can pull off what I have see in my mind's eye. However, I do know that without risk there is no reward. Therefore I am emailing you, knowing full well you may not be interested in the slightest, yet, what I imagine the painting could be makes it worth it. I hope this all some how makes sense.
I'm curious, would you mind my undertaking a painting using your likeness? If not, then by chance do you have any quality close-up photos of yourself, playing the violin with the positioning as I previously described? Something maybe that was taken of you while you were actually playing in concert?
In closing, whether you are interested or not in helping me with this project, I wish to thank you for your talent, time, dedication, and hard work in becoming a concert violinist. It is people like you who truly make the world a better place to live.
Talk about the nicest compliment a musician could ask for! I was so impressed that Steve had taken the time to look me up, find my name, my website, and actually email me that I couldn't not support his vision. I sent him a few more photos from previous performances and he set to work on the painting. This was by far the nicest/greatest/coolest thing that has ever come out of performing in an orchestra. I was so excited to see his work!
Steve is a very humble man. He repeatedly reminded me that he is not a professional artist and tried his best to downplay his talent and artistry. I asked him to stay in touch on this project and send me a photo when complete. Steve is actually, not so secretly a really talented painter. He is sneaky about his talents - I was totally impressed with his skills!
He went above and beyond anything I could have hoped for and I am now the proud owner of an original Steve Bond! - not only the owner but the subject! He sent the painting to me and it now hangs in my home teaching and practice studio. I thought he deserved a little attention here so everyone could see what happens when a musician and artist work together, when you take a chance and reach out to collaborate, when you share your idea with a stranger and just hope for a response.
Corresponding with Steve woke me up onstage. Hello! - people are here to see YOU! To hear YOU! To be entertained by YOU! No matter how large the ensemble or production somebody is always watching, and you are not invisible. Be grateful for that. Carry yourself with poise and self awareness (not self consciousness - a totally different, confidence eating mentality) and appreciate each opportunity to perform no matter how insignificant you may feel. A little gratitude can completely transform your intent and feelings about a performance.
Thank you Steve! For getting me out of my funk and waking me up!
Every performance is an opportunity to feel grateful - for the performance opportunity, for a job in the arts, for an audience, to connect with others, to share what you love, and to nurture relationships with friends and acquaintances (soon to be friends perhaps?). Sometimes you just have to feel grateful for these little gems life gives you.