The leadership gurus who teach about emotional intelligence talk about the emotional open loop, and how we “catch” each others emotions. This is nothing new to those of us in the music profession, in fact it has always been a goal for performance.
The choirs I direct at Pierce College just had a wonderful experience in our end-of-quarter concert. We performed the Faure Requiem and other music related to grief and loss. We had the good fortune of being able to bring in a professional orchestra, Northwest Sinfonietta, to perform with us, and soloists Charles Robert Stevens, and Erin Guinup.
After reading Tom Carter’s Choral Charisma recently, I decided to start putting more emphasis on the emotional content of the music and what we want to communicate with it starting much earlier in the quarter. The students had translations of the Requiem before they knew the notes, and discussions of grief, mourning, and consolation were frequent as we worked on the music. We emphasized the goal to “express rather than impress,” a quote taken from my professor Dr. Ron Staheli at BYU. The connection was made stronger by the fact that members of the choir and recent alumni had just lost family members – some of them particularly tragically.
The result was a performance in which the students were no longer thinking about technique, but were genuinely expressing the feelings they had that correlated with Faure’s Requiem. This then connected with the audience and, from what I could tell from the feedback we received, left the audience having felt something and had an experience. As an example, the soprano soloist herself wrote a touching blog post about her experience in the performance and how the music helped her to ponder losses in her own life. To me, there is no better tribute to a performance.
I hope to build on this experience by keeping focus on the goal of emotional expression and connecting with our audience from early in the quarter. At an ACDA workshop, Timothy Seeligtalked about connecting with the choir in each rehearsal with this kind of emotional experience. He said each rehearsal should include laughter, goose bumps and a tear or two. Whether he know it or not, he was trying to teach what the leadership gurus are now proving with research – that leaders who connect emotionally with the people in their organizations (choirs) are much more successful.