Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Horn Tooting

You know what’s great about teaching at a school? The kids show up for class! It’s in their schedule, the clock hits a number and in they come, a captive audience for 45 minutes of their day. Whatever’s on your mind, whatever you’ve been working on, you’ve got yourself a guaranteed audience. You don’t need to send out flyers: “Great music class this Thursday at 9:45. Check it out!” You don’t need to send an E-vite or create a Facebook event or count R.S.V.P.’s "Who will be at Friday’s class? Check one: "

___ Yes ____ No ____ Maybe So ____ I’d rather not, but my Mom’s making me. ___What’s in it for me? ___ Yeah, right.  ____ I’m counting the minutes ___ Huh? 

I have a concert in two days and am in the midst of intense self-promotion. It’s exhausting! I’ve got personal e-mail lists, school e-mail groups, paper flyers, posted flyers and now, the grand Facebook experiment. I feel a little like a stalker and am just waiting for someone to tell me to leave them alone already! Put a restraining order on any further advertising. Popular mythology says, “If you build it, they will come” and I have been building this concept, vision, repertoire and practice as required. But experience says that ain’t no one gonna come if they don’t know about it. And hear about it over and over again.

This is a tickets-at-the-door event, so there’s no way to count sales ahead of time, just that uncomfortable moment when it’s two minutes until show time and there’s five people in the audience, three of whom are family members. Or that shocking surprise when you peek out from the backstage and the seats are full! Sending out e-mails, I have a long list of wonderful replies from friends who tell me why they can’t come. I could fill the hall just with “regrets.” But on top of preparing all the music and moving all the instruments and buying the snacks and getting change at the bank, there’s the maddening feeling of not knowing who will show up. And then when folks do, you waste all this time wondering why so and so didn’t come, especially when you went out of your way to see their art opening or go to their daughter’s 4th grade play.

Though I appear to be complaining, I recognize that all of this is necessary to discourage everyone from being a performing artist. Imagine if all your friends had concerts, plays and poetry readings! This kind of work is the guard at the door that asks you to show how serious you are, reminds you that the work is from your own need and tests the depth of that need separate from who receives it and how many and how often. Of course, we’re thrilled when the house is full, not only because we can deposit at the bank the next day, but because it feels good to share and the more the merrier. But we can’t count on it.

I suppose that’s part of why I’m still teaching at school. Full house every class!

See you at the concert! Or not.

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