Last week I had the privilege of studying and hanging out with the San Fransisco Jazz Collective. This incredible group was engaged in a week-long residency at the University of Maryland where I am currently pursuing a masters degree.
Play like it's fun
I wanted to share a profound observation that David Sanchez, the Collective's tenor saxophonist, laid on my group at one of these masterclasses. We were playing "Freight Train" at an uncomfortably fast tempo, and everyone's playing, while technically correct, came across as tense and hurried. David pointed out that an audience comes to enjoy themselves and have a good time, and that tension and stress on the bandstand translates directly into an unpleasant experience for the audience. In other words, if you aren't enjoying the music you are playing, why would your audience?
If you mute the video and just watch us playing, you can easily tell how engaged we were in the music, and how much we were enjoying it. Do you see how we are moving together and looking at each other? This feeling of engagement and joy translated into a great night of music for our small but loyal audience.
A simple reminder
No matter how hard the music you are playing is, how difficult the circumstances of the particular performance, how you feel about the people you are playing with, or what is going in your life, once you get on stage your job is to love what you do. Music is meant to be enjoyed, and that enjoyment has to begin with you!