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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

What to Say After a Performance or Recital

Listener: "Wow! You sounded great!"
Performer: "I made a lot of mistakes."

Listener: "That was beautiful!"
Performer: "I could have done better."

Most of what performers say after a performance or recital may be the result of recital "aftershock." This is what I call that brief period after a recital (about 1-2 hours) when the performer is still in self-evaluation mode and cannot focus on much else besides a thorough analysis of the performance. So what comes out of the mouth of the performer is generally not polite from the perspective of the listener or audience member.

What do I mean exactly? When someone tells you how great you sounded, it is not polite to then tell the listener that they are wrong about what they heard. If you look at the above examples you will see what I mean. In both examples, the performer disagreed with the compliments that the listener offered.

I understand how easy it is to succumb to the aftershock siren call of "telling it like it is." Here are some possible reasons why I think we performers behave like this:
  • We want everyone to know how much we know. Such as, "I know I made that mistake. I do not want you to think that I am unaware of it."
  • We want our listeners to think that we had a "slip of the moment," and that we normally never make that mistake.
  • We are nervous and do not think in advance about what we are going to say in response.
  • We are embarrassed by the compliment and want to lessen its impact and effect.
  • Someone in our circle of influence has told us that it is better to be humble, and we want to look as if we do not deserve the compliment.
Sound about right? So what can do differently to avoid the aftershock behavior?

Practice doing something else. Here are the two steps that I ask my students to practice at each studio masterclass (university level) or at group classes (Wildflower Suzuki Studio) when we practice performing for each other:

Ask and Answer Two Questions

The first step is to ask and answer two questions. Each student performer must answer these two important questions before anyone is allowed to speak, including the teacher.
  • What worked?
  • What do I want to do differently next time?
Notice that these two questions never raise any possibility of negativity. The questions keep the performer focused on positive elements, and these questions keep the focus on the evaluation and plan for the future -- a much more useful and encouraging skill than being negative and focusing on the things that went wrong.

Practice Whay You Want To Say

The second step is to practice saying the following things after every compliment given to the student after the performance at studio seminar or group class:
  • Thank you.
  • I'm glad you enjoyed it.
  • Thank you for coming and listening.
  • I appreciate your comments.
  • Thank you.
  • Thank you.
  • Thank you.
As you can see, gratitude is the most important expression. All other possible answers are not useful for the listener or the performer.
When I performed as a young student, my mother was very quick to be self-deprecating on our behalf. "Oh your girls are so talented!" audience members would exclaim. My mother was very quick to respond, "They work very hard." Now I am not advocating that parents adopt this answer on behalf of their children. I would prefer that parents teach their children how to respond appropriately to these sorts of comments, which can also be great sources of discussion points later about philosophical beliefs, such as talent versus hard work, or politeness versus rudeness. That sort of thing.

How do you handle comments after a recital? Have you come up with responses that you find easier to share? Let us know in the comments below.

Happy Practicing!

----- Paula -----

© 2016 by Paula E. Bird

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