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The Contribution of the Performer
by Toni Land

Reprint from Portland Songwriter Association Newsletter 1999

"I don't want audiences to feel a specific thing. I just want audiences to feel."
Paul Simon

The gift the performer brings to his or her audience is sometimes difficult to

recognize in a culture which often judges success by the size of ones house or the amount of money one makes. As an artist, it's easy to fall into thinking that performing doesn't really make much of a difference. After all, it's not like being a doctor, a teacher, or a carpenter who bring a more tangible service to the world.
The performer's basic function is to connect emotionally to another. Doing this seemingly simple act requires the artist to be open to and connected with his own emotions and thoughts. This opening is sometimes difficult for many reasons. The values of a culture or the way one is raised can interfere with expression of one's passion. For example being stoic, strong, tough, independent are often contradictory to the vulnerability required to really connect with someone.

The power of genuinely sharing ones self affects others in all kinds of ways. Of course this can be confusing to the performer if he believes somehow his audience should feel what he feels or think what he thinks. Often the response of the listener is quite different than one would predict. For example, an artist lovingly performing a song that he wrote about the woman he's committed to may evoke anger in one and grief in another. The service the performer provides to his listeners is to affect them, not to control the nature of the listener's response. People want to feel. They need to feel. It's enlivening, healing, and joyous. They come to a concert to be turned on. They come usually ready and willing to be affected.

The performer's homework is to grow in his own awareness of the emotions and thoughts, which live inside him. The master performer allows these thoughts and emotions, without judgment or censorship, and gives them a "voice" or expression. Life, really. This is the contribution the performer makes - a shared state of unconditionally or freedom to let things be exactly as they are in the moment.. It is these instances that inspire both audience and performer to celebrate and honor the emotions and thoughts that make us human.

Toni Land

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Stagework courses are led by Toni Land, performance coach and creator of "The Power of Performance" workshops.  She is a professional performer, award winning songwriter and recording artist.  

Available for individuals and groups

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