Connecting with your audience

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It’s summer, a.k.a. festival season, here in Victoria. Again this year, I volunteered at the Victoria International Jazzfest. As a volunteer, it’s a soft gig. I can check out the performing artists, and their “connection” style…. while doing my “work”.

For most artists, there is a strong desire to connect with their audience. The audience is their community, for a moment, or much longer. The performer feeds off the audience, and visa versa. There is a conversation going on.

There is so many ways to connect. There is no one right or wrong way.

Three of the performing artists that I saw at this year’s Jazzfest were Halie Loren, Balkan Beat Box, and George Benson. Each has one or more connection styles.

Halie Loren, is a singer and interpreter of popular songs, from the American Songbook and more. I loved her stage presence, the little things, the expressive use of hands, going over and standing by the piano player as he soloed, how she acknowledged the audience… all of it, above and beyond the music. It all led to a strong connection with the audience.

Second, Balkan Beat Box. This urban New York based band is all about getting the audience to dance; techno, gypsy, rock, swing… The connection was more direct… “clap your hands”, “let’s jump”… cajoling, encouraging, reminding, demanding. It worked. They knew their community and how to make the connection.

Third, George Benson, jazz guitar legend, and an amazing vocalist to boot… still! He was one of my heroes, in my jazz guitar study days. Mr. Benson does know how to connect on many different levels, and in many different contexts. Be it via an inclusive and humble patter with the audience, a soulful song or swinging like mad on an instrumental, he has the connecting gift. Here’s George and the late, great Count Basie (and his Band), cutting loose on a blues at a 1981 Carnegie Hall concert; octave chord solo the entire way…

 

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If you are in a relationship, connection is a good thing, right? A performer is in a relationship with their audience. Often the audience may have heard the performer long before they hooked up, live. Sound familiar? This happens to me all the time on social media. And I bet with you, too. First we connect on social media, then we meet in person. The type of connections evolve. The relationship evolves.

So… how are you connecting with your audience?

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