Performing music involves much more than just playing well.  There are certain expectations for how musicians look and behave when they’re on stage.  But, where do musicians learn these skills?

Recently, I was looking over the description of a program for music students to earn a certificate for playing in front of an examiner.  These types of events are common for music teacher associations, and they give students a big incentive–and a deadline–to learn a lot of music, to perform in public, and to receive feedback on their playing from someone other than their lesson teacher.

This particular program had a detailed description of what students should play and a list of what they would be judged on: “tone, intonation, technique, rhythm, musicality, memorization, and stage presence.”

Okay, so the students have to memorize their music, play well technically, and also be musical.  That all seems normal.

What struck me, though, was the last item: Stage Presence.

That seems a little difficult to judge.  Though we all notice when a performer has no stage presence, what does it mean to have it?  And, is it fair to judge young musicians on this vague concept?

At first glance, stage presence seems like charisma–something that some people just seem to be born with.  But, after giving it some more thought, it occurred to me that maybe these judges are looking for specific ways of acting on stage that can (and should) be taught to musicians:

–Walk onto the stage looking like you belong there.  Keep your head up, look confident, and look out at your audience.

–Acknowledge the audience when you get to center stage.

–Know ahead of time what you need to do to start playing.  This could be a head nod or a count-in.

–If a mistake happens, keep pressing forward.  Don’t change your facial expression and don’t stop playing.

–At the end of your performance, take a bow–whether or not your audience gives you any response.

These actions could all be considered “stage presence,” especially for young music students.  I hope that musicians are learning these skills in their lessons.  My guess is that very few teachers spend any real time with their students teaching them this valuable information. 

If you’re a music student or a music teacher, leave a comment about stage presence.  Is it being taught in your lessons?  I’d like to hear your story.

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5 Responses to “Stage Presence: Teaching Performance Skills in Music Lessons”  

  1. 1 John Crever

    In 18 years I’ve spent very little time actually teaching lessons on stage presence, but what led me to your blog was the desire to construct a 6 class mini lesson (10 minute lesson inserted between other content and get the kids playing with theses techniques) unit on stage presence for my elementary/middle school performers. Your observations are great. Can I use them. I’m going to continue looking into choral class texts and see if there are any other points to include. I’ll share if I find others.

  2. 2 Amy Carter

    Yes, I teach stage presence in my elementary music classroom. That is actualy why I searched for this website/article about Stage Presence. I will be teaching about it this week in class and throughout the entire year. I think it is very important for us as individuals to know how to present oursleves not only musicaly or on stage but to the world. Learning and practicing good stage presence is a great way to learn those skills that help us in many other social situations in life.

  3. 3 admin

    John,
    Glad that my comments about stage presence are helpful for you! Yes, feel free to use this information for your lessons. If you put anything in writing, please include a link back to moltomusic.com. Let me know how the mini-lessons work out.
    –David Motto
    Molto Music

  4. 4 Dirk sass

    Hi I am looking for a young incredible Singer somebody who can teach her stage presence, how to get audience involved, confidence etc.
    Wou
    D appreciate if y are qualified to teach those professional to contact me
    Staying near subang regards dirk sass

  5. 5 Mzi Mnyazi (Facebook name)

    im an aerobics instructor and my job requires a lot of stage presents especially with the unforgiving South african Aerobics fanatics(Pretoria). i came across these few tips maybe they will help, and to the blogger thanks a lot for sharing your views. they will defenately add to the little i know.

    How To Improve stage Presents?

    1. Love the songs u play/sing or at least understand their meaning

    2. Smile as much as you can, don’t be serious all the time

    3. Move around, cause your movements will attract the audience’ eyes

    4. steal moves from the big guys bt don’t copy the whole routine. take what u enjoy and make it your own

    5. Use facial expressions and poses to go with the emotions

    6. Learn to take attention away from you sometimes and grab it back when neccessary

    7. Talk to your audience. involve them

    Don’t overdo it. experience will help you to develop your stye. let it be unique

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