Posted by: Patrice Fitzgerald | May 18, 2009


I was talking today to Richard and Gabi about the importance of actually performing a piece in front of an audience, and how it makes music come alive in a very different way than practicing.  No matter how many times or how hard you practice, it’s not the same.  

Singing alone in my living room, I might concentrate on accuracy and memorization.  In front of my voice teacher, my main focus is on technique, breath support, and placement.  In a rehearsal with the pianist, I would try to pull all those things together, and also of course come in at the right moments and keep my tempo in line with the accompaniment.

And with all of those things in mind — sometimes including nervousness about not making mistakes, or just simple performance nerves — it is only when I get out in front of a crowd that it hits me… it’s a performance!  It’s a song.  The folks listening (mostly) don’t know or care about the perfect technique, intonation, or even words.  They want to hear and see what I am conveying with the music; the feeling I am trying to share.

This realization hits me every time I perform a classical piece.  I’ve been singing Broadway and standards for decades; they don’t make me nervous any more.  But I’m still occasionally anxious about presenting “serious” music.  And then I get in front of an audience and I remember that it’s all about delivering a song.  It’s all about entertaining the people listening.  

And I can do that!  I love to do that!

We had a great concert yesterday.  A couple flubs here and there, but mostly glorious.  It was so grand to sing with both of our different piano players, and with Derek, too!  And what a joy to get a chance to show off our classical chops and then melt into the jazz half.  

Great fun.

We could have wished for a larger audience, but that’s often the way it is.  Next time, more publicity.

My favorite moment was when the band played the first verse of “Blues in the Night,” and then stopped.  I had the mic in my hand as I stood just out of sight of the audience.  Then I launched into the honky-tonk words “My…. mama don’ told me… when I was in pigtails…” and walked into view.  It was the best!



  1. I know. I wish I had more opportunity to stand up in front of an audience and sing, because it is so different than working on something with my voice teacher. The type of audience feeds into the performance too, I’ve noticed. When the audience reacts, it brings more out of you. (its true of music and theater). Whereas if the audience sits there like a lump… its a little more difficult.

    You forgot to mention the joys of auditions….

    • Have you tried They have a karaoke group near me, and they go out and meet at a karaoke bar practically every night! Check out all the possibilities on Meetup — they have groups for languages, music, singles, books, singing — and if they don’t have it, you can start your own!

  2. Catherine: You’re right about the audience! Just like finally performing a play in front of a crowd, you find laughs and other reactions (one hopes they are only laughing where it’s supposed to be funny!) in spots that you didn’t anticipate. Singing before an audience changes one’s own perception of a piece.

    Oh, and auditions… add the usual jitters of singing to the knowledge that you are being judged and compared.

    If you want to sing more in front of people, you should karaoke? Is that something you do?

  3. I’d love to. Don’t really know where to go to do it though…

  4. You forgot one thing with auditions, the accompanist. Because they always play it differently than I expect!

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