One of my greatest faults is the fact that I am inexplicably shy. When I confess this weakness, most people are shocked. They can’t understand how I can get up on stage and perform if I’m shy. And they’re right it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
To be honest, I’m not completely sure how I manage to get up on stage either, but I know it is more comfortable for me to be on stage in front of 100 people than it is to be the focus of attention in a small group. But that discomfort is something I’ve learned to deal with and move past.
No matter how talented you may be, developing relationships with other musicians, those in the music industry and fans is incredibly important. You can’t afford to be rude or shy if you want to be successful, and my shyness is a battle I face every single day. Success isn’t entirely based on how well-practiced or outstanding you are as a performer, it’s also about how you interact with the people around you.
When I was first starting out as a musician, I was often overwhelmed with the actual performance itself and so I wasn’t able to dedicate attention anywhere else. I was always thinking about how to improve because my performances weren’t where I wanted them to be and I struggled with hearing other people tell me that I performed well. If someone said “good job,” I often responded, “no it wasn’t, but thank you.”
One night during a performance I was more distracted and stressed than usual. As I was heading outside during one of the breaks, an audience member said “good job” in an attempt to strike up a conversation and I shrugged them off with my usual, self-deprecating response for fear of not knowing what to say after “thank you.”
Another one of the musicians in the band overhead what I said and followed me outside to let me know how disappointed they were with how I handled the situation. It was an important lesson that I might never had learned if they had noticed how my tendency to be introverted affected my ability to interact with others around me.
That night, I learned that when someone compliments you or your playing, you accept the attention graciously, no matter how terribly you thought you may have done or how uncomfortable you are in a situation that requires you to be more outgoing. If someone takes the time to acknowledge and appreciate you, then the favor should be reciprocated in full.
The same goes for other musicians – if someone pays you a compliment, return it! And don’t be afraid to be the first one to say something!
At the time, I could have used my age (I was in high school at the time), my inexperience or my personality as an excuse, but I didn’t. I realized my mistake, because I had, in fact, made one, regardless of whether or not I wanted to admit it. I had made the choice to pursue something I loved and that passion required me to step out of my comfort zone. If I wasn’t willing to do that, then why was I chasing after a career as a performer? I had to make a choice. Would I choose to be uncomfortable or would I choose to give up my dream because I wasn’t willing to push myself?
I know I don’t need to tell you which path I chose…
Not everyone is outgoing, but it’s something you can work at. Like anything else, it’s a skill that’s you may find awkward until you spend the time developing it. But with each smile, each handshake and each conversation, it gets easier. A thank you goes a long way.
It is also important to consider the situation in reverse – if you were the audience member and your idol was performing, you would feel shut down and discouraged if your compliment went ignored. Don’t be that person for your fans! It is crucial to spend time with those who admire you (or just simply appreciate your talent) and want to talk to you.
We all have things that are required of us as musicians that we may not like. For some it may be making calls, for others it may be playing to a large (or small) audience. Regardless of what it is, know that it becomes easier with time, especially if you’re willing to work at it.
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