Ready for a Coach?
I direct a 25 member group called Kids of Note, a non-auditioned choir for children, with and without intellectual disabilities, who love to sing. Quite a number of them, typical or not, are “born performers.” They have an innate ability to “sell” whatever they sing and there’s nothing they love more than an audience.
Are you a born performer? If so, your coaching needs are probably minimal, but having another set of eyes on your show could still be helpful. Like born actors, born performers are wired with a certain kind of intelligence about working an audience. And just like great actors who require directors to look at the big stage picture, performance coaches can help to fine tune a show by suggesting alternative ways of delivering the music and patter. A coach planted in the house can see what you perhaps can’t, and they experience the show from the audience’s perspective, which, again, you can’t do. Then they give you an honest, informed response to your performance and to your questions. A coach can help you assess whether or not you’re fulfilling your own artistic intentions.
There are some musicians who ought not to be coached by anyone. And chances are if you tried to coach them, you’d fail. (This is presuming they would ever buy into the notion of being coached in the first place.) Short of naming names, I will simply say that they’re individuals who are so unique that by virtue of the force of their personalities and musical excellence, they’re fascinating. They’ll keep you enthralled for a couple of hours, no problem. They’ll often do most everything in contradiction to what a coach might consider good stage form. But nobody cares. What they’re doing works for them because of who they are. If someone else tried some of the same moves or patter it would come off badly. Okay, I’ll name names. kd lang for one. Don Freed for another.
I once had a chat with a singer who told me how hard he worked to not just sing his songs (which have charted on country radio many times) but also to entertain his audience. He then mentioned how he’d once gone to see a concert by a major American star with a long list of hit songs. The singer stood there and played one song after the next, hardly saying a word to the crowd and, really, not putting on a show at all. Still, he had huge crowds and many fans and probably would continue to do so the rest of his life. This is just by way of saying that if you have a long list of chart-topping songs in your back pocket you probably don’t need a coach. You will get paid the big bucks without having to do a lick of performing. And the audience will go crazy for you.
Leonard Cohen For all I know he’s had a coach, but I kinda don’t think so. Some years ago I saw his show in Saskatoon, and by his own admission (during a CBC radio interview) he’d consumed a couple of bottles of red wine before taking to the stage. Which explains a lot about the show. Was he amazing? Of course. He’s Leonard Cohen. Did he mess up some songs. You bet. Did he getting a standing O? Naturally.
These are musical performers who:
- were probably born to perform
- have strong, unique personalities
- could get on stage and do their hits without performing and still bring the house down
- have a lifelong track record of artistic excellence within their genre
Elton John. Annie Lennox. Sting. Reba McEntire. Barbra Streisand. Etc. Etc. Etc.
Do you have additions to the above list? Send them to me and I’ll add them, with a little editorializing. Two requirements though: let’s say the performers have to be living and keep in mind the “lifelong” bit. They must be oldish. Oldish and living. Got that?