By Johanna Wilson
What is Stage Presence?
If you are a musician then stages are something you probably have come in contact with or will be coming in contact with in your future. If you’ve ever been to a concert, show, theatrical performance, or anything of that nature than I’m sure you have heard of time someone commenting on a performers’ “Stage Presence.” But what exactly is stage presence? The definition of stage presence is ‘the ability to command the attention of a theater audience by the impressiveness of one’s manner or appearance.’ Basically that is a lot of words to say that stage presence is the ability to connect to your audience. Here are five of the most important ways to improve your stage presence.
1. Connect With Your Audience
The time before and in between your pieces is critical! This is the time to show your audience who you are and to make your performance personal and enticing. This is something that you will need to have thought out and prepared in advance. Share who you are, why you are here, an interesting fact about yourself, the possibilities are endless because each and every person is different. Maybe you want to tell a short story or joke, maybe you have a name for your accordion and you want to share that. These short moments are incredibly important because not only will it help relax you and the audience, it helps the audience know you more. The more they feel they know who you are the more connected they will be to your music.
Not only do you have to explain who you are and share that with the audience, you also need to explain your songs’ story. You could be playing a tango that switches into a waltz for all the audience knows. Each song was written for a purpose and created to share something. It is your duty as the musician to share that knowledge with the world.
2. Eye Contact
Whenever I think of looking at someone when I’m on stage, I am terrified! My brain flies to the time when my mom told me to just picture everyone in his or her underwear, but to be completely honest that is the last thing I want to do in that moment. So why do we need to look at our audience in the eye? Wouldn’t it just be better to close our eyes and play, than having to watch everyone’s eyes peer into my soul? Well actually no, although it may be extremely hard for us to do. For a moment, place yourself in the audiences’ point of view. You are sitting in a seat and watching an amazing accordionist perform, however he/she is boring holes into the floor with his eyes. Does it seem right? No, it doesn’t. Making eye contact with audience members not only includes them, but makes the piece personal and brings a connection.
Having said that I don’t want you to find one person in the audience and stare at them continuously for the rest of the piece. While making good eye contact is great, having a staring contest with an audience member will only make him or her uncomfortable. Focus on not making eye contact with anyone for more than 2 seconds. Fun Fact! While eyes come in a few general colors no two pair of eyes are exactly the same! Kind of like a fingerprint it makes each individual’s eye new and exciting.
3. Facial Expressions
Our face, whether we like it or not, is normally the main focus point on our body. By looking at someone’s face we can know whether that person is sad, confused, happy, scared, curious, or many other things. With such a tool like this ready for our use during our performances, it’s crazy to think that it is often one of the most forgotten aspects of performing. Take a moment and try to keep your facial expression sad and solemn while you say something happy with an excited tone in your voice. It’s hard isn’t it? It seems wrong and out of place; we want to smile and express our emotions in ways that we are used to doing. The next time you find yourself performing or presenting, think of what emotion or feeling you are trying to confer through your music and show it on your face. The audience should be able to “hear” what they “see.”
4. Move Your Body
Just because you have an accordion on doesn’t mean you can’t move. You are like an actor sharing a story. While music in itself does that alone, your body is the device that physically shows it. From bouncing in your seat while playing a polka to shrugging your shoulders and leaning sorrowfully in a sad or more meaningful piece, the possibilities are endless! Just be careful that your bellows remain steady and strong. In all of the performances that I’ve seen I have yet to see an artist move around too much to the point that I am confused or wishing that they settled down. This is normally not the issue. The issue is normally showing our excitement through our bodies. One of the best ways to improve your movement on stage is to watch other performers on YouTube or any other video sharing website and notice what they are doing and how that is affecting their performance or piece. Do you notice the way their foot taps to the rhythm? Or how his head leans back in suspense during the crescendo? Write down what you notice and try implementing that into your performance.
This is one of the most noticeable traits of people with good stage performance. Now, when I say energy, not like a sugar high five-year-old running around screaming. However that is a perfect example of why you should have energy. When a sugar high child runs around, this is the time parents and grandparents get out their cameras and cell phones to capture the hilarious and interesting moments. Energy captivates people, it always keeps them interested and wanting. No matter if you’re playing a slow or fast piece, sad or happy piece, short or long piece, energy can always be implemented. Before performing your piece or pieces in front of an audience, show someone else two different versions of the piece. One with you being full of energy and life and one you mainly focusing on nothing but the playing and ask them which was more interesting to watch.
Just like there is no end to growing your musical knowledge, there is no end to growing your stage presence. Whether you are completely comfortable playing in front of an audience, or scared nearly to death by the thought of it, I encourage every artist to experience learning as much as possible from performing. Sharing music with others is so important. Don’t forget to that sharing your music physically is just as important as sharing your music audibly and you will have great stage presence!