I've been reflecting lately on live, solo performance. Not just my own performances, but the performances of my colleagues. In the past year, I've noticed some general issues that have bothered me, including...
I am just as guilty of these things as pretty much anyone. I believe, fundamentally, that it is harder to be a performer than it is to be a musician. But how can we as classical musicians bridge the gap between artist and showman? Enter....drag queens.
Drag queens may be an extreme example. I've seen the art of musical performance likened to athletes or artists of other disciplines. But as I was watching YouTube videos and the documentary Paris is Burning it occurred to me that these performers are exactly like classical music performers...or at least how they could be to break some of the barriers of stuffy performances.
There are superficial characteristics of drag queens that we can apply to the musical world: the lip syncing, the musicality of a performance, the transformation from man to woman (similar to what a lot of us try to do in reinterpreting music). But on a deeper level, drag queens transform into a character, a product, and an image. Those of us in the classical world can learn a lot from that process.
I'm not saying you need to go out and become a drag queen. What I am saying, however, is that in creating a brand and identity, set the bar very high for yourself based on what you want to be known for and what your colleagues are doing.