Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Lessons on stage performance from singer-songwriter Livingston Taylor

Earlier this year Livingston Taylor released the revised edition of his book on Stage Performance, which came from a class he teaches at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. You can look inside it at He discusses how we should have a conversation with our audience. The July 29th issue of the Vineyard Gazette has an article which describes how he practices the Gentle Art of Audience Seduction.

In the first meeting of class (page 15 of the book) he teaches how to introduce yourself, and says you should:

"1. Walk onstage.
2. Face the crowd.
3. Find a spot where you’re comfortable and well lit.
4. Be still and see your audience.
5. Say your name. (This is the performance).
6. Be still and look at your audience. Make sure they received what you gave out.
7. Bow slightly.
8. Accept applause, if appropriate.
9. Leave the stage."

Livingston is a compelling speaker. Watch here to see how he interacts with some students.

There are more YouTube video clips from his summer lectures in 2005, 2006, and 2007, and a 2011 faculty interview.

I found the first edition of his book from 2000 (indexed under the subject of public speaking) at my public library, and read it from cover to cover.

One story about professionalism that impressed me appears on page 56 of the revised edition. He discussed arriving at a small theater in Sarasota, Florida before headlining a show. The glass front doors were smudged, so he started washed them. Two hours before the show the opening act walked right past him, without saying hello. Their image of a professional didn’t include a window washer. (On page 52 he also mentioned once cleaning the bathroom of a club, since he didn’t want his audience putting up with the dirt).

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