How to structure your musical performances (Guest blog by June Kamerling)

June_KamerlingToday’s post is by June Kamerling, who’s taken both my Cabaret Performance and Music Theory classes at the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival.  June, who is the owner of El Cerrito Fitness (in El Cerrito, California), is an inspiring example of someone who has integrated her love of music and performing into her daily life. June performs as a vocalist in cabaret settings and is also taking piano lessons.  I’ve asked her to share some of her insights on putting together a performance, whether you sing or play piano.  Here’s what she has to say:

Performing can be a lot of fun, but also a challenge. If you can’t find performance opportunities, just make your own. I’ve even put on a full cabaret show at my own birthday party! I had a lot of fun and the guests loved hearing me sing. One of the most important things is to plan your performance well.  Really put some thought into what you’re going to do, and then rehearse it a lot, until you know the material very well. Here are a few ideas to help you develop a good “set list.”

1. Choose a theme.  You can decide to perform songs by a single composer, for example.  Or pieces about nature.  Or simply songs you enjoy singing or playing. Once you have a good idea about the “big picture,” it’ll be easier to fill in the details in an effective way.

2. Now it’s time to focus more specifically as you head to each song.  How does one piece lead to the next. Do you want contrast? Or continuity?

3. Giving a little stage patter (ie: speaking) between songs can go a long way towards keeping the audience interested. Just make sure you don’t go on too long. Generally, not too much patter other then initial “welcome” till after your 2nd song.

4. I took a cabaret workshop once where we wrote out 14-16 songs on post-its of different colors….one color for upbeat, one color for ballads.  Then we stuck them to the wall and worked on the order of songs. A good rule of thumb is never more than 2 ballads in a row.  Same with uptempo pieces.  Also, if you’re a vocalist, not too many story songs in a row. Not way too many story songs in a set….too boring for audience.  You’ll notice by your 3rd song if you’ve captured the audience or not.

5. If you’re doing the whole performance by yourself, the show should be between 45 minutes to one hour 15 minutes. 90 minutes can be too long (remember, they’ll have to go to the bathroom, and you don’t want them to miss your best songs!).

6. You’re ON the whole time.

7. Think about how you want to leave your audience with your last song. Laughing or crying? That’s what they’ll remember.

Remember to have fun and “tell your story” through your music. Don’t sweat the mistakes.  Just keep going and have fun!

Click HERE to see June singing Steven Sondheim’s song “I Remember,” with yours truly on keyboard.

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