Thursday, October 9, 2014

Risk taking in performance

Dear friend, fellow musician, music fan and student:

A co-worker and music fan recently made an observation that the best musicians take risks and make themselves vulnerable to the audience and that an audience can tell when an artist is playing it safe.  I concur completely.

There are many ways a musician can take risks in performance, for example,  he or she can get out of his comfort zone to reach for high notes, stretch himself to play different guitar riffs and licks or go for fresh solos. He can arrange new songs, perform original compositions or take an audience member's request to perform a song that is he must remember by ear with the chance of hitting a wrong chord or forgetting a lyric.  By laying out his heart bare he transfers a feeling to the audience who may be quite forgiving if he sings the song imperfectly but with feeling.

Our bass player Tim Sunde delighted us all this summer when he took a request for a couple who was celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary at Paradise Landing in Balsam Lake. He selected and spontaneously sang with sincere sweetness and sensitivity, "Can I Have this Dance for the Rest of My Life."  It was an especially appropriate song for the occasion, much appreciated and it certainly didn't matter if he had stumbled over a chord.

A former boss, friend and excellent drummer and musician in his own right, David Tuenge, once gave me a small wall hanging that read, "A good musician plays from the book but a great musician plays from the heart."

I'm sure Dave would agree that a good performance requires lots of talent and preparation. A performer's skill and hard work will be evident but a truly moving performance takes much more than that.  A performer must be willing to take a risk, put himself out there, be vulnerable and inspire us with his passion, love and commitment. I waited until I was 30 years old to take such a risk to start performing. Thank God! Sometimes the greater risk is not taking one at all.

Most importantly, it's not how much you love to perform. It's how much you love the audience!

I really had a great time performing this summer with Tim Sunde on bass, John Hiiva on drums. Playing live acoustic music at restaurants, outdoor patios and bars for you. It is always a highlight of my life. I hope to see you at one of our shows again soon.

For schedule info, go to

Sincerely and warmly, Paul Esch