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Mistakes Happen

As Tom says, if you are human and you perform onstage, then mistakes will happen! But there are two questions every performer should be aware of:

  • Are the mistakes you are making avoidable or unavoidable?
  • What do you do when the unavoidable mistakes happen?

Of course, if they are avoidable, then by all means – avoid them! Work on every aspect of your show in rehearsal, and make sure you’ve done everything you can to give the best show possible.

But those “nobody’s-fault-crazy-accidents” that are bound to happen on occasion are a different story.

A few months ago, a YouTube video went viral, and it got my attention. It shows a middle school band starting a concert with the National Anthem, and the cymbal player had one of those “moments gone bad” on stage. Take a look at what happens about 1 minute into this video:

Quick thinking by that young cymbal player! He could have run off the stage in tears; he could have made a big deal of trying to pick up the cymbal and drawn attention to himself; but he chose to take a proud, patriotic stance and salute the flag.

In Tom’s book, he shares a story about the time he kicked down an entire backdrop which fell on the drummer who was finishing a solo. Since the mistake was so obvious (and they had to put the backdrop back up), the band made it a light-hearted moment, telling the audience how hard they worked to make that trick work every time they played.

Once when my husband and I were playing a Fun Moment piano duet, the keyboard stand collapsed and the keyboard went straight down to the floor. Without skipping a beat, we both reached down, pulled the stand back up, gave the tightening screw a quick turn, and kept on playing. The audience thought it was hysterical and assumed we timed it out to work just like that. (They were just “ignorant” enough to think we might do that with a $1,000 keyboard and that it was really funny!)

So what stories do you have from your times onstage? What mistakes have happened that were completely unavoidable, and how did you handle them live?

 

Tom Jackson

Tom is uniquely talented and skilled at transforming an artist's live show into a magical experience for the audience; helping artists at every level create a live show that is engaging and memorable, teaching them to exceed their audiences' expectations and to create fans for life. Tom has taught indie and major artists of every genre. He has worked with Taylor Swift, Le Crae, Home Free, The Tenors, Shawn Mendes, The Band Perry, Francesca Battistelli, Jars of Clay, & many more. Tom also teaches at colleges, conferences and events worldwide.

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Greenroom Comments

  1. We once played at a megachurch that had decorated for Christmas with big dead tree branches and fake birds perched in the twigs, all artfully crowding the platform. During a song, I got snagged on a branch, and when I pulled loose, a cardinal hit the stage dramatically. All it took was saying, “We’ll try to get through the next song without killing any more wildlife” to get the attention off the bird and back onto the band. Remarks like “I couldn’t do that again if my life depended on it” or “We worked on that timing all week” or “That wasn’t supposed to happen until the second set” also come in handy. All the audience needs to know is that you’re not “thrown,” and that you’re still in control. For your part, anything that gets the audience’s attention off of the distraction and back to you is a plus. In fact, audiences will typically remember a graceful recovery to a potential disaster more than any other point in the concert, and they’ll like you the more for it.
    Don’t try staging them though . . . 🙂

  2. Because of our southern gospel vocal group name, The Liberty Belles, people who haven’t met us often misunderstand and think we play hand bells. To keep the audience interested and in response to Tom’s recommendation to not be too predictable, we bought a set of hand bells and incorporated one song using them in our program. The song (When the Saints Go Marching In) started really slowly (wanted the audience to think we hadn’t practiced as much as we had) and then we sped up until we had the crowd roaring and clapping. Really fun stuff. We were doing harmony with the bells, too, not just one at a time, so our hands were really flying. That’s when it happened. One of the bells slipped out of a hand on the uptake, so it went sailing through the air and landed way out in the audience. We, and the audience, roared with laughter and when the bell was retrieved, we picked up where we left off. Interestingly, although we were not strangers to this audience, that night we hadn’t yet “clicked.” That did it. From the rest of the night on, we were relaxed, the audience was relaxed and we worshipped together and had lots of fun. That night, we made lemonade and the audience drank right along with us. Great fun!

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