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A Risky Rehearsal

Rehearsal session at CMWArtists want to be spontaneous… and audiences want to see artists who are willing to take a risk onstage.

But most artists believe that “spontaneity” is just (what I call) “winging it” onstage. In reality, being spontaneous is not making it up as you go, but rather comes out of form. The dictionary definition of spontaneity suggests spontaneity is a “basic structure within which performers are free to play and perform in a spontaneous manner.”

So to me, that means starting your spontaneity in the rehearsal room! Now I could go on and talk about what spontaneity looks like and how winging it is a bad idea. But what I really want to share today is how important it is to have the courage to be spontaneous. Having the courage to take risks. Because taking a risk can be a scary thing.

Even feeling like something might be a risk can be a scary thing. I love what Seth Godin recently asked in his blog about risk and fear, “How much does it cost you to avoid the feeling of risk? Not actual risk, but the feeling that you’re at risk?… Are you avoiding leading, connecting or creating because to do so feels risky?” (Read Seth’s entire blog here…)

What are you avoiding? Are you afraid to work on your songs, your show, your creativity, because you’re afraid it might be a risk?

When our team works with artists, the artists haven’t usually budgeted for their live show, and they can’t afford for us to help them get a vision for their whole show. So in rehearsals, we try to pull out the artist’s thoughts and ideas they have had about their songs, but for some reason, have never explored, and we help them go from there.

Not exploring a song fully is so normal. But isn’t it true that nobody else has ideas for your show like you do? Whether you got an idea when you were writing the song, when you were taking a shower, or sitting in traffic, you are the one who is closest to your music. And these special ideas need to be explored in rehearsal. (I love it when artists are willing to try their own ideas!)

People who are unwilling to take risks will have a hard time developing the uniqueness that separates them from other artists. Some artists develop this uniqueness through their songwriting, their appearance, or their voice. But taking risks, both in rehearsal and on the stage, is one of the keys to developing your uniqueness onstage. And it’s one of the ways you will drive your career to success.

As Seth Godin says, “It’s easy to pretend that indulging in the avoidance of the feeling of risk is free and unavoidable. It’s neither.”


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. Tom speaks the truth. it really does add to the show and definitely doesn’t make an artist boring. bottom line BORING doesn’t get my hard earned money. gimme some good tunes, but gimme a show after all i am going to SEE you in concert!

  2. Hey! That was awesome about how avoiding risks could hide our unique abilities. Let’s share as artists some risks we take on stage…I’d love to hear ideas.

    Some I’ve taken:
    Inviting the worship leader to sing a duet with me- practicing 30 min before a concert. I dont recommend this one unless you and the worship leader are extremely experienced musicians. Did this idea Sunday and it was aweome! The church loved me more bec I highlighted their main man!

    Invited all the children up on stage before singing one of my upbeat fun songs. Had my husband (who is more of a comdian than a dancer) lead them in slightly goofy & fun movements. All the parents were thrilled to see thier kids on stage!

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