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This IS It!

Several years ago, a Michael Jackson documentary came out called “This is It.” As you probably know, the film chronicles the rehearsals for his London tour just before his death.

I loved watching him work and seeing the process. How he tirelessly went over dance moves and vocal parts; how he gave instructions and arrangement changes to the band.

His hand was in every aspect of the show.  And MJ knew something really important!  Several times after mistakes were made by whoever, he would smile and say, “That’s why we have rehearsals.”

I watched him, several times in the middle of a song, instruct the band to wait for his cue.  “Let it simmer!”, he would say.  “Wait for it..on my cue…and…Now!”

He wanted to feel it and not be in a hurry.  He got what we’re always telling artists: to sometimes leave space in a song.  Let it hang.  That space leaves room to build your authority, and it leaves room for the audience to take it in and feel something.

Vocal coach Tamara Beatty and I worked with Canada’s super talented Canadian Country Music Association Discovery artists last week in Toronto.  Tamara thinks much like we do, but focuses primarily on vocal delivery (the ‘tone or emotion’ part of your performance.)  

She works with contestants on The Voice, and gave these ‘up and coming’ artists some great advice; “Keep audiences FEELING, not THINKING.”  Yes!  When audiences slip into ‘think’ mode, that means something you did in your performance changed and you’re losing them.  

You need to rehearse so YOU stop thinking too.  In other words, spending time on your performance in rehearsal will allow you to step onstage and focus on the audience.  Those moments you’re rehearsing make people feel.  And, people feeling means you’ve made a connection.

Go back and watch Michael Jackson’s film and learn from a master performer.

Then, keep rehearsing!  😀 

Amy Wolter

As a trained Live Music Producer for Tom Jackson Productions, Amy Wolter brings her years onstage as a lead singer & keyboardist - along with her experience as a producer, arranger, and songwriter - to singers and bands who won’t settle for ‘good enough’. She’s worked with artists at all levels, and genres ranging from Rock to Celtic, empowering them to have confidence and authority onstage, and put on memorable live shows, a few of whom have been on two of the largest US tours in recent history. Some of her clients include Grammy award winners The Band Perry & Lacrae, CMA and ACM –winning country acts, Gloriana & Thompson Square, 2016 The Voice contestant Mary Sarah, CCMA (Canada) winners High Valley, Jess Moskaluke & Chad Brownlee, and Winter Jam Tour veterans Sidewalk Prophets & Love and The Outcome.

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Greenroom Comments

  1. Whether or not people like music is one thing, but when you deliver live like Michael did you had to respect that. And on top of that for him, he had that instilled at a young age and was so prolific as an artist with his brothers and even solo wise, it makes you wonder what a talent he really was.

  2. Linda Huntley says:

    Good stuff!! I love Michael Jackson and he was obviously a performance genius!!

  3. Thanks for the inspiring article and I agree so much. As a classical musician, I need to pay my group to rehearse… classical players are trained to quickly read music that they have seen before, so one or two rehearsals are considered normal for a “gig”, but I think a real show has to be rehearsed and developed much more and I cannot pay a bigger group for that time. Is that the dividing line… we have to invest our time first? And if so, how do I ask others to give their time to develop my vision? Or is that just part of the big budget planning? Thanks!

    • Good question Nadina. In a perfect world, find musicians who believe in your vision and want to take the journey/risks with you, but when you have to pay players for gigs and rehearsals, much more thought and planning needs to go into things BEFORE the rehearsal. Many times to save money for the artists we work with them solo initially, to create the moments, arrangements, etc., This allows you to work more on performance once they come in instead of hashing through arrangement changes then. (You’d get those changes to them BEFORE rehearsal.) Also then, look for players who are willing to focus on being performers and who understand what you’re going for. If they are not willing, find some that ARE, even if you have to go from an ‘A’ list player to a ‘B’…as long as they can play what you need them to, their focus on the things we teach will translate to an audience more than ‘perfect playing’ will!

      • Hi Amy,
        Thank you for the insightful reply. In some ways, what you say is obvious, but it is also very helpful to be reminded of this in a logical way. Often, I run hard between my own make-a-living type of
        gigs, locked in the habits of my profession, while keeping the vision of my “show” in my imagination alone. There is nothing stopping me from blocking out the whole thing then then rehearsing with my band… I am lucky to have very nimble and eager players who probably WOULD rehearse without pay, but I am committed to never doing that.

        Thank you for the excellent coaching inherent in your comment!

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