TAFTO Contribution: Paul Bailey

Musician and composer Paul Bailey helps round out the TAFTO contributions by examining some of classical music’s side roads.  As a musician, Paul has put a good bit of thought into exactly what constitutes a special concert experience is for him and he shares those thoughts about how to come across the magic with his contribution.

Keeping in mind the simplest solution is most likely correct, Paul provides a wealth of sources for helping you increase you’re chances of intersecting live performance "magic".


The orchestra has become an institution where the rituals of
attending a concert have replaced a transcendent musical experience.
Unfortunately, with the limited rehearsal time and a long season of
uninspired programming it’s easy for a musician to feel that he is not
any more special than a plumber. When going to a concert, being a savvy
shopper can do you some good. If you look at your concert schedule you
have many types of concerts to attend; First Nights, Thursday Masterworks, Featured Soloists, and my current Los Angeles favorite, Casual Fridays. This entertainment oriented marketing approach is akin to putting "old wine in new bottles".

A musical performance has three main levels; physical, mental, and
emotional. Physical is knowing the notes, rhythms, dynamics,
articulation and intonation. Mental is blend and balance, dynamics,
phrasing which lead a high level of nonverbal communication between the
musicians and the conductor. After the first two are accomplished
musicians can have that emotional performance where the wall between
the performers and audience is removed.

How do you find a concert that will change your life? A good
orchestra probably has 4-5 times a season when the magic happens. If it
was every night it wouldn’t be as special, but these are the most
important performances to attend. A technically proficient performance
compared to another performance that touches you down to the bone is
life changing. Like sex and the search for the Holy Grail it’s hard to
talk about unless you have been there.

Keeping tabs on music bloggers and performers is a start. [editors note: such as many of the great bloggers who have contributed to the TAFTO project]
If you are lucky enough to have musician friends, keep in touch and
have them send emails the next time a real special performance comes
around. Keep online and keep an eagle eye out for that next diamond in
the rough. If you are reading this, you are in the right place. Pass it
around, promote through your friends, and put it out through email.
Attending an earth shattering performance should be the goal for

The next time you take a friend to the orchestra, point out that
although the night will be insightful and entertaining they might be in
for a "surprise". The search for these special performances is worth
the effort.

time stops

all of our problems disappear

the audience is transported

those moments make life worth living

– Paul Bailey

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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