Running with Shakespeare – excerpts
Click on a title below to preview
The information offered in this book is based on personal experience.
I didn’t ‘lift’ the content from other sources just because I thought it made good sense and that it would make me look cool in the hope of gaining credibility. My approach and philosophy to everything offered to you in this book is that if something has not worked for me, then I don’t want to tell you about it. This is not to say that if I’ve omitted anything that you may be aware of, or which could in some way relate to the content of this book, that it doesn’t work. It’s just that either this hasn’t resonated with me, or it may be something that I personally haven’t discovered. Further, I sincerely believe that the most valuable information I can offer another person is that which I personally have experienced and which has enriched my life and performing career. By obeying this rule, I can then offer the advice without any guilt or subject myself to the inevitable embarrassment of not knowing my subject when questioned.
This is not an exhaustive treatise on performance and related issues. It is more a handy pocket sized reference containing what I consider to be the most important factors to help you get the most out of your performance potential, regardless of whatever field of the arts you are involved in. Some chapters are short and others much longer in length. If a chapter seems short then this indicates that I have revealed all I feel necessary to convey the message, rather than attempt to try fill up the content with irrelevant dribble just to ‘fatten’ out the volume.
The process of Performance is generally based on three main components:
Research ► Practice ► Delivery
I have abbreviated this to ‘RPD’. The above three components lead from one to the next in the order you see them. You can’t successfully attempt your end goal of delivery without the necessary research required on your subject. And then very importantly, devoting enough time to quality practice. This book offers you the necessary tools to effectively deal with these three main components to help ensure that you deliver a great performance every time – regardless of whatever field you operate within.
You will note that there are no numbered chapters as such. The reason for this is that I considered if I based the contents of this book on the actual word PERFORMANCE, that I would have to dig deeper in matching the relevant content to the eleven letters that make up the word. I feel I’ve achieved this. I have however placed numbers next to each subject heading on the Contents page. This offers you the choice of either reading the book from beginning to end in order of the word PERFORMANCE, or you can observe the numbers to the right and read the book in that order. My reason for doing is that the numbered system is probably the order I would have placed the chapters, had I not followed the order allocated to the word PERFORMANCE. Either way the content is relevant and will work for you.
You may find also that some information overlaps into other chapters. This is not unusual and is intended, as this is what happens in real life and this book is based on ‘real life’ experiences. The reality is that life in general is not conveniently packaged into tight separate compartments of information and action. Everything is related to everything else, which is the approach that you will discover as you read further into this book.
The main focus of this book is on performance and intended for people involved in the creative or performing arts. However, the advice is also applicable to people from all walks of life and whatever area of work they involve themselves in. You see… if you consider that all of us, regardless of what we do in life have to ‘perform’ every day of our lives, then it makes sense that the content of this book applies to everyone. So it’s merely down to the fact that I use the word Performance as a vehicle to get my message across and that as a musician, many of the anecdotes given in this book are of course conveyed from a musical performance perspective. Therefore, performing artists will probably resonate with the content of this book a little easier than someone unrelated to the creative arts. This is not an issue for concern. The underlying principles are what are important and therefore relevant to any working environment – simply adapt these to suit your personal situation.
I truly hope you achieve whatever you desire with the exercises and suggestions offered throughout this book, but more than anything else, have fun while doing these. That is the key!
Let the show begin…
Georg Voros – ARTIST! LRSL (Perf) – Rockschool (Trinity College, London)
Chapter 1 – PASSION
“Follow your passion, and success will follow you”
Passion is that emotion which fuels performing potential, leading to optimum performance results in any area of the performing arts.
The key element to achieving more
With a career spanning more than thirty years in the music industry, I’ve found that whenever I’ve been involved in work that has ignited my passion, that this has positively affected all other areas of my life. I state this from the viewpoint of having worked for quite a few years as a session musician in where not everything I was required to play was to my liking. You see as a ‘sideman’ there are certain jobs you might take that won’t always fire you up, but you take the job anyway because it’s work… and as a freelancer you’re not always quite sure when the next gig will come along.
This viewpoint is also supported by a conversation I had with a very successful (on the surface) session drummer who admitted to me that he only really enjoyed every 12th or 13th gig that he was booked for. Man, to me that is self- torture and bears reference to some of the unsavoury jobs I took in times of ‘musical unemployment’ in my formative years. These included trainee pizza chef, fire extinguisher salesman and factory storeman – ha! In these situations I found that I would go through the motions and do the absolute minimum to keep out of trouble.
Now this can occur even in a field that you are fond of, or create an adverse affect in something which you show great interest. As outlined above this happened to me in the music business – which is my passion… right? Or is it? Let me explain. You see the music business isn’t really my passion as it’s the music (that I love) that fuels my passion. When I first started working in the music industry it didn’t matter what style of music I found myself playing, as I was just euphoric to be part of ‘the business’ and to wear the grand title of musician. But as time passed I found myself getting involved in different areas of the business that I didn’t much care for and as a result the fires that initially fuelled my passion for music started to extinguish. Perhaps this was due to naivety or maybe the initial youthful novelty of being a musician started to wear off? I think what happened was that I didn’t have a precise goal and/or backup plan when starting out. My initial goal as with anyone who picks up a musical instrument with serious intent was to become a rock star. So after a few years as a freelance session musician I decided that this line of work wasn’t meant for me and made some changes. So what did I do to turn my life around? (Before I get onto what I did to achieve this and for fear of creating a picture that everything I did in the performance side of the business was a passion killer, I do need to state here that I was also involved in quite a few bands on a permanent basis. This included an award winning UK band, a band nominated for a prestigious UK music industry award and other bands signed to record companies. These were very different scenarios and fuelled my passion greatly because I was much more involved in the creative aspects of the music making process. At the time of writing this book I am in the process of forming my own band and recording an album of self-composed material that is once again re-igniting my passion for music. )
Okay, with that off my chest let’s get back on track to those important decisions I made to turn my life around: Many years ago the well-known South African playwright Pieter Dirk-Uys wrote a comedy satire entitled ‘Adapt or Die’. While his play was a tongue in cheek dig at the political situation in the country at the time, the title is just so true to life. You see generally, when things don’t quite go as planned you have a choice – you either adapt to the situation and search for a suitable solution, or you ignore this and slowly ‘die’. And by die I don’t mean actual physical death but more so an emotional death. What I mean by this is that when you’re unhappy, your eye is not firmly fixed on the ball and you tend to go through the motions, eventually leading to a loss of passion for what you are doing. This in turn leads to sloppiness and a lack of enthusiasm, with the ultimate outcome being that you begin losing ground to your competitors who are the other performing artists in your field chasing the same ideals, dreams and jobs.
Here’s my personal story: I noted that technology was greatly changing my industry and that the options to earn income were shrinking. I knew if I was to survive in this environment that I would have to make some radical choices – in other words adapt or die! Firstly, as work was becoming scarcer for drummers in the 80’s due to this advancing electronic technology, at basic ground level I had to change the personal viewpoint of myself in being only a ‘drummer for hire’ to something bigger and more versatile. Secondly, instead of being hostile towards this new technology I embraced it, because I knew it was here to stay and there was no point in fighting it. I also embraced and developed my other talent which was singing and which opened up another avenue of work. Extending myself even further, I taught myself how to program and work with midi software.
Today, everything I do is related in some way or another to my original passion for music, but now includes presenting (drum workshops), writing, teaching, recording, performing and most recently band leader. I have succeeded in maintaining that thread of passion through all of these activities and in doing so feel that I’ve managed to stay true to myself. So yes, I can say that I get up in the morning fuelled with a passion for life and my work. Some people have called this luck but I call it personal choice, in having changed and adapted to achieve the necessary ingredients to enjoy what I do. I believe that with careful thought and some effort that anyone can achieve this, regardless of what area of work they choose. So the message is plain and simple: involve yourself in something that fuels your passion. If this is not happening, change course or modify what you’re doing – life is too short to put up with second best!
Gaining perspective and right choices
Now I know that many of you reading this may be involved in music or some area of the creative arts, but also holding down a day job to pay the bills. I understand this situation completely because I’ve been there. Also, as an educator I’ve taught hundreds of drummers who have a similar story to tell. This is a wide open debate as so may variables are involved and which I discuss in much greater detail in my book ‘Rhythm of the Head’ in how to address the balance between Money and Art. I do however firmly believe that everything in our lives is down to OUR own choices and deciding to take that giant step to being a full time performer is a major decision and not to be taken lightly. I’ll state again here the obvious underlying factor to living a fulfilled life is to have the thread of passion running through everything we do.
At this point your defences may be springing to the fore in insisting that the day job you do is merely a means towards an end, because you have your sights firmly set on making it as performing artist. This is a natural response and your thinking valid, but this situation can only sustain itself while the light of passion burns brightly. If whatever you’re doing to pay the bills starts to kill your passion, then you’re in serious trouble because no matter how committed you are to realising your dream, if ‘that means towards an end’ starts destroying your soul then this will affect every other area of your life – eventually.
We’ve all heard stories of big name celebrities who did whatever was necessary to keep them afloat while pursuing their dream of stardom. And this does sound kind of romantic doesn’t it – starving for your art? I suppose it does, but only to a certain point as I also know many musicians who gave up because they were continually involved in something which eventually destroyed their passion. Don’t let his happen to you!
I know I keep on coming back to this but it really is paramount to achieving any kind of real success in life, so once again… In order to live a truly fulfilled life the thread of passion should run through everything that we do. It should connect everything, even if what we do may seem quite diverse. So, if your interests lie in making money or acting, learning to fly or playing the piano, then the thread of passion should run through all of this.
Money, moola, bread… it’s all the same thing and we need it!
It’s a fact that only a small percentage of people truly love what they do for a living. I can personally endorse this point due to the many conversations I’ve had with my drum students over the years. So think about it, if you don’t like your job then how can you ever expect to have any passion for what you do? This is pretty clear-cut for anyone who maybe works as an accountant or lawyer and has deep seated aspirations of wanting to be a musician, actor or whatever. And the trap here is usually… you guessed it – MONEY. It’s the security of having that job which pays and affords that person to be able to spend money on their dream, or in most cases their hobby at that point, which they would dearly love to turn into their full-time occupation. Sadly, most never seem to achieve this. However, I have seen a small percentage make the break and move into doing what they love. This make or break decision is of course very personal to every individual concerned and in essence goes beyond the scope of this book, as the factors involved are usually multi faceted. However, in a situation like this it really is down to one simple truth. I merely present a very simple question to anyone who has a dilemna about their present job, or someone considering a move into a new career. The question I ask is this: “how would you feel waking up every morning and going into work and doing that job day in and day out. Does this thought excite you, or does it fill you with dread?” Simple isn’t it?
Now at this point let me apply this thinking to those people already involved in the performing arts. As always I like to lead by personaI example: Remember, I started playing music because I loved music and with all the associated dreams of playing in front of huge audiences and becoming a rock star! I managed to live that dream for a while in playing in front of big (and small) audiences, appearing in the music press, seeing my name credited on various albums, signing autographs for fans and generally achieving a measurable degree of fame and success – but I wasn’t rich! I sometimes earned well and sometimes not so well. Then as already stated, my initial dream went a bit sour due to changing musical tastes and technology. I was by then married and had two young kids, so took on work in the musical field to make more money as now I had family to look after. I found myself on the road a lot of the time and missing out on spending quality time with my family. Increasingly, I started to feel ‘burn out’ because the passion for my work had fizzled out and I sensed that I needed to change my lifestyle.
I took the big decision in trying to work completely outside of the music business and for a while thought this was a good thing, but kept on returning to the area I know so well and love. The problem was that working outside of what I done for so long was doing nothing to feed my passion. I felt like I was merely getting up every morning to go to work and not getting anything in return in the passion stakes – and this was while also at one point working in a music store! I truly felt like I had joined the ranks of the ‘miserable’. This is when I decided to enter the world of teaching.
Now if a few years back if you had said to me that I would become a teacher, I would have looked at you as though you had gone mad. What me teaching? I was a performing musician and that was it. Clear cut, or so I thought! The reality is that when I first started teaching I wasn’t quite sure if I was cut out to do this line of work as it actually felt quite alien to me. The biggest lesson I had to learn was how to exercise more patience. But a couple of important aspects were in place; I was again my own boss and I was also conversing in the language I knew and loved – drumming! That I felt was enough of a good start and sound motivation for me to persevere with. So, initially it was a bit tough as in going back to the music business I hankered after the live performance lifestyle I had left behind. The very reason why I had stopped performing in the first place… ha! Old habits die hard! But then as I gained more experience as a music teacher I began to discover that I was pretty good at this stuff and started to enjoy the challenge more and more. And then the important shift took place in that I begun to love what I was doing – and then the passion kicked in.
Was it worth it? – Oh yeah!
At the time of writing this book I’ve been teaching full time now for around 10 years and have developed a good reputation as an in-demand teacher. I’ve also reached the point where I operate a waiting list due to demand and have again managed to turn my work into something that I look forward to getting out of bed for every morning. My ‘job’ doesn’t fill me with dread. Now how many people can say that? But hey nothings perfect and there are times as with any other job that things can become a little mundane. To counteract this I apply whatever changes I feel are needed to keep things fresh and give me that important sense of always moving ahead. In doing this I can honestly state that I love what I do – I am master of my own destiny!
This is re-enforced even further with the memory of a conversation I had with a student in which we were discussing career choices and lifestyles. I outlined to him a typical working day in the life of Georg Voros and also spoke about the various musical equipment endorsements I enjoy. He listened very intently to all of this and with a very thoughtful look in his eye and wry smile said to me, “you’re living the dream”. I agreed…
Chapter 5 – ORGANIZE
“Organizing is what you do before you do something, so that when you do it, it is not all mixed up”
How organized you are results in how much you get accomplished in a designated time period.
One thing leads to Another
I’m lucky in that I am blessed with a pretty disciplined nature, which for most of the time helps me to get the most out of whatever time I allocate to certain matters. An example of this goes back to when I was in my second last year of high school.
My Dad owned his own business and had sent me to a private college that was costing him quite a bit of money for the fees. I became aware that his business was going through a tough period and that he was experiencing financial difficulties. To help the situation I suggested that I quit the expensive college and do my final high school year at home via a correspondence course – now commonly known as ‘distance learning’. At first he was dubious, as he couldn’t see how I was going to manage this. However, after a lot of discussion with both my parents I finally managed to convince him that I would be disciplined enough to cope and that I would do the work required. What he didn’t know that aside from my genuine motivation in wanting to help the household financially, my other reason was that I wanted to have more practice time on my drum kit. You see I only had a certain window of the day in which to practice as we had received complaints from our neighbour about the volume levels of my drumming. After some negotiation we came to an agreement that I would only play within a certain time period in the day, but the problem was that in having to catch the school bus home this left me with very little time to practice. So I figured if I didn’t have to travel to school and back that this would free up more practice time.
When my year of self-study kicked off the first thing I did was get organized! I set out my timetable just as I would at school. I pinned this to the wall above my desk so that it was in clear view all the time. I organized my subjects into ‘periods’ in which I could devote enough time each week to every subject. I would get up each morning at the same time, have my breakfast and then begin ‘school’ at the same hour. I would then allow myself a half hour mid morning break to have a cup of coffee and to refresh, and then begin working again up to the time I finished school. To be honest, I even surprised myself in how organized and disciplined I was in regard to all of this. The result? I passed my Matric exam. Not fantastically well but never the less I passed. You see I had no great academical aspiration regarding this exam, as my two main goals were that I wanted more time to practice my drums and to be able to present my parents with that Matriculation certificate – which I did! I had accomplished what I had set out to do and believe totally that this was greatly helped by being organized.
Chapter 11 – EXPRESSION (OF SELF)
“A man’s true state of power and riches is to be in himself”
Henry Ward Beecher
Self-expression is perhaps the most important of all human desires without us so realizing.
Total expression leads to total freedom of self
We all want to feel understood and able to express our deepest desires and aspirations. So when we get into situations where we feel that people are not ‘getting’ what we are trying to put across, we feel unfulfilled and let down. And then to make matters worse, we feel that we have let ourselves down.
Negative, self-limiting character traits such as introverted-ness, shyness and a lack of self-esteem all point to a serious lack of self-expression. And freedom to fully express oneself in a creative field is a necessary ingredient to achieving notable success. But expression of self doesn’t only just apply to people in the performance arts as this can spill over into more traditional career paths as well. Do you think an ultra successful businessman like Sir Richard Branson is guilty of not expressing himself fully? No way. There is no way he could have achieved his phenomenal level of success without his unique expression of self. Branson would have severely limited himself had he not been courageous and chosen to ‘buck the trend’ and do business in a way that resonated deeply within himself. He is a trendsetter and you only have to read his books to find that whatever he has accomplished in life has been due to total self-belief in what he does. Richard Branson is one my heroes and role models. For me he is the rock n’ roll of the business world and I always admire people who come from nothing to take chances and challenge the norm.
Anarchy v. The Status Quo
The word anarchy can make some people shift uneasily in their seats, so before I get into trouble let me be very clear that I am not here advocating that anarchy is the way to self-expression. I’m not an anarchist as such, but a point to consider is that there can be a very thin line that separates anarchy and evolution, because if you think about it, today’s anarchy could be tomorrow’s accepted norm. To prove my point lets check out what happened with a bunch of young misfits called ‘The Rolling Stones’. In the early 60’s they burst onto the scene with their blend of Blues and Rock n’ Roll and were perceived to be very ‘anti establishment’, even anarchists. The Stones were certainly bucking the trend and got up to a lot of mischief, especially in their early days. It’s a wonder Keith Richards survived at all due to his now famous drug habit. The Stones’ lifestyle may have been questionable but there is no way you can ignore their contribution to music and how powerful they became. They’ve influenced so many bands and music would not been the same had the Stones not appeared on the scene. The same can be said about The Beatles. However, even though The Beatles also provided an element of controversy over their drug related lifestyles, they were not seen in the same light as the Stones. The Rolling Stones were the ‘bad boys’ of the early R n’ R movement and the rebels that fathers wanted their daughters to stay away from.
The irony is that these bad boys are now respected and an accepted part of society and the mainstream. All members of the Stones are wealthy (Jagger and Richards more so) and on the celebrity A list. The Stones as a group have been on the scene for close on fifty years and I have a DVD of a concert performance in New York. At this concert some key members of the audience lined up to meet and greet The Rolling Stones. They included Bill and Hillary Clinton and members of their family, and the mayor of New York. Now who would have thought many years ago that an ex President of the USA, a current vice President of the USA and the mayor of the one of the biggest cities in the world would be lining up to shake hands with a bunch of anarchistic misfits? That is why I say that today’s anarchy could be tomorrow’s accepted norm – and normally is. Perhaps in years to come all multi millionaires around the world will buck the trend by wearing casual shirts and pullovers like Richard Branson, instead of today’s universally accepted business outfit, the suit. “Never” you shout! Only time will only tell.
Itching to read more?…