By Rhonda Barfield
Many of you know that for years Eric has “played out” around town: with a variety of bands, his own jazz trio, and as a soloist. (I used to do some performing, too, in my younger days before lights started causing seizures.)
A few years ago, a classically-trained pianist preceded Eric at a dinner our family attended. She played her pieces beautifully. But she always looked straight ahead at the music and she never smiled. Onlookers got the impression of “one piece down, seven to go” as she dutifully trudged through her set list. Though her technique was nearly flawless, her performance was one of the worst I’ve ever watched.
Eric, on the other hand, smiles a lot when he plays. He learned this young, when he started performing a weekly coffee house gig at 16. Sometimes the tips didn’t even cover gas money, but he paid his dues. A businessmen heard him one day and offered Eric a four-nights-a-week paid job in his Westport pub. At Mickey’s, Eric learned to improvise while people asked him questions, to keep smiling, and to make his performance entertaining.
Good popular performance technique is not easy to achieve, but it can be taught. At Listening House Studios, we encourage this.