Author: Suzanne Bona

Concert etiquette

While attending a chamber music concert today, I noticed how well everyone in the audience seemed to understand the “rule” of not clapping between movements. And while this was clearly a knowledgeable and attentive group of veteran concertgoers, it also reminded me of something a wise friend once said: he loves hearing people clap at the “wrong” time during concerts because it means someone new is attending!
The concert featured musicians including the renowned violinist and conductor Jaime Laredo, whom I had a chance to chat with informally after the performance about concert etiquette. We’ve all seen people clapping at the “wrong” time and others shushing them, and Mr. Laredo made a passionate case for cutting people slack for showing their appreciation when they feel moved, and for not shaming them when they do. Too many people already feel intimidated about attending a classical music performance because they don’t know what to expect, what to wear, how to behave, and yes, when to clap.
So here is a thought: those of us who are insiders can mentor, teach and draw in new audience members, bring friends, help them feel welcome, and guide them along so they can fall in love with this music, too. That’s something we can all applaud whenever we feel like it!

With a little help from my friends

I recently organized a benefit concert for a non-profit agency that provides free tutoring to adults who need help improving their literacy skills. An array of friends donated their time and energy: musicians shared their talents, other friends rolled up their sleeves and gathered raffle items, designed and printed the programs, hosted a lavish post-concert reception, and provided muscle power to set up and break down the chairs and tables. My public radio colleagues helped generate publicity for the event to fill seats and raise awareness of the agency and its vital services. Every aspect of the event was the result of a successful group effort involving many hardworking friends. It was magical and gratifying and a big success.

More and more, I appreciate the tremendous value and pleasure of collaboration. As a musician, collaboration is essential in ensembles of all sizes. And in daily life, constructive partnerships seem to yield the best outcomes — as the saying goes, “Two heads are better than one.” And for the literacy organization that benefited from the concert proceeds, the tutor/student collaborations yield the greatest successes, as well as meaningful and often lasting friendships.
So, I start this new week and the arrival of Spring, with gratitude for my many delightful collaborators. We really do get by with a little help from our friends!

March is Early Music Month

All across North America, musicians, ensembles, publications, broadcasters and music lovers are celebrating Early Music Month throughout March. There is plenty to celebrate! Thanks to decades of renewed interest in baroque and early music, there are many terrific musicians with expertise and sensitivity for the repertory, and the level of performing quality and scholarly expertise has never been higher.

Just what the doctor ordered

Last week I was rehearsing for an upcoming concert with two other musicians, one of whom is not only a fine pianist but also a cardiac surgeon. To accommodate her schedule, we rehearsed in the lobby of the hospital where there is a fine quality grand piano. It was purchased specifically to allow for these spontaneous musical encounters by patients, staff, and visitors.

My Favorite Things – Valentine’s Edition

It’s Valentine’s Day, when many people’s expectations are high for romance. Candy, flowers, cards and romantic dinners are OK, but what moves me even more is MUSIC. With that in mind, these are a few of my favorite things — baroque and early music that is luscious and romantic and perfect for ANY time, not just a fleeting holiday. Always the perfect fit.

Good for the heart, mind and soul

An article in the NY Times recently featured people who turn to making music in retirement. (Joanne Kaufman 1/29/17) Some were returning to playing instruments they played as children, while others were learning for the first time. Their passion for music had been deferred for a variety of reasons — time, money, careers, families, perfectionism, and other distractions.

Music for its own sake

For many years, we have heard about studies attempting to show a connection between musical training or listening to classical music with extramusical benefits, such as advanced brain function or activation. Remember “Mozart Makes You Smarter” and all the articles urging women to play classical music near their pregnant bellies, to name a few?

Giving feels good

Recently I had lunch with a friend who is a generous, longtime public radio supporter. He expressed surprise that more people don’t support their local public radio stations, and we talked about the excuses many listeners make for not contributing. He looked me in the eye and asked, “Do you know why *I* support public radio?” I threw out a few possibilities, and he said, “No! The reason I give is because it FEELS GOOD. That’s it.” He’s right. It does feel good to be part of something you care about. It feels good to have a personal stake in the success and future of something that’s an important part of your daily life.

So, now I’m wondering: do YOU support your local public radio station? If not, why? If so, why? Do you agree with my friend that giving feels good? What would you say to your fellow listeners who don’t support their local stations to try to change their minds?

The Lowdown on Downloads

Confession: I am not an early adopter. I have no aversion to technology at all. In fact, I savor the many conveniences and treats technology can provide, and I enjoy learning new things. But I won’t run out and acquire something just because “everyone” has one; there has to be a demonstrable need or application to convince me. I didn’t even bother with a cell phone until a couple of years ago because I truly did not need one.