You should smile more

There is a difference between entertaining and performing. The two might overlap but not necessarily. Value judgments about the substance inherent in entertainment versus that in performance come with this distinction. The word ‘performing’ implies seriousness that ‘entertaining’ might not. That topic is for another day. What I’m interested in is this idea about necessary smiling and how it might limit or distort your experience as a performer.

In this culture, there is an often unquestioned idea that musicians should “smile more” and that the smiliest of players must be the most immersed in the musical experience, the most “passionate.” Of course there is some further context here - if you as a listener are attending a concert at a bar you might be more likely to expect smiley musicians than if you are at a library concert. If you are listening to a dance band you might expect smiley musicians more than if you are at a doom metal show. And if the musicians are not famous you may be less likely to grant their seemingly intense dispositions the benefit of the doubt than you might be if starstruck.

So many questions, too many variables. But back to you as a performer/artist - what do you do if you are in a performance and maybe that night you feel intense or heavy or simply non-smiley? Can you stay present with that emotion or is the weight of expectation too much? Can your performance meet that emotion even if that seems to run counter to the musical or social context you’re playing within? What is lost or gained if you roll with it? Is it easier to just smile more?