If you want to improve your on stage performance, this information is for you! Today’s post is an interview with my good friend, Lance Abair. Lance is quite the musician in his own right, however, he also happens to be the father of the very successful Contemporary Jazz musician, Mindi Abair. Lance and Mindi, together with Ross Cooper, have written a “manual” of sorts for stage performers. As a side note, if you’ve ever watched Mindi Abair perform on stage, you will want to know what she knows–and this book is it! It is no less than a nuts and bolts essential guide to successful performance on stage. You should not miss it! I got to talk to Lance a little about his background and how the book came to be:
TTN: Lance, why did you feel compelled write a book like “How To Play Madison Square Garden?”
LANCE: After seeing so many embarrassing performances on stage, over the course of my entire life, I realized that I naturally critiqued them. I was just all too aware of how many groups or performers get on stage and aren’t looking like they are having fun, they simply stare at the floor or don’t even connect with the audience.
TTN: Who do you believe would benefit from reading this book?
LANCE: This is really important information about stage performance and professionalism. Most anyone who is going to get up in front of a group of people and do anything will benefit from reading this book. Anyone who plans to sing, play an instrument, or even give a presentation. Basically the book is full of common sense, and it works and it can be taught and learned.
TTN: But don’t most music schools teach this information? What about a degree in music performance, wouldn’t this information be part of the curriculum?
LANCE: Surprisingly it’s not. Most music schools just don’t teach performers these skills.
TTN: What do you think most musicians fear about performing on stage?
LANCE: There are two things really that I think people fear. 1) that they will have to become someone they are not and 2) that if they start performing, their music will suffer. The answer to number 1) is that you have to keep it real, it needs to be genuine, not pretend. For instance, don’t “look” like you are having a good time, BE having a good time! The answer to number 2) is no, it’s just that much harder. You can to do both and there’s no excuse not to do them both well. The top-level pros can do both well and they are the competition.
TTN: Give us a little of your background, the sort of experiences that led to all the great information contained in this book.
LANCE: I grew up in a musical household. My mother was an opera singer, gave piano lessons so I was always around music. I picked up the clarinet in 6th grade, then the sax in 9th grade. It was all about music with me. During junior high school I acquired the album “Time Out” by the Dave Brubeck Quartet. That got me acquainted with jazz. I started playing in bands outside of school, then majored in music in college, but basically decided that wasn’t the right school for me, and in 1966, joined a band in St. Petersburg, Florida called “The Impacs.”
TTN: So that’s where you gained most of your on-stage experience?
LANCE: The Impacs ended up joining with another band to form “Vic Waters and the Entertainers.” We did a lot of soul and R&B. We started booking gigs around the US. We recorded a single in 1968 on Capitol Records called “Taking Inventory,” that became a regional hit. After about a year and a half we decided to change our show format and call ourselves “The Fabulous Entertainers.” and started working the Nevada circuit, playing the Sahara Hotels and other upper-end clubs around the country. We employed comedy in our shows so they were quite entertaining.
TTN: Sounds like you had quite a bit of on-stage experience, what started you to think about all of the elements of on stage performance?
LANCE: When The Fabulous Entertainers broke up I went to work for a group called the Young American Showcase, that assembled and trained young men in rock bands to perform at junior and senior high school assemblies and night concerts. We had six to eight bands each year and I coached them on stage performance and professionalism. For eleven years I did the recruiting and auditioning for thousands of young guys. We turned it into a school of entertainment and you had to be good. We taught the theories of entertainment concepts. The kids would come in “green” but after about five weeks of rehearsal camp they would hit the road doing shows and getting standing ovations in front of one and a half million students per year at junior and senior high schools around the country.
TTN: How did the idea for the book “How to Play Madison Square Garden” come about?
LANCE: A former stand-out performer in Young American Showcase, Ross Cooper, started writing down some of the concepts that he had been taught. I said I’d take a look and see what I could add. I added some things and did some editing and told Ross that we ought to get Mindi in on this because she is such a strong performer. So we brought Mindi in and she added some great material. Between the three of us we got it edited and it went on from there.
TTN: Your daughter, Mindi Abair, is one of the finest onstage performers I’ve ever seen. Do you think some of this knowledge was rubbing off on her even at a young age?
LANCE: When Mindi was little she would come to our rehearsal camps in the summer. She and the other kids would go between rehearsal rooms and watch the bands rehearse. She would sit in on classes that we had, so she definitely picked a lot of this up by osmosis.
TTN: Along that line, how old was Mindi when you thought “Hey, maybe she’ll become a musician?”
LANCE: Mindi didn’t really show a desire to do music full-time until probably the end of high school. She was a really smart girl and a student leader. She could have been anything she wanted to be. Really what was the first inkling was her junior year where she was chosen to be in the small school honors band at All-State. During All-State competition we were able to see the All-State jazz band. Mindi said “now that’s the band I want to be in next year.” That was probably the first clue.
TTN: It seems your life and your choices did a lot to influence Mindi along the way, don’t you think?
LANCE: I think so. After everything she grew up with I believe she had music in her veins.
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