Monday, July 29, 2019

I Hosted A Jazz Concert

Fresh off of my run as the co-star of a two-person musical, I got a call from a concert organizer asking me if I had any interest in doing a Jazz benefit. For a very brief moment, I thought that I was being asked to sing. But, no, despite my recent good reviews as a singer, the organizer was interested in me being the M.C. for the show. I was told that it was a two-night featuring three different singers backed by two different backup bands. All I would have to do is give some opening remarks, say a few words during intermission, and then wrap up with remarks before the big finale. There would be a rehearsal the night before the first show, so I figured I'd be given more specific instructions and an at least an outline covering the main points the organizer wanted me to hit during my remarks. Instead, I was just put through a mic check and told "just be you".

The Friday night run-through of the show was, for me, mediocre. I had no set list, very little information on the musicians and singers involved, and no outline on specific points to hit aside from the occasional verbal notes from the organizer. I was asked to fill ten minutes before introducing the first act, but struggled to fill five. Originally, the organizer didn't want me to introduce the individual acts, but that was quickly determined to be the wrong move, as the audience got confused over who was on stage. Things got better after intermission because I started talking to the artists and asked them pointed questions about themselves and the songs they were performing, just so I could have something to talk about on stage.

Ultimately, I wasn't satisfied with my performance during the Friday night show, so I spent much of Saturday morning thinking about how to improve my performance. What I came up with is

How To Be A Good M.C. :

1) Be Prepared: You don't have to write down everything you want to say, but it's a good idea to at least have a written outline. For example, my outline for the opening remarks went as follows:

  • Welcome
  • Introduce Myself
  • Anecdote about being asked to host
  • A very brief history of Jazz
  • List performers
  • Anecdote about first performer
  • Introduce first performer

2) Do A Runthrough: Even if you know exactly what you want to say and how you want to say it, it will help to do an actual run-through of your remarks to see how they sound. Written remarks on paper can come off very differently in delivery, so it will help to practice your remarks. Even better if you can do it as part of a full event rehearsal. 

3) Realize That You Are NOT The Star: The purpose of an M.C. is to get the crowd warmed up and guide the direction of the show The M.C. sets the tone and is there to make the main stars of the show look good. The M.C. is not in the business of self promotion

4) Lay Off The Jokes: Funny anecdotes related to the event are fine, but try to refrain from telling actual jokes with punchlines. There's nothing worse than trying to recover from a joke that bombed.

5) Get To Know Your Performers: They will be a source of material for you to draw your remarks from. I asked one of the performers about the songs she chose and she told me that she had written them all herself and had written a particular one at the age of 12. That made for a good story and I used it when introducing one of her sets.

6) Be Positive: Even if you don't like the event that you're promoting, you're still being brought in to build the audience's enthusiasm for it. When an act finished up their set, I made sure to say something good about their performance and asked the audience to applaud by saying something like "Let's hear it for them? Weren't they great?"

So, with the above directives in mind, I had a much better show on Saturday than I did on Friday. Even thought it was a small and tough crowd, I managed to get them fired up for the show, and, by the end of the night, they were clamoring for an encore rather than running for their cars.

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