by Marco A. Billep
Over the last few years I have been asking myself: Why do I have such a hard time explaining to people exactly what I do as a coach? The answer to this is actually pretty easy – most of my musician colleagues have little understanding about the meaning of the ‘mystic’ term PERFORMANCE!
This term is so vague to them, that most of the ‘nerds’ out there don‘t take it for real and consider it ‘peripheral’. But seriously…aren’t we a cappella musicians all a little bit ‘nerdy’? I always have to think again about explaining why it actually IS worth hiring a performance coach like I am. This is a new attempt to bring my work out of the shadow into the light and to make it a little bit clearer for you.
‘Performance Coaching’??? What is this? Do I need that? How is this supposed to help me now? This is just an extra expense and I still need to invest money into my equipment! Can’t I just do this on my own!? Why should I work with somebody who just tells me where to stand on stage, when I still have thousands of other worries with my band?
Performance-coaching… a ‘luxury-expense’?
These were the exact thoughts my band and I shared in the past. First we had huge ambitions in songwriting, arranging and rehearsing… but then? Most a cappella musicians have learned and studied to compose, arrange, and conduct rehearsals. But that doesn’t always mean they know what it takes to be on stage!
“That will do” was a common thought, but I should have known better, having studied dance and performance as well as singing at university. As if, after getting your degree, you would never need a singing teacher again. There are millions of bands out there, but only a few of them are able to thrill more people than their personal friends and families! Why is this? And WHO wants that anyway???
YOU DO!!!! Because you are going on stage and to all these contests to be SEEN and heard. Why else would you go on stage? To thrill and enchant the people who came to see you!
This is why PERFORMANCE is as important as the right note at the right time! Maybe even more important…! Great performances have already helped so many artists on stage cover a couple of wrong notes, but I’ve never heard anyone say “The correct notes enabled me to cover up my sh***t performance!”
Of course both of these things are connected to each other. The more the artist gets into his music, the better the performance on stage, and the better the performance on stage, the better the artist’s music and whole experience will be for him – not to mention for the audience! What is the difference between a famous or an unknown comedian? Definitely not his ‘jokes’, but his performance! This is exactly what I want every artist to think about before he or she goes on stage in future.
You can learn how to perform on stage just as well as you can learn to compose music.The actual performance must be rehearsed and trained just like learning text and music. And this is exactly the reason why PERFORMANCE COACHING is no ‘luxury-expense’ in your rehearsal schedule – it’s the best investment!
Of course the live performance depends heavily on the artist’s talent, just like the music. Therefore there are enough techniques for anyone to learn even a ‘minimal’ level of performance professionalism. Just like with singing coaches, dance instructors or music theory teachers, you can work with a proper performance coach who will teach you the techniques that can be used in any performance situation. These techniques will also go beyond the ‘personal experience’ methods sometimes used by untrained colleagues. It is one of the reasons why ‘outsourcing’ is so important during your rehearsal process, (Well, this is another topic to talk about).
With reference to performance coaching I would like to point out, that my experience has always been very positive when asking somebody who is not part of the group to consult me. It is a millions times more efficient and much better for the dynamics of the group as it helps focus the feeling within the band, instead of splitting it (e.g. because all of a sudden everybody knows best!). It can also give a lot of new input to your own pool of creativity as new ideas come from outside that might even inspire yours!
I also want to point out, that a performance coach is not a choreographer! Sometimes he can be both, but a proper coach tells you precisely where you are stuck, where you don’t work effectively, or how to focus ‘energy’ to be more creative. He helps the band to stand closer and to get closer to itself- to find its current core or identity.
In my case this often happens during my choreographic working process, but it doesn’t work the other way around! Even the best choreographer can’t help you to be better on stage if he doesn’t understand the band. He just provides you with a pattern of steps! Who and what is a good coach after all? – This will always be (except for the technical parts) a very personal experience! The ‘chemistry’ must fit! In general I can only say: A good coach uses the provided ‘human resources’ and ties them up, realises the potential of the group and helps to set it free. A good coach identifies the energy and structures within the band, respects them and helps to optimize them.
It can often take some time to get to know each other well enough and sometimes I also have my problems of empathising or understanding the spirit of a band. You must also be ‘let in’ (and this is for both – band and coach!).This is the reason why not even the best coach is always the best for every band!
Marco Billep is a Stuttgart (Germany) based actor, singer and performance coach, who’s worked for top vocal groups like Maybebop among others. Here are some of Marco’s “mefacts” from his website:
Actors agency for film & media (Colombia): SITCO-ARTISTAS/DIANA CAMACHO // Actors agency for film & tv (Germany): HALL ENTERTAINMENT GROUP // height: 1,76 m / 5´9″ // eye colour: green – blue // hair colour: dark blond // home(s): Stuttgart, Köln, Berlin, Hamburg, Hannover // driving license: car // languages: german, spanish (bilingual), english (fluently), french (good), italian (basic) // dialects: German “Hochdeutsch”, different german dialects, „german-turkish“ alternatively english with german, spanish or italian accent //sports: fencing, tennis, american football, swimming, juggling, dance training (ballroom, latin, jazz, ballet, breakdance, hip hop) //instruments: guitar, piano, singing (baritone) pop/musical/classic //qualifications: Universität der Künste Berlin (university of arts), diploma with honors, college scolarship of the artistic foundation “Günter-Neumann-Stiftung”, official coach of the “Chorverbandes Nordrhein Westfalen CVNRW” for a cappella bands, coaching stage performance and choreography