Today’s guest post is from Fran Kick, professional speaker, author and division head of the Leadership Weekend Experience at the Music for All Summer Symposium presented by Yamaha. Fran Kick also co-presents the Future Music Educators’ Experience during the Grand National Championships.

emotion stock photo

Playing with control vs. playing with emotion

Performing music musically pushes us beyond the notes, rhythms, articulations, and dynamics. Whether you’re a brass or woodwind player, a member of the color guard or a percussionist – playing music and performing to music needs to move both the performers and the audience emotionally beyond what’s printed on the page or counted in our heads.

While marching bands on the field today simultaneously seem like a giant audio sound board, an artists pallet and a theatre, it’s the music, the movement and the emotion that contribute the biggest impact.

Now of course it all needs to be presented with control – that’s a given. The right notes, the right steps, the timing, and all that needs to be done, when it needs to be done, the way it’s supposed to be done. But how do we create that sometimes elusive emotional quality that lifts a performance to a higher level?

Since about 65 to 75 percent of us are “visual” learners, we actually “see” ideas in our mind’s eye – visually remembering details via images or pictures we mentally paint in our heads whenever we learn something. What do you “see” in your mind during that phrase of music? If it’s just what’s printed on the page or choreographed to counts – you might be missing out on making an emotional connection with the audience.

So what could you do to make your performance more emotional? Well here are three things you can try:

#1 Define the various passages of music or sections of your show pictorially. Figure out what each section of music represents in your mind. Share with others and come up with various images or pictures that you collectively come to consensus on that best fit what the music is saying.

#2 Set aside some space on a bulletin board in your band room and tack up the pictures you pick. Look for them in magazines, books, online, even create some yourself.

#3 Find sequences of scenes in movies or videos that represent visually what you’re striving to create musically.
You get the idea. Create what a graphic designer would call a reference file of swipes or a collection of similarly inspiring visual representations of what you hope to emotionally communicate to the audience during your performance and soon you’ll be playing with emotion AND control.

This post was originally released on the “Break Ranks” podcast with Dan Potter. The .mp3 audio file is available to hear, download, and share.


Fran Kick currently serves as division head of the Music for All Summer Symposium Leadership Weekend Experience. He is a nationally-recognized speaker and educational consultant who talks with students and the many people who work with them. You can find more information about his work with music-related organizations and events at