There is no doubt about it—when you go to a Pops Concert, it’s time to have fun! I recently attended a Boston Pops concert sitting at a table near the front of Symphony Hall for the early-ꞌ60s-themed program that was inspired by the television hit, Mad Men. As people gathered, there was a tremendous sense of anticipation and enjoyment as orders were placed and servers delivered glasses of wine and snacks to tables scattered throughout the main floor. More than 2,000 people greeted one another with an openness and enthusiasm that is usually reserved for an evening at home with friends.
The success of these concerts comes not only from the variety of the music, but from a great orchestra that can play anything. Pops concerts require the musicians to be flexible and handle a wide range of styles without being distracted by all that’s going on—the enthusiastic crowds can be energizing. That’s why people go—to have fun and hear music that they’ve grown up to, or music that frames their experiences and is recognized by them as part of who they are. This experience gave me pause to think about the role of a playful mindset in creating and performing. It’s one of the ways that artists achieve such high performance levels.
Artists use a playful mindset to explore the elements of their art form. They use their imagination to seek innovative solutions. When we are young we explore things, experiment, and open ourselves to a vulnerable perspective of discovery. This openness may have gotten lost along the way. Consider using this artistic process in everything you do—don’t reserve it just for the Pops. A more playful state of mind allows you to make connections you wouldn’t normally make, and it helps you see things from a different perspective. Participating in this way heightens your mood, makes you laugh more often, and allows you to engage in the world in a new way.
Consider a more playful approach to everything you do—especially:
- When you’re under pressure or not enjoying yourself
- When your inner voice or mental image shows you that you’re a failure
- When someone is disrespectful or unkind
You might think, “Playful? Are you kidding me? This is serious.” This is a positive tactic that can bring out the highest mental, creative, and emotional functioning—and sometimes physical state of being—you can experience. Just as artists of all kinds do every day, you too can build this approach through practice. Try to practice and focus with a good-natured mental attitude. It works.
As I left the Pops Concert that evening and walked outside, I was amused to see two pedicabs sitting right there on Massachusetts Avenue in front of Symphony Hall ready to transport members of the audience to their destination. Yes, pedicabs—not taxi cabs. Pedal-powered transportation—what a delightful and playful way to end the evening. It was a memorable and entertaining experience, a balmy and beautiful evening, and a perfect end to a night at the Pops.
We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.
— George Bernard Shaw —