Professionalism in music means different things to different people. For some it is a musician’s ability to earn a living through music. For others it’s a way of life that means keeping musical skills in top form through rehearsal and performance and a passionate commitment to the art itself. Mitchell Korn argues there’s yet another element that defines a professional musician. “Connecting with one’s community through performance is part of what makes a musician a professional,” says Korn, vice president of education and community engagement at the Nashville Symphony and adjunct professor of music and educational outreach at Blair.
Korn teaches a course at Blair called Music and Community that emphasizes the importance of building a skill set for musicians to perform in various community settings. “Professional musicians today need to know how to talk to different audiences and how to engage each audience from where they [the audience] come from,” Korn says. “Working in diverse situations enhances a musician’s performance communication skills.”
Korn also oversees the Nashville Symphony’s Off Stage performance initiative that delivers music to diverse and often underserved communities. As part of the program professional musicians, including Blair faculty, are invited to perform at one of the Off Stage concerts at senior residence centers, hospices and other locations. Korn’s office provides full staff technical support, coordinates the performance schedule and provides training sessions for the musicians to acquaint them with the program and any special requirements at certain venues.
Korn believes understanding oneself, as well as one’s community, is also essential to the professional life of a musician. “I try to show my students at Blair that what matters to them personally is what the audience really wants to know,” he says. “Speaking from the first person is what engages audiences.”