If there’s one person I would love to get instruction from on how to connect with your audience from a stage, it would be Christine Ohlman. She immediately puts you at ease and makes you feel like she understands everything about your life in an instant. Then she sings to you about what you were thinking or worried about over the past few days and assures you that all will be well. You can relax and bask in the attention of a queen and escape all your troubles for a few moments.
The first time I saw Christine perform was about 30 years ago on the main stage of a huge street festival in New Haven. With that crazy blonde beehive, how could you miss her? And she had the crowd stirred up to party-frenzy by the end of her first song. I thought to myself, “I wanna DO THAT!!” and kept my eye on her over the next 20 years.
Fast forward to two decades later, I was gathering myself to record a second album. I read somewhere that I (as a musician) should get advice from someone who was just a bit ahead of me in the direction I was looking to go. I immediately thought of Christine. I knew she was still performing locally and thought I’d just ask. I figured the worst that could happen would be that she’d say, “So sorry… too busy.” I took my friend Chris Penry with me to a show she was playing at what was then The Wharf in Madison, CT and caught her at the break to ask if she ever had time to have coffee with an aspiring singer. I figured I had 30 seconds to sell it. Well, wouldn’t you know, she said she’d be delighted!
We met at a Starbucks in Hamden, she in complete beehive regalia. She listened to some of my first album and spoke to me like an old friend. “Deep tracks, baby. If you’re not gonna write songs, find some deep tracks. Here are some examples in your style…” And she proceeded to help me find a direction in my music that has stayed with me until today. Not only that, she has stayed in touch with me and encouraged me over many years. A quintessential professional and the real deal. She is in person just as she is on stage.
One of my very favorite memories of her is when she performed at a festival held at Bishop’s Field in Guilford some years ago. After having seen her perform for thousands of people many times, there were only a few people in the tent that day. SHE GAVE THE SAME SHOW… as if she were standing on the stage in Madison Square Garden! I said something to her about it after the show, and her reply: “You have to, baby! Even if only one person comes out to the show, you give them what they came for!”
She remains the standard for me today for how to conduct yourself as a musician.
The moral of this story is, if you’re a performer of any kind who wants to learn how to make that powerful connection with your audience, you would do well to come to her workshop “The Audience & You” at Crescendo Music Loft on Tuesday evening, November 5 from 7:30 – 9:00 pm and hear what she has to say.