We all felt it … you could just tell. Changing out of our costumes, breaking down the set, trying to wipe off the stage make-up (good luck with that!) - we’d catch each other’s eye and an indescribable rush of something bubbled up into a satisfied smile. We’d done well, and we knew it.
The day had begun with the riser crew loading, transporting, unloading and setting up on stage while the rest of us swarmed about, handily transforming the school lobby and stage into spaces of wonder and anticipation. By curtain time we’d found our place on the risers, brimming with enthusiasm. And for the next 60 minutes (excluding intermission and an appearance by our guests, Town Meeting) we gave folks their money’s worth and more.
Were we to travel back in time and mingle with performers of long ago, we might reach for words like “magic,” or “basking in the afterglow,” or “a post-performance high” in an attempt to describe this nebulous thrill we all held in common.
Today, thanks to advanced studies in brain science (and articles explaining these studies) we have more technical words to attach to these feelings: Endorphins, Dopamine, Serotonin and Oxytocin.
Endorphins diminish our perception of pain. Who cares that we didn’t sleep well the night before or have been on our feet all day. Troubles melt away once we’re on stage!
Dopamine rewards accumulating milestones. Everyone of us had to go through a number of checkpoints - listening, learning, rehearsing, troubleshooting - mastering each increment until we eventually achieved our goal of “performance-ready.”
Serotonin flows from recognition. Having friends in the audience appreciating our performance heightened the enjoyment for us. Working together as a team to produce beautiful a cappella harmonies also raises our serotonin level.
Oxytocin creates intimacy and trust. We all sacrificed to get to this point. We count on each other to know our part and put it out there. Our director cues us to grow a chord, to add drama, to soften … and we respond. That afternoon our audience kept in cadence with us - applauding, marveling, and laughing at all the right times - such gratifying interplay!
Simon Sinek in Leaders Eat Last shows the correlation between the integrity of the leader and the commitment of the group. Members of Merrimack Valley Acappella Chorus readily acknowledge this reality when it comes to our leader/director, Eileen Gioe. Eileen knows her craft, engenders trust, and pulls forth from us our best effort.
My friend Eric credits his mom with saying, “Everyone needs someone to love, something meaningful to do, and something to look forward to,” adding, “She may not have known their names, but she knew the power of endorphins, dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin.
Though it’s interesting to know this scientific explanation, at the end of the day, I prefer the more poetic descriptions of this phenomenon. BJ Thomas’ late ‘60s hit, Hooked on a Feeling gets at the heart of why we commit to being in our Wilmington, MA rehearsal hall pretty much every Thursday night of the year. We’re hooked!