On the first full day of Fresh Inc Festival in Kenosha, Wisconsin, the faculty members (Fifth House Ensemble) put on a private concert just for us participants. I was feeling tired and frankly a little overwhelmed by everything, but I can say that was one of the most enjoyable concerts I’d been to in a long time (soon to be followed by many more amazing concerts in two weeks).

What made it so good? Humor.

I’ve heard a lot of mixed opinions on humor in instrumental music. Non-musicians seem to think it’s just not a thing. In school, it was always something we groaned at having to do. Even as adults, it’s something we’re always hesitant to put on the stage.

But why? Is it because we’re worried the audience will think it’s too cheesy? Or that they won’t get it? Or worse — do we worry it’ll knock us off some intellectual pedestal?

On this last fear, we need to back the heck off and remember who we’re doing this for. If we’re doing this for ourselves and to make our egos feel good… okay, fine, I guess. That’s not why I do music.

I do music for my audience. I write music that I hope will make them feel things — because it makes me feel things. I write music to connect to people. I write music to make new music more accessible to the average listener.

Gee, humor makes people feel something. It makes them feel joy. It connects with people in ways that serious, “intellectual,” “I’m doing this for myself only” pieces can’t. It makes the music more accessible to anyone in the room.

Aren’t these the reasons we should all be doing music? For the audience? Because in my opinion, humor pretty darn well benefits the audience. And in my opinion, we shouldn’t shy away from it.

Humor isn’t something I’d ever considered putting into any of my pieces. But for my next collaboration, a piece for one of my friends from the festival, I’m basing it off an inside joke, and you can darn well bet you’ll see humor up on that stage.

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