Having a beautiful voice, amazing vocal technique, natural facility for languages and an intrinsic instinct for drama are just part of the many skills needed to facilitate a singing career. I have heard from many singers this summer who, even thought they have those elements in place, have run into some real difficulties they hadn’t anticipated that have to do with the people they were working with and not knowing how to handle themselves in a professional manner without allowing it to become emotional and personal.
I can’t stress enough how very important it is to “know thyself” from the inside out, at the core. This allows one to let go of all those old hurtful stories that come to mind that are keeping you stuck in an unnecessary emotional fury. It allows you to let go of those no longer needed behaviors and habits that are on some automatic pilot program you feel you have no control over. You don’t have to add one more bobble to your string of “see I told you so”, on your preverbal “stupid” necklace that keeps you in stuck in your emotions. Instead, you can learn to listen when that inner voice, your “Brat” starts talking to you in your head and learn to anticipate and either stop or redirect the conversation before it even gets started. You can learn to notice that ball of emotional turmoil that starts welling up inside when you feel out of control or put down, leaving you feeling un-affective, drained and unprofessional.
“The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right time, but also to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment. ”
Having personal skills and tools isn’t a magic spell that gets cast by Tinkerbelle sprinkling enchanted dust on you. It’s something you have to consistently work on by becoming very aware of the present moment. You learn to be awake and conscious moment by moment. This is when you have the opportunity to notice the triggers that start the process of how you inner “Brat” works and how your emotional reaction starts to manifest itself. If you can recognize these triggers when they first appear, you can start making conscious choices about how you want the situation or event to unfold. You can be in charge by choosing to take action or not as the situation warrants and do so without trying to second guess and expect a certain outcome. You will be in control of your behavior. You will never be able to predict or control someone else’s emotions and behavior but by growing and becoming more of who you are at your core, you have an opportunity to influence others simply by becoming the example, the model of your core beliefs. I’m sure you have experienced this when you are around someone you admire and respect. They are not doing anything extraordinary. They are just being themselves and those around respond positively. You like being in their presence because you are influenced by their behavior and habits in a way that allows you to be better at being you.
“You can clutch the past so tightly to your chest that it leaves your arms too full to embrace the present.”
~ Jan Glidewell
Yes, in the beginning it is a lot of work because we are not used to being awake, alert and conscious. We are for the most part, deep in our thinking brain, which is a lovely tool, but is not the complete picture. We also have an intellect that runs most of our auto pilot programs like breathing, eyes blinking, skin sweating, heart beating and spleen doing whatever a spleen does, voice box making sounds, etc. We don’t have to worry or think about all of that. Science has proven that the right and left hemisphere of our brains work on different aspects of our lives and who we are. We of course, use both sides of our brain all the time, but usually not consciously. And there are other physical parts of us that are involved in the thinking process.
Gary Schwartz, professor of psychology at U of A and Linda Russek of Heart Science Foundation have discovered that 60% of our heart cells are neural cells and function similarly to our neural brain cells. Imagine the implications of that! We can think with our hearts. Mae-Wan Ho of the Institute of Science in Society says our heart produces an electromagnetic field 5000 times stronger than the brain. This electromagnetic field is strongest from body’s surface to 18” away continuing on indefinitely into space like radio waves. I like to call this our personal space. It allows us to let others in or keep them out.
“The human heart feels things the eyes cannot see, and knows what the mind cannot understand.”
~ Robert Valett
Here’s how the scientists say this system works. When we come in contact with someone else, our hearts electromagnetic field entrains with the other person’s heart electromagnetic field. In other words, both of our fields touch and overlap each other. There is a rapid exchange of information resulting in raised heart function, rush of hormones and change in physiology. Dialogue begins. How cool is that? Now you know why you can often read someone else’s mood or get a vibe from someone you don’t even know. This is something we all do all the time without being conscious of it. When you understand this kind of exchange, you have a tool to use in helping yourself feel more comfortable when interacting with others. All you have to do is first feel your personal electromagnetic field, extend it outward, and then invite others into this personal space of yours. Here you are free to be yourself; to be productive and professional.
Remaining professional in a working situation is not always easy to accomplish as one might think. Here are a few tips to help you become better at doing so.
“To free us from the expectations of others, to give us back to ourselves–there lies the great, singular power of self-respect.”
~ Joan Didion
- Never get involved in company politics. Be friendly, remain professional and don’t gossip.
- If you are new to the professional world, become a consummate observer. Watch, listen and learn what works and what doesn’t.
- Never show your weakest point. Don’t try to appear less than you really are. Don’t give your power away.
- Know that nothing should be taken personally. You are there to do a job and there will criticism of your work, but not of you personally. You need to be flexible and capable of making adjustments for any changes as they occur.
- Dress like you matter. Even if there is casualness in rehearsals, dress like you are going to work as a professional.
- Don’t be a diva! No one likes a diva and you won’t be hired back.
“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.”
~ M. Kathleen Casey
- In a rehearsal, if there is something like tempi or blocking that just isn’t working for you, ask the conductor or stage director if you can have a few minutes of their time in private to talk to them about it. Keep it professional and not whiney, emotional or personal. Most times there will be a compromise and you will get at least a portion of what you want. So be gracious and flexible; make it work for you.
- Always come prepared with music and words memorized. Know as much as you can about the composer, the time period in which composer lived and also the time period of the piece you will be singing. Create a detailed character chart for your particular character as there is often not time for talking about motivation or characters relationships. This will give you confidence and you will appear more professional.
- If you start feeling emotional about a situation, simply take one step back away from the emotion you are feeling and leave it over there. That will allow you to look at the situation for what it is, permitting you to take action if necessary or not. Here is another opportunity to practice being professional.
- Present and represent your Personal Brand at all times.
- Singing is a business; you are the product, so honor both and remember that this whole enchilada in the end is about creating and maintaining relationships.
“ Life does not consist mainly—or even largely—of facts and happenings. It consists mainly of the storm of thoughts that is forever blowing through one’s head.”
~ Mark Twain
There is no time like the present to either start or reenergize getting to know the person inside the singer. It is a life long journey of gaining experience and learning from our mistakes and failures. As my friend Ken Benson, VP of Columbia Artist Management says, “It is essential for singers to truly understand and develop their own unique personal gifts; not only to develop them, but to hold true to them throughout the ups and downs of a performing career.” The more you know yourself, the more you have to draw on as a professional artist. So remain curious about who you are deep inside and stay awake and alert. You don’t want to miss anything life has to give you. You want to be ready for everything that comes your way. Enjoy the journey.
Ciao until next time. Carol
If you have a particular subject you would like to see discussed, just drop me a line at [email protected]