As everyone knows, audition season is upon us. Are you ready? And really, what does that mean? There are so many theories out there about how to deal with the stress, anxiety and fear often times associated with the actual doing of this process. I want to throw my hat into the ring with some ideas that may help you avoid getting off course which usually causes one to choke, crash and burn.
When you think about auditioning, do you care too much about impressing others and kind of let your inner voice, “the Brat” as I like to call it, take over just at that all important moment? I don’t know one performer who hasn’t experienced that particular state. Not a fun place to be at such an important time. It’s especially annoying when you feel you have done all the necessary work leading up to this moment. However, have you included the most important part of preparing? I’m talking about the inner art of performing, what’s going on inside your brain. That’s where the real work needs to take place to keep you on point and able to deliver your best. We are expected in our society to instinctually know “how to” parent a child or cook well. Performing well also falls into this category. And as we all know we get the hang of all these things first by example and second by actually having to do them over and over again, experiencing and noting what went right and what went wrong then making corrections. So …….. what to do? How does one look at and work with the inner self to gain more calm, control, and positive outcomes and shorten the learning curve?
W. Timothy Gallwey in his revolutionary book, “The Inner Game of Tennis”, concentrated on how to improve the performance of a player through psychological methods, rather than physical training. This kind of thinking has spilled over into many genres and I want you to think about how this might aid you in becoming more proficient when auditioning or performing. It involves knowing you have done the work to prepare vocally, artistically, and language wise for this opportunity. You have also done your homework to find the right venue for your entry level of performance when sending out your materials. And your materials are up to snuff professionally evoking your brand. In other words, you have created a clear picture of who you are and what action those listening to your audition can expect from you as a performer. Now, can you deliver?
Here are some ideas that might help you leave “the Brat” at home and allow you to be fully present at your audition.
“Never be satisfied with what you achieve, because it all pales in comparison with what you are capable of doing in the future.” – Rabbi Nochem Kaplan
Often times we add tremendous pressure on ourselves by thinking we have to always deliver our A+ game. It is better to think in terms of achieving your optimal level of performance. That leaves room for a possible unexpected moment of inspiration and also allows you to leave those high, high expectations out of the equation. You want to show others what you can deliver every time, not some idealistic idea of what you might be able to achieve in 1 out of every 1000 performances or auditions. Remember that those auditioning you want you to do well. They want to hire someone. They also want to see, hear, and feel your brand and meet your talent to see if it is what they are looking for. When we try too hard to impress or care too much about getting this job, it is easy to for the ego, “the Brat” to start that internal chatter that overtakes the reason we are there in the first place, to be calm, collected, show our brand, and optimize our opportunity to get the job. When auditioning or performing have you ever thought in terms of allowing the sound and emotion to come through you rather than from you? This adds value to not only your life, but to those receiving as well. Think of it as your contribution to healing the earth and all its inhabitants with the sound waves of your voice. It’s like a balm filled with love, joy, calm, and happiness. What could be better? Make this your job.
“Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice; it is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved. ” – William Jennings Bryan
Have you ever heard the expression, “Act as if…?” Here’s a little exercise to try. Ask yourself:
- How would I stand if I were confident? Stand confidently right now for a few minutes.
- How would I walk if I were confident? Walk confidently right now for a few minutes.
- How would I move my body if I were confident? Move your body confidently right now for a few minutes.
- How would I enter the room if I were confident? Enter a room with confidence right now.
- How would I introduce myself if I were confident? Introduce yourself out loud with confidence right now.
- How would I perform if I were confident? Perform with confidence right now.
- How would I feel being confident? Think about this for a few minutes, right now and continue to use this technique every minute of every day as you move forward.
“We have to act our way into a new way of thinking rather than think our way into a new way of acting. ” – Unknown
Performing or auditioning is not a life or death situation so lighten up and “Act as if”. Going through this process allows your mind to focus on how great it would be if you were confident. Your mind starts to like these new confident feelings and will want to achieve them more often in all parts of your life. And as we all know practice makes perfect. (Of course this assumes you are practicing the right things.)
- Remembering that you are more than what you do helps you achieve a more balanced life. Sure, as successful performers or really being successful at anything requires us to do lots of specialized work. The majority of your time, energy, and money are spent on improving the odds of reaching your potential. However, by concentrating only on building your singing career, thinking of and doing nothing else, will undoubtedly create a lopsided life style. What would happen if, god forbid, you had to end your dream of having a singing career unexpectedly? Would you be able to cope? Think about what you might want to do in the event that something like this should happen.
- My chosen field of performance is: ____________
- A complimentary field that could hold my interest is: ____________
- What other of my interests can I explore which could provide me with income and a sense of joy: ______________
Even if you aren’t sure of what you might do if circumstances should compel you to change career direction, it’s good to open your mind to new avenues of though about other opportunities and interests you might discover. Just because you start exploring other parts of your potential don’t think that it will take anything away from your chosen career path of performing. It’s an opportunity to explore further who you are and what other talents and abilities you possess. It allows you to know you are more than what you do.
“Live with intention. Walk to the edge. Listen hard. Practice wellness. Play with abandon. Laugh. Choose with no regret. Continue to learn. Appreciate your friends. Do what you love. Live as if this is all there is.” – Mary Anne Hershey
Laughter is the best medicine for many things. It increases the oxygen levels in your blood, is a stress buster, boosts the immune system, gives relief to depression, anxiety, and anger, helps regulate your blood pressure and can even significantly reduce cold and flu symptoms so says Jon Gorrie in his new book “Performing in the Zone”. So once again, lighten up! Don’t hold those fears, anxieties, anger, and stress so tightly to you that they squeeze the life out of you leaving no room for the Universe to work its magic.
Try this when you start feeling any of the above mentioned feelings associated with auditioning or performing or in any part of your daily life: Put both arms up in the air above your head and wave your arms and hands around as you start with a smile and then break into silly, uncontrollable laughter. It really works. If you are someplace where that action would be inappropriate, simply turn the corners of your mouth up into a smile, and notice how it changes your mood and even those around you.
Creating a performance ritual can help get you into the “Zone” before a performance or audition. This is a technique that most serious athletes use on a regular basis. The champion New Zealand rugby team prior to every game in front of the opposing team, performs their tribal dance to arouse their confidence and in doing so, puts the fear of God into the other team. The idea is to get to that great performance state of mind. If what you do already works, do it! If you don’t have a ritual and would like to try one here is one to consider.
Breath awareness is a great ritual to use. When carrying out this exercise, breathe in and out through your nose and do so deeply and slowly being totally aware of the exchange of breath and feelings. Close your eyes and let the mind and body come to rest. Breathe the word calm into your body, exhale the word tense, and repeat 5 times. Next breathe the word confident into your body and exhale the word fear repeating 5 times. Breathe in the word courage and exhale the word worry repeating 5 times. Breathe your favorite color into your body and watch it become richer and deeper with each inhale and exhale repeating 5 times. Open your eyes continuing to be aware of your slow and complete breathing and the state you are now in. This ritual can be done anywhere at anytime for any situation. The idea is to get you into your “Zone.”
“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” – Plato
And last but not least is understanding that one of the main reasons we feel uncomfortable at auditions is because it seems to become about them out there against us up here. So I want you to invite those listening to you into your personal space. Our personal space is a real and measurable entity. It is the electromagnetic field each of us uses to either include or exclude others and is strongest from our bodies to about an arms length outward and continues to extend out into the universe. It is a powerful tool that I created years ago for myself which I use to this day with great success. This tool can also be used when it comes time to meet and greet others in any situation. Here is a great tool to try at your next audition, performance, or networking event.
Before you try my tool in an audition, performance or networking event you will need to practice it so it becomes easy and comfortable. Imagine a large carpet, your magic carpet. Try several colors until you find one that works for you. Notice if it has a pattern on it, fringe on the ends, is thin, plush, or perhaps sculpted. Is it an oriental carpet, made of wool, cotton, silk or is it synthetic? Get as detailed as you can as you stand on it and admire it. Once you have that firmly in mind, here’s what I want you to practice: Imagine doing an audition. Literally walk into the audition space giving your music to the accompanist. Then walk to the spot where you will be singing. Imagine your magic carpet. See its color, and design, hear the sound it makes as you walk on it, and feel its texture. The size of the carpet will be as wide and deep as the room or theater you are in. You and the accompanist will be on one end of your magic carpet. You will find that the carpet is rolled up from the back of the room resting just at your feet. Once you have all that clearly in mind, and this needs to be practiced many times before using it in an audition so the process moves at a normal pace, look down at the carpet taking the time to really see it, then give it a little kick. Watch it intently as it rolls out past those listening to the very back of the room and allow your eyes to closely follow it as if your look is helping to move it to the back wall of this space. Once it has hit the back wall, allow your eyes to continue moving about a third of the way up the back wall. Notice how you are standing and how confident and strong you feel. (In the beginning this will feel like it takes an eternity to accomplish and your “Brat” might start some of its internal chatter. With continued practice in front of your friends, you will start to get into the grove with it and feel comfortable.) Your accompanist will know when to begin playing as he/she sees your head slowly come up and will recognize the authority and calm you feel as you become ready to perform. Again notice as you practice this, how confident and collected you feel. There is no longer the separation between those listening and you because with the gesture of rolling your magic carpet out beyond those listening, you have literally invited them into your personal space. Those listening will definitely feel your presence. It works like a charm but only if you practice it on your friends and family and then actually use it until it just becomes another part of your audition routine. This can also be used in performance venues. It just takes a really large rug and the part you are going to be standing on at one end will be a larger portion of the magic carpet.
In conclusion let me leave you with this ancient Greek legend that was as true in the antiquity as it is today. Remember that it is almost always about the person inside the singer that needs to be nurtured, remembered, and cherished.
God 1: “Let us put the answers to life on top of a mountain. They will never look for them there” Other Gods: “No! They will find them right away.”
God 2: “Let us put the answers to life in the centre of the Earth.” Other Gods: “No! They will find them right away.”
God 3: “Let us put the answers to life at the bottom of the sea. They will never look for them there.” Other Gods: “No! They will find them right away.”
God 4: “Let us put the answers to life within them. They will never look there.” And so they did.
Ciao and Avanti until next time,