Whether President Obama was your candidate or not, did you feel the energy and excitement generated during the inauguration January 20th? How did it make you feel? Did it give you hope and energy? His inaugural speech resonated strongly within me giving me much to ponder. I would like to share some of these thoughts with you as singers, teachers and performers. So here I go!!
Two points seemed to be reiterated over and over. If we remain fearful in life, apathy, boredom and depression set in and that is one way to be which doesn’t leave much room for joie de vivre and creativity. There is another side to that coin and this is the second point. Instead of blaming others or becoming discouraged, look for existing opportunities, or make your own, be responsible for your own life and what becomes of it. Go find, expand or create a community of like minds to share your service, strengths and curiosities with so you remain inspired about living your life out loud and on purpose to its fullest potential.
I have found that often when you leave the comfort of your old life, whether it has been a University setting or just a town you have become familiar with, and move on to what you perceive is the beginning of your big dream of having a singing career, most times the reality is you have to start all over again. It feels like everything you learned up to this point has been a waste of your time, energy and money because it is no longer relevant to this new reality. You feel like a beginner and often become afraid or just plain don’t want to start over again. It is not what you expected often overwhelming you with apathy and depression. Once you get over the initial shock, you realize that instead of making a living as a singer you have to now find a job to help support the next steps of your career. You have to not only pay rent, utilities and eat, but have the extra expense of paying for your voice lessons, coaching, etc. This is the time many people quit because it seems so daunting. There has been little or no preparation for the reality of what is required in the professional world of opera. You miss your old routine, the support team and aren’t familiar with how this new game is played. You now feel you have to compete not only with those in your school, but the whole singing world for a job. You can feel lost.
“Never confuse motion with action.”
~ Benjamin Franklin
Having a singing career might not be for you. Do you have the guts to ask your voice teacher, coaches, and lyric diction coach, etc., if they feel you potentially have the entire package that it will take to have a career? As I have said many times, it takes more than a beautiful voice to make this happen. You have to have technical facility, be self motivated, have the drive, able to make a real commitment and make your career the #1 priority on your list of things to do each day and be able to figure out how to play the game. It’s not like school where the plan of action was already decided by what grades, classes and teachers you had. The institution of education created your plan of action for schooling starting with kindergarten up through high school and into your university years. The outline of your education already existed as it did for everyone and you knew through listening to others kind of what to expect for next 16 – 20 years. Education was mandatory until you graduated from High School. After that, it was your choice as to what came next. You, probably with your parents, chose what happened for the next 4- 8 years of your education. You went on to a college or university or school of music. You may have been a little scared and uncomfortable in the beginning but soon you gained confidence as you figured out what the game was and how it was played. So now you have to do it all over again, that’s all. You know how long it took to get you to this moment and what you did and how you structured it, so you do have an outline to move forward. You only have to adjust it to fit where you are now and where you want to go.
Frequently singers in their haste to “make it” are willing to arrange auditions before they are ready on all fronts to do so. How could you possibly feel you have any chance of success at auditioning when you are not yet secure with your knowledge of what the game is and how it played? What happens when you don’t get that job from those auditioning? What happens when you don’t have a community with whom you can share your concerns and be comforted? You might fall into that place of apathy where you lose your motivation.
“Creative activity could be described as a type of learning process where teacher and pupil are located in the same individual.”
~ Arthur Koestler
Often we are encouraged to continue our education with a Masters or Doctorial Degree in Voice and Performing which puts one out into the “real” world in one’s late twenties or early thirties. If you want to become a teacher, a degree is necessary. However if you want a singing career, staying in school simply postpones the evitable of having to get out into the real world to truly understand what it takes to pursue your dream of having a professional singing career. Degrees usually don’t offer the kind of education and experience necessary for moving up the ladder in the professional performance world. That only comes when you have to step out of that comfort zone and find out for yourself what the real world of becoming a professional singer is all about. It takes gaining experience at this level to be able to understanding this process just like it did as you became a freshman in high school or at university.
So what do you do in the meantime to keep yourself motivated? In most cities there are a plethora of community performance opportunities that will give you not only experience trying your new skills without putting you in the spotlight, but will also present the opportunity to talk to and network with other singers at a similar experience level. That kind of communication is of paramount importance. Isolation, as we said before creates apathy, frustration, and depression. It’s always best to be in a one on one – face to face circumstance with others because there you can not only gain insight into what is being said by voice inflection, but you can expand your understanding by watching body language as well. Getting together with other singers regularly creates a magical energy that might be just what you need at that particular time to keep you going or maybe you pass it on to someone else who needs it. It’s a time for sharing thoughts, solutions, creating inspiration, even complaining and being honest about how you feel. You will quickly find you are not the lone ranger. This kind of physical human connection helps things get better.
“There are two primary choices in life; to accept conditions as they exist, or accept the responsibility for changing them.”
~ Denis Waitley: Quotes about Choice
How many times a week do you get together physically with a group of singers you have met who are all trying to make it and with whom you have rapport? Staying in touch via email, chat rooms, blogs, even by phone is also important, but there is something more immediate, open and visceral about being physically together. Here you get to be honest with yourself and stop pretending to others.
Here is what I would like you to try:
- Call or email as many of your singer friends and those that you feel are interested in supporting your singing career suggesting that you get together for coffee at some centrally located place or wherever you think everyone would feel comfortable. It’s a chance to just get together as a sort of support club for each other.
- Not everyone will be able to make it or will want to participate because they might not want to commit to a group gathering and that’s OK. However, when they learn how much fun you had and how helpful the gathering was they might want to be included next time.
- Even if there are only a few of you that can make it and who comes changes each time, make a commitment to getting together once a week, month, quarterly or whatever works best for the majority of you.
- Bring any information you have about web sites, blogs, publications, auditions, performance opportunities, etc with you and ask others to do the same. That way besides talking about your own experiences, you can exchange information and ask questions about others experiences with a particular company or program, competition, etc. Having information is powerful.
- Also, in between your get together, stay in touch by phone, email or whatever. This is called networking and is vital to finding the right opportunities for you and feeling vital and like you are contributing.
“Merely to exist is not enough.”
~ Rabindranath Tagore
So, know you are not alone. And it does take courage to commit to this kind of social gathering. It will become a part of your life you won’t regret. Finding or creating a group of like minded people with whom you can communicate once you are out on your own, helps achieve several things. It gives you an outlet to talk with others who understand what you are experiencing. It is a safe place to ask for help if you need it. We all learn from experience which can be your own or others. It allows you to see, hear, and feel what your future plan of action might be and then add your own variations. Belonging to a tribe is a very deep and instinctual part of who we are. The tangible energy of a gathering in person, not just online or on the phone, empowers, inspires and motivates you and because of its very nature you have gone out of your way to physically do something to start living your life out loud. It’s your choice to go out and not to just sit and click. Interactive conversation allows you to see body language, hear emotion, and you feel enthusiasm and tensions from the members of the group. It’s the difference between reading a book about skydiving and actually doing it. So, don’t allow yourself to become isolated because there is an easy solution to becoming unstuck and the ball, as they say, is now in your court.
“Nobody sees a flower, really — it is so small — we haven’t time, and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.”
~ Georgia O’Keeffe