After giving a workshop with some marvellous young singers yesterday this came up - why are you singing that?
Granted this workshop was for Music Theatre Audition Basics, but it pertains to all of us...
Why do you sing what you sing? And where do you sing it?
Some things are purely for your soul - and you would never make that public because it is for your private enjoyment. Some things are for technical development. Some things are for artistic development. Some things are for auditions, some things are for performance. Some things are for nothing more than you love to sing it.
Recognizing the differences is such an important step to understanding who you are as an artist and who you are as a performer pursuing a career.
If you are auditioning, planning on auditioning, the decisions you make on repertoire for that audition need to show what you CAN DO NOW. Not what you wish to do, hope to do, think you should be able to do. What can you DO???
What does that knowledge assume? It assumes you know what your voice does. That is a huge assumption. Learn to love your voice with all its glory and foibles, but as with ANY love relationship, recognizing the TRUTH is also important.
If you are choosing audition material - deciding what to sing MUST show something positive/good/GREAT about you - your voice, your acting, your personality! It should NEVER show what you don't want them to see...
Again, KNOWING what you don't want them to see takes an honesty that is sometimes difficult to swallow, but if you want to build craft and pursue a career then you MUST be honest.
Having an outside ear - teacher, coach, class - that you trust is going to critique and give constructive criticism and then a direction to go to create a positive and focused balance is NECESSARY.
I often ask singers "Why did you choose that?" I don't leave it there...I want them to begin the quest of decision-making in order to discover what makes the best fit for them. Usually the songs I ask that of, the answer is ambiguous or not focused enough for the task. "Cause I like it" doesn't make it a good fit for an audition or public consumption. "Like" is for private consumption first!
What does your voice do well? Find the fit of repertoire from there for public consumption.
Your private practicing and development, your studio time with your teacher and/or coach - these are the places to show what you are working toward. These times NEVER should be entering into a public space for others to criticize or make decisions about.
"You aren't ready" can't devastate you if you made the decision to take it into public space - audition, jury, performance, whatever. You showed you weren't ready by making that decision! Your disappointment shouldn't be with the response, but rather, with your lack of awareness in your ability to see where you are and what you can DO.
Less is more. Seriously! You don't have to show EVERYTHING. Make a simplified decision in order to be strong and focused in that room and it will resonant in the minds of the panel, audience etc.
Learning about what your voice does NOW and what you are working on to develop gives you a place to start. Repertoire can change!!!! It should!!!
Self-delusion is a form of stress management, but sadly, it can also keep the truth away from the one person who needs it the most - the singer. Everybody else can see it and hear it, and the singer has created a world to protect him/herself. This is the singer that blames everybody else for not getting the job, not getting the callback, not developing...
Truth is a hard one sometimes - but truth doesn't have to knock you down! It should illuminate a place to be and a point of departure.
Truth gives us a reality in which to inhabit fully - and get to work!!! It may reveal precisely what you don't WANT to do - and in finding that, it shows what is possible.
Show what you DO, which means, find out what you are capable of and where you are honestly in your craft and technique and artistry.
Self doubt is part of the process. Artists need to ask the hard questions of themselves and wonder and discover. However, as the process begins to unfold, you discover and the doubt can disappear because the choices are clearer.
Show what you DO in public! Continue to explore what you can't yet, in private. That's where it all belongs!
GET TO WORK!