Saturday, April 3, 2010

What Defines You?

Saturday musings...

This question came up this weekend and I thought I would ponder it here...

What defines you?

Is it a role? Your mix? Your high notes? Your look? Your dramatic chops? Your comedic timing? Your low notes? A style? A genre? A language? A composer?

When you find that definition, it feels like you are home. People say "of course!" and all feels well in the world.

But if you continue to stay dishonest, not enquire, delude, pretend, hide, make excuses, the definition of YOU because obscured, and often obliterated.

Are you finding a defining factor and building on that, or are you caught in a book of 16 bar cuts, or a confused set of audition arias that is lukewarm at best and desperate at worst?

What defines you NOW may not be what will define you eventually. However, NOW is what matters to allow for the journey to continue. Definition takes time, observation, decision, and a large dose of reality.

Accepting WHAT YOU HAVE is enlightening - not disappointing. If you know what you have, you can develop it to its fullest. It can truly be YOU - not a watered-down version of something else;

YOU ARE ENOUGH if you develop honesty, work ethic and purpose to find it and develop it fully.

Don't deceive yourself! Just because you can sing the notes, doesn't mean you can sing the role!
Just because you think you can belt, doesn't mean you ARE.

Just because...just because...doesn't make it reality nor will it define you positively.

If the definition of you has become negative or has turned against you - please please PLEASE stop right NOW and re-assess. If you are trying to do something that isn't you - whether it's technical, voice type, true ability, attitude - it is going to turn on you quickly and define you in the business in a way that often cannot be changed. Even if YOU change, that definition can follow you for years!

If there simply is NO definition - then you are swallowed by the room. You are not standing apart. You NEED to find that definition and lead with it!


what defines you needs development. Again, the potential of definition is only potential unless you are willing to develop it.

This requires honesty, work, and no excuses.

If you could be a fantastic Queen of the Night, then why not define yourself with that? Why would you NOT work on that and BE fantastic? If the Queen could define you, why wouldn't you do it?

If your mix is textural, pliable, balanced and is developing colour and intensity - why would you mimic somebody else when YOU could set the standard and definition of mix with YOUR voice?

If your dramatic intelligence is naturally available and deep - why would you pretend to dismiss it and just play "jazz hands"? Why wouldn't you develop it, claim it, and LEAD with it?

If your are okay at certain repertoire and shine in others - why wouldn't you let that SHINE come on through? Why can't we work on things that need work, and polish the innate beauty and possibility to definition?

Dismissing is just as unhealthy as dishonesty.

A singer recently said to me, after over-singing out of fach "But it SHOULD be work, I shouldn't be relaxed and comfortable. It should hurt."


Yes, it's work - dramatically, physically, emotionally, spiritually, psychologically, technically, - but once the work has been done, we DEFINE it with recognition!!

What's wrong with trying something on and letting it FIT?!?!?! Wear the size that FITS YOU!

Honesty and Definition walk hand in hand.

THIS takes work. Sometimes the answers are hard to deal with, but I promise you - the answers, once reconciled, will give you permission to DEFINE YOURSELF with ease!

If you can find definition and not wishful thinking, you are well on your way to discover where you need to be. Then it's a matter of discovering HOW to do that.

Don't get lost in hype, as there is no definition there.

Don't get wrapped in excuses, as there is no definition there.

Don't clock yourself in dishonesty, mimicking, pretending, as the definition is not yours.

Begin to discover your definition.

Where are you technically? What defines you here?

Where are you dramatically? What defines you here?

Where are you musically? What defines you here?

Where are you stylistically? Genre?

This is just the beginning of definition...

You will never be able to acknowledge the defining factor of YOU until you discover what YOU can do - honestly, without excuses.

If what defines you right now is confusion, excuses and whining - it's the perfect time to begin the real work.

If what defines you right now, scares you to death - it's the perfect time to release the fear.

If what defines you right now, makes you giggle or get excited, then perhaps you are on the right track!

Don't hide it - from yourself or from the rest of us. Claim the definition and release it!


  1. This is a very thoughtful post, Susan. I love your expansive list of where someone might be now and the corresponding direction to the way forward.

    Also, reassessment can be important. It's so important to know that things can change with each person as well as with presenters, for example. Voices develop along the way, for instance, and may go in a different direction than the initial guesstimate.

  2. This is a great post!

    Can I add that the only person who can really define us is us? A teacher or a coach or a director can offer assistance, but it's up to us to do the research and be honest with ourselves.

    It can be so hard when we're used to looking to teachers and coaches and directors as they're, in theory, the one who knows more/best, right?

    I know for me, it's taken -years- to get comfortable with who I am as a singer because I had one program director once say to me 'You'll never sing anything bigger than Olympia'. I still have that voice in the back of my head every time I look at my current repertoire -- the repertoire I am getting hired to sing and the repertoire that works. It's so hard to quiet that voice if we have them and really be honest and say 'Ok...but, I really sing Donna Anna/Konstanze/Violetta so much better than I ever sang Olympia!'.

    I think a lot of the school programs place so much emphasis on the 'I know better than you' mentality as far as teachers towards the students and there isn't much encouragement to do research on one's own in regards to that. Because of that, as a student, unless we are driven to start doing that self-assessment and research on our own, we're basically told not to do anything and rely on those teachers to 'know best'...and often, they have their own agendas or just don't know any better or don't want to say anything negative to the student.

    I'm personally very thankful that I have a couple of coaches whom I trust to be brutally honest with me. Besides myself, they are the only other opinions I really listen to.

  3. Duffy - that's the point isn't it? WE discover WHAT defines us?

    And what I hate is "You will never sing anything bigger than Olympia" - as if that Olympia is awful and bigger is better.

    WE NEED ALL VOICE TYPES AND FACHS!!!! Bigger is NOT better...

    What you are in what you are - with no apologies - unless you don't develop it.

  4. Susan that was awesome. I felt like I turned a corner recently when I just decided to sing with 'my' voice. I thought I had always been doing this but realized recently that the 'bigger is better' mentality always creeps into my mind and I find myself 'trying' for volume. A couple of days ago I just decided to stop it and just sing, easily, comfortabily..and this perfectly placed voice came out! It was pingy and much bigger than it was when I was actively trying to make it bigger. I was even able to sing Der Holle Rache twice through where I used to touch it every few months and give up half way through because I was yelling through it. I then watched some videos of Arleen Auger on YouTube (whose voice I have always loved) and watched her sing and she seems to be doing the same thing which is just letting it 'be'. she doesnt force anything out..she doesnt try...and obviously the tech has to be there before you can let all that artifice go. I hope I'm getting to that stage now...about freekin' time!!! :D
    Love you!