Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Capacity for Honesty

Wednesday musings...

As artists, we are striving for truth.  Truth in our craft, our artistry, our level of performance, how we live our lives.  However, in all this pursuit, do we somehow lose the objectivity of honesty with self? Or do we allow ourselves to find it?

The capacity to be honest with self is not the same as being insecure or second-guessing ourselves. Not at all.  Nor does the seemingly secure and focused one actually have the capacity to be REAL with what they offer. Honesty must happen within a learned objectivity.

It's an interesting balance.  It is not about beating yourself up, nor is it about looking for reassurance from others to validate your talent.  It is about developing a sense of objectivity of one's ability, one's talent, and how it develops and where it lives and how it best serves.

Stripping the desire away to look at the actual being of you takes guts.  This takes true determination and will and sense of self.  It may at first look like a frightening thing, and yet, not to get cliche, the truth could set you free.

Just because you WANT to sing something, doesn't make it a good idea.  Now, if you want to go out and karaoke with your friends, or sing it in your shower or in your living room because it makes you feel good, then great, go for it.  But if you are trying to build a career, wouldn't it make sense to sing and present yourself in a way that shows YOU in the best possible light - to get hired and to get noticed in a positive way?  

Do you want to keep presenting yourself and material that will not be taken seriously just because you WANT to sing that song or that aria?

This happens in all aspects of our business - I am thinking primarily of music theatre and opera.  I see it again and again.  And I see the extremes - the artists who have so much ability, choose appropriate material and can deliver it - and yet are so insecure in their ability because they second-guess more than they claim! Then the other extreme, performers who have much more ambition than talent, have the audacity to choose material that is not appropriate and don't understand why they don't get hired.  

Notice, I made a distinction between artist and performer.  Sometimes they are both, and sometimes they are not.  

An artist must be emotionally, psychically, and spiritually available to him/herself to discover that bared naked honesty.  Others are not. They may SAY they are artists, but artists REVEAL - to others, and ultimately to SELF.

Your teachers and coaches may be honest with you - but until you, as an artist, have the capacity to accept that honesty in yourself, you will never be able to truly find out what your capacity is and where your place is.  How you do fit into this business? How do you find your way? 

Ultimately the choice is yours. If you ask my opinion, I will give it to you.  Be careful what you ask for!  

But if you are wanting to sing something just because you like it - and it truly doesn't serve your talent nor your ability, I just wonder what drives that desire? We can't always have everything we want.  Surprise!  Suck it up.  If you want to be an artist, that means being an INDIVIDUAL that bring his/her own unique talent and development and discovery to the table.  It is not about wishing or would-a could-a should-a.  It is being REAL WITH SELF.  It is about questioning, acknowledging, recognizing, developing, nurturing, questioning again, discovering, claiming, re-claiming, and re-discovering again.

The capacity for honesty with self MUST happen to allow the TRUTH of an authentic artistic life.  If not, we are just pretending.



  1. Susan, Once again (or should I say "once more with feeling?") you have nailed an important distinction that opens the eyes!

    When I was in school as an acting major I witnessed so much of the one extreme. As you say it: "performers who have much more ambition than talent, have the audacity to choose material that is not appropriate and don't understand why they don't get hired."

    I was so horrified at what I observed to be a lack of honesty, that I became afraid. Afraid that I would do something like that.

    What I didn't know was that because of FEAR, I swang to an equally dishonest position. The one you describe as "so insecure in their ability because they second-guess more than they claim!"

    In trying to run away from something, I chose the other extreme.

    Sometimes honesty means stepping up to the plate!

  2. thanks Frescamari! Indeed it does!

  3. Personally, I love honesty. I hate it when people are lying to me. I am that way on about everything.

    There are times that I don't like what is said. Depending on what a teacher says to me, I may quickly decide that they are the wrong teacher for me. If someone decides that I should be singing for long periods of time in a part of my range that I have to force and wants those notes up front, I am gone. If someone wants me to perform extreme notes forte, I am gone. If someone explains why they want something that is uncomfortable and doesn't beat around the bush, I might get a second opinion if I really disagree but I will not immediately leave.

    I have wasted too much time playing with fools (please note that fool is relative and someone who might butcher my voice might be great for someone else) who have no clue what my voice is while waiting for them to wise up. My first passaggio is an F4 and I don't always sing up to it. My voice is androgynous on any pitch though a bit less so in raw chest. Someone who thinks that I might be a dramatic tenor is a complete moron (sorry for the strong words).

    Personal honesty is nice too. I like to pretend to be a supreme expert on everything and I pick up information really quick but besides having an interesting vocal type, I really can not sing and it will probably be a while til I can. I just need the patience and motivation to work through it. Being really high for a tenor, does not mean that my passaggios are any kinder or that I am in some way super-human. I do not have one of these miracle voices with no breaks whatsover that goes from low bass soaring to notes well above Adam Lopez's C#8. I still have to work for things TANSTAAFL. I also need to make sure that I don't blame others for issues of my own that I am unwilling to face or that I just am not ready to hear. I should consider all possibilities but I should consider them only as possibilities until the truth is revealed.

    I need to keep things to facts rather the conjecture. I am an unusually high tenor. That is a fact but my specific legit range and tessitura or TBD. I think I have a pretty good idea of what my approximate vocal type is but I do not know anything for certain and I probably won't know for a while. I hate haute contre. There are so many frauds and when you look at the conditions surrounding so many of us, sometimes it is questionable whether any of us are legitimate. I don't know whether I qualify as a legitimate unusually high "tenor". I am not even sure I am a legitimate "male". I obviously have some male vocal quality but.. *sigh* All the haute contre's I have met have some issues that make them suspicious.

    I guess with my problems it is just nice to cut through all the bs. I had bad edema a couple months ago and both my extreme lows and and head notes I had were gone. My cords were just not connecting anywhere. It was frightening and my steps to make the problem better made it worse. I need to quit trying to fix myself. I may be the expert elsewhere but not here.