Saturday, September 12, 2009

Taking Charge

Saturday evening musings...

Taking charge of your development as a singer has come up in different forms this week.  Why are some singers so stubborn that they refuse to see who they stand in front of and who can help them discover their potential?  And then, why are some singers so timid they feel they need to ask permission to explore their potential?

These are the extremes perhaps, but we see singers that fall into each category and many categories in between.

Has it become the culture of the study of singing to relinquish your intelligence to the person in front of you?  Or has it become the culture of the study of singing to challenge and reject everything the person in front of you, just to prove...what?!

I believe it encouraging and empowering the spirit of artistry - however, let me make it clear:  it is IMPERATIVE each singer recognizes WHERE THEY ARE in the process of development!  Ironically, I often see the timidity and relinquishing coming from singers who actually have more knowledge and understanding of their instruments than they give themselves credit, and often see the attitude and challenge coming from the singers who don't know much yet...

There is no magic bullet in discovering your potential and your ability in your craft.  Whether you are insecure and it comes across as ego, or insecure and it comes across as weak, the key to discovering your potential and your ability in your craft is simply this: WORK.

Singing, developing the craft of singing, the skill of singing, the art of singing, the artistry of singing, takes WORK.  Physical work; intellectual work; emotional work; spiritual work; temperamental work!

Often, those singers who are most "successful" are those whose temperament balances the desire to learn and to be honest and to grow! These temperaments are not followers, but are often stubborn!!!   This stubbornness can move in different ways - can enhance, and can get in the way - but ultimately the desire to WORK and not allow "no" for an answer allows that singer an opportunity to DISCOVER SOMETHING about themselves and their craft!!

We have discussed finding the right teacher "fit" and how that changes throughout your career;  but we also must address the work and responsibility each singer must bring to their study and to the lesson itself.  Do you challenge instead of question?  Challenge YOURSELF, question your teacher to find the REASONS so you CAN challenge yourself!

A teacher or coach or conductor etc has AUTHORITY but they do not have power over you!  You choose to relinquish power or not;  I respectfully suggest you keep your power and recognize the authority.  If you find yourself challenging the authority, perhaps this is not a good match - and the "fit" of teacher/singer; coach/singer might have more to do with YOUR attitude as singer, than it does the teacher's.  Perhaps as you push, the teacher releases; Is that something that works for your development? Perhaps as you push, the teacher pushes back!!  Perhaps the AUTHORITY CHALLENGES YOU!  Are you up to the challenge? Are you willing to be challenged? Can you take what you dish out?

Take responsibility for what you take into your studies.  And then figure out HOW TO WORK.  Your "authorities" do not do the work for you.  They create a space to learn, they provide a knowledge and a basis to discover it - and then YOU THE SINGER must DO YOUR WORK and MAKE IT WORK!!

The timid singer in study who is needy often does not have the self-challenge but rather the self-defeating personality.  This is as damaging as the over-confidence of the challenging singer!  The timid singer needs to learn to WORK and TAKE CHARGE OF SELF or will either be steered and taken advantage of, or will disappear completely.  Authority will either mistreat their authority, or dismiss the singer completely.

It is up to EACH singer to find out WHERE THEY ARE in the psyche and WHERE THEY NEED TO BE!!! In this discovery, the singer needs to recognize their responses and their excuses;  their stubbornness and their pliability; their ability to see and their ability to diffuse;  their ability to recognize authority and delegate that appropriately; their ability to recognize power and strength and know the difference!

We are human. We make mistakes.  We make a CHOICE to fix or change that mistake.  If we have choice to make a change, we have a choice to see the truth about ourselves and our study and where we are!  The truth isn't always comfortable.  Singing isn't always comfortable.  Reality isn't always comfortable.

But if you call yourself an artist - you are RESPONSIBLE to REVEAL TRUTH about the world as it is reflected in your art.  If this is your responsibility, then the truth begins in you and about you!  YOU must be truthful about WHERE YOU ARE and what you NEED and WHERE YOU SEEK IT!

If you are with a teacher that does not challenge you in a way that you need - why are you there? If you are overly-sensitive to constructive criticism and your teacher is abusive, why are you there? If you have a question and you don't ask it, why are you there? If you know you are doing something incorrectly, why are you doing that?!?!?

Why are you not seeking ANSWERS to create the truth?!?!?!!?

This is your responsibility!!! The answers that are esoteric to organic to physical technical behavior are YOUR RESPONSIBILITY!!!! Ultimately, YOU FIND YOUR OWN ANSWERS! If you do not, you cannot claim them.  If you cannot claim them, they were never yours.

Singing and the journey of singing is WORK.  It tasks you.  It is YOUR WORK. It is not the work of your teacher or coach.  They will provide the framework.  They will encourage.  They will challenge.  They will create safety in which to explore.

You, the singer, MUST DO THE WORK.  NO EXCUSES.  No complaining.  No work equals no true knowledge and understanding.  

Real champions get mad and they WORK HARDER!!! They don't give up!  They get mad, dig in, and FIND THE ANSWERS FOR THEMSELVES!!!

Yes, find your "team" - but more importantly, FIND YOU.  WORK AT YOU!  Dare to be honest with yourself, dare to get mad and DEMAND FROM YOURSELF THE BEST YOU HAVE!!!

1 comment:

  1. How true. I spent yesterday afternoon with a colleague selecting repertoire for an upcomming recital. Our list was too big, too small, after a lot of negotiations, my colleague reminded me of repertoire that I should be brave and offer repertoire that includes Bach and Handel on our recital.

    in my younger years, I sang a lot of Baroque Music with MY voice, not with the voice that a lot of people associate with Baroque music. I found the message from the religious text to be soothing and comforting when the music was full of ornaments and long melisma. My colleague reminded me of how much I loved that music and was quite good at it, yet, rarely offered it in recital.

    I agreed to schedule Bach in our joint recital and this morning, while making more Tomato Sauce, I practiced Herr Bach's Kantate and Aria and my voice was so grateful that I was giving it a venue to find line and grace.

    So, as young and older singers we must take charge of what OUR voice wants and listen to our musical soul.... like the lost tomatoes in my garden, our voice often knows what it needs ....we too often forget to listen.