Saturday, November 20, 2010

But How Does it Make You FEEL?

Saturday musings...

A very wise person once said to me (I am paraphrasing of course) -" they make not remember what was said or what was sung,  but if it's real and authentic, they will always remember how you made them FEEL."

I've been thinking a great deal about that this week.

Those of us in this business, or striving to be part of this business work very hard on developing business sense;  recognizing the pitfalls;  discovering and developing the product;  getting to the right class, the right coach, the right teacher;  developing a brand, or a catch phrase and and and;  making sure our audition book matches our type,  that our arias show our fach, and on and on...

But how does MUSIC make you feel?  How does singing make you FEEL?

I don't often get too personal on this blog,  but I have been thinking about this for myself a great deal this week.   I often get so busy with business and teaching,  that I forget to sing.  (some of you close to me who know me well will be laughing and saying, well DUH Susan!)

I haven't sung much since my Dad passed on.  That will be 2 years in March.  I mean REALLY sing.  Sing just BECAUSE I CAN and because I LOVE TO SING.

So as I question myself and get a little personal with this journey - I wanted to share it with you:

Have you asked yourself that seemingly simple question:  How does singing make you feel?

We can wrap so much neurosis up in our voices;  We can cause such great obstacles to be erected in the way of discovery;  we can simply create a fantasy life of what we can or cannot do with our craft, or lack thereof.  We can concentrate so much on what we think we MUST do to have a career that sometimes, we forget how much we LOVE to just sing.

Does "just" singing allow you to quit being critical for a moment?  To quit trying to "fix"?  To quit listening with a business ear and just make some noise cause it feels good?

Do you ever just sing something because you WANT to? Not because you HAVE to?

Do you ever sing something that isn't your fach? your type? your gender?

Are you an opera singer who would love to sing a country song? Just because?

Are you a theatre singer who loves Florentine art song?

And even if it never goes there - do you give yourself permission to sing something just so it feels GOOD; RIGHT; TRUE for YOU instead of right for the audition;  right for the class;  right for the stage; right for the teacher/coach or casting director?

We were drawn to music for a reason.  It moved us in some way.  It made us FEEL a certain way.  What was that?

I don't know about you - but I NEED that from time to time to remind me WHY I sing.  Not why I SHOULD sing,  but why in the dead of night I used to sit at the piano and JUST SING.

Why, when my daughter was a little girl,  we would put a CD in the player and dance and sing because it felt good, alive and real.

It is time for me to rediscover the "sing cause I wanna", not cause I have to.  I do remember how it makes me feel.  I don't want to be so busy that I can't recreate that love affair that is pure and uncomplicated and child-like perhaps.

I know my Dad would want that too.  He'd simply smile and say "what took you so long?"

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Excuses, Excuses...

Sunday musings...

are you simply excuse-ridden?

Do you always have an answer for "why not", "why you aren't" but can't really DO what you say you are now?

Excuses are a form of stress management I guess.  They also disguise fear, anxiousness, and often a reality check that you just feel you don't have the energy to see.

Many singers carry a trunk load of excess baggage called "excuses".   They lead with it,  sit on it, open it like and share it like they are war medals,  and contaminate everything and everyone around them with this trunk of excuses.

The excuses of why you can't do something;  why you are where you are; why it's everybody else's fault you are not doing what you think you should and on and ridiculously revealing.

Honesty is often something many singers are fearful of.  I don't understand why.  Wouldn't you want to know how you were coming across,  what you could work on immediately and thus, be a better singer and have a stronger chance to be hired to do work you SAY you want?

If every suggestion to you is met with an excuse it is time to sit back and start evaluated WHY you want to sing.

The simple truth is this: you will NEVER realize your potential if all you do is dismiss and excuse.  You will simply create an excuse-ridden cocoon you live in thinking you are safe, as it is revealed to the rest of the world how utterly ridiculous you have become.  Harsh perhaps but true indeed.

I ask a very straightforward question when a singer enters my studio to consult with me the first time:  "Why are you here?".   Many singers aren't used to that directness.  They think the "game" of the singing world is cloaked with innuendo and mystery and competition and double meanings.


I am amazed and how that question is met with excuses!

Guess what - it is okay to simply answer "I really don't know why I'm here."  THAT is honest.  THAT is real.  That means, we can get to work.

You don't have to have an excuse or an answer for everything!  JUST DO THE WORK! You don't have to explain how your first teacher messed you up about breathing and so now, 10 years later you haven't figured it out.  You don't have to blame your inability to be physically aligned on the fact you that you used to sing in a lower tessitura.  You don't have to blame your inability to access a balanced resonance,  or having a wobble,  or or or on ANYTHING.  It's there, let's fix it and move on.

How refreshing that the  teacher and singer  can JUST DO THE WORK!!!

Ultimately, what is the payoff for the excuse-laden singer?  There has to be a payoff or they wouldn't do it would they?

Often, it masks a much deeper issue/issues that a voice teacher is simply not equipped nor should they be asked to deal with.

Often it masks a fear the singer simply doesn't want to accept, or a reality that has been completely obliterated by the cloak of excuses.


The teacher, the coach, the maestro,  all have a part to play in revealing,  suggesting, creating space and time for you the singer to discover,  BUT YOU NEED TO DISCOVER IT!!!

I am not suggesting you follow blindly - but I am suggesting that you pay attention and instead of dismissing out of hand, you recognize the source,  see what is being asked of you and why,  and then taking a good careful look in the mirror to find it.  It doesn't ultimately matter WHY you are doing something that is in your way, but it matters that you acknowledge it and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.

The hardest thing we have to do is to see ourselves as clearly and honestly and then be honest about what we are going to do about it to make it better.

As a teacher,  I want to know how you see yourself.  It is revealing and helpful to me to find you where you are.  If you believe you are standing in my studio for  X Y Z and I see issues with A B C I am going to tell you.  I am will not dismiss your findings, but I will tell you why A B C are crucial to your X Y Z.

Are you willing to consider that? Or do you immediately dismiss it with another excuse?

Perhaps one of my favorite "excuse" lines was from a tenor who said "If I had high notes, I'd be dangerous".

I will just allow that one to sink in and needs nothing further.

If we are truly going to sing and BE a singer and an artist we absolutely need to capacity to see clearly;  we need the capacity to doubt ourselves;  we need the capacity to question and not dismiss;  we need to SEE it - warts and all;  we also need the capacity to seek out the solution, not another excuse that prevents us from becoming what we say we WANT.

And perhaps that takes us to the crux of it all.  Is what we SAY we want, true? Or is that an excuse as well?

Be careful what you wish for...

I'll leave you with that!