Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Delusional Singer

I have just finished adjudicating a music theatre performance festival.  This involved many age groups and genres of theatre music.

I've been adjudicating some 22 years or it theatre, opera or classical voice;  sometimes speech arts and other areas of voice and/or theatre.

You knew this was coming right????

I heard some marvellous things and some awful things.  Every edge of the spectrum and then some.

With the poor performances,  and down right horrid,  poorly prepared and executed performances, I simply ask:  how do one think this is okay?

I realize that deluding oneself into believing you CAN is a form of stress management.  However,  at a certain point,  a reality check MUST be in place.  A "singer" cannot simply "sing" a song just because they like it and want to.  This is disrespectful to the art form,  to the genre,  to the discipline and frankly, to oneself.

Due to the "American Idol"ism of our culture, everybody thinks they can.  Guess what?  No you can't. We are not all singers.

Just because you like a song doesn't mean you should sing it.  Theatre music is just as complex as any other genre!!  If you do not have an instrument that is athletically balanced and developed,  if you do not have an instrument that can take on the physical, vocal, psychological and emotional demands of what a composer asks for in a song/role and execute it successfully, you simply should not sing it!

If you are a light lyric coloratura soprano you would never be encouraged or even think about singing Tosca!!!  Why would a light ingenue consider a full belt song like "Defying Gravity" either?  You shouldn't.

Theatre music is NOT slumming.  If you think you can sing theatre music well without studying voice and musicianship and acting and movement,  you need to reconsider why you want to sing.

The delusion of "I can sing what I want" shows not only ignorance of what is required, but a certain arrogance and level of disrespect.

As someone who has devoted her life to theatre and its many facets,  I simply cannot abide that.

If you want to sing theatre music and participate in publicly presenting it and enter competitions then you have some reality checks to consider.

1.  Do you study voice?  If you don't you, you better begin.  Find a teacher that can help you build that instrument fully and in a healthy balance.

2.  SING IN TUNE!!!!  DAMMIT!!!  There is NO pitchy - you are either in tune or not in tune.  There is nothing between.  Record yourself so your "outside ears" can hear what your inside ears may not.  Get used to how your sound FEELS.

3.  Research theatre music.  Do you know its history, its development?  Do you know the genres and styles and composers and expectations of them?

4.  Do you know the vocal technical demands of theatre music depending on genres/styles/composers?

5.  Do you understand and can you embody the musical pulse, rhythms, subdivisions or rhythms,  of not just the music but also the textural life of a song?

6.  Do you know what your strengths are vocally, technically, dramatically, musically?  Can you find songs that allow you to express fully through this?

7.   Do you understand what is age appropriate repertoire?  Emotionally, vocally, technically, dramatically?

8.  Do you know how to take stage?

9.  Do you PRACTICE performing and taking stage?

10.  Or do you think you know and are delusional?

I saw few this week who demonstrated they had an honest answer and therefore an honest demonstration of ANY of these let alone all of them.  We are not all called to the stage.  However, we can still find the best of ourselves by dropping the delusion and discovering the truth of what we have, and how we can develop it.

Singers,  ultimately YOU are responsible to find these answers.  You cannot blame it on a teacher or coach or pianist.  If the "support" system around you is not serving you, you need to find another support system.  Remember there is a difference between a true support system offering constructive criticism and you, the singer just trying to find someone who tells you what you want to hear.

If we truly want to KNOW and discover,  we need to have the capacity to doubt ourselves, to question, and to ask questions.  If everybody is an artist, then nobody is.

If we do not seek and discover truth in self,  we are wasting everybody's time.

And if you just want to sing songs because you like them,  enjoy that.  Just don't take it into public space, public performance or competition, audition and the like.  They don't belong there.

I love to sing "Vissi d'arte" - at home, sitting at the piano,  with a glass on wine at hand!

Know what is ready to show the world and what is simply for your own enjoyment.

When you present in public, you are saying "I believe I am ready to take this on."  If you show the world you are NOT by your performance,  your delusion belongs to no one but you.

Singers be SMART.  Study!  Read!  Listen! Ask questions!!  Don't be led by the "bright and shiny" instant gimmicks you see.  Singing isn't about instant.  Singing isn't about delusion.  True singing can only happen with the singer begins to take risks in order to find out what she/he has to offer and is willing to work and practice and make the sacrifices necessary to find the truth about him/herself and how that voice can meet or exceed the demands required.

If you choose to ignore the demands and sing anyway,  you have chosen the delusion.  If you cannot meet the demands and sing anyway,  you have chosen to disrespect the art form.


  1. Amen, Dear Sister!

  2. You don't find many articles on truth. Well written albeit some grammar and spelling errors.