Sunday, April 22, 2012

The fine line between Doubt and Delusion

Sunday musings...

Both Doubt and Delusion have walked into my studio.  It's an interesting experience.

What creates it?  How do we move through it?

I have addressed both in some form in prior blogs, but it bears repeating.

There is such difference between being an artist and being an artist making a living as a performer.  There is also a huge difference between the artistic soul and the performer.  Some are both, some are one or the other, and some are neither.  Some perform in the business and simply have a limited amounted of talent and a whole lot of confidence or savvy.  Some continue to struggle to find a better self,  to discover self,  and others bounce, oblivious to others, into the audition space.

As artists,  we have by nature,  a huge capacity for self-doubt.  We are constantly STRIVING for more.  Are we good enough?  Are we studied enough?  What else do we need?  Should we be here? Or somewhere else?  Often,  our self-doubt can carry us past the positive places of self-assurance and action to dark corners that simply constrict us and mute us entirely. 

The delusion happens as a self protection I suppose.  It is a way of hiding in plain sight.  Others see it, but we must protect ourselves from seeing it fully.

The psychology of the artist and the person who wants to be in our business - delusional or not! - is a complex and multi-faceted labyrinth.

We all have doubts.  If you don't,  that's when the delusion kicks in.  We may not expose our doubts to the world,  but when we are alone and honest,  or in a safe place to explore,   those doubts are acknowledged.  I think that's more important than anything.  We can recognize where we are in our development,  and give "Doubt" a name and a place in our lives.  It can be turned into a positive actually:  It allows you to delve more thoroughly into your work and to seek MORE.  It cannot bind you into believing you cannot.  It simply allows you to see further than you are. 

Can I do this?
Am I prepared?
Am I enough?
Am I good enough?

My answer to you is another question: for what?

What do you NEED to "do this"?  What do you NEED to be "prepared"?  What is ENOUGH, what is GOOD ENOUGH for the task at hand?  If you aren't, then you work to be.  If you recognize that.  If you have the people around you that you can trust to help you find that.

These questions and additional questions will allow you to be slightly more objective with yourself.  Always a difficult task as an artist who continues to seek.  Recognize in the seeking,  we do discover more truth.  In acknowledging those truths,  we answer those questions, or simply find new questions!

It is okay to answer YES!!! to those questions if the truth is realized and embodied.

Then, there is the delusion.  Simply put,  it's answering YES! before the question is asked. It is a dismissal of possibility and a psychological ability to create an illusion before any questions have a chance to penetrate.  Many "delusionists" simply never follow through.  They talk the talk but don't walk it.  They create a persona they feel is armour yet, never truly inhabit it.  They continually catch themselves in a web of double-talk and "look over here" to the point that they believe it too.  They want to "TALK" then never actually want to "DO".

If you are an artist,  allow your doubt to simply challenge you to find more of yourself.  Do not let that doubt paralyze you into believing you cannot.  Let it be a jumping off place to discover, explore and never settle. 

If you are delusional,  you won't recognize yourself at all here.  How ironic huh? The delusional have carefully cocooned themselves into a place of no discovery.  It takes carefully peeling layer by layer to move from delusional to actually seeing truth.  Can it be done?  Perhaps.  I don't have that degree!

Fear can do strange things.  Doubt can motivate you to find more and know where you are.  Delusion simply leaves you precisely where you are with no need to go further. 

If you want to sing, to act, to dance - then DO IT!  Keep learning, keep studying, keep seeking.  If you don't think you have to continue to grow - and sometimes learn to breathe in where you are to grow - then try taking off the armour. "What armour" you say? ah.....

Sunday, April 15, 2012

what are the realistic stats? To college grads and more!

Sunday musings...

Many who read this blog are music theatre majors or voice majors in colleges and universities.  I hope some of this information has been and continues to be useful to you. 

Many of you are getting ready to graduate from your programs and your expectations are high. 

I have many young singers in my studio, who have moved to NYC hoping to get seen at an audition and get on with a life in theatre.  The reality of NYC and discovering your life in theatre can be a wake up call unlike no other.

I see too many young performers being taken advantage of,  getting discouraged too quickly,  expecting too much,  and simply not having the information they need for realistic goals.

You are entering a profession where,  according to the union stats, about 95% of members are unemployed at any given time. 

The average age on Broadway is 39.  So "I have to book a Broadway show by 24 or  I might as well do something else"  is rather ridiculous isn't it?

Only 1 in 11,000 performers books a Broadway show. 

I am not giving you these daunting statistics to scare you.  Or discourage you.  I am trying to give you a reality check,  so that after you move to NYC as a newly graduated MT creature,  you aren't beating yourself up because you are exhausted, barely making your rent, sleeping on an air mattress with 5 room mates and wonder what you did wrong.

So how you pursue your dream and survive?

A realistic view of what IS demands scrutiny and determination and HONESTY.  Everybody travels their own path.  Comparing isn't fair to you or the person you are looking at. 

First you have to live.  You have to make rent.  You have to live in the chaos of NYC (if that's what you choose).  Figure THAT out. 

What does your CRAFT need?  What does the business expect of you?  Are you willing and able to invest in that?  It doesn't matter if you can get up at 530 a.m. to stand in a NonEq line for an audition if you can't sing, can't act, can't dance.  Are you meeting the demands of your vocation?  Do you know what an NYC theatre audition entails?  Are you truly prepared in order to be noticed?

Honestly,  most are not.  This takes time,  seasoning, experience,  study, and more study.  Even if you have a degree,  you are a young performer who simply needs TIME, and STUDY, and KNOWLEDGE.  Invest in that.  Invest in the reality of you. 

The dream begins to clarify as you discover the truth.  Perhaps you come to NYC thinking you will take the City by storm, or that you are good enough to audition and get a job immediately.  Some can and do.  Most do not.  Perhaps you have the talent,  simply not the time and gestation yet. Perhaps your lack of auditioning needs more technique and seasoning.  Perhaps your craft needs further development in order to compete in this highly competitive business. 

As you begin to see where you are,  who you are and why you are, your dreams will begin to find a reality that will allow you to pursue them with more honesty, more clarity and more definition.

Explore all your possibilities.  Know your strengths and develop them.  Find the people and the classes that will expose you to what you COULD do and where you could do it.  Ask questions.  Never assume.  Understand that 22 straight out of undergrad is barely baked - and in fact, still doughy as a performer and artist.  YOU HAVE TIME.  YOU NEED TIME.  So take it. You won't be behind. Focus on your own path, the reality of the life you have chosen and be smart, realistic and true to yourself.  It's not a race.  Nobody wins that one. 

The journey is yours, and yours alone.

 Your truth is responsibility to your craft,  figuring out what you want to pursue and be the best YOU in order to pursue it.  Then, and only then,  might you grab the brass ring.

 If you get that ring, it won't be a fluke: you will have EARNED it. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

What about the Follow up?

Wednesday musings...

I'm a big fan of the follow up.  I've had a great deal of questions regarding how to do it, when to do it,  why to do it,  lately.  Perhaps I can give you some ideas.

What is "the follow up"?

Simply,  touching base with someone how has given you an opportunity to thank them for it.  

If you have a chance to sing for a master class or workshop;  take a lesson or consultation with someone; take a series of classes with someone;  audition for someone;  even have a chance to audition and have a conflict!;  a meeting with a director, or an MD, or an agent, or CD;

 ANY opportunity you might acquire in the business should be acknowledged.

The 6 degrees of Kevin Bacon in our business is actually less than 6 degrees.  The follow up can give you a professionalism that is undeniable and will filter through, trust me.

I STILL follow up: with colleagues, people in the business that I work with for the first time, meeting someone and having an exchange at a function and exchange of business cards, consultations, invitations to lecture or give workshops.  ALL of these contacts are important and deserve your attention.

When do you do this?  Soon.  I mean, don't stalk the person, but an email or postcard or note in the mail - whatever your part of the business deems appropriate,  within the week of a lesson or workshop, or the end of a series of classes, or an audition, or at a networking event is fine.

What do you say?  It depends on the meeting.  A simple thank you for the kind words or encouragement or whatever happened at said event and hope you are able to sing for/audition for/work with that person again.  If you discussed anything more - like repertoire, or another meeting, or an opportunity to send in your materials if it's a CD or agent - make sure you mention that.

If you are sending an email - which is probably the easiest way to communicate - send links to your website (yes you need a site) or your YouTube channel,  resume and head shot.  Don't send tons of attachments and clog up their inbox!  Links are MUCH better.

If you are thanking industry for coming to a performance, or inviting them to a performance, postcards are appropriate.  E-invite postcards are also appropriate.

If industry has made an effort to be at a performance - make an effort to acknowledge it.  It's YOUR business to be aware and follow up.

If you submit for a project and get an audition - FOLLOW UP.  Acknowledge receipt of said audition.  If you have a conflict, or decide you are not right for it,  still ACKNOWLEDGE IT.  Thank them for the opportunity but you have a conflict/unable to commit to the audition or project at this time.   You do not want to become known for the actor/singer who never follows up.  Trust me, we find out!  And maybe that company will be doing something AMAZING you are perfect for one day, and if you never followed up in previous submissions,  they might not want to be bothered with YOU.

Don't be a nuisance.  A follow up and leave it be.  We all keep files.  Even if you don't hear back you MAY at some point.  You don't want to start a Monty Python skit of "thank you; no thank YOU; no thank YOU for thanking ME" scenario.  Nor do want to begin to look like you are stalking every 2 weeks with "why haven't you gotten back to me yet" desperation!!

Keep things simple.  Keep them real.  No desperation.  No jazz hands.  Just be real.  It's simply enough. 

Don't let too much time go by so you aren't lost in the shuffle.  You don't want to be the "hi remember me? I sang for you at an audition last July" person.  If you get in touch within a week or two,  that keeps your name in focus.

Updating industry on what you are doing every few months if you have spoken to them through a workshop directly, or a series of classes,  or about representation isn't a bad thing either.  Letting them know you are DOING things, and continuing to pursue this crazy life keeps your name in focus too.

Ultimately,  it is common sense.  We need to develop that - common sense.  Thank people for giving you their time, attention and expertise.  Follow up on possible meetings, auditions, jobs!  Don't hesitate to simply say "thank you"!

If you want to be remembered, you have to make it so.  Be remembered for your work and your follow up.  Taking the time to email someone means more than you realize.  It puts positive check marks after your name.  Taking the time to CANCEL an appointment,  or acknowledge an audition time, or make changes puts you in the positive column.  Doing nothing does nothing - for you or your career.

Don't panic if you don't get an answer.  People are busy.  Be sincere,  be real, hit send and get on with it.

Follow up?  Yes, definitely.  EVERY time.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Is it time to declutter your audition book?

The ongoing development - what is in your audition book?

This particular blog is for Music Theatre creatures,  but certainly can be translated into the Opera world too...Some of the basic principles are the same!

Should you revamp your audition book?  YES!   How often?  as often as you need.  There is no specific time line.  If it needs a refresher,  if your voice has developed and needs new repertoire,  if you are feeling "stale" in the audition,  IT IS TIME!!!

If you aren't getting good feedback from the songs you are using - time to find out WHY and make the changes...

If what you are using is working then don't fix what ain't broke!  Add and switch up maybe, but use what works!

Again, what's crucial is a reality check.  How are you seen?  Are you being seen in the best light?  Are you being realistic about what you can do well NOW?  Is your repertoire reflecting your best traits vocally, musically, type or is it only reflecting your tastes???  Remember, auditioning is going in to get a JOB.  It isn't always about what fulfills you artistically. 

So here are a few of my key points that I hope may help you:

 Just cause YOU love it, do THEY love it?  These are those songs that might be better suited to a cabaret,  or a concert or something other than a 16 bar audition! 

Do you take the room with the cut?  You have to take that room!!

What does it show about your voice?  It all has to be good things!!  Do NOT show what you are working on,  what you'd like to be able to do - show what you CAN do.  If you can't do it...are you studying?????

Are you evoking the style of the show?  Are you able to build a character/mood/atmosphere with that 16 cut?  What does it show?  What can you make it show?

EVERY cut in your book needs to know why it is there.  You need to know why you are using it - what it evokes, what it shows about your voice,  what it reveals about your dramatic intelligence,  what you can embody in those 16 bars!

Do not learn a new cut the night before and think you can fully realize it in the room.  Doesn't happen.  You need TIME to work it into your body,  your voice, your breath,  and your gesture.  Trust me - it isn't happening.  We always know when you haven't spent enough time with it.

Are you singing for fresh ears and for your team to get feedback?  Are you getting to audition classes?  It is so crucial.  Sing for your teacher, your coaches, and maybe a consultation with a new set of ears to get another sense of how you are coming across in that room with that repertoire. 

Your book should be full of options and possibilities!  Are you scattered or too much the same?  Do you have what you need to take on any audition that is right for you?  Can you give a great contrasting audition with 2 cuts that show your versatility and your strengths? 

So now - your turn.  Go through that book.  Write down what it shows about YOU.  Is it strong enough? If it isn't, throw it out.  Find something else that is stronger, more vivid, more direct.  Don't worry about subtle - you only have 16 bars!  You have to show what you can do right away.

As you clear out the clutter - make notes about what you need to replace:  eras, styles, uptempos, ballads...the book will build itself. 

Go to those people in our business who are great book builders.  Take them what you do well, so they can help inform you about specific ideas based on what you do well.  Just because you have a high C in the studio during your lesson, doesn't make it a good idea to sing it in a cut.  Can you do it every single time and nail it?  Only THEN should it be there!

If you aren't a belter,  then don't hope it works in an audition.  Work on your mix.  Show them your STRENGTHS not what you are still developing. 

As you begin your de-clutter be black and white with your decisions for EACH cut:
1.  what era
2.  what style
3.  what type/characters/shows does it evoke?
4.  what does the cut show vocally?
5.  what does the cut show musically?
6.  what does the cut show dramatically?
7.  can my voice and my personality and acting intelligence show all that?
8.  can I take the room with this cut?
9.  can I sing this and perform it in my sleep or does it need more time?
10.  am I passionate about it?

If ANY of these answers isn't VIVID and POSITIVE - throw it out.  Trust me, there are TONS of choices and wonderful music you can connect to.  Everything you sing, you need to love. 

Ultimately,  the first step is that your VOICE has to be aligned and developed, or developing to simply dress itself in the choices you make.  The study of and knowledge of your voice is going to make these choices easier and more accessible.

Study,  listen, explore, and ask questions.  Find the professionals that will give you TRUTH not just what you want to hear.  Invest in the truth - which will then become YOUR truth,  not your delusion.  The truth isn't always easy, but it will clear the clutter!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Authentic YOU

Saturday musings...

Earlier this week I was honored to be part of a panel (with two fabulous men in our business - Jamie Harris of Clear Talent Group and Nick Demos - Producer/Director)

for NYSTA 16 Bar Workshop.  We listened and critiqued 13 singers who presented 2 16 bar cuts - like a mock audition.  First and foremost, the 3 of us were on the same page.  What a treat!  I believe it created a stronger impact for the singers to see a united front from the "business" side of the table to support them.

What I came away with the most strongly is this:  are you finding and bringing into the room the AUTHENTIC YOU?

Guess what?  That's what we want to see.  We want to see YOU.  We don't want perky (one of my pet peeves, I admit it), we don't want desperate (we can smell that outside in the hallway),  we don't want Pavlov's dog,  we don't want "but what do YOU want me to be?",  we don't want attitude,  we don't want meek.  We want strong, assured, positive, dedicated and secure authentic YOU.

That's the secret.  It's you.  Really.

Now it's your turn.  We don't know who "you" is.  We know when it's NOT you,  and we know if it IS you,  but how to find it?  That's up to you.

Authenticity isn't phony or pretend.   Authenticity is truly a self-honesty and respect of your work, and your ability RIGHT NOW.  It allows whoever is at the table to witness a truth IMMEDIATELY.  Is this person real and what are their strengths?  What reads and fills the room?  What LEADS?

This, dear singer, is now your job.  Who is this authentic you?  It is up to you to find her/him.  Do not ask what that panel/person wants.  They want YOU.  The only person who has the ability to define that, is simply YOU.  YOU are enough.

That doesn't mean you don't develop you!  Part of finding that authenticity of you, is exploring who this is:  an an artist, as a performer, as a singer,  as a communicator,  as a human being.  What do you do well?  How do you develop that into the highest relief to show in a 16 bar cut?  What acumen of vocal ability/technique,  narrative prowess,  dramatic intelligence, emotional intelligence,  physical awareness,  breath definition,  energy, taking up your space in a room and MORE has to take place in order for that 16 bar cut to make the impression you WANT.

YOU WANT.  Not "they" want. 

As performers, we have to be aware enough,  tough enough, vulnerable enough and willing enough to find and be willing to show the authentic self.  Nothing else will do.  This authenticity is a strength.  It gives truth to a performance.  It resonates after you are done.  You WILL be remembered.  Authenticity is always remembered.  It doesn't need to be "the best". Some of the most memorable and authentic performers were flawed technically,  not always beautiful,  not always "correct",  but they were always PRESENT and they were always REAL.

Where did "types" come from?  There is a definition given by a performer who was his/herself AUTHENTICALLY.  All those performers walked into a room and began to CREATE the definition.  It started with THEM.

Have you got the guts to discover your authenticity?  To spend the time to find it and then to define it?  To bring it into the room and share it no matter the outcome? 

I dare you...