A very important aspect of our life as a singer is to celebrate our successes. This is true in any endeavor. Whether sports, arts, business. We need to celebrate our successes, even small ones, to reinforce that we are moving in the right direction.
There are several things we accomplish by celebrating. A simple one is it makes us feel good. We work hard to make progress, and it’s not usually what we would call fun while we are doing it.
This is because learning new things and making progress is a process of failing. Plain and simple. It is like learning to walk or ride a bike. We learn by falling down.
And none of us likes to fall down. In fact it is the opposite of what we want. We want to successfully do the thing we are attempting. We want to sing with good coordination so it sounds good and feels good.
But falling down is how we learn to stand up. Failing is how we learn to succeed. So when we do succeed we must celebrate it so we can have that fulfillment.
If we don’t celebrate because it still wasn’t good enough or it still isn’t what we want then we will ingrain negative emotional associations with what we are doing.
It is important to create positive emotional associations with what we are doing so we continue to want to pursue improvement.
Many may recognize times when they experienced this kind of thing. Either because of their attitude or because of the attitude of a teacher. Or even a parent.
We can develop what is called “learned helplessness” if we feel like we can never do something good enough. If no matter what we try it just is never good enough. This becomes a situation where we never feel good about what we are doing.
And when this happens we start to lose our love for the thing we are doing.
So celebrate the small victories. Every day we should find something to celebrate. Even something as simple as realizing how to suspend the breath a little better. Or a slight improvement of how to coordinate the resonance form while going through the register transition.
Performances especially need to be celebrated. These are challenges of a different kind. Because of the added emotional “threat” of an audience we need to acknowledge the greater achievement involved by just completing it.
We often can feel disappointed by a performance because it wasn’t as good as what we were doing in the studio. But the context is different, and we need to accept that.
It should be understood that there is naturally going to be a loss of efficiency. This will vary depending on the person and the level of skill. But we definitely should expect to lose some when performing compared to our comfort zone of the studio.
I remember reading Robert Merrill say in his book that he expected about 80% of his best when he performed. I think there is a lot of benefit to keeping that in mind. Imagine the increased amount of freedom you can feel if you expect to be less than perfect.
If that is the case, we might as well just sing sincerely and let whatever comes be good. Don’t worry about being perfect, which only gets us tied up with interference anyway. Who knows, by being free you just might sing better than ever!
This is why regardless of how good or bad our performance might be I feel it is important to celebrate any completion of a performance in front of an audience.
You can worry about doing better next time. We get better by failing and then failing a little less the next time. Then a little less again over and over until our failures are minuscule and barely noticeable.
So today I want to celebrate the successful performance of two concerts by one of my clients. She sang a program of Armenian folk/art songs in London. The second performance was at the prestigious St. Martin-in-the-Fields.
The impressive thing about this is we have been working together for about two months. When we started her voice was out of control and singing was less than enjoyable for her.
She felt discomfort just going to the top of the staff and feared high notes. She told me that she had lost the ability to sing high C and the notes lower were difficult.
The sad part to me was her talent had been recognized by the Operalia organization and even Domingo himself, but because of a lack of command of her instrument she wasn’t able to capitalize on that opportunity.
That was sad, but what made me mad was she told me I was the 15th teacher she was trying in the last ten years. And these weren’t low level high-school and college teachers. These were teachers of a respectable level, with professional level singers.
And even after consulting with recognizable teachers, the problems she was experiencing kept getting worse. She actually suffered a vocal hemorrhage a few years ago.
So it thrills me to say she has absorbed the concepts I have been teaching her and passed the test of applying them in performance with flying colors. It has been anything but easy, and we certainly are not finished, but she deserves a lot of credit for putting things into practice so quickly.
(I should point out that this rapid assimilation is not typical. People always ask me “how long will it take until I can…?” The reality is there is no way to know. It is natural to want things to happen right now, but it takes time for us to understand new concepts. It takes time for the body to acclimate to new behaviors.)
The challenge was that what I was teaching her was pretty much the exact opposite of what she had been doing and had been taught by all of those respectable teachers. But to her credit she was able to recognize, gradually, the truth in what I was telling her.
She didn’t always believe me right away. (When she would resist I would always have Dr. Phil’s catch-phrase in my head, “And how’s that [other way] working for you?”) But she would realize after listening to her recording of the session how what I was teaching made sense.
So I want to share her email I just received today expressing her own celebration of this moment.
Hi Michael I had a fabulous concert!!!! The acoustics were a dream for any singer! I was on the thin edges if the cords, I love the fact that I don’t have to push anymore! The audience was so appreciative and was really into it and I felt like I did so much better! And being in the heart of London singing in that gorgeous church just made me believe I’m not a failure after all.
I think I’ve fallen back into love with singing again! It had been a long time since I’ve felt that passion and love to sing, I have been so disappointed the last years. But now the real work will begin, but I know you’re going to help me get there..thanks so much and I guess I had to go through what I had to go through to grow as a person, but now I need to share my art with the world, cuz I’m sick of staying at home and complaining about my how my voice isn’t working!!! That all has changed though!!!
So congratulations to her! I’m excited to see where things go as we have more time to develop.
If you are interested in finding out more about how the concepts I write about could work for your individual situation just email me at [email protected]
Just a quick note about me talking about others experiences. I will never use names to protect the privacy on the individual. I feel this is important so we can be free to be honest without fear of repercussions or invasion.
So share your experiences or comments below. Thanks!