Vocal Lessons Article

#44 Why Am I Doing This Again?

2014-07-24

I had a one hour break in which to eat, go to the bank, respond to client emails, and be ready to start the second half of a lengthy teaching day. I raced out of the studio past the slow walkers to the bank. In the midst of my rush, I heard a familiar voice talking to a teller. What are the odds? I saw a dear friend of mine, one of my oldest New York friends. We occasionally meet up for dinner, but this was completely by chance. I ran up and lovingly startled her, we embraced, and she invited me to walk with her.

Of course I had what I perceived to be one million chores to do in a finite amount of time, but when you run into someone you know in New York City, you take it as a sign and change your plans if at all possible. Besides, she’s someone who shares her heart one hundred percent of the time. I can’t afford not to be around her when I have the option.

She was meeting a colleague at Bryant Park which is a short stroll from the NYVC studios in midtown. She’s an auditioning actress and has experienced a healthy career already. She and I have acted quite a bit together, and she’s phenomenal–just as generous an actress as she is a friend. I’ve helped her prepare music for auditions before, and she’s an equally outstanding singer.

Once we made it to Bryant Park, we ordered coffee and waited for her colleague to arrive. We started talking about acting, music, and how hard it is to balance art with the business of art. She said, “You know what I’ve realized? I am an artist, and no rejection can take that away from me the same way no successful audition can really affirm that for me.”

Bam. Wisdom in a short window of time during a busy hurricane of a day. It’s easy to say that we’re immune to what people may think about us, but if we’re honest with ourselves that’s what governs many of our decisions, from what we wear to our Facebook posts. An auditioning actor or singer feels pressure to please to a much higher degree and has to. The next job depends on what the casting directors or judges think of you from behind the table. But how do you not lose your voice in trying to please the gods of the audition?

Order Your Art

First, make an artist statement. This is a mantra that will help you maintain clarity when you’re facing important career choices. My personal voice teacher statement is

“Build the voice by challenging and encouraging the singer. Celebrate what is unique and prepare the singer for any and all vocal demands. Listen to the singer’s voice, sung and spoken, as well as to the unsung and unspoken.” 

There are simple verb actions I can always do. No matter whose lesson, no matter what we’re working on, I have a guide I can rely upon.

The Alexander Technique mantra teaches beautiful posture with a simple, though thorough mantra: Let the neck be free, to allow the head to go forward and up, so that the back can lengthen and widen.

Experiment with your artist statement. Write it down. Read it out loud. You could just as easily steal my friend’s comment as a jumping off point:

I am an artist. No rejection can take that away from me. No successful audition can really affirm that for me.

Once you define your artist statement, state your goals you hope to achieve with your art. Perhaps, you want to tell amazing stories, interpret music in a way that’s never been heard, or you want to change the world. I have a mentor who directs for a prestigious regional theatre. When she begins working on a new play she forces herself to find the reason the play must be produced–the themes, actions, and ideas in the play that have the potential to change the audience and, thus, the world for the better. If she can’t find a reason the play should be produced, she’d rather join the Peace Corps and change the world hands-on.

Whatever your goals, make sure they extend beyond fame or money. Those are not “Peace Corps” proof aspirations. Root yourself in high-stakes goals. Change the world. Improve people’s lives.

Finally, recognize and release the aspects of life you can’t know or change.  You can never control or predict what someone is going to like, let alone hire. You may have an idea from the break down, but really all you can do is prepare your best version of what you think “Charismatic, Charming, and hilarious” or “fierce, sassy, sexy, funny” or “beautiful, athletic, perfect” is. Good luck.

I say you won’t need luck if you have your artist statement and goals in mind. Suddenly the audition will seems small when compared to “creating a richer world with your art.”  Trying to succeed at your noble goals will push you beyond just pleasing the auditioners, or just booking the job, or “just” anything. You’ll do your best work, and the auditioners will see an actor, singer, or dancer who is serious about their art. Whether you book the job or not, there’s another audition tomorrow. And you’re still an artist. No rejection can take that away from you the same way no successful audition can really affirm that for you.

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David McCall

David McCall

Director of Vocal Development