Last night I went to see my teacher. The poor man is used to happy, excited, optimistic Jessica. And instead last night he got the Jessica who has way too many questions, insecurities, uncertainties about exactly whose ass she should be kissing right now to make this career thing work out, and is a little gun shy about singing in general ever since she listened to her last recording.
Knowing full well that any energy spent on this sort of self-doubt is 100% wasted, I couldn't shake it, no many how many times I told myself how counterproductive it was. I worried about what he would say. Because this man is one of the few I've found who is always completely honest (tactfully so)-- a quality I've always found wonderful and scary at the same time. Because, you see, there's that part of a soprano who just wants to be patted on the shoulder and told she's perfect and she'll be at the Met in a year. Even if it's complete bullshit.
He started off by making me come to terms with the specific things that bothered me-- just to get it out there, to externalize it. And then, I had to say the things I LIKED about my sound. It was starting to feel a lot like therapy, and we all know that's something I can do. Therapy, I can do.
A little soul-searching, as he described it, is never a bad thing. The problem would be, said my teacher, if I DIDN'T hear weaknesses, if I DIDN'T hear myself realistically, if I wasn't willing to take a hard look at the things I have to work on and kind of, well, face the music. Think about the singers you hear, some in prestigious casts, with prestigious conductors, making lots of money who don't seem to notice their own wobble or their out-of-tune singing, inability to quite make it to that high-note-- everybody else is noticing, but they never take the time to self-evaluate. In five years, will they still have work? will they be worse, or will they have gotten advice from some brave person who was willing to TELL them so they could fix it and make a comeback...
Take stock, but don't let it consume you and be true to yourself, realize there ARE some asses you just won't bring yourself to kiss to get into wherever or whatever, even if everybody else is doing it. But most of all, don't let the barn full of positive reinforcement like good performances, good feedback, good lessons, and the sheer joy of singing be ruined by a five minute recording that you might just be judging a little harshly.
And, as if to say "Let's not waste too much time on this feeling down on ourselves bullshit, biatch," he immediately started warming me up, and before the lesson was up we had made complete vocal sense out of a previously daunting Bach aria. It was even starting to sound like music. I will forever be in awe of his ability to make me feel hopeful and want to work hard, without employing any of the artificial fluffing-up I've come to associate with "the opera mafia" (more on this later, people).
On the way home, with a much lighter heart, I was rocking out to some Elijah by Mendelssohn, because I'm one of those frightening people who alternates The St. John Passion and Vier Letze Lieder with Yung Joc, T-Pain and Fleetwood Mac while driving. And apparently, my go-to CD when I'm happy is Elijah? Yeah, it made no sense.
Which is why time kind of stopped for a minute when the men's chorus came in with what felt so absolutely like a message, a sign, in those meltingly beautiful cadences that you only get with Mendelssohn and Handel:
No. 30, Chorus and Recitative:
Go, return upon thy way! For the Lord yet hath left Him seven thousand in Israel, knees which have not bowed to Baal. Go, return upon thy way! Thus the Lord commandeth.
I go on my way in the strength of the Lord For Thou art my Lord; and I will suffer for Thy sake. My heart is therefore glad, my glory rejoiceth; and my flesh shall also rest in hope.
When you soul-search, you always, always find the soul that you were searching for.