Monday, August 08, 2011


For Monday: a thought.

Only one. Don't get too excited.

So, remember how annoyed I get when people who really have no musical education criticize aspects of what I do?

I was talking to my sister yesterday, also in the arts, and she had a revolutionary idea.

If I would take a five minute break from getting so defensive, and begin to think of them as a consumer (despite, and not excusing their not-so-nice way of imparting their thoughts, and putting aside any other motives they may have for criticism) and my self as a business, I have to take something away from what anyone has to say.

I think the part of the whole equation that really bothered me was the presumption on their behalf that they know more than I do about what I study so hard to do well. That, legitimately, is really annoying.

But putting that whole thing aside, MY EGO aside (it really hurts to do that, because it is letting go of all defense), I have to say, well, as the people that are listening to me in some capacity, their opinions matter. There is a part of me that has to truly digest what they have to say and see if there is any piece of it from which I could learn.

Not that I don't think we should be treated as professionals, people who have made a lot of sacrifices to devote themselves to being really good at something, people who are smart, driven, committed, creative, resilient, well-put-together, and would have succeeded at a number of other professions, but choose, at great financial risk to themselves, to follow their hearts instead of their security. But I also think that it is hard to hear the layman's "suggestions" when we know how truly difficult solo singing can be, and that it is not the same as being in the choir in high school or church, and that the factors involved in having a good performance are MANY, some of which we have little control over. Sometimes it is hard to hear that we are not perfect by someone's standard when we are trying very hard to perfect our craft, and look hot, and do everything we think we need to do to get hired, in addition to making a living and trying to maintain our personal relationships on a daily basis. It can get pretty exhausting and it is by no means a 9-5 job where you get to relax when you come home from work at the end of the day.

By the same token, a person's sense that it is okay to go up to someone else and give feedback that was not requested is a whole other issue, and probably says a lot about who they are in the first place, which is why everything must be taken with a grain of salt.

But it is so difficult to switch, in that moment of intensity when the words are being said, to business mode. To go from being the being that lives and breathes music and singing whose heart and soul are completely wrapped up in every note that comes out, to the person who is selling a product to a group of consumers that tend to be a pretty opinionated bunch.

But I think I am going to have to start trying to change my thinking, at least a little. To give up defense completely is a very admirable goal, but this soprano is going to have to take baby steps. :)

Note: The givers of comments I have referred to here are not people who paid for tickets to hear me sing, but rather those who have heard me in a public setting.


Mendel Markel, said...

funny, I just posted a very similar experience. In my case though it wasn't the feedback that bothered me, I sort of open myself up to that by posting my lessons where my every weakness is being exposed. In fact I sort of do it partially to develop a thicker skin.

What made me laugh was that the guy who commented that he doesn't think I'm "getting it" is clueless as to what I'm trying to get. He is a self-proclaimed "professional singer" who is really clueless. His voice is about as alive as a sandbag and sometimes he's ever so slightly out of pitch. So it was funny that he was commenting on what I'm getting or not. Here's a guy who took a few "voice lessons" and "mastered" it and he doesn't understand why at 4 whole lessons I still can't make the same noises as my teacher (who's a professional opera singer, singing regularly with known companies).

He falls under the "ignore" column, but in general I think you're right. Ultimately we do have to consider the public even if they are not educated because what is a singer with no listener?

jessica, your soprano who steps out said...

Mendel, I think the tough part is discerning when the motivation of the person giving comments is pure. But it takes bravery to open ourselves up to that kind of criticism by singing in public in the first place. Good luck!

R. HANEL said...

Thanks for mentioning me :) Love you sis