Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Tuesday: my 1001st post

Continuing to riff on yesterday’s theme!

1. I respect the fact that no one has to sit and listen to anything they don't want to listen to, and any time an audience doesn't get up and leave, I am grateful. Time is precious and there are so many other wonderful singers, and so many other forms of entertainment to compete for an audience’s attention.

2. I believe that all humans have an innate sense of what is good, beautiful and true.

3. I believe that even someone with no experience of classical music can listen to a classical singer and know whether the singing is beautiful and moving or makes them feel uncomfortable and turned off.

4. I acknowledge that most aspects of vocal timbre and nuance are largely subjective. So, everyone is bound to hear things a little differently. But when you decide to become a solo singer, you are putting yourself in the position to be criticized for your sound, your choices, and your musicianship. If you put it out there, you know it will be talked about, and judgments will be made.

5. I have to respect the fact that being successful at what I do completely depends on people (somebody, anybody!!!), whatever subset of the population they may be, wanting to listen to me.

6. Since I have a line-up of respected musical professionals that I pay to tell me how to be the best I can be, I don’t love unsolicited advice, suggestions, and opinions. I think it is because I try really hard not to give other people feedback, unless it is overwhelmingly good, that they have not asked for. Making cut-and-dried statements about things about which I am not truly informed is something I try to avoid, except, of course, when it comes to cursing the play calling during a Ravens game. Even that, however, is a great example of how we as humans think we know best about mostly everything. The coaches of these teams stay up all night, spending countless hours analyzing tape of the opposing team before the games to try to figure out the most effective way to beat them, but everyone at home on the couches of America has something to say about the way the plays were called. It’s an interesting way to look at it.

7. Singers want to be respected as professionals. We want people to recognize that what we do is not just a “gift” that we were born with, but a skill that we have spent a lot of time and money to learn. It’s an athletic skill that takes conditioning and preparation and sacrifice to do well. So I think we may feel disrespected when someone who does not have experience with the skill of unamplified singing criticizes an aspect of our performance.

8. I have nothing to defend. And this is the part that I think I have to work harder at: I have to stop being quite so bugged, and try to learn from any feedback I can get from anyone anywhere. I have to have confidence enough in my product to know that empirically, I must sound fine or even good to most people, most of the time, or I would not be getting hired. However, I’ve said this before: the more I learn, the more I realize I know very little, and there are countless improvements I could make, and should make. The consumer’s point of view is always valuable.

I am the same as anybody in the world: a human trying to do their best with what they’ve been given. I do not have to prove that I am the best, that I am perfect, or that I know the most about what I do, because that is just so not the point. I have not been given the responsibility to punish someone when they embarrass themselves by making statements about things they do not understand. I have only responsibility to Music, and secondarily, my voice, which I cultivate in its service.

1 comment:

Mendel Markel, www.classicalvocals.com said...

wow, you really thought this out :)

All great points. As you know I've had similar experiences. Thought I'd share something I just learned, tried and found effective. The key is to turn a comment into useful information.

Keep in mind that many look at us and don't realize how much humility it takes to approach this art. They think "oh, so you think you're a fancy opera singer". So the way to neutralize this is to ask "why". Assume the commenter is being helpful even if you know otherwise. Ask if they can expand on it and help you understand what in specific they didn't like because their feedback will help you improve.

This seems to be more often than not very effective. At it's worst it gets an embarrassed admission of "I was just kidding around" type of thing. At best it gets the commenter to actually give you real information you can use. In both instances it lets the other person know you are genuine and have the humility to take constructive feedback. Either way it will often cause the person to come to you from a different more constructive more sensitive approach the next time they have something to say.

Lets face it, there will always be that idiot that doesn't care. But I believe that 8 or 9 out of 10 people aren't idiots and it just didn't occur to them that their comment could be hurtful. Trust me, it's worth a try :)

Thanks again for the post, this is my fav of the day, probably even the week of everything I've read online and off.