Friday, May 20, 2011

Suck it Up

You know how sometimes you're trying to learn something and you're just not getting it… then one day someone describes it in a different way, or uses a different word, and suddenly it all makes sense? That's what happened when I switched voice teachers a year ago… my current teacher had a different way of describing what I needed to do and suddenly it just clicked. I made a huge leap in my singing ability based on that… and while I've slowly continued to improve and refine my singing, I don't feel like I've made any huge leaps since then.

Then at my last lesson, we were doing vocal warm-ups at some lower notes and she said, "Think of sucking your voice up." I had been thinking along the lines of throwing it out between my eyes, focusing over my nose, or up and over inside my mouth and face. When she said to suck it up, I thought of trying to suck it into my skull. Of using my brain to pull it up there. That one word somehow made something click, and I was suddenly able to keep my voice up on top of the air at a note that I had struggled with before.

So off I go now, to suck it up.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Gremlins! Buh-Bye

I read the following post out loud to my teacher, before publishing it here:

Gremlins. Ah those sneaky little things. They get in and sabotage things. Only, they are ... me.

I sang in a recital on Saturday. And as usual, I did not perform as well as I wanted. Why? I kept asking myself. What was different on that day? And slowly I came to realize that I had sabotaged myself. It started with my general feeling of, “Everyone else is so good... why do they let me sing here.” The little gremlin on my shoulder poked me in the side of the neck and taunted in a deep gravelly voice, “YOU’RE NOT GOOD ENOUGH!!”

Then the rehearsal, where I sang Ombra mai fu, and the call the next day. “NOT GOOD ENOUGH!” taunted the gremlin. And not being listed on the program in the first place. “SEE!” croaked the goblin. “NOT GOOD ENOUGH!” My rational side whispered, “But they do let me sing. I’m still singing. I AM good enough.” “NO YOU’RE NOT!” snapped the gremlin as he poked me in the neck.

During the week I saw my vocal coach. Corrected some rhythmic and phonetic problems. I sounded pretty good. I recorded it and practiced with it.

Then, the day of the recital. Packed house full of “important” people, ie, potential donors. One singer after another gets up and knocks ‘em dead with a fabulous performance. Then that damn gremlin showed up. “WHO ARE YOU KIDDING? YOU’RE NOT GOOD ENOUGH!” poke poke poke. As I waited for my turn, I kept telling myself that that shaky feeling wasn’t fear, it was adrenaline. Well. That damn gremlin managed to knock down my self-esteem and I walked out onto stage nervous. “YOU’RE NOT GOOD ENOUGH! NOT GOOD ENOUGH! YOU’RE GOING TO CRACK! YOU’LL SEE!” I did my best at the time, but it definitely wasn’t my best. It was acceptable. And I didn’t crack because I safely went under the “flip” for the low notes, rather than trying to keep the air on top. I smiled and all, but I was miserable. Then afterwards, the comments from people... oy vey. How we choose to interpret things.

“You sounded a little nervous when you started... but you got better...”

“You’ve come a long way. And you LOOKED adorable.”

And my favorite, the condescending & sympathetic, “Was this your first time singing with the Opera Project?”

So I have a new goal. That pokey gremlin has been warned: Gremlins who poke will lose their fingers.
(thanks to a twitter friend for that gem!) That gremlin has no role in my life. I have sent him floating off in a helium balloon. I know what I can do and how to do it.

I also have been able to look at this not as “yet another humiliation because YOU’RE NOT GOOD ENOUGH,” into, you’re ok, you can do better, every performance is a learning experience. I did watch the video and realize I wasn’t as bad as I thought. It was an acceptable performance. But I don’t want to deliver acceptable. I want to deliver, spectacular. I’m hoping to be able to sing Ombra mai fu at the next recital. No more of this “You’re not good enough,” no more poking. I’m going to get out there and show ‘em what I can do. Because you know what? I AM GOOD ENOUGH!!!


My teacher assured me that yes, I am indeed good enough. She thinks I have the potential to be really really great. I can produce some really beautiful sounds when warming up with scales and so on. All I need to do is consistently apply that to singing arias. I just have to practice staying on top of the air at all times. She also talked about comparing myself to others - which as even I know, is a no-no. I mean, I know how I'd respond to someone who read that gremlin essay to me.

So the next recital is June 11. She doesn't think I'll be ready for Ombra mai fu so we'll figure out what else I can sing. I'm sure we'll come up with something.

So anyway, this is what I wore for the recital:

And this is how I dressed when I got home that evening, to comfort myself in my gremlin-induced pity-party:

And yes, they are footie pajamas and the skulls do glow in the dark. Thank you, Target boys' department.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Just the Facts, Ma'am

The Opera Project has a concert on Saturday, May 7 at 2, to celebrate some important birthdays in the company. Last week I noticed on the website that my name wasn't listed as one of the singers, although my teacher and I had discussed me singing there and I was preparing Ombra mai fu. So my first thought was, I guess they don't want me singing there after all. Then I gave myself a mental slap and thought, They may not know that you're interested. Because even though my teacher is one of the founders and all that, it's someone else who sets the programs for the concerts. So I sent him a text asking if there was room for me in the program because I'd like to sing, and he said yes. Like, pretty much immediately. Which was nice. I mean, if he didn't want me singing he could have said that there was no room, right? Of course the rehearsal was the same day as the 30 Seconds to Mars concert in Camden, which made me really nervous about the timing since I was getting picked up at my house at 2, and the rehearsal started at 1 about 30 minutes north of where I live. I did end up getting to sing first, and was done pretty quickly, but I didn't do as well as I hoped. And I know it's just a rehearsal, but it's daunting… I was actually shaking. Because the truth is I'm still intimidated by the talent of all the other singers, and I still marvel at how very fortunate I am that I sing with this group. And I was a little embarrassed singing because they are all so good. I know it's silly, and I know that they wouldn't let me sing with the group at all if I wasn't good enough, but that doesn't stop that little nagging voice that tells me I'm not good enough. So anyway I got home in time and the concert was great (another post for that!) but then the next day I got a voicemail message… and before I write about that I must say they are the nicest people ever, and that no matter how this may come across in print here on the blog, this was relayed to me in the nicest, gentlest and most friendly way. They said that they think I'm not quite ready to sing Ombra mai fu, that it's a bit too sophisticated for me. But I can sing Se tu m'ami again, and then maybe think about Ombra mai fu for the following concert on June 11. So of course THAT got me wondering just how bad I really sounded at that rehearsal...although they did still suggest that I sing... Also there's a birthday party after Saturday's concert, and I can sing it there. Truthfully, I'm not upset about not being able to sing Ombra mai fu at the concert. I'm still thrilled that I have the opportunity to sing again, and I'll get more practice doing the same song in front of an audience and so on. But the embarrassment… oy. I'm embarrassed that those ten people sat there in that little church chapel listening to me sing… and then decided that no, I shouldn't sing that song. I mean it's a GOOD thing. Better to be embarrassed there, in a safe place, than in front of a paying audience. But still… I don't even want to tell anyone about this. Even though it's not such a big deal. It's taking up a large amount of space in my head right now, space that should be filled with happy thoughts, not embarrassed thoughts. I'm hoping that by blogging it, it'll leave and I'll be able to move back to the happy high I was experiencing after the 30 Seconds to Mars concert… which I'll post about shortly.

So, to sum up: For a while I was feeling kind of dejected and embarrassed, but I'm back to grateful. I am so grateful for this opportunity to sing. At what point will I ever feel like I fit in?