Staying motivated in slow periods

One of the biggest struggles an aspiring or active performer faces is staying motivated in “fallow” periods. It happens to everyone – one minute, your schedule is totally booked for three months, and then you wake up one day to blank pages. Sometimes these rest periods are by choice (to give yourself a vacation or to prepare for an upcoming audition or gig), and sometimes they occur simply because you don’t have anything to prepare for on the horizon.

Following a busy period or a particularly climactic performance, it’s easy to feel that familiar sense of let down or even depression. Try to actively relax for a few days – watch movies or TV you’ve been wanting to get to, finally finish a book that’s been on your bedside table for weeks, take an exercise class, or indulge in the coloring book trend. Meanwhile, take the time to brainstorm what goals you’d like to work on next, or what maybe got shoved to the side while you were so busy. Re-prioritize your goals so that you have a refreshed outlook as you move into a time of slowness.

These times are ideal for getting done the things that you wouldn’t have time to do when you’re in a production: updating your PR materials (website, blog, CV, headshots, recordings, etc.), studying a language, learning a full role that you’d like to sing in the near future, creating a recital program, taking acting classes, popping in for some voice lessons or coaching sessions, etc. Focusing on these VERY productive tasks will engage you in the future of your career, rather than making you feel stuck in a rut or slow period. And you’ll find that out of nowhere, little performance opportunities may emerge and you’ll feel empowered to say “no” to them so you can focus on what you’re doing for you, or say “yes” because they’ll work in tandem with your existing goals.

Staying motivated by constantly assessing and reassessing your goals and what you’re doing on a daily basis to achieve them sounds difficult, but like anything else, it’s a habit. When you’re about to wrap up a busy period of performing, go ahead and see what the next few months hold – imagine an ideal vacation or way of relaxing and what you’d do if you had hours of time on your hands. The ebb and flow of the performing life is one of its greatest challenges but can also be its greatest gift. These times are a chance to hit pause, reassess, and refocus on what you need to get done to make your singing career work for you. This is all that stuff below the surface that goes into making your next performance dazzle!Success-is-like-an-iceberg

Practicing Fearlessly – Reboot!

Four years ago, I shared some thoughts on how to practice with another blog. I’d like to revisit those for a moment here.

Here’s the original post:

Practicing Fearlessness – Fearlessly

Part 1

Practice, practice, practice… often the bane of any music student’s existence! 

I have to work at this too- instead of saying, “Ugh, I need to practice,” or “I’m supposed to practice later,” try turning it into a positive: “I want to practice that awesome piece,” or “I love singing in Italian- I’ll go practice now!”  It sounds cheesy, but using positive reinforcement and encouragement with yourself will really change how you look not just at practicing music, but in other daily activities. 

An old conductor of mine used to say “Practice Makes Permanent.”  This applies not just to specific patterns or music you’ll practice, but your mental involvement in music.  Your mind should be actively listening, engaging your vocal mechanism, stopping when you need to check something, but not using constant negative language to beat yourself up.  Regardless of where you are in your studies, there is always room for nuance and improvement, but no one singer is 100% perfect at any given time.  I find if I focus on the things I’m screwing up, rather than on the things I know I can improve, my practice session will be short and unproductive. I hope if you too start working now on practicing positively, practicing your vocal music will become a permanent joy rather than a chore.

These thoughts were inspired by a teacher I worked with for a short time, who pointed out that every time I approached a high note, I told myself “no.” For many years, I relied on my intelligence to learn notes and just get through a piece, but was almost afraid of practicing in case I actually got really good. I was afraid not just of failure, but also success! It’s amazing what the ego mind, or what my mentor calls the Brat, can do – it’s that voice in your head setting you up to fail or always have an escape route ready.

It’s taken me years to understand that practicing is part of my job, and that I really do just need to do it. One of my voice students here in Denver often wears a cap with the Nike logo, and when he struggles, I simply point at his cap and say “Just do it!” Taking that leap, sometimes once, sometimes many, many times will eventually prove to you and the Brat that you are capable. Failure or success really have nothing to do with singing. If you have two working vocal folds, you too can just do it.