A book review of “A Soprano on Her Head” by Eloise Ristad
The challenges that face many musicians: Facing our peers, preparation, performance anxiety, creativity or in a rut, questioning our decisions or letting it all go for our passion.
Sometimes we are our own worst enemy…the voices in our heads speak loudly imposing criticism and imagined judgement from others. Wouldn’t it be much better to channel those “negative nellies” into juggling clowns and find humor in our struggles or use those criticisms to improve our performances…whether in music or life? We get in our own way “imposing impossible demands upon ourselves” rather than stepping back and looking from a different angle.
Musicians tend to dwell on the premise to practice long, work harder, deny yourself and the reward will come on the stage. We bog down in so many details and ways of correcting technique or faults and forget to just “make music.” At some point, we need to just enjoy the journey and sing (dance, play) for joy. So, what if we make mistakes, we learn something from EVERY rehearsal and performance if we are paying attention. AND, we get in our own way.
Oh my, distractions abound from everywhere in a musicians life. Some are rigid in their dedication; others fly by the seat of their pants. Finding YOUR learning style is uber important…not all teachers will connect with you. What is your practice style and how do you focus? Your imagination is a powerful tool, seeing what storyboard you create in your mind translates to your performance in a tangible way.
With a plethora of teachers and a multitude of teaching styles and a myriad schools of thought…how in the world do you know which techniques are right or wrong? Honestly, when what you’re doing isn’t working, it’s time to step out of our rut and investigate new things. That applies to life not just music or art. There are millions of people offering advice on EVERYTHING. Do your research and make a decision…Keep Calm and Choose.
Well, We are going to fail…in life and in performances. My philosophy, if your miserable, be a goat farmer, a bee-keeper or go into business. It’s ok to change your direction when things are over whelming. Setting unrealistic goals causes unnecessary stress. Realizing we are “human” gives us permission to relax and accomplish the important things.
Once, someone I cared about told me to not sing with the radio because I couldn’t sing. That could have “tanked” my career had I not been so determined to follow what was my destiny in life…be a darn good vocal coach (although at the time I didn’t know that). Set your goal, learn from your mistakes and others…and move on!
Stage fright/anxiety/nerves are rights of passage. Some never conquer them, some compartmentalize and some performers have nerves of steel! My years of experience are a blessing in disguise, I’ve learned to hide the nerves from my audience physically, not so much vocally… the more prepared I am, the less they show! My performance philosophy: BREATHE and Let it go!
Instead of singing on our heads… MOVE, try something different, life is too short to NOT “walk like an Egyptian.” Or in the author’s words: “Often in life we must stand on our heads before we can come full circle and turn ourselves right-side-up once again.” I long to find my “inner soprano” singing fully over an orchestra…