Happy New Year Folks! As we see the horizon of a New Year many of us have our sights on exciting new goals. We’ve made resolutions that we’ve been able to stick to thus far and we have high hopes for the promise of the coming year. Unfortunately, as we continue along our path we may find that some of these resolutions are a little harder to keep than we thought or we may get frustrated at not hitting the mark for all of our goals right away. The following is intended to help you work through the rough points, stick to your resolutions and reach your goals.
Recently, Deidre Goodwin and I did an interview for Theatre Cast: a webcast where theatre teachers and professionals share a passion for theatre trends and share practical advice and tips. We talked about our work in developing The Broadway Warm-Up and shared stories of our experiences as performers and teachers At some point in the conversation, I mentioned that I could name about 10 obstacles or road blocks that I have seen my students come up against consistently-regardless of how far they are along on their career path. At this point, a listener of the program wrote in and asked me to go further on that topic. I took some time to look at this and came up with the top 10 roadblocks that I see students consistently face. I realized each “roadblock” is surmountable the moment we are able to acknowledge it in a supportive way and find a way to address it.
TOP 10 ROAD BLOCKS MUSICAL THEATRE PERFORMERS CONSISTENTLY FACE IN REACHING THEIR GOALS ( PART 1)
10. SEARCHING FOR APPROVAL FROM SOURCES OUTSIDE OF YOURSELF BEFORE GAINING YOUR OWN APPROVAL
Many times I will have students coming to me hoping for me to tell them if I think they have what it takes to reach their goals. I found that the only real answer is to suggest that they take a look at themselves and ask that very same question. So many times we are tempted to search for approval in auditions, rehearsals, performances or in our day to day life. If we can begin to grow that sense of approval and worth within ourselves we’ll find ourselves continually nurtured. Confidence will soar and our performance will flourish as a result. Value the input of your mentors and teachers but trust that you and you alone can determine your worth.
9. DIFFICULTY EMBRACING THE BRILLIANCE OF THE PERSON YOU ARE AND WHAT YOU HAVE TO OFFER IN A UNIQUE WAY- TRYING TO REPLICATE WHAT OTHERS HAVE ALREADY PUT OUT THERE
To me, part of the wonder and brilliance of life is it’s absolute uniqueness. Each one of us has our very unique qualities and our very unique ways of expressing ourselves to the world. So often, I will find students trying to replicate a performance they’ve seen on YouTube or heard on ITunes and most of the time it’s obvious right from the start. They may not even realize they are doing it, but they’ve gotten it into their heads that there is one way to put a particular piece across and they aim to replicate it. The result is generally fine—but less than inspiring. When I discover this happening, I will try to find a way for the student to break the mold completely and find their true voice in the song- both on a technical level and as an actor. Invariably, the performance will flourish and the actor and audience will feel more satisfied when this kind of work comes into play. Bring your own unique voice to the table – it’s the one thing you have to offer that no one can take away from you!
8. FEAR OF TAKING A RISK
“If you do what you always do, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten”- Tony Robbins
By definition a risk is a situation involving exposure to danger. It seems quite natural that most of us instinctually avoid risk at all costs. However, as musical theatre performers, we’ve already committed to the idea of taking a risk at some level. When we walk on to a stage or enter a room for an audition we’ve taken a leap into the world of of being vulnerable and free ourselves up to act and react authentically and in the moment. Let’s commit to that idea in a full way. To be clear, Risk taking is not throwing caution to the wind and going in to an audition unrehearsed expecting brilliance. It’s challenging yourself to be fully present in the moment , trying a new piece of material or making a bold choice. When you take a smart risk as a performer you will inevitably leave the performance feeling fulfilled, rewarded and exhilarated and 9 times out of 10 your audience will walk away with the same feeling.
7. BECOMING HYPER FOCUSED ON ONE AREA OF WORK THAT NEEDS IMPROVEMENT WITHOUT ACKNOWLEDGING AREAS OF GROWTH AND STRENGTH ALONG THE WAY
I’ve seen it over and over. A student will get super focused on belting a certain note in a song or become so hyper aware of a section of their instrument that needs some developing that they will completely lose track of the growth that they are making as an overall performer. Then they will start to become frustrated, lose interest, lose motivation and lose focus. When we focus on one specific area and lose track of our creative instrument as a whole, the work starts to become less satisfying and more and more of a chore. I think it’s always important to have a realistic view of the goals we wish to reach and check in with those goals on a regular basis. At the same time, try to remember that you are developing your whole self on several different levels and you want to continue to acknowledge your growth and strengths along with your opportunities for improvement. The results can be surprising. I’ve seen students step away from working on an area that’s been challenging for them and begin to really focus on building their instrument as a whole. Then, a few months later they will come back to a piece of music that seemed impossible for them earlier and it will be a piece of cake.
6. DIFFICULTY COMMITTING TO REGULAR PRACTICE
We’ve all heard the old joke: “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?…” Well, there’s no way around it, practice is key element for anyone looking to master their craft. Most of us have great intentions but when it comes down to it may find it difficult to commit to a regular cycle of practice.
I find there are several elements that may get in the way of a steady practice cycle. The first is committing to too much too soon. If you haven’t been in a regular practice cycle it is going to be quite a shock to your system to suddenly commit to practicing 1 or more hours a day working on vocal exercises running through repertoire and cooling down. Try starting small. Commit to 10 minutes 3-4 times a week. Half the battle is actually beginning to practice. Chances are, once you start, you won’t want to stop and may end up doing more practice time than you committed to. If you do more, that’s great, but consider your practice fulfilled once you’ve done your 10 minutes. Do that for a month and then expand your commitment to 20 minutes 5 times a week… you get the idea. Before you know it you will have eased yourself into a regular practice pattern.
The second element that may interfere with regular practice : LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION! Many of us live in urban areas and don not want to disturb our neighbors or live with roommates. We may want to practice but find it difficult to find a proper time and place to really let our voices out. For my students living in urban areas, I suggest a few solutions: If you are living with roommates, it might help to come up with some sort of a schedule. Most likely your roommate would not mind having an hour or so per week of private time in the apartment even if they are not a performer. Make an agreement that both of you will plan to be out of the apartment for one hour per week at a specific time ( they would be using the apartment when you are out and vice versa) . You can then plan for that to be your rehearsal time. As for the neighbors, I recommend being as upfront as possible. Try knocking on the door or leaving a note and letting them know you are a performer and will be rehearsing from time to time . If at any point the noise is a problem invite them to please let you know.
A third element that generally gets in the way of regular practice is not knowing what to do or a general lack of focus. I recommend to my students to work with the vocal exercises that we have recorded on a given week along with the recording. I suggest for them to to do the exercises along with the recording and listen to the things we talk about in the lesson as sometimes you may hear an idea in a different way upon repetition. This element of not knowing what to do is actually one of the inspirations for The Broadway Warm-Up. I had so many students asking me for some sort of a set and efficient warm-up that could get them ready for a show or audition and found myself making repeated recordings for people. I finally decided to come up with a better solution.
In terms of working repertoire, it’s always tempting to strictly work on new material and let some of your older material suffer. Try to get in the habit of running through at least one or two of your old stand by’s a week and see what fresh insight you can bring to them.
Try to look at your practice time as a regular gift you can give to yourself . It’s time that you are taking away from any of the day to day drudgery to be creative and nurture your artistic self.
COMING SOON: TOP 10 ROAD BLOCKS MUSICAL THEATRE PERFORMERS CONSISTENTLY FACE IN REACHING THEIR GOALS ( PART 2)