TOP 10 ROADBLOCKS MUSICAL THEATRE PERFORMERS FACE (PART 2)

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Last week I started to explore the Top 10 Roadblocks that I have seen my students consistently face-regardless of how far along they are on their career path. As a private voice teacher, I have the privilege of exploring these obstacles with my students on a regular basis and finding creative solutions. No matter how many times I’ve confronted each challenge with a student or on my own, I am always inspired when someone overcomes a hurdle and discovers their true potential.

This list was inspired when Deidre Goodwin and I did an interview for Theatre Cast: a  webcast where theatre teachers and professionals that share a passion for theatre trends exchange 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 roadblocks that I have seen my students come up against consistently.  At this point, a listener of the program wrote in and asked me to go further on that topic.

The following is intended to help you work through the rough points, stick to your resolutions and reach your goals. For more details on items 6-10, please check out the previous post (creatively titled The TOP 10 ROADBLOCK MUSICAL THEATRE PERFORMERS FACE ( PART 1) )

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5. COMPARISON TO WHERE OTHER’S ARE ON THEIR PATHS

When we were in grammar school and were assigned a creative project, the teacher would tell us, “Eyes on your own page!”. She wanted us to focus on our own project and use our own creativity to create something without being swayed or influenced by what other people were doing. I find this motto to be very useful when it comes to my students wondering if they are where they need to be on their career path. It’s oh so tempting to take a look at where our friends and colleagues are and wonder what we are doing wrong or how we can follow in their footsteps. We can spend so much time and energy focusing on other people’s paths and comparing- that we lose our own focus and take energy away from the things that can lead to our own victories. Stay on your own path. Celebrate your friend’s triumphs and at the same time acknowledge that your path is different and your victories will come in their own time.

4. EXPECTING ONE’S SELF TO BE WHERE YOU WANT AS A PERFORMER WITHOUT ALLOWING TIME FOR GRADUAL GROWTH

When a little baby takes it’s very first step, everyone in the room claps and cheers. There are smiles and celebration – and when the baby plops down on his behind seconds later, there are more smiles, applause and encouragement to try again. If he falls, he is not admonished but encouraged to reach further. No one would expect that infant to be up and running a race moments after his first step. Watching the child develop we understand that he must literally put one foot in front of the other to develop muscular strength , coordination and stamina.

As we develop our skills as an artists it’s easy to become impatient with ourselves and expect instant results. We want to see the fruits of our efforts quickly and get frustrated with our status quo. Try to embrace where you are in this very moment as a performer and celebrate that. Acknowledge that you are on a journey as an artist and are developing actual factual muscles. That takes time , patience and practice. Recognize that while you are reaching for greater goals, that does not take away from where you are and what you have to offer in THIS VERY MOMENT.

3. FEAR OF MAKING A MISTAKE- NOT LEAVING SPACE FOR THE “BAD” SOUNDS

It’s very rare that something will come out just perfect on the first try. Great ballerinas have had to fall out of their pirouettes when they were first learning to dance, renowned painters have thousands of sketches that end up painted over or in the trash.  When it comes to singing , I’ve found that most people would like to “sound good” all the time.  For some reason we leave very little room for breathy, cracky or vulnerable sounds when we are working on our singing.  We will go to great lengths creating tension or shying away from notes to avoid “sounding bad” . One of the first things I point out to my students when we begin our work together is that we are not in the studio to “sound good”.  We are in the studio so that we can “sound good” out in the world.  That means that there may be times when we will take the voice to places that are weak, cracky, vulnerable.  As opposed to creating tension and trying to cover those areas up, I encourage the student to actually deal with the reality of what is going on with their instrument so that we can give them the exercises to build upon those areas that need development. It reminds me of going to the gym. Personally, I don’t look my best as I’m sweating on the elliptical machine. However, I hope that as I continue to put in that work I will leave the gym looking and feeling a little better. It’s so important to have at least one safe space where you can feel completely free to “mess up”.  Let that space be your place to play with your instrument, find your creative voice and really let go.

2. NOT GIVING ONE’S SELF THE OPPORTUNITY TO BE BRILLIANT DUE TO LACK OF PROPER PREPARATION

There’s a certain magic that happens when we have done our homework and are truly prepared for a performance . Suddenly, our shoulders release, our breathing becomes easy and our confidence swells. We are able to be present and in the moment and lo and behold-we can have some fun. Anything becomes possible. Proper preparation involves several factors that can sometimes get overlooked or skipped but each element can make a major difference in leading to a victorious outcome. Simply being familiar with our material and having rehearsed it is a good place to start, but preparation can go deeper than that. By giving yourself the opportunity to practice your material in front of other people several times before your audition or performance, allowing yourself the time to warm-up your voice and body,  being certain of how you are going to enter the room and communicate with your accompanist, checking to be sure your music is set up in the proper format and in the proper key and clearly marked, exploring your piece several times and playing with your acting choices and so forth you are setting your self up for an enjoyable performance. Challenge yourself to create opportunities to be brilliant on a regular basis.  As Oprah says, “I feel that luck is preparation meeting opportunity. ”

1. QUESTIONING “AM I GOOD ENOUGH?” 

This is most certainly the #1 road block I see Musical Theatre performers come up against no matter how far along they are on their career path. A performer can have multiple Broadway credits and award nominations or wins. Still the “evil doubt monster” can rear his nasty little head at a moment’s notice. Part of our job as performers is to continually nurture our sense of value and worth. Create a strong support system of teachers, friends, mentors and medical professionals that you trust to guide you on your journey and fill your days with work that inspires you. Continue to strive towards improving your skills while acknowledging how far you’ve come on your path thus far. Practice and be prepared. From there, do the work and just keep doing it. When it comes down to it, we have very little control over what other people’s opinions of us might be — quite frankly it’s none of our business. I’ve seen people talk themselves into the idea of begin good enough and just as easily talk themselves out of being good enough. Make the decision to do the work and let it be an exciting journey rather than a one time trip to greatness. There will be great days and less than great days but you will always be an artist . In my book, by definition, that is more than good enough.

Be Warm,

Kim Stern

Co-Creator – The Broadway Warm-Up

A Completely Synchronized Vocal and Dance Warm-Up that can be completed in under 30 minutes!