As singers, we have many mental things to deal with and prepare for in everything we do. Each rehearsal, audition, performance for the public (regardless of the amount of payment), has a particular mindset depending on what we are doing. One thing singers of all levels hear, but especially in school and in the beginning of their careers, is to make big choices. Stage directors and teachers will say, "take it farther than you think it should go and I'll tell you whether it's too much." Spoiler alert - the percentage of times one is told their efforts were too much is on the same level as a dog actually catching its tail when chasing it. This principle can also be used in other parts of the career as well.
Since I'm towards the beginning of my career and still clawing my way through like everyone else, one thing I've learned is in order to have success in this business you've got to have, as everyone's "favorite" politician would say, "yuuuuuuuuuuuuuuge" balls. Yes, every single one of those u's were needed. Learning how to be ballsy in your career takes time, is accompanied by some (maybe even a lot more than some) failure, but as you continue to grow, you find your way and purpose a lot faster than sitting around waiting for fortune to show up on your doorstep.
The audition is probably the place where your ballsiness is most often seen, because it takes a great amount of courage and grit to go in front of people who will judge every nit picky detail of you and your performance (even if you're not in great voice for any number of reasons), and compare you with the other 20 (if not more) people who are the same voice type. As a person and singer, you really got to have some gall and cojones to essentially say to them through your performance and how you conduct yourself, "look, I'm what you want. I'm perfect for the role. People will buy tickets because I'm singing in it. You'll be grateful to work with someone like me." Whether or not those things are actually true or just the story you put in your head to amp you up depends on a variety of factors, but the point is it takes guts to have that mindset.
In the last 24 hours two things happened that reiterated this principle to me. Whenever I have a performance I always try my best to be an adult. I went to bed at 10:30 the night before, did the usual melatonin routine, turned on some meaningless TV as per usual and fell asleep. Then around 1:00am my body says, "That's cute... Wakey Wakey" and wouldn't let me fall back asleep. Since the performance was on a Sunday, I also had two masses to sing in the morning, so when I showed up on just under 3 hours sleep you know how "fun" that was. Despite getting through the masses fine, I was stressing about the performance later though due to the highness of one of the arias I was singing. I thought, "whatever, it's fine. I'll take a nap when I get home then get up and run for an hour. It's fine. No really, it's fine." Pretty insane thinking, because in my experience, m0st naps lower my voice, even if the rest of my body feels better.
Fast forward after the non nap, run afternoon, to the performance with Opera on Tap Seattle. The first aria I sang was from Mark Adamo's Little Women entitled "Kennst du das Land", which unless you're a high baritone or can float your high notes well can be a little bit of a beast, but it's one of the most beautiful arias I've ever worked on. Mind you, I haven't sung this since 2014 and at that time only sang the English part of the aria (first part is in German). I could've said to the host I couldn't do it and could sing something else that I had mentioned in the planning process, but then I said to myself, "No, real professionals do this all the time. Rarely does anyone perform when they are 100%. Grow a pair, dude." So I did. I grew a pair and took a chance on me. Now the performance was not perfect. The big high note was definitely better all week before that, but it was passable and I proved to myself that I can "be a man" when it's needed. But this isn't where being ballsy ended that night.
Those who know me and have been to my recitals know I like to not only create interesting and fun programs, but whenever possible I like to make my recitals more palatable to the general public as a way to break down barriers and stereotypes that people have about classical music. One thing I love doing and have had great success with is bringing people onstage to do scenes with me. It's unconventional for the genre and has really a polar opposite potential result (either amazing or completely bomb), but so far I've lucked out. I was singing the infamous Catalogue Aria from Don Giovanni where Leporello tells Elvira she is just a grain of sand in the ocean of people Giovanni has slept with. In the score she doesn't sing anything, but it's an aria that is much more convincing if you have someone else there to play with you.
So the audience member comes up to the stage not knowing what she's getting into, but from all accounts she did great. I also did the aria in English and had preset pictures in my phone to show the audience during the latter half of the aria. There was a lot of moving pieces in this, but I got up there with my ideas and said, "alright let's see how this goes" in front of a paying audience. Normally not having outside feedback prior to performing something is not how I like to roll, but that's what happened this time. The feedback was great and now I have things I can improve on now that it's been on it's feet.
The other ballsy move was asking for money and advertising. I have my Murica recital this Friday and so I've been posting all over the Seattle classical music pages on Facebook to help get the word out. Last weekend on whim I sent a message to Second Inversion, which is affiliated with the classical music station in Seattle and focuses on new music, which there is a fair amount on my recital that is. Today I got a message from them saying they would post about it and if I would have contacted them sooner I could've been in their newsletter that goes out regularly. Exciting news for this weekend and good information for the future, and this was all because I took a chance on me and contacted someone who can help me with my career.
When in doubt everyone, growing a pair won't let you down. Believe in yourself and things will either work out or teach you a valuable lesson, like you can accomplish what you set out to do.