Tuesday, February 28, 2012

What NOT to do when singing in a master class...

There are some no-no's to performing.  I broke every one of them while singing at my master class up at Weber State University today.
1.  No excuses
You absolutely DO NOT excuse away all of the reasons why you feel like you are not on your game.  But today I stood there and gave a laundry list of excuses before and after my performance as to the reasons why.
       -I hadn't eaten lunch.
       -I was struggling with a slight cold which had left gunk in my lungs.
       -I was harried and stressed from the worry about getting done and back to drive the gymnastics carpool in time.
       -My husband was out of town.
       -I had just gone to the dentist and was still feeling achy from the stretching involved in getting that crown on the tooth in the way far back of my mouth.  (Hence the no lunch...see #1)
       -I was operating on a sleep defecit.
       -I was hormonal.  (Yes, I even admitted to this.)
But no matter how good your excuses are, and darn it all, I had some really good ones today...you just don't do that.

2.  No starting over
Doesn't matter how bad you feel that opening note is, you continue on.  But today:  I bowed my head and pulled myself together, I channeled my character on my face during the (long) intro and then hit my first note.  Ooohhh, so bad.  Admittedly I had been worried enough about that entrance that I'm sure nerves played a part in the horrifying awfulness of it.  It's the D above high E.  Right at my pissagio...where I move from my chest voice to my higher range.  I can usually move between the two with smooth ease now, but coming in right at that point when I'm already struggling...yeah.  I was so embarrassed at the sound that came out of my mouth that I doubled over and laughed.  And then looked over at Gary, my voice teacher, and begged for second chance.  And while he was at it...could he speed up or maybe even not play the whole intro??  Not real professional of me.

3.  Find a visual focus point or two and stick to them.  No wandering eyes.
I was so humiliated by my awful beginning (and the dawning realization as I continued on that this was probably the worst I had ever sung this song) that I went into survival mode.  Just. Get. Through. The. Darn. Song.  And my eyes wandered.

4.  Stay in character till the last note of the accompaniment.
As soon as I hit my last note...which admittedly wasn't anywhere near as solid and strong as I had practiced, I dramatically dropped my head onto the piano and said, "That was awful!" as Gary was still playing his final few bars.

I know better.  All of these no-no's were things I had perfected long ago.  I think the reason performers resort to excuses or breaking character has to do with self preservation.  We want the audience, especially one of peers in a casual setting such as a master class, to know that we realize that was a crappy note, I forgot my words, I made a mistake, etc.  If I make fun of myself or give excuses as to why, then the feedback might not sting as much.

But sting it still did.  This is my first master class after a few months break and in that time a new acting coach has come in.  I don't know her and more importantly, she doesn't know me.  So the things she was advising me to do to make my performance better were things that I ALREADY KNOW!  These mistakes were beneath me and not like me AT ALL.  But she didn't know that because she hadn't ever seen any of my other master class performances over the past 4 years.  So I had to sit there and nod my head and thank her for the tips and advice while biting my tongue.  (Bless Gary for throwing a few, "Yeah...you don't usually do that.  Normally you're quite good at not breaking character and holding your visual focus" type of comments.)

Still....here is the reason you stick these performing rules.  Despite the fact that I knew this was the worst I had ever sung that song....that audience had no idea.  And they were still amazed with what I pulled out.  I'm accomplished enough that even when I was in survival mode, my training kicked in enough that I still stayed in character.  My eyes may have wandered but my arm gestures and my facial expressions apparently looked like I believed what I was singing.  Despite the fact that I had a cold, they audience was truly impressed with my high notes even though I knew they weren't anywhere as solid as I could normally sing them.  If I hadn't given them every excuse in the book as to why my performance was going to suck, they wouldn't have known.  We are our own worst critics.  My performance, as bad as I felt it was... knowing what I knew I could normally do...was still good, even if it wasn't stellar.

So overall, I guess this master class was a good reminder.  And I maybe I can take ironic comfort in the fact that I was a good visual aid to all the other participants in the class of what NOT to do when performing.       

1 comment:

DisabilityDiva said...

Oh Sara!! I love that you had the courage to do everything youre not suppose to! We've all been there!! So great that you're taking the masters clas I LOVE it!!