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My New Year’s Resolute Suggestions for Singers, et al …

So, that was 2016 … !  I’ve always loved looking back at a recently closed chapter in my life, analyzing it to learn what worked well (and what didn’t), appreciating it for what it was, and setting up my game plan for the next adventure.  While this past year has been an astonishing one for me in many ways, I have to ask: is anyone else out there happy to usher this particular 365-day cycle out the door?  I thought so.  So, that means THIS is the moment for us to decide HOW we want to open the door to the next cycle.  

Typically this means a list of resolutions. But I’m not a huge fan of those because, speaking from personal experience, they generally last until Jan. 17 when the temperatures are stuck below freezing and staying in bed sounds MUCH more tempting than that morning training run for my first marathon. Eh hem. So with that in mind, I offer you things 4 I will be trying to follow in the coming year, with an eye towards the long-term, not just a temporary fix for 2017.

1. Connect, ’80’s style:  (Bear with me, I’m a child of the 80’s.) Turn off your cell phone. This doesn’t mean to put it on vibrate and pretend each beeping notification isn’t making you salivate and palpitate. Actually turn it OFF. Yes. You. Go on – slide the bar into the off position. Immediately. Bravo/a. Now: put it inside your backpack/purse. Zip the closure. ZIP IT. (Or better yet, leave it at home altogether.) Yes, I’m talking to YOU. Now, look up and meet your world.

“Hola, Mundo!”

“Well, Hola, Singer.”

This is the mode that will enable you to actually interact with the world around you, to LEARN from it, to connect with others without the veil of anonymity found on the internet, to gather resource material for that profound human emotion you are hoping to convey on the stage with a degree of depth that will justify people paying high ticket prices to see you live!!! Take your dis-connected self to a cafe and sit without a single agenda – and just give yourself the gift of observation. Soak it up and see what it feels like to simply be with yourself without distraction or interference. Be brave – see if you can sit in solitude and simply observe the world around you.

2. Practice with Purpose, Kobe-style. I love this article by James Clear which highlights the effectiveness of very deliberate practice. Now that your phone is turned off, and you have connected with either yourself or the world around you, set an agenda and get into the practice room! If you can, keep your head clear as you vocalize so that it’s very purposeful. As you’re warming up, are you just going through the motions to warm up quickly and get to the “good stuff”? (“Gotta figure out that final note at the end of Nessun Dorma!”) Stop it. Stop it right now. That’s wasted time. Get mentally present so that every scale and arpeggio is a chance to grow vocally.  Give yourself that time.

As you move to the music, resist the temptation to solve all the issues at once.  Study after study shows the power of deliberate practice: it’s not just about hours in the studio, it’s about the quality of your intention and work. So have an agenda you’d like to accomplish in THAT session. No panic about how much you have to learn in the next month, how far behind you are, leave all of that with your cell phone tucked in your bag – use THIS TIME for effective work. You’ll be astonished at how far that goes in getting you closer to the artistic heights for which you are aiming!!

3. Clean house, Buddha-Style. If you can give yourself ONE gift in this coming year, drive out that incessant, destructive, debilitating inner voice that holds you back, shames you, cuts you down and limits your utterly wonderful, unique potential. I spoke about this a few years ago at Juilliard, and stand by it more than ever today. I know that we singers THINK we are being dutiful and diligent by being hard on ourselves, but I have yet to see how a truly destructive, hyper-critical inner voice helps us grow. If you can say that it makes you a better singer, a happier artist, a more contented human being, then by all means – amp it up.  But I would wager that many of you are unaware of the havoc your critical inner voice is wrecking on your self-confidence and your artistic integrity.  Tune in to it, observe if it is helping your artistic desires or not, and if it’s not a helpful force in your life, KICK IT THE HELL OUT OF YOUR HEAD. I’ll predict that the space it opens up within your mind will serve you in a FAR more impactful way than any amount of thinking “you are the worst singer/person on the planet that has ever existed” ever will.

4. Don’t give your power away, (dare I say it?) my-style.  I’m selfish. I don’t like to give the power of my happiness away to other people. Looking at 2017 and the drastic changes that seem to be being ushered in, I am very clear that I will not give away my capacity to love, to hope, to live optimistically, to stand by the sides of those who may be oppressed, to sing with a clear conscience, or to live freely to ANYONE. I will keep my heart and mind clear enough so that the energy I expend goes to one of CREATION, not to one of entering the turmoil.  (The Jonathan Larson quote, “The opposite of war is not peace: it’s Creation” is currently giving me life.)

Creation can include an infinite number of things. I invite you to think about what you want to create around you, and within you – and then go the hell for it.

At the end of the day, empower yourselves in ways you never thought possible. Why on earth wouldn’t you try? I plan on doing that for ’17, and, to quote the great Mother Superior who I shall sing on New Year’s Eve ~ I plan on climbing every mountain ahead! Let’s make it a GREAT one!

~~~

Article commissioned for Lincoln Center

5 Dec

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Looking forward to these powerful concerts with Yannick @nezetseguin! Schubert: Winterreise • Dec 08 | @clubmusicaldequebec Dec 11 | @princeton University Dec 15 | @carnegiehall * 📅 joycedidonato.com/category/events/🖥 *Live on @medici.tv - Dec. 15. www.medici.tv/en/calendar/ • • “The DiDonato/Nézet-Séguin pairing is inspired, one of those special nights where you rarely get to see two musical superstars pull off a work of this magnitude.” • ~ Independent Kansas City

And with the snap of the fingers, this blissful, nourishing tour with the extraordinary @orchestre_metropolitain comes to a conclusion. After touring some of the top halls in North America, what a joy to finish in the home of the @philorch, another base for the boundless energy and gifts of @nezetseguin. It also wraps up 3 astonishing months for me, going from Agrippina in London, across Sputh America and landing in DC for #InWarAndPeace, launching the new recording of #Damnation, visiting the @npr #tinydesk, (look for it in Jan!), and even traveling to ancient Egypt yesterday! Is there a more perfect conclusion to this memorable period than #Mozart? I think not! Photo: @fgoupil #partopartotomorrow #thatclari netthough #fullcircle #lastsangthisariainphillytwentyfouryearsagoatavaforthedeathbyariasingoff #spellcheckTHAT

#StandingOvation to the entire #Akhnaten Family for this beautiful performance today. Utterly unforgettable!!!! #Repost @metopera with @get_repost ・・・ Mezzo-soprano @joycedidonato hosted today’s Live in HD transmission of Philip Glass’s Akhnaten—seen in more than 70 countries worldwide. 🌎 Don’t miss her performance in the upcoming production of Agrippina, live in cinemas on February 29! #MetHD #MetOpera #Opera #Akhnaten #PhilipGlass #LiveinHD #Movies

Live from the Met in one hour! The Met's epic production of Philip Glass' Akhnaten is shown live on screen in cinemas worldwide and I am thrilled to host the broadcast. In bocca al lupo to this stellar cast! I can't wait to see the show and speak to you about this gorgeous work. @metopera #metopera #liveinhd #Movies #PhilipGlass #Akhnaten @philipglassmusic @arcostanzo #MetHD

An overwhelming evening last night @carnegiehall, with my fellow Perspective”s Artist, @nezetseguin, as he brought his first orchestra, @orchestre_metropolitain, to this beautiful hall for the first time. The pure joy and abundant love that poured forth from the legendary stage in the remarkable Bruckner 4 elevated us all. What a gift it is to be a part of his world. 🎉💃🎉 Photo: @fgoupil

It was an overwhelming musical experience to return to Strasbourg and my "Berlioz Family" to bring "La Damnation de Faust" to life! Released today, I can't think of a more perfect way to round out this Berlioz Year. I hope you will listen and be swept away, as we all were by the experience! @philharmonique_de_strasbourg @spikelmyers @nicolascourjal @alexandreduhamelbaritone @warner_classics @warnerclassicsus • 💿 Link in bio to pre-order the album. • • #berlioz #berlioz150 #yearofberlioz #faust #opera #newmusicfriday

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Thank you #AnnArbor, @umspresents, @orchestre_metropolitain , beloved @nezetseguin, and divine #Mozart. My soul is well-nourished tonight. ❤️❤️❤️

What fabulous news to wake up to, today!!!! So proud to be nominated for this hugely joyful project!!! Way to go, @craigterrypiano, @hotlipsporter, @lautaro_greco, #ChuckIsraels and #JimmyMadison!! Let’s Play On!!! #doesthatsaytwentytwenty #newdecaderealness #grammygrammygrammy @recordingacademy #grammys

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There will always be more freedom to acquire and more truth to uncover.

~ Joyce DiDonato