During the flurry of my insanely bizarre and wonderful fall schedule, I received a request from the Mu Phi Chapter at Radford University in Virginia, asking for some words of encouragement. As a proud Mu Phi Alum, it took me a few weeks to respond, but I managed to get a few thoughts down onto “paper” while speeding across Europe on a high speed train. It’s not my most eloquent writing, but it captured that particular moment in time where my brain was buzzing with the desire to impart some, eh hem, wisdom, words of encouragement, and perhaps even so much as empowering them to get fierce about their paths!
The following post captures my rambling musings, over-emphatic GRAMMAR (!!!), and I happily post here (with permission) in the hopes that it just may speak to a few of you, as well!
In no particular order of importance (and surely missing a billion important things) :
[…] But who am to talk?!?! All of you are probably much busier than I am at the moment! I remember my college days at Wichita State University: I was holding down 3 jobs (Church Choir director, waitress, and assistant to the Dean for a few hours a week!) plus school AND the opera! I remember those days – of course you don’t have a moment to catch your breath or stop to smell the roses!!
However, if I could offer one small piece of advice … MAKE the time to stop and smell the roses. Just fricking DO IT. The world will not spin off its axis if you take 5 minutes off of your practice time. The Arpeggio Police will not arrest you if you let it go after the 10th repetition!! (Actually, letting it go after the 5th repetition is probably best: See #6) Life is happening NOW – and I know you are all busy pursuing your dreams and setting goals and working your tails off. That’s all FABULOUS.
But trust me on this: your treasure lies in the PROCESS. Your riches lie in the JOURNEY, not the destination. It’s happening NOW … not in 10 years’ time when you “make it”. Your moment is NOW!
And if life continues to teach me anything at all, that journey will be a constant fluctuation between “hard times”* and “great” ones, between “successes” and “failures”, between “getting” the gig and being “passed over”. Just trust that everything serves a unique purpose. Most “successful” people will tell you that it is the “failure” that teaches them the most and propels them forward in the most fabulous ways – that the “failure” is infinitely more valuable than the “success”. Trust that it’s all EXACTLY as it is meant to me. And when you truly want to move forward, and your intentions are clear and honest, you WILL make the necessary changes, do the necessary work, and take the leap!!!! But that’s ALL part of your individual journey.
* I’m putting all those terms in “…” above, because the other thing to consider is that we all define these things VERY differently. One person’s success is not necessarily another’s. Stay open to what any given situation might present in terms of lessons … sometimes if we re-label it, we can garner much more wisdom from it! *
What else can I say?
Support each other. No one else in the universe understands what we go through better than each other. We are not competitors. We are family. A disfunctional family, of course – but family all the same. Learn what it feels like to bring out the best in someone else!!!! Be the exception … 😉
Be your own very best friend and support system – not your own worst enemy. (good lord, ain’t nobody got time for that!!!) Tune in to how you speak to yourself. (But beware – it may horrify you!) Then ACTIVELY change your inner dialogue. There are few greater gifts you could EVER give yourself.
Take care of your instrument. If you’re a singer, ask yourself if you want to be a Stradavarius, or a cheap import made on an assembly line. Act accordingly. You are the builder.
Do everything you have to, to remember WHY you love music. FEED THAT JOY WITH ABANDON AND WITHOUT ONE OUNCE OF APOLOGY! Never, ever, EVER give someone else the power to rob you of your joy. Not the teacher, not the coach, not the critic, not the rude audience member nor the jealous colleague. Nope. NEVER give away that power. It’s your singular responsibility to honor your love for music.
Please – oh I beg of you – please do not be myopic. There is a WORLD out there that exists outside of the practice room and EmercenC and scarves and auditions and Callas’s Lucia. How in the WORLD can you be expected to portray the greatest of human emotion if you don’t know the world? Get out there and LIVE in it (while working your tail off!) … travel widely, eat adventurously, love passionately, dare with abandon, learn with a voracious appetite, risk being hurt, get far outside of your comfort zone. Then the stage will not only be a less scary place, but you will have something to OFFER the audiences who have paid a significant amount of money to hear you, to be moved by you. You might even change a life, or two along the way!
Foster humility. You are serving something MUCH bigger than yourself. “IT” ain’t about you, sweetheart! YOU need to be about IT. (It’s not only that I believe that to be true – it also makes things MUCH easier on you!!) Oh, also – if you’re humble, you will still be open to LEARNING – which is at the heart of any true artistic endeavor.
Declare war on fear. Unless you’re using it to survive (i.e., “I’m scared to jump off this 300 foot high rocky cliff into the raging shark-infested waters below” vs. “I’m scared I might suck on my first time through this Schubert song.”) Usually fear is just holding you back. Experiment – just force yourself to face what frightens you, and see what happens as you move through it. Again – the world will most likely not fall off its axis. It’s all good!
That’s about it for my free-flow attempt at wisdom. OH – wait! Except this:
FOSTER IMAGINATION. Once you have a technique it will be your most POWERFUL tool as an artist. OH yes – IMAGINATION is EVERYTHING!!!
That’s definitely it! My train is literally pulling into the station, another city awaits, there is another hotel club sandwich to be eaten! 😉 I send this with wishes for a FABULOUS year ahead, and that each of you has the most astoundingly fulfilling lives ahead!!!!
Learn what it feels like to bring out the best in someone else!!!! Be the exception … 😉