New shoes, new fancy clothes. Hair washed and pulled away from the face, or slicked back. So nervous. Why do they put themselves though this? They sit anxiously in the church pews until it is their time to get up and sing. The adjudicator sits in judgment scribbling away as the student sings their piece. Is he writing ‘loved it’? Is he writing ‘hated it’? They all wonder as they wait their turn to get up and perform at the festival.
It’s music festival season across Canada. Local festivals are the ones that give young singers, dancers, musicians, actors, and the like a chance to get up and strut their stuff. I started at age 7 singing in the Coldwater Music Festival and moved on to the Orillia Kiwanis Festival where I not only sang, but also competed in guitar and tuba! Now I am often the adjudicator at festivals around Canada or, this week, I’m attending the Greater Victoria Performing Arts Festival as a teacher. I’m watching and encouraging my young students to sing the piece the best they can that day. This is the song that they have worked feverishly on for months, polishing it up for this moment of performance and adjudication.
Sitting through the adjudications this week I realized that there was a lot of advice that is good, not only for developing young singers, but also in living life. Remember that book “All I Really need to know I learned in Kindergarten”? It had a list that included things like:
Take a nap every afternoon
Clean up your own mess!
Here is my list inspired by the advice that the young singers were getting. I needed to be reminded of these things for just living my day, let alone when I sing:
All I Really Need to Know I Learned from Singing
- Breathe. You think it is easy, and natural, but that hasn’t been true since you were a baby. Consciously breath. Deeply. Relaxed. Open to it.
- Trust. Trust that your body knows what do to do and trust that it will join forces with your intellect and everything will be okay. Trust your breath. Trust your body. Trust yourself. You are enough.
- Stay connected. When you are fearful, you get into your head and out of your body. Stay connected to your body in these moments. Ground yourself. Feel the floor; put down roots into the earth and root. Stay connected to the wisdom of the body and the heart.
- Feel the Resonance. Words have resonance, in our mouths and hearts. Don’t ignore that. Feel it.
- Prepare for what’s coming and breath accordingly. Don’t get caught in a tight spot with a desperate gasp. Prepare for what is ahead. Anticipate and give yourself a chance to set up properly for what’s coming. Prepare, drop your belly, and really inhale what is needed.
- Sustain. Be brave and stay with what you started. You don’t have to do anything sometimes. Just stay where you are. Be patient. What you are doing is enough.
- Be committed right to the end. If you don’t bring energy to finish what you started you can end up being misunderstood. In singing that translates a text that is written as “Around the corner peeps” becoming “Around the corner pees”. Every detail right to the end matters, in life and singing.
- Energy without Tension. Singing, like life, requires energy, the kind that crackles with being present. In musical phrases and in life there are ups and downs, but tension isn’t going to help you on that trip. Tension is a hold. A block. A stoppage of energy. Flow is what is needed.
Where has life been teaching you lessons in lately?