This past weekend I gave the faculty address at the graduation ceremony for the The Canadian College of Performing Arts. I teach a class there called ‘Connections’ where students combine acting, movement and voice in music theatre songs in a workshop setting. I love working with these young artists on developing their process as music theatre performers. At a Faculty meeting this spring when we were asked to introduce ourselves and the class we taught for the benefit of a new faculty member, I said that the class I teach is Connections, and in that class I teach confidence. Not what’s in the student calendar I know, but that is actually what I’m teaching. My goal is to support performers as they access their intuition and take that leap of faith to trust their skills and tell a story through song. For anyone who tries to fade to the background at the mere singing of Hapy Birthday, you will appreciate the courage it takes to stand up and sing something in front of others, let alone interpret something.
In my speech I shared my top ten key things to remember as a performer at any age. Keys to creating and maintaining confidence. Our lives are spent so often in waffling between hope and fear. I remember being a young performer and how badly I wanted to succeed and how terrified I was that I would fail. These ‘forget me nots’ are not only for these graduates, but reminders for me, and maybe for you, whatever your path in life. I hope they are helpful and perhaps offer you some inspiration no matter what you are pursuing. Here is a portion of my speech.
Standing where I am today, with experience and career both behind me and still ahead of me, I wanted to offer you some advice, from one artist to another-
1. Don’t wait until you are perfect to start. Perfect isn’t the point. Perfect is a way to shut down your creativity. Just start.
2. If no one is hiring you, make your own work. Trust yourself and your ideas and create something that speaks to you and figure out a way to share it.
3. No one, and I mean no one, gets to tell you if you are an actor, a singer or a dancer ,but you. Never give that power to anyone.
4. Keep yourself creatively fuelled up. Remember what you love about your art form, hang out with people that inspire you, engage in activities that inspire and do it regularly.
5. Be willing to fail spectacularly. Be fearless in looking stupid. Stretching is the only way to learn, grow and eventually succeed. If you aren’t scared every day, you aren’t engaged in the process.
6. Never waste anything that happens to you. Learn from success. What did you do that works? Compost from failure.It’s a rich resource.
7. Don’t forget why you do what you do. If you are having doubts, ask yourself-Why bother? It’s not because someone else thinks it’s a good idea or a bad idea or everyone else is doing it. For the sake of what do you do this? Never forget your answer.
8. Accept your own friend request. Start by liking yourself and see how that helps your work. It’s hard enough without feeding the inner critic on the inside. Catch your negative self talk and refuse to listen, collect compliments or at the very least, just buy yourself a chocolate bar.
9. Engage in process and product takes care of itself. Let go of end result obsessions.
10. Be kind, gracious and grateful to everyone you meet on your path. Not because it’s how you further your career, but because it’s actually who you are. Good people with good hearts.
From those of us on the faculty, I wish you all the best wherever you life takes you. You are artists, each of you, in your own right, with nothing to prove. May you continue to create in however you are called. Tell stories, entertain, enlighten, engage in the world daily to make it a better place for all of us.
One of my favorite writers and artists Austin Kleon says “The only way to find your voice is to use it”. Go out there and make some noise.