I've just spent the last few weeks being inspired by the athletes competing in the RIO Olympics. It's quite something to watch so many people striving to be at their peak of excellence. I was particularly interested in Penny Oleksiuk, who, at age 16, carried the flag for Canada at the closing ceremonies in Rio. What an absolute inspiration for our country.
However, in the midst of all of the celebrations, you might not have considered the following:
I'm quite certain Penny didn't get to the top of her game by watching endless Netflix, or doing Facebook quizzes about what Disney character she was most like. She was passionately involved in her training and dedicated to being the best she could be.
While watching Olympic interviews, I heard parents of the athletes say, "my child just decided they wanted to do this, and began to train." I heard athletes say, "thanks to my parents for bringing me to training and for enabling my endeavours."
There comes a time when your child's extracurricular fun after school activity or your own occasional "sing along karaoke night fun", could possibly be an entrance into a pathway for the future. How does a parent know if this is just a one-time phase, or is it a real passion? How do you decide if it's something you want to invest in? How can we all strive to perform at our optimal best?
I've never been a person to try something out without throwing myself into it. I had lessons in lots of activities as a child in skiing, tennis, sailing, flute, piano to name a few. I tried my hardest in many fields, but it was singing I was passionate about. I was always singing.
Singing consistently made me feel whole.
I decided from a very young age to practice and work on my singing, to study my craft. Yes, there was some luck involved in my career, like being at the right audition at the right time, but one doesn't just win a competition or sing on a European opera stage by having luck or by doing a quiz, or by being a fan of a show or song. I worked hard. I practiced. I had lessons. One gets to perform on the best stages in terrific roles because we decide to nurture our talent.
At some point to be considered in the realm of excellence one has to commit to training and invest in preparation for reaching the best you can be. The students of mine that land the top roles and get cast in opportunities that lead them towards achieving personal bests are ones who are dedicated to continuous practice, dedicated to woodshedding work on their voices and regular instruction. You can't land a role with one or two private sessions. You can't expect to sing well at a competition or audition with a couple of lessons and a few hours of practice.
As fall approaches, I hear from returning students "I haven't sung in weeks my voice is out of shape".
Well here's the news folks: Singing is a sport! And like any muscular activity, the voice muscles will get out of shape when you stop training them. Taking a few months off for the summer always proves to be a tough thing every fall.
Here are a few ways you can become a better performer and get on track for reaching new heights:
Invest in regular weekly lessons and learn singing technique. Replace your old way of singing with a more thoughtful technical approach by learning new physical methods of technique. Practice these new methods over and over again and you will find your body will build muscle memory. Your muscles will start to remember the new way of singing and can then replicate that time and time again, making your singing more consistent. Eventually, you don’t even have to think about how the technical pieces work together, the body will remember how to do it.
2. BE CONSISTENT
Don't stop working on your voice and technique for long periods of time. Be consistent with your lessons and practice schedule. Have you ever had that one performance where you absolutely killed it on a particular song and then went to sing it the next time and it was lousy? You can't just "wing it" if you want a consistent result. You can't stop singing over the summer holidays and expect your voice just to be exactly where it was in May when you took a break. Consistency makes a big difference, especially to your muscle memory and to your confidence. You want to make choices about how you sing and trust your voice rather than getting worried and anxious about what type of sound you produce. When your voice is consistent you will build faith in your abilities, you'll trust yourself and you will relax in your performances.
Not every performer will possess the kind of talent one needs to experience international level stages or professional opportunities, but you can harness the power within yourself to become the best you can be with consistent, regular training and practice.
Foster your own unique abilities and embrace your challenges. Invest in your passion.