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5 Things That I Work On With My Students


We're all works in progress. Life is growth. There are some lessons that I work on with all of my singing and songwriting students at every level. Here are 5 of those things. 1) Aim for progress, not perfection. Progress is made one step at a time, perfection is a lifelong pursuit (and some would say, myself included, unattainable, and therefore where art is concerned, perfection is both impossible and irrelevant. I invite you to learn more about the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi) Focusing on each step along the way, as one is doing it allows each step to be done well. Quality process in, results in a quality product. So rather than getting caught up in the illusion of perfection, focus on the reality of a solid process with the goal of progress.


2) Review your own work like a scientist, not a critic. I recommend that all of my students video their own practices and performances. This is the closest anyone ever comes to being an audience member at their own show. I recommend that they ask themselves, lovingly and compassionately, What is working? What is not? What needs more experimentation or development? What needs dialing back or sticking to the basics, or stopping where you are? - Let your own aesthetics be your guide. Be honest and be kind. Get used to supporting your own art this way. It will serve you well and you will become closer to your goal at an exponential speed because you are present and intentional with the details.


3) Remember that art, growth, and development, are not a competition. Becoming really is not about anyone else. Only ourselves. Who do we want to be? How can we each express that in the best way at any given moment? It doesn’t matter what others think, they may not understand what we are trying to do, or have a different aesthetic. It also doesn't matter what others are doing to be their best selves. Everyone grows in their own way in their own time. We are our own (only) competition. If you must see it as a competition or a comparison, compete and compare only with your own past self. Think about the last time you did something. If you are doing “it” even incrementally better than the last time, Congratulations, you are winning! If you can keep that trajectory you will be constantly improving.


4) People will take their cues from you.

This has a two-part explanation. Part One: Performance: The audience looks to the performer for cues. However the performer is behaving, that is the cue to the audience on how to receive the performance. If the performer is nervous the audience will be nervous for the performer. If the performer is bored the audience will grow bored too. IF the performer is engaged and happy, the audience will be engaged and happy too. As a performer, it is important to understand this connection.

Part Two: Self-talk/Presentation:

It's important to talk about ourselves (and in our inner dialogues) with respect. Self-effacing talk is not kind to ourselves, and it teaches others how we want them to treat/see us. It is important to treat ALL people with respect, and that includes ourselves. This doesn't mean that we need to constantly massage the egos of others and/or ourselves, in fact, I wouldn't recommend that at all. It just means that we should be kind to others and to ourselves. I recommend to my students to stand in their own personal power and to be sure of it. Personal power is about self-empowerment. Once in one's own empowered place, it is important to be loving and respectful towards others, and in support of, and in observance of the personal power in others. That is a powerful and kind presentation. Others will take their cues from you.


5) Authenticity is the secret ingredient.

What's in the secret sauce? The proprietary formula? What was that recipe that made that thing so good? It was the taste and refinement and authentic expression of the creator. There is only one of each of us. And we are always growing and changing, gaining richer perspectives and experiences to draw from. We are not the same as we ourselves were just a minute ago (learn more about this concept from Heraclitus), so how can anyone else be us? And how can we be anyone else? It will always feel like something is missing if we ignore authenticity. Many years ago I wrote a song with this line in it "Be you no one can do it better" That's the truth, and conversely, you cannot do or be anyone else better or as well as they can either. Influences and homages are all wonderful ingredients. Learning through mimicry is so valuable, but never forget the value and nuance in authenticity.


I hope that these 5 things support you in your creative journey. Share them with someone you love if you think they will grow from these thoughts.


As always, thank you for being part of the conversation.



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