Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Comfort Zone: Part Two

Previously on The Comfort Zone...  I was sitting in a regional train, literally as well as figuratively, in a rather uncomfortable seat going nowhere really fast.
Today I’m sitting in the fast train -- literally as well as figuratively -- on the way back from a job that I couldn’t have said “Yes” to had I not said “No, thank you” to my previous Comfort Zone. It had been risky, I thought, to turn something down even when I had nothing. But it paid off. Even before the productions in question, which would have collided with each other timewise, once I said “No” to the Comfort Zone offer, bigger and better things started pouring in. 
This season I have been an operatic superhero, doing most of my singing by “saving the day”, jumping in for various roles, two of which I’d never actually sung before. It has definitely been a fun ride: being compensated adequately for my efforts,  working with colleagues who match and even surpass my level. But these people here outside my Comfort Zone have superpowers, too. They can see right through me. 
I may have amazed them with my super-fast learning skills, my ability to juggle (see previous post: “It Takes Balls to be an Opera Singer”), and my cooperative manner, but they recognize that I’m not quite reaching my full potential. I may be a superhero, but I am not a superstar. I’m not talking in terms of salary or renown but rather vocal production.
There is something out there (maybe my operatic evil nemesis alter ego within or something) that prevents me from taking better care of myself and my voice. I’m not saying I stay up all night partying or that I eat badly and don’t exercise. It’s more like flossing your teeth or drinking 8 glasses of water a day. You know you should do it, but do you? Really. Do you??
Well, good for you.
Discipline is not one of my strong points. I have patience (or maybe I’m just stubborn) and tenacity (or maybe I’m just stubborn) and ambition (or maybe I’m just ... stubborn?) which has gotten me as far as I am. And for certain roles, my vocal efforts are more than sufficient. But to consistently take it up a notch, and sing roles which require not only natural ability, but skill, I am going to finally have to concentrate and do all those things that my great teachers and coaches have told me to do. It's the difference between being excellent and being exquisite.
What? Do you mean to tell us that you don’t sing well, Christine? Well, no. I do all right. But we have to remember that the purpose of practicing is to train your body into doing the right thing without having to think about it. And until that becomes automatic, I’m going to have to pick up the speed a bit. It takes a lot more momentum than I’m used to to jump on a moving fast train.


  1. It's not something "out there." It's something "in there." The acupuncturist I went to see the other day said "our inner selves will tell us everything we need to know, if we just stop searching for fulfillment outside ourselves long enough to LISTEN."

    So stop and listen for a bit. Everything you need is already within you.

    Love you, Grahamophone.

    1. Well, first of all, congratulations on taking new risks and having them pay off so well!

      It sounds like you have the leverage you need to take your skills to the next level - you want to keep singing with the superstars now, so you're going to do whatever it takes to make it happen.

      But how many singers do you know who lead a really disciplined life? Ideally we should all be caring for our bodies like pro athletes and woodshedding our technique daily the way most instrumentalists must. But on the whole we don't. This is why I often fantasize about re-framing vocal training to be more like some sort of martial-arts inspired practice, more overtly mind-body oriented and ritualistic.

      The other thing is that if you're going to sing, you need to have something to sing about - you have to be really engaged in the process of living, as you are, which sometimes runs counter to this kind of discipline, even if you're not out partying all night every night.

      Nothing beats the right motivation, though. Enjoy your journey to exquisite!