It’s December—the month where singers run from gig to gig—or wonder why they’re not! We hope you’ll take some time for yourself, right this very minute, to think back to your successes this year.
Wait a minute…I just heard that little voice in your head saying: “WHAT SUCCESSES??” Would you please quiet that voice down long enough to think about the things you’ve overcome this year, and the progress you’ve made mentally, spiritually, and physically?
We need to learn the to give ourselves—and ask for—needed praise. It’s OK to receive praise, you know! Applause is there for a reason, and you don’t have to wait till you are at the Met to get it!
I watched a movie the other day that featured a young teenager from a small town who had been sent to compete in a scholastic competition. The whole town was telling her she was going to win, so she was bitterly disappointed when she got second place. She didn’t even want to come home and face the townspeople.
As the train came into town, the young girl couldn’t believe her eyes. A brass band was playing and a huge crowd of people was cheering—all because of her second place win! Everyone told her she had brought honor to the town and they were so proud of her. She cried and told them they were wrong: she didn’t win! They said they knew all about it, but she was a hero to them.
The same thing happens in the movie The Rookie. Teacher Jim Morris doesn’t become a famous baseball player—but when he walks out of the stadium, after having at least walked onto a major league field and pitched one game, the whole town is there, hollering and screaming. Jim’s hard-earned success was a source of great pride to the town and school where he taught.
You have had wonderful successes in your life—many of them. Were they acknowledged? Think about the things you have overcome in your career—but the town didn’t come out to cheer you, did they? Perhaps your partner or parents didn’t even understand that the parts they were supposed to play in your personal movie were so critical! They didn’t know how to speak the language of praise, because you haven’t taught them! Others are afraid you will get too uppity if they praise you—they really need to be taught the language of praise.
Maybe you walked out of the Met’s stage door after singing the one-and-only phrase you’ll ever sing there in your whole life. It will never be written up in the “Times,” but it’s a HUGE victory! You sang at the Met! Where is the crowd cheering for your success? It’s got to come from your local support team. You need to hear what a great victory you had! Perhaps you overcame stage fright and did that recital you thought you’d never do? Where is your cheering section? You’ve got to train them to be there for you.
We all need a cheering section—but most of us don’t have a brass band at our disposal! So how do we get a cheering section?
Here’s how: One singer walked out of a Carnegie Hall performance with his wife, and she started to tell him all the things he had done wrong. He stopped in the middle of the street (dangerous in New York!) and said, “Not another word! You are not allowed to say one bad thing until you tell me six good things I did.”
And that’s how you get a cheering section—you train them!
If you come out of every performance moaning and complaining about how badly you did, you’re not training your cheering section! If you tell your roommates it doesn’t matter if they come to this performance or that recital, you’re not training them. If you let your spouse get away with no flowers for your senior recital, or your wife get away with telling you she has to work that night, you’re not training them. If you let your teacher rip into you during intermission, you are not training her—and yes, many times you have to train a teacher in the language of praise.
Just as important, you have to learn to be a cheering section.
Do you have a friend who is making her debut as Third Lady in “Flute” at New York City Opera? Show up with flowers backstage! She’ll never forget it. Third ladies don’t get reviews, and rarely get visitors backstage. When you aren’t the star, it’s so lonely opening the door after wigs and makeup are off.
Most of us will never be the star, and this is IT! So treat each other like stars! Do this for your friends and family, and they are more likely to do it for you. Let’s teach each other the language of praise.
Unless you have a brass band following you around everywhere you go, it’s OK to teach people how to treat you. And it’s OK to want a cheering section now and then. Performers need to feel appreciated, like they need air. It is difficult to open a dressing room door after a performance and find no one there, night after night after night. It’s OK to want a support team there at least once in a while! Sure, we all need to hear about where we made a mistake, but there is a time and a place for that—and it definitely isn’t during or immediately after a performance.
So take a look at the people in your life and see where you can cultivate that brass band! You deserve it.
If you have a question about this article or anything else, please write to Ms. CJ Williamson, the editor of Classical Singer magazine, at firstname.lastname@example.org or at P.O. Box 1710, Draper, UT 84020. Letters can be used as “Letters to the Editor” if you would like, “Name Withheld” if you’d like, or meant for the staff only. Just let us know.