Act and Not Be Acted Upon

Act and Not Be Acted Upon

Be prepared to act, and not be acted upon.

That was my message to a group of singers and teachers at Tulane University last Friday as we took an hour to discuss some marketing and business principles as part of the CS Music Marketing Essentials Workshop.

Theron Anderson (CS Music), Amy Pfrimmer (Tulane University), and Alex Stoddard (CS Music), inside of Dixon Hall at Tulane University.

Theron Anderson (CS Music), Amy Pfrimmer (Tulane University), and Alex Stoddard (CS Music), inside of Dixon Hall at Tulane University.

If you’ve never been to New Orleans (which I hadn’t), I highly recommend a visit to the beautiful Tulane University campus. It’s located just a few miles from the French Quarter, so you’re minutes away from the hustle and bustle and excitement of the city. But at the same time you can enjoy the peaceful serenity of a humid southern day as you walk the giant plaza squares, lined with live oak trees and historic campus buildings.Of course, I was there on a late Friday afternoon, so maybe I missed the major commotion of a busy school morning.

The message, though, for those singers and all others that are embarking on a singing or teaching career is to be ready. You never know when opportunity is going knock on your door—and you never know what that opportunity will look like. As Winston Churchill said,

“To every man, there comes in his lifetime that special moment when he is tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a very special thing; unique, and fitted to his talents.

What a tragedy if that moment finds him unprepared and unqualified for the work that would be his finest hour.”

Professor Amy Pfrimmer, head of the vocal area at Tulane at the Newcombe School of Music, shared her experience of finding one of those unique opportunities. To paraphrase her experience, as she embarked on the audition scene, someone who had heard heard sing referred her to a casting agency for a Target commercial. Though a bit unorthodox, she took advantage of the opportunity and she nailed her audition. She was then featured in a national ad campaign. But this opportunity didn’t just fall into her lap—it came after years of preparation and performance as she was actively seeking and pursuing opportunities.

She was a proactive singer and good things have come her way then and now—she just released two new CD albums with rave reviews from and has an active and regular series of regional and European singing jobs.

Another example from Hollywood that we often cite in our workshops is the movie “Cast Away”. In it, Tom Hanks plays the role of a FedEx executive whose plane crashes in the Pacific and he is stranded on a desert island. There he infamous befriends a volleyball-turned-companion he names Wilson. In an effort to be rescued he builds fires for smoke signals from the island. The only trouble is that there are no planes in the area, and no ships. Regardless of how effective his is in his efforts, there is no one around to see them.

It’s not until he leaves the island on a home-built raft and ventures out into the “shipping lanes” that he finds success. His raft is unconventional at best, but it’s effective. The conditions are rarely if ever ideal, but he still braves the elements and gets out of his comfort zone. He goes into the shipping lanes and (SPOILER ALERT) is eventually saved.

I hope I didn’t ruin the ending 🙂

The point is, we need to get out of our comfort zones and into the shipping lanes of life. For probably 99% of us, we can’t afford to wait to be discovered. We have to be proactive. Act, and not acted upon. Do things differently. When others zig, we zag. That means in addition to hours and hours of practice, we must constantly and consistently be performing.

If we go and DO, who knows where we’ll end up. But we’re giving ourselves the best chance of success and that’s all we can really ask for.

Alex Stoddard

Alex Stoddard is the President and CEO of CS Music and Classical Singer magazine. Since 2003 Alex has been involved heavily with CS in advertising sales, the CS Vocal Competition, the CS Convention, and the development of the website Alex graduated with a B.A. from Brigham Young University and a M.S. from Utah State University. He currently lives in Lehi, UT with his wife Becky and their 6 children and is a high school basketball coach on the side.