So often you hear after a high school performance, “Those kids are all so talented.” Well, maybe they are, but if the performance was more than mediocre, it is because they rehearsed and practiced a lot to polish their work. Talent helps, but it is a relatively small part of the total package and performance is a total package.
Sometimes singers don’t realize they have to be actors. Every song is a one act play. If you heard the Springfield Symphony Orchestra and Chorus last night, when the tenor soloist walked to the front of the stage and sharply turned his head in reaction to what he was hearing, suddenly the drama of the piece really came into focus. He made one move, the audience laughed and he had our full attention. It was a fine moment. He also sang very well.
We’ve watched Darrell Hammond work. Do you think he takes a look at someone he wants to imitate, and he just does it? Darrell studies over and over the speech patterns, the movements and I don’t know what all to make it work. Hours and hours of study. Comics try out their material over and over again to see what works with an audience. And, rarely to you hear Darrell sing, but he wore out the warm up tape I made for him to vocalize with when we were in NYC (before the age of CDs.) I had to make him a new CD not long ago. And this is from a student who isn’t singing for his profession.
There is a lot of mediocre performance in music and theater happening everywhere all of the time. I don’t object to that. Even dabblers deserve the chance to perform. But ask yourself how good you want to be when someone says, “You are wonderful. You should be on Broadway.” I’ll teach dabblers. Some people are studying voice because it makes them feel good. That’s a good reason, and we can have a good time if that is all you want to do. However, if you want a career in music and/or theater, let’s talk about the work. Years ago I prepared a high school student who won a full college scholarship to study music. I was concerned as he thought music should be “just for fun.” I feared the university had made a bad decision giving him such an award. Fortunately, when this student got to college, he discovered that it was fun to work at the craft. He has gone on to have a successful career both as a performer and director in opera.
I don’t turn away students based on talent. I get just as much pleasure teaching the student who comes because they “can’t carry a tune” as I do from the student who shows professional potential. I only ask that you think about your reasons for being here. You can, by the way, change your mind about those reasons. Your goal doesn’t have to be cut in stone. Just ask yourself if you want to settle for mediocrity. It’s more fun if you want to do your best.