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To thine own self be true

I’ve been thinking a great deal lately about who I am as an artist/singer/teacher and how to clearly and succinctly convey that to the world via my personal “brand.” This train of thought is all thanks to Greg Sandow and his terrific blog on the future of classical music; what does the future hold for this sadly fading art form and how to save it. As part of how to rescue classical music from the brink of extinction, he talks about how to brand oneself as an artist/performer. Whoa. WOW! His writing on this subject knocks my socks off. What a fantastic concept. He is teaching a whole class on it at Julliard! Is that not marvelous? Where was this stuff when I was in school? Not once in all of my eight years of higher education was this even mentioned, let alone did I have a class about it. Nothing remotely connected to the realities of pursuing a career in the performing arts was a part of the curriculum. (I understand this is finally changing, thank goodness!) Identifying what makes you special and therefore hire-able as a performer was never discussed. It was assumed that singing well was all you really needed to be able to do and that somehow the other stuff would just fall into place. (It doesn’t.) When I was a student, you spent every waking moment studying the music and the composers and practicing said composers’ great music with your instrument of choice but NEVER what to do with all that knowledge and skill once you left the hallowed halls of the school. So when you graduated, you knew how to sing Mozart and who he was and when he wrote and how he wrote and why this chord was in this measure in that aria … but not how any of it will translate into the real world of you developing into an artist who is lucky enough to sing his glorious music on a stage for money!

And for me it only got worse when I was out of school. Cornelius was (and therefore so was I) myopically focused on striving for vocal perfection, a noble pursuit certainly, but unfortunately to the exclusion of what was just as important and what I now consider just as essential: developing the whole package of me as a unique artist with a unique talent and a unique persona to offer to the profession.

So, who am I? What exactly is my unique performing and teaching persona? I’ve been continually asking and partially answering that question for decades now and this blog is helping me articulate it for the first time ever. I am also very excited that in a few weeks I am going to take Mr. Sandow’s online branding seminar to further the discovery process. I have always had an idea of who and what I am (and wanted to be) as a performer (and lately as a teacher) and what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it but never could fully express it clearly to myself or others. I tried for too long to be everything and anything as a performer just to get the job or please the teacher, too often ignoring my instincts and true desires. I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me that the singing and teaching projects I’ve been most successful at and that filled me with the most joy and satisfaction have always aligned with those inner cravings: to be creative, accessible, entertaining, theatrical, and working in both the classical and Musical Theatre repertoire.

So why is all this important?

This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

-Polonius, Hamlet, Act I, scene 3

I found this explanation of the above quote which I quite like: “By ‘false’ Polonius seems to mean ‘disadvantageous’ or ‘detrimental to your image’; by ‘true’ he means ‘loyal to your own best interests.’ Take care of yourself first, he counsels, and that way you’ll be in a position to take care of others.”

By discovering and embracing my true, honest and most creative artistic/musical self, I am able to offer my audiences an authentic musical and theatrical experience that will hopefully inspire them as much as the material I perform inspires me. And for my students, I will be able to help them develop their unique performing, musical and vocal persona even better than I do now.  Sounds like a win-win! On to the discovery process…updates as events warrant!



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