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A Singer’s Inner Work: Building Confidence

September 14, 2016

There she is again. She strides, practically floats, onto the stage and takes her place in the crook of the piano. She smiles warmly. Her body seems so at ease. It doesn’t look like her palms are sweating. It doesn’t look like she feels her heart about to burst out of her chest. She makes steady, but not awkwardly prolonged, eye contact with a few random listeners. She takes a calm, relaxed breath and then golden notes seem to come pouring out of her. She’s practically radiating confidence.

And you’re sitting there going, “Ugh. Why don’t I look and feel like that?”

A Singer's Inner Work | Building Confidence and Self-Esteem | Sybaritic Singer

Diva Confidence and Self-Esteem

Don’t worry, diva. You can learn to have confidence just like that. What is the key to building confidence? It is two-fold. The key to building confidence is to build skills and then recognize the skills you have built.

Building Skills

Personal achievement and valuable skills promote self-confidence. Confidence is built on the foundation of thousands of mini goals. Things that you can accomplish from day-to-day. Briefly think about the areas of your life in which you experience insecurity. “I feel insecure when trying to make new friends.” Or, “I feel insecure when I audition in front of strangers.” These are little red flags that turn your attention to areas in which you subconsciously recognize that you need to build your skills.

“I feel insecure in my ability to write my own cadenzas” is simply an invitation to do some research. After increasing your knowledge in the area by reading, listening, and doing the work in the practice room, you will feel unflappable the next time you approach those cadenzas. There are very few ways to build skills outside of actually doing the darn thing. So, think about how you can “audition your way” to more audition success. Also, “perform your way” to performing success. In all areas of your life, you need to do the thing to build skill at that thing. It doesn’t mean it is impossible to build skills outside of the crucible of actually doing it. But, you need to be strategically discerning which skill groupings are apparent in the area in which you want to feel more confident.

Volunteering, exercising, learning how to spend time alone, getting organized, and picking up a new hobby are all under the umbrella of building skill. They are all activities that help broaden your understanding of the world as well as your place in it. Each one of those helps you test yourself, physically, emotionally, and mentally, under new circumstances.

Recognizing Your Skills

Confidence is walking out on stage and recognizing that you are ready because you have prepared yourself for that moment. It is important that we recognize the time, energy, and resources we have put into building our skills. It is that level of commitment and preparation that is helping us take on this new challenge.

Recognizing the skills that you have built is a healthy way to swap out negative comparison thoughts. You do not have to worry about what that other soprano wore, how she sang her high C, or what other sparkling interpretations the panel has heard that day. Real confidence is realizing that you have something special to offer regardless of whether or not they choose you for the role. Real confidence means taking responsibility for your experience in each and every moment.

Show Your (Inner) Work

Show up to every moment in your life with the profound understanding that you are meant to be there. Confidence doesn’t happen in a vacuum and it doesn’t happen without hard work. Finish today’s post by completing these sentences:

  • I like my _____ because _____
  • I am an expert at _________
  • I feel good about _________
  • I feel insecure in these areas _____________
  • The skills directly tied to those areas are ____________
  • I will do these activities to build those skills _______________

And divas, if you need a little boost to get you started, you can always remember Mindy Kaling’s advice, “sometimes you just have to put on lip gloss and pretend to be psyched.” Now, go forth and conquer your inner world… and then the rest of the universe.


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All this month I will be sending out exclusive content to the email list. Take a moment to sign up now so you can receive things like:

  • Self-care for musicians
  • Discovering your multiple intelligences
  • Tackling your cognitive biases
  • Vulnerability in life and on stage
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A Singer’s Inner Work: Self-Care for Singers

September 13, 2016
Did you know that there is Sybaritic Singer content that is exclusive to the email list I affectionately call, “The Sybaritic Faithful”? Well, there is. If you are on the list, then you would have already received today’s post in your inbox. If not, you may want to take a moment to sign up or update your settings now! Click on the image below to go to the sign-up form. After you enter your information, make sure to select “Sybaritic Singer” under the “Pick Your News!” heading.

Your Coping Toolbox

Because we have all lived through and will continue to live through crushing experiences, no matter how big or small it feels, it is also important that we learn how to care for our internal and external wounds.
Self-Care ‘Do Not Try’ for Megan
(an extremely scientific list)
Don’t listen to Damien Rice.
Don’t pretend to like green tea.
Don’t read your PFO’s.
Don’t get arrested.
Ready to read more? You know what to do…
A Singer's Inner Work | Self-Care for Singers | Sybaritic Singer

A Singer’s Inner Work: Make Room For What You Love

September 12, 2016

If you could have one wish, what would it be? Are you wishing for more time with your family and friends? Are you desperately wanting more gigs? Are you craving the feeling of winning a competition? Are you hoping for the stars to align to keep your singing gigs while you try to start  or add to your family? I want you to have all the things you’re truly desiring. I want us all to have the things we yearn for. That’s why I write these posts. It is my sincere aspiration to make every musician’s dreams a little easier to attain through tools, resources, and knowledge. That is also why we are focusing on inner work during this series. I want the knowledge you have of yourself to open more doors to your deepest desires. When we know what we want, we have to make room for it in our lives.

A Singer's Inner Work | Make Room for What You Love | Sybaritic Singer

Internal De-Cluttering

Make room for what you love is a popular de-cluttering mantra. The idea is that we get rid of all the crap and extraneous stuff that is filling up our physical space to interact with only the things that bring us joy and contentment. As part of our inner work, it’s time to do some de-cluttering. You can approach this idea physically like the books for organizing your house suggest. But, you can also think about making room for what you want internally and time-wise.

Maximize & Minimize

Think about your purpose as you define it. What do you need more of or less of to help you achieve that purpose? Feeling unsure? Go back to your answers from our “Pinpoint Your Values” post for guidance. Now, let’s make a list:

Maximize:

  1. [insert answer here]
  2. [insert answer here]
  3. [insert answer here]

Minimize:

  1. [insert answer here]
  2. [insert answer here]
  3. [insert answer here]

Chalkboard Method

The awesome ladies from Being Boss have a wonderful method for helping us make space for what we love. (Also, shout-out to the lovelies in the #DivaSquad for turning me onto this method in the first place.) Kathleen and Emily, of Being Boss, use The Chalkboard Method as a visual goal-setting tool that helps them make space and stay accountable to their goals and their values. I did my Q4 Chalkboard in my bullet journal the other day and I highly recommend you do the same!

Show Your Work

Okay, is it starting to sink in now that inner work is dependent on actually doing the work part? I hope so. Divas, set your timers. Think about your values and your day-to-day experience. Write out three specific things to maximize and three specific things that you want to minimize. Bonus points for any of you that take it one step farther and sketch out your own chalkboard method! Then, tell me about it! Did anything surprise you? Were you clearer on one area than another? You know I love hearing from you. So, drop me a line in the comments below or hit me up on Twitter. You’ll find me @mezzoihnen.


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Let Me Be Your Diva Sidekick!

All this month I will be sending out exclusive content to the email list. Take a moment to sign up now so you can receive things like:

  • Self-care for musicians
  • Discovering your multiple intelligences
  • Tackling your cognitive biases
  • Vulnerability in life and on stage
  • Blasting out of your thought ruts

I hope you’ll sign up here or just click the image above. Make sure to select the “Sybaritic Singer” option under “pick your news.”

A Singer’s Inner Work: Pinpoint Your Values

September 10, 2016

I have written before in the #29DaystoDiva series that most small business go out of business in the span of ten years. That means that for singers starting in their late teens and early twenties, many will have left the singing profession by the time they are thirty. I do not mean singers who have transitioned into some aspect of singing life whether that’s academia or artistic employment with a non-profit. I mean the singers who got degrees in the field and are now full-time in non-musical careers and sing as a hobbyist, if that. It is my deep conviction that earlier inner work on pinpointing their values could have helped them avoid any pain of having to pivot in their career plan. Understanding your values can help you consistently make the right choice when opportunities arise. Knowing who you are and what you want out of life allows you to say “yes” or “no” with clarity and peace of mind.

A Singer's Inner Work | Pinpoint Your Values

How Do I Figure Out My Values?

Your values help you make strategic plans when important questions come up such as:

  • Should I continue to live in this zip code?
  • Should I apply for that internship/audition/job?
  • What would help me cut down on the stress in my life?
  • Why do I have the relationships with others that I have?

Getting very clear on what you value in life can help you follow your intuition to more success and free you from needless stress and worry. Don’t we all want less stress and worry in our lives? I feel like we can boil this process down into three parts. I want you to think about the things that light up your brain and get you motivated to take over the world. Then, I want you to think about the things that totally drain you. Finally, we’ll focus on the “why.”

What Motivates Me?

Think about a time when you felt you were on top of the world. You do not need to take other’s opinions into account here. Don’t diminish your experience by saying, “well, it was just a little thing but…” Claim the areas of your life that make you feel amazing! Practice the five questions as you think about these areas:

I felt amazing when I performed at the summer festival.
Why?
Because it was really hard repertoire.
Why did that make you feel amazing?
I had worked steadily on it and I performed it to the best of my ability.
Why is that important?
It showed me that I was able to take on large goals and accomplish them through discipline.
Why are those things important?
Because I know that to be a professional singer I need to demonstrate excellent performance skills on challenging repertoire and I did that.
What does this tell you about your values?
I know that I value hard work, discipline, determination, excellence, goal-setting, and lest I fail to mention – good singing.

What Stresses Me Out?

Where to start this list, am I right? Think through your day yesterday or the day before. Make a list of any of the things that were stressful or painful to you. Why were those activities or behaviors triggering stress or pain during your day? Take that information and see where those stressful behaviors or activities are incongruent with your values.

Why Do I…?

  • Why do I buy what I buy?
  • Why do I schedule myself the way I do?
  • Why do I live where I live?
  • Why do I pursue singing professionally?
  • Why do I long for what I long for?
  • Why do I admire whom I admire?
  • Why do I have the relationships I have now?

This list can also be endless. Don’t get too hung up on that. Start now. Take a few of the questions in your mind today and answer them as you’re able. Begin to notice where patterns emerge that illustrate your values.

Remember that our inner work is dependent on actually doing the work. So, take your timer and give yourself five to ten minutes to do some of this work immediately. Then, tell me about it! Leave me a note in the comments below or hit me up on Twitter. I’m @mezzoihnen. You know that I love to hear from you!


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Let Me Be Your Diva Sidekick!

All this month I will be sending out exclusive content to the email list. Take a moment to sign up now so you can receive things like:

  • Self-care for musicians
  • Discovering your multiple intelligences
  • Tackling your cognitive biases
  • Vulnerability in life and on stage
  • Blasting out of your thought ruts

I hope you’ll sign up here or just click the image above. Make sure to select the “Sybaritic Singer” option under “pick your news.”

A Singer’s Inner Work: Identify Your Strengths

September 9, 2016

One of the basic ways of enhancing your mental fortitude is to honestly and openly determine your strengths as a person. This goes beyond your skills as a musician. You may have the best coloratura in your studio. You may have a stellar French schwa. You may have beautiful headshots. If your perseverance is lacking, however, you will be in for a rocky experience no matter what.

A Singer's Inner Work | Identify Your Strengths | Sybaritic Singer

Identify Your Strengths

We’re going to use the VIA Institute on Character’s “Classification of Strengths” to help us identify our strengths. The Institute breaks down strengths into six areas: wisdom and knowledge, courage, humanity, justice, temperance, and transcendence. These targeted areas of our character can help us hold on to a sense of identity that is bigger than ourselves as “musician” or “composer.” When we surround ourselves with other music professionals it can be difficult to think or talk about other things outside of our passion for sound. I know, folks, I’ve seen it happen. But, we all know that we can’t hustle in a vacuum (or the vacuum of a practice room) so we need to know who we are outside of our skills for secco recitative or a perfect messa di voce.

Wisdom and Knowledge

This is first because it is the most obvious answer when we are told to think of our strengths. The area of wisdom and knowledge goes further than mastering new skills and critical thinking skills and covers subjects like curiosity, creativity, and perspective. Where do you feel strongest or weakest in these areas? What steps have you taken in the past to stay open to new experiences?

Courage

I wonder if studio class should just be rebranded in “developing courage as a singer.” Each week would be designed around bolstering each singer’s “bravery, perseverance, honesty, and zest.” Your singing is divine but you need to have courage to sign up for auditions time after time. You will feel beaten down and you need to develop the skill of saying, “I will try again tomorrow.” Then, actually trying again tomorrow with all the enthusiasm you had before the bitter taste of “not at this time.”

Humanity

Our community and field is full of people. Say it with me, “we’re all in this together.” Our profession simply could not happen without other people. Opera will cease to exist, in the way that we love it, when all of the parts and pieces are replaced by computers. Take a moment to assess your strengths in the areas of love, kindness, and social intelligence.

Justice

Justice is intertwined with humanity. We need to be aware of our strengths in teamwork, leadership, and fairness to make sure that our community is just. Do you organize events in your area? How well do you encourage others to achieve their goals and the goals of your group together? Do you actively work to root out bias in your musical community? Think about your cognitive strengths here as well as your demonstrated strengths.

Temperance

Like your ability to manifest courage in your life, are you able to actually forgive people? Can you look upon your skills with humility and modesty? Temperance, in this respect, is not about totally abstaining. It is about approaching your life with self-control and discipline. What are your strengths in these areas?

Transcendence

Don’t stop reading. Transcendence isn’t just about spirituality. That is definitely part of it and that can be however you choose to experience it. Transcendence also has to do with your ability to appreciate beauty and excellence in the world. And, my most beloved parts of transcendence, what are your attitudes to humor and hope?

Show Your Work

This is where the rubber meets the road. The idea of inner work is dependent on the “work” part. Set your timer for five minutes and read through those six areas again and write your perceived strengths in each area. Bonus points if you ask your singing team what they see as your strengths under each category.  Then, see if your answers align. Let me know if anything comes up that surprises you. Or, let me know if you think this was an easy or difficult challenge. I love hearing from you all. Hit me up in the comments below or tag me on Twitter. I’m @mezzoihnen.


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Let Me Be Your Diva Sidekick!

All this month I will be sending out exclusive content to the email list. Take a moment to sign up now so you can receive things like:

  • Self-care for musicians
  • Discovering your multiple intelligences
  • Tackling your cognitive biases
  • Vulnerability in life and on stage
  • Blasting out of your thought ruts

I hope you’ll sign up here or just click the image above. Make sure to select the “Sybaritic Singer” option under “pick your news.”

A Singer’s Inner Work: The Beginning

September 8, 2016

We’ve completed another turn around the sun and have reached that point in the year in which the temperature drops a bit, leaves begin to change color, and most of our field is in back-to-school mode. It is not a secret that the classical singing world revolves around the “season.” The season just so happens to match the academic calendar as well. Back-to-school also means that audition season is breathing down our necks. With all of this at the forefront of our minds, it is easy to start feeling overwhelmed. Negative thoughts creep into our stream of consciousness. A professional singing career is hard enough; let’s make it a little easier on ourselves this time around by doing some inner work.

A Singer's Inner Work | Sybaritic Singer

What is Inner Work?

So, why “inner work”? As musicians, we are very conscious of the skill-building we do in the practice room. We work our scales, rhythmic accuracy, diction, and so much more. That skill-building is all in an effort to perform at some moment. We put ourselves out there in concerts, competitions, and masterclasses. All of the performance situations you can imagine come with successes and failures. But, how many masterclasses have you been to where the master also worked you through the emotional process of failing (or even succeeding) at a specific task? I bet not that many. That is why we are focusing this month on inner work. The processes we take on to know ourselves better.

The Practical Side of Woo-Woo…

As you probably have gathered from reading this blog, I am not a fanatic subscriber to woo-woo. I constantly write about strategies for building your singer small business. That is the way that I promise to approach this series on inner work. We are the ones that sign up for 100% of this singer life. We’re living intensely and intentionally on the edge. It makes sense to get our internal house in order so that we can take over the classical singing world with more efficiency.


Email list sign-up | Sybaritic Singer

Let Me Be Your Diva Sidekick!

All this month I will be sending out exclusive content to the email list. Take a moment to sign up now so you can receive things like:

  • Self-care for musicians
  • Discovering your multiple intelligences
  • Tackling your cognitive biases
  • Vulnerability in life and on stage
  • Blasting out of your thought ruts

I hope you’ll sign up here or just click the image above. Make sure to select the “Sybaritic Singer” option under “pick your news.”

let’s discuss: Crushing the Audition Circuit

August 30, 2016

I remember sitting on the floor of my friend’s apartment at The Standard just around the corner from my classrooms and voice studio at the Peabody Conservatory, pouring over YAPtracker listings and audition requirements, and looking at my aria package and headshots. I was thinking, “this is the year.” This is the year that I finally start to ace those auditions that I’ve been thinking about.

But, it wasn’t.

It wasn’t the year that I started to ace auditions because I still had some major blind spots about who I was as a singer, what I wanted to accomplish, and how the heck I was going to get there. It wasn’t the year because I had no idea how to budget for getting myself on those Acela trains to those NYC auditions much less the application/audition fees required for each one. Once I was finally there, how do I make sure that the panel doesn’t forget about me as a singer once the next girl walks in?

After that year, I knew I needed to get my research and systems together. I needed to figure out what was slipping through the cracks of voice lessons and coachings. I needed to get my audition game face on.

The 30-Day Audition Success Reboot How to Perform at Your Best When the Stakes are High

7 Steps to Audition Success

Last night I helped run a webinar with my friend Peter Jacobson of Total Vocal Freedom in which we talked about the “7 Steps to Audition Success.” I could feel the complete physical change in my body while talking about auditions now compared to talking about auditions years ago while sitting on the floor in my friend’s apartment. It’s similar to that feeling that I have when I walk into auditions now: clear, focused, and ready to put my preparation into action.

Avoid the Long Way

When Peter asked me to help with the The 30-Day Audition Success Reboot: How to Perform at Your Best When the Stakes are High, I jumped at the chance. Here are the things that I needed and found out the long way. But, it’s part of my mission here at the Sybaritic Singer to help divas, like you, avoid the long way. Why? Because I devote my life to better musical experiences for everyone involved — performers, presenters, and audiences. I don’t want you to have to go the long way because that will take away from the heights you can reach as an artist and the work that you can do to inspire other people to fall in love with opera again or for the very first time.

Audition Like You Mean It

If you’re ready to confront your audition blind spots, or if you just want to check out the recording of the webinar from last night, feel free to check it out here.

Audition success equals career success.

Want to share your audition blind spots and how you overcame them? Please tell me in the comments below. I love reading your stories!