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Gratitude: It Helps Your Singing, and Your Life!

It’s the morning after my vocal studio’s annual Summer Recital, and as usual, I am exhausted and relieved, but also very, very grateful. Why do I have this attitude of gratitude? Because there are so many blessings to be found in an experience like this, for both the performers and the audience.  And, there are as many blessings for me, the teacher of these dear voice students, who have put their time, money and trust in me as their instructor.

Putting on a recital is a many-months-long process of preparation. First, music must be chosen for both the soloists and the group pieces. Then, everyone needs to to learn their song and refine their singing and acting. This means extra lessons and practice time for many of the singers (which often means additional expense for more lessons, as well as coaching with the accompanist). There are also several ensemble practices in my living room, and a dress rehearsal at the venue, where we do final staging for group numbers, and everyone has a chance to sing their songs with the piano accompanist there, in the actual performing space.

On my end, in addition to teaching all of these lessons and running rehearsals, I have the logistical planning and expense of renting the facility, purchasing event insurance, hiring an accompanist and videographer, and printing programs. I also edit the song introductions (and write some as well) that I read as emcee during the performance. As always, there are a multitude of organizational duties surrounding the event, from big-picture needs like scheduling, down to making sure there are fresh batteries in the microphone!

So how does this all relate to gratitude? I think gratitude is directly connected to the amount of time, effort, heart, and soul that you put in to any endeavor. Whether it’s perfecting one song, or putting on an entire recital, the emotional investment of creating a special moment in time through music, and with people for whom you have genuine affection and respect, is the perfect opportunity to practice gratitude.

Practice gratitude, you say? Yup. You have to PRACTICE gratitude. Abraham Lincoln once famously said, “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be”. And, GRATITUDE, my friends, is the key to staying happy, even in the darkest of times.

So— if you’re not a glass-half-full kind of person, how do you practice gratitude? Like anything else, start where you are, without judgement of any negative thoughts you might already have. Once you get started, one little kernel of positivity will start the ball rolling into a new way of thinking that will boost your singing, and your life!

Let’s begin:

Get a piece of paper and start writing! Nothing works better than setting pen to paper when it comes to making something “stick” in your brain. We all love our electronics, but there’s something so visceral about sitting down with a legal pad or notebook, and feeling your ideas flowing out of that pen. “But my life is hard, and I don’t have much to be grateful for” you might say. Dig deep. We all have major stress and life issues. But even the smallest good thing can trigger a flood tide for your list. To inspire you, I’ll share some of mine about the recital yesterday, starting with the phrase, “I am grateful for”, without editing, and not in any particular order, including everything from the grand to the trivial.

I am grateful for:

  • Working with such wonderful students, many of whom have been with me for years, and have become friends
  • The beautiful speech one of my students made at the end of the show, thanking me for all I have done for my students throughout my career
  • The gorgeous flowers I received, some of which I then brought to my bedridden mother, which brightened her day
  • The hugs and thanks from all the students and their families afterwards
  • The truly moving and beautiful musical moments that happened during the recital
  • The fact that my injured knee didn’t keep me from doing everything that needed to be done yesterday
  • My wonderful husband, who bought a microphone stand at the last minute, when we couldn’t find one in the church. He also was our door monitor and photographer, not to mention a million other support activities he performed this week
  • Our fabulous accompanist, whose talent and patience are unparalleled
  • My go-to black suit, which was comfortable and covered up my very bruised knee and leg
  • The fact that I lost 25 pounds this year, so I could fit into the black suit!
  • The bar stool we found in the storage room at the church, so I could sit in a convenient spot to emcee the recital
  • The fact that I had an emergency number for the pastor, who got the air-conditioning turned on remotely, since it wasn’t on when we entered the church
  • The fact that we could use this lovely church facility in a gorgeous location
  • The photos and videos we will all have to share (once we get them all posted!)
  • The great dinner my husband and I shared to celebrate afterwards, at our favorite Italian restaurant
  • The cannoli we ordered for my family and took to them (with the aforementioned flowers) to give them a happy surprise
  • The fact that with all its many struggles and disappointments, being a voice teacher and singer is what I am meant to do in this life
  • My family— with all the life-and-death medical challenges they are currently facing, and the ones we have all overcome in the past; they are still here, I am still here, and we are still kicking!
  • God. Even though I have plenty of doubts and dark moments, deep down I believe that there is a Divine Power, and that somehow and someday we’ll understand this life experience, with all its joys, triumphs, struggles and tragedies
  • My favorite spot on the couch that I get to crash on post-recital, to watch an old movie with my husband and truly relax
  • The fact that the recital is successfully OVER!

I could go on and on, but you get the idea. Even if you start your gratitude list with something very small and seemingly trivial (“I am grateful for the fantastic latte I had this morning”), it can start that stream of gratitude consciousness that can turn your mindset from one of feeling blue or restless, into feeling glad and motivated. You quite literally will want to sing, practice, and get back on track with your vocal (or life!) goals, because you’ve realized how much there is to be grateful for, and how much more there will be in the future to look forward to.

I am a HUGE believer in two of the greatest and most powerful words in
our language— THANK YOU! Everyone wants to be appreciated and acknowledged. Thank your parents, siblings, friends, colleagues, and teachers. Thank the waiter, the sales clerk, the auto mechanic, and anyone who moves through your day. And thank God, the Universe or whatever your concept of a Divine Power is, for every big and little thing in your life. The more authentic gratitude you show in life, with a truly thankful heart, the more blessings will chase you down, and the happier you will be!

We all have difficulties and hard times to struggle through in life. When the going gets rough, keep making gratitude lists, as hard as it may be.  This last recital almost didn’t happen because of all the turmoil in my family’s life right now.  But thank goodness I went forward with it!  As it does every year, yesterday’s vocal recital gave me even more reasons to practice gratitude. And this blog gives me the opportunity to share those blessings with you!

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