I hear you already: “It’s only music?! Is she kidding? How can she say that? What does she mean? As a musician, I’m offended!” Okay, okay. Before you indignantly click away to some other web page, here is my very personal explanation…
In deciding what to write about this week, I am highly-influenced by my present surroundings— I am in a darkened hospital room, sitting by my mother’s bedside as she fitfully goes from waking to sleeping, sleeping to waking, always fighting intense pain. My 91-year-old mom fell and shattered her hip seven weeks ago on Friday the 13th of April, a fitting date for this most unlucky of occurrences. This life-changing event happened in an instant, and like a nuclear bomb blast, set off a cavalcade of horrific experiences for her, and us, her family.
After the initial trauma of the accident, she has endured hip surgery and its aftermath, mistreatment and malpractice at rehab hospitals, panicked visits to the ER and near-death, followed by extended hospital stays, leading us to this latest two-week episode here at this hospital. Through it all, Mom has suffered excruciating pain, discomfort and indignities beyond anything we could have imagined. We, her family, are stressed, exhausted, sleep-deprived, and ever-worried about whether we are doing the right things for her, and what the future holds for her, and us. The medical issues are scary enough, but our experience of this country’s medical system has revealed that insurance doesn’t pay for some very vital aspects of care, so the specter of ultimate financial ruin looms over us as well…
Now, if you haven’t stopped reading yet, you might be thinking, “Well, I’m sorry for your troubles, but I thought this was a blog about singing. How is reading about this going to help me?” Do read on…
Ask yourself this— how often have you obsessed about your singing career, or some other aspect of your singing? Have you worried about the state of your singing voice, winning a particular audition or competition, or getting a certain singing job? How about obsessing on your age or looks, whether you know the “right” people, or what people will think of you or your singing? Have you ruminated on that rehearsal, that performance, that solo you want, that music exam at school, that mistake you made, or are afraid of making? Do you go round and round in your head about whether or not you’ll succeed as a singer? Guess what?! All of that is completely unimportant when you are watching a loved one go through a life-and-death health struggle, or when you are facing one yourself.
Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have dreams, goals and plans in singing, or for anything else in your life. I’ve devoted my entire career to the study, performance and teaching of singing, and it has been a major force in my life. BUT KEEP THINGS IN PERSPECTIVE! It truly is not the end of the world if you have a bad audition, don’t get into that college or summer internship program you wanted, or even if you have a bad performance. These are temporary, fleeting experiences that in the greater scheme of things don’t mean very much at all! Yes, you may be momentarily disappointed, embarrassed, frustrated or even defeated. Cry a little, learn from the experience, and move on!
That’s the time to get out your pen and write down the things that are TRULY important in life, that you are deeply GRATEFUL for, and that have NOTHING TO DO WITH SINGING OR MUSIC:
Stop, and Really Think…
Your Health. This is the most precious commodity of all! If you’re young and have never had a serious health challenge, you probably won’t appreciate this yet. But as someone of a certain age who has weathered many health storms, including a life-threatening illness, I can tell you first-hand that nothing else in life matters much without vibrant health. A bad day in singing doesn’t hold a candle next to being healthy!
- Your Family. They may drive you crazy at times, but having a spouse,
parents, siblings or other family members who love you unconditionally
is a blessing beyond measure. You may not always agree on every big
or little thing, but they don’t care if you sing a flat note or don’t get an
audition. They are there for you and love you no matter what. When
the chips are down, family is everything!
- True friends. If you have some loving friends whom you can really
count on, they become an extension of your family. I feel so lucky to
have friends that have been part of my life since childhood and
high school days. They are only a phone call, text or email away, and
they don’t care if I am a great singer, teacher or anything else in life.
They just want my happiness, just as I wish the same for them.
- Your Work/Life Purpose. I group these two things together, because
people who love music, and particularly singing, who are fortunate enough to do it as their profession, are especially blessed. Their occupation and their passion are one and the same. Being a singer is not an easy profession, nor a lucrative one, except for a very few. And yet, I know that the deep feeling of satisfaction I have in
doing my right life’s work (even on a day when something might go wrong) is truly a blessing. Whether you are an accountant or a basket weaver, if what you love and do for a living are one and the same, fantastic! If you don’t make your living doing what you love, be grateful for your current work and the positives it may bring to your life, and how you can still enjoy activities outside of the actual work day. In many cases, that job that isn’t your passion creates the income to pursue what you love when work is over.
- Financial Stability. Give thanks that you can work, pay your bills,
hopefully save a little (or a lot!) , and that you live in a country that
allows you to do what you want with your money, and make your own
life choices. Losing that audition or picking the wrong song to record
won’t change that.
- Your Faith. I put this one last (or maybe I should have put it first), as
this means such different things to different people. Whatever your
religion, spirituality or life philosophy may be, your belief in a Creator
or Divine Energy that helps you make sense of this earthly life, and
what may come after, can give you greater perspective and comfort
as you ride the inevitable ups and downs of the singing life. I always
say that in a performer’s life, the highs are higher, but the lows can be
much lower, too. Many of us struggle at times with our faith, but it
always makes me feel better to know that the Lord said to the apostles
“If you have faith the size of a mustard seed” you can overcome.
Hanging on to that little kernel of faith can help smooth over the rough
patches and keep them from overwhelming you.
If you take the time to make this gratitude list, I think you’ll begin to see what I mean now. There is so much in life that REALLY matters, now, a year from now, ten years from now, and into the future. Your momentary singing struggles and disappointments do matter, but in the big picture, you and your loved ones’ health and happiness are the most important things of all.
As hard as we work at our craft of singing and let our passion drive us forward, remember that when things go wrong in your musical world, “this, too, shall pass”. Life can turn on a dime and be completely changed forever in a moment. Don’t take it for granted, and when you have a bad singing day, remember, like I said at the beginning— It’s Only Music… Really!
For more helpful hints, visit my earlier post:
To discover more on on work/life balance, visit: