Brace yourselves, it's audition season! The blustery, early winter days are filled with singers lining the inside of NOLA and Opera America waiting to be heard. We are met by the click of high heels, the shine of binders under fluorescent lights, and nervous feet tapping before walking in to audition rooms. It is a familiar sight for every singer during this charged time of year, which brings great triumphs and difficult disappointments. It is important for us singers to remember that your mindset is just as important, if not more important, than any other part of your package. Here are some tips on how to build your mindset this audition season.
Be aware of your environment
Humans, by nature, are beings that feed off of each other’s energy. For example, yawns are literally contagious. Have you ever left a coaching or lesson that went poorly and then were in a bad mood the rest of the day? This is because we are beings who are connected to the energy around us. If you are surrounded by anger, resentment, or bitterness, it is likely that you will pick up on signals without even knowing it. Take this as a learning opportunity. Recognize when you are entering an undesirable space and make a choice to not engage with the energy. Try to think of something you want to happen, which is far more productive. One way I like to avoid negativity is through the use of mantras. I have a few I keep handy in certain situations. Some examples include, "Don't let the people get into your head, just do the thing." Another one I like is, "What you reap is what you sow."
Consider the source of your advice
We all have built teams around us to help us be the best singers we can be, which is highly important for growth in our career. However, these teammates offer a lot of advice - some good, some bad. Some advice comes from great sources like your coach or teacher and, other advice comes from your grumpy uncle who doesn’t get this “singing thing” you do. Remember you have a choice in the advice you take. Good advice moves you forward, and advice that does not move you forward can be discarded. Sometimes advice can be conflicting. A coach and a teacher may disagree. In this situation, I believe the best advice is to think about the person's specific area of expertise in whatever situtation you are dealing with.
Observe your self-talk
This is a popular topic in a lot of modern mental health blogs and articles - for good reason. Self-talk has a tendency to be critical, but understand that this is not your brain working against you. All humans still function in fight or flight, which makes it our brain’s job to keep us safe. That is all your brain is trying to do - keep you safe from what it perceives as a threat. If you interrupt this system, the brain no longer sees the threat. For example, if you did not get an audition and your self-talk turns into: “I must be a terrible singer” remind your brain that this is not a life or death situation. That particular company may not have had a place for you in their season.
Get in the habit of writing down your thoughts
It is so easy for us singers to get wrapped up in our emotions regarding feedback and what we are and are not picked for. Sometimes it is helpful to sit down and simply write everything as a list of facts. Pros, cons, strengths, weaknesses, etc. In this you often see your feelings towards something are totally blown out of proportion and you are able to find a more productive way forward. In addition, it is a safe way to express negative energy. If the energy is on a page of written word it cannot translate to your singing or be projected onto another person.
Give yourself credit for what you do well
It is easy to be critical of oneself and to find things that are wrong: my German vowels aren’t great, or I have tension in a place where I should not. However, we often do not give ourselves credit for what we do really well, our accomplishments, and how far we have come. What are the things you do well? Make a list and keep it close by. If that negative self-talk begins, take a look at your list.
Embrace the Process
The art of singing is something we will all study our entire lives. Our bodies and minds change along with our voice. Everything is a process of becoming something new. If we want to get better, we must realize that it is all a process and there is no end game.
I always say or post this phrase if something does or does not go well in my career or life: “This is my year.” It reminds me of two things: this is a bad day, and this is just one day. Also, this is a day in a grander scheme. It puts everything into perspective. The goal is to always keep your voice, your career, and your life in perspective.