Too many cooks spoil the broth. The pressure to implement every opinion from every resource can confuse, frustrate, and potentially riddle a singer with self-doubt. The oft-repeated rule to “only listen to those you are paying or those who are paying you” can have its own complications - your trusted sources within these categories can contradict each other! Manage criticism like a (cake) boss by prioritizing the opinions of those who matter and giving less stock to those who do not. Once you give a hierarchy to the resources in your life, it won't matter how many cooks are in your kitchen!
They say the customer is always right, but you also can’t make everyone happy. Sometimes it is hard to distinguish a passionate patron from a bitter Yelp-reviewer. Likewise, the members of your audience are bound to have vastly different opinions about you! Consider the criticism given to you, but let it go if it is inaccurate or unnecessarily negative. If you are ever unsure if you should implement a suggestion, reach out to someone you trust - like your teacher or close colleague!
It is the job of the dishwasher to scrub away the dirt and grime of daily use. Your family, friends, and peers serve a similar purpose in ridding you of doubt, negativity, and stress. Sometimes the dishwashers may scrub a little too enthusiastically and leave a scuff in the glossy facade of a dish, as can your supporters when offering up helpful criticisms that may be more frustrating than intended. Leave the cooking to the cooks: consider the views of your "dishwashers" and move forward.
Chefs de Parti
As the butcher must trim the fat from the steak, so your diction teacher must trim the bad linguistic habits from your singing. As the Soup Chef builds a stew by layering flavor upon flavor, your coach assists you in turning your tools into a finished product. As the Baker decorates a cake, so must the director fill the void of an empty stage with a vision. The Chefs de Parti, or Line Cooks, are each the authority of their specific expertise! You pay some musical authorities (coaches, teachers, etc.), while you are paid to work with others (directors, conductors, etc.). It is important to keep these colleagues happy whilst acting within the bounds of what you are capable of. When it comes to criticism, the latter must be helped by the former. All are experts in their own right, but a successful business cannot exist without the support of all these resources!
The Sous Chef is the Assistant Chef and second-in-command. Your teacher should function this way and should be considered your most trusted musical resource. Even if you disagree at times, it is imperative to have a relationship built on trust and mutual respect. You should have zero doubt in your mind that he or she has your best interest at heart. For more information on choosing a teacher, read our own Laura Isabella’s article Grad School Step One: Find a Teacher.
You! The head chef is the top managerial position and is responsible for the supervision of the other chefs. You are responsible for applying what you have learned from your staff. If you find that you identify more with an opinion given by a director than a coach, you can make that executive decision. If your peer tells you that your teacher was wrong in his evaluation of your fach and you disagree with your peer - that's fine. You can graciously accept your peer's opinion without fretting over your lack of interest in acting on said opinion. While all things should be done with dignity and respect to your peers and higher-ups, don't forget: YOU are the Head Chef of your voice!
What are some other ways to staff your musical kitchen? Be sure to serve us a suggestion below... Bon appétit!