Self Assessment

Photo by Daniel Welch

Like a lot of little girls I wanted to be a Ballerina. I trained at a really good school, The Pennsylvania Academy of Ballet, danced in the Nutcracker and did the summer intensive but then puberty hit. I looked in the mirror, and then K looked around the room and at the company dancers and I knew in my bones that I did not have a ballet body, not in the traditional sense. Not by a long shot. I didn’t have the same level of flexibility or ease and no matter how hard I worked at it I did not look like what they were buying. I even contemplated breast reduction surgery but decided in the end it wasn’t for me. Why augment my body? Now, could I have fought the good fight if I had wanted to? Of course! But it wasn’t the hill I wanted to die on for what, in my case, would have been a very short career. I had the wear with all to look around me and see that this was an area where I couldn’t be competitive, let alone happy, so I decided to pivot.

This ability to do an honest self assessment is something that has served me well through this career. As an undergraduate I knew I wasn’t the best singer, but I was a great actress and I was really smart so I doubled down on the things I could change. 
And now that I’m teaching some, I am really shocked by the lack of self assessment skills in some of the younger artists I’ve worked with. Is this a generational thing?

I’m not sure this is the healthiest practice, but when I was young and didn’t get a gig I wanted I would find out all I could about the singer who DID get the gig and see what she was selling that I wasn’t. And most of the time it was really obvious and I’d leave a performance knowing I needed to work on cuz or in some cases I know that that conductor/ director will never buy what I’m selling. I once had a friend tell me “All the things that make you special as an artist are all the reasons you will never work at x company.” And that’s ok! I don’t want to put my light under a bushel and there are plenty of projects that want someone like me. 

If you’re not getting hired, it’s kinda your job to figure out what you can do to change that and what you need to work on. Yes, it’s a hard cruel business but you have lots of tools at your fingertips. If you notice on your audition video that if your acting is lacking for God’s sake WORK ON YOUR ACTING. Take a class, do a play or musical at a community theater. It is not “below you” if you need the stage experience. If you notice that the outfit you’re wearing doesn’t make you feel like the confident Goddess you are then for God’s sake wear something different. If your languages are weak, work on them! If you leave a gig with no friends than maybe you need to do some soul searching as to why that is. People like to hire people they like working with and getting re-hired by a company can be the difference between survival and quitting. That’s something I’m still working on myself. I have a big personality and it’s not always welcome. True story, a director I worked with once recommended I read “How to make friends and influence People” if I ever wanted to be hired ever. Yeah, that hurt, but I also can’t say he was wrong. 

So take a HARD look st the world around you and then a HARDER look at yourself. If you’re 5 foot nothing I’m sorry no one is gonna hire you to sing Brunhilde even if you are the second coming of Birgit Nilson herself. It sucks and I don’t agree but that’s how the game is played. 

Here’s a taste of what all that ballet got me. And Just in case you’re wondering, this is what a confused full Lyric Soprano Sounds like who is WAY too eager to please.

And for some reason if the above doesn’t load, here’s a link. It’s 1 min long and 100% worth it.