Dear me: advice to my freshman selfOp-ed
Back to school: the time of collecting school supplies, checking over schedules, and begrudging over the alarm clock that has laid dormant over the summer months. This time of year will be a major milestone for the young singer; this week they begin their journey onto a path built by the predecessors before them.
This week, I reflected on the origins of my own collegiate quest. What would have I told myself, almost six years ago? What did I learn and what did I wish that somebody would tell me that I learned the hard way? Who could give the best advice to younger self? Perhaps my slightly more seasoned self, who has ridden the literal highs and lows of being a vocal performance major.
Thus, an open letter to the green and enthusiastic freshman.
Congratulations on earning a pretty decent sized scholarship. (I know you’re surprised that you even were awarded one due to that epic crack at the end. Don’t worry, high B-natural will never be your note. Actually, you will learn that just because you have certain notes, does not mean you should sing them.) I would say that you deserved this award, but you and I both know that practice had NOTHING to do with this. It was your talent; you got away with doing the bare minimum of practicing. Sure, it has served you well in middle school and high school, but you’re in for a rude awakening. Think of that money as payment for the work you are doing, not something you’re entitled to.
*If you want to be a singer, you WILL have to work for it. You will be pushed; you will be bent to the point that you almost break. Thankfully your voice teacher will never get the satisfaction of seeing you cry, you will save that for the practice room. Yes, kid, I said PRACTICE ROOM, consider that your new home. The more you practice, the better you become, it is simple math. *
*You will see plenty of “talented” people who rest on their laurels alone. Those folks usually wash out around sophomore year. It is the people that face their fears head on, the musicians that are relentless in overcoming their weaknesses and highlighting their strengths. Trust me, you do have weaknesses. If you admit it now and get that ego out of the way, life will be easier for you. *
But you also discover that you have strengths. You will flirt will the line between confidence and cockiness as well as humility and deprecation. Being a singer is a balancing act, Cassie. I’m just not talking about technique, which will hammered into you like an iron forge. But I’m also talking about the people you meet along the way.
*The diva persona is not well-liked in the world of opera; there is already enough competition. You will find that being that right mix of savvy and friendly will get you farther than acting prickly and placing yourself on a pedestal. *
At the end of the day, there are certain things that you will not able to control, no matter how much you practice; and no matter how solid your technique is, you will hear, “no”. You cannot take it personally, the thicker your skin is, the better you will fare. It will make the “yeses” you hear even sweeter. But keep an open mind; there will be a lot of changes coming your way, personally, and professionally.
I wish you the best of luck; remember that at the end of the day, you’re a singer. You love it, even when you hate it. But it will forge your passion and love for the craft in such a special way, you will appreciate everything in a much more nuanced way.
*Remember, anything worthwhile is not easy, and it is the little things that add up to the big things. Try to keep that in mind when you’re working on 24 Italian Art Songs and Arias. Trust me, every singer has to go through that.* Have a harmonious year, your much better-dressed, lower key (READ INTO THAT) self, Cassie.
P.S. Yes, you need those theory classes and all two years of piano.
What would you tell your “baby singer” self? What did you wish that you knew then that you know now?