Three Big Things We Can All Learn From Singers

Three Big Things We Can All Learn From Singers

Jenna Simeonov

1. How to take criticism like a pro.

Every single aspect of a singer’s job includes hearing criticism. They get it from teachers, conductors, directors, coaches, and of course, critics. You know, after sitting at the piano through many, many voice lessons, I’ve never felt an urge to attempt to do what singers do. It’s too difficult; and too many people have an opinion on how to do the difficult thing, and I honestly don’t know how professional singers do it.

Actually, that’s not true. I know exactly how they do it: they become an expert in separating their professional and personal selves. I watch the best singers take criticism with ease, and I imagine an inner monologue that sounds something like this: “Oh, I’m flat? _When will this curse of intonation problems leave me?_ ? But yes, I can totally sing it in tune.” It’s a lesson in deciding whether or not to take criticism personally, and knowing that the choice is there.

2. How to take charge of your health.

Everything there is to know about staying healthy, I learned from hanging out with opera singers.

  • Get lots of sleep.
  • Drink tons of water.
  • Exercise.
  • Eat food that won’t make acid/phlegm/halitosis happen.
  • Learn to breathe.

It’s so simple it hurts. And of course, opera singers are not the only people who know how to maintain their health. But like professional athletes or dancers, singers are held so accountable for these choices that they just can’t afford to be unhealthy.

It’s also more than a difference between being healthy and being sick. Obviously a head cold is inconvenient for any singer. But also inconvenient are a dry mouth, blood sugar spikes, and the hiccups. These things can cost singers their work, and the smart ones quickly compile a mental list of foods/behaviours that are good and bad ideas.

And if a singer does get sick, they don’t waste time moping. They get on that cold-med train or that vitamin regime or that acupuncture deal, or whatever, and they get back to their 100%, dammit. Neti Pot, anyone?

3. How to choose happiness.

Singers travel all the time. It means they get to see the world and see new things, and the industry makes it easy to meet fascinating people with fascinating lives. Singers who have this kind of career, away from home 10 months of the year, often make big sacrifices in their personal lives. They may have a family and have to leave them at home when they travel for work. Or perhaps they decide not to have a family in order to more easily pursue a career. In a way that many (perhaps most?) of us aren’t forced to, singers are inevitably faced with the large question of what to do with one’s life. The career is so time- and energy-consuming that it’s often a wise decision to concentrate on one or the other, at least for a period of time.

Singers are faced with a question that is ultimately reduced to the question we all ask of ourselves: What will make me happy? It’s of course a simple and profound question that I won’t unpack here. But my point is that most people aren’t presented with a choice between two broad options that could offer happiness. But singers, given they have the will and drive to sing professionally, are granted that choice. They make calculated, often self-sacrificing decisions as they balance a type of life that I think many of us may take for granted.

Do you think there’s more to learn from an opera singer? You’re probably right: let us know in the comments below!

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