Apologizing

Rebecca singing Despina in Cosi fan tutte
Rebecca singing Despina in Cosi fan tutte (Mozart), Weimar, Germany
A colleague of mine recently initiated a wonderful peer-evaluating performance group.  We meet every week and sing new repertoire in front of a small audience of friends, who do not judge, but gives constructive comments about the performance.  There is no one present who has any control over our career, who can ruin opportunities, grant jobs or money, or has any immediate affect on our future.   It is a safe place to make mistakes, and to ‘premiere’ audition repertoire for the first time, which is notoriously nerve-racking and difficult.

What happened today:

A few of us sang (quite well, I might add, with the occasional slip-up), and without fail, each person apologized to the audience and to the pianist after their performance.

My question to myself and to my colleagues is: WHY?  There are so many reasons for us to be proud of what we are doing.  We have been accepted into one of the best vocal training programs in the country and even the world.  We are working with top-notch faculty and staff, receiving wonderful feedback, and spend a lot of time in the practise room.  The level of commitment, artistry, and beauty in the room today was quite incredible.  Why do we feel the need to apologize for something that we know was not expected to be perfect in the first place?

The answer is in our expecations of ourselves.  We expect perfection from ourselves even when it is not expected of us from outsiders.  The competition is so great in this field, that we refuse to accept anything but perfection from each and every performance.  While holding oneself to a high standard is essential, I propose that we must now practise letting go of this expectation.  The apologeticness (perhaps not a word?) creeps in to our performances as well as the aftermath.  I would like to argue that we would have all sung better today if we would have forgotten that there were other ears listening and other minds judging our singing, and focus on the fact that there are other open hearts desiring a connection to the music and to another communicating human being.  After all, you can be sure that no outside observer can possibly pass harsher judgement than you do on yourself.  We all need to start practising surrender and positivity, as much as we practise our legato lines and our perfect diction.

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