Life changes very quickly, in a very POSITIVE way, if you let it!
Love this quote by Lindsey Vonn. Rewind back a few months and I was a recent Masters graduate with Distinction, new to the big wide world of London and prepping to make my role debut with the wonderful Opera Holland Park. I had big hopes and dreams, exciting auditions lined up and was preparing to sing for agencies in the hope of securing representation within the industry. Fast-forward just a few months and we are living in a very different world where it can feel very hard to stay positive about the future of singing.
Life has changed very quickly. Now to find those positives...
Why am I doing this?
1. I have been meaning to write a blog for ages
2. I am convinced that there are millions more singers feeling the same way I am so if I can encourage you all even a little bit, then I'll be a very happy person!
So here it is….
How to turn lockdown into a positive exercise for the graduate opera singer.
Before I give you these tips, I would like to emphasise that it is 100% OK to be binge watching Netflix, eating your body weight in carbs and have a good old cry at what is going on at the moment. We can't be productive 24/7. In fact, I think it is good to let out the crazy amount of emotions that we are all going through. I did however, make a promise to myself that when I come out of this time of uncertainty, I will have bettered myself as a singer so here you are!
1. Set small goals
Know what it is you want to achieve. It might be learning one aria, it might be learning 20. Give yourself some small targets to work towards so you don’t feel completely overwhelmed with things to do. Know yourself, know what you can physically and mentally manage at this time and most importantly, write it down. Goals are more likely to be achieved if you put them to paper.
2. Perfect your audition package
Yes, auditions won’t be happening for a while, but they will be happening at some point in the future. How many of you are like me and spend your life thinking ‘I will learn that aria when I have the time’ or ‘I wish people would stop telling me to learn that aria because I just don't have the hours in the day to perfect it’. How about we spend this time actually learning these arias? Take time to think about realistic roles that you will be playing and write down a list of arias to present to companies on the other end of this.
3. Improve your languages
As singers, we can always be better with our language skills. Why not use this time to develop them? I have just started an A1.2 German course with the Goethe Institut who are now running all of their courses online. Cheaper options are Babbel and Duolingo which work well and allow you to cover the basics. Also remember that LOADS of language coaches are still working virtually. Drop them an email and see if they would be happy to speak through the text with you or even listen to you singing your arias.
4. Translate, translate, translate and memorise
Yes, it's a tedious task but we never have the time outside of lockdown to do this and it is SO time consuming. Pick up the Castels and translate. Use this time to download PDF’s to Fourscore if you are into your technology or pick up that rusty old copy of La Cenerentola that has been sitting on your the shelf and write in all of your translations so that when you actually come to learning it, one step is done. After you have done this, memorise away!
5. Work on your physicality and movement
This is a personal challenge of mine and nicely ties into points 6, 7 and 8. So many people are offering online dance classes for free at the moment. livestreamartsfitness is a page on Instagram that I have been using and can highly recommend! They post details of all the channels who are live streaming dance classes and exercise classes on a daily basis (see point 6!) Opera singing is so physical and developing these skills now can definitely help in the long run. Plus it is a load of FUN!
The word I used to dread but now love. Before lockdown, I had joined the gym and was loving being active. Bring the gym to you during lockdown. Exercising, like singing, boosts those endorphins and will leave you feeling great. Some resources I have been using are yogawithadriene and couch25k. Use your friends to keep each other accountable and to spur each other on. Let's come out of this feeling fitter and healthier than before!
7. It's all about the friends!
As singers, we rarely ask for help from our colleagues. I’m not sure whether it’s a pride thing or whether we are fearful of being rejected but why don’t we use this time to help each other and boost each other up? Grab a few friends and organise an online recitative class or even a ‘mock audition’ asking friends to help you perfect how you come across in an audition room and vice versa. Let's encourage those around us and boost that POSITIVITY!
8. Coach with people virtually and seek advice
Teachers are still teaching and coaches are still coaching! Together, we can help to keep this industry going if we reach out and connect to those coaches that we love. Remember that a lot of our coaches might have lost Summer work like us and might welcome the extra income. Our coaches know us and our voices and can still give us some amazing help during this time so lets enjoy that we can still sing together during this time!
9. Re-vamp your website and social media
I’m definitely on the list of singers who had a terrible website before all of this went down. We can use this time to develop our brand. I recently met with a branding expert @jamesjetsoften as part of the National Student Opera Society Skill Swap and he was so helpful at giving me some top tips including writing a blog. He is currently offering pro bono help for artists so check out his Insta!
9.5 Drink gin whilst doing copious amounts of pub quizzes
Not sure how this one slipped in here…..! Oh well! This one is a fun one to remind you that in the midst of productivity it is important to let your hair down and have fun! My colleagues at Opera Holland Park have been running weekly drinks and quizzes and it is so needed during this time. Organise your own or hop onto someone else's quiz. You won’t be sorry as we all need to have a laugh!
10. Read materials and watch live performances
Lastly, pick up a good book or click onto an opera stream. I am enjoying actually having the time to read and learn from some of the best. Opera companies all over the world are streaming their productions so why not pour yourself a glass of wine, dim the lights and give yourself a virtual opera experience!
There you go! My top 10 tips! Hope these ideas helped! Remember, we are all in the same boat and we are all wanting to see the day when we can sing together again. I have to keep reminding myself of how incredible the music making on the other side of this chaos will be.
Keep smiling and keep singing!