In mid-January, I got a gig. Kind of a big one. Overnight, my energies became singularly devoted to all things “show“: 12-hour days of rehearsals led to adrenaline-laced performances, leaving time for little else. One day I was reporting to the restaurant for yet another shift; the next, I was re-doing my website and conducting interviews about singing duets with Frank Sinatra.
My head and heart have been racing to make sense of my new life, and all the while, I’ve tried not to get too comfortable, because this could all end as quickly as it began. Not that I’m complaining. Shedding the mantle of “struggling artist,” however temporarily, has proven to be illuminating, joyful, and supremely educational. Here are some of the things I’ve learned:
Reviews are like death and taxes: they’re necessary, inevitable, and it’s best not to dwell upon them too much.
These days, any schmuck with internet access and an opinion can call himself a “critic.” Over the past few months, I’ve been lauded, misquoted, and the brunt of a Sarah Palin joke, all by people who write (with varying degrees of competency) about other people’s creative efforts.
I suppose the critics are just doing their job, and as long as they spell my name correctly (all press really is good press), I’m not terribly worried about receiving praise or poison. I’m too busy casting my lot with my fellow creative adventurers, risk-takers, and dreamers of dreams.
**As an aside, I find it delicious that, after being rather skewered in the press, “The Addams Family” musical is selling like gangbusters. It seems, perhaps, that the critics aren’t quite as influential as they’d like to believe…
I’d rather be present than perfect.
In my early years as a singer, I cried after every performance that fell short of total perfection, which meant I cried after every performance, period. Even in mid-performance, I would often find myself assembling a laundry list in my mind of every little thing I could (should!) be doing better.
These days, I’m singing a show six nights a week. I can’t afford the self-indulgent perfectionism that plagued me as a younger singer; I’d go crazy. Now, instead of trying to be perfect in every song I sing, I strive to be present. My nightly goal is to sing with as high a degree of technical proficiency as possible, but–even more importantly–to sing with generosity and heart in the present moment.
Never never never give up.
Winston Churchill was on to something. What on earth were the odds of my making an actual living as a big band canary in 21st-century New York City? (This, of course, is a rhetorical question, but for the sake of clarity, I’m going to say the odds were slim to none.)
Call it faith, call it perseverance, call it dogged stubbornness–hell, maybe it’s just the tried-and-true happenstance of “right place, right time”–but after years of singing with big bands for no compensation other than my love of the music and musicians, a dream gig arrived. “Leap, and the net will appear,” said John Burroughs, and it seems he was telling the truth.
It’s been a long time since my last post here at Ad Alta Voce; it was with some reluctance that I decided to write about my experiences on the Broad Way. After all, I don’t know how long I’ll have this gig, nor do I have any idea of what gigs will follow this one. But I do know that, whatever the gig, home will always be where the music is.