Staying Motivated

Anne Wieben shares some motivation tips, perfect for a monday evening!

Today, I would like to share with you the story of a friend of mine, Sarah. Sarah is a freelance opera singer, like myself, and just last year things were going very well for her. She had around 40 performances of Le Nozze di Figaro, with a fun, young troupe. This meant consistent work for months and on top of that she had some concerts and jump-in opportunities, due largely in part to this touring gig. She was on the train all the time, singing great music, meeting fantastic people. Her schedule was booked solid for months until...well...it wasn’t.
After a hectic time her calendar looked frightfully empty and she had no idea where or when her job would be.

Sarah’s story is not at all uncommon in this business. At times, we musicians are so busy we wonder why we even pay rent on a flat we never see while just a few months later we wonder how we will pay rent on a flat at all. Don’t get me wrong - down-time can be a most welcome gift; it allows us to re-group, re-focus, and refresh. However, what are we musicians to do when faced with a “slump”? Motivation can be especially tough to muster up when we literally do no know when our next paycheck is on the way.

First and foremost we must see those blank pages in our diary as opportunity. While we cannot deny that performances are what pay the bills, we must also acknowledge that they are merely the acme of weeks, if not months, of work we very rarely get paid to do in the first place.

Self-discipline is the key to our success. Make no mistake, there is plenty to do and staying active is the best way to stay motivated. Here are a few of the things I recommend:

1. Learn something new. If you happen to have some extra time on your hands, by all means learn (or re-learn!) an essential role for your fach or an important concerto for your instrument. We all understand that performing is about much more than technically delivering the notes written on a page but often times a hectic schedule doesn’t allow us the luxury of really digging into a piece. Artistically, deeply, and creatively throw yourself into the music of your choosing. You can only benefit from this experience and plus you never know when you may be asked to perform it.

2. Call upon your team of experts. Schedule as many lessons with your teacher and the coaches you trust as you can afford. Being on the road or booked solid can sometimes allow bad habits to creep in to our technique. Nothing beats working with someone whose ears you trust to help you make strides forward.

3. Create your own performance opportunity. Practicing and coaching is one thing; performing is another. Create your own performance opportunity, even if it is in your mother-in-law’s living room. Invite friends, family, and some discerning colleagues to hear that new role or concerto you have been learning. Not only will you gain experience, but friends and family will be thrilled to hear you perform and their enthusiasm is contagious.

4. Network. Though you may not have any performances on the horizon, you most likely know people who do. Why not go see your colleagues perform? Not only will you get to hear some interesting music while supporting friends, you will also have the chance to make new contacts. Ask your friends to introduce you to a conductor or fellow musician. Networking in this business is a must and nothing is better than a face-to-face meeting. Have those business cards ready and be sure to follow-up with a call or email. Your next job may depend upon it!

5. Relax. Literally. Tank up on your sleep, take some yoga classes, have a glass of wine with your friends, watch some TV with your significant other. Let yourself unwind a little when you have the luxury of some spare time; you may soon be rehearsing La Boheme for 8 hours a day, half-way across the world. Just be sure you know the difference between taking it easy and being lazy!

6. Get inspired. This is, for me, most essential. Doubt and fear have a nasty way of creeping up on us during these “slumps”. Instead of giving in, listen to a piece you can’t wait to perform or perhaps one that inspired you to start this whole crazy journey in the first place. Go see a performance by your local symphony. Check out some local art. Spend a few hours lost in all of the fantastic Youtube clips of old singers and conductors. When that little little voice of doubt starts singing its tune, turn up the volume and sing louder.

What do YOU do to stay motivated? Let us know in the comments section!

Anne Wieben is a freelance operatic soprano, currently residing in Vienna, Austria. For more information, check out her HELLOSTAGE profile Anne Wieben or visit her website: www.annewieben.com!

Author: Anne Wieben / edited by Nina HELLO STAGE
Comments [1]
Pablo Gaeta - 2015-02-11 23:58
Thank you for the tips Anne! Regards from Argentina
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