What I Have Learned About Being A Successful Performer…From My Dog
I am back after over a month hiatus from blogging. December brought many changes in my life. These changes were mostly good ones, yet time consuming both mentally and tangibly. The day before Thanksgiving I lost my cat of 17 years to renal failure. After a couple months of treatment and cuddles, he started to show signs of pain and discomfort. Thus came the difficult decision to let him go with whatever happiness and joy he still had left. While I miss him, I am so thankful he was in my life for as long as he was.
Fast forward roughly two weeks later, I brought a new loving fur child into my life. I always wanted a dog of my own (as I grew up with dogs in my family), but never felt like it was the right now. However, this time, it felt like the right time. I found my furry companion via the internet through a rescue organization in Columbus, OH. Meet Ollie. My sweet 8 month old pup.
The past month I have been spending time with my new boy. In the midst of all the snuggling, playing, and training, I noticed how Ollie was reminding me and teaching me a few things about being successful–successful as a performer, as a blogger, and as a human being. Ergo, I am using him as my inspiration for this post–how he has taught me how to be a successful performer.
First is Curiosity.
When in a new environment and meeting new people, he sniffs his way through discovering all the new. He follows his curiosity and usually ends up with a new person he loves or a new toy or new activity. While I don’t recommend using your nose as a tool for discovering the new, work on keeping an eye out for new opportunities to chase after. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve done one project and another project popped up because of that one. Or how I wasn’t sure if there would be a place for me in the opera world, but I wanted to explore it. Here I am today, performing opera! I also loved writing, but wasn’t sure where to start or what to write about, until I went to graduate school for pedagogy. I realized I LOVED research and reading about singing. Following curiosities can lead you to something you love whether that be the thing you aimed for or something that came up along the way.
I do not think this is a new characteristic singers are told to acquire. However, it is an important one. Think about it—how many times do you think performers are told “no” before they are told “yes?” A LOT. Sometimes 100’s, if not more. I think about how many times I have to tell my puppy, “no.” Yet, he still does it again. Now, I know telling my dog “no” is in an effort to train him how to behave and to keep him from eating things other than his dog food. Yet, I started wondering, how successful would I be if I stopped letting the rejection stop me. If I practiced the same persistent energy as my dog, I would have many more additions to my resume.
Have a Routine.
Dogs LOVE routines. It gives them the comfort of knowing what to expect and it shows them what you expect. Nevertheless, not all aspects of our lives can be anticipated. In fact, most of the time, we can’t. Like as I sit here now with a horrible cold that I tried so hard to avoid, but I am now having to deal with. But, routines give us comfort because they are things we can control. For example, I love to have a 20-30 minute workout session 5-6 days a week. I like to get up at roughly the same time. I like to meal prep for the week so I have food ready for me in the fridge. I also like to schedule time for vegging out in front of the television. Also, having a practice routine is also great, while sometimes hard to do. Make your practice time a priority. What I tend to do is practice in between teaching lessons. So I always have my repertoire book with me or if not that I practice sight-reading piano music or play my students music so that I may better accompany them. Make time for your priorities and figure out what those priorities are. Write them down or put alerts on your phone. Make a habit of your routine. It will make you happier and more adaptable to change or unexpected events.
Talk to everyone.
Let me tell you, Ollie is a social butterfly! He thrives when he is meeting new people and new dogs. He even sometimes cries a little when he isn’t able to meet a new person when on a walk. This attitude reminds of the idea that connections in this business are some important. Connections with fellow performers, directors, producers, conductors, accompanists, teachers, or donors etc. are all so essential. Make relationships with these people. Connect with them and stay connected. Opportunities for roles, solos, collaborations, and other jobs present themselves when you work to maintain connections and seek new ones. So be like Ollie, and don’t shy away from meeting people.
Lastly, Take a nap.
Finally, it’s okay to take a break. Whether that’s a mental health day or a break from performing for a while, it’s OKAY. If you are feeling run down and tired, relax and reset. A break can be a good thing and it usually allows you to work harder and smarter once you’re ready. As singers, how our bodies feel, both mentally and physically, greatly affects how we perform. So take a pause. Take a moment of solitude or cuddle up next to your favorite person (or furry friend) and remind yourself to put your stresses into perspective.