Singing competitions are not for the faint of heart and especially if you are told that your voice is not big enough to compete with the other voices. The ‘I’m not enough‘ default setting kicks in big time.
Because isn’t bigger better?
Now and then a student comes to me with fear and desperation in their eyes because of an approaching competition and theI’m not enoughbelief raises its head, again. They are competing with all shapes and sizes of voices and have been told they need to project and be louder if they want to win!
Singers project what is inside of them outside of them for others to hear. Not unlike a projector projecting a movie in a theatre does by reflecting that which is naturally inside itself.
The problem that I see over and over which brings fear to students is that they are being asked to project more of themselves than they have, or are ready for. So they develop ‘the inner pusher.’ This pusher pushes out a voice and pushes away any softness, vulnerability and authenticity that is so important for a singer to convey with their voice.
If you asked a cello to project itself it wouldn’t know what you are talking about. It would say, ‘I’m just playing myself! I am made of the wood and the stuff that I am, and that’s what I’m ringing.’ The cello is simply resonating and playing it’s body, it’s instrument. It’s a reflection of it’s own connection, or, lack thereof. The same goes for a voice. If the student is resonating her body which includes her head, chest, belly etc then this connection to herself is then reflected outwards to the audience. Projection is an affect of a good connection to Self.
All the anxiety, this performance anxiety and fear shows up in this ‘need for projection‘, which could also be said, the ‘need for perfection.’ The kinds of muscling and contorting that occurs within the body as a result of working hard to project can sometimes never be undone in a voice or a body. This false projecting is so identified with success and pleasing others. When a student gets that all they need do is to connect with themselves and feel what is naturally inside of them and to sing and ring themselves, it is a revelation to them.
Projection happens as a natural by-product of connection to ones self
and a natural need to express the feelings inside.
Take Zoe a young girl of 15 eager and ready to join a competition and express her natural abilities. She stands before me all doe eyed and what I perceive as being ‘checked out’. But I’m about to be blown away by this ‘understated young lady’, and she is about to put me in my place thank you very much. At first I’m like the audience or the judges who are carelessly sizing up their victim for the chopping block but then, IT happens and she slips into herself and sings.
I feel her. It’s like I know her instantly. In a heartbeat we are connected. And not because she is trying to connect with me, or to PROJECT. She is tenderly doing her thing and I’m there, the innocent lamb at the slaughter of this young ladies beautiful and powerful voice. I am so affected by her that I can barely contain myself from crying. She is filled with love and beauty and her voice is reflecting her directly.
But my heart sinks because I know that they won’t get her. And she tells me with tears in her eyes that her coaches and judges want her to, you guessed it, PROJECT her voice. They want her voice to be bigger than she is or that she’s ready to be.
They tell her that her voice is too small and she needs to
‘get it out there’ and ‘project.’
I know they won’t pick her because her voice and her being is not BIG ENOUGH and she can’t compete with the voices in the competition who can ‘throw themselves at the audience‘ in sacrifice of their young, tender and vulnerable parts. I see it all. The. Time. Young girls and ladies pushing their tenderness and beauty away for bigger, louder and stronger voices.
But if these judges could just be still enough to sense the beauty and absolute genius in this girls voice then she would win, hands down, she would win.
I tell her I can help her expand the beauty in her voice but that it will take time and care, that she has to grow into herself and her voice. I say this competition will pass and life will move on and over time other things will become important as well as this and that what she has right now is innocent and precious. I encourage her not to ‘step on herself on the way to getting herself.’ She smiles and understands.
A girl can only hope. I tell her that she never has to be more than she is, and that she is enough and I guessing I’m telling myself that. Sigh. She hears me, we have a moment, and she gets that I get her.