What makes us succeed -- in general, and particularly in singing/music? I had a really great experience today at an audition. I can't figure what the outcome will be as they have many more singers to hear across the country, but it was a personal best for me. This high C just kind of popped out of my mouth. Assuming it wasn't a complete fluke (certainly didn't feel that way), I've been trying to figure what exactly happened. I didn't think about it much in the moment, except for maybe something like "breath" and "vowel" and "let all the notes feel where the C feels." But those weren't even so distinct, and they had to happen all at once for it to come out that way. So... what led to that?
I definitely took a break over the holidays, but after about 5 days it was time to kick my butt into gear (especially because all of these arias weren't quite memorized...). So, I practiced - words, meaning, notes, rhythms, breath -- I mean, inhale!, singing vowel without "placing" anything. Everything that I had been working on this semester. Sometimes it clicked, sometimes not so much. This begs the question, if I had been practicing more in school, would it be more consistent? I can't say (who could?). I didn't practice as much as humanly possible, but I worked on making practice count.
One of my coaches in fall semester challenged our class to make the most of each practice session. Rather than working for hours on end, which is not that healthy for singing to begin with, focus on the true trouble spots and work til they are right. Meaning, don't let a vowel that wasn't so great slip past you. For me personally (and I think most of my teacher's studio), it starts with making sure each breath is right. Eventually, you have to put everything together and run the song -- keep going despite something not being quite right. Hopefully enough diligence in practice results in auto-pilot technique, especially when audition nerves start kicking in!
Asking for Help
The thing is, we can't be successful on our own. Maybe this works in some fields, but in almost all of music and performance we rely on other people to help make it truly great. Three of my four arias had not been performed publicly performed and one of them I started on 1.5 to 2 months ago, never mind just memorizing it over break. I needed to run them with accompaniment; heaven bless Amy, an accompanist (and friend!) from home, whom I called on relatively short notice and was willing to run through the audition rep with me. This also extends to my wonderful teacher, who gave me one last lesson before the break to make sure I got back on the breathing right horse, which I fell off of the week before juries... There's also all of my coaches and their gold nuggets of advice for musicality and preparation; same with directors. Of course, the support of friends and peers makes a difference too. Basically, as far as I'm concerned, the success of one person cannot be attributed to just one person. Behind them are the experiences with, advice from, and encouragement of all those who believe in them to help along the way.
Anyway... just a few overarching thoughts about things that lead to success. What's also important is upkeep (which could fall under diligence). One success has to be followed by many more to make a successful career. Quality upkeep comes from these same ideas, for if one success can be achieved, imagine the others are out there waiting. :)