Can you not imagine it? Paris, during and after World War I, and a collection of the world’s great literary and artistic minds lounging and working about. Virgil Thomson, British writers Ford Madox Ford, Lytton Strachey, and Edith Sitwell, and American writers Ezra Pound, Elliot Paul, Sherwood Anderson, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Ernest Hemingway all passing through the doors of Gertrude Stein‘s home. All of these great, creative minds working around each other and spurring each other on.
This is the inspiration for the day 24 challenge: create a singing team.
The impact of peers on productivity and decision-making has been studied in diverse range of settings, from workplace productivity to migration decisions. Conceptually, the peer group can affect the individual in various ways, including creating positive externalities and allowing the individuals to take advantage of complementarities in production. These benefits are also present in the production of music: musicians can learn from observing one another and sharing performance slots can increase exposure.¹
You have heard it said before, “it takes a village.” The simple truth in that statement is that we are only one person and have only 24 hours in a day. When we combine a reliable and skilled team of people the effort can be exponentially broadened. Because you intrinsically trust the people on your team, they can provide you with valuable feedback that you will actually heed. Your singing team will be surprisingly helpful in many areas, but they are mainly there to brainstorm new ideas and review your materials.
The best place to start your own singing team is in graduate school. Your entourage doesn’t have to be set in stone. In fact, your members don’t even need to know that you consider them part of a group – although it is more helpful if they are committed to you too. After academia, you can interchange the members as appropriate.The reason I suggest you start during school is that you are more apt to find those at your own level with which you can grow.
These are the elements I consider in my singing team:
As I wrote in a 29 Days to Diva (#29daystodiva) post the other day, your teacher needs to be on your team. They are going to provide mature mentorship to your pursuits. They should have helpful information regarding your career path and your skill level. A teacher can give can help shape a healthy self-awareness of your talent and potential. It is extremely important to find someone who you can trust.
- Bonus Points
- Coach – Your opera coach is an often underestimated resource on your team. This person will give you oodles of insight into language, style, and repertoire choices.
- Accompanist – Finding a great collaborative pianist that you can work with consistently will be advantageous throughout your musical career.
Determine which singer friends you have that you consider equally part of your collective. You trust and recommend their musicianship, work ethic, and their support. Having both local and non-local singing friends on your team is beneficial as well. A local friend that you perform with often has the ability to see and hear your performances and can give you feedback immediately. A non-local singing entourage member will be able to help you identify trends in different locations and give you feedback from a distance. Make sure that you are able to respect each other and their unique journey. Each person must be able to speak his own goals and ambitions. Your singing team isn’t a therapy group (although it might feel that way.) You aren’t trying to “fix” each other. “This is a deep and powerful internal process. There is no one right way to do this. Love is important. Be kind to yourself. Be kind to one another.”²
Diversify. Include other creatives in your singing team such as writers, poets, filmmakers, animators, dancers, actors, directors, even tech-types and entrepreneurs. Sharing discussions and brainstorming sessions with other creative class members will provide a compelling reason to create new work. You will want to share your big, audacious ideas with them and they will share in your excitement. These creatives will fuel your desire to do more good work – to up your averages because you observe their work. “Sharing is your ticket to the process of witnessing what others are doing, to gain insight into the creative process, into your creative life through the shared frustration and breakthroughs of others.”³ Another benefit of working with others, not just musicians, is significantly widening your circle of social influence. By being a good colleague your other creative friends will want to introduce you to new people who could be possible collaborators and lead you to new audiences.
Non-musician friends and family are necessary for one main reason: they remind you that not everyone does or is interested in what you do. These friends are important because musicians simply cannot live in a conservatory bubble and expect to draw crowds to their performances. You must be really good at what you do and be a shepherd for the art form. These non-musician friends will become ticket buyers because of you. They want to support you and show interest in your interests.
On the flip side, your non-musician friends are important for sharing their expertise and talents with you. Your butcher, your banker, your candlestick-maker will have so many interesting things to teach and give you – do not neglect them.
Your singing team
is like your “squad.” The people who you trust with you goals and trust their feedback. Remember, as steel sharpens steel so does one mind sharpen another. You will know your team by the excitement they generate in you for the creative process. We each follow our own paths in this field. None of us can do it exactly the same way, but having a team of people who help you actualize your power and creative aspirations will allow you to develop your strengths in community. I encourage you to look around you for your singing team and cultivate those relationships. Put some focus into that group and you will all reap the rewards of having a singing team.