The first day of any program is always stressful as performers and faculty get to know each other and see how they measure up to the competition. These days can go one of two ways. It can either be an open and accepting time where we see each other’s unique strengths and empower each other to futher greatness, or it can be a time of competition and “one-upmanship”. I always hope for the former; but, truth be told, I have often experienced the latter.
Walk into any audition waiting room and you’ll see the standard stereotypes well-represented. Like a scene from Mean Girls, there’s the finely-coifed diva in the corner, rolling her eyes at every singer she meets in the hopes to throw their concentration. There’s the tenor in the back, wailing on high notes to intimidate the other singers. There’s the nervous girl with her shoulders hunched leaning up against a wall wondering why she is even there. Then there’s the true La Boheme struggling artist who obviously hasn’t eaten or bathed in a day or two and is just hoping that they get the gig to survive another few months.
Other than casual belittling small talk from singers who had worked together at previous programs or auditions, there is little warmth or acceptance. Looking around the room is like watching a pack of lions stalking their pray.
What is it about this business that fosters such a cut-throat level of competition? Yes, performance jobs are scarce. Yes, we must strive for excellence and that illusive perfection. Yes, we are taught to be hyper-critical of voices and performance abilities. But, does tearing down others make us stronger? Does tooting our own horn have to deafen the sound of others’? Couldn’t we appreciate what others have to offer while sharing our own gifts and talents?
Easily susceptible to the opinions of others, I used to be the girl with the shoulders hunched wondering why I was there. A late bloomer and an opera singer with a jazz and musical theatre background, I always felt out of place and fell victim to many a diva domination act. That is, until I discovered yoga. Suddenly, I realized how little the competition mattered. We all have talents. We are all different. We all have things to offer if we just open up and share rather than inflict our opinions on one another.
This is why I started offering free karma yoga classes at all of the programs I attend. Yes, it’s more work for me. Sometimes, after hours of performing, my voice doesn’t want to do any more talking. Sometimes I just want to sleep in instead. But, something beautiful happens when these singers get on the mat–often for the first time ever. Their walls finally come down. They start to connect to each other on a deeper level. They no longer see each other as a voice to beat, but instead as a unique person to get to know. Yes, we are singers, but we are people first. Let go of the surface-level introductions of what school you’re going to and who you are studying with and delve deeper.
When the walls of competition are torn down, compassion, understanding, acceptance, and support are unearthed. And that truly is a beautiful thing to bear witness to. Be fierce; but, let go of the competition.