I’m one of those people who tries hard. Usually a little too hard. If a problem resists solution, if an obstacle seems insurmountable, well, I just dig in my heels and grunt. Only recently have I been truly convinced of the futility of this approach.
Simple, really. When my mind gets cluttered and confused, and my thinking gets hazy, I conjure up the image of a bottle full of silty, cloudy water. I imagine shaking it as furiously as I can, in as many different and imaginative ways as I can, and with all the earnestness, good intentions, and critical thinking I can muster. And I witness the water getting more and more opaque.
Then I’m reminded that the way to separate the silt from the crystal-clear water is to do nothing. Sit still, breathe, pray, dream. And clarity returns. Yielding to any temptation to try to do something to fix the problem is to doom the outcome.
Those of you out there with a natural yogic spirit will be nodding, wondering how this could not be obvious. But for some of us (you know who you are…) it’s unthinkable.
This week, in particular, is all about marketing – specifically trying to figure out how to best reflect the spirit of next summer’s operas in our printed materials. I am decidedly not good at this. I’m also having a crisis of confidence about exactly how I believe we should be approaching our marketing for this summer. Take a difficult task, add some natural aversion, toss in some philosophical paralysis – what do you get? All I can do is let the silt settle.
Each fall, during our audition process, I am seized with a fit of good intentions, and I offer to all singers who audition for our company the opportunity to ask for feedback on their audition. At the time, it seems like a noble thing to do. After all, getting better at this necessary evil of auditioning should be easier with some idea of how one’s auditions are perceived. And since we tell applicants that they have to wait until January 1 to ask for feedback, it all seems doable. Until January rolls around.
A little more than a week into the new year, and I already have over 50 requests for comments on last fall’s auditions. And many more will follow. (I don’t know whether to be in awe of or afraid of those singers who actually sent their feedback requests on New Year’s Day. Pretty determined bunch, I’d say.)
I can write about 3 or 4 of these feedback emails an hour. It involves going back into the database, looking at all of the comments we made on the audition, and trying to put them together in a way that has any chance of being meaningful to the singer. So I figure I already have a backlog of about 12 hours…
If past responses are any guide, singers are very appreciative of this offer. So I’ll keep on doing it. All of the emails are prefaced with a disclaimer – after all, we only hear people for about 8 minutes, so our reactions are not exactly definitive. But very often, our comments are consistent with feedback they’re getting from coaches, teachers, and mentors. And in some cases, singers are only hearing generically encouraging cheerleading from those who wish them well, and they’re actually hungry for some specific reactions.
If you’ve written for feedback already, please give me another 1-2 weeks. Then I’ll start churning them out. And if you’re interested in exactly what I mean by all of this, I promise I’ll give some anonymous “for-instances” in a future posting (when I’m in that groove).