The Equation

S = (R + T) x LF
My son is the mathematician in the family. But even though my fling with math is decades in the past, I can still appreciate the eloquence of a beautiful formula. Yes, it’s dangerous to reduce difficult and messy things to a simple equation. But the clarity it brings is worth the risk.

S [Success] = (R [Raw Materials] + T [Tools]) x LF [Life Force; with apologies to Martha Graham]

  • Not happy with the product side of this formula, but “Success” is the best I can do for now. Use whatever word works for you.
  • Raw Materials. The stuff you were born with. That gift from God. Good pipes, strong constitution, a body that is tooled for singing.
  • Tools. The things you learn. Your craft. Vocal technique, language mastery, musical acumen, dramatic chops.
  • Life Force. That essential energy without which the first two factors are brought to their knees. Soul. Guts. Sheer force of personality. Determination. Desire.

Every artist exhibits his/her own variation on this equation. And for each person, the strength of each element is different. Some singers with breathtaking raw talent somehow manage to skate by with basic tools. Others whose natural gift is more modest make fabulous careers by fanatically developing their ‘tool kits’, becoming consummate linguists, compelling actors, and innovative musicians.

What’s critical is that the sum of these first two – raw talent and refinement of craft – are dangerously susceptible to the strength of the third. The “Life Force” either brilliantly magnifies everything else, or brings it all to a halt. Worse, it registers on the negative side of the ledger. And it doesn’t take higher calculus to figure out what that does to the equation.

Can a singer have a superhuman degree of dedication/enthusiasm/magnetism and overcome a lack of raw material or tools? Highly unlikely. And we see quite a few aspiring singers who fall in this category. It’s heartbreaking, actually. Desire is critical, but it’s not capable of standing alone.
Conversely, can a successful performer have excellent raw materials and a high level of craftsmanship yet lack drive? Just as unlikely. This scenario will get you through school… maybe… if you’re coddled…. But it won’t sustain a career.

Sorry, this went on longer than I planned!

Shop Talk
A few random thoughts about the applications I’m reviewing:

Don’t lie about your age. It’ll catch up with you somehow. If it does, and you’re absolutely phenomenal, no one will care. But it still leaves a bad taste. I know ours is an ageist business. On a certain level it will remain so, for the physiology of singing is tied to the general health and age of the body. On another level, things are improving. You don’t need to be a 25-year-old Wunderkind to start a career. Just don’t lie about your age.

Demo CD: Live performance recording? With orchestra (canned or otherwise)? Simple demo made in practice room? The truth is, it doesn’t matter to us. (Not speaking for anyone else.) Just be sure that it’s audible and clear, and that it functions in a CD player.

Résumés: One page, please. Detailed résumé discussion to follow – probably next week.

Fach: Please don’t be too specific. It just begs questions. Please allow us to infer from your rep list and your audition if you’re a lyric coloratura or a spinto.

Here, at the bottom of the blog, is where you’ll find totally subjective ‘(In My Very Humble Opinion’) ramblings, rants, and ruminations. But none today. Another 30 CDs to listen to.

Add Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to Blog