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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Fear of Failing

Fear of Failing
Fear of Being Wrong
Fear of Not Being Good Enough
Fear of Getting Hurt

William Shakespeare put it well: "Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt."

Another interesting way of looking at Failure: "We learn wisdom from failure much more than success. We often discover what we will do, by finding out what we will not do." -- Samuel Smiles

And a whole bunch more:
"Never let the fear of striking out get in your way." -- George Herman "Babe" Ruth

"Failure teaches success." -- Japanese Saying

"He who fears being conquered is sure of defeat." -- Napoleon Bonaparte

"One who fears failure limits his activities. Failure is only the opportunity to more intelligently begin again." -- Henry Ford

And my favorite:
"What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?" -- Vincent van Gogh

I know that I would not be HERE if I had listened to my inner doubting Thomas. I certainly would not be HERE if I had listened to a number of false gods along the way. By false gods, I mean people who should have been real mentors or real teachers and instead were people who tried to project their own worries and doubts and fears onto me (and others). However, at the time they seemed "godly". I always had those inner bells that would go off whenever someone tried to make me feel small or fearful. Others should listen to these bells more often.

By HERE I mean where I am NOW:
1) an associate professor at the Schulich School of Music of McGill University in Montreal Quebec running one of the best opera training programs in the world.
2) the associate director of Janiec Opera Company of Brevard Music Center in North Carolina
3) a stage director who has produced or directed over 24 operas in the last four years
4) a conductor who has waved his hands in operas as diverse as Monteverdi's L'incoronazione di Poppea, Dallapiccola's Il Prigioniero, Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro, Bartok's Bluebeard's Castle, and Britten's Albert Herring.
5) a respected coach of both opera and musical theatre repertoire who loves both equally!
6) someone who's worked in the business for over half his life and is blessed by friends all over the world.
7) a man married to the most amazingly beautiful woman (who I think is a "Voice Whisperer"), who's also the mother of my amazing sons.
8) a student of religion and philosophy who has the opportunity to try to connect the dots.
9) a pianist who still has a couple of concertos in his fingers, and can still play certain songs from Godspell from memory (yes, it's an accomplishment to hold onto rep from 1982!)
10) someone who recognizes that young people nowadays seem to be FILLED WITH FEAR.

Why am I sensing this fear now more than ever?
Is this just another manifestation of the post 9/11 syndrome that seems to have beset much of the younger generation?
Is it a manifestation of the new generation of mentors and teachers who have decided to teach fear of failure over encouraging their singers to achieve success by allowing failure to happen as a natural part of the process of learning?

How should I try to help?
Do I push an "attempt" onto an obviously fearful student knowing that it'll be a great thing for them to either accomplish or fail?
Do I acquiesce and hope that they'll gain some confidence a little later on - even though I know that opportunities are fleeting and happen so rarely because there are simply too many singers running around who'll take those opportunities away from the fearful?

I'm not sure of the answers - or even if those are the right questions to ponder.

However, I am sure of the fact that those quotes above are TRUE.

I'll end this odd blog of questions and quotes with the following:
Question: Why is it that some see opera as Dangerous?"
Quote: "Opera is Long. Life is Short." -- L.A. Opera tee-shirt