Photo Credit: Robbie Frank, Reflections Film LLC
Recital season is always a stressful time for college musicians. I can't speak for how the instrumentalists prepare for their recitals, but, after 2 full length voice recitals of my own, I feel qualified to give some tips about voice recital preparation. Hopefully, this post will make your life easier during your recital year.
Do: start thinking about your program as soon as possible.
Do you want your recital to have a theme? What style(s) do you want your recital to contain? What are the requirements for you to pass your recital? Make sure you ask yourself those questions well before your recital date, and make sure you are consulting your teacher about your songs. Having a program that meet the requirements that you also enjoy is important to a successful recital and will make your preparations and practice sessions much easier.
Don't: pick music that is too difficult for you or not for your type.
If you're an undergraduate, the Queen of the Night aria might not be the best for you. Similarly, if you are a mezzo, maybe don't put in Glitter and Be Gay. Your teacher probably don't let you sing anything that is too difficult for you, and they definitely won't let you sing something that's not written for your voice type. Pick music that will show off YOUR voice.
Do: divide your music into sets as soon as your program is finalized.
Decide where you want your audience to clap. Generally, for a classical recital, people don't clap after every song. Note that in your program and practice your sets together. For my junior recital, I divided up my program by language. So, during my practice sessions, I'd practice my French set all together, take a break, then go into my Italian arias.
Don't: compare your program to other people's.
Programs are like tailor-made dresses. They're designed for you. Pick a program that you love and don't compare it to other people. Someone else's program might be more technically difficult or all in foreign languages, but that doesn't mean you have to cut your English set to make room for a Polish set if you don't want to. However, with that said, it is okay to get inspiration from other people's recitals. Did they sing a song that you really want to learn? Bring it to your teacher and ask if you can fit it into your program.
Do: get memorized early.
At my school, the unspoken deadline for memorization is one month before your recital date. For me, I finalized my program the summer break before my fall recital and was mostly memorized by the time school started in September. This gave me lots of time to play with the characters and the musicality of my program. I was also not as nervous when it came time to go on stage because I knew these songs so well.
Don't: let the last month freak you out.
The month before your recital is going to seem scary. You're going to feel unprepared, anxious, and have doubts about the whole thing. Don't worry. This is the month to explore and make mistakes. In my experience, you make the most progress and during the two weeks before your recital. Just relax and remind yourself why you are doing this in the first place.
Do: plan out what you want your dress rehearsal to be like.
I had open dress rehearsals for both of my recitals where I treated them as proper performances. I invited people to come so I could have an audience, and so that people who couldn't come to my actual recital got a chance to see it live. That's one way of doing it. You might decide that you want your dress rehearsal to only include you, your accompanist, and your teacher. You many want to work through things logistically or sing certain songs twice. The bottom line is: it's your time. Use it however it will benefit you most.
Don't: wait until the last minute to deal with logistics.
Logistics is half the battle. You have to book your dress rehearsal space, book your reception space, pick an outfit, pay your accompanist... Have a plan and enlist your friends to help. Make sure your parents know where to go. Girls: make sure you PRACTICE IN YOUR DRESS AND SHOES! Have a plan for everything that might go wrong way in advance so that you can focus on you the day of your recital.
Do: take your time to prepare yourself before the performance.
On your recital day, you are the most important person. You get to be a diva. Make sure you eat something that makes you feel comfortable, and don't be afraid to tell people to leave you alone or be quiet. My parents fight exclusively during times of high stress. I've had to tell them to please be quiet or fight somewhere else before both recitals. Also, once you've gotten to your performance space, think through your songs, meditate, or have some tea to calm your nerves.
Don't: kick yourself if you're not perfect.
Trust that you've prepared enough for this performance. Everyone in the audience is on your side. Strive for meaningful communication and not for perfection. And trust that whatever you are doing is good enough.
Do: enjoy performing and have a great time!
This whole day is about you and your achievements. You are giving people the gift of your talent. So enjoy, and have fun with it. You are going to do great.
This week, as I sat at my cluttered dining room table scrolling through Facebook on my phone, I came across this interesting Buzzfeed article, I Lived By The One-Minute Rule For An Entire Week! More out of boredom than interest, I tapped on it. Turns out the One-Minute rule is the rule that: "If it takes less than a minute, just do it right now." Huh. Sounds like something my mom would say. According to Natalie Brown, the writer of this particular post, she has made small changes throughout the week like putting things away right after she's used it and making her bed in a minute, as well as bigger changes like starting out to put away a few dishes but then decided to just wash them all instead because she's already kind of doing the chore (though that one was driven more by laziness...). She stated at the end of the article that she will continue to abide by the one-minute rule.
I clicked off of the article after reading it and looked up from my phone. On my table, there were 2 dishes from dinner, a bunch of books and papers, two open folders of rep and scenes, and a ton (and I mean, a TON!) of colored pens. It was a total mess. So thinking of what I'd just read, I thought, "Well, closing my folders and putting them back on the shelf takes less than a minutes, and I don't even have to get up." And then, once that was done, I thought, "Hmm. I could just scoop up these pens and put them in a jar." So I did that also. "Just stack the books and papers on your shelf so the table looks kind of clean." Done. "Now the dirty plates are bothering me. They're taking up the whole table." So I brought the plates over to the sink and plopped them down. And then, because I was already there, I put on some gloves and scrubbed them and put them in the dishwasher. And, because my gloves were already on, I decided to scrub the stove. In 10 minutes, I'd cleaned my whole kitchen and dining room.
"Well, that worked brilliantly, and now I'm in a cleaning mood!" I thought to myself. I walked around my apartment looking for other things to clean. By the end of the night, I'd done 2 loads of laundry and cleaned my bathroom. This trick is awesome!
No, granted, it's not really how this trick is supposed to work. It's really for those little annoying things that you could do now but usually leave it for later. The next three days, I actually used the trick how it was intended to be used. For the first time in my life, the bed was made every day, the bathroom sink was wiped down at the end of the night, and things I've used returned to their homes after their useful fieldtrips.
So, I'm here to tell you, try it. Just try it if you're like me and get annoyed by the never-ending mini chores. Just take one minute and put that pen back, or load your laundry, or throw out that take-out from 4 days ago. Future you will be so much more productive and happier because past you decided to take one minute to do what we all hate to do.
P.S. If you are a naturally neat person, and you don't need the one-minute rule to be productive and keep the house clean, well... we're not all amazing like you, but we're working on it.
For many of us, planners and calendars run the world. From pencil-ing in doctor's appointments to keeping track of our meals, planners are terrific things. They exist on all different platforms, too! And some of them you can even sync them up with all of your devices. But as much as we all love planners, I am here to give you my unpopular opinion on it. Here it is: we like planners so much not because we are getting more organized, but because we want to feel more organized.
Now, I'm not talking about the people who actually get At-A-Glance business planners or ones who use their calendars faithfully and actually complete the tasks as written. I'm talking about the people like myself: the ones who are in love with Kate Spade and Lilly Pulitzer calendars, constantly seeks out new formats, and have never completely filled out a single planner in their lives. We are also the same people who have too many clothes but forget to fold laundry for weeks at a time, who leave our houses in the morning but have to come back three times because we keep forgetting things, who spends so much time looking for our sunglasses before a walk that the dogs fall asleep in their harnesses.
Those of you reading right now are probably having one of two reactions: 1) This is so me right now, and 2) There are people who live like this? Yes, it's true. We don't choose to live like this. This is why we are addicted to planners. This is why we purchase the cutest ones we can find so we can try to trick ourselves into thinking that we may someday change our disorganized ways. It's not that we don't write things down. In fact, we write down the same event or task in our five planners and our Google calendars so we can feel like we are doing something productive with our lives when the reality is so far from that. We are the people who have reasoned out with ourselves that writing things down is as important, if not more important, than doing the actual thing we wrote.
So, if you are one of these people, here's the bad news: no matter how many colorful planners you have, and how filled up each day looks on paper, their sole purpose is to make you feel like you have your life together. No planner will turn your life around. But the good news? If you want to change your life and become more organized, it's all on you. You don't have to rely on anything else to achieve your goals. But until you are ready to make a commitment quite yet, (like me), there are plenty of planners waiting for you at Paper Source.