Be Your Toughest Critic AND Your Biggest Cheerleader
Art is a powerful conversation starter. It takes a LOT of courage to create a performance, to perfect your sound, to get in front of an audience & to execute a piece. However, whether it is a painting, a film, a composition or a performance, art makes people talk. Art makes people feel. It makes them reflect. Sometimes, art can even trigger people as well. As the performing artist, some of those triggered conversations produced by your art are ones that can be very uncomfortable to have - especially if they are ones you are unprepared for.
Dealing with the sting of criticism is a part of what it means to be an active performing artist. It is a sting that burns, however, when you are unprepared for it. In my opinion, one can prepare themselves for the criticism of others by learning to experience their OWN criticism in a healthy & positive way. I recommend that every aspiring professional performer learn to criticize their own work constructively which is to criticize one’s own work with the goal of perfecting it. Why is this important? Because, in a world where so many people will have something to say about your art, learning to criticize your own art constructively primes your body and your listening ear to know the distinct sound & feeling of criticism that is going to make your art better.
So, how can one begin to criticize their own art constructively? Record it! There are many times that I pause in the middle of my voice lessons in NYC & in the middle of my piano lessons in NYC to have my student stop and record themselves to listen back. There are things about the student’s technique that they will pick up on easier as a listener than they will while in the thick of executing it. If they have been studying with me for a while, the student is aware of the concepts & techniques that I have been trying to instill & they are capable of verbalizing which ones would make what they recorded better. This gives me two opportunities: 1) I get to do a quick check and see whether the student is really processing what I have been instilling and 2) the student, with my guidance, gets a chance to practice criticizing their own work constructively. I think this is essential not only for the student’s development during the course of study but also essential to preparing their mindset for a career in performance where they will have to manage and deal with criticism from others constantly.
Although I do recommend that all aspiring performers record their performances, I do NOT recommend rushing to self-critique those performances until AFTER one has just as enthusiastically celebrated their efforts! No one is going to applaud your performance more thoroughly than the one who witnessed your PROCESS from beginning to end- that’s you! So, whether it is getting ice cream after the show, getting pizza, or getting a celebratory drink, make sure that you celebrate all of your hard work to make the performance happen- no matter the outcome. If you enthusiastically ritualistically celebrate your hard work, you will NEVER be a slave to applause from anyone. Whether your goal is to become a professional performer or to just enjoy the skill as a hobby, this ritual of enthusiastic celebration followed by gentle self-critique is SUCH an important practice.