More Than Skill Building


“As a teacher and mentor, I am committed to the possibility of nurturing the heart and soul of humanity of the young artists, and empowering their life-long contribution to the global community as artists, healers, and loving human beings.” — Pianist Lorin Hollander in Teaching Musicians: A Photographer’s View by Diane Asseo Griliches (p. 73)

… or to put it another way …

I think a lot of us forget, over and over again, that there is more to art than building skills.  Don’t get me wrong, the skills are essential, of course.  But I believe strongly that we can build the skills and also love ourselves through the process.  The acquisition of skills doesn’t necessitate the destruction of your spirit and your creativity, and yet, this is what I experienced, and what I see happening over and over to young artists in training.  

But let’s try to remember what we’re doing here: training artists.  We ask performers over and over to show us the depths of their hearts.  Be authentic!  Be yourself!  Be vulnerable!  And yet, our training methods can be very detrimental to those very goals toward which we strive.  

I think as artists, we need to take ownership of the inside parts of the circle, and remember than anything you do to develop yourself as a person will positively impact your art.  If you love talking walks in nature, that will make you a better artist.  If you love to draw, or go to the beach, or cook, or read… those pursuits that nurture you fuel your creativity and accumulate in a sort of “database” in your heart and mind from which you can draw inspiration.  

I had a very long phase where I was a very, very angry person.  It was not good.  I was judgmental and mean. I would get attention for my passion-filled and eloquent rants.  Now that I’m on the other side of that, I can very clearly see that this was a form of defense, hiding my deep insecurity.  But guess what my singing was like at this time?  

Umm, not good. 

I couldn’t access anything honest, because I wasn’t being honest with myself on a daily basis.  What I really felt was lonely, and scared, and not good enough.  But I was hiding those truths away behind this yicky, ragey wall.  I couldn’t share my truth because I wasn’t even acknowledging what that was.  

This all started to change for me when I realized I needed to make a change, and I began to practice yoga.  I started down a long and challenging path to really feeling my feelings.  And my performing changed drastically.  I found a new teacher, I changed fachs, I started to be able to communicate on stage.  None of this happened over night, but none of it would have been possible if I didn’t first start taking care of myself as a person.  

I think this is an essential skill of every performer: to be brave enough to get to know ourselves.  To heal our wounds. To recognize that we are good enough. To unleash our creativity and value our own ideas.  

Start today. Don’t wait.  It won’t be easy but it will be worth it.