Four plus weeks ago I started teaching a class, at a well-known and reputable theatre school. Happily, I can report that the class feels to be not only going well, but has already exceeded my expectations.
I accepted the position for a few reasons… The second most influential reason was to hopefully learn more about my craft as an actor, through teaching others, recollecting my experiences, preparing for classes, and through other people’s eyes and their questions. However, by far, the greatest reason I decided to take the plunge into education and offer up my nearly thirty years of practical and studied knowledge to others was that the whole idea terrified me.
I won’t list all the illogical fears that sprang up in my mind…because the only important point for this particular posting is that by saying YES to the opportunity, I was making a personal point to challenge demons of doubt.
Some of you may also know that I’m also currently enrolled back in college, part time… challenging other longly held beliefs.
Eight or so weeks ago I started taking Piano 101, and while I may never accompany myself in public, or play anything greater than simple children songs… the belief that learning piano would be a waste of time, and other resources… has already be disproven. Learning piano at such a remedial level has honestly, reminded me of the importance of taking baby steps (and repetition) in order to reach goals.
If it does require 10,000 hours to be an expert in anything, I’ve only got about 9,943 left… But seriously, it’s not about mastering the piano, or even playing the keys well, the process is really about learning something new, challenging myself, and increasing my knowledge base about music fundamentals to help me in other areas.
Lastly, for fun, I took a second class this semester, a large group, singing class…and while there are all sorts of levels that get up to the microphone to sing…I don’t think there is anyone who can’t improve something, or discover something to challenge themselves with. So, after the first two songs in class went by… I made a point to ask the professor what she would challenge me with, knowing what she limitedly knew about my voice and repertoire.
She challenged me with doing a “soft” song…and doing a quick moving, “patter” song, with some wordplay. That second suggestion, seriously, stopped me cold, and had my demons screaming again, seeded deep inside, again I found myself terrified… Again terrified of something that couldn’t harm me…
- “You can’t do a quick moving patter song…”
- “That stuff’s for other people…”
- “You get tongue tied…”
- “You’d never be cast singing something like that…”
- “In fourth grade the teacher thought that giving you one damn line was a stretch…”
- “You can’t do it…”
- “You don’t have that kind of voice…”
- “You’ll fail…”
- “You’ll make a fool of yourself…”
So, I took the challenge.
I took a few days, and listed twenty songs that I could learn, fighting the demons with each one. I considered each and then chose the one that I have had the sheet music for for over ten or more years, the same one that I thought might be the hardest on the list for me.
I even researched and presented my professor with a short paper on Danny Kaye, a performer who had a reputation of being able to do patter songs quickly and arguably as good as anyone had done them previously…hoping to discover a secret to the process.
Anyway, happily after weeks of memorization, and repetition, and working one word and one phrase at a time, finally this past week I performed it in front of my college classmates. It wasn’t flawless. It wasn’t “Professor Harold Hill” worthy (the character in the Music Man who sings the song in the 1950s Broadway musical) as it still needs work, ease, and smoothing out. Basically this was like a rehearsal run thru, without a director on board.
Regardless…as I don’t have to become a full-time facility member, or win a teacher of the year award, and…as I don’t have to become a professional pianist or play in public…the goal was not to be perfect, but to challenge the demons that terrified me for dozens of ridiculous reasons.
I’ll post a few clips of my college classroom performances below and two others. All have been previously posted on either YouTube or Instagram, I don’t know if you have to have accounts to watch them, but…
I guess we should always consider ourselves students and constantly seek to learn more… challenging ourselves especially when we have deep fears to something that can’t actually hurt us.
- What terrifies you that you can take steps to tackle?
- What do you do when someone suggests something that challenges you?
- When is the last time you stepped out of your comfort zone?
– Quiche Out