excellence, perfection, perfectionism, singing, think of me

Tell the Perfectionist Self to SHUT UP

Lily Chang © 2020

Last night, I participated in a Zoom voice recital hosted by my voice teacher.

Maybe that’s no big deal under normal circumstances.

But the situation was anything but ordinary. I’ve only had one voice lesson since March, due to the whole pandemic thing.

Even after things started opening up again, I didn’t resume taking voice lessons, because the kiddos were attending school remotely and needed me. And all kinds of other things seemed to be going on at the same time, non-stop. Getting away was nearly impossible. 

Unfortunately, I didn’t do the diligent and right thing: continue practicing and singing. I did sing, but sporadically. And that’s not the same as vocalizing and really practicing.

Lily Chang © 2020

In September, when Becky told me she was thinking about having a Zoom voice recital and asked whether I wanted to sing, I said, “Yes!” I even told her what I’d sing: “Think of Me” from The Phantom of the Opera. You’d think that would have been enough to motivate me to get on to the singing thing, right?


I could blame having a stress headache for three weeks straight as the problem. I could even bring in the fact that I injured my left knee over a week ago. I have no idea how. But, it made going down the stairs or bending to sit on the toilet painful. I could be more terrible about offering excuses and say my kids kept me busy from before sunrise and long after sunset. I didn’t have any time to spare. Even if all that is true, really and truly, only I was to blame. The fault lies with me. If I made singing a priority, it would have happened.

Lily Chang © 2020

Anyways, I, for sure, wanted a lesson before the voice recital. So, last Monday, I had a lesson.

Beforehand, my spirits were pretty low. The body aches were just the tip of the iceberg in making me feel discouraged. I had other life struggles going on, and I felt like a failure.

During the lesson, I felt revitalized and alive. It didn’t matter that I was corrected for seemingly everything, from not letting the vowel in a word ride out long enough to holding my mouth incorrectly when singing higher notes. My teacher offered corrections in a firm but kind way. And I took her criticisms and corrected my technique. I wanted to improve and practice, keeping in mind everything I should, to make the song sound beautiful and enjoyable.

You’d think I was highly motivated to practice and practice often, between Monday and Sunday, with the recital so close. I practiced, but not as frequently or diligently as I had previously when preparing for a recital.

When I sang, the strong voice that was present in March simply wasn’t there. I couldn’t sing as much of a line as I used to, without taking a breath. Pitching notes was harder. It’s as if I was merely a novice. That voice that sang “O mio babbino caro” from Pucchini’s Gianni Schicchi with such rich, emotive power had disappeared. I felt discouraged and defeated. My rich, robust sound was gone.

However, the day of the recital, which was yesterday, I decided to pick my battle. Which one’s that? I’m not a quitter.

Yesterday, I practiced several times, doing the whole gambit – vocalizing and singing the piece, while also giving plenty of time to rest my voice. I wasn’t sure how it was going to work out, whether my words would be clear, my pitch would be on all the way through, or people would be drawn into the story I was singing. But I was going to give my best effort.

When the recital came around, I was #16 to perform. The pieces and individuals performing covered such a broad spectrum. We had pop pieces and musical songs. Young children sang and adults did, too. 

When it came my turn, things started wrong. Even though I prepared ahead of time, I had prepared to use my laptop for the Zoom and either my iPad or phone to play the accompaniment, there was a problem. The audience couldn’t hear the accompaniment. I had a few minutes to figure out the sound thing. Thankfully I was able to rig it so everyone could hear the piano accompaniment as well as my singing. It took using my Bluetooth speaker and enabling Bluetooth only on my phone. But, after figuring that out, I had only seconds to mentally prepare to sing.

Lily Chang © 2020

I remembered to introduce myself and what I was singing. I delivered the song as well as I could. I even had the words in front of me, in case the nervous part of me made me forget all the words.

When I was done, I felt embarrassed. Some of the notes were sharp. And most of the notes in the cadenza were a bit off. The worst part? I knew all that as I sang it. I witnessed myself singing badly, and I couldn’t do anything about it.

But people applauded and my voice teacher gave me accolades. She even asked me how I rigged the sound, because I had struck the perfect balance and volume of accompaniment and singing, and I was the only one who had done that.

The adrenaline rush dissipating and a dear friend, who watched me sing in person, encouraging me gave me better perspective. I felt relieved and thought I did pretty well. Even if my performance wasn’t just right or perfect, my performance was well and good. I had only one or two weeks to prepare the piece. I sang a piece that’s not the easiest to sing. And, I got past some technical difficulties on the fly. And, So, SHUT UP perfectionist self and shove over, all went well.

5 thoughts on “Tell the Perfectionist Self to SHUT UP”

  1. Loved this article! It seems so easy to just get up and sing a song that you love but it’s not. There is lots of hard work and self analysis and practice that must be a part of it. I’m so glad you were able to write out your thoughts and see where you can grow but still let yourself go with the moment and let your natural talent kick in. Well done, even if it wasn’t totally perfect it was very, very good, especially the credenza! Becky

    Liked by 1 person

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