A mindset for distinction

Today I learned that I had earned a distinction in a singing exam that I took earlier this month. But it almost never happened.

Mindset fail: I spent too long believing that I couldn’t sing.

After failing to get into my school choir I spent most of my life believing that I couldn’t sing. A few years ago I took a few vocal coaching lessons with my daughter’s singing teacher to help strengthen my voice as I was doing more professional speaking.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could sing better than I thought and I went on to get a merit for my grade 3 Musical Theatre just before lockdown.

With lessons and exams cancelled through lockdowns etc it has taken a while to get around to my grade 4. My exam was in the morning (I’m not a morning person) but I didn’t want to postpone any longer. My daughter also needed to get her grade 7 out of the way so that she can squeeze in her grade 8 and diploma before she heads off to university.

The first two songs sent okay although I could hear that my voice was a bit husky due to hay fever but I carried on as best I could.

Mindset fail: I let one small problem take over my mind

Then we came to the third and final song which I usually sang a whole tone lower than the official score. It’s easy to turn a knob to transpose on an electronic piano but this was a new venue and there was only a grand piano! I had a panicked talk with my accompanist and asked what key I should sing in. There was no choice but to go for the original key. I knew I could only just make the top notes which is why we’d chosen to sing it lower so that I could belt them out with confidence.

I was so fearful that, part way in, I had a complete mind blank and forgot the words! It’s not like when I speak on stage where nobody knows if I’ve diverged from my script; the examiner had the lyrics and score in front of him. I carried on singing some made up words and may have got away with it but then I couldn’t even do that so I had to stop to ask my accompanist for a prompt. I knew I’d blown it and I wanted to leave the room so I could have a comforting cry.

I was cross with myself for letting my terrified thoughts force me into such a simple mistake. But at least I had nothing to lose so I carried on.

Mindset success: I stopped being scared

Just before the belt with the terrifying high notes I remembered my teacher’s instruction to ‘relax’ and her tips on using less breath.

I didn’t just hit the notes, dear reader, I hit them well!

Overall I lost a few marks for the memory lapse but I handled it professionally and didn’t allow it to affect the rest of the performance.

But how many times do we fail just because we’re too scared to try?

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