BWW Blog: Growing As An Artist
So somehow I've made it through 15 years of schooling, which means that I'm finally a senior in college. And honestly? I am terrified.
I study Musical Theatre and Mass Communications at Oklahoma City University. I take plenty of music courses, and some dance and acting classes as well. However, this summer of COVID-19 cancellations has left me not only without training, but also without performance opportunities. And it is... hard. It's especially difficult knowing that the industry I intend to go into has been substantially impacted by the pandemic and may take years to recover.
Graduation is less than a year away, and I have no idea when things will get back to normal. It would be devastating to lose all of the progress I've made, so I've decided to take my training into my own hands; both in performance and all around "adult-ness."
Here is a list of a few ways that I have been cultivating my craft and working towards possessing the tools I need to be a functional and productive adult after graduation.
1. Utilizing online resources:
People have really taken to the internet to provide training and information for artists across the globe. Be it on Facebook or YouTube, you can find dance classes, stretching exercises, guided meditation tutorials, Q&A's with Broadway stars, and even streaming of professional productions. The best way to learn is by observing others, and using the internet to connect with artists who are dedicated to their craft is a great way to continue growing in these unprecedented times.
Check out National Theatre on YouTube for weekly performances from their at home collections, and also the Facebook group "Dance Accepts Everyone" for a variety of dance classes!
2. Expand your special skills list:
I said this in a previous article, but I am slowly attempting to learn how to play guitar. I can play basic piano, and I am currently working to make myself more marketable as an artist. This doesn't have to be just an instrument, though. Learn to juggle, learn ASL or another new language, work on accents, or do anything to expand your skill set as a performer! Being versatile is key.
3. Work in one-on-one scenarios:
Some states are beginning to open up, and as scary as that is, you can still stay safe and continue to grow as an artist. I am in the process of setting up private dance lessons with a teacher in my town. Despite this not being the safest option, it is much less risky than attending a dance class with many other people. In addition to the safety aspect, private lessons are a great way to get the individual attention you need in order to expand your technique!
I've also managed to do a voice lesson through Zoom, and it went surprisingly well. Taking voice one-on-one over the internet is another great way to stay in tip-top vocal condition.
4. Build your online audition tool kit:
Who knows how (or if) summer stock season will play out next year, but now is the perfect time to start investing in some good equipment that will assist you as work towards mastering the technique of the video audition. Since the beginning of quarantine, I have invested in a tripod for my phone, as well as an external compressor microphone. I am very happy with my new products and am loving the results. The videos I have recorded with my new equipment appear much more professional than my previous... "creative" set-up attempts (honestly, just stacking every book I own and balancing my phone on top of them).
Allow me to quickly talk about the compressor microphone I purchased. This microphone is important because it fixes the sound on your phone. If you have an iPhone, then you're recording with three microphones. If you've ever suffered the frustration of filming something only to notice that the sound is super muted, or there are variances in the volume that occur randomly throughout the video, then this is the microphone is for you. This issue usually happens because your phone can't decide where the sound is coming from, so it keeps switching between the three microphones in the device. The external compressor microphone narrows it down from three inputs to one, meaning the sound will be much more consistent, both in volume and tone.
I bought this one from Amazon. Here's the link: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00K68MT9Q/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
P.S: A lot of theatres are hosting online auditions right now. Use them to practice filming video auditions and maybe get a fun summer gig in the process!
5. Clean up your social media / start creating a brand.
If you're anything like me, you've had the same Instagram since middle school. Which means you've got some cringey content tied to your name. I'm currently working on cleaning up my social media, specifically old photos and posts that are just embarrassing. If you feel so inclined, make a professional Instagram for your life as an artist! Also, as you're going through your old Facebook and Instagram posts, take note of the performance photos you have, as you may be able to utilize them when you create a professional website.
Your social media should reflect your best self. That doesn't mean you have to stop posting about things you're passionate about (human rights, for example), it just means to make your online presence something that you're proud of. Casting directors and agents WILL check your social media, so why not make a positive impression?
6. Read plays.
I personally feel that as a performer I'm not familiar with very many plays. This isn't an endeavor I've started yet, but I'd really like to use this downtime to actually read some plays and create a collection of audition material. As a musical theatre artist you can't just know musicals, you need to know plays too. I'm really trying to be a well-rounded performer and reading plays is a crucial part of that goal.
Artists are not perfect. There is always an aspect in our arsenal of tools that can be improved upon. Now that there is time to grow, it is imperative to identify which areas you need progress in. I'm working to be a versatile performer, and I know that it's important to always be in motion. The work is never done, and that's the fun of performance.