Academic journal article Journal of Singing

The Performing Life: A Singer's Guide to Survival

Academic journal article Journal of Singing

The Performing Life: A Singer's Guide to Survival

Article excerpt

Sharon Mabry, The Performing Life: A Singer's Guide to Survival. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2012. Paper, xi, 167 pp., $35.00. ISBN 978-0-8108-8408-3 www.rowman.com

The Performing Life, writes Sharon Mabry in the preface, is neither a memoir nor a voice pedagogy text. Rather, as the subtitle states, the volume is a survival guide for singers. Mabry, who has premiered works by more than thirty composers and made eight recordings, offers frank advice on creating and maintaining a professional life as a singer. She draws her expertise from both her own performance career, and from her teaching experience as professor of voice at Austin Peay State University.

The Performing Life is divided into two sections. The first, "Preparing for Success," offers suggestions to singers who are training to sing professionally, while the second part, "Coping with Success," contains advice for maintaining and balancing a career. When she was writing the book, friends and colleagues encouraged Mabry to write in a conversational style so that readerswhether students or teachers-would feel as if they were being addressed in a personal manner. The resultant style is articulate, yet approachable.

Some suggestions appear obvious, but are often overlooked by aspiring singers. For instance, Mabry counsels singers to collect mentors, and find good teachers who create a positive learning environment. Singers are urged to honestly evaluate who they are, and what they want to express as performers. Mabry uses her own development into a contemporary music specialist to illustrate how finding the right niche enhances the joy of performing. She underlines the importance of positive thinking, and the necessity of establishing practice and performance routines. Singers who are hoping to build a career often overlook aspects beyond technique and artistry, such as what not to perform, what not to wear, and what not to say.

The second section of the volume discusses challenges in maintaining a career. The underlying message is that good planning can prevent many mishaps, but unexpected events are inevitable. Learning to handle emergencies with equilibrium and good humor is essential. The tutelage is practical and imbued with common sense. Mabry underlines the importance of preparation in regard to everything from score study to carrying an extra pair of shoes. …

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