I had the pleasure of seeing several live performances this past weekend by teenagers singing in the North Vancouver CityFest outdoor event and at an audition for a local performance group in Vancouver.
At the festival, one of the performers came out with tons of confidence yet when she started to sing, it was obvious that she couldn’t sing on pitch – at all! I felt terrible for her but the audience was overly supportive and clapped and hooted at the end of each song as though it were the best performance they had ever heard. I wondered - were they really helping her? Was this not just building up a false confidence in a talent that just isn’t there yet? Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for encouragement along the journey and always approach my teaching practice from a positive standpoint but when something is genuinely off, don’t we kind of owe it to the performer to give them some honest feedback? I hope someone was in the audience filming it for her so she can learn something and hopefully start investing in some singing lessons to correct the pitch problems.
The next performer was completely professional. She came out and engaged the audience. There was some technical difficulty at the beginning as her guitar wasn’t coming through the sound system but she remained calm while things got worked out. She had a dynamite voice and you could tell that she knew her songs well and was prepared to share them. I really enjoyed her eye contact with the audience and my only constructive criticism is that she only smiled at the beginning and end of her songs; if she had done more of that during her pieces, it would have made her performance even better.
Later that day at the vocal audition, I saw a young man sing and play the guitar for a room of only 8 people. His voice was good and his playing was strong but he kept his eyes closed through the entire song. I’m sure this was due to nerves but closing your eyes closes you off from your audience and completely disconnects you. While you can do this in a sound studio when you are recording, live it just makes you look really selfish. After all, you are there to communicate the message of your song. The people auditioning him were very kind in their comments but he had failed to truly connect with them despite having a pretty good voice and playing skill.
I LOVE seeing teens perform. I love their energy, their green-ness, their possibility. I just hope they all have people in their lives who will give them honest feedback when they perform so they can continue to enhance their skills and get even better.