Self Reflection

May 23, 2014 — 64 Comments


When I sat down to compose my blog entry for today, I was very tempted to review the amazing online-streamed production of “La Traviata” from the Royal Opera House that I watched last night. However I created this blog at the beginning to be portal for my reflection as a singer and I feel that I have learnt something very powerful and which will change how I view singing in my years to come.

Recently, I took on the task of preparing for an in-school competition called the “Jean Highgate Scholarship For Singing”.  I know that personally I react well and can motivate myself to practice when I have a goal, performance opportunity or competition.  This is often because they provide me with an opportunity to make SMART targets.


This is probably because these type of events produce immediate feedback, whether from audience members or from a judge’s report. I have always enjoyed striving to do the best that I can, and I relish tackling the challenge of improving the areas of my skill that have been highlighted in a judge’s critique.

I know that personally I love the thrill of competition, there is nothing quite like standing in front of an audience and saying ‘This is me, and I am going to show you a small snippet of myself through my chosen songs.’


When I was younger I sought out and found this thrill through athletic and other sporting competitions, dance and academic exams. I loved experiencing the improvements that I made and setting the highest possible targets for myself, just slightly beyond my reach and seeing an end result to the hard work that I had put in. Having grown up with this method of target setting I know that it works for me and drives my motivation. But what happens when you take this sporting mentality into a musical and artistic setting?

As I said in my earlier post I was elated with being highly commended in the competition especially as my parents said the standard of singing overall was exceptional.  But I am going to dare to be very honest with you and say that I was disappointed. I am not saying this because I expected to win; quite the contrary I have been competing and putting myself forward for exams from the age of 3 and I have had plenty of experience of not winning or not coming in the top of the class to know that it is never a given.  So I want to explain why this disappointment arose and how I turned it into a huge positive for me and found strength through the experience.

Firstly, I believe it is essential to one’s performance to have utter self-belief in what you are doing. You need to put your listeners at ease and sell yourself to them, which is something that I have learnt from working in sales during my holidays. If you believe in yourself then it is much easier to convince someone else to believe in you too. Therefore I made sure that I was vocally, physically and mentally prepared to walk out onto that stage and perform something that I felt could be considered as a winning performance.  In the weeks leading up to the competition I asked various magnificent teachers for coaching, from language experts to chamber music specialists. I have learnt so much from these mentors and it is important to note that after the competition I had also gained huge amounts of knowledge about my chosen pieces that were previously unknown to me and this is a prize in itself for me as an artist. The competition also allowed me to make new contacts and flourish and cement old ones.

After having all this coaching, I found that I had the tools to go on-stage and provide an unrehearsed spontaneity. Personally I think it was one of the best on stage performances I have given. This is because I relaxed and gave my all to the pieces, whilst experimenting with vocal tones, and dynamics on the spot. This was an entirely new feeling for me, as I often think of myself as a chameleon. By that I mean that I am very aware that I try to please people; even strangers and I can often mould myself to suit the situation and this has been occurring in my music. I have been so afraid of doing something wrong that I reduce my opportunities to take risks. However after having a taste of just reacting to my imagination in a moment of music I find myself wanting to explore this more and if it is at the cost of not always being correct then I am ready to develop a thick skin and just go for it.



Having discussed everything about the process I now feel confident enough to hit the nail on the head. So then, how do you mentally cope with understanding that even though you have sung every note accurately, painted the text with good pronunciation and performed to the best of your abilities, that despite all of this you still lost?

I started to understand, I realised that Opera is an art and not a sport. It is not decided on how many goals you score, or how fast you can swim 500m. You are expected to sing every note accurately, paint the text with great pronunciation and perform to the best of your abilities. But at the end of the day, what makes art beautiful is the fact that one can have a personal opinion. You can state that you prefer the art of Kandinsky over Picasso and it is fine, because art IS subjective. But that is not an excuse to fail to strive for accuracy, beauty and magic. Just because I didn’t win, doesn’t mean that I didn’t sing well, but it does give me something to aim for. I have always said I am a better loser than a winner, because I love a challenge and an area to work on and I will never give up.




64 responses to Self Reflection


    When I hear reflections as mature as this, and as deeply considered, I find it really hard to remember you’re so young. Brava!


      Hi Martin, self reflection is a big part of my learning at the conservatoire, I keep reflective diaries it helps to be more independent in your learning. I thought twice about posting it so I sent it to a member of staff and they said go for it, it’s an honest account.
      Best wishes


    You are on the good way ! Great !!


    Love what you’ve written… it’s from the heart, honest and simply true about what music is all about… and life when it comes to that.

    Keep doing what your doing.
    Enjoy it and have fun!

    In the words of Peter Gabriel, so simple, so true:

    Annette Rochelle Aben May 21, 2014 at 11:17 pm

    LOVE the Todica quote… and all the rest of it as well but that quote about wanting to go as far as you can for the sake of that alone is epic! I truly appreciate that you share as I feel like I have made a friend!


      I have some great friends at the conservatoire who are very supportive and understanding of me and the way I work. I love making new friends on my blog too Annette and you have been fabulously supportive thank you.
      Best wishes


    As you say. Subjectivity. Even, sometimes, the failure of the most qualified judges to appreciate what is there – like the ones who didn’t choose Charlie Chaplin when he entered a Charlie Chaplin lookalike contest.
    If you continue to deliver your best but also to be reconciled to the fact that there will always be occasions when an outstanding performance will still be overlooked in favour of something approaching the mediocre, you will become bomb-proof.


      I didn’t know that Charlie Chaplin incident that’s very funny 😀
      Being competitive doesn’t equal putting other singers down, I get a lot of satisfaction from pitting myself against good, strong competition and Olga, the winner, is certainly that. When I was younger I used to enter the open categories at festivals and compete with amateur adults, I learnt so much from that, from their repertoire, their stage presence, how to use emotion. I used to go in to them thinking I could win too 🙂
      Best wishes


    Very well said and so brave and mature of you too.


    What a great post. I love your line: “Firstly, I believe it is essential to one’s performance to have utter self-belief in what you are doing.” As a writer, I can apply this to my own “performance.” I like the SMART targets as well!


      I’ve always been very self-motivated Linda, I like challenging goals, my next competition is July and I’m just starting on new songs ready for that. It helps me to focus in a time restricted way.
      Best wishes


    What an inspiring post. We all should follow your lead and be the best we can be. (sounds like a commercial, but is true)


    Great post and I love the quote! All the best to you, Charlotte! 🙂


      Thanks Linda, collaboration between departments is a fabulous aspect at the conservatoire, I’ve worked with people from production, acting, musical theatre, dance, and fabulous musicians they all have something different to bring to my learning and like a sponge I soak up what they say if I agree with it.
      Best wishes


    No matter where you take your talent and your art, remember this. Your art will enrich you much more than you will enrich it. It is something that I think you are discovering. Singing for the love of singing, not just for a career. One of my favorite singers is Sinatra. When I listen to him, it always amazes me how much of himself he gives to each song he recorded. It is a thing of beauty. This is what every great artist does.


    Hmm…your disappointment wasn’t from losing, but what was it from? Not initially accepting the judges subjectivity? Or not embracing the fact that subjectivity is in art itself? Or…well, we can limit ourselves out of fear of failure. Instead of trying to win a game, we try not to lose the game. I think I have the idea now.


      It’s not that I don’t accept his choice I do, my tenacity is a strength but it can also give people the wrong impression of me. You can learn so much from the performances of others, pick up on even the little things that you can then go away and work on yourself. This is why I love the whole process of continual self improvement 🙂

      Best wishes


    You may not have won this competition, but you’re a winner because you worked towards your goal, grew as an artist and learned from the experience. Well done!


      Thank you 🙂 it’s a complete waste of energy to dwell on things so I try not to. Just back from Les Sirenes choir practise so feeling full of energy again.
      Best wishes


    ” If you believe in yourself then it is much easier to convince someone else to believe in you too.” That’s so true. I think believe in yourself and your abilities is must. I really admire the effort you give towards understanding yourself. In my life I have been a little shy in asking for help/coaching though I always know it is going to improve me. 🙂 I have learned so much from you and I’m still learning. 🙂 😀


      Hi Gaurab, what’s the worse that can happen if you ask for help, someone says I’m a bit too busy at the moment, you’re no worse off if they say no but you’re a lot better off if they say yes :). I like to think I help people out if they need it too 🙂
      Thank you and all the best to you


        That’s the same thing I try to convince myself 😉 I think I would read your post more often to stay motivated 🙂 😀


    You’re a wise old owl really, albeit dressed in a pretty frock 😀


    Interesting post,Charlotte ! Love your thoughts and your attitudes stated in your last paragraph and also the fact that a loser never relaxes and gets more chances for further development ; oftentimes winners rest on their laurels …
    Love (˘▾˘~) and hugs ,Doda 🙂


      Hugs back to you too Doda. I love the cycle of competition because as one ends I like to line another one up. No matter what happens the learning process is intense and fulfilling.
      Best wishes


    Charlotte, I wish I could have heard your performance but judging from seeing you perform before I’m confident that it was beautiful and I was so happy that you were highly commended because you did completely and utterly deserve it. I too was really disappointed after the competition, not because I didn’t receive anything but because I had a strange difficulty motivating myself for the competition which isn’t normal for me because like you I relish competitions, so therefore I was really unhappy with my performance. I really love this post because I think it reminds all of us that singing and performing is not just a career but a lifestyle and there is so much to learn. What helps me when I’m disappointed after a competition is that the choice of winners is one person’s opinion. It is their personal preference on the day and so I’ve learnt to not beat myself up about it. I love the drive and motivation to do well and I hope I don’t lose that again before a competition but the most important thing is that I always learn something from it. I’ve won competitions before and believe it or not I’ve actually learnt far more walking away empty handed that with a prize. I learn so much from you seeing you perform and react in class (makes me sound a bit creepy doesn’t it?) and I think in this post you’ve touched on a vital thing that all performers should remember. Stay fabulous honeybun 🙂
    Davidona x


      I wish I could have heard you too, my Mum and Dad said you have a lovely voice and they liked your songs, thank you for your support as always. It’s better to try and focus on positives when dealing with areas of improvement. It’s important for us to learn how to relax and reflect after an intense time, it’s something I’m looking in to at the moment, I’ll chat with you later when I’ve got some new ideas. I love watching singing lessons because we can all learn so much and often at this stage we’re all working on similar things. (Not creepy at all!) I love that, I’ll try to stay fabulous and you stay sparkly ha ha
      Charlotte xox


    There goes our girl – off to conquer another hurdle!


      Hurdling, now there’s a sport I never took to, I didn’t like the obstacles just liked to run fast, but I’m getting my head around remembered not to let my back leg drag 🙂
      Best wishes and thanks x


    The key to making art work is making it look effortless. It’s not just the notes and the lyrics, it’s the way you execute it that makes a performance strong. But you’ve never been one to phone it in, so you’ll go far for sure.

    Even if you don’t “win,” chances are that someone — usually many someones — was moved by your performance. They may even seek out more of your stuff. 🙂


      You’re so right Rawle, I was in a recital in Warrington recently and a lady in the audience waited to speak to me at the end. She explained she was so happy to hear me again and this time make a note of my name because the last time she’d heard me she hadn’t done so and she wanted to follow my progress. So that was lovely.
      Best wishes


    This is a wonderful post! I am currently writing a piece about just this, except from the opposite POV, from the timid, non-competitive, “nice” guy/girl’s perspective. Because when it comes right down to it, you are only competing with yourself, and the only real goal is immersion in, and appreciation of, your chosen “art”. I’m going to link to this in my post! Thanks!


    Thanks so much for following me! I am a bit overwhelmed with all the interesting blogs out there; from what I’ve read, I like. I will come back to you!


    Interesting introspection. I agree that other people’s opinions of our work (art, or any other type of productivity) does not indicate anything about our talent. The pursuit of interesting them and impressing them has to do with the ability to sell, and as you pointed out, a persistent belief in one’s self and one’s ability. I do however disagree with you that art is a subjective realm. It could be for some people. But I think the best art is personal. I don’t think personal and subjective are the same. One can be very objective about how one expresses one’s feelings. Even having the ability to identify what we feel is in the direction of objectivity. Have you ever read “The Romantic Manifesto” by Ayn Rand? She explains how objective art should and could be quite eloquently. In any event, I admire your optimism.


      Hi Sean, no I’ve not read The Romantic Manifesto. I had this chat with my brother about whether the word I wanted to use was objective or subjective and I think I used the right one for what I wanted to say but I could be wrong English Language was always my least favourite subject at school. I’m learning all the time and one of the main reasons I set up this blog was to improve my writing, so I will look into this a bit further during the summer recess. Thank you.

      Best wishes


    That is a good way of looking at art and how you perform. I completely agree that it is more important of yoursef about the goal you are trying to do than the actual win or loose.


    You seem to have learned the vital skill of self-evaluation and learning from every experience, which is already a win in and of itself. I try to do the same whenever I participate in equestrian competitions. I’ve only ever won once (and it was a team event), but I make a point of running through what I did well and what I need to work on afterwards with my coaches, which usually translates to a better performance the next time around.
    Keep working hard, and above all, keep your enthusiasm. You will go far, my friend; I can feel it. 🙂


      Aww cheers Stephanie, each competition isn’t an end point it’s just another step, what I learn, like you said, is a great help to me whether I win, lose or draw. I love your support thank you.

      Best wishes


    Great post, and you are so right about this. No subjectivity in a swim match, but it’s always there in a music competition. I am not competitive by nature, but at times I might enter a poetry contest or a photography one – my goal is always to show my best work, get a little attention, and let the chips fall where they may. i see such things as opportunities for exposure since I know the winning is going to be down to someone’s opinion.


      I don’t know how other people in the wonderful world of classical music see the results of these competitions, they certainly seem important to a lot of past winners who put them on their websites and in their biographies. I don’t know anyone personally that has become a professional singer in the classical world so a I don’t know if they do bring you attention or exposure or help with scholarships or to be accepted for further training, I pretty much feel around in the dark just doing my best 🙂

      Best wishes


    Wow, Charlotte! Thank you for such an honest self reflection. You are really wise beyond your years, and with this ability to self-reflect, along with your positive attitude, perseverance and passion, you will reach your dreams and heart’s desires in your singing journey! 🙂 xo, Violet

    P.S. You look gorgeous in the photo! And you know I will ask like always, heehee, where did you get your dress this time? 😉


      Thanks so much for the confidence boost Violet, you don’t know how much it helps 🙂 I think the dress was from the House of Fraser, another great find by my Mum.

      Best wishes


    You have a great outlook and your performances will give the music-loving public much pleasure over many years and, through your blog and the great variety of venues you sing in, you will also reach many people who don’t think of themselves as classical music-lovers. I am enjoying the openness with which you are sharing your development in the oh-so-challenging career you have chosen. Go Girl!


      Thanks for your confidence Hilary, I’ve achieved my goals for this year, so I’m writing down new ones for next year it helps me to focus. Having the blog and meeting lovely people like you has been enormously encouraging and I appreciate your messages.
      My best wishes


    What a neat attitude you have toward art versus sport. It sounds like you learned a lot and I thank you for passing that wisdom to us your readers. xx


    Yes! Finally someone writes about domain.

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