A Performer’s Guide to the End of the Semester
As the end of the semester approaches, plenty of college students find themselves buried under a seemingly never-ending to-do list of projects and finals. It’s tiring enough, but add in the extra stresses that come with being a student in the performing arts (a term I’m using generically to include students studying theatre, music, musical theatre, dance, arts administration, and arts education), and you have a recipe for thoroughly burned out students. Since I’m no stranger to the Undergraduate Holiday Concerts/Juries/Finals Blitz Game, I figured I’d set free my nuggets of advice to any of our readers gearing up for a similarly busy time.
1. TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF.
The cool kids may not have worn coats in elementary school, but that really only meant one thing… they were cold. Don’t be that kid. Bundle up if you’re in a frosty part of the world and please, wash your hands. Carry fun hand sanitizers in your dance bag. I don’t mean to sound overzealous, but universities are breeding grounds for diseases. Vitamin C, water, and eating well (and no, the fast food you grab between rehearsals doesn’t count) will keep your wheels running. If you do get sick, stay home. You’re friends may want to share a lot with you, but they don’t want your germs.
2. START MEMORIZING NOW.
We all know – or let’s face it, have been – that kid who crashed and burned in studio class because they waited until the last minute to memorize their lyrics or solidify their blocking. Don’t be that kid. (Do we see a theme yet?) Seriously though, the drudge work is work. There’s no sugar-coating that, but you’ll feel so much more prepared and comfortable if you do the leg work ahead of time. Does Aunt Susan want to hear all about your college experience at Thanksgiving? Perfect. There’s your temporary scene partner to run lines with. Invest in a dozen neon highlighters or an app that will take over when Aunt Susan gets tired. Be creative and crush your final performance!
3. GIVE THANKS.
Believe it or not, your professors are probably just as ready as you are to be done with the semester. Make life easier on them and yourselves by thanking them for the work they’ve done for you this semester. Yes, the arts are all about connections and relationships, but isn’t being a nice person satisfying enough on its own? People will remember when you’ve been kind and considerate towards them.
The same goes with your collaborative pianist. You may work with a pianist all semester long or you may only work with them at the end of the semester. Either way, maintaining a strong and healthy working relationship with them is crucial. The moment you begin to perform, you’re a partnership and the best partnerships come from mutual respect and kindness. If they’ve played “Meadowlark” for you 18 times since September, you owe them a card. If they’ve played any JRB for you, I’d include a Starbucks giftcard too.
4. THIS TOO SHALL PASS
When you’re feeling stressed out, remember, this is only a single moment in your life and it will be over shortly. Prioritize your responsibilities over the next few weeks and take things one day at a time. A holiday season full of Gilmore Girls on Netflix awaits you at the finish line.
5. KEEP UP YOUR MOMENTUM IN DECEMBER.
Plan on doing something that will keep you creatively inspired and working on your craft over the break. If you’re a singer, perhaps you could ask your teacher for repertoire recommendations before you leave for break. That way, you have time to check out pieces over the break and return a more informed artist. Actors, start digging around for that perfect Shakespearean monologue that you know you’ll need for an upcoming audition.
Any and everyone, read an autobiography of a performer you admire. I can pretty much guarantee you that if the person you’re reading about is in the arts, it won’t be dull. Rosemary Clooney’s Girl Singer and Shirley Jones’ A Memoir are doozies!