How to get over imposter syndrome, share your creative side online — and maybe sing with Rufus Wainwright
The team behind Choir! Choir! Choir! on the power of practice and positivity
Sure, we all sing a little, play a little guitar, sketch a little, write poems. Many of us think about sharing our creative pursuits on social media from time to time, possibly more now than ever in the absence of lots of other means of connection and expression. But, many of us also censor ourselves — lest our precious little productions be judged, eye rolled, DM'd between our friends and snickered at.
So, we reached out to two people who have a lot of experience with putting their creative selves out there — and getting others to do the same — to ask how we might get better at it. Nobu Adilman and Daveed Goldman, the duo behind internationally renowned musical experience Choir! Choir! Choir! have spent the past 10 years coaching and coaxing people out of their shells. Whether at the regular Tuesday nights at Clinton's Tavern in Toronto that started it all, or a show at Carnegie Hall(!), their group sing-alongs have always been for everyone. No auditions required.
If you have what Adilman calls "a performative spirit", or if you've simply drawn a sweet little portrait of your dog that you're trying to get up the nerve to post on Facebook, this is for you. We asked for their advice on how to get over shyness and imposter syndrome. And also about how to make the best possible submission for their new project: "an epic crowd-sourced video"... with Rufus Wainwright.
You're not Rufus Wainwright and that's OK
You might want to be in this cool Rufus Wainwright collab video. Or you might sometimes want the dopamine-induced mood boost that comes with sharing other little performances on your social media channels. But recording and uploading something in isolation can feel like floating in space, untethered and unsafe.
"We talk about shame a lot," Goldman said about creating a safe space with Choir! Choir! Choir!. "Maybe you'll sing and you won't be good. It's OK. You're not a professional singer." He offers the example of working with a room full of accountants who are afraid to sing, in which case he'd say something like, "You're not where you are in life because of your singing abilities, so whether you can sing or not has no effect on things, so you might as well just sing."
Embracing the "you might as well sing" ethos has its payoffs. Singing is well known to be a very strong mechanism for human social bonding, which is something Adilman and Goldman have seen play out in incredible ways over the years. "People come to work through their everyday anxieties at choir and to let them go. There's a collective openness," Adilman says.
That might be enough for the safe space they create at their events, but what about for the solo flight that is posting to your socials? Goldman says to focus on the real reward. "The quality of the outcome is sort of secondary to the effort put in. You benefit from sort of getting over yourself and putting yourself out there. It makes you stronger as a performer and as a person."
As for the question that plagues every human: "But what if people make fun of me?", Adilman admits, "Our friend groups and our work groups can be really intimidating." But he's found people to be quite generous overall.
You should try to be like Rufus Wainwright, though
Adilman and Golman offer great tips for recording a performance video of yourself in the submission guidelines for their project, including how to frame and light yourself. They emphasize practicing as much as possible and re-recording yourself until you get it right (in fact, they've scheduled some group rehearsals for this). "Practice as many times as you need to get the part down as good as you can get it," Adilman says. "And if it doesn't go well the first time, then you try as many times as you need to and record as many times as you need to until you get the best possible take."
Be visually interesting, too, they say — especially if you're not the best singer. "If you feel like you can't sing at all but you want to be in this video," Goldman says, "the visual aspect is as important as the song aspect."
To use Wainwright as an example, the artist has been posting lovely little #Quarantunes videos of himself singing at the piano at home, aptly called "Robe Recitals" because, well, he's in his robe. But make no mistake — these casual videos are informed by a lifetime of training and practice, on top of the fact that he's one of the greatest musical talents to ever walk the earth (I'm a huge fan but this is fact, not bias!).
What matters most
"I never thought I could sing. I didn't think singing had anything to do with it," Leonard Cohen said in this BBC video. "I never had any musical standard to tyrannize me. I thought that it was something to do with the truth — that if you told your story, that's what the song was about."
Goldman echoes this idea, saying, "The musicality becomes secondary. You're creating a moment out of this positive energy." What you choose to share or perform is about more than a set of prescribed standards.
Adilman says that spirit will go a long way in terms of your tape too, should you choose to submit. "If you literally can't hit a single note… you know… we'll… notice," he said, but he also says if you really can't sing and want to be a part of this video, it's worth it to still send a video of yourself swaying. "It's just a matter of relaxing, getting over yourself, committing to it."
With encouragement like that, submitting to the Choir! Choir! Choir! /Rufus Wainwright "Across the Universe" project might be a good place to start. For breaking the ice. For the health benefits of singing. For the exercise in courage. The deadline to do so is Friday, May 15th. Trust that benevolent forces (Adilman and Goldman) are guiding/producing you. As for any other time you want to share your singing or piano playing or comedy rant, trust in practice and positive vibes.
Adilman says, "We're collectively feeling so much, in general, and a lot of it is really hard. Any positivity that's thrown out into the world right now… being able to share something like this with the world… knowing that there are people out there who are practicing… there's just so much good in all of it."