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Episode 22 – Confidence And Peak Performance With Mike Cunningham


The Naked Vocalist Is Sponsored By VocalizeU –

Come To The VocalizeU Winter Retreat 2016

We’re sat in the San Bernardino mountains in South California at the VocalizeU Winter Retreat. Both feeling particularly jet-lagged but listening to the song ‘My Fire’ by band Jealous Michael. Simon the drummer is the receptionist at Southampton’s River Studios. He’s a bloody good bloke! And talented too, check them out here and you can download their stuff on iTunes.

We’re feeling extremely privileged here at the Winter Retreat with lots of VIPs to talk to, including none other than American singer/songwriter, Wendy Moten. Wendy began her career as a supporting vocalist with Michael Bolton. She was then signed with EMI, and is best known for the single “Come On In Out of the Rain” which was a #8 hit in the UK in February 1994.

After a little chat, one thing she said really rang true to us:

‘Judgement is the route of nervousness, not actual stage fright but the apprehension of what people will think’

Which leads us perfectly to todays talk with Mike Cunningham.

Mike Cunningham

A peak performance coach, Mike teaches in performing arts colleges across the country in overcoming stage fright and encouraging focus. His work aims to encourage positive and present thought processes and building confidence in performance. It’s incredibly important for Mike to help people gain a shift in mindset. Working across the board with professionals such as athletes, businessmen, actors and musicians, it’s clear to see a correct mindset for peak performance is paramount in all performance industries.

Essentially, it’s about the emotional state of mind. It occurred to Mike that there should be an updated way to get effective results. He draws inspiration from his varied clients, whether it be a comedian or public speaker. Though his work spans across industries, the approach to perform your best is uniform. The state of mind is ultimately the same. People who are engaged in what they’re doing, actually engage the audience more.

In singing, ’peak performance’ is often defined by not worrying what people think.
When you consider what some of the really amazing singers do; they are transfixed in their delivery. There is an emotional change by you just listening.

Nerves arise from worry that people won’t like the performance. The state of mind is based on what the audience will think, but sense of flow is about enjoying the moment and the music without fear of judgement. This results in the audience actually being more impressed when the performer is relaxed and immersed in the experience.

People find auditions challenging because of the goal they set themselves. Imagine a singer, auditioning in 2 weeks time. The performer believes if they get it, then somehow their life will be transformed. The ultimate goal is to get someone to like it. But what if they don’t like it? What if it goes wrong? No matter how much you think about it, you can’t change what someone will think. The power is out of the singers hands. That is the nature of worry, and creates a desire to sing it perfectly. In this ‘worry state’, if someone focusses more on technique and is note perfect, this can result in a lack of passion, flow and expression throughout the audition piece. In an audition situation, the singer may have already decided that those on the audition panel are the ones in control. So in order to regain control, the focus is overemphasised on technique. This can then result in the performer singing differently to normal.

What’s more, an anxious performer is unnerving to watch. An approach of singing it for the love is more likely to get more positive results. Then long term happiness is ultimately preserved, because you will land the jobs right and true to you.

When it comes to mistakes, the fun is in the chase of trying to be better. There’s always something you can raise the bar for, something else to strive towards being a better performer. Its never-ending, with more things to practice and build on.

“You will become clever through your mistakes” – German proverb

Being present is key, and this includes not dwelling on errors as they occur. Review them at a later date with a tutor or coach who can help you be objective. Remembering how singing felt in the moment when you were relaxed and singing for the love of it, when it was free and flowing, but not what you thought you needed to do to make it the best. The skills and state of mind are already there, but just apply them at the time instead of attempting to achieve perfection.

The big question is – how do you replicate a performance that you’ve been practicing? The answer the performer must understand is that… YOU DON’T. This is impossible and that’s ok. Going with the flow and seeing what emerges is key. Different qualities and emotions will occur through different performances. Expectation to be perfect every time is the problem.

You can reach Mike for guidance or for more info at:
Twitter: @mikecunningham_

With regards to iSing magazine, we had 5 copies to giveaway in December but we forgot! But we’re on it and they are still here to dish out. If you joined the mailing list and entered, we’ll be in touch with the lucky winners this week!

Please don’t tell us this podcast was too long. We know, but it was just so damn interesting. Please share and feedback… we love to hear your thoughts.

‘till next time!

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