Music, My Teacher: Attitude

from Knowing Who I Am by NIANELL

Posted 11/12/12 | Updated 5/25/23

It was the beginning of December, and just like everybody else, I desperately needed a holiday. Even though the year had gone by quickly, I was exhausted. I was booked to sing some Christmas carols at a shopping center and, to be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to it — partly because I only sing carols once a year and tend to forget the words, but mainly because I was just really tired.

As you can see, I had a negative attitude before I even arrived, so needless to say, things just went downhill from there. In my experience, a bad attitude always invites trouble. Before I knew it, things started to go horribly wrong.

We couldn’t leave our equipment on stage because there were some dancers scheduled before us, so the stage had to be left clear. The dancers went over their time, and people started arriving, so we couldn’t do a sound check, either. Then my sound engineer discovered that the sound system on site was too weak for the venue and that there wasn’t enough space for him to stand in front of the stage where he normally does. It’s virtually impossible to do sound from the side of a stage, but that was his only choice; all I could do was pray for a miracle in the sound department.

Soon after that, I found out that there were no dressing rooms — just a tent (occupied by dancers) — so I did my makeup on the grass behind the stage. As soon as the dancers left, I went into the tent to dress and discovered that there were no toilets, either. I always have to go before a show, so I ended up squatting in a corner of the tent. As I sat there, feeling sorry for myself and listening to the orchestra and four singers who were on just before me, I realized that they were playing almost all the carols I had prepared for the show.

I was still frantically trying to work out what to sing when it started drizzling, and the organizers came to tell me that they had asked the orchestra to wrap up immediately so that I would at least be able to go on before it started raining too hard.

Did I mention that it was an outdoor venue? My poor sound engineer ran around like a headless chicken, trying to put all the gear back on stage and connect everything up as quickly as he could, but Santa was already there and the drizzle was scaring people off, so the venue started emptying out fast. By the time I went on, there was hardly anybody left to sing to.

Sitting on the side of the stage, my sound engineer couldn’t hear what he had to do to stop the feedback from the tiny speakers. At one point he looked so helpless that I just started laughing. There were also some children running around and playing in the hay in front of the stage — they were having the time of their lives, so I couldn’t get angry with them, but they were kicking up so much dust that I could hardly breathe, never mind sing.

About ten people came closer to listen, so I sang my heart out for them. I was supposed to sing a half-and-half mix of carols and my own songs, but I was so rattled by all the prior events that I only sang about two carols and then focused on my own songs; they made me feel safer.

After the show I was really angry with myself because I knew that my negative attitude had made everything worse. I had also been unprofessional; I had allowed the whole situation to make me feel unsure of myself, and had given myself the security I needed by singing mostly my own songs instead of the Christmas carols the client had requested.

Unfortunately, we cannot change what has been done, but I wrote to the organizers and apologized sincerely because I believe we should take responsibility for our actions. Luckily for me, they were very understanding and even apologized to me as well.

There have also been times when my attitude has influenced situations positively. When I was still doing background entertainment, I had to ask the ladies at the reception desk at the hotel where I was working to turn off the house music before I could start performing. They were always very busy and not very keen at all to help; I really had to nag them about it and often had to ask a few times. I knew I was just in their way and could see that they were becoming annoyed, so I decided to do something about the situation.

The next time I performed there, I approached them with a huge smile and a friendly “How are you guys?” I was still given the “treatment,” but I decided to persist. By the third time, they greeted me as I approached, asked me how I was, and switched the music off without my even having to ask.

Some time later, I did a corporate show at the same hotel, and there was a new girl doing background music in the lounge. I went to introduce myself, and we had coffee together. Not long into our conversation, she told me how hard it was for her to get the receptionist to switch off the house music. It was such an amazing feeling to be able to share my experience with her, knowing that what I had learned could help her, too.

I also discovered that my attitude could make a huge difference in the following situation. I used to withdraw and keep to myself if I sensed that I wasn’t welcome or that people felt threatened by my presence. Sadly, this gave the impression that I was arrogant, unapproachable, or aloof.

I arrived at a birthday party once and could sense, as I walked in, that some of the guests felt nervous about having me there. Instead of withdrawing, I decided to hug everybody as I said a friendly hello. The tension dissipated immediately, and later, one of the guests admitted that she had enjoyed my company even though she had thought the party would be ruined when she had seen me walking in.

Having the right attitude in every situation is not always easy; sometimes it takes a lot of effort, but it always pays off in the end. If I have to compare the above incidents, the energy spent on being positive is far less tiring and the reward much more lucrative than energy spent on being negative. I make it my mission to put effort into my attitude since I believe it will determine the outcome of every situation I find myself in.

©2012 by Nianell. All rights reserved.

Knowing Who I Am by Nianell

NIANELL is a gifted singer with an impressive four octave vocal range, a talented musician and songwriter, and a stirring keynote speaker.