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To Perform or Not To Perform – That is the Question!

How do I know if I should cancel? How do I know if I should perform or not?

These are questions that every performer faces generally many times throughout their performance career. There are so many things that one might encounter that would cause them to give the question of “cancelling” consideration.

The two main reasons that a performer might be faced with a decision of performing or not are physical or psychological. Singers will oftentimes stress over a logical decision that they can easily make because of their need to “please” someone in authority. They don’t want to disappoint the expectations of “others” who they feel are in need of their services. The ”others” in this case could include parts of an ensemble, a producer or an administrator. In any case, the decision to perform or not can more easily be determined by a decision protocol or checklist. This is an easier approach to the decision, which takes the emotion out of it.

Regarding singing…

Let’s first try to decide if we are going to be able to sing or not.

If you can sing but not speak well, you can probably do the performance. If you are not able to phonate well in certain areas of your voice, you can probably remediate your voice by doing the cooldowns calmly and in a measured way up to the performance. Stay calm and DO NOT keep testing your voice. Testing your voice again and again could set you back in your recovery, essentially taking two steps back from where you started. If you’re used to doing the cooldowns, you will have an expectation as to the result of using them to recover phonation. If you can phonate very little with regard to singing phonation (even if only in falsetto or head voice) the consideration to cancel should be greater.


1 - Can you actually do the performance to your normal level as perceived by the audience?

A. Are you inhibited physically (sick) to the extent that everyone would know?

B. Can you negotiate the performance in ways that the audience might not be able to perceive that you are sick?

C. Have you performed this particular piece so many times that you know precisely where you might need to save and where you might need to give?

2 - What are the negatives and positives in doing the performance?

A. If you allow an audience to hear you and you don’t sound like yourself, or the reality is it’s going to sound bad - Is it worth the risk?

B. If you are not confident in your ability to finish the performance as good as you start the performance - is it worth the risk?

C. If you don’t perform, will the show have to be cancelled? Perhaps it’s worth the risk with an announcement of your being vocally indisposed.

D. Do you feel that if you don’t do the performance the administrator would not hire you again?

E. If you sing and it’s a bad performance, you are probably sacrificing the possibility of being hired again. If you don’t sing, there is no way for someone to be critical about a bad performance or being sick.

F. Suppose you decide to sing, and it goes south. Will you be able to recover easily from that kind of exposure? Some people never recover from that level of embarrassment.


3 - How important is the performance to you personally?

A. Is it the first of a series of performances or a tour?

B. Is it the first night you’re gigging in a place with the expectation of doing so again? If so, this is essentially a live audition.

C. Command performance for people in high places.

D. Very large paycheck.

So, don’t let your decision to sing (or not to sing) only be an emotional one. Build a protocol and/or checklist so that you will be content regarding the decision to perform or not.


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