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Success Involves Ignoring Critics By John Watson

Critics can destroy or inspire you. Your own self critic is often the most deadly critic of all. I was thrown out of the school choir at the age of 8. The teacher said someone was growling. She walked along the row and announced that I was the growler!

From that day onwards, I have had little if any confidence when singing. Maybe she was right but maybe she was wrong. I have since learned that so called experts are not always right. They can't be because they so often disagree with other 'experts'.

In March 2005, there was a comic relief week in the UK when money was raised for various charities. Several celebrities volunteered to take part in a singing competition based on a British version of the Fame Academy of the famous American film - Fame.

The judges were Craig (who is involved in putting on dance shows), Richard Parks (the headmaster of the Academy) and Lesley Garrett (a lively and popular opera singer). Opinions were also asked from David and Carrie Grant (the voice coaches) and Kevin Adams (the fitness and movement trainer).

On Thursday, 3rd March 2005, the singers competed for survival in the competition.

First up was DIY celebrity, Nick Knowles. Cat, one of the two presenters, spoke to him: "Everyone seems to say that you're confidence is growing. Would you believe that to be true?"

"Yes, thanks to David and Carrie. I think I have progressed a lot since I first held a microphone ten days ago and I'm really enjoying it now."

Nick sang the old Beatles' song about singing out of tune with great power and feeling: "What would you do if I sang out of tune? Would you stand up and walk out on me?"

His performance was magnificent in my opinion but the views of the critics differed greatly.

Richard Parks said Nick had shouted; the voice coach, Carrie, said he didn't shout; Craig said he was out of tune. Lesley said his tuning was improving. She added: "The voice is the window to the soul and I think your soul is fabulous. You just need to clean your windows a little bit."

Konnie, the next singer, had infuriated some of her teachers by her lack of concentration. Her performance was probably the worst of the evening and no improvement on previous performances. But at least she kept going to the bitter end.

Lesley said her tuning was awful but she needed more work. The other two judges gave little hope. Craig said: "You completely crucified that song and to make it worse you screamed it at us. You were completely out of tune. But you did show confidence".

Richard Parks, Head of the Fame Academy, had told Reggie Yates (top of the pops presenter) that he was vocally chronic. Richard said that singing was Reggie's biggest problem but Carrie told Richard that he was Reggie's biggest problem: "Richard, you have discouraged that boy so much that he is trying to scrape what confidence might be left off the floor."

Without confidence that you can do or learn to do something, progress is practically impossible. Lesley Garrett, the popular opera singer, also scolded Richard: "You must never tell anyone they can't sing. Every one can sing and every one can improve."

Next was Jon Colshaw, the impressionist. He began the competition as someone who could not sing but David Grant, one of the voice coaches said: "He has made more progress than anyone."

Richard said he had been shaken but not stirred by Jon's rendition of 'From Russia With Love." Craig agreed with Richard.

The criticized bit back: "I'm very surprised that the two of you heard anything from so far up your own bottoms."

Richard was desperate to reply to this insult but Paddy one of the presenters pointed at his own bottom and said: "We'll have to leave it back there!" The audience roared their appreciation. Richard is not their favourite.

Kim Medcalf, who has a beautiful voice, then took a risk by singing an upbeat song instead of a ballad: "If you want to taste my kisses in the night,Jump, Jump for my love"

Many men would be only too willing to jump for her kisses but the two men judges on the panel did not like her performance. Lesley, however, loved it.

The amount of disagreement over the ability of nearly every singer was huge. The same disagreement occurred after Chris Calhoun sang.

Chris had had a bad day on the Wednesday and was described by Carrie Grant as a complete confidence sieve. On Thursday, he sang about a depressed man whose despair was eliminated by his girlfriend:"Then I look at you and the world's alright with me Just one look at you and I know it's going to be a lovely day."

Richard said the tuning was off. Lesley said "Today you were relaxed; the tuning was fine." The critics could not even agree about singing in tune!

Debra, who was next, sang beautifully and moved beautifully. Craig, however, was not totally happy: "You should learn to move in high heels."

Paddy, the presenter, said "I am interested to know how you know how you should move in high heels." The audience, who dislike Craig as well as Richard, laughed loud and long.

I think I have made my point. Experts disagree not only about our ability to sing but about our ability to do most things. So let's not pay too much attention to them. They may of course be right but let's at least try very hard to do what they say we can't and find out for ourselves whether they are right or not.

Lesley Garrett in the above account was certainly worth listening to. That is not surprising. She is not only a critic; she is also a great singer.

I am not saying ignore the critics all the time. Just ignore them most of the time!

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