Pay Attention

I think I probably have Adult ADHD or ADD. Not sure which, but when I took an online test a few years back, I got to the end of it and it said, “Now, add up your points,” and I said, “Points? I just numbered a sheet wrote down √s for the ones that applied. Oh. I didn’t read the directions. I didn’t pay attention.”

I didn’t retake the test. I pretty much had my results right there.

Growing up, not paying attention meant you were lazy or stupid. There weren’t tests for it. As actor Howie Mandel said, “Back in the 1960s, when I was growing up, my symptoms didn’t have a name and you didn’t go to the doctor to find out. So, in my case, they were called ‘Howie Mandel,’”

Since then, things have changed. Here’s a list of famous people with ADHD – and some of them are pretty impressive. Alan Menken? Simone Biles? Audra McDonald? Michael Phelps? Some of whom have taken medication for their disorder and some of whom have found workarounds.

One recent addition to this list is YouTuber Penn Holderness. The Holdernesses are a guilty pleasure of mine. I love song parodies, and I think that Penn is remarkably talented as a parodist and as a singer (he’s not bad to look at either), and his beautiful wife Kim is a great foil. Here’s a great video where he explains ADHD and how he’s made it work for him:

I recently read a book by Eric Maisel on The Power of a Daily Practice: How Creative and Performing Artists (and Everyone Else) Can Finally Meet their Needs, and there were a lot of very interesting and insightful points in it. One of his main points was:

(Of course, Dr. Maisel believes ADHD is a disease that was “concocted” to excuse bad behavior, so perhaps he’s not the best person to quote in this situation.)

But we do have to pay attention in whatever way we can. We need to create our own strategies to pay attention to what’s in front of us, to what’s ahead of us, and what we have to get done. As performers, we need to pay attention to the music, to the text, to our scene partners/musical collaborators, and to the amount of time that we have before our performance. How do we do that?

We need to do it via developing systems that work for us. Planners, or charts, or notebooks, or whatever it takes to keep us on task, but also allow us the spontaneity that our brains require. I prefer a combination of digital and written lists, personally. I don’t like ones that are too cluttered with things like cutesy stickers , and have too many places and choices in which to write. I have spent money on planners that sit unused past the first month. Give me a legal pad or a notebook, or let me create a Google Doc or Apple Notes where I can jot down the things I have to do, and I’m much more productive.

What works best for you?

If you want to pay attention to your vocal technique, and need a guide who is much better at paying attention to other people’s needs than her own, there may be room for you in Mezzoid Voice Studio. Find out how you can set up an Ask Me Anything session and see if we’re a good fit!

Published by Mezzoid Voice Studio

Christine Thomas-O'Meally, a mezzo soprano and voice teacher currently based in the Baltimore-DC area, has performed everything from the motets of J.S. Bach to the melodies of Irving Berlin to the minimalism of Philip Glass. As an opera singer and actress, she has appeared with companies such as Charm City Players, Spotlighters Theatre, Chicago Opera Theater, Opera Theater of Northern Virginia, Opera North, the Washington Savoyards, In Tandem Theatre, Windfall Theater, The Young Victorian Theater of Baltimore, and Skylight Opera Theatre. She created the role of The Woman in Red in Dominick Argento’s Dream of Valentino in its world premiere with the Washington Opera and Mary Pickersgill in O'er the Ramparts at its world premiere during the Bicentennial of Battle of Baltimore at the Community College of Baltimore County. Other roles include Mrs. Paroo in Music Man, Mother Abbess in Sound of Music, Dorabella in Cosi Fan Tutte, Marcellina in Le Nozze di Figaro, both Hansel and the Witch in Hansel & Gretel, and many roles in Gilbert & Sullivan operettas. Her performance as the Housekeeper in Man of La Mancha was honored with a WATCH award nomination. Ms. Thomas-O'Meally received an M.M. in vocal performance from the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. She regularly attends master classes and workshops in both performance and vocal pedagogy, and is certified in all three Levels of Somatic Voicework™ The LoVetri Method. Her students have performed on national and international tours of Broadway productions, at prestigious conservatories, and in regional theater throughout the country.

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