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Can't we all just get along?

I don't think I've written this many blog posts in one week since I was trying to write one for every day of an entire month a couple of years back. I would like to say it's because I'm feeling excessively creative this week, but the truth is probably more that I'm procrastinating learning texts and music. I have a lot of music to learn and memorize at the moment, and while I adore rehearsing it, I hate the drudgery of making it all stick in my head, and my brain often rebels, either putting me to sleep or sending me to the computer. 

But I've also had some frustrating interactions this week with people online that have started me thinking about why it is that so many people feel the need to tear other people down. The week started with a complaint from someone I didn't know that was tweeted to me about the fact that even though I was the *winner* (yes, they put it in asterisks) of the Spring for Music Blogger competition, I didn't attend and blog about each concert separately. It frustrated me for many reasons, but one of them is that I never claimed to be a reviewer - I don't write about concerts and operas that I see except in passing - I am an essayist who writes about my own personal experiences performing and auditioning and such, and never claimed to be qualified to write musical reviews, nor do I want to. Plus I was sick, and I didn't think the Spring for Music people would appreciate me throwing up on their audience, so I had to miss a few concerts. Plus I only happen to live in New York - I'm not sure every one of the entrants would have come to New York on their own dime just to see and write about the concerts, had they won. So that little exchange got me kind of steamed.

Then, one of my facebook friends posted my last Huffington Post article, and one of his friends left a tiradey comment about how I had missed the point, didn't know what I was talking about, and proceeded to take apart my article sentence by sentence and spell out everything I did wrong. Since the article was published two weeks ago, I'm still unsure what she was trying to accomplish except to make me feel bad, which congratulations to her - she succeeded in doing! 

And then just now, I was looking at my blog's "stats" to see how many visitors I had and which blogs had referred to me and noticed that some referrals had come from a blog called Ionarts. I was first made aware of this blog when the writer was also one of the entrants into the Spring for Music challenge, but was eliminated in one of the earlier rounds. Then after the competition was over, he tweeted this: "In the great circle jerk of PR, opera singer who averages two posts per month is crowned "best arts blogger."" I sort of chalked this up to sour grapes, but when I saw that his blog had a reference to mine, I had to see why. I discovered in one recent post where he lists things to listen to and look at on the web, a sentence that said "See what the recently named "best arts blogger" has to say about the aforementioned concerts. As of this posting, nothing yet. " And that was just so snarky and mean spirited against me directly that I felt like I wanted to respond. 

First of all, I can't figure out why he's so mad at me, personally. When in the past, someone else beat me in a singing competition, or now, when someone else gets chosen for a job I audition for, I certainly can be frustrated if I think they didn't deserve it, or that I was better for the part or something. And I might even say to my boyfriend or my mom, "It's not fair! I'm so much better than so-and-so! Why did she get picked over me?" But then I realize that this is coming from a very small place of jealousy and frustration, and that in fact, the person that got picked did have talent and drive and actually doesn't deserve any wrath from me for winning something. I would certainly never try to publicly humiliate them on the internet, as this blogger was clearly trying to do to me. It just seems unnecessary and cruel. 

I'm not saying I've never said anything about anyone in a public way that might have been critical. I regularly participate in my boyfriend's podcast, Operanow!, and because it is a live show and not scripted, I occasionally say something that I later regret because I fear it might have sounded mean or harsh or hurt someone's feelings. I hate the idea of hurting someone's feelings, because since I am in the public eye,  I certainly know what it feels like to have my feelings hurt. 

Because yes - when you put anything out into the world, you have to willing to be a subject of criticism. You have to strong enough to accept that if you succeed in any way, people will be out there who want take you down a peg, or who think what you're doing sucks and aren't afraid to tell you. And I'm certainly way too sensitive about it all. I should just shrug it off and not worry about it, but that's just not who I am.

I like to think that my experiences being criticized have made me a more sensitive person towards others, but I'm sure I slip up and say things that hurt people's feeling occasionally. But I can tell you that if I do, it is certainly not intentional. I would never say anything or write anything that would be intended to hurt another person, because I believe the whole "do onto others" business. Unless someone does something or says something mean about someone I care about - then I can hardly help myself and my inner lioness comes out and starts roaring. I should probably work on that. 

I love the internet, but it certainly has sped up the demise of courtesy and respect. 50 years ago people used to have so much more respect for celebrities and politicians, and they would never consider saying horrible things about them in public forums. Now we have entire blogs devoted to making fun of everything they do. I'm not saying we should unnaturally revere people and that people in the public eye shouldn't be criticized. I know that it's a part of life, but I don't know - I guess I'm just a softie at heart. I wish people had more kindness in them, and got less joy out of being cruel. 

Especially those of us who reside in this classical music world together. We are all so lucky to have had something happen in our lives that exposed us to this world and drew us in. There's only a small percentage of people in this country that have been regularly exposed to classical music and the arts in a way that allows us to take full advantage of the depth of these art forms, and we are damn lucky to be in that minority. I often try to be funny on this blog and make light of things, but I truly believe that anyone who has had a life surrounded by the arts, whether they have chosen to pursue them as a career or not, should realize that they have been given an incredible gift. There is no need to be small and petty when we have had the chance to hear and understand a Mozart opera. 

I guess I must have needed to be reminded of this myself, which is why all this happened to me. I needed to be reminded not to squander the gift of being an artist by complaining about people complaining about or criticizing me. So with this blog post, I officially let it all go. 

Which brings me back to memorizing song texts. Which I LOVE by the way. Did I mention that earlier? Yup. Love it. Couldn't be luckier. I would certainly rather be doing that than about a million other jobs. So thanks, Mr. Ionarts and the all rest of you who found fault with me this week . You just reminded me of how lucky I am to be doing this. I sincerely appreciate it. 

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Reader Comments (11)

For me the most uncomfortable part of the blogging competition was the campaigning. It sort of required you to proclaim yourself better than everyone else and that seems antithetical to the spirit of good blogging. I'd rather think of everyone else as colleagues with a variety of viewpoints and goals. (And I only made it to the second round.) It was a problematic contest in a lot of ways but I'm glad you won and are keeping it all in proportion! And if it means more exposure for you and your blog so much the better.

May 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterZerbinetta

Please keep writing! Jenny, you are such an inspiration to me and MANY of my fellow aspiring opera singer friends. You are so honest and human in your writing, and a wonderful ambassador between the public at large and us singers who are trying to share our music with them.Your Huffington Post article was a testament to that: I saw no less than 50 "shares" amongst my facebook friends alone. To put it colloquially, haters gonna hate. Keep giving us a voice.

May 18, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteroperachick85

Ah, Jenny. I've been onstage with you. You know your stuff, you know you know your stuff, and anyone who knows anything knows you know your stuff which - lately - includes writing, blogging and being an ambassador of the arts. Sometimes we seek roles, and sometimes they find us. Anyone who thinks this one is too high for you isn't listening.

May 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel James Shigo

one of his friends left a tiradey comment about how I had missed the point, didn't know what I was talking about, and proceeded to take apart my article sentence by sentence and spell out everything I did wrong.

Ah yes, welcome to the scaly underside of life on the internet, where people tear you down simply to keep in practice. My own response was to retreat into blogging about topics unrelated to my profession, which is not very courageous but lets me sleep an night. Keep doing what you're doing, use the energy those pissy people give you (see, you love your job more now!) and don't back down. Your competition blog posts were terrific and worthy of your win, and if all this annoyance motivates you to write more, then it's a good thing in the end.

May 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarcellina

Hey Jenny! I couldn't help responding to this post. Please keep writing your insightful, funny, brilliant blog. All I can say is that you're getting these ugly little nuggets on the internet because you're getting more popular, and either people can't stand it because of jealousy, or they're simply mean boys and girls who are deluded into thinking that tearing you down will make them look worthy. Just try and have a sense of humor about it, because I think some of these folks (the snarky ones) don't realize how bad it makes them look to be mean for mean's sake. Those who know you personally know that you would never say anything cruel to anybody, and you shouldn't even have to clarify that on your blog. Chalk it up to you being a good soul! You have nothing to prove, and no one to tear down in order to make yourself look clever, popular, funny, or intelligent. Just accept that the more you get out there, known as a singer or blogger, there will be critics. It's the nature of the beast, and really, just think about this: do the readers of your blog get pleasure from other's pain? Like I said, have a sense of humor about it, and really, you gotta feel sorry for some of them. Sad folks. Possible mommy issues? Who knows :)

May 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNicole Cabell

It's funny because I read your post this morning. And then, I had a bad news that made me really upset and angry. Lately, I have been procrastinating too, when I should really be studying like mad, and I could have let that bad news take the last bite of motivation I had in me and quite studying altogether for the rest of the day. But it was actually quite the opposite. I decided that this bad news was showing me how lucky I was to be studying things I absolutely love, and I got rid of my anger by working on my music and singing. All the bad energy I had was turning into a good one, helping me go over my procrastination and showing me a way to enjoy what I do even more.
So I'd like to thank those mean people who showed you how much you love what you do, and to thank you for sharing it with us, so I could have that thought with me when I had a bad time. I really believe everything happens for a reason.
And I also truly believe that it's better to have people hating you or loving you, than just leave people indifferent. A comment - especially a bad one - tells so much more about the person who said it than about the person the comment was about! So keep it up, for those haters to have a purpose in their lives and for the rest of us to enjoy it!

May 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterViolette

And, on the bright side, they linked to you, as you could see from your stats. That in itself can be seen as a form of flattery. Go over there and thank the admin of that site for all the hits! ;-)

May 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMarcellina

Hey Jenny,

This is a great article and it really hits close to home as a performer. If you have some time, I would love for you to read a post on my blog that I wrote last summer regarding basically the same topic. I think you might enjoy it; I am sure you already share the same sentiment, but it may prove to be a little enlightening for you anyways! =)


Best wishes,


May 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJerron J

Jenny we love you!!! You are such an inspiration to aspiring opera singers everywhere. I always feel that those who publicly criticize others are just very insecure people searching for external validation - (otherwise they'd keep their contempt/jealousy to themselves).

May 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEric S

"If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all." It is an old fashioned phrase, but one well worth remembering. I couldn't agree with you more on the whole internet age having taken away our respect for others. By all means, we are all entitled to our own opinions and if someone disagrees with you on some points, then they are within their right to discuss it. However, it should not be an excuse to just bash people and lash out with personal attacks. People have forgotten that criticism should be towards the actions (or lack thereof), not the individual. If a blog post makes you upset, then fine, write a comment discussing the reasons why it has upset you. But don't just try to be snarky to the person to make yourself feel better. You know it's a sad state of affairs when an obviously well-meaning blogger like you, Jennifer, cannot even win a competition (rightfully so) without getting all kinds of backlash. It irritates me to no end when I hear baseless or insulting comments like the ones you described. Thanks to so much interaction via electronic devices, people forget that there is an actual breathing, feeling person on the receiving end and that everyone has a story and everyone has their reasoning. You know, if you want to criticize my actions, that is fine, I can deal with that. But when you are just looking to 'one-up' me or try to tear me down out of jealousy or spite, all you are really doing is revealing your shortcomings as a person and that you obviously need to find some new topics of conversation! Jennifer, you keep doing what you are doing; you are doing it fabulously and don't let anyone else tell you different.

May 24, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMichikat

I'm sorry you got so much bruising backlash from winning that competition. I hope it won't discourage you from writing. In case you're wondering if there are people out here who 1) don't know you at all 2) are not professional musicians or aiming at a musical career and 3) really love your blog, look forward to new entries, and would miss it a lot, I am in a position to tell you that yes, there are.

June 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJanet

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