Introverted performers – seems like an oxymoron, right? My guess is it’s not as uncommon as one might think. With the rise of awareness towards introverts that has happened in the last year or so, I thought this would be a worthwhile subject to discuss.
First of all, I would like to share that I do identify strongly as an introvert. People are often surprised when I say that, but I clarify by saying, “I am an introvert who is not shy.” I’m guessing that many other performers would agree with that statement.
So let’s take a moment and look at the idea of the “introvert”. What does it mean exactly? Most commonly, it is defined as someone who draws their energy from within rather than from without. So the opposite, an extrovert, draws their energy from outside rather than from within. This is why we often picture extroverts as those who love to party and introverts as those who love to do something quietly at home. In other words, extroverts get their energy from other people; introverts get their energy from within themselves.
Therefore, it makes perfect sense to assume that performers are generally extroverts. They have to be on stage, in front of people, collaborating with other artists. I can totally see that train of thought. Yet what a lot of people don’t consider is the countless hours spent in the practice room; surely this number is considerably larger than the amount of hours actually performing. Furthermore, the long bouts of solo travel leave great amounts of secluded time. Classical performers can also be pretty bookish, spending even more time studying scores, recordings, translations, biographies, and other related materials (it seems endless sometimes). Lastly, there’s the idea that when performers do their thing, they become almost entranced, in a mental zone where they keep the soul of their art, and not focused on the world around them.
But performers are often sociable, you argue, especially those singers who are always talking (It’s okay, I can say that, I’m one of those singers. Why do you think I started a blog in the first place?). This is where my idea of “not shy introverts” comes back. I believe it is often perceived that introverts are shy because they do not seek social stimulation in the same way that extroverts do. As a result, it is possible to me that some introverts lack practice in social skills, resulting in their shyness. I don’t know for sure, I’m not a sociologist or psychologist. I do know if I’m right about this theory, then musicians are largely spared because there is such a large social component to what we do as I stated before. There is collaboration and audiences and many people we interact with.
So why do I say all of this, what’s the point? Well, for starters, I think introverted performers should feel comfortable in their skin and not have to worry so much about their extroverted counterparts. This issue often comes up in networking when we need and want to meet other musicians, but it’s rather exhausting for us to do so without some personal breaks in between. It also comes up when discussing our work with non-musician friends. Many of us, introverted or otherwise, also don’t like being asked to perform on the spot. So to our fans, consider it a favor to us to let us be more prepared for you. Lastly, recognizing the different needs of different kinds of performers can help the rehearsal process, perhaps by identifying time for personal work and separating it from interactive work.
Do you identify as an introverted performer? What other considerations do you think exist? How do you think it can affect your craft? As always, please share your thoughts!
Update: One of my thoughtful readers, Jana Holzmeier, recommended the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. After reading it myself, I must agree. Click this link to buy a copy.
This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you purchase a product through the link, Operaversity will receive a percentage of that sale.