Don’t Be a Sheep-Singer

Photo by Sam Carter on Unsplash

I just learned the term “sheep-singing” which is what you call it when you’re singing in a chorus and you don’t ever practice but just show up and blindly follow others.

Little did I know that I spent years in choirs as a sheep-singer. As a soprano, I always knew what to sing because we usually carry the melody. When in doubt, I sang the highest note. This carried me through high school choirs, the Harvard-Radcliffe Chorus and even the choir in Siena, Italy. (That’s a story for you another time.)

After I joined my community chorus a few weeks ago, the conductor sent us a blog post about how to practice. And there it was, that term “sheep singing.” I knew I had been one and I didn’t want to be one anymore. What makes things more complicated is that now I’m an alto and altos don’t usually sing the melody, they (yikes!) sing the harmony so I must practice outside of rehearsal. I will need to work hard to not just follow along.

To help me reach that goal, I signed on for singing lessons and both my teacher and the conductor keep repeating the same lesson: through practice and relaxation you get the best sound.

So here’s the secret formula to prevent sheep singing: practice, relax, practice, relax, practice, relax.

This feels so applicable to my writing and performing life and to the creative lives of the artists I coach. For example, I won’t get my next performance off the ground if I just relax. But if I practice, which for me means: work on the script, get help, work on the script some more, get more help, then rehearse, then book a gig, then relax. And repeat.

Making art is a constant state of pushing and then letting go. What it isn’t is being a sheep-singer, where you just show up and blindly follow along.

How are you being a sheep-singer in your life right now? Where could you really use some intense practice and relaxing? Maybe you’re painting because that’s what you’ve always done but you really want to make a sculpture? Sheep singers do not do their own thing. Spend an hour working on the sculpture. What do you learn?

Or maybe you’re a watercolorist who knows that what you really need to do is to spend the first hour of the day in the studio before anything else except making coffee and letting the dog out. Sheep-singers do not show up alone to work on what matters. They sleep late and hope that others will carry the weight.

Don’t be a sheep-singer. Dare to practice and relax so you can sing your own song.
Have a wonderful week

Gigi Rosenberg is an author, artist coach and editor of Professional Artist. She wrote The Artist’s Guide to Grant Writing (Watson-Guptill) and coaches artists to help them find funding, blast through creative blocks and launch vibrant marketing plans. To download her free “5 Steps to Your Elevator Speech,” visit