Wisdom from What Our Mamas Taught Us: You Sing Better with a Full Orchestra and Pretty Dress

Linda Seger is an international story coach, script and screenplay consultant. This is the story behind an inspirational quote in her book, What Our Mamas Taught Us.

“You always sing better when you have a full orchestra and a pretty dress.”

By Mama Agnes Seger from Linda Seger’s book, What Our  Mamas Taught Us

When I was growing up in the 1950s in my small Wisconsin town of Peshtigo, we would watch the singers on television. They had beautiful voices and they sounded so wonderful. That kind of talent and ability seemed so beyond me but one day, mother, who was also a lovely singer and a music teacher said to me as she was watching these wonderful singers on television, “You always sing better when you have a full orchestra and a pretty dress.” I realized then that many of the people we see doing wonderful things have help. They might have an entourage or they might have a person who knows exactly what clothes the singer should wear or  they might have a hairstylist or they might have the full orchestra that helps them sound better. My mother wasn’t putting down the singers, because she agreed they were wonderful. But she was helping me understand that anything done well was not just an accident. In fact, as I got older and met some people who were great singers are great actors, I realized the amount of time that went into what they did and I began to be more aware of the whole package that makes it possible for people to do this beautiful work.

Years later, I worked with Linda Lavin who had been the star on the television show Alice and who went on for a brilliant Broadway career, winning a Tony award for Broadway Bound. One time when we were working together, she mentioned that she was going to be on the Tonight Show in three weeks. She had sung this number many times but she told me she was practicing five hours a day for three weeks to prepare for her five minute performance. I was astounded. I just presumed that people at her level who had sung the song before warmed up and maybe sang it through a few times with the accompanist and then went on stage. Not true. I realize the amount of preparation that went into doing brilliant work. It wasn’t an accident. Things didn’t just happen. Brilliant performances have a great deal of preparation but they usually also have a full orchestra and a pretty dress.