Liar Liar! Why telling the truth is a far better idea than anything else.

For the past several months, I’ve had to deal with a home issue that has caused a lot of time, management, and repair. And while things happen and that’s part of life, what really irks me is that it all could have been avoided – if I hadn’t been lied to.

I often ponder things that happen in life and how they pertain to the world of performing arts. From what I have seen over the years, lying rarely works out well for the liar. For once you’ve lied about something, you’ve got to continue with that story line, which might lead to more lying, and you’re going to have to remember everything you said.

But even if you could keep it all straight, the chances of someone in the music world getting away with lying is fairly slim for one simple reason: it’s a small world.

One of the places this happens most often is on a resume. I once knew a fellow who said he had been a young artist with a certain company, presumably to build some experience on his resume. Who would know? It was a small company and a small young artist program, so what difference would it make? It turns out that someone who ran a much larger YAP was a very good friend of the person at the smaller company, and when the singer auditioned for the larger one, guess who got a phone call to see if working with him had been a good experience?

Job opportunity lost. And much worse, reputation tarnished. That can go a long way in a business where so many people are connected. When you get to a certain point – and it doesn’t take very long – you almost always work with someone you already know or someone who knows someone you know. I’ve always described this as, “You’re one person away from knowing everyone.”

I’ve seen it happen in other places as well. Teachers know if you’ve practiced or not. We can totally tell (and it’s not about making mistakes). People talk about things they don’t think are fair – like cheating on an exam. They won’t hesitate to call out the cheater, who gave themselves an unfair advantage. So really, it doesn’t do one any good to go the route of lying. Even when it comes to small things, like trying to make someone feel better; in cases like these, there are ways to say things that are not hurtful while still being honest, and it really doesn’t help someone in the long run to lie to them. You’re not doing them a favor.

While lying can cause a bunch of problems, “embellishing” can cause problems, too. Not considered a lie, per se, but a nice little stretching of the truth. This is often done to accommodate for insecurity – an attempt to make something more impressive than it is. I made the mistake of doing this myself when I was a young singer: the name of the theatre I was performing in was much more impressive than the fact that I was singing the role in college. At that time, Rice University’s theatre space was called Wortham Opera Theatre, a name also associated with Houston Grand Opera. So I listed the venue rather than the organization. Well guess who got asked in an audition if that referred to HGO? Of course I had to explain that it didn’t, which was quite embarrassing, and I learned a valuable lesson.

I still see this often today – listing Carnegie Hall as the organization (when it was a performance with one’s college choir), mentioning having worked with a prominent singer (when one was singing in the chorus)…ultimately, while these are great experiences, describing them in a way that doesn’t give an accurate picture of the situation is not a good idea. When someone starts asking about the details, you really don’t want to be in the position to where you must sheepishly explain it’s not what you portrayed it to be. And that’s your only option – unless, of course, you decide to lie about it. Do yourself a favor, and stick with the truth. You’re always better off with a version of your experience that doesn’t provoke the need for further clarification, or worse, that is found to be untrue.

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