Sunday, July 23, 2017

Tips, Tricks, and Magic Sprinkles

Sunday morning musings...

So what are the magic tips and tricks for singing?

Lean in...

Guess what?

There are none.

There are no tricks or magic sprinkles to immediately fix or find something vocally.

Just like the quick weight loss and quick muscle gain are hoaxes,  so are the snake oil promises in vocal technique.

There is nothing glamorous,  or bright and shiny about the WORK.  And that is what technique and voice building and vocal behavior is.  WORK.

There is nothing glamorous about getting to the gym and sweating it out.

There is nothing glamorous about bleeding feet in a ballet class.

See where I am going with this?

Creating behavior,  creating technique,  creating knowledge, is EXCITING.  It's worth the sweat equity,  it's worth the focus,  it's worth the investment - only if you believe it is.

As a teacher,  I can't believe it for you.  I am there to give you the tools,  to find you where you are,  to figure out what you need and how to get you there.  However,  YOU are the one who has to do the actual WORK.

"Methods" and "quick fixes" are usually a "one size fits all" mentality.  They never last.  It's a patch job in desperation.   Will it work for minute?  Sometimes.  Does it last?  No.

When something new is accessed in the voice studio,  it doesn't make it behavior.  It means you can ACCESS it - which means the possibility now exists to create the full behavior!  Doing it once, hoping it works,  doesn't make it work.

Your WORK and your FOCUS and your COMMITMENT will give you an opportunity to create it fully and allow you to summon it at will.

If you call yourself a singer,  then sing.  That means honing, learning, discovering, re-discovering, creating, focusing,  asking questions,  and working at it every day.

Whatever you ARE,  DO that.  It is action-oriented not hope-oriented.

Whatever you HAVE,  DEVELOP that.  Saying you have it,  isn't enough.

If all you want is glamour,  without the sweat equity,  then I suggest you take a look carefully at Mr. Sondheim's lyric from "Ah, but Underneath":

Sometimes, when the wrappings fall,
There's nothing underneath at all...

Dare to make mistakes.  Dare to ask questions.  Dare to recognize where you are.

Dare to ask for help.

Dare to ask why.

Dare to be more than a trick or a hope or a wish.

Dare to have substance, and clarity,  and focus.

My hope for you is that you find truth through your technique.  That you keep exploring MORE to allow your artistry to have a place to reside fully.  That you can access it,  summon it,  and CREATE magic.

Magic DOES happen.  It happens BECAUSE, not in spite of;  it happens in action,  not in fluke;
it happens when you have done the work,  and it has SO much more power and portent than you would even imagine - because, it's YOU.

So,  as your fairy godmother,  I do not wave a magic wand.  I see you.  I mirror what I see.  Now get sweating and find your truth & your honesty!

  Create your own magic.

Then, OWN IT.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Where, What do I sing?

Sunday musings...

Where do I sing?  What do I sing?

These questions come up regularly.  They aren't black and white.  The answers aren't always easy, and they are often fluid.

There are so many variables and being in the right place at the right time;  being ready;  subjective responses and who is hiring and on and on.

What are you in charge of?

More than you think!

You are responsible for your own craft,  and your development of said craft.

You are responsible to learn about the business,  if you are indeed pursuing a career.  Every angle of the business is a different business.  It's up to you to figure that out and find out what the parameters are, and how you negotiate the landscape (or the land mines as the case may be!)

You are always going to get tons of opinions.  Some people will love what you do;  some will be lukewarm.  It's life.  Opinion is only a sampling and can't be given too much weight in the overall aspect of things.  Let it inform your bullshit detector:  as in, are you clear in your own pursuit?  Can you look at the opinion objectively to inform where you are,  what you are trying to do,  with information that is helpful as opposed to delusional or destructive?

Where should you be?

Obviously I can't answer these questions for you.  Nobody can.  Nobody can guarantee you are going to have a career.  Nobody can dismiss you and tell you that you WON'T have a career.

What does having a career mean to you?  It doesn't mean the same thing to everybody.

What do you want?  Why?

What fulfills you?   What gives you joy?   What makes you happy?

These answers may or may not put you on a career track.

Who is telling you "you should",  or "you shouldn't"?

Not everybody has a world class voice.  Not everybody is a prima donna or leading lady.  It's okay.  Theatre is created for MANY MANY different voices and characters.  If everybody is a leading lady, then nobody is!

Theatre is available at every level.  And, guess what?  It can be absolutely fulfilling at every level.

You can find committed, talented,  professional and fantastic theatre from community theatre to fringe theatre to pop up theatre, to small regional houses,  to larger regional theatre to A houses and Broadway.

You can also find absolute shit in all those places too.

There are no absolutes.  If you look hard enough,  you'll find the gems everywhere there is theatre!

Sometimes you'll hear an exceptional voice or see a brilliant actor in a place you wouldn't expect.  Sometimes they are there because they simply want to be;  sometimes they are there because the business has just found them there, or they have found a place there.

Whether you are a leading lady,  a leading man,  a side-kick, a secondary or tertiary character,  a "character" character,  right through to a strong chorus member:  YOU MATTER.

Figuring out where you fit will allow you to thrive in that environment - from genre, to level, to character type & fach and more.

If you realize that no,  you aren't a leading man but you make a great character actor - then figure out what you have to have and have to do to create the best character actor you possibly can!   What does that demand of you in craft and knowledge?  Where are you best seen and how you do you get infant of those people?

You go where your talent takes you.  If you keep hitting walls,  perhaps it's time to simply sit down and have an honest discussion with yourself to review your goals and your dreams.  Adjusting the focus of those goals and dreams doesn't mean you give up!  It means you adjust the realization of where you actually are,  and what you can do to truly inhabit that reality.

Dream big, big for YOU.  Then, breathe in the present. Where are you?  Why are you there? What brings you there?  How do you inhabit that?   Surround yourself with a FEW trusted professionals (professionals - not friends, not family) that will give you a firm anchor and will help you understand where you are now,  what you have to offer,  how you could be seen,  and where.  Nobody knows where that leads.  Only you,  taking the reins,  committing to your passion and your craft,  learning how things are structured and what the business does,  can discover that.

If you find out that you are over the moon and happy creating theatre in small spaces,  and that you play the "second banana" and can NAIL it and it gives you a sense of accomplishment - then that is a WIN!

It isn't always all or nothing.  It is finding out WHO you are,  WHAT you have,  and WHERE it can be realized.  It is claiming the truth of what you DO,  not just what you say you want to do.

If you lead with the truth and authenticity of what you are truly about and what you honestly can do,  then you have a clearer understanding of where you could be, as you pursue where you can play!

Take a few seconds with that one.  It's gotta stay present,  and the honesty of that within you will morph as you and your craft continue to evolve!

Keep asking questions.
Keep your peripheral vision open.
Keep seeing the spectrum of the rainbow,  not right or wrong;  not black and white.
Stay present.
Find joy.
Know the difference between making music,  and making a living making music.
Breathe your passion.
Know the business you are in.
Trust few,  and nod at the rest.
Look at a closed door or a "no" or a "don't" as an opportunity to find another door that opens, a "yes" or a "do it!"

There is no failure if you pursue.

There is no failure if there is passion.

There is no failure if you are content.

There is no failure in falling down,  tripping or trying again!

What you DO with it gives you momentum or stops you.  How you respond will give you more answers than you realize!

Be where you are.  Inhabit it.  Stretch into it.  Enjoy every second so it gives you opportunity to grow!

Don't make excuses.  Just do the work.  Hone the craft.  Gather knowledge and be as informed as you can be.

Where you sing and how you sing and when you sing and what you sing, will then continue to reveal what you want to be bothered with,  and what you can release without angst.

Your success is knowledge.  Be bold to find it, and live it!


Saturday, June 3, 2017

Why study?

happy weekend!

Conversations with the singers that work with me always bring me to further thought - and often it ends up here on the blog!

This one came up several times this week.

Why study?

I am always flabbergasted - and probably shouldn't be given our social climate - that so many think, in portions of our business - that their undergrad is done,  and so,  why study anymore?

Or  - there are some who have begun a professional career but don't further their studies.

The reasons why those attitudes and decisions are made aren't the point of this blog post.

More to the point,  why study?  why continue to study?  why pick up your study?  and most importantly,  why wouldn't you?

We are athletes are singers and performers.  We need to keep that physicality in the best shape.  Great athletes are constantly honing their craft,  their physicality,  working with coaches on all levels of their work.

As singers,  our physicality and metabolic life is continuing to change, morph and develop.  If we don't work with it and develop it fully,  and allow for it to be realized,  how can we call ourselves professional?

If we are asked to be part of the equipment - doing 8 shows a week - wouldn't it be the natural realization to keep working on the technical behavior so that instrument and equipment can do its job well?

If we are just at the beginning of a possible career,  wouldn't it make sense to keep exploring and studying what the physicality and technique can develop into in order to access it more fully and more specifically?

If you are in your career - wouldn't a regular tune up and 2nd set of ears be the thing you'd need to keep you aligned, balanced and healthy?

We have trainers at the gym;  we have life coaches;  we learn to eat well;  we take dance classes or yoga classes or pilates classes;  we may even take a performance class or two;  we keep getting new head shots;  we keep updating our websites;  we keep auditioning...

but do we study?

Do we learn how we do what we do?  how we need to re-approach what we thought was working and maybe isn't anymore?  do we know how we access that voice? that physicality?  with specific knowledge and action,  or just by the seat of our pants?

Finishing a program doesn't mean you know.

Being cast in a show doesn't mean you know.

You know when you know.  And the more you know the more you want to know.  Because knowing reveals how much there is to continue to learn!

Why study?  Because you must to truly reveal what you have,  what you need to hone,  what you need to develop,  in order to summon your talent at will.

If you call yourself a performer,  or an artist who performs,   then you are connected to the journey of KNOWING.  Knowing requires enquiry;  enquiry requires getting real;  getting real reveals truth; truth reveals authenticity.


It comes in many forms.

It morphs,  and it changes shape depending on what you need, when you need it.

It doesn't have to be weekly lessons,  although it can be.  It could mean intensive work in the voice studio over a short period of time and then a longer period of allowing that information to wash through you,  and for your technical behavior to catch up physically in order to access things fully.

It could be regular "check-ins".  It could be a combination of intensives and check-ins.

Nothing is in stone.  How you study is reflected on why you study.

I often ask my singers,  "why are you here?  What do you feel you need today?  What do you feel you are here to do?"

Sometimes they know,  sometimes they don't.  Sometimes they think they know,  and as we start to work,  it is revealed what they really need!

So,  why study?

Why wouldn't you?

Even if you are fully formed from a physiological perspective within the singing mechanism,  are you aware of all the micro-shifts and metabolic changes?  Do you know how to access it fully,  freely without issue?  Is your talent easily summoned without restraint,  at will,  because your technical behavior is so ingrained it needs nothing more?

 If you say you are an artist,  or a performer,  then your craft DEMANDS study, observation, changes, adjustments, tweaking, and an honest and true place to explore.

Take on the study - and commit to the lifelong exploration that allows you to access YOU!

Sunday, May 28, 2017

What's in your book?

So,  what's in your audition book?


Where are you?

Why are you?

Who are you?

The audition book,  regardless of your genre - Music Theatre or Opera - is an important part of what you are doing.  It will morph and adjust as YOU do.

I see the excuses "my book is such a mess" regularly.

I see the automatic pilot "but I need this for xyz"  regularly.

I am daring you to re-think ALL of this!!

Look at your audition book as your closet.

Some of us are packrats and can't let go of things;
Some of us wear things that are too old,  too big,  too small,  too last season...
Some of us just keep putting stuff in that closet and can't find anything.

See where I am heading with this?

The audition book should,  first and foremost,  reflect where you ARE.

What are you able to DO vocally and dramatically?
Where is your voice NOW?
What roles would you be considered for NOW?
What do you want to reveal about YOU right now?

Little secret:  nobody does YOU better than YOU.  So it's up to you to find out what that is.

Another little secret:  YOU is constantly morphing so your audition book needs to catch up with that!

When you leave your Music Theatre program your book weighs about 8,000 pounds and you have every possible genre/sub-genre in a 16 and 32 bar cut.  Why?  Because you were in school and you had learn about all of it!!!

When you are in your undergrad/grad studies as a classical singer and you are on a Young Artists Program track,  your audition book will have at least 5 languages and many eras of opera and art song contained.  Why?  Because you were in school and you are still determining your fach!

So,  where are you now?

Are you becoming an emerging professional?  Are you beginning to be seen and auditioning for professional work?

Guess what?  The audition book has to change.

What is your technique ready to handle NOW?  the audition book has to change.

What roles are you ready to take on NOW? the audition book has to change.

What do you actually DO well?  the audition book has to change.

What do you want them to see about you in the room?  the audition book has to change.

What do you actually LOVE SINGING?  the audition book has to change.

Scary?  sure.

Liberating?  absolutely.

It is up to YOU to figure out where you are and how you reveal that in the room.

Holding onto that 8,000 pound book or "my 5 in 5 languages" either says you are still there or says you don't know where you are now.

Time to clean out that book and start fresh.

In Music Theatre,  all the coaches and conductors I know and respect say you often only need 6 - 8 songs in your book.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Why?  Because you aren't going to be right for every genre/sub-genre of theatre.  You need to be aware of them,  but you don't need to waste your time and theirs by going into an audition you simply aren't right for.

You are not going to audition for everything.  You need to figure out what you are best suited for vocally,  technically and dramatically and concentrate on THAT.

What are you going to be hired to do?  What can you reveal in the room that you DO?  Find those songs that reveal that.  Find those song that have multi-purpose so you can change your dramatic intention and make it work for another call,  or choose to reveal something more specific or different to give the repertoire an opportunity to be multi-functional.

"Yes, but I need an operetta piece."  Why? Are you going to sing operetta?
"Yes, but I need an R&B piece."  Why?  Are you an authentically charged R&B singer?

See where I am heading here?

You need to know WHAT YOU DO WELL.  RIGHT NOW. Not what you wish you did.  Now what you'd like to do.  You need to do YOU.

No wishing, hoping, wannabe...

You have to figure out what you do.  Vocally,  technically,  dramatically,  physically,  emotionally,  psychically.

If you don't know why you are doing what you are doing,  then you are simply back in school jumping the hoops and not creating a professional mindset that you need.

That reads in the room.

When you are asked "what else do you have?" that question is often to find out more about what YOU DO.  It doesn't mean they want something else that is show specific.  Or,  it could mean,  what you just offered didn't reveal anything authentic and they want to know if you really know how to do YOU.

Quit trying to please, to second guess,  to "cover all the bases" and never really reveal yourself and what you do well.

In opera,  same things apply.

Do you know what you DO?  Does your repertoire reflect that?

If you sing Mozart brilliantly and could sing those roles forever then why aren't you offering it?

If you are a bel canto singer,  why don't have you have THAT in your book?

If you aren't any good at modern opera and dislike it,  why are you offering it?

"But I need a German aria..."  Why?  Are you going to be offered a German role?  Are you sure?

"...and there just isn't a lot for my voice."  Doesn't that answer things for you?

What do you love to sing?  What roles and basic fach are you living in right now?  What are you going to get considered for,  or hired for NOW?

If you are past the YAP then lose the mentality and claim your new emerging professional focus.  You aren't a "baby" fach anymore - you need to reveal what you DO.  What you LOVE.  What you can inhabit fully without reserve or technical difficulty.  We want to see YOU embody the aria,  and the joy that allows!  We want to see your list in an audition that reveals what you do right now,  in fach, voice, in technique,  in dramatic embodiment. If you have 3 Italians, and 2 moderns in English, so be it!!! That's what you DO!

So,  give yourself a minute.  Take a breath.  Sit down and begin to really focus in on what you do,  what you love,  what you choose to reveal and why.

Then begin to go through that book and ask yourself why it's there.  If it doesn't reveal anything authentic about you, if it doesn't give you joy,  if it is a struggle,  or a "have to",  or even a "meh" - toss it.  And if you have anxiety about tossing,  then put it in the "other" binder.

Your audition book will be lighter.  It will reveal room for something new,  something more real,  something more you.  It gives you permission to explore what else you can add,  or maybe what doesn't need to be added in.

Suddenly there's more clarity.  It may mean more focus about what you actually DO instead of just jumping hoops.  It may mean it's time to work on your technique and get some clarity there.  It may mean some dramatic work.  It may mean something else.  It may create confusion which is an opportunity to grow and find the right clarity for now.

So what's in your book?  Why?
What does it reveal about YOU?

Start your spring cleaning and see what possibilities you come up with!!!

Don't dread it - look at it as an opportunity to grow and become and discover.

Only YOU can DO you.  I dare you.