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.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Inhabiting Your Craft

Happy Sunday!  Happy April!

I was tagged in a post on Facebook this morning...which got me to thinking...

The post was very complimentary: “…XYZ is a wonderful actress…BUT, her voice needs the tender and intelligent ministrations of SEY.  Her voice is in pieces - you could hear her move from one register to the next, and the “high” notes would crack in between.  It was painful to hear.”

I thank the person who wrote this - I am honored.  And it broke my heart. 

Why do we do this to ourselves?  Why do we neglect or reject a portion of our craft, thinking or hoping or praying, that another aspect will make up for it?

It breaks my heart for many reasons.  One is personal.  I have done this.  I have relied on my acting intelligence when my voice was a mess.  I knew it was a mess.  I knew WHY it was a mess.  I was stubborn (my best and worst trait!) and made myself get through.  Did it work dramatically?  Yes.  Did it work vocally?  Oh hell no.  Was it reliable?  absolutely not.  Was I in survival mode only?  Pretty much.

So, I get it.  I get it more than you will ever know.

This is why I am vehement as a teacher to try to instill the absolute NECESSITY of CRAFT.How does one inhabit one's own craft?What does it demand of you?What does it reveal about you?These are the big questions we have to be strong enough,  stubborn enough,  willful enough,  to ask - and then to ANSWER.

It directs us from opposites.  The "actor" feels the story telling is enough to mask the lack of vocal development.  The "singer" feels the voce will supersede any flaws that the lack of acting intelligence may have.

WRONG.Both, and I do mean, BOTH are crucial to truly inhabiting your craft.

It doesn't matter what genre you are in - music theatre, opera and all its manifestations - CRAFT is CRUCIAL in order to fully inhabit what you say you do and who you say you are.

FEAR is a big obstacle.  I get that.  The "but what if..."  can often be truly in the way.  But what if I can't?  Hey,  but what if you CAN?What scares you?  failing?  or succeeding?

So what are you doing to inhabit your craft?  Where are the weak spots?  Are you just doing a patch job, or are you truly looking at it objectively and seeing it fully - big picture - and are you ready to work on the overhaul?

Craft as a singing actor is CONSTANT.  We work,  we discover, we hone, we physicalize,  we gestate,  we incubate,  we "ah-ha!",  we create behavior,  we create consciousness,  we observe,  we step away,  we internalize,  we materialize...

It's a lot.  It is.  I know that.  But we MUST.  We must honor the craft we say we do.  

I see great actors simply not discovering what they can do for a HEALTHY singing voice.  That's a choice.  A choice NOT to.   We see all their commitment into their acting craft,  and even their SPEAKING voices - but then not what is needed to sing with the same level of authenticity.  The study and discovery has to happen in order to create a fully realized characterization.  The voice doesn't have to be amazing.  An actor who sings may not have a beautiful voice,  but they can create beautiful technical behavior to access what they DO have,  and access their talent at will.

Study doesn't just happen when you book a show.  Study happens in the in-between.  However, when you BOOK,  you better be studying in order to have that 2nd set of ears and eyes keeping you healthy in order to do your work!  The maintenance is KEY.  Maintenance cannot happen if the behavior has not been achieved.

The same goes for singers who act.  I have heard incredible voices and as soon as I see them on stage - I can't watch.  They are awkward.  They have no idea what to do with their bodies,  how to move,  how to physicalize their voices with any dramatic choice.  We lose how magnificent the voice is,  because we SEE the awkwardness or the self-involvement with the SOUND and the craft of acting doesn't exist.  A character is not realized.  This isn't inhabiting the fullness of craft either.

With both singing and acting -  you must look at each specifically before you can integrate fully.  You need to discover the physical behavior of EACH in order to embody BOTH.

"It's good enough" my darlings, is bullshit.  It's your stress management talking.  Trust me, been there, done that, have the tattoo.

Inhabiting your craft takes time,  perseverance,  tenacity,  stubbornness,  willingness,  desire,  passion and drive.  

It's not over till it's over.  It will be enough when you aren't over thinking and overcompensating and aren't making excuses for something.  And then,  the muses will reveal what more you can do!Inhabit because you MUST.  

Your craft demands all of you.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Exploring the Consciousness of the Body

No matter the level of study or development you are, I hope you have a teacher you check in with regularly that has a strong understanding in the physical instrument.

What we all need to do, on a regular basis, is check in on that physical function of our fully body instrument. In other words, the ABCs.

We can do some of it ourselves, as we become more aware of what to watch for and observe, and then having a teacher who can diagnose or re-adjust what you cannot see or sense is crucial for keeping the physicality aware and awake for your voice to find an authentic place to reside!

Observing these tangible elements is really an ongoing and daily practice for those who are pursuing craft effectively!

1.    Body Posture

How are you moving? How are you standing or sitting while you speak? Where is there hyper-extension? Is there slumping or compression? Any locked spots? Any pressure spots?
2. Energy Centre

What position of energy do you "lead" from? High in the chest wall? Collapsed through the solar plexus? Compressed or pressed through the pelvis?

3.    Head/Neck/Jaw

We deal with what has been referred to “text neck” as a general issue in our current smart phone society. Is the head balanced on a long neck or does it push forward? Is there chin tucking or jutting forward? Is the jaw tight? Is the speaking voice in fry or is in buoyant? Is there range of motion in the complexity of the neck muscles or is there compression?
4.   Singing Posture

As you begin to vocalize, how is your posture affected? How is the breath engaged? Is there ease or are you struggling?
5.    The Breath

How are you accessing the breath? Can you find ways of engaging more elasticity in the body in order for the breath to have more buoyancy and release without adding voice or vibration to it yet?
6.    Body Basics

As you engage breath movement with the voice, how is your body responding to the athleticism of those intangibles? Is there fatigue? compression? tightness? collapse? grip?

7.     Voice Onset

What happens on the onset of the voice? Are you paying attention to that initial and crucial onset for balance?

As a teacher, I am paying attention to ALL of this with every singer when they walk in. As a singer, I am paying attention to all of this when I begin to stretch and workout my body, breath, and voice during a practice session.
In the study of voice, one size does NOT fit all. We have to learn to recognize where we are and begin there. Learning to observe without criticism (!!) gives us permission to not judge and simply recognize the habits and behaviors that are not always conscious. This can then lead to more conscious CHOICE of changing habits and behaviors to better serve us.

Consciousness.  Awareness.  Willingness.  Clarity.  Focus.  Pliability.

All of these are crucial to the singer, as well as the teacher, in order to discover what you need on any given day.