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.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

I am returning to the Laurie Beechman Theatre in April

after a sold out performance in November, to public and critical acclaim,  I will be returning
to the Laurie Beechman Theatre,  at the West Bank Cafe in APRIL!

"WHY?"  returns THURSDAY APRIL 13, 2017 at 7 p.m.

Laurie Beechman Theatre, West Bank Cafe

directed by Trent Armand Kendall
music direction by Steven Ray Watkins
bass, John Miller
drums, Don Kelly

tickets available NOW

Join us!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Can't, Don't, Won't

welcome to March!

Auditions are in full swing in the Music Theatre community...
Auditions continue in the Operatic community....

It can be a very busy and overwhelming time of year.

How are you doing?

This is the time of year I often re-visit how I am talking to myself,  as I see all kinds of psyches in the studio!  I see the can't, the don't, and the won't...

As artists,  we have an incredible ability to self-doubt.  That's not a criticism, it's an observation, because I DO IT TOO.  Self-doubt doesn't have to be a negative:  it gives us permission to find more, and achieve more, and push ourselves to reveal more, if we allow the doubt to motivate us, not debilitate us.

Our "self-talk" is crucial and it also it important to acknowledge it and see if it needs tweaking or changing.  Behavior can't be "stopped",  but it can be replaced.

Deciding how we are going to self-speak without delusion  (WAAAAAY above my pay grade) is always an important discussion.

What are you saying to yourself?  What are you saying out loud?  What do others hear?

As I challenge myself,  I challenge every singer that walks in the studio with their self-language.  We often don't realize how we self-sabotage just with a word which then becomes a thought, which then becomes a behavior,  which then gets in our way.

How many of us have been told to get out of our own way?  Hmmmm.

"Can't" easily is an excuse.  Remember, this is not exclusive,  but more a way to discover HOW you speak to yourself and when it happens, and why it happens.

"I can't get out of bed to get to that audition call."

Well, unless you are sick or dying,  yes you can.  CAN'T is the excuse of something else.

Maybe you don't want to.  Maybe you're exhausted.  Maybe you're scared.  Maybe you're confused.

What would happen if you took a step away from "can't" and got to the crux?

"I can get out of bed,  but I don't want to."


Do you HAVE to?  Is there something that relying on you to DO that task?

Each statement reveals another question that gets you to the real answer that you need to claim and then DO something with.

"I can't learn all this music."  

"I can't decide what to sing."

"I can't decide what to wear."

Unless you honestly CANNOT,  this is stress management talking.

That's okay.  We ALL DO IT.  Move past the "can't" to figure out why that word?

As you move past "can't"  we get to "don't".

"I don't wanna."

okay - that's honest enough.  But, WHY?  Never settle for the can't, don't, won't.  Figure out why the dismissal.

"I don't have time."   "I don't have the money."  "I don't have the aria/song prepared."  "I don't...xzy"

Why don't you?  And you cannot answer with "can't"!!

Do you WANT to?  If your answer is no,  then that is something you can work with to find out what you want and what you DO have time/money/energy/passion for!  If the answer is yes,  then what is in your way for that time/money/preparation/action/energy/passion?


"I won't audition for them again."
"I won't sing that again."
"I won't use that monologue."
"I won't..."

Again,  why?  "Won't"  is beginning to claim a decision.  A decision can be unconscious but if you say it out loud, it becomes conscious.  When the conscious CHOICE allows you to create a boundary that is positive,  "won't" works if you know why.  When you know why,  you can claim the choice and create a behavior that replaces the one you aren't going to do again!

Our vocabulary reveals much about where we are.  It's not always easy to look into that particular mirror,  but if we choose to explore the artistic nature of who we are, and if we choose to embark on the passive/aggressive love affair of the business of show,  then we must DEMAND of ourselves that check in, and that honesty.  It isn't about being hard on yourself;  it is about being HONEST.  The honesty can be tough,  but it will give us direction and clarity.

That doesn't mean if you self-speak light, love and glitter bombs that you are being honest with yourself either!   Stress management and delusion live on either side of the veil.  The truth is somewhere in the middle.

I can't....why?  Answer it immediately so there's no time to meddle.  Then continue to riddle it through to a logical end for that question,  on that day.

I don't...why?

I won't...why?

These words need to be there for each of us to find our boundaries and our behaviors.

Claim them;  answer them;  laugh at them;  take a big breath and DO YOU.

Sometimes it turns into:

I can...
I do...
I will....

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The singer neurosis

What is the singer neurosis?

If I truly knew the answer to that,  I would be living in a villa in the south of France!

I am not a medical doctor and the truth of neurosis is well above my pay grade,  however, as a teacher of voice and a singer, I am very aware of what I shall call "the singer neurosis".

here a definition of Neurosis from the dictionary:

1. a functional disorder in which feelings of anxiety, obsessional thoughts, compulsive acts, and physicalcomplaints without objective evidence of disease, in various degreesand patterns, dominate the personality.
2. a relatively mild personality disorder typified by excessive anxiety orindecision and a degree of social or interpersonal maladjustment.

Again,  I have no medical degree, but I do deal with the neurosis of the singer daily.

For those singers who truly have psychological issues larger than what a voice teacher can handle,  this is a disorder that needs medical attention.

HOWEVER,  a mild case of neurosis as a singer is not uncommon!

We hear, or have said at some point in our singer life, a we clutch our throats wrapped in a large scarf,  "there is something wrong with my voice!"  or  "Where has my voice gone?"  or  "I have phlegm, or dryness, or post nasal drop,  I cannot possibly sing!"

A friend and colleague who has often collaborated with me on the piano and conducted me,  told me the story of the singer walking onto stage with her pianist saying "darling, my voice is feeling a little fatigued, can we take the recital down a tone today?"  To which the pianist replied,  "Of course Diva,  your wish is my command."  (insert eye roll here)  and commenced to play the recital in the keys that were on the page.  She didn't know the difference, and of course, sang perfectly well.

Ah, the singer neurosis.

We have developed an over-ripe stereotype because of it.  We need to own it and discover WHY.

I am not making excuses for it at all,  nor am I simplifying real psychological issues,  but part of the issue is simply this:

As singers,  we have to discover how we embody INTANGIBLES.  This is where the basic neurosis can be linked.  Intangibles.

We do not have the luxury of looking into the mirror,  making an adjustment and continuing to dance.

We do not have the luxury of having our instrument on the outside,  so when things aren't working we can tighten or loosen a string,  use some rosin,  change a mouthpiece or reed,  or simply stand up and walk away until we are in a better head space!

We work in intangibles:  breath,  and vibration.  We work with a physical athleticism that is intrinsically impossible to see while working.  We cannot simply stand up and walk away or replace a string, or a reed or add some rosin.  We somehow have to take all those intangibles and discover how to make it tangible without getting so emotionally involved that we cannot function.

That's our job.

That's what we have to work out.

How do we discover this intangible/intangible and intertwine it with craft and mind and thought without it driving us insane?

I share with you how I speak about things:

The voice herself/himself (and I speak of the voice in 3rd person to not involve self ego/self sabotage) is FINE.  Where she/he chooses to RESIDE (your physicality) is not always optimal.

So what is our job?  Discover the FUNCTION of the physicality.  Allow for the tangibility of that physicality and why it works or what it needs to work optimally so the voice can move in, and feel like it can reside fully.

WHY isn't the voice working?  That's for YOU to discover and if the focus is physical first - your emotional energy doesn't have to get involved in the production.

The body is your instrument.  The sound and the resonance and the breath is shaped by how you use your body.  The focus then needs to be on discovering how to access that body,  intrinsically and extrinsically. 

I often ask singers,  not what they want to change or fix,  but rather,  what they love about their voice.  This is most often met with hesitation,  shyness,  and sometimes wariness and excuses.

Why?  Just like body image,  we often can great a litany of reasons and a list of things we dislike/want to change/don't understand,  but we are not often allowed to speak about what actually gives us joy when it feels good!

This does not give you license to be delusional!  However,  it does give you permission to slow down and discover when things are working,  what is actually happening!!

So,  don't blame your neurosis on "being a singer".  I don't buy it.

Yes,  the discovery of intangibles can be daunting.  Yes, it takes more work.  Yes, it takes time.  Yes, it takes commitment.

If you say you are a singer,  then I dare you to BE one.  Don't fall for the stereotype and let that define you.  Let YOU define you.  Dare yourself to discover your physical function and let the intangibles have a real place to reside and be discovered consistently.

Dare to fight the singer neurosis just by knowing what you are doing,  instead of making excuses for what you don't know, while pretending that you are.

SING because you MUST.