Monday, July 4, 2016

What Does a Singer Need?

Happy 4th of July to all of you who celebrate!

As we enter the lazy days of summer,  it can be a great time to re-evaluate,  to re-negotiate,  to re-discover what you need,  what you want,  what your goals are for the upcoming season,  what you want to achieve through the summer.

So what does a singer NEED in order to create an environment to learn, to develop & to succeed in their development?

Talent aside,  there are many other things that can be more tangible or realized.

Talent is nothing without development.  Potential sucks if it's not developed.

What do you need?

A burning desire to sing.  Not a plan B or C;  not an excuse;  not a "yeah, but";  Just a simple burning desire to sing because that it was gives you a sense of yourself like no other.

You need to WANT to sing.  You need to WANT to learn that role, that song, that aria.  You cannot WAIT to throw yourself into the learning process because to sing is to be alive.

A capacity for major doses of reality.  The DESIRE is fueled by this.  You have to know what you are capable of doing and why;  and what you are not ready to do,  may never do,  and why not.

Do you know what it will take to pursue a career?  Are you ready to commit to that?  What are you ready and willing and able to commit to?  What can you glean from that commitment?

Knowledge is power,  and power is knowing.  The singer must have both and recognize that the balance of the two is constantly in flux.

AWARENESS is key.   Where am I?  What can I do?  What am I willing to do?  How do I make that work to achieve my goals?  Are my goals realistic to my talent, my desire, my tenacity, my commitment?  If not,  how do my goals shift in order to make my choices more realistic?

What are my priorities?  Do they line up with what I want or say I want or do they reveal something more important that I need to pursue or acknowledge?

Are you aware of your own psychology?  Are you clear what it represents?

Are you aware of your emotional and mental strengths, and even more importantly, your weaknesses?  Do you know how to develop your sense of self awareness?
Do you acknowledge self-doubt?  Self-sabotage?
Do you recognize what you need to do to move through it?

Are you willing to take responsibility for your emotional life in order to be healthy enough to explore a professional life as a singer?  What are you doing to achieve that goal?

Find a mentor.  Find that person that is willing to invest in you and challenge you.  A mentor will hold up a mirror to give you permission to see what needs to be seen.  They will help you continue to ask the questions in order to discover some answers, and probably some more questions.  They are not there to enable,  to tell you what you want to hear, but rather, to encourage,  and create an environment safe enough to hear what you NEED to hear and help you find ways to DO something about it.

I think mentoring is like reality training in a safe environment.

As singers,  as human beings,  we need this desperately.

What else do you need?

A solid,  unrelenting work ethic.

A focused consistency.

An unapologetic self-discipline.

The ability to laugh at yourself but always take the work seriously.

The ability to forgive yourself.

The emotional and psychological fortitude to say "no".

The emotional and psychological fortitude to ask "why".

The self-discipline to take a day off and not feel guilty.

The self-discipline to get back to work,  even when the obstacles take your breath away.

The desire and focus to always follow through.  ALWAYS.

So,  what are you working on?  What do you need?  What are you willing to do to acknowledge it,  and develop it and find more of it?

Nothing is promised,  but you have RIGHT NOW to make some choices that will allow you to find your "next".

Happy discovering!!

Saturday, July 2, 2016

All the feels

happy Canada Day yesterday,  happy 4th of July coming up!

As summer moves into the lazy days - it gives time to reflect and ponder...

One of the ongoing questions I ask myself and my singers is this:

How does your voice make you FEEL?

How do you FEEL about your voice?

Sometimes we are so busy PURSUING,  so focused on DOING,  so caught up in the HAVE TO, that we forget about how it FEELS.

How does it FEEL to sing?

How do I FEEL when I sing?

Does my voice feel like me?  What is that?  Can it inhabit my physical behavior or is it faking?

Is it my voice?  Am I mimicking? Am I pretending?

Can I summon my voice at will or does it just do its own thing under pressure?  Good, bad or indifferent?

So many thoughts,  so many feelings.

Guess what?  No value judgment on feelings.  They ARE.  What you DO with them is then crucial and how you put that energy into motion.

How you feel about your voice,  reveals your psychology.  And the psychology is constantly morphing, so tapping into your feelings is crucial here.

All the stereotypes of voice come from a kernel of truth about a psychology.  Stereotypes are then over-developed and often satirized,  but the reason we laugh is because there is truth in there somewhere.

What IS that truth for you and how do you give it agency in order to develop fully and not become a stereotype or a cartoon character?

How do you feel?

Your voice might give you different feelings depending on the repertoire you are singing;  depending on the area of the voice you are singing in;  depending on the genre you are singing;


Discover the difference between the FEELING and the description of your voice.  Don't worry about what it is doing,  how it is behaving,  what you want to change,  excuses etc:  how does it make you FEEL?

ALL the feels.

We often forget, or don't develop the honesty and truth about how we FEEL about our voice.

Go slowly...if it's a new concept,  and I really think it's just an underdeveloped one,  you don't want to overwhelm yourself.  Go from the general to the specific.  Notice when you start to describe your voice instead of acknowledging the FEELING it evokes in you.

Feelings then will reveal the psychology that you truly have to inhabit in order to allow the behavior of your voice to become honestly authentic.

Or,  acknowledging the psychology will give your feelings an honest place to reveal themselves in order for you to accept,  relish, explore and get excited about your voice and recognize the feelings it evokes.

There is no right or wrong;  no value judgment;  just your truth - should you seek it out.

Those singers who truly touch us,  are willing and able to access the feeling,  the psychology and the behavior.  They make no excuses.  They just DO.

Start wherever you are.  Be there fully.  Feel it.  It's safe to go there because it's going to reveal YOU to YOU.  That's more important than anything else.

Feeling just has to be real.  Real is what you choose to reveal. TO YOU.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

a little status goes a long way!

A little status can go a long way!

I often "live post" during award shows on FB/Twitter.

This Tony season was no different.  I am always thrilled when something I say resonates with a follower/reader but I wasn't ready for response from a status that night.  Not only was it "liked" over 3K,  it was shared and shared and shared.

The words had obviously hit a chord (no pun intended, and fyi, vocal CORD has no "h" - but I digress...)

Here was the post:

To you, Singers/Actors coming to NYC to pursue theatre who have been told by your schools that if you don't "make it" before you're 25, you are done: do you SEE these Tonys? Do you SEE how the craft takes time? Do you see the actors OVER 50 winning & being nominated that have spent a lifetime pursuing craft, not fame? This is theatre. Relax. Enjoy the journey.

You see, this year's Tonys really showed diversity,  not just in ethnicity, but in AGE.  All the leading & supporting acting categories were won by actors OVER 60!!!!

And, with the exception of Cynthia Erivo,  all the musical winners were not just actor/singers of color, they are all mid30s-mid40s!

So, what was it about THIS status that resonated?  

Was it the fear of not doing enough?

Was it the realization that what may have been told to you,  directly or indirectly,  from an institution you have attended,  or a teacher or a coach,  was wrong or at the least, was misleading?

Or was it the permission to just enjoy the journey of your craft instead of pushing, fighting, and losing the joy?

Honestly,  I have no idea.  I just speak the truth as I see it,  as I feel it,  and as I have experienced it.

That status was, and is the truth.

Perhaps it was simply because it was TRUTH that it resonated.

I believe that all of us just simply need PERMISSION.   We just need simple permission to BE.  When that permission is reinforced by an outside source,  it allows us to breathe,  to smile,  to take a step back and observe.

As a teacher,  I meet many young performers in NYC and elsewhere, with stars in their eyes and dreams in their minds,  hoping for a chance to be on stage.  I love that optimism and that youth-inspired energy!

However, as a performer most of my life and as a teacher for about 30 years,  I know that lack of experience needs to be focused and not trampled.  I know how hard the business is.  I see the hardship,  the expectations,  the fatigue,  the unawareness,  the push,  the try,  the frustration.  I see the glitter rubbed off,  and the stars get rubbed away.

However,  I also see those who then decide they will LEARN what it means to be an actor.  They will LEARN what it means to be a singer.  I see who commits to the process and who does not.  

Committing to the dream is only the first step;  committing to the work to inhabit the dream is quite another and it's not for everybody.  

Committing to craft to "become" takes time,  takes patience,  takes stubbornness,  takes awareness, takes absolute,  unrelenting guts and focus.  

The journey is a lifetime.  It's not a race to see who gets there first.  It's not an expiration date.

Recognition of your presence as an artist in the business,  takes time.  You build that recognition with your work,  with your consistency,  with your growth.

The journey often reveals the time to "recover" and take unplugged time and space for yourself.  "Go go go" does not necessarily make a well developed artist nor a strong craft.

The journey has different speeds and many directions.  It demands you to stay present to allow the speed and direction to reveal itself fully to you.  By staying present,  if that speed and/or direction changes, you won't miss it!

When you buckle up for a flight,  the pilot will come on over the intercom and give you a sense of length and altitude and approximate flight plan;  then he/she says "so sit back, relax & enjoy your flight."

So, before panic completely freezes you,  before "I must" takes over your brain and spirit on a loop that is insanity,  why not take a breath,  and release it?  Why not sit back and observe?  Why not relax into this journey called craft and see where it wants to lead?  

We can choose to feel this choice a burden,  or we can choose to explore the possibilities and enjoy it!

The script is being written as you move into these possibilities;  YOUR possibilities.

Don't write the script before you have fully committed to NOW.  The script is simply a first draft - just commit to re-writes as needed and demanded!  

Theatre isn't going anywhere.  It will be there when your journey leads you to it.  

Theatre is about living, breathing,  morphing,  evolving craft. 

Theatre is about timelessness and mindfulness.  

Theatre is about community.

Theatre has no expiry date.

Theatre simply IS.

The craft of theatre is not fame - it is a sense of inhabiting one's work.

And on Father's Day,  I leave you with  my Dad's words: "We are never finished.  There is always more we can do.  But to be content in our lives & in our work,  THAT  is the key."

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Which path is it again?

Happy Mother's Day!

I am not staying very active here as of late,  my apologies.

After awhile,  I feel I am repeating myself, and who needs that?!

However, I suppose certain things need repeating, in slightly different ways, to continue to stimulate the thought process and activate the self in the moment.

So,  which path am I on again?

Oh, right:  MINE.

Wouldn't it be great to KNOW that path a little more fully?

Wouldn't it be great to be excited to be on that path all the time?

Let's be honest:  some days you wonder why you are HERE and someone else is over THERE.  Why are THEY booking and I am not?  Why am I frustrated?  Why can't I do what they are doing?

We all do it;  we've all done it.

First,  acknowledge the frustration, the confusion,  the annoyances.  Acknowledge the un-fair-ness of it all (and as my dad said many times: who said it was going to be fair?)

Get that negative annoyance out of your sphere.  Acknowledge it,  stomp your feet, whine, do what you need to scream at it,  and then let it go.  Release it,  wipe your nose,  take a deep breath and STOP.


Because that path isn't yours.  When you start looking over at someone else's path - you aren't focused on your own.  When you aren't focused on your own, you are going to miss an amazing and very important discovery that might not come back to you.

Focusing on your path doesn't mean you become a narcissistic asshole.  Acknowledge and respect another's path.  Rejoice in it, in fact.  Be aware of those around you.  And then RELEASE THEM.

Your path is your path and ONLY your path.  Just as theirs is theirs.

Re-focus on where you are.  Not on where you think you should be;  or where you would like to be;  Be exactly where you are.

I don't believe you shouldn't look back to see how far you've come.  I believe you SHOULD be aware and give yourself that credit in order to fully claim the NOW.

How did you get here?  What is here, exactly?  How have you fashioned and shaped the NOW?

What do you know?  What have you learned?  What will you NOT do moving forward, (so it doesn't pull you backward),  and even more importantly,  what WILL you do in order to move forward?

I am list person.  It helps me organize the many tabs open in my mind at all times!

If it helps to write it down or type it out so you can SEE and READ what brings you to this point, then do it.   It can help to simplify and clarity very quickly.  It is often too easy, when frustrated, to paint in a broad & often self-deprecating, brush.  Now is the time to discover the detail of your path and what will pivot you forward.

But acknowledging fully what you have done to get this point from a linear point in time - say, last year at this time - will allow you to be still,  focus on YOU, and re-claim precisely where you are.

By re-claiming,  you acknowledge your path.  Which path?  YOURS.

That path that  is walked by no one but you.  That path that has never been walked before.  You get to discover every nuance, every twist,  every rock and pebble,  and every magnificent discovery!

The Jung quote: "Who looks outside, dreams;  who looks inside, awakens."   speaks to me.  It is always a dance between the two, not one or the other.  The path allows us to dream as we look onward.  Stopping to become aware of where we are,  where we have come from,  awakens us to the possibility,  and to the achievement of NOW.

So, let those around you walk their own path.  Acknowledge they have that responsibility.

Your responsibility is to YOUR path.  It does not need explaining, it simply needs to be acknowledged and claimed.

Dream as you look ahead and awaken as you walk.  See every shift.  Stop to embrace each one - even if it feels like a road block.  That block is on YOUR path.  See it,  and clear it.  Go through it,  around it, under it,  and keep claiming each direction!

Your only competition is your previous self.  The one you released a year ago to be where you are today.   If you have grown,  you have achieved.  Nobody can mimic that or make it theirs.  That is yours and yours alone.

There are no buts,  there just IS.

Dream, awaken,  acknowledge,  breathe,  be still,  move,  re-focus,  create,  and acknowledge that crazy path is YOURS.

You are enough to walk that path.  You are creating it!