Sunday, August 28, 2016

Putting yourself in the best light!

It's nearing the end of summer...shhhhh....

Many are in denial but there is an excitement that the fall season brings.  I won't lie:  fall is my favorite season.

So enjoy these last few days before the schedule shifts, and the evenings hopefully get a little cooler, and you have time to re-assess how you want to be seen!

How do you put yourself in the best light?

I was asked by Classical Singer Magazine to adjudicate some of the singers who applied to participate in their first Online Voice Competition.

Obviously,  the competition is working out its kinks as to how to make this idea work effectively, but for a first time, it was very successful.

However,  what was disappointing as an adjudicator is how many singers simply didn't put themselves in the best light in their recording process.

My colleague, Claudia Friedlander, graciously sent me the Carnegie Hall Musical Exchange guidelines for Joyce DiDonato's masterclass series.  You can peruse it here.

For an online competition,  however,  may I suggest some things for you to consider to put yourself in the best light to be seen and heard?  These are observations,  and in our new digital age,  we are constantly learning together!

First, you do not need fancy equipment to record with.  You just need your smartphone.   Look to see what the requirements are - some competitions do not want additional microphone attachments.  Follow the guidelines.

If there is an option between a video and an audio - ALWAYS choose video.  Why?  We want to SEE you.  You are a singing actor - the story telling, the technical behavior resides in your body.  As an adjudicator,  I want to see you!

Do NOT send in a clip of a live performance.  Make this specific for the competition you are submitting for.  We don't want to see an audience member filming you between people's heads where you are not front and center in the frame!  There should be NO distractions.

Please use live piano.  This should be a LIVE recording.  Pre-recorded tracks do you NO favors.

Learn how, or get someone to edit the recording for you.  You don't want to walk in and out of the frame and send that in.  When the video opens, it should be YOU in the frame prepared to slate your name and what you are singing,  or giving yourself those few seconds to let your name/selection come up on the screen if you are really fancy and can add that feature to your finished product.

Where should you record?  Somewhere with a piano that isn't cluttered.  Again, too much distraction doesn't let us stay focused on YOU.  The piano/pianist does not need to be in the frame.  This is about YOU delivering the performance.  You don't want the focus to be so tight that all we see if your head - we want to see how you gesture and use your body.  Full body,  or 3/4 length is fine.

Make sure you don't cut off the top of your head in the frame.  Seriously.

Try to use a neutral wall/space behind you if possible.  Stand away from it - not against it.

Wear clothes and colors that enhance you!  Dress as you would for an audition:  no props, no costumes.

Get your hair off your face so we can SEE you!

Make sure the literal lighting doesn't create shadows on your face.

Give yourself a 5 second count before you start and after you finish so the recording isn't cramped or clipped.

Don't get someone to record by holding your device - even the most steady hand can get a little wobbly!  Create a flat surface that captures you comfortably.

Don't start walking around.  You aren't blocking,  you are presenting an audition-like video.  If you are moving in and out of the video frame,  this doesn't work.  If someone is working your camera for you, (as in, pressing "record" and "stop"),  they shouldn't be shifting it around to find you.  STAY PUT and know the perimeters of space you are working in so you don't wander out of the frame.

If you aren't used to doing this - practice!  Just start recording yourself regularly - so you get to know what your camera does,  what height you want your recording device to be at,  how far away/close up can it be so it captures as much of you as necessary,  what colors look good on camera,  what your "ticks" are - over-gesturing, shifting your weight,  looking down, looking up - so you can learn HOW to be in the frame and in your best light!

As an adjudicator,  I want to see and hear the best YOU - and not see possible potential that just wasn't captured due to a poor recording,  or not knowing what is expected in a general audition/competition.

Reveal yourself in the most professional way you can. We are all in your corner, but we can't do it for you.

Start researching,  start watching,  just start experimenting to see what you can do.

I am a techno-idiot, so if I can do it well,  so can you!

Put yourself in the best light you can!

Saturday, August 6, 2016


I am going to do LIVE VIDEO on Facebook tomorrow at 12 noon EST!

Join me on my profile and follow me:

Bring your cup of coffee or your brunch mimosa and let's talk a little voice and promote what YOU are up to!

Join me on my STUDIO FACEBOOK PAGE too:

and find me on Twitter at:

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.