Sunday, January 31, 2010


Sunday musings...

What is this thing called professional? Or for that matter, amateur?

There are many differing views, thus the debate. Many believe professional means getting paid for your services. I think that is just part of story...

Professional to me means someone who has attained a certain level of knowledge in his/her craft and artistry and can perform at that level with consistency and accuracy. And oh, wouldn't it be nice to be paid.

Amateur is not up to par yet. It's okay. The "still learning the basics" phase. Haven't had the polishing, practice, and is still a little rough around the edges.

Professionals distinguish themselves through DOING. And in the doing, they ACHIEVE a level which they never drop under.

After watching Miss America last night - which I haven't done for years - it became clear to me that these young women are professionals...professional pageant girls. Their "talents" - amateur at best, sad at worse. Again, amateur in showing what they cannot do yet...which no professional would do - and not realizing the difference.

What can singers learn from this? Singers - YOU out there. Those of you pursuing VOICE in some form of the business whether to have a career or not.

Developing into a professional singer is not your "talent". A professional doesn't just "happen". A professional is willing to invest, sacrifice and do whatever it takes to pour him/herself into one's craft and knowledge and develop it to an ongoing level that can summoned at will and never allowed to drop from.

I had a young person tell me at a music theatre workshop "I have over 500 musical soundtracks and I know the music to all of them - I'm going to be a professional". A professional what? What kind of ears are you listening with? What kind of knowledge do you base your listening on? What are you truly hearing?

Just because you listen doesn't mean you hear.

Just because you say you want to, doesn't mean you can.

Just because you think it so, doesn't make it real.

If everyone is a professional then no one is. If everyone is an artist then no one is.

Our business is full of amateurs who believe they are professionals. Loving something or even being passionate about it doesn't make you a professional. Professional means time, structure, development, commitment, on SO MANY LEVELS to create a craft and artistry that is reliable and true.

Perhaps you are an amateur with great potential. Then I say, realize that potential!!! Do whatever it takes to find it all and claim it all, if that is what you want to do.

I go back to the Miss America pageant - these girls are professionals - they have committed time, structure, money et al, to the craft of being a pageant girl! They are professional pageant girls! Their "talents" however are amateur - due to the nature of their commitment. They learn an arrangement, a song, an aria not particularly well in technical demand, stylistic demand or linguistic demand, find a 90 second track to perform it to and do it. That does not a professional make! It is simply a contestant jumping the hoops.

SO - I come back to the business of singing - be it music theatre or opera or classical.
Will you be the amateur who jumps the hoops to get through the degree/the program? Or will you be something else?

Professionals rise to a further level no matter their talent-base. They recognize what they have and develop it fully. They never stop learning, studying, discovering!

This is a mind-set and way of living one's artistic life. I have seen so many who, after completing a degree, think they are fine and never study again. Never re-new, never re-fresh, never re-plenish.

This is ignorance and fear that is often unconscious. Yet, it is the spirit of the amateur. The amateur IS ignorant/unknowing by the nature of the word!

Perhaps it is recognizing and claiming the SPIRIT of what these words represent.

To an amateur spirit it will always be good enough.

To a professional spirit it will always want to find more.

To an amateur spirit, you are as good as you want to be.

To a professional spirit, you are only as good as your last performance.

To an amateur spirit, the end of the path is desired.

To a professional spirit, the journey of the path is rejoiced.

To an amateur spirit, knowing you need help/guidance is frightening.

To a professional spirit, seeking guidance and knowing when you need help is crucial and welcome.

Can you be an amateur is experience with a professional spirit? yes indeed.
And also, can you be a working professional with an amateur mentality? yes indeed.

Which one has more to say? Which one will outlive the other?

Which one can lead and which one will end up following?

If you are still an amateur - dare yourself to commit to becoming a professional - as an artist. If you don't, then don't pretend. Don't pretend to hide. The irony is you really won't be. You might be able to hide amongst the other amateurs, but if you sit down beside a true professional, you will be revealed immediately.

Professionalism embraces, develops, explores, asks hard questions, finds the journey no matter how uncomfortable, works hard, doesn't expect a handout, is willing to sacrifice, to commit, in order to discover and uncover truth, and in turn, present it with authenticity and without apology or excuse.

If we embrace the SPIRIT of what we say we ARE we have a much better chance of BEING!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Why are you in the studio?

Saturday musings...

every so often, it's good to ask why!!
Because it renews some perspective and helps you re-organize your raison d'etre...or at least reason for being THERE.

So, what are you doing in that studio with that teacher?

Do you know, or are you on automatic pilot and have forgotten?
Are you just spinning your wheels?
Have you a reason that makes sense to both of you?
Is it defined, or murky? Is it goal-oriented or just because?
Is it positive and strong or is it negative and frozen?

A singer-teacher relationship is an unique as the two people standing in front of each other. So it should be! It will be shaped by the personalities and energy between the two, HOWEVER, it is not about the energy, but how that energy informs the WORK that is crucial.

What are you there to DO?
Honesty is crucial. Maybe you don't know. Time to find out!!! Your teacher is not a mind reader - you have to DISCUSS THIS! You have to be on the same page - otherwise you work at cross purposes.

As a teacher it is one of the first questions I ask: why are you here? What can I help you with? I think it's about 50/50 with singers able to answer it and singers who cannot. It's okay either should get you thinking, and DISCOVERING.

The more you can truly claim what you are there to DO and work WITH your teacher to establish that goal, the more your reason becomes tangible and the more chance there is of accomplishing it!

Again, self-honesty is crucial in this process. Your teacher is part of this process. You need to work TOGETHER.

It is up to you to inform yourself, and educate yourself in your REASONS and your REALITIES.

Your lessons in the studio need to be for YOU and for YOUR VOICE and FULL INSTRUMENT and YOUR ARTISTRY. Specific or general, this is primary. The physicality of your voice, the growth and balance of it, and how you gain more understanding, more development and more YOU.

Studio time should not be about drama, about games, about bullshit. Studio time needs to be about WORK. YOUR WORK and YOUR DEVELOPMENT.

Be prepared, be ready and be ABLE to explore it, develop it and claim it!

This is positive, forward momentum in order to achieve realistic goals in your vocal and artistic development.

Knowledge is power. What you do with that knowledge allows you to achieve something real for YOU.

So, why are you there? What are you achieving through discovery, through work? Are you leaving that studio with more confusion, more anxiety, more disillusionment or are you leaving that studio with more clarity, more energy, more goals to pursue, more reality?

Being in the studio is not about "feel good" for the sake of it - but rather asking, determining, discovering and in that realization, leaving with motivation and self-discovery to take through the time between visits!!!

Why are you there? What do you need to change to make that "why" stronger?

Time to assess? Re-assess? Make a change? Make a stronger choice? Make a clearer and more defined goal? Know what is achievable? Know how it is achievable?

Ask the questions...pursue the answers...

Answering "I don't know" is okay too - that's reality. Not knowing should be a momentum to finding the answer then!!!!


Discover the answer!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Task the Self and Challenge the Status Quo!

Friday musings continue...

This is the part 2 of the early entry today...

I am very passionate about knowledge!! I have ALWAYS wanted to know "why". And thus, I continue to task myself, my students and will continue to task in my own little corner, the business about "why".

The answer to "why are things done that way?" cannot simply be, "because that's the way it's been done." That doesn't fly with me.

If we don't task ourselves as artists and performers to be the very best we can be, to live and present with a truth and an integrity, we cannot ask the "why" of the business, nor challenge the business on its reasons, or its lack of them!

The true artists don't whine. THEY GET TO WORK!!! They recognize what time it is, they see what is going on around them, they may not like it, but that are willing TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT! They do not throw up their hands and just let it go. They do not whine and cry and wish and wonder...THEY WORK THROUGH IT!!

The business is not a place of light and illumination!!! The business is just plain messy most of the time! You walk through some deep mud and past some disgusting messes, and the stench of slumming and delusion and pretending and lack of responsibility/integrity/talent/work ethic or anything real is often disgusting, disillusioning and frankly, revolting.

However, we still get to work!! We are willing to recognize it, smell it, and rinse our hands off and move past it so we can get to something REAL - the work of the artist on that theatrical stage!!

So, if you want to whine about the business not doing anything - first you must be WILLING TO TASK YOURSELF. You cannot DEMAND of others without demanding of yourself first. The business is not fair, the business is not always reasonable, and the business is often not knowledgeable about the truth of the artist, or about what the artist does. They are about business. It doesn't make it right - it just is.

That is the truth. Knowledge about the craft and demand of singing, dancing, acting is not abundant on the business side of things. All you need to have experienced is one time in front of a casting director or agent or director who after you've sung something well, says "great, can you belt that?"

Obviously they don't know. Should they know? Of course they should! But most of them do not. They use language they know nothing about. But do YOU know what it means? Do YOU know what is being asked of you? Do YOU know what you can do and what you can't? What is a good idea and what isn't? Can you task yourself enough to stand firmly in place and not be swayed by a stupid request???? Or can't you?

The cookie cutter casting mentality is many-tiered. This is part of the problem. The Casting Director is only one level of this, because they have to answer to something else; who answers to somebody else; who answers to somebody else; follow the money...that is business!

The integrity of the artistry, the craft, the creation of a project is often over-looked to just follow the money. The integrity of an artist is often dismissed because that mirror makes the business uncomfortable. The truth of what an artist can bring to a project can often be ignored when the business is racist, sexist, ageist, size-ist or just plain stupid or ignorant.

However, does that mean we become part of the mire as performers and just say "yes, whatever you say?" Do we become a part of the mud we have to walk through????

Perhaps we are all 'hos' to be in the business - on BOTH sides of the table - but as artists, we have a CHOICE about what KIND of ho we will be!!

Will you risk your integrity for a job? Will you allow a business or another individual an opportunity to devalue you? It is your choice. But trust me, if you allow for your own devaluation, there will be no rising from the ashes. You will be marked. You will be part of the same hypocrisy. (Thank you Godfather 2)

The more we can task ourselves as artists and GET TO WORK ON THAT ARTISTRY and work on what we ARE and what we HAVE and what we NEED TO DO, the more we can challenge that status quo, stand up and be recognized as someone more than a cookie cut out, someone who dares to bring a truth into the room.

This isn't always comfortable. In fact, it can be extremely difficult. But true artists are not about easy or cheap or selling out. True artists are about truth and work and value and lasting. If everybody is an artist, then nobody is. We throw that word around, but are you REALLY what you say you are?

As we task ourselves in our craft, we need to look in the mirror to really begin to see who is there. We need to seek and FIND the knowledge we are looking for in order to DO OUR WORK. Asking for help, for honest response, for clarity - is CRUCIAL to the living theatre! And it is crucial for each artist to recognize WHO they are looking at - and what they need to do with that reality.

And just as artists are tasked with that, and the challenge of making a difference, so should the business be.

The mirror reflects but you must be willing to stand in front of it and actually SEE what is being reflected. Truth is hard to see if the deception to cover it up is too deep.

The business needs to challenge its knowledge and lack of it - about ALL aspects of what it professes to support and be about. Just as the expectation is of the artist not to whine and hide, so should be the expectation of the business.

As the artist tasks him/herself and challenges the cookie cutter mentality of craft, so must the business recognize what it NEEDS to know and dispense with the hypocrisy of ego and learn to challenge its dark side too!

What a concept it would be to hire artists just because they are the BEST for the job!!

Task: self, others and the business. Challenge: self, others and the business. ASK WHY. Demand some truth. Demand some clarity. Be willing to ask and be willing to HEAR IT. And be willing to WORK IT OUT.

Are you Settling or Challenging?

Friday musings...

After the response from "They Only Want to Hear Belters" these thoughts continued...

Are you settling for what "they" are typing? Or are you challenging that? You have the power to challenge it you know - just by COMMITTING TO YOU! And challenging what is known and what is NOT known. (!!)

Many of you have said that being self is great, except "they" don't know what they want, or "they" just want someone who looks/sounds like the person who did the role before...

You have a point! This is the struggle. How do we know what "they" really know? We don't.

However this is my question - when are we, as artists, going to take our business and make it ours????

We have to challenge this cookie cut out process of casting and really step out! Challenge it!

Are you willing to do that? And what does that mean?

Ultimately - it means true dedication to the craft and skill of your talent. THE ULTIMATE DEDICATION. It means honing craft, developing skill, not settling for "good enough" from self, being RUTHLESS with your development and your ability to deliver! It means really developing your talent to its fullest and getting out there and not apologizing for showing it all!

There is always going to be someone better than you. Always. In some way - better voice, better acting skills, better technique, better what do you have that can CHALLENGE???? What do YOU have that is unique and strong and can lead and make people sit up and take notice?

If "they" don't know what they want...then we as artists must show them what they want to hire! We must challenge ourselves and them to see us!!! To be inspired enough to take another look and another view and another possibility...another angle.

We as artists are settling if we only do what is expected. If we are artists, we should never NEVER settle for expectation!!! We should CHALLENGE expectation and GO FURTHER! If we are artists, we are to CHALLENGE EXPECTATIONS and show MORE!!!!

Part of the reason our business has become so "beige" is because we have compromised as a community. We have to stop that. NOW.

We have to ignite the passion of our craft again. We have to find our individuality again. We have to stand for something!!!

We have to bring MORE into that audition than what is show the difference between the people who are slumming in the business and the people who are truly there for the long haul and willing to do the work to be there.

If we settle for cookie cut out - we devalue our craft, our artistry, our business and ourselves. If we challenge ourselves, each other, the business itself - we start to create a fire that will allow for TRUTH to emerge.

Imagine hearing REAL singing informed by the character and the artist embodying that character on that stage ALL THE TIME?????? Imagine hearing well produced voices because the SINGER HAS COMMITTED TO IT FIRST instead of believing "it's good enough"????

Craft takes COMMITMENT. Craft takes TIME. Craft requires and demands TRUTH.

If you settle for less, you will not challenge yourself enough to find your full potential and you will not have enough to say to challenge what the business says either.

If you challenge - in order to discover TRUTH and REALITY - and challenge to push for a higher standard in self and therefore a higher standard in the business - it will allow you to find a more developed artist and an opportunity to be seen!

The business will not change until the artists who inhabit it are willing to INVEST COMPLETELY in challenge of status quo. If you don't fit in the box the business has tried to type you in - and even if you do - then DEVELOP YOURSELF BEYOND IMAGINATION and go in there and CHANGE THEIR MINDS!

If we don't try, we won't know if we can. We have to at least try, don't we?

At least if we try and it doesn't work all the time, we are still successful in our pursuit of truth and artistry and craft and we can hold our heads high because we stand for something real.

We will not make a change unless we are willing to INVEST IN OURSELVES. Discover the TRUTH about what we have to offer. This needs to be brutally honest. It may not be pretty but if we want truth we have to discover it, even if it makes us uncomfortable.

Start with you. Are you settling? Are you compromising? Do you really HONESTLY know what you have to offer??? Or are you truly CHALLENGING yourself and thus, taking in MORE to challenge the ideas in the room for a possibility????

Possibilities bring change. Change means growth. Growth means movement. Movement brings possibilities and choices.


Challenge your knowledge...

THEN CHALLENGE "Their" KNOWLEDGE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Make them responsible, because YOU HAVE BEEN!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Your Instrument is your BODY - Go ahead - TOUCH IT!

Wednesday musings...

After reading and then responding to a singer thread on that forum I frequent!

What is with the prudishness of certain singers?

The body houses the voice. What is so cutting edge about then USING the body and knowing how it functions and moves and stretches and actually TOUCHING IT?!?!?!!?

The primary "taboo" I am speaking of in this post is the....LARYNX!!!!

Reading and speaking to some singers you would think this is a "touch and you'll turn to stone" body part!!

The larynx is simply a complex combo of cartilage and muscles and ligaments and membranes...

You don't need permission from some guru to touch it and explore it!

If it is cartilage and muscles and ligaments and membranes, it will respond in a similar way as other cartilage and muscles in your body!!!

If you feel tight in your shoulders - you stretch. If your hamstrings feel locked, you stretch. Sometimes you even go for a massage...

Why would the larynx be any different????

If you are listening to somebody who says "Don't touch!" you have lost your sanity!! It's YOUR body for crying out loud! It's your voice and wouldn't it be AMAZING if you actually learned about how it feels and moves and stretches not just by someone telling you or looking at a diagram in a book but just touching it and massaging it gently and swallowing to see what happens and breathing and feeling it stretch????

Vocal tensions/fatigue/hoarseness/exhaustion needs just as much attention as other muscles in your body that develop tension/fatigue and exhaustion!

The intrinsic nature of the laryngeal muscular is enough to suggest that! Add to that the connection to the tongue, and the surrounding muscles of the jaw, the neck, the face - and massage could be necessary!


Feel the shape, gently shift it between your hands so you see that it "gives" and is flexible! Keep your tongue heavy and your jaw loose as you massage. You may feel "clicks" which is just ligaments releasing! RELEASE IS GOOD!

Many singers have tongue tension - the tongue is anchored to the hyoid bone and the hyoid bone dangles the larynx from it. If the tensions begin one place they could travel to another - and finding ways or releasing through gentle massage and breath can reinforce the release!

The larynx needs to be released and open. If it is high and tight, issues arise. How will you know what is happening if you don't touch it?

If you are dealing with vocal fatigue/strain/hoarseness etc - laryngeal massage can be key to releasing muscular stress. And then FULL BODY MASSAGE can continue that release.

Ask your ENT, see a speech pathologist, ask your voice teacher! You will not learn until you ask and explore and find out.

Saying "don't touch" is simply the stupidest thing I have heard in awhile. No wonder singers get the reputation of being neurotic!

If you don't learn HOW your body functions, your voice will never be optimum. Part of learning HOW that body functions to house the voice and support it means exploration by's your choice.

There is nothing taboo about the larynx - it houses your cords and needs TLC too!

If as a singer you are going to create a taboo about your larynx then perhaps it's time to go do something else. Seriously.

These self-imposed taboos and neurosis are precisely what stops singers from finding truth.

I thought a quest for truth was more important.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

What are you doing this for?

Sunday musings...

Every so often, the question stops us...

What am I doing this for? And what is "this" to you?

The question SHOULD stop us - it gives us an opportunity to re-evaluate, to re-discover, to become more conscious of what we do and why we do it.

What ARE you doing?

The answers are endless...and as diverse as the human beings doing!!!

Are you singing? Are you studying? Are you exploring? Are you discovering your best self? Are you pursuing a career? Are you trying to say something? Are you developing craft? Living artistry? Pursuing a career?

Are you an artist? A performer?

Can you summon your talent at will?

Do you want longevity? Do you want artistic success? Material success?

Why do you do what what you do?

Seems like a simple question...but the answers can be very complex and intricate. Thus, it is important, from time to time to really sit down and ask the questions, and begin to discover the answers.

When you ask yourself - don't edit your answer! Your answer should be organic and real. It may surprise you, it may shock you, it may disturb you. It may illuminate you, it may clarify you, it may expose you!

Not having an answer is also an answer. It is another point of departure. Any answer, or inability to answer is a point of departure. It is an opportunity to discover truth.

Those who do not ask questions, cannot reveal the truth about where they are, who they are, why they are and what they are doing. If you do not ask questions, you have nothing to say. Most times, the questions are more daunting than the answers! Yet, the answers come when the questions are real.

As we enter the dreaded "blue" month of the year - when we'd all rather be hibernating - I have found this time of year is an opportunity to ask this prime question in honesty and without any agenda other than truth-seeking:

What am I doing this for? What are YOU doing this for?

What is your FIRST response? How does it make you feel physically? emotionally?
Can you breathe? Do you tighten up? Can you respond at all? What happens?

If we cannot ask questions of our self, we cannot ask questions of our craft. We cannot find truth or reveal truth, nor can we be honest if we cannot discover honesty.

Do you put a time frame on what you are doing? Why? Do you just go with the flow? Why?

No question is out of bounds, and no answer is wrong. Answers need to find their honesty - otherwise it is hiding. And ultimately, you are only hiding from yourself.

If you have something to say as an artist/performer, no one will hear you until you are willing to become honest with yourself about the questions you need to ask yourself!

If you are not about artistry and can be honest about that - do it! Know yourself! To yourself be true and TRUTHFUL.

If you feel you need to hide your truth, why? It is your answer that will reveal your truth.

Allow the questions to emerge from the answers you are revealing. From the physical and emotional and psychological sensations you are experiencing...

Allow the truth of you to reveal itself through you.

Converse with yourself. Look into that mirror of you and really SEE who is there and why he/she is there. RESPOND to her/him! Discover the complexities, claim the dualities, accept what seems to be oppositions in self...and begin to speak truth to self by knowing WHY.

Or simply by claiming "I don't know why - and now my work begins!"

What are you doing this for?
Only YOU can answer this for YOU. The rest is details.

Friday, January 22, 2010

When Delusion Hits Reality

Friday musings...

Self-denial is a form of stress management - HOWEVER, delusion needs to be addressed immediately!

Eventually, self-delusion will hit reality and the exposure will not be pretty.

What do you, the singer, need to consider if you are starting down that road of self-delusion?

Delusion wastes everybody's time. Delusion treats the craft and artistry of singing, and the pursuit of career with no respect. Delusion is self-inflicted due to a self-inflicted ignorance and stupidity. There is no room for it and no time for it. Delusion is self-inflicted and yet it seems to be imposed on business from all directions, and it has to stop.

There is no such thing as "instant" or "over-night success". These are media buzz words for ratings. IT DOES NOT EXIST. If you believe it, you are living in a dream world and need to stay right there!

Singing is not a trick or something you can learn how to do tomorrow. Let me share with you a phone call I received last week:

The message was left thus: "Hi, I hear you teach voice lessons. I am going to an audition tomorrow afternoon and I am supposed to sing. I want you to teach me how to sing tomorrow morning and teach me a song for this audition."

Please do not spit all over your screen and ruin your computer. Yes you read correctly. Yes, I am telling you the truth. Now, I could have just squeezed my eyes shut and shook my head and hit "delete" on my phone, but I decided it was time to address this ongoing I returned the call. It was serious. So was I.

My response was simply this: (paraphrased slightly of course) "Singing is not a trick. Singing is a discipline that has elements of mental, psychological, spiritual and physical balances. It demands commitment, dedication, passion and drive. It has purpose, not whim. I do not work with people who want to be "whim singers", I work with people who want to claim their artistry in their lives and discover the discipline and craft of singing fully. So if you decide this is what you want to pursue please feel free to call me again with a different message. In the meantime, don't waste your time, my time and the time of the people at the audition - including the other singers there who might be there for a completely different reason than you."

Silence. A sigh. A small "thank you, I didn't know that". And have a good day.

Now she knows. Now she has a chance to explore and discover or go another way. Either is FINE.

And speaking of wasting people's time...the delusion of thinking you can learn a song or even 16 bars the night before an audition is RIDICULOUS! What do I mean by "learn"? I am talking about discovering the entire song first - to explore the physicality of the song, the basics of the song - including CORRECT rhythms and notes, to find the resonance of your voice within the song, to find the stylistic balances in that resonance, to discover the motivation and characterization in the psyche of that character, to find how it projects through physical means and through vocal colour....and then finding a 16 bar cut that will exemplify that. And then REPRODUCE it in an audition room with AUTHENTICITY!

Can you do that the night before? Not with any respect of the craft nor the business. Yes, seriously.

If you don't realize you are wasting other people's time and wasting the business' time - you are delusional. If you are delusional, you are not about true craft. If you walk into an audition with no true preparation, you are wasting other's time. If you walk into an audition with no intention of seriousness - not right for the role/wouldn't take the role even if it was offered to you, "just for the experience" - you are wasting EVERYBODY'S TIME!!!

The true artists and true believers of craft are the ones that RESPECT THE PROCESS. If you are standing in a room waiting for an audition ON A WHIM, you are delusional. There are people there who are better at it, better deserving, and have worked for that opportunity; who NEED that opportunity; who will be dedicated to that opportunity!

You are wasting the time of every actor in that room who truly wants to be there, and NEEDS to be there; You are wasting the time of the CDs and Directors in the room; You are wasting the time of the business and what real actors/singers who pursue craft daily.

Your delusion will hit reality when you are found out. And when you are found out, you will never be taken seriously - even if your attitude changes. It'll be done.

If your physical instrument does not work, due to lack of technical behavior, singing poorly, overuse etc - you cannot expect to rework your voice and audition and get a job at the same time!!!! If you need your voice for a job and your voice does not function ultimately, this is working at cross purposes!!! Again, creating a physical instrument takes TIME. Recovering a physical instrument takes time and patience and dedication. Do you want to sing or don't you? And again, what if you get a job and fake your way through that audition? Can you actually DO that job or have you just lied to the casting table???? Delusion.

If your instrument does not function - you cannot do your job. You cannot do ANY job in a healthy way. You are required to get healthy FIRST and then pursue the job. How long will it take? It depends on the damage/issues and it depends on what the instrument can sustain. If building the voice is like any athletic activity, then it is going to take the time it takes with a carefully developed program to follow. If you want to be a body builder and you have never been to the gym, one or two sessions and then entering a competition is laughable. If you want to run a marathon and have never run a block and you think two training sessions and a new pair of Nikes will do it and then you enter a marathon and expect to get through is ridiculous! So it is with singing - a physical and athletic discipline. It takes time to create true and balanced behavior. It takes time to re-create true and balanced behavior when there has been damage or incorrect technique. If you don't take that time you will never find the optimum you! It is not the business' fault. It is not the teacher's fault. It is not the coach's fault. It is YOUR fault. It is YOUR instrument and YOUR time.

I sometimes hear "But I don't HAVE time". And my answer is simply this: "If you don't MAKE time, go do something else."

Building craft and technique is ABOUT TIME. There is no delusion in TIME. TIME AND EXPERIENCE is reality. Instant is delusion.

So if you feel you must protect yourself in your delusion, then be happy there. But don't take up space where others who are dealing with reality are more prepared to be. Don't waste the space of others; don't waste the time of others. If you pursue your delusion, eventually it's going to hit reality very HARD and you will shake your head and wonder how you got there, and sadly, may be very much alone. And sadly, when you threw away your time to pursue delusion, you will wake up with no time left.

Dare to stand for the truth of your instrument. Dare to FIND the truth of craft and discipline and artistic pursuit. Dare to be that person in the room who wastes NO ONE'S TIME - including their own - because their path is honest and truthful!

If you don't want that then let the ones who truly are willing to do whatever it takes, however much time it takes, take up that space. It's not your space if you are not willing to do what it takes to find the truth about what is expected. Don't waste your time, their time, our time. Go find something else to do that gives you a truth. Find your reality.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

"They Only Want to Hear Belters"

Thursday musings...

I hear that more times than not...

"I need to learn to belt, they only want to hear belters!"

First - who is "they" and uhm, no they don't!!!!

Can a singer learn the mechanics of belt? Of course! Does it mean that they will be a "belter" in the type-sense? NO!

WHY? Because NOT ALL THEATRE ROLES ARE FOR BELTERS!!!!!!!!!! And sometimes, directors want to take a role a different direction.

Here's an example: A production of Les Miserables is auditioning. Girl after girl goes in for Fantine - screaming/belting/yelling. hmmm - let's look at the character: a young woman, a prostitute, a woman who has had a child and has given that child away for a better life; she begins to dream and remember and wonder....

And lo and behold, a singer enters the room and sings in a beautifully engaged mix - and finds nuance in her voice and tells the story and creates a character....and the CD and Director look up and sit back and put their pens down and LISTEN because it is TRUE. And when said singer is finished she is thanked for not screaming and for making their day.

Wow. Imagine that.

So casting directors want to hear what YOU do WELL!!! (and CDs correct me if I'm wrong please!!!)

Louder is not better. Belters are a certain voice type to go with a certain character type. Belt is not required for EVERY character in EVERY show for EVERY singer!!!

"They" do NOT only want to hear belters! They want to hear YOU and what you do well and hear you according to your TYPE.

Singers in the music theatre business who are pursuing this career need to DO YOUR RESEARCH. You need to STUDY your voice - learn what it does, learn how it does it, learn what it can do! You need to study TYPE, study STYLE, study theatrical device and what shows require what voices and what types!

You need to know HOW you fit into these things. You need to know how to say NO and save yourself; You need to know how to say YES and jump in!

There are too many people in this "business" wasting people's time. Either you learn HOW and WHY or do something else.

This business of music theatre and the craft of developing as a performer and many as artists is not American Idol. It is not instant, it is not for ratings. It is for REAL. It is not for dabblers or wanting to be a star!

You cannot DO without a foundation of knowledge under you. That foundation grows over TIME and EXPERIENCE. Developing a voice that is uniquely YOURS is critical for your longevity!

Do you know what your voice is capable of doing? Can you DO it? Can you summon it?
Have you claimed YOUR UNIQUENESS? Are you on your way to claiming it?

Or, are you just dabbling and making blanket statements and wasting everybody's time?

"They" - whoever is sitting at the table, doesn't only want to hear belters!!! They would love to hear good singing! PERIOD! They want to hear a singer who knows their voice and can deliver a song that is stylistic and shows a possibility! NOT ALL ROLES ARE FOR BELTERS!!!!!

Those of you who believe this, need to begin to discover what singing IS and how to do it.

Even belters should be able to find a "legit" sound on command. If they can't, their voices are not aligned. Simple.

Louder isn't better. Loud isn't strength. Loud isn't belt. If everybody belts, nobody does.

"They" want to hear what you do well. They want to hear your voice and see your type. They want to see an emerging artist and emerging performer who KNOWS WHAT THEY ARE DOING.

That demands consistency, discipline, devotion, passion and dedication. Pursuing a career in this business is not about dabbling or finger painting. Developing your artist spirit isn't about wishing for it. Building a voice and a reality of knowledge isn't instant.

It is REAL WORK. It is about asking questions. It is about BEING REAL.

"They" want to hear belters when the role demands a belter. "They" want to hear and see that you know what you are doing - otherwise - you will get a vacant smile and a dismissal.

Perhaps it's time to change the statement to "They only want to hear ME" - and if the role isn't a match, it's not because you didn't bring YOURSELF; they just need a different type.


Educate yourself - find the knowledge, gain understanding. IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY if you say you want to be in this business. Find the teachers, the classes, the information and then WORK ON IT DAILY.

Then and only then will you see what you CAN do.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Belters - are you HEALTHY?

Sunday musings...

Again, you will not get a voice lesson from a blog - but perhaps I can give you some things to think about and observe.

These musings are for the belters out there...

First and foremost - do you know what belt is?

Are you yelling? not belt.
Are you leading with your chin and tightening your jaw? not belt.
Are you pushing with your tongue? not belt.
Are you nasal? Not belt.
Are you breathy? Not belt.

So if any of these are coming through - you aren't really belting and need to get to a teacher who understands belt well, and also understands a balanced voice FIRST AND FOREMOST.

Belt can and should be produced from a healthy mix first. Some physicalities are more able to learn to belt and sustain its intensity, but all singers can learn the mechanics of it. I have written a blog about belt before, but remember, belt is about a suspended intensity - more width in formation of vowel, more suspension in upper body support, more flattened choice of vowel and still maintain an open throat, released tongue even though the laryngeal position is tipped (and you won't feel that by the way!)

So how does a belter maintain vocal health? How do you not develop a shortened range, MTD (Muscle Tension Dysphonia/Hyperfunction), portions of your range that do not phonate, raspiness, hoarseness et al?

You learn how to sing in a balanced way FIRST. You learn how to produce a well-balanced and evenly resonating mix/middle register. You work for a tangibility of breath support and physical energy in the tone without pressure. You create a true, "natural" balance of mix into chest voice back to mix and into head voice and mix it all together in a vertical balance to allow for even phonation - just like everybody needs to no matter their voice type or choice of genre!

As a belter, the last thing you need to do is keep drilling the belt! The belt needs a point of departure - and that point of departure is a balanced mix. The muscles need to begin in "neutral" in order to find balance and alignment. Then and only then can you begin to task them to associate with the suspension of a belt technique. The cords need to find closure so true phonation is achieved; The cords need to find a balance of closure and depth for resonance to occur and balance.

Finding out if you are physically mis-representing your belt will determine what you need to re-balance in order to find a healthy VOICE and thus, the possibility of a healthy belt.

As I say constantly, technique is behavior - and re-creating a positive physical behavior in order to align the voice is key to changing vocal behavior. You cannot stop a negative behavior without having something to replace it!

SO, belters, as scary as it seems - put down that belt. Quit hiding in it and make sure you can SING! Dare to strip it down and find the bare balance of your voice without singing in "genre" and rather, sing in "balance". Once those muscles find rebalance and the voice can adjust and there is a place of departure, your belt will find more power, more range, more flexibility, more longevity.

The true belters have a REAL, RESONATE and BALANCED MIX. If you don't - you are faking that belt, and it'll come back to you and bite you sooner than later. Don't ignore it. Develop a true mix to find the true belt.

You get ONE voice. Cherish it, nurture it, care for it. Don't dismiss it and say you'll wait til something happens to do something about it.

Learn why you do what you do; learn how you do what you do; develop what you NEED to do and know why so you can do it for a lifetime!

Coming to Toronto!

Not a blog - but to let some of my Canadian readers in the Toronto area about an upcoming workshop I am giving in February.

The workshop will be "Basics in the Music Theatre Audition Process"

This is for singers who are just getting started in this process/those who just need a tune-up/teachers who are interested in the process/anyone who might be interested!

Singers and Auditors are welcome.

SATURDAY FEBRUARY 20th 2 p.m. - 5 p.m.
Bloor Street United Church, 300 Bloor
Music Room

Jo Greenaway will be the pianist

Singers are required to prepare 2 contrasting 16 bar cuts

Discussion and work on:

How to prepare your music
How to take the room
How to approach the process
How to present
Expectations and preparations


Singers fee is $50 and Auditors fee is $40

Register by emailing me directly at

Looking forward to seeing you there!

Now, back to blog!!!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Baggage versus Experience

Saturday musings...

After viewing and responding to a post on a singer message board, it got me thinking about this baggage/experience issue. The singer who had posted had said that "every" teacher brings baggage into the studio. I objected. Vehemently! She clarified and began talking about experience...but it occurred to me that baggage and experience were used synonymously and that just couldn't be a good thing to view it that way and enable it.

These are my musings please remember...I don't claim to be a psychologist!!! However, being in the studio one-on-one with a teacher and student can lead to some interesting findings over the years about human nature, about the nature of professionalism or lack thereof, about what needs to be in that space and what clearly doesn't!

To me, baggage is something we all carry if we've lived more than a day! Baggage can be psychological, emotional, spiritual, and it tends to be the "negative side" of this topic. That stuff that shapes us but not always in a positive light, nor in a completely conscious one. It's heavy, it's hard to set down, it's unpredictable...

Experience however, is something else. It can be psychological, emotional, spiritual, but it also has a DOING and a BEING that we have learned from. It is a positive tangibility in our lives. We have taken our DOING and learned from it in order to draw an understanding and a way of living and in this case, a way of teaching to BENEFIT others. Experience - "good" or "bad" - when used for a positive end, can be illuminating and ultimately fulfilling and rewarding!

Let me give you a personal example: I believe in two kinds of voices: musical voices and natural voices. I was a musical voice and needed to learn to claim my instrument and how it worked. I struggled with the innate musicality of my voice and my inability to claim the physicality due to tensions, physical issues I needed to overcome etc etc. For YEARS I wondered why I had all this struggle. Now, if I had allowed that to become "baggage" and visit that upon any singer who decided to study with me, I would have been negative, abusive, and unsupportive of said singer's development, because that "baggage" would not have allowed me to MOVE PAST IT to do my work.

Instead, I realized that if I HADN'T gone through some of those vocal hardships, I wouldn't have learned HOW to sing and in learning HOW to sing, and figuring it out detail by detail, I was able to BUILD A VOICE. And in building a voice, I could teach someone to find theirs! That was illuminating and marvellous! And that is what I CHOSE to do.

We can make a DECISION to change the negative to a positive. We can also make a decision to not do it. If we believe we cannot, or decide to visit our baggage and not our experience on our singers, we have NO BUSINESS TEACHING.

Baggage happens just by trudging through life and for purposes of this blog, through this business. Experience is how we CHOOSE to handle it and deal with it and how we can TRANSFORM IT into something worthwhile and positive to shape our ability to DO MORE.

One cannot experience life if there is too much baggage in the way. Learning HOW to learn is key. Learning how to leave that baggage at that studio door in order for you to be able to teach/able to learn is NECESSARY and CRUCIAL.

You can only create experience by DOING IT. Making your baggage more important will not give you true experience. Baggage STOPS you. Experience MOTIVATES you.

Baggage is that stuff we carry that we haven't dealt with completely - or at all. We cannot visit that on others. It is not theirs!!! Baggage does not give you an excuse nor a green light to be abusive, unprofessional, or manipulative in a controlling or power hungry way. If baggage exists - acknowledge it and unpack it in privacy! Baggage should not be "passed on"!!! Carry your own shit!!!! Your baggage should not be visited on ANYBODY else, ESPECIALLY in the studio! That goes both ways too - teacher to student AND student to teacher.

Experience - allows us to BREATHE and CONTRIBUTE. Why? Because it allows us to demonstrate from a place that might have a negative beginning, yet we have learned something positive from it. Experience can also be POSITIVE immediately, because it allows us to see more deeply into our area of expertise!

If you are spending money and getting baggage in the studio, you must leave. That is not what you are there to do. If you are teaching from baggage and not experience, you aren't teaching. If you don't know the difference, you shouldn't be teaching. If you DO know the difference and still choose to lead with your baggage, shame on you and how dare you!

Know the difference, and strive to claim the differences between baggage and experience. We are not robots and the complexity of the human spirit creates many interesting twists and turns as we interact. However, part of this complexity is the ability to recognize and decide. Where am I today? What do I need to do today? How do I do it most effectively? With whom do I work? What do I need in order to reach them? What am I willing to push aside to do my work? What CAN I do? What is needed and what is wanted? What is possible?

I believe these are the beginnings of knowing the difference and making a difference and making a contribution that is allows for growth and possibilities, and not dark impossibilities.

Drop the bags at the door and pick up your true experience and walk into the studio with care!

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Alchemy of the Mix!

Friday musings...

No, you aren't getting a voice lesson via a blog entry today - but rather, just some musings about "mix" aka "middle voice"!

These musings come from my experience as a singer and how I have discovered this alchemy, and how I have learned from teaching it, and how to teach it!

What is this elusive "mix"? It goes by many names, depending on your culture - in music theatre, it is "mix", in the classical world, "middle voice", or "middle range" - whatever you call it - it DOES exist!

No matter what culture you reside in, what voice type you are, whether you belt or not, if the alchemy of the mix is not balanced, your voice does not work optimally!

I have many singers coming in with vocal issues - belters who have MTD, coloraturas with no chest voice, singers trying to find high notes, etc etc etc - and it all comes back to the middle voice!!!!

If that middle voice is not balanced and mixed together, there is no mix. If there is no mix - no balance of resonance - in the middle register - the entire register/range will be compromised.

Every note in a singer's register balances from the weave of the middle voice. EVERY NOTE. If that fabric of middle voice is not woven and developed correctly for the individual singer, it will create issues in the extreme range, in passaggios and in stylistic development of technical ideas.

Every note in the middle voice must be mixed together. EVERY NOTE. The muscular balance shifts for every position and every vowel choice. All technical and stylistic choices must find a physical athleticism through the mix!

This alchemy is like creating a unique scent, or a magnificent exotic drink - mixing, adding, knowing the exact balance of tastes, scents, textures - in order to create the uniqueness of YOU in muscular balance that creates the tangible resonance of YOUR mix, YOUR middle voice.

Then and only then, can you ask of that balance in order to move into other stylistic and technical definition.

A balanced alchemy of mix allows you to discover a completely balanced voice - in ALL registers. It allows you to discover a TRUE belt without muscle tension. It allows you to find and balance the high notes, the low notes and the true resonance of both! It allows you to move into an operatic balance of vowel, or discover a musical theatre mix throughout the range...

Whatever you are looking for - it is the mix and how you mix it that will help you discover the totality of your voice.

The middle voice is often dismissed, and yet it holds the secret of so much of what our voice does. It is the point of departure and the point of return. It is the voice that exposes the truth to us, can frustrate us, and can illuminate the reality of our voice to us! If we don't allow this reality to become tangible, we never know our voice, nor do we find it fully.

Dare to discover how the alchemy of the scent, the texture, the colours, the tastes of your middle voice, the mix create the uniqueness of YOU - note to note, between the notes; how they weave together with breath, imagination, muscular suspension, vibration; How that mix becomes uniquely and exclusively, YOURS.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Stereotypes and Possibilities!

Thursday musings...

As someone who has a stiletto firmly planted on both sides of the tracks (!!) in opera and music theatre, I get to see the extreme stereotypes and everything in between in both businesses.

Do not let it fool you - these businesses are VERY different, but can learn from each other!!

My musings today are about the extremes of what I see in the cultures and share them with you to see where you see yourself. If you see yourself in these extremes, or even close to it - perhaps it is time (just a suggestion of course!) to come back from the ledge and re-evaluate why you are there and what you are doing it for! The stereotypes/extremes are there for a reason - and can allow for more positive possibilities for you the singer instead of falling into the stereotype too easily!

One extreme seen is this: In opera, a singer relinquishing their own thought and activities to the mercy of the "guru/teacher": they can't pee without permission and must ask permission for EVERYTHING they do from this teacher; The other extreme, in music theatre is the singer who doesn't think they need a teacher at all!!!!

The extreme: In opera, becoming so wound up in the "perfection of voce" that it ties your ability to perform in knots! In music theatre, believing that "it's good enough" when it's not good at all!!

The extreme: In opera, where technique leads and we see nothing else! In music theatre, where technique doesn't exist!!

The extreme: In opera, investing in study/coaching/languages and never allowing it to breathe and become artistry; In music theatre, never learning how to invest - that is it always "good enough" even when the voice isn't built, the music not really learned...

These are just some extremes...there are MANY in both businesses!!!

Singers in both businesses need to recognize the culture they are in, and challenge it! How? By challenging oneself first!!!!

Learning how to be honest with self is probably the most difficult thing. Denial is part of stress management. We need that to survive at times. However, self-delusion is something else.

You are not a power to be reckoned with if you've never carried a show yet or can't book a job! Calling yourself that does not make you that! This is delusion.

You are not useless just because you haven't booked that job yet! That is also delusion!

Where should a singer be in the extreme stereotypes? Obviously not at the extremes!!!

Opera singers could learn some things from music theatre singers, and most definitely vice versa!

In a perfect world, in MY mind, this is what I would like to see:

Singers in both cultures learn to trust themselves with the guide of teachers and coaches and not the enabling of teachers and coaches. (and also know the DIFFERENCES between teachers and coaches - worse in the music theatre world - a teacher is not the same as a coach!!!!)

Your teachers and coaches are your guides - and a place to bounce ideas off of and a place to explore and discover. They are not a place to be fearful of nor a place to answer to. They are NEEDED for the right reasons!!!

Even the great talents of our worlds still study!!!! They might not study with a teacher every week, or work with a coach regularly - but they have the knowledge to see the truth and know when they need the workout!!!

If you cannot summon your talent at will - you still need a teacher! It's that simple. And with that study you need to practice (!!!!) to develop the muscular balance in order for the voice to function so you CAN begin to summon that talent at will!

Your teacher and your coaches cannot do that work for you, but you need their guidance to get you on the path of that self-discovery and development!

Singers in both cultures need to find a balance between VOICE and THEATRE. Both are needed in both cultures but often one is sacrificed for the other. Again - craft cannot be one-dimensional or it is false. All aspects of theatre - voice, language, musicality, physicality, characterization, breath, movement - must be respected and learned.

"Good enough" is NOT. This can happen in both cultures. In opera I have seen "well the voice is so beautiful that if she can't act it's good enough" and in music theatre I have seen "well, the notes are always right and the rhythms are approximate, so it's good enough" - and I say, uhm, NO IT'S NOT!!!! Approximate rhythms does not equal back-phrasing in music theatre - it's just wrong!!! Ignoring an important aspect of theatre in opera to just showcase a voice is selling it out.

Why wouldn't we want to discover and develop OUR BEST SELVES???? Why would we want to pretend? To develop only parts of our craft? To make excuses instead of just work hard to achieve more? Why would we settle for "good enough" if we could really claim our ability and lead with it?

We must learn to trust ourselves. But the only way to trust self is to KNOW. And the only way to know is to LEARN. And the only way to learn is to COMMIT.

If you are too close to the extremes of stereotype - perhaps it's time to revamp your position. If you don't think you need any outside ears, perhaps it's time to shake your head. If you think you are a powerhouse then find out if that is in your own mind, or if it has a reality within the context of the culture you say you exist in.

The responsibility for the development of YOU - is you. If you need to sit down and take inventory, then do it. If you need to get off your butt and DO something, then do it. If you need to make changes, make them. If you think you need a wake up call, a new direction, a new possibility, then grab it!

Don't settle for the stereotype. Don't settle for good enough. Go get the BEST of you!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

It's NOT about FEELING it's about Choosing to DO!

Sunday musings...

I have said many times, being an artist, and being an artist making a living in the business are NOT the same thing.

The luxury of "feeling like it" or "feeling something" has nothing to do with either.

And as my beloved and wise father once said to me as I was having a teenage rant many moons ago - "when did feeling or fair have anything to do with it?"

As an artist we WANT to feel; however as an artist doing a job, feeling can be the death of us.

Artistry is not craft. Craft is the skill that needs to be built to allow the artistic spirit a place to be seen.

As singers we can simplify thus: The voice begins in the imagination; the body must be trained to house that imagination and make it tangible. Training takes time, discipline and focus. Training takes DOING.

We can read all the pedagogy books, manuals, motivational books, and talk about it all we want, but that will NOT build the muscles in order to SING! WE MUST DO IT!

Just like anything else - you cannot be a chef unless you cook; you cannot be a dancer unless you dance; you cannot be a writer unless you write; you cannot be a singer unless you SING! Singing is DOING not wishing, not wondering, not waiting for a feeling.

Doing has NOTHING to do with feeling. The irony is, often when we just DO, we become motivated, exhilerated, inspired in the process OF doing.

I don't feel like exercising. I can read all the diet books I want; I can look at exercises; but until I get off my ass and get on that bike, I won't lose the weight. Wishing is NOT doing. The physicality has to be trained.

Finding your voice, means building a place for it to live! You don't find your voice by reading about voice. You don't find your voice just on the days when you "feel" inspired.

When you are doing a show 8 times a week, or you have an opera in repertoire, trust me, there are many nights you don't FEEL like it. YOU DO IT. It is your job.

If you are responsible for discovering your voice, it is your responsibility to find it! DO IT!

Can you summon your talent at will? Can you DO IT? If you can't yet, then there is still work to do. Work demands a choice, not a feeling, nor an excuse.

The only way you are going to find that true voice is by DOING. By taking time each day to discover the physicality and athleticism of your body and how the muscles respond and build in order for the voice to become tangible. Wanting is not doing. Doing is doing.

Artistry is HOW your spirit lives; Craft is the manifestation of that living in the form of disciplined magic!!!

Dare to quit talking about it and actually DO IT.

You don't have to feel a thing.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Journey is NOT a Race!

Thursday musings...

As I revamp my new year and question where I am and where I headed, and am a little older, and recognize I know less than I'd like to and still strive for more knowledge...

It occurs to me once again, what an artist's journey is about. What a performer in our business has to accomplish on a day to day basis and what this path is that we partake of each day.

Getting started in the studio this week and re-evaluating with singers what they are working toward for the year got me thinking about this path...

I wish I could tell you there is a direct line to "there". I wish I could tell you that you will have a job and "make it" and all those things when you get "there" but I cannot. As an artist, we do not have "there", we have "here". And "there" becomes "here" once we reach it.

The life of an artist and performer is not about arrival. It is not about getting there quickly or before someone else.

If you decide to become a teacher, a lawyer, a doctor - there is a definite path and way to achieve this goal and arrive. You make choices as to WHERE you go to define it, but there is one way to be a doctor. If you don't go to med school and follow the breadcrumbs you won't become a doctor.

As an artist and performer, this is just not the case. We are gypsies by nature and by life-style. We go where our talent leads us and where our talent is needed. If we don't, we must be willing to compromise in a healthy way to create where we are.

Those of us who have families, or are very much "home bodies" always find this difficult. It is a constant balance and compromise with the "gypsy" of artist and the "I wanna be home now" parts of our person.

The journey as an artist is not a race. It is not a race with self, with time nor with or against anybody else. The journey is simply, the journey.

SO - what questions do you need to ask yourself? What do you want of yourself? What do you ask OF yourself?

Are you requiring your BEST self at all times? And yet, are you ACCEPTING what the self can give, of what it is capable of giving in the moment, and is willing to give back?

Are you AWARE of where you are in the moment?

Some of us are so quick and process so intensely and quickly, that we are constantly ahead of ourselves - in everything! We have to work to be still, to KNOW, to be exactly where we are and not anticipate where we are going.

Are you free to allow the journey to stay fluid? To let it take you, feed you, coax you, shift you? Are you pliable enough as an artist to focus not on the finish line, but rather in the peripheral vision - where the REAL stuff happens?

Sometimes we focus so hard that we miss the truth. One foot in front of the other is fine as long as you keep your head up and stop when you are tired; stop when you see something that catches your attention and really LOOK!

Journey is process. Race is results. Journey is a kaleidoscope of possibilities. Race is black and white. Journey gives you a chance to breathe...Race makes you breathless.

And so - you get there first. What do you win ultimately? Where is everybody else? So what?

I continue to explore my journey; to remind myself to slow down; to be in my moment; to find stillness; to find that latent intense energy that makes me "artist" each day; to trust those intriguing peripheral sights and not despair when the path of the journey begins to wind elsewhere - but rather, rejoice in the adventure!

Race? No way. I am too tired and too old! I want to EXPERIENCE. Thus, I shall journey. At my own pace, in my own time, and BE JUST WHERE I AM!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Trying Hard Not to be Found Out!

Monday musings...

After reading a discussion thread this evening, it sparked this entry...

Why are there many - more than a few, which is more than enough - who try so hard to not be found out in this business?

We can work our way through every aspect of this business and recognize those so-called professionals - on either side of the footlights - who we truly shake our heads about and wonder WHY they keep getting hired.

I am thinking directors tonight...

I know some MARVELOUS stage directors - from opera to theatre to cabaret. I direct. I have worked with some fabulous directors. I also know and have known, some absolute PILLS who keep getting hired, yet have no respect for singers or what they do or how they do it, and are NOT professional in their ability and vision and execution of that vision.

What is WITH THAT?!?!?!?

These not-special directors put such a cloud over the profession and REAL directors - who listen, who recognize, who have real talent and real people skills (!) are often overlooked and dismissed.

I believe every director who wishes to be an opera director or music theatre director needs to SING. He/she needs to study voice and BE directed so he/she understands what can be done, what should be done, and what is RIDICULOUS to be asked for.

We often speak of the "difficult artist" and yet, those trying hard not to be found out (ie: that they are actual frauds, or simply, inadequate, ordinary, etc) are often much more difficult than any singer or actor would dream of being.

We are often pegged as "difficult" because we ask for clarification; because we say "no, I can't do that"; "why am I doing that?"; or even arguing to get answers!

That's not being difficult!!! That's trying to protect your performance, your voice, your body, your instrument!!!! Often, those personalities who are most difficult in a production can be the ones trying hard not to be found out - who aren't particularly talented, able, visionary...And many times, those personalities sit in the director's chair!

When a director's "concept" outweighs everything else; when a choreographer/director puts his/her performer's at physical risk; when a director's "vision" can't be seen internally and has to be "staged" first and then dismantled; these are all red flags of trying hard not to be found out. And sadly, they hide behind their singers/actors - making them the sacrificial lambs! - and they hide behind their production staff.

A great director recognizes he/she leads a team - and it is the vision of that team that creates success, and trust in a production!! The team of lighting, costume, SM, ASM, sound, props, sets et al is CRUCIAL for a production's success. It is not a place to hide, but many try to.

Ironically, the entire team and the entire company sees it clearly. If the team and company is committed to a truth, they make it work - and the director gets the glory. Good lord.

The best combo of ordinary is the director-choreographer. That person who has never sung has only moved. And maybe not well. And always with the mediocre ones, (because there are great director/choreographers) they seem to feel like they must make each cast member pay for that mediocrity!

If a director is great, he/she will welcome input - and will go through staging and reasons and blocking and reasons, and vision and reasons, and characterization and reasons. EVERYTHING will have a reason. EVERYTHING will have been thought out. He/she will welcome the input of the singers in order to draw the BEST from the players. He/she creates that trust and ultimately the success of the production.

Directors need to be challenged if they are asking of their players something that puts them in jeopardy. They need to be challenged when the player cannot find the motivation. It is up to the director to LEAD.

Great directors are true LEADERS. They know how to draw out of every individual - lead, company, stage team - the BEST and the INDIVIDUALITY and know how to use that talent/skill/craft to its fullest for the vision of the production, and thus, the execution of the production.

Great directors do not belittle. They do not degrade. They do not abuse.

Great directors BUILD UP. They see the large picture and then can bring each shot into focus and into detail while they collaborate with the singer!

THEY TAKE TIME, they don't WASTE time. They know WHY. They don't guess. They CREATE. They don't pretend.

If more directors would work toward developing this dedication, the directors who shouldn't be there, wouldn't be there. There simply would be no room for them, and no excuse for them.
If more directors would respect the singer for what they CAN do they would find more singers WILLING to try new ideas. They would also find more ideas based on what makes sense musically, vocally, physically and athletically in each character, and in each singer who embodies that character!

If more directors would learn to truly communicate and lead instead of bully or dismiss - singers would sing!

There are great directors out there - but sadly they often get lumped into murky waters because they are so few and far between!!!

Singers are NOT difficult. The difficulty lies in those trying hard not to be found out - and if those who work so hard not to be found out would actually take that energy and find real craft and real directorship skills and real vision - they would be seen for something real instead of something pretend.

It's theatre after all people! Quit pretending!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

What are you willing to do for that voice?

Sunday evening musings...

As so many of you are dealing sickness/flu/cold and exhaustion, and as the year is fresh and COLD (!!!) and we are thinking about how we get started/restarted, and getting energized after the holiday season....

What are you willing to do? What do you need to do it?

If your body is rundown and your voice is exhausted - it's a wake-up call. It means simply slow down and take some time to recoup, and replenish!

It doesn't matter what is expected of you - what do you NEED? The expectation cannot be met if the need is not answered FIRST.

Get healthy. Get rested. Get real.

Do you then jump in with both feet or ease your way into your routine?

My suggestion is to keep in mind that you are an athlete!!! If you have taken time off, if you've been sick, if you are still healing...ease in....your body and your voice will be healthier and will thank you ultimately if you don't shock it into position!

If you've done the holiday eating and drinking and travelling - then ease back into your diet and your balance and your hydration so your voice can feel like it's living at home again. If you ask too much of it too quickly, the shock can be exhausting!!! Treat your body and your voice with respect and recognition!!!

Jump in - but recognize like any athletic activity - the voice needs time and attention, not just willingness, but DOING! Wishing you were at optimum is not being there. Being means DOING and building and growing...

Jump or ease but LISTEN to what your body needs...listen to what your spirit needs...and when you KNOW you DO. Are you too tired or are you making excuses? Know the difference. If you are recovering from illness, know how to ease in to building stamina vocally and physically and know when to stop!!!!

Just like being at the gym - when the adrenalin is high, one more set may feel fabulous at the moment, but the next day....Same with your voice...your voice relies on a complexity of muscles and breath! If you push, you suffer.

Jump into your willingness; ease into your regime! Take this new year as an opportunity to develop fresh and new habits and recognitions for that voice! Know what it needs, see where it's going, know the art of voice is not instant but demands nurturing, demands care, demands a journey of physicality, emotional and spiritual patience and true athleticism.

Be willing to jump - and be willing to ease - depending on the day/week/time! Be willing to demand the best of your body each day; the best of your spirit each day; the best of your craft each day. Each day this will change - take it as it presents itself.

Challenge yourself. Know your boundaries and how you push them healthily.

Take this new year and explore the possibilities and the boundaries that are there and that you impose and ask why!! See where it takes you!!

What are you willing to do? What are you going to do????? Your choice, your decision.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Lead do not follow!


My house is quiet as I sip my coffee...

I was wondering what I could write about today - the first day of a new year/new decade and after a blue moon...

Perhaps what I wish for all of us as artists as we enter a fresh start - is to LEAD.

Take ownership of your voice, your craft, your journey this year. What does that mean to you?

Don't wait for others to say what to do - but YOU discover what you need and DO IT.

I don't want you to misunderstand...leading and not following does not mean you don't pay attention! Too many singers believe they are somewhere they are not - development, talent, entitlement. If they don't like what they are hearing, they make a blanket statement of "they don't know what they are talking about" and learn nothing and continue to self-delude.

What I wish for you is for you to discover YOURSELF by leading YOURSELF in finding what you need to grow as an artist and as a singer and as a human being.

Leading means you take ownership. Taking ownership means you take responsibility. Taking responsibility means you are an active participant in your own development!!! This means seeking out the knowledge, via self-discovery, via teachers, via coaches...this means recognizing what craft is, what artistry is, what kind of journey you are on... This means REALITY and not not delusion! This means doing it FOR SELF FIRST.

Leading with yourself, and not following yourself, puts you out in front. You answer to yourself. You answer for yourself. The knowledge you gain, the questions you have, the confusions you feel must be looked at, considered, asked, assimilated, re-discovered and never assumed!

Lead with your DESIRE. Feed that desire with knowledge - knowledge of self, of where you are, of where you want to be, of how to get there.

The journey is not easy and it is not quick, but it should be fulfilling and exciting! Some days, it will feel like work - but guess what? it is!!! If you lead with your DESIRE and your PASSION you will be open to the possibilities of you.

Do not assume. Ask. Know what you ask for. Know who you ask of. Become aware. Become keen. Learn to intuit, learn to see. Learn to ask questions and to not always "know".

Knowledge is not in stasis. Knowledge has to be in motion to continue to grow and to continually give itself, and allowed to be discovered.

Leading with self may take you down many different roads - don't disappoint yourself!!! Go where that road leads you even if the journey changes course!

Here's to being MORE than your previous self! Here's to finding MORE with your leading self!