Saturday, February 27, 2010

Competition with your Previous Self

Saturday musings....

After a week of adjudicating some fine young singers in Toronto at the Music Festival, I was thrilled to see some of them sing yesterday in the Intermediate and Senior Trophy categories. I told them I would be writing about them today...

Why? Because we talked about being where you are, and taking competition in the truest sense of the word - not to "win" or beat somebody else, but rather, to find what the self can discover in the moment, and draw the best out of that moment.

As the Olympics come to a close - we see athletes winning medals, and in many cases, finding "personal bests" - times/scores/et al.

It is the "personal best" of the singer that is key. We are only as good as our last performance. We are remembered by that. WE remember that!

Our ultimate competition then, is with our previous self, with our previous performance.

This philosophy, I believe, allows us to find truth in our performance. It gives us permission to EXPRESS and create and share, rather than try to impress or show off. One is authentic, and the other is phony. One exudes truth and develops from the inside, and the other exudes shallowness and is put on to pretend.

One is an artist; the other is not.

I would like to believe I can see the difference, and certainly feel the difference. When I am listening and experiencing performance, I trust my "hair-ometer"! If I get a tingle up the right side of my neck, something touched me - something real and organic and true. It doesn't matter if it's "perfect" or "polished" - it either touches me or it doesn't.

True technique means you are conscious of none and we don't see it when you perform but it is there. Summoning your talent at will puts that discipline in action, and takes the day as it presents itself. The competition is with the previous summoning. Can you create the magic you say you possess for others to experience?

What was so heartening to hear, and see, was each singer yesterday taking their work seriously, but still enjoying themselves. They were focused but not closed off; they were able to support each other as audience members; they responded to each other as colleagues, not as rivals; They were PRESENT in their performances. They dug DEEP to find MORE than they had during the week. They had thought about what they would DO with this performance.

The levels and depths and authenticity were exciting and delightful to observe and experience.
Were the performances perfect? of course not!!! What does that mean?
Were there some glitches? Of course! Did it matter? Absolutely not! Why? Because they were real, authentic young artists, EXPRESSING and bringing the best they could bring in the MOMENT. The art of expression is simply real. The reality brings authenticity in process. The process allows for achievement just by DOING.

Each of these singers showed they belonged - they dressed well for the occasion, they prepared with their ability as it is developed now, they presented with presence, with dedication, with passion, with commitment.

Each of them was there to do a job - and whether they realized it or not - the job was to simply compete with the previous self of the week of festival and perform the songs and arias with another level of authenticity that they had claimed during the week of work.

Whether it was conscious or not - each of them dug a little more deeply and found more in that performance. Nobody dialed it in. Each was present in the MOMENT of discovery, relying on the work and preparation they had done to get them there.

It was an honour to watch this and experience it with them. Each of them gave me a 'hair-ometer' moment....the authenticity projected and touched me. THIS is artistry on its journey.

We all need to strive for that - and MAKE it conscious. The electric reality of our artistic spirit and our work culminating in the performance that competes with self - and wins.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

What do you CHOOSE to sing?

Wednesday musings...

What is the protocol when choosing repertoire for competition/festival work? I mean, REALLY?

If we are looking festival work that is amateur-driven, this can get difficult as a singer must follow the rules the festival classes dictate and don't always fall into the categories suggested.

If we talk opera classes - and I am - this is an even deeper kettle of fish!!!

If you are going to enter an opera class - be it baroque, classical, grand, contemporary - whatever - you need to know why.

Because you want to isn't good enough. Seriously.

Most opera classes in festivals draw younger singers who in all honesty have no business working on opera yet. Even if you can sing the notes of the aria you present, you are not ready to present the entire role yet. However, the opera class isn't asking for the entire role, they are asking for an aria to represent an era.

What is the criteria to make this decision? Who is involved in the decision making? Why? Why not?

If everybody is an opera singer then nobody is. It is FINE to bypass these classes. REALLY. There are usually many other more appropriate classes for singers to enter!

The decision must lie with the teacher and singer together. Which frightens me sometimes as I wonder what you were thinking to put the singer in that position!

Performance of ANY kind creates a vulnerability for a performer. Competition creates another vulnerability what a marking system and a public adjudication.

As a singer, wouldn't you want to be so prepared, and so ready to meet the repertoire that you wouldn't have to worry about being prepared?

So, what do you need to ask yourself before you say "yes, I am entering the opera class?"

Can you sing? Is your voice balanced? Is there enough dimension and resonance to take on the style you wish to portray? If you still have no core, if you are breathy, if you don't know how physical your breath and support can be right now to create enough intensity, then perhaps the opera class is not right for you.

How can you choose repertoire if your voice has not developed enough to really approach a fach possibility?

Do you have a real grasp on the language the opera is written in? Have your researched the style of the composer and the opera itself? Do you know the character? Are you aware of the performance practices and demands of that character/that aria/that composer?

We hope you are musical, committed and focused.

Do you know how to create a character with your body and your breath and your vocal color?

Is your vocal weight/timbre/tessitura accessible to the repertoire chosen?

It is one thing to work on something for the sake of singing it - this can happen in private all the time. I love "Vissi d'arte" but I won't be performing the role of Tosca in this lifetime. I might sing it in a concert with piano, but I am not a Tosca. I know that.

Do you know what you can DO? NOW???

Sometimes we are so concerned about what we WANT and where we might be, that we forget to be where we are NOW. Perhaps that is not in an opera class. Perhaps it is not in a public competition yet. Perhaps it is not with Verdi or Puccini, but maybe it's with early opera or contemporary opera.

Singing the correct notes (!) and rhythms and pronouncing the words correctly doesn't make it opera! There are just too many things that infuse the voice, the dramatic temperament and the breath and support that need to be addressed.

Entering a competition "just for the experience" can be fine, but find a class that is less demanding if your voice has not developed to a level that can take on the demands of the operatic sound and dimension. IT IS OKAY!

Your voice may be doing the "hurry up and wait" to move into its true fach in several years, so sing something you can be believed in NOW. Show us what you can do, not what you wish to do. Not for competition. Competition is NOW, not 10 years from now!

Your commitment to your craft and your development is up to you. Your sense of self must lead you as you decide what makes sense for you in competition. Your teacher must often be brutally honest with you to save you from yourself if you feel you are ready and you are not.

Realizing the demand and how you can meet it or not, is absolutely necessary in order to create the best possible performance for yourself, and for others to enjoy. Doing something difficult for the sake of difficulty if you can't meet the demands isn't worth it. It simply shows you cannot do it. There is no 'win' in that equation. Difficult doesn't mean better.

When you are entering festivals and competitions, you need to jump the hoops of requirements and if you simply cannot, you must learn to step down. If you can meet the requirements, you then must choose to show your BEST not what you wish to be.

Knowing the difference comes first. Living the reality of this will keep you real and honest with your ability, your talent, your development and your passion!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Sanctity of Studio

Tuesday musings...

On my lunch break from adjudicating and was thinking about how vulnerable we allow ourselves as performers, yet how empowered we become to access that vulnerability...

As I have the privilege of critiquing and speaking to young singers in Toronto this week, giving workshops and private sessions and last night, working and speaking with the cast of RENT opening in March it brings up something more...

How is that studio or rehearsal space viewed?

Again, these are MY musings, and I am offering my thoughts, observations and experiences which have all influenced me as an artist, performer and teacher in how I choose to create the space I inhabit.

My belief, and my goal is create a safe place - a sanctuary of sorts - for the artist to feel they can explore. They are not "on" in the studio. They are THERE. Being PRESENT in order to be open to discover and explore is absolutely crucial for an artist's development. One cannot be open if the space does not lend itself to a safety and clarity of purpose.

Perhaps that atmosphere is set by the teacher. I believe that is only one component. It is the relationship and the space between teacher and singer/actor/artist that creates that sanctity.

The philosophy of what you are there to do, will determine how you choose to regard that space. Both teacher and singer need to comfortable with this. Again, the boundaries needs to be respected from both sides of the piano! You don't need to agree on everything, but you do need to recognize and respect the boundaries of the other's person and reasons for being there. If the boundaries are not respected and acknowledged, there is no point to continue.

The sanctity of the studio or rehearsal space often means a form of client/teacher privilege. Privileges are not entitled. They are earned. Just as trust needs to be earned, that privilege is earned and must be respected. For process to develop the sanctity of that space that is shared and created by singer and teacher is for them.

What happens in the studio, stays in the studio.

This is important to recognize from BOTH sides of the piano. This has nothing to do with being secretive! This has to do with being respectful for the process.

Our sense of privacy is probably not a realistic one in this age of technology. Perhaps our stuff is out in the street anyway. However, in the world of creativity and process, in developing craft and discovering technical prowess, I would like to believe that certain aspects of sanctity can still be respected and relied on.

I am passionate about this. I have seen and experienced both that safe place to explore and feel vulnerable and know it was okay and bloom because of that safety, and I have seen and experienced that lack of privacy and how it inhibits, stifles and tries to appropriate.

Just as I believe a singer has every right to expect privacy in the studio, a place of safety to make choices in a rehearsal, a place to explore and try things that would not be for public consumption, so I believe teachers have a right to that privacy as well.

The quote of the week seems to be "It is a luxury to be understood". The privacy I speak of in the sanctity of the studio is simply that. Even talking directly and working one on one, a singer can misunderstand or reinterpret. A teacher may not always meet a singer where they need to be met. As with any relationship, vocabulary is built not learned. It is this vocabulary and luxury of discovery that begins to form the intimacy of this particular relationship in this particular space. It takes time and dedication and concentration and clarity of purpose.

I try not to assume, but alas, I do. Assumptions are bound to happen and misunderstandings develop, certain things are unclear, boundaries are blurred. It is all because of these possibilities due to our humanness, that the space of the studio needs to be clearly defined.

As artists developing craft to pursue or continue a career, we recognize this sanctity fully. We do not want or need our privacy in the street/on the internet/being discussed at random.

As teachers, our reputations are built not just on what we DO but HOW we do it - and what we work to create in that studio - good/bad/indifferent.

This is a slippery slope in our age of technology - with blogging and youtube and message boards. The more we realize what we require for our OWN space, the more we can respect and honour the space we share with others - teachers, colleagues, peers...

We must learn ourselves what constitutes our personal sanctity and space. We cannot assume it in ourselves or others.

We then can begin to discover how that space is shared with those around us and how we balance it!

Discovering the truth of about ourselves in our journey - individually and collectively - takes time and observation. Discovering where it is most safe to take that on takes time and choice. Maintaining that space of sanctity takes consistency and presence.

I challenge EACH of us - singer and teacher alike - to continue to work diligently to create that safe sanctuary in order for the discoveries to be made, embodied and empowered. Not to be abused, appropriated, misused or misguided. This awareness is crucial for our craft to have its life and creative force.

Take on the responsibility of finding that luxurious freedom of being understood and learning to understand, in order for the process to find truth and embodiment in the craft you say you are pursuing.

Don't be afraid to make a mistake - just learn something from it, respect it and make another choice. We are human after all.

Challenge yourself to find that sanctity within your craft and the space you create and inhabit with each colleague, teacher and coach you work with.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Show what you DO!

Sunday musings...

After giving a workshop with some marvellous young singers yesterday this came up - why are you singing that?

Granted this workshop was for Music Theatre Audition Basics, but it pertains to all of us...

Why do you sing what you sing? And where do you sing it?

Some things are purely for your soul - and you would never make that public because it is for your private enjoyment. Some things are for technical development. Some things are for artistic development. Some things are for auditions, some things are for performance. Some things are for nothing more than you love to sing it.

Recognizing the differences is such an important step to understanding who you are as an artist and who you are as a performer pursuing a career.

If you are auditioning, planning on auditioning, the decisions you make on repertoire for that audition need to show what you CAN DO NOW. Not what you wish to do, hope to do, think you should be able to do. What can you DO???

Show that!!!

What does that knowledge assume? It assumes you know what your voice does. That is a huge assumption. Learn to love your voice with all its glory and foibles, but as with ANY love relationship, recognizing the TRUTH is also important.

If you are choosing audition material - deciding what to sing MUST show something positive/good/GREAT about you - your voice, your acting, your personality! It should NEVER show what you don't want them to see...

Again, KNOWING what you don't want them to see takes an honesty that is sometimes difficult to swallow, but if you want to build craft and pursue a career then you MUST be honest.

Having an outside ear - teacher, coach, class - that you trust is going to critique and give constructive criticism and then a direction to go to create a positive and focused balance is NECESSARY.

I often ask singers "Why did you choose that?" I don't leave it there...I want them to begin the quest of decision-making in order to discover what makes the best fit for them. Usually the songs I ask that of, the answer is ambiguous or not focused enough for the task. "Cause I like it" doesn't make it a good fit for an audition or public consumption. "Like" is for private consumption first!

What does your voice do well? Find the fit of repertoire from there for public consumption.

Your private practicing and development, your studio time with your teacher and/or coach - these are the places to show what you are working toward. These times NEVER should be entering into a public space for others to criticize or make decisions about.

"You aren't ready" can't devastate you if you made the decision to take it into public space - audition, jury, performance, whatever. You showed you weren't ready by making that decision! Your disappointment shouldn't be with the response, but rather, with your lack of awareness in your ability to see where you are and what you can DO.

Less is more. Seriously! You don't have to show EVERYTHING. Make a simplified decision in order to be strong and focused in that room and it will resonant in the minds of the panel, audience etc.

Learning about what your voice does NOW and what you are working on to develop gives you a place to start. Repertoire can change!!!! It should!!!

Self-delusion is a form of stress management, but sadly, it can also keep the truth away from the one person who needs it the most - the singer. Everybody else can see it and hear it, and the singer has created a world to protect him/herself. This is the singer that blames everybody else for not getting the job, not getting the callback, not developing...

Truth is a hard one sometimes - but truth doesn't have to knock you down! It should illuminate a place to be and a point of departure.

Truth gives us a reality in which to inhabit fully - and get to work!!! It may reveal precisely what you don't WANT to do - and in finding that, it shows what is possible.

Show what you DO, which means, find out what you are capable of and where you are honestly in your craft and technique and artistry.

Self doubt is part of the process. Artists need to ask the hard questions of themselves and wonder and discover. However, as the process begins to unfold, you discover and the doubt can disappear because the choices are clearer.

Show what you DO in public! Continue to explore what you can't yet, in private. That's where it all belongs!


Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Luxury and the Necessity

Saturday musings from Toronto!

As I continue to ponder the cost vs the value it occurred to me how study for the sake of study is a wonderful thing - but are you learning anything and if so, are you being honest about what you are learning?

Study and development of one's craft if one needs to and wants to make a living doing it has a much more urgent demand than one who is studying for fun. One is necessity and one is luxury. Neither is wrong per se. Recognition and reality are key.

Why do you study? What is your purpose? What are you trying to achieve?

If you are pursuing a career, having a career, developing a career, building a career - then the necessity of craft isn't an option. It is NEEDED it is URGENT it is NOT AN OPTION. The ability to hone that craft has to do with the natural instincts and gifts one has and has already developed, and then how the artist continues to establish discipline and focus to create further.

The honesty and realistic focus need to be there. No teacher can tell you if you will have a career or not. Only the business will tell you that. However, a teacher should be someone you can trust enough to say - what do you see? What do you hear? Am I deluding myself? What are my possibilities in craft? What could I achieve?

If you are pursuing a career - these questions and the ANSWERS are a necessary reality - not a luxury. The answers aren't always easy - and may kick your butt - but if the career is important and pursuit is desirable then the realistic goals and understanding of what you have to work with is ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY.

Those of you who do not rely on making a living with your craft have a certain amount of luxury in your studies. However, a realistic understanding of what you are doing and why, including specific goals is also important in order to keep the building of your discipline focused. The fantasy life of "I wonder if" can pull you off track if you are not aware of your ability, limitations, and choices.

My husband, Thomas Young, often uses this quote "It is a luxury to be understood". As an artist, this is so true. As a human being, even more so. We work painstakingly hard to be understood!! However, the realization of honesty with self is luxurious too - because it is NECESSARY!

Whether you study for luxury or for necessity, the honesty and realism you develop with yourself is key to allow for a luxurious realization that wherever you are - BE TRULY THERE. Knowing yourself, challenging yourself, and recognizing what you have and what you need and how you can develop it further is important in ALL aspects of the study of singing - pursuing a career or not.

REALITY creates a place to be. Fantasy only prolongs the inevitable.

Make it a necessity and live there. The luxury of realization when the needs are being met and the hard questions are answered can be a glorious thing!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Cost of Everything and the Value of Nothing!

Wednesday musings...

I continue to be amazed at the lack of awareness of what is NEEDED to develop craft and what is NECESSARY to achieve craft.

Perhaps this is something that is society-driven: everything is instant. Everything is now.

Craft and artistry is not created thus. It is time and and dedication and realization and HONESTY.

If you want a chance at a career, you have to INVEST in YOU and in the development of that career. That means lessons, study, development, classes, SELF...

Yes this costs money. Yes you need to commit and sacrifice! If it is important to you, you suck it up princess and figure out a way!

I was discussing this with colleagues this week - and we were talking about our commitment and what we needed to do and CONTINUE to do to develop our craft and our professionalism. Many of us had 2 or 3 jobs to pay for lessons and classes, and some of us STILL are paying for student loans because the VALUE of what we were investing in was worth it for the journey!

Things are too expensive if what you are investing is lacking. If you are looking for an "instant fix" then go do something else. Developing craft takes time and initiative and dedication!! On the other hand, it isn't about ongoing wandering either...Knowing WHAT you value and HOW to develop that value through specific investment is KEY to achieving the development you are looking for.

As a teacher, my job is to become obsolete. I teach you HOW to teach yourself. You end up checking in from time to time for a 2nd set of ears/refresher....

How long that takes depends on the singer. What are you there to do? What do you have to work with? What are you wanting to achieve ultimately? Are you being honest about your ability and your talent? Are you being REAL about what you want to do versus what you are able to do, versus what you are best suited to do?

Finding the best possible "fit" for you and your goals is up to YOU. The singer must find that fit with a teacher, class, coach, program, etc etc that makes the most sense. If it's not working, it is BUSINESS. You make the adjustment! You thank them for their time and expertise and move on!

Complaining, would-a, could-a, should-a, whining, wondering, isn't going to move you forward! Being pro-active on WHY you are studying and WHY you NEED to study is key.

What are you doing all this for? Saying "I want a career but I don't want to invest in it" is a red flag that perhaps you should do something else. Just because you have talent doesn't mean you have the makings of a career.

Some of you have more ambition than talent. What are you investing in? How are you developing what you have?

The extremes are simply that: those with real talent who don't think they have to invest because everything costs so much; and those with real ambition who don't have the natural talent.

BOTH extremes need to make a decision about cost/value - and decide where they WANT to be and what it will take to BE THERE.

Sacrifice? you bet. Sacrifice to gain MORE in the value of your craft.

Honesty? I hope so. Do you know what you have? What you lack? What you need? What is good enough and what isn't?

"It's good enough" is NOT an option. Not if you want to be competitive.

"Just because the teacher says so" is NOT an option. REAL teachers tell you WHY. REAL singers ASK. They don't follow blindly. They are pro-active in their development and their reality.

Yes there is a cost. However, what is the VALUE of your commitment? What is that worth? Ultimately, what is it worth to YOU?

The willingness to discover the possibilities comes from a commitment to self. The willingness to invest in the self and the development takes creativity and effort.

With willingness comes possibilities. With willingness comes recognition of what is real and what is not. Real reveals honesty or lack of it.

Are you spending and just spinning your wheels? Or are you investing and discovering a TRUTH?

Are you willing to see the difference? Are you willing to ask the hard questions? Are you willing to commit to the hard questions?

If you aren't - that's another honesty and it is okay!!!! Pretending is not pursuing a career! Better to recognize the truth and act on it!

Commit to the truth of you whatever that is. The value of that cannot have a price tag. If it does, it's another delusion.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Some Shameless Self-Promotion!

Greetings all!

I have had a rather wonderful review of my CD "Taking My Turn" in the Journal of Singing.

Since then, I have had many requests through and through my website for its availability.

I would like to offer any readers a chance to pick it up directly from me for $12.99 via paypal. Just email me directly with your mailing address, through the blog or my website and I will invoice you via paypal and get it out to you asap!

Here is a small compilation of a December cabaret performance for your enjoyment - I hope!

Now - scroll down to read TODAY'S BLOG!!!!

Investing in SELF

Sunday musings...

I had responded to a post a few days ago on a singer board that was basically "Now what do I do?"

Holy cow.

I am always amazed at the unending need by some singers for a "specific plan" to be a singer. If you need that specificity, then perhaps you are not a singer. Perhaps you just like to sing. And that's okay - don't get me wrong!!! But asking for a specific path and not having the sensibility to invest in the growth of self sends me a red flag that perhaps you need to look at another vocation!

Now what do you do? You invest in YOU.

Many have a sense of the cost of things and don't know or understand the value of anything. I have said this before. Investing in the self takes more than just time and money. The multi-faceted development of a human being is not designed to work primarily from that premise. The cost of things is imposed on us by a social-economic viewpoint. The INVESTMENT into self BY self is something else.

Are you willing to discover what that self NEEDS and meet those needs? This is an ongoing compromise and is constantly morphing and changing. Are you willing to recognize it and greet it openly?

HOW do you invest in yourself?

There are the obvious outward things, and there are the more subtle and exceptional internal things.

Are you as healthy as you can be? Physically, emotionally, spiritually? Are you aware of those needs? Do you feed them? Do you nurture them?

Are you aware of your voice and its needs and its reality? Do you know HOW to study? WHAT to study? WHY to study? Do you know with WHOM to study and WHEN?

Do you see your journey til now a chore, a would-a, could-a, should-a - or do you see it as the path to NOW? Can you make choices that will affect your decisions NOW based on then with more information or are you still living back there?

Do you wallow? Do you gloat? Do you be-moan? Or are you open, moving through, recognizing and claiming?

Do you recognize the process is never complete because YOU are constantly in an evolutionary state? And that this is a GREAT thing????

The money you spend on lessons, coachings, classes in voice or theatre or acting or languages or dialects or dance or or only a fraction of the investment in self. It is a tangible exchange, but what you DO with that exchange is KEY. If you are not finding what you need/want/desire, then why are you there? Do you know WHY you are there? Are you spinning your wheels just going through the motions of "now what"?

What are you trying to DO? What are you gaining and wanting to accomplish? The DOING is in the NOW - it is not in the past, nor in the future - but it shapes how we view what comes next!

You can spend money and time and that investment is only a small portion of the enormity of investing in self. If you are not PRESENT to the understanding of WHY then you lose its value in all aspects of lose the money, your time, and the value of the information given will never penetrate.

I often am told by a singer "Why hasn't someone told me that before?" or "Why didn't I come to you before now?"

Why? It's not because I hold all the answers. It is because YOU are ready to hear what I said and YOU are ready to invest in YOU WITH ME.

You may have been told that before. You weren't ready to hear it. Or you couldn't hear it yet. And if you can't hear it, you cannot DO it. Whatever you have done, has lead you to where you are. There are no coincidences.

Invest in the VALUE of self by recognizing the value of time, commitment, process and developing the evolution of self. You will learn what you are able to learn at any given time. So much of what we take in as artists cannot be developed immediately. Artistry is not immediacy. Artistry is living and breathing and paying attention to each moment of each day with a certain sensitivity, with a certain kind of eye, with a certain kind of ear, with a certain kind of spirit.

Investing in the value of self is crucial for every artist. Knowing the value and claiming that value will always outlive the cost.

"What do I do now?" Perhaps if you must ask that, you need to be still and look around carefully to find the answer. Perhaps the answer does not come from outside, but rather, from you. Perhaps you need some time to discover it, be ready for it, be willing to understand it.

Perhaps being in your "NOW" is critical to have a moment of recognition - of SELF. Of whether you truly are investing in it, or just paying for it.

Friday, February 12, 2010

The Craft of Audition

Friday musings...

Given your comments from singers and CDs alike - both public and private, I shall continue discussing this craft called "the audition".

As you can see from reading comments and reading other blogs, not all professionals will agree completely on this elusive called the audition.

Ultimately, it is up to you, the singer, to discover what you DO and HOW YOU DO IT! Then, it is an acknowledgement of what is working for you - and what is not.

The craft of auditioning is ultimately to get a call back because you made a positive impression and they want to see more - and you want to book that job!

How you look, how you behave, what you DO while you are in the room - vocally, dramatically, and personally - all matter.

Being personable and pliable and accessible is KEY. Being a suck-up or a phony isn't.

Behaving with respect and professionalism shows how you respect the PROCESS. You are not there to be buddies with everybody in that room - you are there to present yourself in a professional process. Accessibility and friendly is NOT smoozing!

Often, nerves can come across as stand-offish-ness (is that a word?!?!) so knowing HOW you come across is very important.

A singer SHOULD be hired because he/she is the right singer for the job. Being hired because you are "nice" doesn't make sense. However, what DOES make sense is that the accessibility you present in the room, should show how you could work with the project. If you are accessible, personable and talented - what a concept!!

Thus, practicing the audition is key. Don't assume you can just do it if you haven't worked on it! Audition classes, mock auditions, renewal classes, and JUST PRACTICING will help immensely.

Find out what your energy evokes. Sometimes we are not aware of how we come across and we need to know this if we are going to try to get a job!

If you are booking work - congratulations! It doesn't mean you rest and not continue to discover what you can continue to finesse.

If you aren't booking work, perhaps it's time to re-evaluate what is happening.

Here are some questions I would ask and then implore you to find the answers to:

1. How is your voice? Seriously? Is your technical ability sound? Are you truly able to sing well and comfortably? Can you rely on your voice in an audition situation?

2. Do you know what your voice is capable of? Are you staying true to its ability?

3. Are you singing repertoire that shows what you do well? Or are your choices suspect?

4. Are you presenting repertoire for type and infusing it with authenticity?

5. Are you engaged in the process or do you distance yourself from it?

6. How are you being SEEN? Approachable? Phony? Distant?

7. What are your strengths? Are you engaging those and presenting them without apology?

8. What are your weaknesses? Are you aware of them? Are you clear about not bringing that into the room?

9. Do you have a clear focus and presence when you walk into an audition space? Or are you zoned out?

10. Is the "package" of you clearly visible? Headshot/resume, energy, personality, voice, type, repertoire?

11. Are you being HONEST and do you have people around you who can be honest with you in order to find your fullest potential?

These are just a few questions to begin asking yourself...You don't have control over what "they" are hiring, but if it's YOU, please be PREPARED for that!!! THAT you CAN control! Your craft is in your hands. This is key and this is ultimately the most important.

If your craft is suspect, if your presentation is beige, if your energy is "off", it will only be okay. Okay doesn't get a callback. You have to create an atmosphere of "I can do this" with authenticity. THAT you can develop and lead with.

Be real. Be authentic. Keep asking questions, keep discovering, keep developing YOU.

Remember over 80% (!!!) of our communication is NON VERBAL!!!! As artists and craftsmen if seek out knowledge by DOING and seek out those who DO and HAVE DONE to give us a sense of what we need, what we need to development, what we need to disregard and dispose of. DOING requires effort, and response.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What are you SINGING in that audition?

Wednesday musings...

For Music Theatre singers, my question is what are you singing in that audition?

And why?

We see songs go in and out of vogue in the audition room, but why? What makes EVERY singer think it's a good idea to sing it?

Simply: it's not.

The decision what to sing in an audition is to show something in particular about YOU and your voice. Just cause you like a song, doesn't make that a good idea!

Just because a song is written and published, doesn't mean it's well written either! Not all composers are "voice friendly" and it may not be a healthy choice, nor a positive choice for you.

How do you know what to sing?

STUDY! KNOW YOUR VOICE!!! What does your voice do well? How will you be typed? Dress that voice in something that enhances it, not something that detracts from it!

Find the material that best shows off what YOU do well. You are not another singer!!! Don't sing it by imitating! SING LIKE YOU and show what YOU do best.

Stay away from the "in vogue" ideas - unless you are going to do something VERY different with it! Make it yours, don't make it like everybody else!

Learn how to analyze a song's ability to be "singer friendly". Can you actually do it well?

As singers, you need to really get real about what you are capable of, and what you are not!! Show what you do WELL with a song choice that is a vehicle for that!

There is SO MUCH repertoire out there!!!! It takes a time commitment to just begin pouring through roles and shows and possibilities in order to find ideas that will be best suited to your strengths.

Remember not only do you have to sing it, but a pianist has to play it! Don't get so obscure that it can't be sight read by someone who has never seen it before!

I don't mind hearing a song for the one millionth time if it is done WELL. If it is UNIQUE in presentation and if it is sung with authenticity and an instrument that knows what it can do and wants to show.

I dislike hearing a song that is not singer friendly - and demands a technical prowess that is unattainable by most of the singers that try it. Don't show me what you can't do!!! Don't try to show me what you WISH you could do...

I love hearing new repertoire, especially if it shows off the singer in a unique manner.

I love hearing classic repertoire done with a unique and personal touch and a real voice that is healthy and knows what it can do!

The competition in the audition room shouldn't be between you and the song!!! If the song kicks your ass, you shouldn't be singing it! Your repertoire should be so sung in, you could do it half asleep, sick with a cold!! You shouldn't be worried about if you can sing the high note, or what your voice is going to do on that phrase, or if you have the words memorized! If you are worried or concerned about that, then another song might be more appropriate.

There are those "performers" of course, who are in self-denial and aren't worried at all - and probably should be...another blog!

Those of you who are trying to discover self and be aware of what you are capable of, what you are working toward, what you can do NOW need to discover what fits you now.

In an audition, you need to show what you DO, without reservation or apology, through the medium of a song that looks good on you!!

Trust me - those sitting at the table will begin to go into survival mode when hearing poor repertoire choices, poor singing, the same "in vogue" song done the same way each time...

Isn't the point of the audition to STAND OUT in a POSITIVE way and get a job? Why would you want to be seen like one of many and blend into the crowd? If you want to be SEEN, then SHOW WHAT YOU DO uniquely!! If you aren't seen, you won't be remembered; if you aren't remembered, you have no chance of a callback or to be hired.

The audition needs to INTRIGUE the people at the table enough to call you back!!! Give them a taste of what you can do - don't smother them!!! Let them call you back and then give them more!!

Show what you need to and want to through the repertoire you choose.
Ultimately, the choice of that repertoire is going to enhance you, or finish you.

And YOU chose it. It's up to you.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Claiming the PRODUCT of the Audition!

Sunday musings...

I am asked ongoing audition questions....frustrated performers and frustrated artists wondering what they can do to get noticed and find that job!

When you audition - you must discover and claim the DIFFERENCE between YOU the artist/human being and YOU the PRODUCT.

In an audition, the artist does not lead. The artist can inform the process and prepare the craft of singing/acting before walking into that audition room. Before walking into that room, the PRODUCT must take over.

Allowing yourself permission to separate and clearly define this is key to how you present in a room. You are now product. Pure and simple. You are trying to get a job. They need to see that the product you bring in is PRECISELY what they need. You need to present the product in such a way that no one is necessary.

Auditioning is not about artistry. The clearer you are about that, the easier it becomes. It is not about diversity, about journey, about spirit. It is about SELLING THE PRODUCT to be offered a job.

Simplify. Clarify. How do you get the job?

Focus not on the artistry, but on getting the job. If YOU are the product, then you must believe you are truly the ONLY product they need. This is not ego, this is not wishful thinking - this has to be a REALITY IN THE MOMENT.

If you are a top athlete that competes, you will never succeed if you stand at the blocks and say to yourself, "I don't think I'm good enough; I hope they like me; I wonder if I can do this;"

You SEE the task. You SEE the win. You FOCUS on what you need to DO from the blocks through the finish line. NOTHING ELSE MATTERS IN THAT MOMENT and NO ONE CAN PULL YOU OFF YOUR GAME.

As PRODUCT in this business, so it must be for us in that room! What am I trying to do? How do I achieve it? They don't have to like you!!!! THEY NEED TO HIRE YOU! You don't need to flirt, visit, be need to SELL THE PRODUCT!

You need to BELIEVE YOUR PRODUCT IS THE ONLY PRODUCT and walk in with that confidence. You need to KNOW what you walk in with and DELIVER IT. You need to know HOW to take the room and DO that. You need to know WHAT you are selling and SELL that. You need to focus, deliver and follow through.

This is a mission and there is nothing subtle about it!

Now, don't misunderstand - being so focused does not mean you lose your humanity and do not engage in pleasantries or the like! What you want to remember is that you need to sell what they are buying. They are looking for a product. YOU are that product or you are not.

Don't waste your time nor theirs if you are not the product they are looking for!

You must walk into that room with confidence, not arrogance. You must walk into that room KNOWING and CLAIMING your worth as PRODUCT. You must walk into that room believing your product will succeed. You must be about business, not buddies.

"I think they liked me" isn't about PRODUCT. They may like you fine - but that doesn't mean you'll be hired! Do not confuse the two!

Personal and Professional cannot be morphed in the audition room.

The audition room is about PRODUCT. The product YOU are selling and the product THEY are buying.

Your job is to win them over - and show them you are PRECISELY what they need.

Your sense of competition is NOT with the others in the holding room, but rather with YOURSELF. Can you claim your product, summon it, focus it and DELIVER it in that room without any room for doubt or query?

THAT is your goal in the audition room. Know what you are there to do, make no excuses, do not apologize, and simply DO IT.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Game of Diversity

Saturday musings....

I wrote an entry about the Diversity Factor last week, and thank you to many who commented. A great colleague of mine, Cindy Sadler, a superb mezzo and a woman who advices opera singers, brought up a great point in her comment, and I wanted to write a follow up on this blog.

Your diversity factor needs to play the diversity game.

The business is multi-faceted. YOU might straddle several areas of it - be it opera, music theatre, straight theatre, film/tv, dance, multi-media, commercial, but THEY DO NOT.

The people reading your resume are very specifically in their business. They don't know what goes on in the other facets. That's the way it is. They don't relate to other areas, and might have an overview at best, and will dismiss it at worst.

Know your worth, but also know how the game is played. If you are pursuing work, you have to play the game. You can't change anything until you play the game and win!

Given our computer age, you can have many specified resumes on file for any given job if you are truly that diverse!

The specificity of each "business" within "the" business wants to see your diversity with THAT specificity. Was that as clear as mud?

Each resume should lead with the area of the business you are presenting for.

If you are presenting a Music Theatre resume - lead with Music Theatre! If you are able to sing legit and belt and have those credits, show it by how you present it on the page.

If you have opera credits - MT business doesn't care - unless it's for a legit show. Or you might want to put in a few credits that are shows that are very well known and in standard repertoire.

Concert work isn't really applicable - but cabaret work or pops work with orchestra might be; Training is important but always goes UNDER your credits. Special skills can show additional skills that are relevant to the business you are aiming at.

Opera resumes - as Cindy mentioned in the comments of my other entry - need to only show MT credits that are legit and classic. That's it. Non-legit shows - belt/pop/rock - are irrelevant and will only cause confusion and dismissal.

ANY resume must lead with the business you are aiming for.

If it's MT - lead with MT; If it's Opera, lead with those opera credits; If it's jazz or commercial work - lead with that; I think you get the point.

YOU know your diversity. You need to think like the business and look at your resume from that angle. Have you confused them, or have you intrigued them?

Intrigue them with a touch of diversity that will make them lean forward to then hear what you can DO in that audition. The resume should be simply an INTRODUCTION not an epistle of your life! It should be an overview that gets you to the door. It should intrigue enough to make it possible for you to show what you can do!

The Diversity Factor of YOU needs to now play the business game - and get creative!! Design that resume specifically to get the audition and GET THE JOB! Create it to show you in that genre so they are intrigued to pay attention. Too much diversity on the page doesn't do you justice. Focus, hone it, and NAIL IT.

Know what you are going for; who your target audience is and what part of the business you are approaching; lead with that part of the business; THINK business and don't confuse business with art. It is simply not the same.

Diversity is important, but recognizing specificity is equally important when you are trying to get a job! Be diverse within each branch of the business and ENJOY your creativity within the process!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Singing for the Room...

A Friday night musing...

On the suggestion of Joy Dewing, Casting Director for Clemmons Casting NYC, thank you Joy!

What is singing for the room/in the room while auditioning?

First and foremost you need to know your voice and have studied to know what to DO in the room. If you don't - you have no business being there.

You have no idea sometime what the room will give you or what it will take away. It's nobody's fault, it just is.

So, knowing how your voice resonates in your own body and how it FEELS when it is balanced, will allow you an opportunity to walk into ANY space and read it properly.

Voice is about mixture and balance and motion. It has to find that mixture and balance and motion in the body first, not in the room. If you don't know how to FEEL your voice fully and recognize the sensation of balanced physicality and athleticism you will never read a room correctly. That means you will over-expose, under-expose, push or pull back and not even realize it is an issue!

First and foremost you must study so you KNOW your voice and what it does, what it can do, what you are expecting it to you. Voice is vibration and muscle and breath. It NEEDS a physicality to live in first and foremost - and that is YOUR body. You are your own acoustic first. Resonance is what carries your voice - not loud. Not big. RESONANCE. You BUILD that by practice and knowledge and study.

Most of the time, if you are aware of the SENSATION of your voice, you can trust that is enough in an audition space. This takes PRACTICE. Auditions can cause anxiety and in anxious moments, we have a tendency to push. The voice is then pushed and the breath held. When this happens, the reverse happens - the voice STOPS. And then we begin the horrid crash and burn and "cack 22" because the more we push the more the voice stops. Nothing works.

This can also happen in a room where there is no air and it dead. We give more and in fact, it pulls everything out of alignment. When the alignment is misguided, the voice literally suffers and falls away.

On the other extreme, when a room is too loud, we hold back. Again, the breath disappears, the muscles tighten and the voice disappears.

So what do we do????

First, do you know your voice? I mean REALLY??? If you don't know how your voice FEELS when it is balanced, you will never be successful in an audition space. Your physicality must be your own recital hall first and foremost in order to walk into another space to extend that.

Consciousness of the extended space of your body - the room you are in - is crucial - but it is an EXTENSION not a primary space. Your primary space is YOU. If you can embody that, chances are you can begin to allow the room you are in to enhance you, or not get in the way, depending on the air in that room!

You can always tell amateur singers from more enlightened singers by how they respond to a room after an audition. Amateurs blame the room. Enlightened singer recognize the pros and cons and still do their work. Amateurs don't get it. Enlightened singers make it work because they CAN!

So how do you EMBRACE the room, no matter the acoustic?


Be in the moment when you walk in, and while you are in the room. PAY ATTENTION to your surroundings. What kind of room are you walking into? Ceiling height? what's on the floor? What's on the walls? Is it absorbing or is it reflecting? NOTICE IT.

SPEAK IN THE ROOM. DO NOT RUSH. Support that speaking voice and feel it. How does it move in that space? PAY ATTENTION!

In a perfect world, a room will allow you to sing. Good luck with that. (except for my new studio!)

So, this means you must KNOW your voice. You must know what your voice NEEDS and what it REQUIRES in any particular space.

If a room is dead - what do you need to do as a singer? YOU DO NOT PUSH. YOU DO NOT SING LOUDER. This is not balance, and this is not resonance and this will not travel. You need alignment, more athletic breath, brighter vowels and more internal space. You need to feel your physical language in your physical space. Often it will feel like it is moving in slow motion. Diphthongs/triphthongs will turn more slowly but will carry in real time. TRUST WHAT YOU FEEL and what you are trying to DO. Quit listening and DO! You will FEEL delay. It's okay. It is the delay in your ear that gives you balance in the room.

If a room is too live - you need to stay in your physical acoustic. You won't need to work hard above the staff if you are a soprano or tenor; You won't need to modify as vehemently as a baritone or mezzo; You probably won't need to modify or open at passaggio or certainly above the staff. Belters can back off intensity and create an even more compact fundamental. Everything will turn quickly so it will feel as if you are ahead of be in the moment and don't anticipate. Don't try to change dynamic. Trust the balance of resonance and the quick and live response to give you nuance.

Practice in different spaces to find your balance in these spaces. Record yourself. Those of us who are more experienced can find these shifts more quickly, but if you are still finding the truth of your voice, it is important to discover how your voice functions in its totality and within different spaces.

This is part of study and discovery.

When in doubt, trust how your voice feels. If you don't know how it feels, you haven't developed it enough, nor have you worked it enough to recognize its signature.

It takes time and experience and craft and technique to discover a room in the process. Knowing your voice first and foremost gives you a template and a beginning. Knowing the difference between the sensation and what you hear with your ears is a start. Knowing the difference between hearing your fundamental and FEELING it is a start.

When you TAKE a room, it means ALL things to your instrument. It is simply an extension - good, bad or indifferent. The technical behavior will need to be in place for you to truly use the room to your advantage and not a crutch.

If you have no idea what I am saying - then the FIRST thing is to get thee to a teacher who will introduce you to the truth of your voice and help you develop it into a working knowledge of craft and behavior.

Otherwise - it's just a crap shoot. If you don't know how to make the room work FOR you, how can they expect you to make the theatre work night after night?

Take Your Work Seriously and Learn How to Laugh!

Friday musings...

I have 3 points of advice if you care to take it:

1. Take Your Work Seriously

2. Learn to Laugh at Yourself

3. Don't Take the Business Seriously Either!!!

What do I mean? Let's explore it...


Study, explore, develop, commit...what you DO matters. "Good enough" is not serious. If you are pursuing it - THEN REALLY PURSUE IT and see where it takes you! You can't be successful in discovery if you don't really find out what it means! Failure is not an option - because if you are PURSUING there is no such thing as failure. Pursuit takes you somewhere. It might not be the place you thought you would go, and all that means is another path/angle/choice. That is not failure, but rather a new discovery! Taking your work seriously means a choice. A choice to discover fully and find what it shows you. You cannot know unless you pursue it. Your craft DEMANDS that.


I MEAN THIS! Take your work seriously, but not yourself. We need to laugh at the ridiculous and the sublime! We are human beings - and we are multi-faceted and need to recognize what we DO isn't always who we ARE. Who we are needs to be silly sometimes; needs to make mistakes and missteps; needs to just relax and laugh and know it's okay. The self does not need to get so wound up that it forgets the difference between DOING and BEING. The DOING of the work is serious - and how we pursue it and how we commit to it. THE BEING of the SELF needs to enjoy the space between...the ability to not take yourself so seriously is KEY to finding balance as you pursue this career called theatre...


Talk about the ridiculous to the sublime!!!! Sometimes the business "sees" you - and most of the time they don't. They aren't looking to see you. Their focus is elsewhere. You are part of the equipment. If we take this too seriously, we will drive ourselves mad. It isn't worth that. Know the reality of what you are dealing with, and to thyself be true. Otherwise, you will tie yourself up in knots!!!

Know who these people are and what their function is. Know it's not personal. Know everybody has an option and it doesn't mean it's informed just because there's a "title" beside their name! Know you'll never figure it out, so there is no point angsting over it!

Commit to YOU not to the business. If you try to please the business, you'll never do it. The confusion will overwhelm you and your pursuit of an artistic self will be left in the dust.

Laugh because you CAN. Laugh because it IS ridiculous in the truest sense of things, and opinions are like assholes...everybody has one. The opinion has no relevance if there is no knowledge to inform it. Yes, that IS laughable.

Examples? You want examples? I could go on and on but here are a few...and no, I am not making them up...

An agent said to a FINE belter at a workshop "well, I see that singing isn't your strong suit." Don't you wish you could just say "And I see evaluating talent isn't yours?!"

A casting agent in a class commenting that "The only thing I have to say is that you need to learn how to wear high heels" - to an actor/singer who wears heels daily. That CD's assistant broke out and laughed at the absurdity!!!! And the response from the CD 'Well, I guess I don't know anything".....hmmmm....out of the mouths of...

An agent listening to a legit soprano ingenue singing a full legit song in audition who sings it beautifully and comments "That was lovely. Could you belt the high note now?"

Two agents together listening to a soprano quirky ingenue who can sing both legit and quirky belt - who is blonde and beautiful. One agent turns to the other and says "How would I market her? I am confused." It was good to see the 2nd agent look at her like she'd lost her mind.

An artistic team after a singer's audition: "You are fabulous! Could you be taller?"
(that's still one of my all time favorites)

"We love you - but you are just too good."
"I really want to hire you, but you'd make everybody else look so bad."
"I love your sound, but I really need a blonde."
(those are mine personally by the way...)

And my all time favorite as I walked into an audition with two 20-somethings at the table. With my resume in her hand, the 20-something said "So, Susan, what have you done?"

I take my work very seriously. Myself, not so much. This business? It is what it is and we MUST laugh. I was at a point in my career where it didn't matter if I got this job. So my response: "Well, considering my career is probably older than you are, I am guessing more than you have!" MY RESUME IS IN YOUR HAND - READ IT!

Ridiculous. Laugh - BECAUSE YOU CAN!!!

WORK HARD. Develop your craft within an inch of your life. Know your worth, know your ability - DISCOVER YOUR REALITY. Be brutally honest with yourself or someone else will.

LAUGH HARD. PLAY HARD. Live your life.
Challenge yourself but challenge the business too. Find the laughables and laugh! Recognize what is real and what is ridiculous. Expose it through YOUR reality. Don't succumb to the stupidity but rise above it.

Opinions are simply opinions. Reality however is another thing...

If you lead with REAL, opinions matter less and less.

Work AND laugh. Realize AND be. Don't get sucked into the minutia of stupidity.

ENJOY YOUR DISCOVERIES and lead with your strengths. Laughter is a strength too...

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Diversity Factor

Wednesday musings...

I am wondering why today...

So enlighten me readers if you have some insight into this...I certainly do not profess to have the answers, but I have questions, a little time on this planet, a little experience and my eyes open.

So here is my "why"...

Why are we asked to be diverse performers and yet our resumes must be catered specifically for the job at hand?

I have wondered this over time, but a colleague of mine brought it up last night wondering about the same thing and gave some examples of how she's been treated/told to create a resume that holds theatre/music theatre/opera credits.

Why would a music theatre resume be dismissed if it had opera credits on it?

Why are singers told to compartmentalize their credits in theatre?

I am just curious...

Looking at a resume cannot assume the person DOES what they say...

However, if a music theatre singer has some opera credits it would make me take a moment and say "Hmmm perhaps this person can sing".

Depending on the roles they have - they may be able to cross over and find the stylistic decisions authentically, or not. But taking the chance and assuming "singer" would probably be worthwhile!

"Trained singer" doesn't automatically assume "opera singer". EVERY SINGER WHO WANTS TO PURSUE A CAREER SHOULD BE TRAINED. WITHOUT EXCEPTION!!!!!!!!!

Why? Training allows for longevity. Training is about building an instrument, a craft, a KNOWLEDGE.

SO, why would a "singer" who has diversity be asked to leave off important credits that show one's diversity?

If the resume is created for balance - is this confusing? Why?

If an actor can have classical theatre and contemporary theatre credits as well as film/tv credits on the same resume, why would a singer have to separate music theatre from opera when it is ALL THEATRE?

Is it confusing? To whom?

Aren't the people reading the resumes supposed to have KNOWLEDGE and know what they are reading????

Ahhhhhh....perhaps this is the problem?

Where does the confusion lie?

Why is there confusion?

Why would a singer have to eliminate important credits to show their diversity and their ability? Why would this be confusing?

It IS possible for a singer to be able to do more than one genre. And it IS possible for a singer to be able to sing more styles within each genre. It is also possible for a singer to say they sing and have credits on a resume and then you find out they can't at all.

Resumes are representative of the work accomplished/in progress/in preparation.

If I have done the study, the work, the role - I want that on there to represent ME!!!

How is that confusing????

I could answer my own questions...and I can in many circumstances. It's another one of those "business" things where the emperor isn't wearing any clothes in so many cases isn't it?

Having certain credits on your resume would assume the person evaluating that resume has the ability to truly do so.....hmmm....

If theatre is theatre, then theatrical credits should be included. As our experience develops there won't be room for everything, so we have to pick and choose and create a diversity on paper that shows our experience/range/type et al.

That is common sense isn't it? Shouldn't a resume be common sense?

If the business asks for diversity wouldn't they want a resume that shows that?

Or???? Why would that be confusing???

Singers need to show they can sing...and their diversity should show that. Then of course, they need to PROVE they can by DOING.

And of course, wishing the person listening to them has the knowledge actually know what they are hearing and can evaluate it clearly. (oh - another blog entirely!!!)

So I look forward to your responses on this diversity factor and the lack of responsibility to it...because frankly, being told your theatre credits are confusing makes me squeeze my eyes shut and hold my breath.

Perhaps the confusing factor is why the person telling you that is in the business at all...
Just sayin'...