Saturday, November 24, 2012

But won't studying voice make me an opera singer?

In a

I hear the excuses - from many different people:  "but if I take lessons, it'll change my sound",  "I don't want to be an opera singer, so why would I take lessons?"

etc etc etc blah blah blah.

This is ignorance talking, and sometimes fear.  Fear of the unknown.

You can't call yourself a singer if you don't sing.  You cannot BE a singer if you don't have access to your FULL instrument.  Period.  How do you access that full instrument in order to know how to use it well, if you don't study?

As with ANY discipline,  study and technique is crucial for its longevity and its ability to excel.

Why wouldn't you want to know how to use your voice in the best possible way?

Studying voice, with the right teacher, will open technical possibilities,  knowledge, behavior,  approach,  and even STYLE that perhaps you had no idea about!

Until you truly access your instrument fully,  you simply cannot know what you are able to do, capable of, or not.

Singing is like any discipline or athletic activity.  The more the instrument is developed or "trained", the more possibilities exist.  The less chance of injury.  The more real the opportunities.

Athletes cross-train.  It doesn't mean they will excel or even delve into certain aspects of that training, but it is in the training itself, the PURITY of what the body learns and develops from that training that allows that athlete to then take on his/her speciality.

The dancer studies and develops technique.  The basis of the technique, what is at the core of the body function of technique does not mean that dancer will be a ballerina.  What happens at the barre allows for the dancer to move into the technique of other forms of dance, and have the technical FREEDOM to explore where their body and inclination allows them to be.

The actor who is fully realized, studies and develops behavior.  He/she can look at many different methods and approaches,  work with classical text,  understand breath and support,  and know no matter where they are cast, they are able to fulfill those requirements and embody that style and those characters.

Singing is the same thing.  The instrument begins with physicality and athleticism.  If this is not understood, it simply cannot take on what the mind and spirit want to always do.

Studying voice should and will make you a better SINGER.  Period.

If you call yourself one,  why wouldn't you want to be the best you can be and allow the challenges of that to lift you to the next level?

Potential is nothing if not realized.

Natural talent only exists to a certain point, and then evaporates with skill is required.

Knowledge is power.

Behavior is key.

Knowing how to do what you NEED to do in order to access the many facets and levels of artistry is CRUCIAL to being a singer, an artist, and someone who has the chops to last!

Flying by the seat of your pants can be exciting until you fall.  And generally the seat of those pants rips hard and suddenly the Emperor has no clothes on.  Everybody sees it.

The truly "great" artists - those that span time  in EVERY genre of singing - study.  From opera to music theatre, to pop and rock to jazz and more.

The greatest players and singers,  the greatest actors and dancers,  the greatest athletes ALL STUDIED!

Learning how to use your instrument, your voice,  allows you more possibilities, not less.  It will not change your voice, it will ACCESS your voice.  Learning how your instrument works,  discovering how to use it in a healthy way will not change your choice of style, but in fact FINESSE it.

Why wouldn't you want to access MORE instead of staying with less?

You don't know until you try.  You cannot try until you realize.

If you say you want to sing,  then truly understand what it means to access the voice.  YOUR voice.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Who is that pianist in the room?

Sunday musings...

We've been discussing this all week on Facebook and in the studio so I decided once again to blog about it.

Why oh why, when there are marvelous, exceptional and brilliant pianists out there,  are so many singers complaining about the lack of ability from the keyboard in the audition room?

Many CDs I know work hard to create the best possible environment in the surreal atmosphere of the audition room by having marvelous pianists.  Same for opera artistic directors.

However,  more times than not,  there are barely competent pianists.  Why?

I truly am at a loss to understand this,  when I know so many fantastic pianists.  Is it the lack of funds to pay them well?  Why wouldn't you want a pianist who can truly play the material well so the audition goes as well as it can?  Poor auditions are exhausting for EVERYBODY.  If I am sitting at the table listening,  I get cranky.  If I could have had a better pianist to help lift up those auditions to a better standard, why wouldn't I do that?

So,  let's look at this from all angles.  I hold ALL of us responsible for the success or failure of an audition.

If you call yourself an audition pianist then you need to know the repertoire.  Period.  You need to be an excellent not competent, sight reader.  You need a fantastic sense of time and rhythmic pocket.  You need to know how to re-organize the repertoire - what to play and what to leave out - to support that singer.  You are not auditioning - the singer is.  You need to support that singer.  They are nervous.  You need to given respect,  AND GIVE IT BACK.  Your attitude needs to be checked.

In my experience,  the more the attitude, the less competent the pianist generally is.  You will not make up the lack of skill by giving the singer more 'tude.  Seriously.  You are there to SUPPORT.  You are the one who truly makes or breaks that audition.  Take THAT seriously.

Singers - BE PREPARED.  It is up to you to be so prepared for that audition, that even if things de-rail you can make it work!  Again,  singers who are under-prepared will often play the blame-game.  Stop it.  Prepare!  Don't think by learning that cut the day before will allow you to nail it.  It won't.  If the first thing you do is blame the pianist and not look at your own preparation,  you need to really rethink what you are doing.  Again,  if the attitude is larger than the talent, the craft or the preparation, perhaps it's time to sit down and have a reality check.

Singers - if you demand craft from the pianist, then first demand it from yourself.  Do not allow yourself to be bullied or manipulated in the room.  Know what you are doing,  how you present yourself, how you present your music and  how you address the pianist to engage them, not to dismiss them.  Do not let anyone dismiss YOU.  Stand your ground.  The audition table IS paying attention to your demeanor and ability to handle stressful situations.


Give that pianist your tempo,  make sure it IS your tempo.  Slow yourself down so you aren't speeding through things! Make sure you ask for what you want.  Don't assume they know.  If you want an intro ask for it - mark it in the music.  If you want a bell tone and chord - MARK IT and ASK FOR IT.

You have every right to ask to start again if things derail.  You don't need to blame the pianist or yourself.  Simply smile and say "I think we mis-communicated with tempo or something - I would like to start again please".  Don't get angry.  SING HARDER!!  Stand your ground! DEMAND the best audition you can offer.

If you, the singer, rises above a less than adequate pianist, the audition panel is going to realize they have made a mistake.  If singers make excuses, then the inadequacy looks like it belongs to the singer.

Don't take an inadequate pianist lying down!  Demand more from them - but know it begins with YOU.  If you are not exceptionally prepared,  you have no business complaining.

Great pianists are out there.  FIND THEM.  HIRE THEM.  Pay their fee.  They are worth EVERY penny and more!!

The great pianists will give you support, embrace you,  make you comfortable and will encourage you to do your best and able to create an instant partnership with the singer.

The great singers will be prepared, organized, open and pliable and able to create an instant partnership with the pianist.

We need more of this - from BOTH sides of the keyboard!!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Post-Hurricane Sandy

It's Sunday....the usual day of posting musings...

Today we have power and heat.  After 5 days of no power, heat or water,  it is something I cherish yet again.

However, so many post-storm have lost so much more.  I see so many angels out there organizing donations,  volunteers,  just offering a hot meal, a hot shower, a place to charge your phone!

If you can,  help however you are able.

Here are few links that may be of use!


There are obviously MANY MORE sites, including the red cross - but these sites will take you DIRECTLY to where help is needed with no red tape.  It is a start.  Do what you can if you can.

Here's another one sent to me: I would assume drop off would be possible too - makes more sense:


If you would like to assist in the relief efforts for Hurricane Sandy, my nonprofit organization, Healthwork Solutions, INC is collecting the following items and have arranged to have them picked up and disseminated to the relief center for victims in Rockaway area and Breezy Point- areas hit very hard and is receiving no support as of yet from Red Cross.  These residents are staying in FEMA shelters set up around NYC and have no homes, clothes, food etc.  There are hundreds of children staying in these shelters and we are in need of the following items:

Disposable Diapers – various sizes
Baby Wipes
Formula – various types
Infant / Toddler warm clothing (onesies, socks, thermal pjs, sweatsuit type clothing, hats, gloves, coats)
Infant Cereal / Baby Food /  Bottled Water/ Infant Juices
Granola Bars
Dry Cereal (like Cherrios)
Coloring Books/ Crayons/ Toys

PLEASE MAIL ITEMS ASAP TO:  Healthwork Solutions Inc 2205 3rd Avenue Suite 4E New York, NY 10035   

For a tax write off, our EIN # is 20-593-1031

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Brazil in July 2013

Thomas and I are thrilled to announce we are part of an esteemed faculty at the FESTIVAL OF INTERNATIONAL OPERA OF THE AMERICAS in BRAZIL July 2013 for its INAUGURAL SEASON!

The website is up and changing daily - more auditions and information coming soon!  Check back often for more info!

Hope we see some of you there!