Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Intensive Study

Sunday musings...

I am recovering from a birthday weekend as I enter a new decade and thought I wouldn't be offering a blog post today, but sometimes things come up and I want to share with you!

What of the Intensive Study?

What does that mean to you?  Have you done it?  Do you understand what it means?

As a young singer,  I would make several treks a year to New York City to work with my teacher and my coaches and create my own intensive.  I would be in town for several days, or a couple of weeks or longer if I could do it,  and create a course of study that allowed me to work with professionals I needed almost every day,  or several times a week.  This allowed me to immerse myself in the study of my voice, my music, my craft, language, acting, movement, and more depending on how long I could be in town,  and who was available.

I work with singers in this way regularly throughout the year. Whether it is 3 days or 3 weeks,  singers who are committed to their development commit to their study.  If they are in town for a few days, I see them EVERY day and know they are working with coaches and in an acting class or probably a movement class or at an Alexander Technique session.  I am always impressed by a singer's commitment to their studies and their success by how they study.  HOW you study reveals much about you.  How you DO NOT study, also reveals much. 

Obviously we can talk about it, we can "like" statuses, we can "share',  we can "favorite", we can "retweet" but until we DO IT,  it hasn't truly been realized.

Whether you are in the throws of your degree,  or an emerging professional or a developing professional,  your ongoing study, honing of craft and development is so crucial.  Even as a teacher, I have to keep my skills relevant and clear.

If you don't live in an area where you have access to a regular teacher,  coaches for music, acting and movement, etc - what do you do?    Where do you go?

If you are serious about your voice and pursuing it fully,  the intensive study immersion is CRUCIAL.   We all learn differently,  but often going in and being immersed and then going home to allow all that information to sift through and begin to take shape can be exhilarating and life changing. 

These trips can be exhausting and at the same time,  energizing.  You can be exposed to much information,  challenged by new ideas,  not just in the studios of teachers and coaches but also by seeing live theatre,  going to great art galleries and museums and being in an environment of STUDY that is all about you.

Often, if you create your own program of study, you can take in MONTHS of study in half the time and then take as long as you need to sift through, absorb,  adjust, discover and create more behavior when you get home.

The intensive allows it to be all about YOU.  You don't have to wait til next week,  you get more tomorrow or later in the afternoon.  You don't need to juggle study with laundry with family with chores - the intensive is giving you a focus of study that is about you, FOR you.

If you haven't done it - why not?   Don't pick up the excuses.  The excuse is creating another reason why NOT. 

So WHY do it?

If you say you are a singer, then BE one.

If you say you want to learn, then learn.

If you say you want to have a career,  then pursue what you need.

If you say you want to know,  then SEEK the knowledge.

Sometimes we don't know what we want.  Sometimes we don't know what we have.  Sometimes we need to have a consultation and an intensive to find out where we actually are,  what we actually want,  and how we need to get to the next.

There is no excuse for NOT doing an intensive.  Why?  Because it's about you and can be working into your life, your finances and your needs.  You can plan for it.  You can adjust it.  You can explore it.  You can create what you need and find the professionals that can help you discover YOU.

Read, listen, discover.  Prepare.  Don't just regurgitate - but know what you are taking in, and absorb it!

If you want it,  skimming by isn't going to get you there.

If you want it,  the demand is on you, and only you,  to find out what you need and commit to it!

Here's to you finding what you need,  instead of becoming complacent with what you have.

If you want to be taken seriously,  if you want to keep growing as an artist and performer,  you must keep on the quest of discovery!   I raise my glass to you discovering YOU,  or at least finding professionals you can stand in front of who will introduce you to what you can become should you take on that quest!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Terminology and Responsibility!

Sunday musings...

I have seen much discussion this week about terminology in singing.

We, as a community of singers and teachers and coaches,  use vocal terminology often without thinking about it.

So why blog about it?

Because there is a responsibility we must take more seriously about our teaching and coaching when using terminology;  and there is a responsibility we must take as singers more seriously to understand and translate!

First and foremost,  are we, as teachers,  aware of the vocal terminology we use?  Are we prepared to address it,  define it,  and re-define it fully for a singer to translate it into their consciousness and their physical instrument?   This is crucial.

I believe,  my philosophy of course,  so if it's not yours no worries, I'll sleep well:  I teach the SINGER,  then the material.  I do NOT work out of a "manual".  My job is to find the singer where they are,  not for them to walk into the studio and try to figure out what I want.  To me, that's ass-backwards!

So,  I must be very present in order to access what the needs of the singer are at each session;  what we are working on in an overall arc;  where they are in that process;  where they are with ME in that process (trust takes time!);  and what reveals itself in a moment to change the direction suddenly if needed.

If I, the teacher, am not present,  I am not serving the SINGER.  Nor am I serving the profession of singing. 

But, that's just me.

I do not believe one size fits all. 

As a young singer,  when given terminology,  I took it literally.  And when I asked why, often I was met with resistance.  Sadly, I still see that today.  Many use terminology that they simply cannot explain.  They cannot describe what it means as it pertains to the task at hand, or the singer at hand.  And sadly,  much of our current terminology is just incorrect.  Yes I said it.

I really encourage teachers and coaches to keep asking questions.  Find answers.  Discover new ways of describing technical behaviors,  physicality,  acoustics,  resonance,  vibration. Or simply, learn what it is first before you start using over-used words that mean nothing and can put singers at risk.

Singers, it is your responsibility, because it is YOUR voice, to ask questions until you get an answer that is real, and one you can work with;  to keep exploring your knowledge outside the studio about voice, the study of voice and YOUR voice.

Real teachers aren't afraid to say "I don't know but I will find out for you!".  Real teachers are never lax about their teaching and often have a voracious appetite to learn more too.  Find one like that.

Question your knowledge of general words in the lexicon of vocal-speak.  I am not even going to call it pedagogy as many are incorrect.  Figure out why it could have been talked about that way, and find out what the true physicality is behind it in order to give a more accurate and more obtainable result with a singer.  The more ways we, as teachers, as able to bring some of the pedagogical principles to light,  the more possibilities a singer has to access it fully!

If teachers do not understand WHAT they teach, then a singer has a hit or miss chance.  If a singer doesn't understand what he/she is DOING, then when they enter the business of show and translate literally what someone outside the studio is saying literally,  someone who knows even LESS about the voice in most cases,  they are screwed.

Think about it:  all theatre terminology is in opposition:  stage left, stage right, downstage, upstage, etc etc.  We learn it, we get it into our bodies and we don't think about it - we just do it.

Perhaps we must discover what the terminology of voice actually means, and get rid of the words and phrases that make no sense - literally or physically! - to what we are doing. 

To take that responsibility means focus, time, and attention.  It means being present every step of the way. 

Ask why.  Find out why.  Find out why not.  Don't just use the words if you don't really know what they mean.  If you cannot define it fully, then it's not realized. 

Take full responsibility of your terminology and how you use it.  Challenge its use in yourself. 

It will make you a better teacher, a better coach AND a better singer.

Language has agency.  Therefore, it is crucial we use it well.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Audition is About YOU!

Sunday musings...

Auditioning has come up again and again - of course.

Some of you freeze, some of you hate it, some of you love it,  most of us view it as a necessary evil.

So, what is it? REALLY?

Guess what? It's about you.

It's about you doing your research on the company, the casting director, the artistic director, the "who's who" in the room;

It's about you doing your work on your voice and your repertoire that you are going to audition with;

It's about you doing your research to understand what you are actually auditioning for and what the requirements might be;

It's about you figuring out what flatters you physically, because we see you first;

It's about you figuring out how you walk into the room;

It's about you knowing how you come across honestly;

It's about you learning how to reveal only what is necessary;

It's about you being comfortable in your own skin,  in your own preparation,  in your own time, and being okay with that;

It's about YOU.

Thinking about THEM simply takes you out of the game.

What are you there to do?  Are you prepared to do that?  What have you done to get you there?  Are you present in that knowledge and that commitment?  

There are no apologies, no "yeah, buts",  no self-sabotages, no over-revealing, no over-sharing,  no extras. 

Auditioning is like a job interview, yes.  Even more intimately,  auditioning is like a first date.  If it's not a blind date,  you have done your research.  If it feels like it might be a good match for you,  you are simply focused on getting a second date!

Revealing too much on that first date can make them suddenly have an emergency and leave; or simply not call you again.  Be aware of what you are revealing.  DECIDE on that.  Nobody needs to know everything on a first date.  The panel doesn't have to see all of it at an audition.

They need to see just enough to be intrigued enough to say "hmmm, let's call her/him back."

Write your audition script,  but be prepared to stay present enough to improvise when needed.  Don't sabotage your script.

I often do workshops on the authenticity of auditioning.  Something as seemingly frivolous as knowing what foot you used to step into the room with allows you to remain present and focused.  You'd be amazed at how many of us are already over at the piano before we walk into the room! Literally!

Nerves are nasty things sometimes.  However, I have learned to look at nervous energy as a sign that SOMETHING IS IMPORTANT TO YOU.  So hone the nerves.  Focus them.  What do you want to focus them for?  What can you focus them away from?

Know what happens when you aren't present and the nerves take over:  do you laugh?  Do you talk too quickly?  Does your speaking voice get higher?  Do you walk too quickly? Do you "snap" your answers?

We have to practice the audition to actually stay present in it when it happens.

Do it in front on the mirror.  Do it with friends you trust.

Be aware of how you come across, and if you don't know, ask someone you trust.

If it's important to you,  you have to find out what happens and how you come across.

It's all about you.  Make it count TOWARD getting that call back or that possibility!

Be prepared.
Be focused.
Be serious about the work,  and not take yourself so seriously.
Do the research, including the research on yourself.

Write the script.  Play the script.  Know your actions, and your decisions and your motivations.

Know who that person is who walks into the room.  Know that person intimately.  Know how to play that person.  Know how that person responds, and reacts.  Know what you that person will reveal and nothing more.


Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Path to Where?

Happy Mother's Day to all the moms and nurturers out there today and every day!

I have written about path and journey before, but it has come up in several places over last couple of weeks and I thought it was time to explore it again.

What about that "path" and where are we going?

I am a big "why" person:  when singers come to consult with me, or study with me, when colleagues make statements and their language reveals something to me that is larger than the statement, I ask WHY?  I don't do it to be a pain in the ass.  I query in order to find the truth in the language that is being used,  or the way in which someone is hiding in plain sight.

Language can also reveal stagnation,  self-sabotage, or simply just not knowing, no experience, no true discovery yet.  None of that is "bad" on its own:  it simply reveals to the listener where that speaker is. 

Some of these "paths" queries come in question form, and some in statement form.  They are still queries.

As a singer,  no matter the genre,  we do not have the luxury of a one-size-fits-all path.  If you are going to be a doctor, there is a protocol that gets you onto that path, along that path, and when complete it, you are a doctor.  Voila. 

We do not have that clarity. 

What we DO have is the luxury of self-discovery and creating that path that will be uniquely ours.  It is scary, frustrating, annoying and exhilarating and exciting.

So where are you going?  Sometimes that determines where you are, and will allow you to see for yourself what you need to create that path.

Often, we must work backwards from the question, or the statement we reveal.

Here are some examples:  When a singer walks in and says "I wanna sing at the Met" or "I wanna be on Broadway"  guess what my first question is?  Yes, you guessed it:  "why"?

Often the allure of the unknown is bright and shiny and the reality of what that actually MEANS hasn't sunk in.  What does it MEAN to be ready to be there?  What do you have to do?  Do you have enough bread crumbs to weave yourself back to where you actually are right now, in order to build a focus of intention to that particular goal?  Why is it that important to you to be "there"?  What does it represent to you? 

Other examples:

"I don't sound like xyz;  I need to sound more like that so I can get a job."

Again, I ask "why".   Language reveals.  This is a goal to disaster because sounding more like so-and-so isn't going to get you a job.  Sounding more like YOU is going to get you more like YOU, and if they want YOU then YOU get the job.

"I want a career."  And again, I ask "why"? and "doing what?"  What does the word "career" mean to you? 

Often, those "lofty goals" will change as you become more and more clear about who you are, why you are, and how you are.  They become less important because the path becomes clearer in its specificity of NOW.

What inspires you?  Who inspires you?  Why?

Are you aware there is a difference between making music and making a living making music?

Do you have talent, tenacity and training and the eagerness, energy & focus to hone all of it?

Wanting it doesn't make it so.

We often still hear "If you want a career you must do...."  as if there is a holy grail of knowledge that creates a career path. 

That just isn't so.  Not as performers.

You can be talented, go to the "right" schools, sing for the "right" people,  apply for the "right" programs, and still be sitting at home with no career.

There are others that don't "follow the protocol" of "right" - and somehow they develop a career.


Well, a little bit of luck doesn't hurt.  Being in the right place at the right time doesn't hurt. 

And the big one: being READY in case it's time.   There is nothing worse than missing an opportunity because you weren't ready. 

And what is ready?  Revealing YOU through your craft.  Claiming YOUR authenticity through the medium you wish to be seen in.  That means training, and discovery and self-discovery, and more honing, and more training, and more discovery!

I have been listening carefully to the language used by people in the business - be it opera or music theatre - and it reveals the same:  "That sounds great on you."  "You wear that well."  "As soon as I heard him I knew he would wear this character well."

It's about YOU being ready.  YOU.  YOU to step in and embody that song, that role, that repertoire.

Not you sounding like the other people that wear that;  Not you doing what everybody else does; Not you  pretending;  not you "schmacting";  not you "winging it";  not you "faking it til you make it". 

JUST YOU.  Developing, evolving, emerging, finishing.  YOU and your craft.

So, the path to where exactly?  Are you going to be YOU when you get there or did you forget that THAT path - to the authenticity of YOU - is more important than anything else?

You want a career?  What are YOU doing to make it happen?  Have you developed YOU enough to have one if it arrives?  Do you understand all the components?  Can you do them all?  What are you lacking?  What needs more YOU?

Ah, the questions reveal where the path is - and guess what?  Once you start to answer the questions, and DO the are ON the path.  The path to YOU. 

Let that guide you to the potency of destination that will keep morphing and growing with you.

The day we "arrive" is the day we quit growing. 

The path is whatever you choose to forge.  It's how you take it on that matters now.