Sunday, June 28, 2009

Someone Sponsor Me!

Sunday evening musing...

I often read and post on a Classical Singers Forum and currently there is a thread brewing from a young singer who feels her family isn't supporting her as she wants to pursue grad studies in New York City.  There is an interesting exchange about reality, being in the moment, money and all that implies.

What I found even more interesting is that I have found several young classical singers on myspace that are actually asking for help to pay for your their voice lessons and are asking, with a straight face, for someone else to pay for their lessons, because they are expensive and they need them.   

This sense of entitlement boggles my mind, but I know it exists.  Very respectfully to this younger generation - you are so used to "instant" that it doesn't occur to you that building the business of YOU - and the craft of your artistry takes TIME and DEDICATION. YOUR time and your dedication and YOUR sacrifice. Not somebody else's.  

Artistic development is not instant.  It takes commitment on EVERY level.  It does not happen immediately. It takes sacrifice. It takes focus. YOUR sacrifice and YOUR focus.

When we look at sponsorship as a historical endeavor, an artist would need to prove themselves first in their genre - by performance, longevity, commitment - something!! Sponsorship doesn't happen cause we want it to! It needs to be proven that you and your talent are worth the risk and the investment.

One comment in the Classical Singer Forum thread was that singers need to live in the moment and go for it.  This is highly over-simplified and frankly, rather naive.

I suggest a living in the moment happens in the artistic development of one's craft - living moment to moment to explore and experience.  However, a singer who is not planning on the development of "ME Inc" and the business of singing, is being naive and frankly, ridiculously self-involved and behaving like a spoiled brat!  This sense of entitlement is not living in the moment, but rather, not taking responsibility of any kind.

As I continue to write these blog entries, I continue to say: YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE.  Your parents are not. Your teachers are not. Strangers you are asking for money are not. YOU ARE.

It is not up to anybody else to put your through grad school or tell you it's okay to take a risk - BUT YOU.  

If you feel grad school is important then you figure out how you are going to pay for it.  If your artistic development is important to you, you will weigh the pros and cons of what you need to do to further your career.  Perhaps it's grad school, or perhaps your money is better spent elsewhere.  There are no easy answers, or easy paths.

When I see and hear young singers expecting others to answer their questions and frankly, whining about how hard they have it, I honestly question their true desire to be an artist.  Being in the moment does not mean you lose a sense of reality!  What is real? your talent, your dedication, your focus.  What else is real? The investment in EVERY currency - money, time, energy, focus, sacrifice.  

ALL of this investment must start with YOU the singer.  It might be supplemented by others, but if you do not show your investment in yourself, how do you think anybody else will take you seriously?

Sacrifice for your craft is not some blood-letting exercise!!! If your craft is important to you; if you need to fulfill your artistic path; if in the moment, you KNOW you need to be true to yourself as an artist and could never be happy letting that go - THEN PLAN FOR IT!  Look ahead - create!!!! If you are a creative spirit, then USE IT in EVERY POSSIBLE WAY in order to access the NOW and the FUTURE!

What seems like sacrifice, becomes investment and the investment is YOURS and the investor is YOU.  Your return is 100% YOU.  

YOU are responsible.  YOU are the one to prove to yourself that you can develop a plan to show what you need to do! What you need and what you want are not always the same, but you will see how the paths begin to intersect and work together.  Finding out what you want now, is not necessarily what you NEED.  

Grow!!! Grow up!!! Make REAL decisions! Make MATURE choices! Ask questions, of yourself, of your path.  Create, Develop, and CLAIM.  Don't wait for somebody else to do it for you - because, they never will and you will still be sitting there waiting, watching your life go by.

Be in the moment - by BEING IN YOUR LIFE and on the journey you are discovering!!  Rejoice when you find a road block, because it now DEMANDS you get creative and figure out a way around or another way altogether!!

GO GET IT YOURSELF!!!  Nobody gets it for you, but you.  

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Are you really LEARNING your music?

Saturday musings...

Topic triggered by a wonderful Toronto singer I work with there...and reinforced by comments and examples I have seen all week...

How do you learn your music? Do you actually LEARN your music?

This applies to singers in EVERY I have seen the lack of learning everywhere.  Sadly, music theatre singers have the reputation (and well earned at times!) for trying to fly by the seat of their pants.  Part of it is music theatre culture - the 16 bars and learn the sides for tomorrow mentality - but when you are preparing for PERFORMANCE there is no excuse.

And there is no excuse in ANY OTHER genre either.  If you don't create a discipline for your music learning you will not learn it.  So my question is, why are you wanting to be a singer, if you are not prepared to DO THE WORK?

What does learning your music mean? It means, sitting with the actual SCORE or sheet music or song and discovering what is on the page!!!!  You have to SEE it; What did the composer actually write?!?!?!

In this day and age, there is no excuse - so often you can buy and download online and print it off in the comfort of your own home!  Or buy the score/music book online and have it delivered to your door!  "I couldn't find the music" is the LAMEST excuse and it certainly gives us an indication that you are not serious about your craft.  How could you be? Learning your music is PART of your craft, thus, no craft.

My question is this: did you not learn how to learn your music at school? or are you just lazy? If music the vehicle for your craft to find truth, there are no excuses. NONE. If you don't know HOW to learn your music ASK.  You should have a team around you that can teach you that. They may believe you already know. YOU NEED TO ASK. A director or music director during a rehearsal isn't going to ask you "why didn't your voice teacher/your voice coach teach you how to learn your music properly?"  They will simply say "why isn't your music learned?"  You are responsible.

Let's break it down - simply. Easily.

LOOK AT THE SCORE. LEARN FROM THE SCORE.  Learn one layer at a time - tune and rhythms WITHOUT text; Musical phrasing; Text as language to discover textural rhythm; Text as written into the musical language -in other words, speak it IN the composer's rhythm: find the similarities, find the differences. Note them.  Only when the tune and rhythms are learned AND the text is learned in rhythm can you layer them together.  The musical phrasing and the textural phrasing need to be acknowledged - where it lines up/where it doesn't.  Explore why. Make an informed decision as to where you will phrase - with the music or with the text? Make a true decision  - don't fly by the seat of your pants! Decide and it shall inform your performance and the reality of that performance.  

You are not learning your music by listening to youtube, or a recording only.  You can always listen to other interpretations (and often, mistakes!!!) once you have learned the music for yourself.  I can always tell when students come in saying a piece is "learned" and I know PRECISELY who they have listened to in order to "learn" it.  That is called mimicking!  Usually all the mistakes/inflections etc are all there too!!!

DO NOT walk into a rehearsal unprepared - no matter WHAT you think of that rehearsal.  Your music needs to be learned, your voice needs to be warm and prepared - you need to show your commitment to YOUR CRAFT.  You show your commitment and your reality by how you show up.  This follows you.  Don't assume it doesn't.  You don't wait for an "important gig" to be prepared!  If you never prepare properly, you will never get to that important gig, because your reputation will proceed you, trust me.  Our business is small and word gets around very quickly as to your work fact, often, your work ethic is spoken of more than your talent...yes, it's true.  

So, if you are truly on this path to CREATE A PLACE for yourself...start simply, start truly:
BE PREPARED. BE READY. LEARN YOUR MUSIC.  FULLY.  Nobody can ask you to make subtle nuance changes if you do not have the music learned!

You cannot create if the basics are not prepared.  And you are responsible for that! DO IT!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Head Voice, Chest Voice, Belt Voice oh MY!

Friday musing with my coffee...

It occurred to me as I was working with one of my uber-talented singers yesterday, that these terminologies of "voice" especially within music theatre have begun to micro-manage the voice, or at least try to.

Terminology is thrown around without real understanding of what it MEANS.  In music theatre, it becomes ridiculously so, to the detriment of the singer. 

What if we were just concerned about singing with OUR OWN VOICES and concerned with presenting what WE do well instead of mimicking/imitating a voice that has come before? What has happened with rejoicing in the INDIVIDUALITY of voice?

This takes KNOWLEDGE AND GUTS.  Go get some of BOTH!!!

Head voice/chest voice/mix has to do with resonators.  Where does the voice primarily vibrate? If ALL the resonators remain open, the voice can find the optimum resonance no matter what.  The entire voice should be "mixed" - in other words, accessible to all resonators.  It can be mixed differently, depending on the pitch/vowel choice/color choice.  If we allow the language and the style to inform the choices, and the resonators are always suspended, then the voice can find its fullest and most vivid choices, and its REALITY.

We need to CLAIM our voices fully.  Doing that takes time, guts, and KNOWLEDGE.  We must recognize the terminology that is thrown around loosely, and find out what it TRULY means, and then what it means coming from certain segments of our business.  Believe me, it doesn't mean the same thing!!! 

I will simplify: if you find the TRUTH of your voice - and build it to find VITALITY and ENERGY and develop PRESENCE of INTENSITY of resonance - the true VIBRANCY of the voice when it is balance - you can then present the BEST of you - through ANY style/genre that you choose to explore.  

When you find that vibrancy - then ANYTHING is possible.  Vibrancy is resonance - resonance needs to be balanced - whether it uses more head or chest or belt is balanced, it is vibrant and it need NEEDS to be YOURS!  

Monday, June 22, 2009

Are you Being Creative?

Monday musing...

As I am preparing singers for an upcoming studio showcase, we have been discussing the process of artistic creativity and auditioning and why they are so different!

They are such different energies - and often we can get so busy with the "business" of auditioning - either finding our 5 aria package for opera - or building a music theatre audition book of 16/32 bar cuts - that we lose track of the creative artistry of building a song/aria, character journey, musicality, performance...

If we lose track of the creative energy - it then takes WORK and ENERGY to develop it again!  It just isn't "there" if we don't work at it.  Like any other muscle, we need to exercise it regularly. It just doesn't fall into place!  

When a singer is auditioning and putting their energy into that process, often the true creativity of the artistic spirit is stifled - unintentionally - but stifled nonetheless. The energy goes into the audition NOT the creativity.

Finding performance opportunities that we can create for ourselves is so important - concerts, recitals, cabarets, showcases - ANYTHING that will allow that creative development to find an opportunity to stretch further!  Sometimes we need to seek out those performance opportunities as much as you seek out the auditions to hopefully find a job! 

Sometimes these opportunities can be created by YOU the singer! If you can't attach yourself to something already in place, CREATE IT YOURSELF!  Find a charity you could promote through a concert/recital - by yourself or with some of your colleagues who are seeking the same thing. Seek out a cabaret space and build a set to perform in an already formed showcase, or one you create yourself.  

What other creative energies can you explore that you possess? Do you write, compose, paint, draw? Do you love to cook? Do you arrange flowers? Do you design? Are you great with color? There are so many creative venues we can explore that are fulfilling as we pursue the audition process outside our singing and acting!  If your day is full of auditioning, your creativity isn't being developed - so DEVELOP IT!!!! This is the irony of our business isn't it?

Being creative is ACTIVE so we need to continue to treat it that way.  Potential means nothing if it isn't explored. DEVELOP the creativity - wherever it is! Even if it means dancing an entire song in your room or living room every day! Working through a FULL song EACH day to get it into your body! Exploring monologues for the SAKE OF the character development! 

Dare to FIND your creativity and LIVE it in some form each day - THIS should parallel your "business" work of auditioning!  The creativity of YOU doesn't have to be confined to your singing, acting or dancing - but it can start there...stretch those muscles!!!! They are yours! 

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Who are you working with? Protocol/Etiquette

Saturday musings as I sip my coffee...

It is amazing to me in this day and age with Google at your fingertips, that many singers do not do their research as they are looking for a teacher or a coach or anybody else they are planning to work with or consult with. And to add to that, how they approach these potential relationships!

This isn't all singers to be sure, but it certainly is enough of them - from music theatre to opera to classical to jazz . It doesn't seem to surface just with one area of our business. I still see this weekly. Yes, weekly, be it through an email, voice mail or consultation.

So, what do you need to do as a singer to find out more?  Often, teachers and/or coaches are recommended to us.  That isn't good enough.  If a teacher or coach is recommended, then as a singer, we must find out WHO THEY ARE.  Google is your friend! How is easy is that? I wish we'd had that when I was up and coming as a singer!!!  

Most teachers have websites or are associated with a school or have a professional affiliation.  This is a beginning to get a general sense of who/where/what.  

Why are you looking? What are you needing?  Sometimes this is a clear cut answer, but often it is not. In fact, the discovery of what you are needing isn't always revealed until you find the teacher or coach that fits you -  for and in that time.  The discovery of the person you are going to work with and the discovery of what you are needing from that collaboration, often continues to morph and grow as you do the research!  

Reading a teacher's philosophy might trigger more clarity in your quest, and thus, move you into another direction or to another teacher! Or, it might suggest to you to contact that teacher directly NOW to discover MORE!

As a teacher, I can usually tell when a singer comes into a consult, whether they have done ANY preliminary research about me or about my studio.  Often, that is evident in the initial email/phone call asking about lessons.  If you email me and your only question is "what do you charge?" and sign your name "Amy L" - you probably will not get a response from me.  

Your initial contact with a teacher or coach, should suggest to them what your intention is; how you got their name; what you've found out about that teacher and what appeals to you about those findings; and then the simple etiquette of asking about availability and rates.  This shows me you are serious and willing to seek out a teacher that can actually DO something for you and with you on your journey as a developing singer and artist!

Your sense of etiquette/protocol shows something about YOU.  Just because you are enquiring about lessons, does not mean I, as the teacher,  need or want to take you.  It goes both ways. I want to know about YOU as a potential student and you should want to know about ME as the teacher.  If it doesn't matter, perhaps you need to explore somewhere else - or something else!

A teacher or a coach is a potential relationship that could be an incredible asset in your development as a singer and as an artist.  Just like any investment, it is IMPERATIVE that you, the singer, get ALL the information available to make your choices.  

After you have done your research, had a consultation to get a sense of the teacher's energy/direction/method of constructing the lesson and how it feels to you, you can then make a truly informed decision about who you will study with at that time.  Your decision is based on many factors, and maybe it comes down to personalities just not clicking.  But you have done your research! You have a sense of who you are standing in front of!

 It is your talent, your instrument, your investment that is at stake.  It is also the teacher's time, expertise, experience and energy being tasked.  Recognize both; respect it all.

If all these things are to be acknowledged and respected, from both sides,  then a simple acknowledgement of WHO you are requesting the time with is not asking too much!  

JUST DO YOUR RESEARCH!  Ask your colleagues for recommendations, but know that is not enough - YOU must explore further and task yourself to find a teacher that you connect with in order to explore your potential.  Finding that teacher requires time and commitment and putting yourself out there in order to discover what could possibly be a life-changing event.  

It is not up to me as the teacher, to tell you who I am.  It is up to you to discover that basic information initially.  The basic information is out there.  It is up to you, the singer, to give the information about who you are/what you are seeking to that teacher.  It creates a level of respect both directions and allows us to move to the next level of possibility!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Parallel Lives

It's Friday...musings begin...

A wonderfully talented colleague, Natalie Wilson had suggested talking about parallel career vs. back up career and it got me thinking...

What is a parallel career? What would then be a parallel life? How is that possible/doable/believable if we are pursuing that acting/singing/performing arts career fully? And if so, WHAT IS IT?

The first thing that came to mind when seeking "parallel" was that there is space BETWEEN that must exist.  

A "back up" career/plan is not what we need as performers.  Why? Because it becomes an excuse.  There is no plan "B" JUST plan "A".  It has to be that way in order to truly commit to the journey of being an artist and pursuing a career that encompasses that artistry.  Back up infers that if Plan A fails, I have this just in case...

As an artist, you are emerging and growing DAILY and there is NO FAILURE there are just choices!  Choices are made when a realization develops that there is fluidity and not rigidity in the artist's psyche.  

Parallel lives allow that artistry and that PASSION to live in the space between and create fluidity one to the other. It is this artistic quest and this passion to live this life/lives with authenticity and truth.  If there is no passion, there is nothing for an artist to breathe.   If that passion informs us as we move through our day into whatever aspect of life we are living - in parallel or not - then we are living an authenticity that is uniquely ours.

If you have potential to do ANYTHING - why would you want to say you want to be in this business and not explore that potential COMPLETELY?  What motivates that potential but passion? And if that passion motivates, how can it not inform ANY parallel life we choose to live?

Again, I say, being an artist in this business is not the same as making a living in this business.  Sometimes the artist CAN make a living but it is the PASSION that truly creates the authenticity of the artist and it is the passion that leads the artist.

If you find a parallel life - a life that infuses itself with passion and creativity so the pursuit of SELF is evident throughout the day, then, there is still no need for Plan B because you are living the ONLY life.  The life of authenticity! There are no excuses for authenticity, nor should there be ANY apologies! LIVE your authenticity by discovering HOW it is best served - in parallel passions or not - but LIVE it.

I was asked last weekend after reading some of my blog entries if I'd had a bad day teaching.  I don't have bad teaching days. EVER. What I have and what I live is PASSION and in that passion I respond to the lack of it in people who often make excuses for its existence in their own lives.  

If our passion is ignited, our authenticity is validated and the space between all of our "DOING" is vivid and alive.  It is that space that motivates the life we lead - and recognizes all paths as possible!

Monday, June 15, 2009

How Do You Practice?

What is practicing exactly?

Travelling with your voice, as we do as singers, can be an extremely helpful thing, but it can also be a giant pain!  Sometimes we forget that being a singer and developing that instrument takes as much integrity as being a pianist or a violinist.  In doing this, we must create a thorough physical behavior to allow for the best balance in our voice.

 We must develop the same focus, diligence, routine, and ritual as other musicians, and frankly, athletics, and perhaps even more!  When we cannot walk up to our instrument or set our instrument down, WE are the instrument and the development of that is acute!

I often wonder what those guys at the gym do all day while there...great trainers tell us that a 45 minute workout if done with the proper guidance, the correct technique and form and exercises that are meant to work with our individual bodies will be all we need. So, we see alot of wasting time 4 hours later! Why would it be any different for a singer? 

Often during our tenure in academia, the talk in the hallway is "how long are you in a practice room a day?"  And we fall for it...we think we need to practice more and more and more.

But what are you DOING really? Do you know WHY you practice? WHAT to practice? WHEN to practice? HOW to practice?

To me, practicing is engaged to acquire physical, emotional and musical behavior.  It requires focus, stamina, realization of where you are NOW and where you are working to BEING and how to get there!  

Physical behavior works with the building of the voice - the technical behavior that will be dressed ultimately by a song!  Technique is to be conscious of none - so we must know the form, the muscles to use, how to use those muscles and how long it takes to develop that behavior! If a new behavior takes 6 weeks to develop and then even more time to develop into habit, then we have much work to do!  But it isn't about the amount of TIME but rather what you DO WITH THAT TIME.  It needs to be time that is uninterrupted, is not multi-tasked, and is focused and realized time.  Why do you do that exercise? If you don't know why, then it is useless for your building of your technical behavior.  Like sitting around the gym.  

As a singer, many of the physical balances of our support can be learned into our every day life - and as we are more and more conscious of that balance as we walk to the car, stand at a walk light, sit at our desk, walk down the street, we become more conscious of the body in our sound when we begin to sing.  Another way of becoming conscious to move to unconscious realty in the physicality of living in our instrument.

Your teacher must work with you in finding out what you need, why you need it and how you do it.  Just because is not an answer; my teacher made me do this is not an answer;  The building of your voice and HOW you practice is COMPLETELY ABOUT YOU.  You need to understanding of how/why/when and your teacher must develop that for you - just like a personal trainer would be responsible to develop a regime at the gym.

And if you don't do it - you won't see results.  None.  You will sit in the practice room for hours and have nothing to show for it but time.  Time you cannot get back!

Practice with clarity of purpose; with reasons; with focus; with goals;  Make realistic goals: recognize the time needed and the work needed to meet those goals, and the practicing becomes true.  It becomes energized. It becomes developmental.  It is then not about spending time, but DOING time.  Building a voice through practice requires knowledge to know what to do, a desire to seek out and develop that knowledge and physicalize it fully.  As the knowledge grows, the practice becomes sleeker, and the virtuosity of the singer can be discovered!

Discover your practicing - and rejoice in it!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Vocal Health and Your Dedication to it!

Sunday musing...

What are you willing to do to get your voice healthy and keep it healthy?

I mean, REALLY.  

And what is vocal health anyway?

First, and foremost, vocal health is about BUILDING THE INSTRUMENT correctly.  This does not happen with wishful thinking or desire, this means investing in yourself on every level - learning HOW this instrument is put together, finding a teacher that knows how to build an instrument, dedicating yourself to regular lessons, developing vocabulary and knowledge about pedagogy and physicality, and then finding out what YOUR instrument needs and being prepared to COMMIT to that need.  

This is easier said than done. Vocal health and voice development is not an easy fix, but rather a lifetime of dedication.  There is nothing instant about this process.  It demands a certain psyche - emotional and psychological - to truly commit to this journey.  And it also requires a physicality that is capable to meet this work reliably.

Many singers deal with vocal issues along the journey - some more than others - but, again, are you willing to COMMIT to deal with them? Truly acknowledge them? Find out what they are, why they are, how they are - and what to do about it?

THIS IS KEY.  Often, I see singers go into self-denial about what their voice needs, what it is BEGGING for.  Self-denial vocally is a form of stress management of course, but if the issues are not addressed, it might be too late to recover from them.  

How dedicated are you to discovering, developing, and CLAIMING YOUR VOICE? What are you willing to do?

Don't compare yourself to others - it's YOUR voice. Comparing is another way of deflecting the responsibility you need to address for your own path.  It's too easy to say "well, so-and-so has never had to deal with any problems, why is it always me?"  That is a cop-out.  So-and-so has NOTHING to do with YOUR voice, YOU have everything to do with your voice. YOU AND YOU ALONE.

You have to come to some decisions about what you settle for and what you work toward.  If you are settling, then that is yours.  Settling is passive;  if you talk about claiming your voice and never DO it, that is passive too...and if you decide that is all you can do, then claim THAT reality and deal with where you are. NOBODY can do it for you!

If you decide you truly want to commit to this journey - I mean, TRULY - then you have to realize what it will demand of you! And in that realization, you have to decide whether you have the emotional and psychological strength and determination to find out where it takes you and what you are made of; whether you have the physical stamina to meet the demands as best you can; and what you are willing to SACRIFICE to claim it ALL.

You cannot DO everything you might want to do when you are building your voice, or when you are repairing it.  You have to make deliberate choices to allow for the best situation for your voice.  You may need to take several months or more to discover the truth about your voice - what makes it work, how to build it, how to repair it.  It might take longer than several months. Are you prepared to commit to that?  Are you willing to find a teacher to really discover this? Are you prepared to turn down work for the sake of your vocal health? Are you willing to invest in the lessons, the time? Are you willing to put your vocal health FIRST??? Even if it means seeing a largyngologist regularly, taking TRUE vocal rest when needed, not trying to do everything, which in the end, might result in nothing?

NO ONE can answer this but YOU.  THE FULL RESPONSIBILITY lies in YOU.  Do you have the guts to find it? That is ultimately what it will take - guts, and passion and TRUE COMMITMENT - not talk and no walk.  LIVE YOUR CRAFT.  Or don't, and find out where else you could be.  You only get one voice.  That's it.  If it's truly TRULY important to you to have it work for a lifetime, then is it asking too much to take the time to TRULY discover it and discover what it needs?  The time for FULL DISCOVERY is not a sacrifice, but rather a TRUE investment.  The sacrifice would be if you choose to not commit to it, and lose it.  And you spend the rest of your life wondering "what if..."

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Repertoire - why do we choose what we choose?

Saturday musings with my coffee...

This is a comment that I have come across from time to time - why do we sing WHAT we sing?

Singers are often asked to work on certain songs/arias while studying and if can sometimes feel like you are child being asked to eat all your vegetables!

Perhaps it is an important distinction to develop an understanding of WHY you are being asked to do these things!  It isn't because the teacher says so!  Or it shouldn't be! Repertoire can be used for so many reasons in the studio - from translating a technical behavior, to developing a stronger articulation, to working on vocal balance within a certain tessitura, to creating a building block in vocal intensity, to developing stylistic knowledge, to creating knowledge of era and composer - and so much more!

Whether you are studying voice from a theatre perspective or an opera perspective or a classical perspective, the development of repertoire is simply that - DEVELOPMENTAL.

You must learn to sit up, balance, roll over, crawl, walk and THEN run.  Where you MIGHT be, is not necessarily where you are RIGHT NOW.  The repertoire you choose to help you discover that journey can make all the difference in the world.

We have a tendency to want too much too soon; too big too soon; and this can cause such vocal issues and missed steps along the way.  Acknowledge where you are RIGHT NOW.  BE THERE.

Your repertoire should create an integration with your vocal technique and how it is being built to allow the vocal journey a place to inhabit.  The repertoire changes and grows to develop further technical behavior, knowledge of repertoire and development as a musician.

As you then continue to develop your repertoire - be it your audition arias, your book of audition cuts,  - it is then necessary to explore the repertoire that YOU CONNECT TO!  Yes, it has to jump the hoops of what the requirements are, but YOU MUST WANT TO SING IT!

There is SO MUCH repertoire out there - and you should never EVER have to sing something that you do not find a connection to.  Using a song/aria to discover something, to learn something, on your way to discovering the repertoire you will use as audition material or performance material is one thing;  but your audition and performance material should show off what you can do NOW; and what you connect to NOW.  

This will allow you an opportunity to continue to grow musically and emotionally and discover further depth in your technical behavior, characterization, and presentational skills.  If you are not connecting to your repertoire, this shows too!  It stifles your growth, your person, and your artistic temperament.

When there is such wonderful repertoire out there, why would you settle for something that you didn't connect to?  This is YOUR responsibility!  Develop your performance/audition material with your teacher and your coaches, but at the end of the day, YOU must be connected to it in a real and  positive way.  It should excite you, inspire you, and give you something to look forward to.  If it doesn't, it's going to feel like the child plate of veggies, and you'll suffer through it - and so will the rest of us!  You should want to DEVOUR your repertoire and those listening to your audition and your performance should want to hear MORE! 

Finding repertoire takes time, dedication, listening, exploring, comparing/contrasting, and it is the responsibility of the singer to discover it!  It is your voice, your development, your audition, your performance...not your teacher's and not your coach's.  When your foot hits the threshold of stage or audition space, IT BELONGS TO YOU.  ALL OF IT.  Claim your voice, claim your space, CLAIM YOUR REPERTOIRE.  

When you claim every aspect of your development, you then take responsibility for it all - because it truly is yours.  What works is yours, what doesn't work is yours, and it is yours to seek out MORE to discover and claim!  If you don't like your repertoire, FIND THE REPERTOIRE YOU DO LIKE!!! What are you waiting for?! Who are you waiting on?!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Feedback- where is it?

a Friday musing...

Where do we, as artists, whether established or establishing, get our feedback?

This question has come up numerous times over the last few weeks in different conversations in different venues, so I thought it might be an interesting discussion here.  

As the summer approaches (or so it says on the calendar, although in New York, we wouldn't know for all the rain...), many are in fatigue-mode, exhausted by the many auditions and no responses; the many mailings and drop-offs and no acknowledgement; the calls and emails and no response to the follow-up.

How do we balance the "non-feedback" in our business life?

Ah, perhaps this is the answer in the question!  It is our BUSINESS life, not our artistic one, that is often not being acknowledged.  Many times, due to the VOLUME of submissions/mailings etc that has become the business of theatre: not even a "thank you for submitting/coming out/auditioning" but rather, nothing at all. 

Do I agree with this "nothingness"? no. SOMETHING would be nice.  HOWEVER - what would that be? What kind of feedback would you, the performer, the emerging artist, WISH to have?  And who, legitimately, can give that to you?  Be careful what you wish for!

So, there are two questions of importance here: one, what kind of feedback would give you something concrete, and secondly,  from whom would that feedback make sense to you?

Praise? Validation? what is it that would give you a sense of completion at an audition? 

I honestly don't believe anything of TRUTH from an artistic perspective comes out of an audition.  Therefore, the feedback would be hollow at best.  An audition is a very limited and single dimension surreal environment for everybody involved.  HOW you process it, and how you acknowledge those limitations will perhaps give you a slightly different perspective that is less fatiguing!

I have said it before, and I will keep saying it: YOU CANNOT TAKE THE AUDITION PROCESS PERSONALLY!!!! But, you MUST take your WORK SERIOUSLY.  Your preparation, your development, your craft has to be larger and more significant than the simplicity of the audition process.  Yes, I said it.  Auditioning doesn't have to be complicated, it just has to be acknowledged for what it is, how it stands, and treated as a prop.  You cannot control the process, but you CAN control the preparation and the mindset and the psyche that enters the room.  If the WORK becomes central, and BEING in that space to DO the work is paramount, then the feedback in the room truly becomes irrelevant.

People can do great work and still no callback. Still no response. Why? Who knows! And frankly, it is up to YOU to establish WHO CARES!  Did you prepare? Did you present? Are you READY?  Then, why is that feedback in the room so important?

I think I will answer that one - we would just like to be recognized even for a split second that our work and our time and our focus and our preparation MATTERED.  A simple and truly sincere "thank you" could make all the difference.  

This could also slowly start to change the American Idol-ism of our business - and the riff-raff that just go to auditions cause they "like" to do it, but have no craft or intention of building any might slowly begin to disappear!  

I WANT to acknowledge the artists who are trying to make a difference and have something to offer.  All it would take is paying attention more fully.  Establishing artists, and even those of us who are further along in our craft, really just need a sense of sincerity and quick realization that what we bring into a room is worthwhile.  

And THEN, my dear emerging artists, perhaps it wouldn't be about feedback at all, but rather, then, about self-validation and creating those few you trust that create your circle - your teachers, coaches, mentors - that can continue to challenge you, encourage you, demand from you - so you can challenge and demand from yourself.

I don't need a treatise in the audition room from someone on the other side of the table who does not know me or my story or my journey to begin telling me what I need to do or what I should be singing.  I would like a simple acknowledgement that indeed, I was noticed, I was listened to, and I was respected for that 16 bars.  

So, let us, as artists who are just beginning or have continued to audition, recognize and develop the difference between acknowledgement and feedback.  

Let us be acknowledged in the audition room.  Let the feedback come from the professionals around us who KNOW our journey.  Acknowledgement does not require understanding. Feedback does.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Having it all? what is THAT?

Several of you have requested some musings about balancing LIFE in this crazy business we call singing! Can we do it all? Can we have it all?

So, here are my thoughts, observations, and ongoing rhetorical questions...

What is having it all anyway?  Only you can determine that for yourself and your situation.

Often the question is posed, can you have a family and have a career?

My simple answer is, yes.  HOW you do it is up to you.  I look at the Asian culture of martial arts as a way of creating a template:  there is balance, there is flexibility, there is internal and external force that create release and movement - and thus, the dance begins.

Finding balance is key.  This has to do with commitment but it also has to do with flexibility - and we need to discover this within ourselves first before we can find it elsewhere. The commitment to flexibility in our lives, gives us the permission to decide what the priorities are and know they change position each day.  Some days our practicing takes tops priority, sometimes our children do, sometimes our spouse, sometimes ourselves.  We need to be present enough to discover that daily, and even let those priorities morph within the day.

Focus on our craft does not mean rigidity in our lives.  It means careful planning perhaps, but it also means spontaneity and the ability to make changes in a moment to re-create and re-distribute focus and energy.

Don't confuse priorities with chores (physician, heal thyself - and those of you who know me, know what I mean!!!)  Chores can be put off - they are not life and death and they don't demand your heart and soul, only your time!  Priorities are full of your soul - YOU, your artistry, your spouse, your children, your family, your faith, your cats - whatever FILLS and FULFILLS you.  

Sometimes when we are trying to explore balance we create lists - the infamous "to do" list! This is about chore not priority and can often become confused.  When this happens, everything feels heavy - physically, emotionally, psychically - and we begin to discover guilt and fatigue and resentment all too quickly.  The "to do" list is about chores - and even certain "business" things that need to get done and just take time - NOT our true priorities.  Our priorities are what give us strength, uplifting, focus, joy, and create space and fulfillment in our lives.

How often we confuse these and end up bogged down by the fatigue of it all!  In the confusion, we second-guess what is truly ours and what truly makes us who we are!

The internal balance of self - and artistry DEMANDS external priorities - like practicing, preparation, nurturing.  It also demands the integration of relationship as we discover ourselves in the giving and nurturing of another.  

Who needs the nurturing and giving with each day?  These are the priorities that only change ORDER - they do not disappear.  Your spouse is still a priority, as are your children, and perhaps TODAY, YOU need the nurturing, or your artistry does.  Perhaps that manifests itself in rehearsal, or performance.  And tomorrow, the priorities exchange, and the artistry needs only to be acknowledged to allow date-night, or an afternoon with your daughter.

Discovering what feeds you as an artist does not make you selfish, but rather, self-full.  That artistry grows and manifests in further dimension by the priorities that you draw into your world.

Create PRIORITIES and do chores.  Let go of self-imposed guilt and negative expectations - these are external pressures that we allow to mask as internal markers.  Know what FILLS you and what FULFILLS you and draw on self-full energy.  This then develops the space between you and every priority that could possibly come into your day.  And the day then becomes a significant thing, and you, the artist, can maintain your relationship with self, and all those who are important to you.  These priorities begin to recognize the relationship to YOU as well, and the fluidity of your life begins to find presence and purpose.  

Balance comes from your willingness to invest in ALL your priorities - in the order they present themselves each day.  And in that release, the purpose of the day, and finding ALL OF IT will become apparent.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Music Theatre Auditions - an observation

A late evening musing...

I was reading composer Georgia Stitt's blog and came across a recent entry about auditions and she has actually allowed us to read her notes about the singers that came in to audition. VERY informative if you read it and pay attention...

Which got me are you coming across in that audition room? Are you building your artistry and your craft, and are you also bringing something REAL into that audition space too? What is being projected?

Obviously there will always be things you have no control over, but your preparation you most definitely DO have something to do with! 

Know and project your type - in every way.

Take the room.  CLAIM IT.  

Know your material.  Know it COLD.  Don't just learn the cut, learn the SONG. The theatre gods have interesting senses of humour...when you think you can get away with a 16 bar cut, that is when the audition the panel wants to hear it again from the bridge...

Make sure you can sing your material! And PRESENT your material!  Do I have to say that? Yes I your voice healthy? Is it developing well? Are you presenting the material stylistically? Do you know the difference between "loud" and singing for your body? between scream and belt?  Are you studying?!?!? Regularly?!?!?!  Vocally and dramatically?

Do you present your material to the pianist properly? This etiquette is NECESSARY!

Do you know what to DO in that room?

INVEST in this process - and learn about it fully.  Do not assume it will just "happen". It needs to be a developed skill and skills need to be practiced to assume a naturalness about them.

Challenge yourself, do not accept the lowest common denominator.  If you are committed to your craft and your development as an artist, INVEST in it.  The process of anything worthwhile COSTS something.  The cost doesn't need to be negative if the investment is sound.  Begin discovering YOU in this process so that your audition is REAL, MEANINGFUL, REVEALING to those that sit at the table, whether you think they are paying attention or not. 

Find a way to make them look up - COMMIT to your process. DISCOVER it fully, STUDY it soundly, PRACTICE it diligently.  MAKE IT REAL. CLAIM IT!

Don't be that one of many who is half-assed in preparation, out of tune, insecure and ill-prepared.  Be the one they WANT to see again, INTRIGUE them!  Give them a reason to ask you back, or wish they could, don't make it easy to dismiss you.

Read, study, invest in this process.  It develops another corner of your artistry and builds on your business of self.

You want to demand from the business? Then start by demanding from yourself!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

What are you willing to do for your Craft?

Saturday morning musings...

What is "making" it in this business? I hear this so often, in many different forms, mainly from under 30s, but not always.  I am amazed at how many young performers have come to me discouraged after being in the business maybe 6 months or a year, or even 2 years,  wondering why they haven't "made" it yet...Please pick up your naivete at the door and remember, when you walk into the next audition not to bring it in with you!  

I am not talking about "famous" - that's an animal that has nothing to do with craft, authenticity or artistry.  ANYBODY can be famous for NOTHING. If that's what you are after, this blog ain't for you!

How important is your craft? Your artistry?  If it is something that you couldn't live without - be it singing, acting, dancing, playing - then perhaps a LIFETIME commitment is a place to start.  Are you in this for the long haul?  Or are you dabbling?

Now, don't misunderstand - some people are artists who have a completely different "day" life and their artistry infuses that.  They are not pursuing their craft as job but rather enhancement.  Frankly, I think that's marvellous, and these people aren't dabblers either - they are filling their lives with what they love and finding balance from another direction.

When I say "dabbler" I mean those people who do not fully commit to what they SAY they want; Who fall off the wagon more than they are on;  who talk a good line, but don't walk it or live it.

So, I ask again, what is "making" it to you?  And when do you know when you've "made" it? What if you get yourself so caught up in "making" it that you miss it?

Let me break it down further.  "Making" is an action and it is an action NOW.  It is not passive, whiny or half-assed.  It is NOW, CLEAR, and FOCUSED and COMMITTED.  

You have chosen a business that uses your craft and your artistry as a creative conduit.  My question is this: if you as a human being is never done growing and evolving, why wouldn't the same be true to you as an artist?  And isn't growing, evolving, developing craft and artistry, DOING and MAKING something?  

So, my big question is - why are you waiting?  No one is going to DO it for you; Or MAKE it for you. YOU are going to do and make it.  EVERY SINGLE DAY.   Every single day you commit to your development as an artist you are moving forward and through and making something happen!  

You have chosen a profession that has an approximate 95% unemployment rate -  where there are MANY who want jobs and FEW who get them, because there just aren't enough jobs.   YOU CHOSE IT.  Are you in it for the long haul to see where it takes you? Or are you not?  

And you know what? It's okay if you aren't.   If you decide:  "no I don't want to deal with the long haul of this - I will do something else." Good for you to recognize that! You will still take that artistic spirit into anything you choose to do.

If you decide that your craft is what drives you and you MUST pursue it - then DO IT.  You will find your place or a place will be revealed to you.  "Making" it is every step along the journey - to learn from, grow into, move through - not some pie in the sky nebulous "Now I am THERE" place!

The artistic journey is not one that can be drawn until it has been taken.  There are no direct routes, no plan A/plan B, no time lines, no specifics.  Every body's path is uniquely their own.  

So, are you willing to walk that path?  Are you willing to take a fork in the road and go where your talent leads you? Are you willing to let go of preconceived notions of grandeur or what you might have thought was the "way" and go another direction? Are you willing to let go of the "I must/I must not" in order to discover what IS?

I know when you are in your 20s you want to be somewhere.  6 months or a year is LONG. 5 years is an eternity!  But, you won't realize otherwise until you aren't there anymore!  And the only way to realize it, is to live it and MAKE IT everyday to allow it to take you wherever it leads.

Start asking yourself the hard questions, the real questions: Am I ready to work? Is it more important to take on a role or be seen in a certain venue? If I am offered that job, am I truly ready for it? Is my technique solid enough? Is my spirit strong enough? How many auditions am I willing to do to get an opportunity to work? If I get a chance to do something else that I would never have considered before, will I consider it now? What are my ethical and artistic standards? How do I live those?

And the questions continue...and the questions grow....

So, my next question to you is this: Are you willing to MAKE YOUR CRAFT YOURS?  Are you willing to invest in your artistic development so fully that you live it each day and acknowledge its TRUTH each day and find its LIFE each day? And if you are, why does there need to be a time line? Because, then you are "making" it.  It's happening. And it will continue to happen and manifest in ways you might be surprised to see. Just don't miss it.  Don't be so focused on "making it" that you miss how important the peripheral vision is - and miss an opportunity to "make" it down a path that brings you more!  There is no time line on your craft, on your place.  There is only NOW. Seize it!  Either the business will make a place for you, or YOU will make a place for YOURSELF.

Only the journey will decide that.  Get moving!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Motivation and Inspiration - moving through your day!

Friday morning musings...

This blog idea was suggested by my daughter...thank you Erin!

We as artists have a double-edged sword if we are to be in this business - how do we motivate our business and how do we stay inspired in our artistry?

They seem to live on such opposite ends of the spectrum, and yet, we can find ways of intersection to connect them, and then, allow them to live completely and utterly in their own energy when needed and necessary!

Perhaps the greatest advice I ever received simply this: DO something concrete for your business everyday, and FEED your artistry specifically everyday.

So, using that as a template, how do you DO that?

Both are actions and yet often motivated from different energies.  I would like to encourage you to find those energies and recognize the differences and know that  isn't equal! Some days your business energy will be busier, and some days your artistic energy will be fuller - there are no rules! Follow your instincts and follow your NEEDS.

We all learn differently, so it makes sense that we process differently and organize and function differently.  Make TIME each day for your business and then ALLOW time for your artistry.  

Often, we feel we must accomplish HUGE things each day or it isn't a successful day, when simply, a small and significant task can be enough.  Certain tasks are not completed in a day.  The journey of artistry certainly is not! So why do we put such demands on ourselves?

Perhaps the most significant thing is to BE PRESENT in your day.  Some of the day will be constructed within linear time, and some of it will not.  What do you DO with it?  How do you function within it?  

Being an artist DEFIES linear time!!!! Being an artist is not defined by what you do to pay the rent but rather by WHO you are becoming and HOW you are developing as an artist.  How are you present in THAT journey?

Giving yourself a few moments as you start your day to REMIND YOURSELF WHO YOU ARE can be grounding and centering!  Allowing for a moment of stillness and realization is often all you need to ignite that sense of "being" before hitting the pavement for either your day job or your business that day.

What motivates you? What inspires you?  And I now add to that question....what motivates/inspires you TO DO SOMETHING????  Whether it's to do something for the business of you or the artistic you - what are those things?

What allows you an opportunity to stay fresh, grow, develop? Are you taking classes? Lessons? Seminars? Workshops? Your craft and your artistry need to be FED and INFUSED and DEVELOPED - how are you doing that? 

How are you developing that feeding BETWEEN the lessons and the classes and the workshops? 

What music inspires you? How? Why?  Do you attend performances? Why? Why not? What types of music, what types of performances inspire you? motivate you?

Do you journal about your discoveries? Do you journal about your business developments? Do you recognize when the artistic discoveries intersect with the business achievements or are they separate?  Are you seeing the patterns that emerge in your life as you journey through?

Do you have hobbies or interests that are creative and nurture other corners of you?
What inspires you generally? specifically?  Have you ever actually thought about that? Perhaps recognizing what truly CAN inspire you, WILL inspire you and motivate you more fully to explore YOUR potential.

I am asking questions, only because I can't give you the answers only YOU can give yourself!  ANYTHING is possible and there are no rules - only the boundaries you create for yourself.  

BEING PRESENT and recognizing what you gravitate toward can give you further realizations. Our artistic spirit is often trying to communicate with us, if only we were present!  

Staying motivated is not about huge leaps but rather one step at a time.  A step is movement!! When babies learn to step, WE CELEBRATE!!! Why can't we do that with ourselves as we step as growing artists? As artists developing the business of "ME, INC"?

We learn to invest in ourselves by DOING for ourselves.  Investing takes a MOMENT and a REALIZATION.  And it grows from there.

And sometimes, the DOING is simply being still and BEING in that stillness to recognize stillness can gestate into the next...

LIVING your artistry daily manifests itself in many forms.  EXPLORE it daily.  CLAIM it daily.

DOING for your business requires your FOCUS daily and it doesn't mean HUGE TASKS but rather, a small sense of completion.

Some days, the business will outweigh the artistic and other days, the artistic growth outweighs the business.  Each day brings its challenges and its rewards. And each day is a NEW day.  We need to be pliable enough to MEET IT as best we can, and take it as it greets us!  If we are growing and developing artists, working toward being in this business, then EXPECT a little of both each day - and DEMAND a sense of it each day from yourself.  GO OUT AND GET IT!!! 

If you are an artist, you are an artist when you wake in the morning and while you dream at night.  NOTHING can change that, and only YOU decides who and what touches that.  

My father often said when we complained "I'm bored", simply this: "Boredom comes from within".  I will take that template and expand it thus: We can find ways of external motivation and inspiration but ultimately, if we are artists, "Motivation comes from within."

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Being on Stage - Could You Please Get Your Hair Out of Your Eyes?!

Musings mid-week after several weeks of attending singing performances of many different kinds...

When I speak of performances, I am NOT talking about playing a role in a show, but rather, playing YOU on stage in performance, not an audition, but an actual performance!

I write this BEGGING YOU, the performer to PLEASE begin considering your performance.  We don't come out of the womb knowing these things, they need to be taught and rehearsed, and I humbly ask you to begin exploring them for yourself, and if you don't know ASK! ASK ME!

Could you please learn your material?  Do I have to ask that? ehem, yes I do...Learn how to practice - technically, musically, linguistically, dramatically - so your material is SOLID.  Don't assume it will be, practice PERFORMING it.  

Learn how to take stage.  I mean PHYSICALLY take stage.  How do you claim your space? How do you stand? How do you move? If you can't answer it, you can't do it; if you can answer it and can't do it, you need to PRACTICE it!

Dress appropriately.  Please. Know the venue, and the occasion and figure it out.  This isn't an audition, and you aren't going to the hardware store, or meeting friends for drinks.  You are performing and you are presenting the best YOU for public consumption.  My dear colleague, Cindy Sadler, has written some marvellous findings on proper dress for opera auditions - please check that out!

So I add to that in performance setting, be it orchestral, recital, concert, cabaret settings...

Being on stage is about creating LONG LINES - exaggerating line to draw the focus up to the face and eyes and the narrative that is perhaps happening...create those lines with color, cut, fabric, heel height (and don't get me started on footwear!!!) Guys as well as girls!

Find colors that complement you - don't wash yourself out!  

Make sure your clothes FIT! Too loose is just as bad as too tight.  
Taffeta is not necessary...especially if you are more curvy than you are willowy...My rule: if it makes noise when you move, leave it in the closet!

Footwear:  don't wear character shoes!!! Ladies, LEARN how to walk in heels no matter what height.  PRACTICE!!! Guys, polish your shoes - scuffs are not necessary on stage.

Dressing for stage takes THOUGHT and TIME and INVESTMENT. It doesn't have to be expensive, but it has to work!  DO IT!  If the outfit you've picked would be comfortable at McDonald's, it's time to rethink that outfit.  

Ladies, a little makeup would be nice.  Seriously.  And if you are under lights, maybe a little more!  Oh, and about those lights, check your undergarments.  If these don't fit well, or are not the correct ones to wear under a certain fabric, we are ALL going to know...

And please please PLEASE - get your hair out of your face!!!!!!!!!!!!  DO something with it!  We want to SEE you!!! Including a trim and a wash maybe...did I have to say that? Yep, I did.

I encourage you to invest some TIME in how you present yourself in performance.  Obviously it's an issue, or I wouldn't be writing about it, because I see it so often.  If you've taken the time to prepare to be on stage, why wouldn't you POLISH that performance by creating it further in your physical presentation?  If you are trying to be taken seriously, YOU must take yourself seriously.  

You don't have to be a professional to present in a professional manner.

Learn and PRACTICE getting to the stage, being on stage, leaving the stage.  Graciousness is HUGE.  Learning how to walk is great start.  Seriously.  You can't assume these things - PRACTICE THEM!  Learn how to bow - seriously.  Practice that too.  

Practicing being on stage is JUST as important as your singing.  Don't assume you don't have to practice it - because that shows!!  You might sing like a god, and behave like a geek.  Guess which one is talked about? hmmmm.

Don't be ashamed to ask someone who KNOWS what is appropriate.  Again, I don't assume anybody knows these things!  We have all had to learn how to present ourselves. 

 Please invest some energy in that so you can present an ENTIRE package on stage and your performance is memorable for the true artistic reasons and not for something else!

YOU CAN DO IT!!! So, do it.