Sunday, November 29, 2009

Protecting Your Performance

Sunday musings...

How are you protecting your performance?

If you have to ask me what I mean, then perhaps you aren't!

For those of you who are working in repertoire, or 8 (or more) shows a week, to those of you auditioning, giving a recital - whatever the performance - how do you protect it?

What are you doing to give yourself the physical and psychological space to prepare for that performance?

There is no such thing as "selfish" when it comes to protecting your performance! Selfish - for self - is NECESSARY, not negative. It is crucial to your well-being to create a space around you in every way in order to prepare, focus, get still, and deliver what you there to do.

Protecting your performance takes practice too. You have to learn what YOU need to make sure that performance comes off ideally. You have to be RUTHLESS about how you protect that performance. Compromise is not part of the equation here. Others don't need to get it - they aren't doing YOUR work. Only YOU can decide what makes you comfortable, and that decision has to be strong.

You do not need to apologize for taking the physical and psychological space and time needed to prepare. You don't need to explain it either. You take it. It is your performance.

Having stillness to focus and prepare is crucial to a solid performance. You have a job to do. Focusing on what you need to do is necessary - it is not assumed. We must SEE what we need to do - we must walk ourselves through it literally and figuratively. We have to visualize what we are going to do, in order for it to happen! As any athlete, we must focus on the task, the execution and the success of that task. We cannot find true focus if there is distraction around us - in ANY way.

If your family/friends don't understand, you need to tell them what you need. If they still don't understand, it doesn't matter. They either respect your boundaries or they don't. You must stand firm about your space. They'll get over it. It is not your responsibility to make sure the people around you get it; it is your responsibility to deliver a solid performance!!

We all develop a certain ritual the day of performance. This comes with experience, and it comes from knowing what we need. Take your preparation and your artistry seriously enough to discover these needs. They are CRUCIAL to your execution of performance! This is often what separates superior performances from the mediocre.

Create your ritual; determine it; fine-tune it; claim it; do not compromise it; Compromising your ritual of protection will compromise your performance. Your performance is the goal. To achieve it successfully, means protecting it viciously!!!

Protecting your performance requires uncompromising focus. It requires you to truly understand what you need and take that without apology. It requires the mental, spiritual and physical commitment to the task at hand. FEED your spirit, your body and your soul so your performance is FULL. If it doesn't feed you, it takes from you. Anything that takes away from your preparation is in the way, and must be set aside.

Get rid of anything that distracts you. Or anyONE. You can deal with things and people AFTER the performance. They aren't going anywhere! It will all be there when you are done.

If you learn to respect your performance rituals and live them, then others will begin to recognize where they are welcome and when. A superior performance requires focus and no distractions. Create your space in order for those distractions to be minimal or non-existent.

We learn how to protect our performance by doing. You will learn by paying attention to what you need, and when you KNOW you will DO. Trust that. Trust yourself. You owe no explanations to anyone, but owe to yourself and your audience the best performance you can give. Protecting that is worth it.

Find your stillness, your focus, your quiet time; find your solitude, your energy, your regeneration; create your boundaries and stay firm in them; find your rituals and stay true to them. Your performance DEMANDS it.

edited to add this: YOU are an athlete! Don't misunderstand my use of "stillness" - stillness is about YOUR SPACE and YOUR CORE. If literally being still is necessary, do it!! If you have to DO something - cardio, yoga, pilates, a run, hitting a ball - whatever you need to blow out the energy and find stillness and focus - YOU DO IT! Just don't let OTHERS dictate your needs - only YOU can do that.

Friday, November 27, 2009

What DO I Need?

Post-Turkey musings...

I often have questions via workshops, singers consulting and emails about what you need for this career. This often comes from those you NOT in a performance-based degree, worried that because you aren't doing a music theatre/drama/classical voice/opera stream.

In all honesty, the question is simply this: are you willing to invest in YOUR ability and bring your potential to reality? Does it really matter where you studied, what you studied, who you studied with if you can't bring a reality into an audition or into a role? Ultimately, no. If you can't DO, it doesn't matter. Saying you can do it, and doing it are the defining differences.

It is up to you to invest in yourself and in your career. Just because you are in a program or graduated from a program that is performance based doesn't guarantee you anything. All it does it gives you an opportunity to learn a few things within the context of the program. Whether you do or not is up to you! For those of you who are pursuing more liberal arts, or non-performance programs, this doesn't mean you can't pursue, nor does it mean you are behind!!

The fallacy, that many who are seasoned professionals who read this blog (and who will laugh knowingly!) will attest, is that everything you need to learn about your craft and your place in the business is done in school. WRONG!!! It is simply the beginning, and does not give you everything, and in some instances, sadly a very large debt of nothing!

Your responsibility is to yourself. It means you have to go out and get it. You are not done studying and learning and growing after your degree no matter WHAT it is in! It is your quest to find what you need in classes, teachers, seminars, information and seek it out.

Ultimately, you can have all the "right" schools, the "right" teachers, the "right" training on your resume, and if you can't bring what is necessary into the audition or into the role, no one cares!! Can you do the job or can't you?

This is why our training, and our development is never done!

So what do you need? You need a dose of reality. You need to be honest with yourself about where you are in your journey. You need to develop your instrument. You need to STUDY and EXPLORE! You need to know how your instrument functions and what its possibilities are and what its boundaries are.

You need to explore seminars and workshops and classes, and intensives to find out where you are best suited; how the business works in different facets; how to build a resume; what you need in a headshot; how you network; when you need to look for an agent; what to expect and how to deliver in an audition; what your type is; what your fach is; what repertoire you should be presenting NOW; How you are seen; how you want to be seen - and on and on.

It doesn't matter if you aren't in a program that addresses these things or not. It is still up to you to discover it - and know how it relates to you specifically. You need to find the resources that you need and utilize them!!!

If you want a career - YOU have to go get it. It will not come to you. Enhance your studies - and develop your knowledge. Having a degree or diploma doesn't make you "ready" - it is just a tool to use to move toward the next, whatever that "next" happens to be.

What do you have to offer? What are your raw goods? And then, what are you going to do to develop them? You can't hide behind a degree that seems to be performance track if you can't deliver, nor can you make excuses for a non-performance degree if you don't go out and find what you need to give you further information FOR your career pursuits!

So - what do you need? You need focus, you need perseverance, you need a dose of reality about your ability, you need determination, you need KNOWLEDGE. This business is too difficult to feign ignorance or wide-eyed disbelief. Get the information, claim it; find out who you are and what you have to offer and how it can be developed - and DO IT.

Embody your talent, your ability, your craft. When we see it, feel it, experience it, then nothing else matters but what you CAN DO, not where you learned how to do it.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

What are you thankful for?

American Thanksgiving day musings...

We begin the holiday season. It can get ridiculously busy, materialistic and stressful. We as singers often enter our busiest season and don't stop til we collapse in a heap just after New Year's!

As we pursue a career in this business, where so much of time we are faced with rejection and worse, indifference - it is very easy to get negative and bitter and jaded. And why wouldn't you?

So, my thoughts today are about how you reclaim your love for your craft - and what you have to be thankful for. Leave the rejection and the indifference and the stupidity and the ignorance, and the racism and the sexism and the size-ism, and the arrogance and the rudeness, to seek its own level. It will.

Wrap yourself up today in your positive self-filled creativity and purpose.

What are you doing all this for? Have you lost your joy? Your reason? Your passion? It's time to re-discover it and and re-claim it!

Give thanks for your passion - for ANYTHING. Some people walk through life in beige clothing. They are passionate about nothing. You have the potential to live in VIVID COLOUR! Live it!

Give thanks for your body - yes, I said it. Your body is where your instrument resides and where it find tangibility. Yes, it may need some firming up, it may need a few inches or pounds shed, but it is YOURS. EMBRACE IT. TRUST IT. Make changes that are healthy and true and real for YOU not for the business. Today - enjoy your food and and enjoy that body. Treat it with respect and with love. Give thanks for what it gives you - strength, health, a place that your voice can call home.

Give thanks for your talent. No matter where you are on this journey, you have something you are working with and developing and discovering and nurturing. This is a wonderful thing. This is uniquely yours and it's your responsibility to discover what it can and will do. Don't worry about what it might do, or what it doesn't do - what DOES IT DO NOW?!? EMBRACE that!!!

Give thanks for those people around you who create a safe and and soft place to land. Who mentors you? Who encourages you? Who builds you up? Who inspires you? Who reminds you that you are worth it? This net of people is crucial - and we often forget how much they do for us, just by being there. That net of positive energy is larger and more potent than anything else.

Give thanks for POSSIBILITIES!!!! If you are on a path, strong, vibrant, passionate, talented, creative and building craft, there are always possibilities!!! And the possibilities are positive! If there are possibilities, then another step can be taken. If you are breathing and can lift your head and sing a note - it is POSSIBLE.

Give thanks for choice. Choice allows us to create and re-discover - and make another choice!!! There are only choices. We learn from those and make more!

Give thanks for opportunity. It can come in the strangest forms and in the strangest ways. Keep your eyes open for those doors - don't stare at the closed ones!!! Open doors and unlocked doors dare you to walk through - and so you should!

Give thanks because you are a living, breathing artist developing your craft. Your life is important. Your BEING is crucial.

Seek the level of your spirit. Seek the level of your talent. Seek the level of your ability. Seek the level of your craft.

Today - be thankful for YOU!

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Creating Your OWN Path!

Wednesday musings...the beginning of the American Thanksgiving weekend!

This subject has come up again and again in my own life and on my journey as an artist and human being. It seems to be an ongoing discussion with many of you in different manifestations so I thought I'd bring it to light and thought here...

You can't take anybody with you. And you can't ride somebody else's coat-tails.

Simply put, your path and your journey and your career is about YOU. This does not make it selfish or self-centered in a negative way. Your research, development, your relationships, your sensibilities, your pursuits are YOURS.

Being an artist, pursuing a career being an artist and "becoming" an artist takes investment on all levels. The success of that investment varies, but ultimately it has been claimed by the artist him/herself. No one can claim unless he/she has done the work to get there.

Often, we are generous, thoughtful and caring human beings, and so when someone asks for our help, we tend to give it, and share what we know and what we have. There is nothing wrong with that impetus, however, is shouldn't cost us anything.

Generosity is given when it doesn't cost the giver to give it. Those of you who hold that "it" factor will always draw to you people who want to possess it. They haven't figured out how to develop their OWN path, and so they will create a faux-path by trying to latch on to yours. Often, these people don't have that "it" factor, have a false sense of entitlement, expect and demand more than they are willing to seek for themselves, and have a false sense of their own abilities. They will try to latch on, or copy you, or manipulate you for information that will not enhance, but inhibit.

I am not saying be wary and suspicious of anybody and everybody who asks you a question! I am saying, be aware of your own path and what it takes to be on it. If sharing information doesn't cost you anything on your journey, share it. If encouraging a fellow artist through word or deed doesn't cost you a step, then encourage. But don't do it without seeing first.

If you have done your research and study and ongoing development, and are getting out there and DOING, and an artist expects/asks/demands to know, to borrow, to take things/contacts/information they have not gone out to get for themselves - then back off. This will cost you. It is up to THEM to discover their OWN information. It is up to EACH of us to discover and create our OWN path.

If someone tries to do everything you do - it can be flattering at first, but then it can become very clear that it is imitation and not flattery. You must retreat from this is. It will cost you too much.

The grays are often murky as this is never black nor white. As artists we are always growing and evolving, and what started out as two people who seemed on the same level can change quickly, and you leave the other person behind. Perhaps they aren't as naturally talented; perhaps they just don't want it as much as you do; perhaps your next level demands more than they are willing or able to find in themselves. It is okay. Nobody has done anything wrong. But you cannot take them with you. YOU must continue to strive for YOUR excellence. They must find their own. What gets murky, is that we often forge more than just professional relationships, but personal ones. Can we separate them enough to allow for the friendship and the professional path and creative process to be individual?

If we are true to our path, we MUST do it. If the friendship has so little to anchor it that it cannot withstand the individual's choice to find his/her artistic development, then that friendship is not feeding both people! Then again, it is costing one more than the other.

Don't just give it away!!! What you have learned, and the professional assets you have established are for YOU until you are at a point in your career that it doesn't cost YOU anything to share them. And then, know who you are sharing them with!! Your reputation is also augmented or diminished by how you share and what you share and with whom you share it!

You can say "no" with grace. You can suggest to someone who keeps asking, or following you, or imitating you that they start to discover who they are and what they have to offer on their own. You can suggest a discussion of teachers or classes or agents or, or, or...once that other person has done the preliminary research to find out what is out there and comes with his/her own information!

Just because you are "friends" does not mean you have to share assets. And anybody who says "come on, you are my friend" is giving you the biggest red flag of all. Friendship is friendship; business is business; Your career belongs to YOU and everything you bring to it and develop with it and for it is yours. It is NOT up for grabs by people who are too lazy/scared/entitled to get out there and create their own path!

Your career path needs you to be focused on YOU and not worried about someone else. Baggage is baggage and we all carry enough of that!!! We do not need to be worried about dragging somebody else along who doesn't belong just by the nature of dragging!!! Let them find their own way. Their own way is best for them. Your way is best for you. If you need to make changes then do it. Do it with human respect and kindness, but do it.

YOU CANNOT TAKE ANYONE WITH YOU. Pure and simple. Career is solo. It has to be that way.

YOU CANNOT RIDE THE COAT TAILS OF SOMEONE ELSE. You need to find your own life, your own path and develop your own talent and your abilities. You need to discover what you do well, and not what you can take from someone else.

At the end of the day - the house lights will dim, and the spot will slowly light you on that stage. You either deliver or you don't. You cannot claim what you do not yet own. You cannot blame on someone else something that does not belong to them.

It is YOUR path. You choose it. You create it. You pursue it.
You and only you are responsible to develop it and nurture the relationships along the way. Sometimes you walk parallel with another, and then the paths fork. Sometimes the paths cross. Sometimes they move in totally different directions. Enjoy YOUR path.

Be generous when it doesn't cost you anything to be so; know what that means at all the different moments in your career; don't apologize if you cannot be generous with certain things at certain times because it puts you in jeopardy.

Discover what YOUR path needs. Don't try to be something you are not or someone you are not. You are enough. Whatever that path is, get on it - time is wasting!!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

NATS and Music Theatre

Sunday rant...

NATS - The National Association of Teachers of Singing - is actually an international organization to which I belong.

As I was offered some information from different chapters on their definitions of Music Theatre singing, I am beginning to wonder why I belong and may have to rethink my membership, or they should hire me to educate their obviously very poorly informed teachers in certain circumstances!!

NATS offers "student auditions" - basically a vocal competition set up by age group and adjudicated by other members of NATS and voice teachers looking to join.

Here is a template so you see what I mean:

All looks great huh? What a fabulous opportunity for singers to try out repertoire - both classical and MT - and get some feedback!

Could be...the idea is good...BUT...

Then we look further into the DEFINITION of Music Theatre singing and the requirements, and Susan sees RED!!!

Here's the document I saw - from the Mid-Atlantic Region of NATS -

When I first read it I thought "This can't be serious", and then I realized of COURSE it is serious!!! It is an ORGANIZATION imposing LANGUAGE on its membership to make it look as if they know what they are talking about. Obviously when you know about vocal behavior and know the styles of Music Theatre, and know how to build a voice from the physical and behavioral aspect, this becomes an absolute disgrace!!

This, my dear snowflakes (!) is why it is IMPERATIVE that you understand your voice - and how it functions, how it is built, why it does what it does, and get your terminology CORRECT as it pertains to your balance. Otherwise, documents like this will scare you to death, or even more accurately, confuse the hell out of you!

And not just singers - teachers too. I am sure that at least HALF the teachers reading this document and using it as a guide for their students don't understand the terminology and will mis-interpret what is written here. And I'm being generous when I say half.

There are MANY so-called teachers hanging out a shingle saying "voice lessons available here" who should be working retail at the mall. Or selling Avon or Amway or something else. A little knowledge or a nice voice or a voice degree isn't ENOUGH to make you a teacher of voice and be responsible for the development of someone else's instrument! Just as the ads that say "Learn to sing in 4 easy lessons" or "learn to belt like the stars", so documents like this show absolute disregard to the style and genre and craft of singing.

I am VEHEMENT in my opinion about this and will NOT apologize for what I do and what I see others are NOT doing. And I will NOT back down. And if NATS decides they want to revoke my membership, then fine, do so, but I believe this needs to be addressed - and publicly. Not within the "preciousness" and safety of the NATS organization!

In this document, there are many vocal science terms. If you are going to use vocal science then please know what you are talking about!!! It has NEVER been established that vocal science or ANY science is EXACT and therefore constant enquiry is NECESSARY to acquire full knowledge.

By using CT muscle or TA muscle dominant means NOTHING!!! What you are actually doing is promoting an imbalanced instrument!!! The whole point of vocal behavior NO MATTER WHAT STYLE OR GENRE IT SINGS is to be BALANCED which means CT and TA muscles share and pass dominance to each other depending on where the singer is singing - tessitura, range, and stylistic information. Anything else is imbalanced vocal production.

CLASSICAL musical theatre which uses middle voice primarily, needs balanced use of both CT and TA muscles to develop even resonance. Why not just use the term "Classical" Music Theatre with emphasis on a balanced voice?

Gershwin et al is still CLASSICAL not "non-legit"!!!!

If an INTERNATIONAL PROFESSIONAL organization can't get it right, how can we expect our singers to understand?!?!??!?!

I see ultimately, that these organizations are afraid to use the word "belt". I see why. They don't know how to use the other words either.

Music Theatre is as large a genre as Classical music. Therefore, you need to subdivide by era - which I will acknowledge has been done - and leave the other complications alone. By adding science and muscles just confuses the issue because it has no reason for being there! Specify the ERA and the COMPOSERS and talk about singing with a balanced and well developed instrument that you sing with so STYLE INFORMS TONE!!!!

I also have issues with the "characteristics of belt" in this document and how it is "translated" -

Belt is not controversial if it is understood and developed correctly. Belt is not spread, not breathy, not nasal - belt is focused, informed by style and physicality, and is done with an OPEN throat. Closed throat, nasal, unfocused and breathy tone is POOR SINGING no matter WHAT style is being sung.

A balanced vocal instrument has the POTENTIAL to sing ANY style if the style informs the instrument. To think otherwise is simply not true. A singer may find that his/her physicality cannot take on a style authentically - from belt to opera to early music to R&B - or find their psyche is not suited to said style, for many other reasons. But the INSTRUMENT must be solid and balanced and built!!

TRUE BELT is not controversial - and is sung with focused tone, and open throat. Vowel choices inform the balance of resonance which in turn leads to stylistic integrity and traditional authenticity.

In this above attached document, there are certain things that are redeemable - however, there are many things that are simply incorrect. Using the terms "legit" and "non-legit" are not clear; Do we use "non-legit" anymore? I think Music Theatre has begun to get more specific as to what is required show to show. Here's the irony - Legit means nothing, if it doesn't have a context. Belting is LEGIT if it's done in balance and correctly. Opera means nothing if it doesn't have a context. Saying you are an opera singer doesn't mean you can sing ANY opera. Specificity is NECESSARY to develop full understanding of what style and genre is and what is requires.

What disturbs me (!!) about documents like this, is that it couches certain truths within an academic vocabulary that is not specific enough to give clarity to what is being required. This is dangerous. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

Why not stay with what you do well instead of introducing an entire genre and tradition that you know little about?

Throwing around some truths, with vocal terminology and some absolutely incorrect information does not promote excellence. It promotes confusion, and segregation. And who will "evaluate" these singers who are entering this competition? Can they truly be evaluated honestly if this is the document the teachers/judges are reading?

Vocal science is only one part of the equation. The stylistic information and genre and tradition of music is absolutely imperative for performance. Physical behavior and stylistic information has to live together in order to create a truth in performance.

As an international association, NATS has to be more responsible!

Scientists and teachers can spout terminology all they want, but they need to know how it works!!! They need to be able to DO IT and DEMONSTRATE IT and know how to FIND IT in their singers by understanding the instrument fully. They need to be continually researching, asking questions, developing, discovering... Science is constantly developing. Pedagogy is constantly being challenged and developing. So must we as singers, as teachers and as organizations that are there to support both.

Learn and discover and hold yourself and organizations responsible for what they know and what they SAY they know.

Whether it's NATS, a university, a college, a production company, a teacher, a coach or YOU - challenge, ask, and LEARN!!! Explore and FIND the truth. Don't assume. Don't back down.

Hiding behind terminology or the safety of an organization or some other "business" or institution, is not staying true to good singing and building true instruments. It's hiding. It's okay to say "I don't know; I don't have the answer" - honesty opens us to finding the answer!!!

If you see bullshit, don't be afraid to call it that. Don't be afraid to say I don't know. And then, don't be afraid to get excited and DISCOVER the answers!!!

None of us have all the answers - that's what makes our journey so exciting!!! Constantly learning and discovering and developing: That is what artistry is.

Don't be afraid to ask why. I ask why all the time!!!
I am asking why in this blog. On many levels. And I may get answers or I may not. I know one thing: I will not WAIT on those answers. I will go out and GET THEM.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

What Singing is NOT

Saturday rant...

After watching Show Business: The Road to Broadway again last night so many blog entries emerged!!!!

I am so sick and tired of what Music Theatre deems as good singing!!! And how terminology is thrown around and not understood - by casting nor by so-called singers!!

There was a time on Broadway when singers from the Met and City Opera regularly appeared on Broadway, and often, vice versa.

Alas, you'd be hard pressed to find that anymore!! What was once a normal activity would now be considered a speciality item!

WHY?!?!? And don't spout "style" to me - style informs the tone. If the instrument is built well and the voice can move into a style, and the singer has studied and recognizes what the style demands, it can be done.

Oh right. A built instrument. A studied singer. KNOWLEDGE. INDIVIDUALITY.

So what is singing NOT?

Good singing is not breathiness, closed throat, wobbly jaw; good singing is not nasality; good singing is not pushing, yelling or screaming; good singing does not produce muscle tension; good singing does not fray the voice and create large "breaks" and no phonation;

Good singing is not about imitation!!!!! Good singing is not about trying to sound like another singer!!!!!

REAL SINGING means TIME in order to discover YOUR instrument and what it does and how to build it into balance in order for it to take on the demands of a style you choose and a character that you choose to develop. REAL SINGING means discovering the TRUTH about what your instrument can do and why it does that so you can work within the physicality of that instrument and deliver a uniqueness to what you do artistically.

REAL SINGING means an athleticism of your physical body - grounded, supported, elasticized, energized and focused. REAL SINGING means a tangibility of breath energy. REAL SINGING demands truth and authenticity not imitation and copycat cookie cutout.

Singers - and I am talking mainly Music Theatre here - quit trying to copy and pretend!!!! YOU CAN CHANGE THE BUSINESS by bringing in an authentic instrument!!!! Make the business pay attention to YOU not what you can copy!!

AND STUDY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Learn about your voice, develop it, find all its possibilities and then inform it with the music you prepare. Know what it can do and how it can do it; Know what it can't do and treat that with respect too.

If you don't know your instrument and get it healthy and working and sing well, you will be gone before you get started. Nobody is going to look after that instrument but you. You are part of the equipment in this business. When you break, you will be replaced. YOU HAVE TO CARE!!!!

Find a teacher who really understands the voice and how to build it. Don't look at the bright and shiny ads that say "learn to sing is 4 easy lessons" - there is no thing as a quick fix with singing. We are working for longevity and muscle strength and power. We are working for tangible physicality and athleticism. Training muscles takes TIME, PATIENCE, ENDURANCE, FOCUS and GUTS. If you aren't willing to invest in yourself this way, then perhaps you are in the wrong business. Seriously. Because even if you have talent and a pretty sound, it will only last so long without the training necessary to develop it.

Find your voice - truly and authentically!!! SING WITH IT!!! When true and real voices begin to emerge, they touch people. And even without vocabulary, people respond positively to them. And then, pretty soon, the breathy, nasal, tight, poorly produced voices don't seem good anymore (!!!) and real voices begin singing again...

LEARN TO SING WELL!!!!!!! Don't cop out on yourself, and don't copy out on the music. You are doing a disservice to both when you settle for less that what is required and less than what you are truly able to develop.

GO GET IT!!!!!!!!!!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Are You Pushy or are you Networking?

Friday musings...

Many singers and performers I talk with are concerned about this fine line - and what is this fine line between networking and keeping your name out there and being pushy and overbearing and getting in your own way?

First, no one is going to know you or hire you and pay attention to you if you don't put yourself out there. Nobody is getting jobs or acknowledgement sitting in their apartments wishing they were working!!! You gotta get out there! You gotta put yourself out there!!

You have to been seen, and you have to follow up. Our business and our world is small - there are less than 6 degrees of separation! We have to be willing to be accessible and available and follow through and follow up.

Accessible and available does not mean in your face. In your face is pushy and annoying. Pushy and annoying is dismissed and you've become a liability to your career, not an asset.

So how do you find the balance between too much and too little? How do you get noticed and recognized and keep your name/face in the minds of those who should know you without being a pain in the ass?

First and foremost, when you are auditioning, BE PREPARED!!!!!!!!!! If you don't have the goods, you aren't going to get as far as you hoped! Know what you have to offer and be honest about it and develop it and present it.

Follow up. ALWAYS follow up. Send an email or postcard with your headshot on it to thank the CD/GD/AD for the audition - attach your headshot to your email so they SEE you again. Keep the message short and sweet. We are a visual and language business. Keep that in mind!

Get out of your apartment for more than auditions!!!! Invest in workshops, seminars, classes to meet other performers and professionals in the business. We all talk to each other!!

Be approachable. Introduce yourself. Don't be shy!!! Even if you ARE shy, you cannot be when you are networking! BE AN ACTOR!!!

Make sure you have a business card at all times! You never know who you will meet and where! Having something tangible to hand to someone keeps you in their consciousness.

The art of networking is truly learning how to be approachable, and how to follow up.

When you meet new actors, a teacher, a director, an agent, a casting director, a composer, a conductor, ANYONE through a class/workshop, at a show, at a party - FOLLOW UP. Sending a quick email within a few days to say "great to meet you and chat the other night" and attach your headshot is an important way of keeping YOU out there. If you spoke about something specific, then mention that. "great to get your input on the new show blah blah " or whatever you spoke about.

Pushy is "great to meet you, and oh btw, do you know of any great roles I could audition for through your casting agency?" !!!! And pushy is sending email after email after email. Not good.

Networking is "great to meet you and thank you for the lesson/seminar/etc and I look forward to seeing you again - and perhaps auditioning for you soon." One email is fine.

(as examples)

If you are doing a showcase, have new work on your resume etc, sending out an email to "check in" and "update" someone you have met and may want to audition for etc is FINE! Again, it keeps your name and face in their consciousness!

The nature of this business is out of sight out of mind - so it is UP TO YOU to keep YOU in the minds of the people who can be allies for you as you build and sustain your career!!

Sometimes you just have to ASK. Again, if you ask and you are ignored or told no, then take that and stop! Pushy is ignoring the "no". Pushy shuts the door on you. We want to keep the doors unlocked and POSSIBLE.

Do not allow your possibilities to become "absolutely nots" because you confused your networking with your pushiness! Networking is a skill and it must be learned. Learn it!!!

I have always said, if you ask the worse thing that can happen is that you get no response. Even a "no" gives you a clarification! Often when we think there's no chance, and we ask, a possibility emerges!

Ask, don't demand. Always ask "is it possible?" It allows for conversation and response from the one you are asking, instead of shutting off and creating a wall. If you are approachable and responsive and flexible you have a better chance to get that from the person you are asking!

Recognize who is in your immediate business circle and use their expertise and experience and connections too! Your teachers, coaches, pianists, can all be willing to help you if you ask!!!!

Don't HESITATE!!! Learn HOW to promote yourself. Example: What if you are going to be in a city where there is a theatre company you would love to work for? If you aren't going to be there during a scheduled audition, why can't you email or call and ASK if there's anyway you could audition while you are in town? Even if this answer is no, you will have made a connection and they will have your resume and headshot and you can then follow up and ask if you could put on the mailing list for the next round of auditions. And what if the answer is yes???? IMAGINE IT!!

The business wants to see you are aware, and readily flexible, and willing to promote yourself and put yourself out there. The business is not for the hesitant, second-guessing or apologetic. Show some guts and some savvy and some creativity and get your name and your energy out there!! The business remembers that - and your name begins to ring a bell. That can lead to a meeting, an audition, an conversation, a job!!

You are your product. Don't apologize for it. Don't hide it. Get it out there!!! Get YOU out there! Don't push it - promote it! Ask, and accept with graciousness the answer the comes to you. Do not push.

Do something for your business each day - network and promote the business of you.

The development will grow and come back to you - be known as a great colleague and not as a pushy performer. The accessible and pliable will always find a place. The pushy may look like they are getting somewhere, but that place ends in nowhere very quickly!

Follow up, discover, stay creative and fresh, and ask!

happy weekend!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

What is Your Role?

Tuesday evening musings - since I am home early!

The whole philosophy behind this blog is to give information and overview and suggestions and support and challenge and do it with passion and clarity!!! The information should trigger your OWN journey of finding out more specific information. I am not here to name names or point fingers directly (!!) but rather to give my impressions and experiences and musings on what I see, hear and experience.

So this blog will perhaps give a very BASIC breakdown of this animal called "the theatre business"! What is your role in this wheel? And what is your responsibility???

We each have a responsibility first and foremost to know our contribution, its importance and its place and then its execution. We should be held to task for that responsibility by others and ultimately by ourselves. We should have a work ethic, an integrity and an honesty in order to understand fully how we can fulfill that responsibility, or walk away from it and let someone else do it who is more suited.

Whatever side of the table we sit/stand on, we are responsible. We must be willing raise the bar and rise above it if our business is going to have lasting value and does not fall to the lowest common denominator.

I have heard from many singers out there who prefer to remain anonymous, not because they don't think what they have to say doesn't have relevance, but because they believe they will be black-balled if they disagree with "establishment". When did our business become so power-hungry and faux-mafia?

Each side of the table is needed to make this business work. If one aspect decides they are ultimately the most important, the power struggle becomes ridiculously imbalanced and the process does not work. At all.

So let's begin to break it down. Forgive me if I don't get detailed - or forget a position. This is an overview to begin a general discussion and understanding.

The Artist: the person who executes the idea. Hired by the administration - GD/Company; The artist can be the singer/conductor/director/musician/actor et al - who HAS craft and talent and work ethic in order to tangibly realize the product and create the best possible performance. So the challenge of the artist is TRUTH OF SELF. Can you do it or do you just want to? What do you promote to get hired?? Truth of self and craft, or a mirage? You need to be truthful and honest with YOURSELF first. Pretending in the theatre isn't acting - it's pretending.

The Casting Director: Glorified Human Resources (thank you Paul Russell!). They take the headshots and resumes, they type; they try to create a possible short list for the Creative Team to draw from. They are not scary, omni-powerful or anything like that. They are there to collect and shortlist. They are human. They make mistakes. CDs can be great and can be lousy - like everybody else.

The Board/Producers: This is the money behind the season/production. They need to stay there and just raise the money. They cannot be a part of the creative process, but rather create a comfortable environment to physically work and know that there is money to hire the BEST creative staff and artists to execute the work.

The General Director/Artistic Director: Is the overview and the balance. They create a program/season, they act as liason between money and talent. They work with all facets of our business and get little sleep or rest. They must have business sense AND artistic sense. If they are honest and know they are lacking in either they must be honest in finding an assistant who is brilliant is what they are lacking. There are few who are both, but very few. The GD/AD set the tone for the company. It all comes back to them. They call the shots and answer to the board. They need to answer to the artists too.

The Agent: works for the artist. I shall say that again, the agent works for the artist. The artist does NOT work for the agent. The agent gets paid when the artist gets work. The artist and the agent must work together in a collaborative effort to create work for both of them. The agent works out the details and negotiates the business; The artist delivers.

These are only a few of the players in our theatrical overview. We RELY on each other to create art and produce it for commerce and product.

Even though commerce and product relies on the money, and if there is no money, there is often no real production, we must come back to the artist.

If there is no artist to execute the idea, there is no show. If there is no show, there are no tickets to be sold and no audience and therefore no business. The artist must remain the fulcrum of the business of theatre. We do not have theatre without the artist. We can then flesh out the creativity in business through these other very important and necessary components.

The clearer we are about our role, the more focused we can be to do it EXCEPTIONALLY. We should expect EXCEPTIONAL performance from ourselves, and then, expect it from others. Theatre demands it.

Our questions, our thoughts, our queries of the others should then be validated if we are pulling our weight and doing what we do well. If we can't do it well, we must be honest enough to see it and do something about it.

Theatre demands honesty. It tends to expose pretending. Acting isn't pretending. And money is real or it is not. Deciding on why you are doing what you are doing and claiming it - no matter what side of the table you reside - needs to be honest, forthright and clear.

Honesty and tough is easy. It's the chickenshit that is cowardly and useless.

If we all claim our position and DO IT, what a remarkable place we would create!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Art of Saying "No"

It's a two blog entry day!!!

Sunday EVENING musings...

Perhaps it would surprise some of you (or perhaps not) that I grew up being a "pleaser". It was a very interesting balance, as on one hand, I was hard-wired a seeker, a child who really wanted to know "why", clamoring for more knowledge and understanding; I wanted to know, and I wanted to know why; I was (and am) stubborn and strong-willed. AND I am a pleaser, and I STILL want to know why. Wow - my poor family!!!!! You never know what will fly and when do you???

So, how do we as artists, and artists and performers trying to make a living in this business, learn to make ourselves available, accessible and still be able to say "no", when it's necessary?

When work is often scarce, and we are often fearful of where that next paycheque will come from, we often feel obligated to take EVERYTHING that comes our way. When we are just beginning to build a resume, need experience and contacts, we often feel we can't say no to a project no matter what it is.

Often, when we are asked to do something in an audition that we know would be vocally damaging are we damaging our reputation if we say no? What about saying "no" to a director or conductor?

So many questions...and no real black and white answers.

Saying "no" is often the most difficult thing we have to learn as artists and performers. However, when we learn how to say "no" and why we say it, it will empower us immensely.

Part of the difficulty of being able to say "no" is that innate sense of wanting to please, wanting to be accepted, wanting to be liked. Let's face it, we live in a profession that is rejection-filled. When someone finally says "yes", why would we say "no"?

Sometimes saying "no" is ridiculous, and sometimes it will save your life!!! Learning what the "no" actually means will clear up the misconceptions you have about it.

The art of saying "no" isn't black and white either - quite literally!!! Come on now! You call yourself an artist which means there is a performer's spirit in you, which means you are an actor. Now is your opportunity to explore the facets of "no" and make it expressive, liquid, angled and couched so it is not a negative but rather a pondering!!! You can learn to please the process - not the person you are responding to!!

When do we say "no"? Of course, that's up to you. But again, there are always consequences to our decisions, and "no" does not immediately mean "negative", just as "yes" doesn't mean "positive"!!

You must weigh each enquiry/request, each role, each gig, each demand from the uniqueness of itself, and within the context of YOUR career. Ultimately, the role, the gig, the request, the demand, has no real affect on the one asking - but it will have long lasting affect on YOU!

SO - if you are a pleaser - please yourself FIRST. Please yourself to make sense to what is being asked of you - as a human being, as an artist!

Here are some questions you might want to ask yourself before saying yes or no:

1. Does it enhance my reputation or does it detract from it?
2. Does it add an important credit? How am I affected by that credit? Why is it important?
3. Does it put me at risk artistically? emotionally? physically? technically? vocally?
4. Can I actually DO what I am being asked to do, or do I just WANT to be able to do it?
5. Is this showing what I do as an artist, how I see myself, or does it dismiss me to make someone else feel comfortable?

These are just a few questions to consider...there are many MANY others given individual situations.

Sometimes the answer is neutral, and it really comes down to whether or not you want to be bothered!!! If it's something you WANT and you CAN, then DO it!! Or is YOUR choice!

When we are first building a resume, saying "no" doesn't make sense! I have often heard singers/actors say they are turning down work because it doesn't pay. Well, if you haven't DONE anything yet, you aren't really in the position to call those shots yet!!

Do those of us who have a resume still do non-paying gigs? Again, the answer is grey. Sometimes. I might consider doing something for a good cause, and if it was perhaps something I would love to do - a piece of music/a role - that was new and I hadn't had a chance to chew into it yet; and if it wasn't going to take time away from my making a living.

When a conductor asks for a different sound or choice, or a director asks us to do something that may put us at risk technically, vocally or physically, or in any other way do we just do it? Here is where the art of saying "no" has to use all of your acting power!! The art of saying no in this situation may begin with asking "why" in a creative way and being able to offer another solution that doesn't put you at risk and still allows for the director's/conductor's input. Learn how to do this! Make it their idea!!! Figure it out and save your butt! You have learned how to say "no" and given a solution to a question that shouldn't have been asked of you.

Some of us say yes to everything - every gig big or small, every audition, every everything!! And what happens? We burn out; we are exhausted and cannot keep up and cannot deliver what we signed on to do. We become desperate; we look desperate; and we begin to be looked at as "the singer who can't say no". Our integrity begins to shred. Not good.

Our profession is so often feast or famine and when it is feasting we tend to overindulge knowing a lean time could come soon!! The problem with that is we can't store up! Saying yes constantly will wear us down and our work will not be at the level we want it. We have stopped saying "yes" to ourselves, and ironically our bodies and spirits have said "no"!

Saying "no" is not about giving attitude. It is not about lack of knowledge. It is not about rudeness. The art of saying "no" is about self-preservation, recognition of where we are - in our careers and in our abilities and talents and craft, and about how the decision will affect us ultimately in the pursuit of career and craft.

What would be the positive outcome of saying yes to a role you were unable to sing, and then ultimately wrecked your voice or pushed it so badly out of shape that you would have to do major rehabilitation to repair the damage? Why would saying "no" be a bad thing?

As we truly come to the truth and terms of WHO we are and WHERE we are on our journey in our career and WHAT we have to work with in talent, temperament and technical development, then "no" becomes clearer and the "yes" is brighter!

If you are truly a soubrette - why try to sing dramatic soprano literature? YOU HAVE TO KNOW YOUR INSTRUMENT!

If you are 22 years old and offered King Lear - saying "no" is obvious and clear. It is the right decision, not just the correct one!

Learning how to say "no" does not make people like you less!! Saying "no" requires a deep sense of self; a sense of what self needs; a sense of what self can do; Saying "no" requires guts and knowledge, intuition, reality and courage. Saying "no" requires self-respect, and demands respect from others.

You require nothing more from yourself than KNOWING. You are ONE. And there are only 24 hours in the day. And your craft is nurtured BY YOU AND YOU ALONE. No one else will do it ultimately.

Know where you are and act and decide accordingly. "No" is about preserving YOU and developing you and saving you. The art of saying "no" could save you for the possibility of saying "YES"!!!!

Treating Artists with Respect...

Sunday musings...

I love telling stories through song, through experience...

So today is a true story for those of you know would like to know how certain "business" is done in recent days. Names have been withheld to make anonymous the guilty (!!!) and protect the artist in a public blog...

Once upon a time, a new orchestral work was commissioned. The work was based on an established work, but the arrangers/composers were asked to infuse it with more contemporary genres and styles. This work was then written and arranged for a certain singer, who was renowned for his/her ability to deliver authenticity in many styles, and thus, over the years, has been the only singer who truly could bring full authenticity. The score, in many cases, is open - and the singer must compose in both harmonic and melodic time step in the moment.

This work was well-received both critically and publicly and allowed for many performances. The singer for whom it was written is both an artist and an enigma - brilliant and unique and truly one of a kind!! As an enigma, this singer should be held in the highest regard, and courted for his/her work as it is defined by this piece.

This artist, who puts artistry first, has never raised his/her performance fee is almost 15 years. His/her commitment to the piece and to the other artists and performers he/she collaborates with stands firmly at the top of the integrity list. A fair fee has always been acceptable, and never has he/she asked for an outrageous fee, even though, as an enigma and being the only one who truly sings it authentically and completely, could demand a much higher fee.

So after many years of performance, total consistency, creativity, sold out houses, a world-selling CD live recording an interesting thing happens...

A major symphony orchestra decides they know better. The ADMINISTRATION of a major symphony orchestra decides they know better. They cry wolf and say there is no money, as they tend to do with an administration staff that is full of fat and ignorance, and tells the artist that they will be going with "local talent" this season for this work. "Local talent" means they don't want to pay for the talent. They are willing and eagerly able to dismiss the importance of the work, and the necessity to have the only artist who can truly bring musical and artistic justice and integrity to the piece, to save a few bucks.

The dismissal is disappointing, frustrating and yet, not surprising. The continual lack of respect for artists by many administrations is becoming the norm, not the exception.

Well, the artist continues on his/her journey, and lives his/her life. And lo and behold, a panicked email arrives...from the administration of said symphony orchestra, 6 weeks prior to the gig saying they cannot find a singer. Really????? REALLY???? There was no "local talent" who could sing a piece that is so unique only one singer in the world has actually claimed it??? Really??? Wow, how shocking...

But of course, in true administration style, they cry poverty...large crocodile tears, trying to avoid talking to the artist's agent and making pleas to the artist's family for help.

And of course, instead of asking "are you available, and what would make you comfortable?" They begin the diatribe of "we have no money and our orchestra has taken a 15% pay cut this season..." to which the artist compassionately replies that he/she would be willing to take a 15% pay cut on his/her 15 YEAR held fee.

To which the tired administration replies, "no, we'd like you to take a 50% pay reduction". Yes dear readers, that is NOT a typo. 50%. 5 - 0 .

So, let's recap shall we? Just so nothing is lost...

Once upon a time a commissioned work sung only by ONE singer who has kept his/her fee at the SAME rate for 15 years. 6 weeks before a gig with a MAJOR symphony orchestra, after being dismissed for "local" talent is now being asked to save the piece for 50% of his/her already low fee.

Where is the integrity in that? Where is the business sense in that? So of course, in all good consciousness, the artist must and did, decline. Others may try to devalue his/her work, but the artist does not, and will not participate in that devaluation. As usual, the suits think they know the cost of things, and in reality, know the value of nothing. And in the process, have disrespected the artist with such an amoral and karmic intensity, there are no words to describe it.

Ah, but readers, it gets better. 4 weeks before the gig, someone is hired. And that someone has never even tried to do the piece before. And that someone isn't a singer, but rather, an actor. Yes, my gentle snowflakes (!!! thanks Lewis Black), an actor who tries to sing has been hired to sing a piece written for an unique and enigmatic SINGER.

And again, the artist is disrespected and dismissed. Or so the administration thought....

Because, you see, no artist can be dismissed unless that artist allows it. Administrations can live in the self-delusion that they run things, but in fact, all they do it put a monetary value on things they cannot and will never understand.

An artist is not valued by who hires or fails to hire him/her. An artist is valued by his/her work, his/her integrity, his/her craft, his/her ability to stand for something larger than a dollar figure and deliver the uniqueness of their artistry night after night.

An artist is valued on how he/she lives his/her life and what he/she creates with that life.

Civilizations are not remembered and revered by their administrations. Civilizations stand for their artists. It is the art, the music, the architecture, the writing, the LIFE FORCE of artists that shape our times and shape the times before us.

Administrations are delusion and there but briefly. The song keeps singing...the artist keeps creating...

The value of the artist is him/herself. The suits may never get that. Their lack of respect shows where their value system resides. And in this little story, shows clearly how within a symphony orchestra, the administration devalues everything it is there to promote!!! It has devalued its orchestra, conductor and its program and season, but MAKING A CHOICE to dismiss an artist, in this story, THE ONLY ARTIST worthy of creating the reality of this work.

It is a choice only administrations can make in their narrow minded world.

And so, the artist will continue to create and live, and prosper and be strong because nothing an administration can do, can devalue or eliminate the true soul and creative life force of an artist, no matter how dismissive them seem.

And the administration will continue to delude themselves and continue to run their orchestra or run it into the ground, and blame it on everybody else, because self-delusion is part of the game.

And so my readers, beware!!! Know your worth, and know what that worth costs - in sweat, work, creative birth, integrity...and do not allow outside delusion to draw you from your path...

"That's business" is a delusion. "That's art" is a reality. Know the difference. Breathe the difference. Recognize the truth. Call bullshit on the untruth. Do it with grace and a smile on your face, because you KNOW the truth.

And, my dear readers, this portion of the story ends...with a tainted disrespect of the artist from a self-delusioned self-imposed ignorance called "administration", who sadly may never get it...Poor poor administration...

The end. Or maybe, to be continued...

Friday, November 13, 2009

I'm Just Another Lyric Soprano...

Friday musings...

I worked with a talented, beautiful lyric soprano in Toronto last week (she knows who she is!) for the first time. She introduced herself thus:"...and I'm just another lyric soprano..."

I challenged her - on her language, and then on into her technique and body - and we had a FABULOUS session and discovered MORE of herself!!! She is anything but "just"!

So, I am using her language as a defining moment for many singers.

Often, we are frustrated by being told we have "potential" and "just isn't ready yet" and we seem to dance that dance in circles til we are dizzy!!! How do we break that dance and move forward?

As young artists, and emerging artists, we are often not aware how our LANGUAGE - verbal and physical/body - reveals more about where we are than our voices! It is our LANGUAGE that reveals, and dismisses us more quickly than anything else.

Okay, so the reality is if you are a lyric soprano, there are many in that fach. And my question is: so what???? Why should that eliminate you from the possibility of development, of work?

There is only one YOU. Therefore, your life force, your energy, your thought, your process, your experience infuses your talent and artistry. Your voice is unique because YOU are unique. You belittle your uniqueness when you make a decision to eliminate your potential by your language. You are never "just". YOU ARE. It is enough.

Claim what you are, what you have, what you could be. NEVER APOLOGIZE for it!!! You can achieve much if you claim and are proud of what you are, instead of making excuses for it. Potential turns into reality when we quit hiding behind a possibility and actually make it ACTION.

So if you find yourself in a fach that is overwhelmingly full - what will you do with it? Give up? Make excuses? Wallow? Apologize? Or will you CLAIM THAT FACH AS YOURS????

What does your voice represent? What does it DO? What does it POSSESS? How does it function? How do you engage it and release it and live it? THIS is uniquely yours. No other lyric soprano does this exactly like you. And if no other singer DOES like you, then you are NEVER JUST anything!!

What do you take into that audition room with you in your thought? Have you sabotaged and apologized for yourself before you even start singing?

It is time to claim fully, and apologetically WHO you are and what you represent in the artistic world, and in the business of singing!!! You must find it, acknowledge it, bolster it and live it. It must claim you, and you must claim it. The integration of artistic self is what needs to walk into an audition or a rehearsal.

"just another" is potentially a cop out, or an imposed outside influence that is trying to get to your core!! Do not ALLOW that negativity to hold your potential back from a full development of reality.

So, my suggestion with all respect is this: begin to challenge your vocabulary. How do you speak to yourself? How does your body react to that language? How do you speak with others when introducing yourself? How do you lead? How do you stand? Where do you look? How does it make you feel? If you could be anywhere, would it be there or somewhere else? Why?

Take out the excuse. Take out the potential. Claim the reality. Subtle changes are real ones.

Are you a lyric soprano? Then CLAIM IT. I am a lyric soprano. I AM a lyric soprano. What does that mean for YOUR voice? What does your voice DO well? Do uniquely? What does your voice represent about YOU? What does your voice respond to in your repertoire?

Do you have to sing that aria like EVERY OTHER lyric? Absolutely NOT! What are the stylistic decisions as it relates to what your voice DOES? How do you claim them, technically, behaviorally, emotionally, dramatically, intellectually, physically? How does the full dimensional YOU claim the vocal and dramatic decisions you choose?

This is when you begin to BE the artist you are becoming. When you claim to BE, there is never "not ready" and "one of many". There is the uniqueness of you ready to sing! When you are ready to sing, the truth reveals itself.

Be ready. Don't be "just". And then just DO.

Monday, November 9, 2009


Monday morning musings...

What constitutes honesty in performance?

As many of you hit the audition season - be it opera or music theatre - what is the underlying truth you work from?

So often, we forget that this truth, this honesty of self, and honesty FOR self! We impose upon, instead of release from within.

Never assume. Assumptions get us all into trouble in that audition room. Assume nothing from the other side. Assumptions and wonderings take the focus and energy away from your preparation and what you are there to do!! "They will want to hear it THIS way" is the biggest fallacy going...

You do not know how they want to hear it/see it/experience it!!! And THEY might not know either!! The questions need to be asked thus, in my opinion: what are you doing this for? what can you do? Are you being authentic and singing from a place of honesty?

If honesty walks into the room - in persona, in preparation, in truth of what your voice IS not what you want it to be or think it SHOULD be, and you connect to that honesty and purpose and truth WHILE you sing, then what they "want" matters not - to you OR them! What they "get" will be real. Real is honest. Real has potential. Real can be worked with and developed.

Finding truth and honesty of self takes time and experience. It takes guts. It takes courage. If you truly are an artist, you must commit to that or you are not truly an artist!! Artists reveal, they do not hide. Artists discover and claim - and the honesty they must claim first and foremost is with self. Self is what infuses the art, and embodies the sound and the character and the VOICE!

Who are you when you walk into the room? Are you an individual, are you unique? Then let us experience that!! No apologies, no excuses, no disappearing...BE YOU.

Perhaps that is the first step - to discovering who "you" is right now - and to BE in that place and frankly, rejoice in it!

Quit "trying", and JUST BE. Be honest with self; be honest with voice; be honest THROUGH voice; be honest with character and intention;

As one allows the honesty of self to come forth, the idea of vulnerability changes. Vulnerability isn't a bad thing!!! It is a safe place of exploration! Honesty fuses that with power, and the creative place of self explodes and radiates and vibrates a reality that holds itself in position!

Don't pretend - for pretend in the audition room reads phony. Phony reads "not ready yet". And you've lost them.

YOU ARE ENOUGH. HONESTLY. Just claim it, develop it, grow it, nurture it, discover it, and don't second-guess it. Claim the potential, claim the flaws and work with both. Just as you find the balance of dark and light in your voice, so find the balance of dark and light in your person and be honest with it fully. If you claim your honesty, then you have the chance to truly discover the voice you say you have. The voice is only honest when YOU are. Otherwise, you are both hiding. And why???? What's so bad about you???

BE YOU when you walk into that room. Who is that? Find out!!! Don't be something you THINK you should be; or something you think they want; They want YOU. So let that lead. That is enough, and that is the beginning!!!

Being you is safer than you think! And it's also freeing and liberating when you can just be you, and just SING!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

When the TEACHER is ready the student will come!

Sunday morning musings from Toronto...

I have the great privilege to be called "teacher". And just as when students are ready for a certain teacher, that teacher appears, so I believe the opposite is also true!

Teaching is a journey too! Knowledge and the ability to partake of it and then translate it and make it accessible for others takes time, development, and a certain skill set and acumen.

I have been listening to many of you discuss "studio hierarchy" and how it has affected you, and many of you have asked me what kind of singer I work with.

I work with ANY singer who is willing and able to WORK. I have singers in my studio who are working professionals in opera, in music theatre, on the concert stage and in commercial venues; I also have singers in my studio who are semi-professional, just getting started in the business, just re-entering the business; I work with singers who are actors who sing, who are dancers who sing; I work with avocational singers, I work with singers who don't know if they can sing yet!!!

I am appalled by the idea of studio hierarchy. We see this often in academia but sadly, we do see it in so-called professional studios as well. This "studio hierarchy" shows itself with the teacher posed as ruler overall who makes the decision about who is deemed "good enough" to be worthy of his/her good graces; It is often based on whether the singer's decision about what they are doing is matched to what the teacher's vision is. And I'm not talking work ethic - I am talking career/path/direction.

If a singer chooses to not follow the path the teacher deems worthy, the teacher dismisses them to the bottom of the totem pole, and thus, the singer is summarily ignored at best and "takes up space".

This disgusts me. And for those of you who are colleagues who practice this, I am calling you out!!

Just as a student must be "ready" to begin studying with a teacher, so must the teacher be "ready" to take on a student!

We are each responsible!!! If we make a decision, as a teacher, that we only want a studio filled with singers who are on career track, then we make that clear from the onset. And if that career track is only what YOU the teacher deem correct, then you need to give your head a shake and come back to reality!!! The career path of a singer in your studio has NOTHING to do with you!!!

Did I say that? You bet I did!! As teachers, we are there to guide, to nurture, to challenge, to listen, to question, to suggest, to task - and ultimately, to let the singer make the choices best for them at the time. We can offer the information, the advice and suggest a possibility of direction, but ultimately, the decision is ALWAYS in the hands of the singer.

If a singer wants to sing, is willing to work to find it, develop it, nurture it and commit to it, who are we to say they are unworthy to do so?

The only person I will not work with is someone who is rude and disrespectful to me and to my basic professional studio policies. I will be honest about the process; and no matter what, I will commit 110% if YOU THE SINGER do the same!! If you are not there to commit to YOU, then why would you ask me to do that?

Being a singer, and being an artist has NOTHING to do with making a living as a singer! One does not automatically assume the other. Thus, a distinction I make, is that I have built a PROFESSIONAL studio - not a CAREER studio. Professional in my philosophy means HOW human beings are treated, the course of study, the approach to the voice, and the approach and individual course each singer can be assured of when working one on one with me. Professional is about the craft, and taking seriously that craft development, and the spirit of the artist FIRST AND FOREMOST. Teaching a singer how to teach themselves, is ultimately the goal!

Honesty is necessary and developing a sense of reality is key. If you want to be an opera singer and only want to study once in a while and don't have any true technique yet, then we need to address this. The goal does not match the commitment. If, once we riddle out the whys and get to the root of statement and find common ground and a reality in which to work, then that singer is more than welcome to develop a professionalism within my studio! If not, I cannot work with a singer who imposes self-delusion so readily. I will not be a part of that. I will not dismiss you, but rather, suggest you find another studio that may be more suited to your goals and commitments.

If a singer is committed to their study, and committed to discovering their path, then NO MATTER WHAT, I can work with that singer! We don't even have to agree on or with everything!!!!!!! I don't have a crystal ball, and last time I checked, nor does ANY teacher, so what happens is not up to me. I have worked with brilliant voices and spirits that wanted careers and never got them; and I've worked with middle of the road voices who really learned to sing well and found careers. The business either makes a place for you, or YOU make a place for yourself!! I cannot determine that. Neither can you. YOUR JOURNEY allows for the possibilities. Your study PREPARES you for that and all the possibilities that may - and do - arise!

Hierarchy? No way. Commitment? ABSOLUTELY!!! Do you need to apologize because you have chosen, or life has chosen a unique path? ABSOLUTELY NOT!!!!!!!!!! Do you sing because you WANT to??? Because you MUST???? Because YOU are discovering your path???

Then, there is no hierarchy and YOU ARE ENOUGH. Any teacher who says otherwise, is pretending, and pretending isn't teaching. Teachers needs to be REAL, HONEST, TRUE. Teachers need to seek truth, present truth, expect truth and DEMAND TRUTH. Excuses, delusion, pretense, phoniness, posturing and hierarchy have no place on the artistic path.

When the singer is ready the teacher will come. And when the teacher is ready, the singer will come. May you find each other when the time and experience is right, and may the journey be YOURS.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

To Thine Own Voice Be True!

Ongoing musings...

Why must we be so invested in sounding "like" someone, or calling ourselves something we are not vocally?

Comparison is rampant in our business - perhaps began with would-be reviewers who could not (or cannot) review purely, but need to do so by comparison.

What has happened in both music theatre and opera, sadly, is that we have gone in directions that have erased the individuality of the singer! We have taken "type" past the role to the singer who defined it; Instead of saying "Ingenue type", it has become "Kristen Chenoweth type"; In fach, we have micro-fached, and started adding, (in seriousness) "baby spinto", "baby dramatic", et al!


Why have we eliminated individuality from the singer? Why must we continue to feed into the delusion of not being aware and clear with where we are/who we are/why we are and grow there? Why must we fall into the false sense of where we want to be/where somebody else wants us to be?

Who cares where you will be in 10 years if you can't be where you are right now?

Part of being on an artistic journey is the development of and settling at each stage. Artistic journey is not about refusing to pay attention to the reality of NOW.

Individuality is about discovering YOUR voice. YOU are responsible for that.

Discovering your voice does not mean easy. It means getting real and getting honest with yourself. A teacher doesn't discover your voice. YOU DO. A teacher, if worth his/her salt, will create an atmosphere and a unique form of study for YOU to discover what your voice will do and how it will do it.

A teacher does not create you. YOU DO. We often get voices that are "studio voices". You know those - voices that all sound the same from the same studio - same sounds, same issues, same problems. This is not singing. This is not artistry. This is factory manipulation. Shame.

Your reality is where you are NOW. Your ability to see clearly, acknowledge and work with that reality is up to you and you alone. Only when we are ready to see clearly, is when we are able to grow and discover the truth of our voice and our artistry.

This journey is not easy. It is not comfortable. It is not always direct. There are often pitfalls, detours, fatigue and confusion. There is nothing fair about it - it is tough, it is exhausting, and it is rewarding and exhilarating and true!!!

Your voice sounds like no one else. Your voice does not sound like it will in 10 years. Your voice does not sound like your teacher's. Your voice does not sound like what your coach likes to hear. Your voice does not sound like your best friend. Your voice is informed by your physicality, your spirit, your life experience, your honesty, your maturity, your technical behavior, your age, your intellect, your mentality, YOU! Thus, your voice is unique.

Your individuality needs to LEAD you - not your desire to be elsewhere; not your desire to impress; not someone else's desire for you to sound a certain way.

You are unique and you are responsible to that uniqueness. Unique is not about making excuses or trying to get out of doing the work. Unique is about self-discovery and finding and creating the voice that is innately there. Unique is about TRUTH.

Dare to walk in prepared, unique, and YOU. Dare to walk into that audition not as a "type" or a "baby" but as YOU RIGHT NOW. The uniqueness of individuality is what true artistry is all about. Compare yourself to your PREVIOUS self and live there for awhile. Be where you are - wherever that is and thrive there. The more you are true to self, the less "they" will compare you - how can you compare uniqueness????

Go get it.