Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New Year message - claiming or dabbling?

It's almost another new year...I honestly don't know where the time has gone!! Is this a sign I'm getting old?!?

My almost new year question is: are you dabbling with your craft, or are you claiming it?

Isn't it time to make a decision and DO it?

With true craft, comes real responsibility.  Responsibility to work at it daily and develop it ferociously!!

Within craft, you can mold technique,  artistry and knowledge.   The talent is but a small portion of the overall equation.  It certainly helps, but if it is not harnessed, developed, acknowledged and driven by a passion,  it really means nothing.

None of these things exist in a vacuum.  They need each other to define a claim:  talent,  technique, knowledge,  artistry,  passion,  curiosity and honesty.

Dabbling never truly finds a habitation of any of these things fully.

"I sing well enough..."
"I should be able to do this after this much time..."
"I don't really care..."
"Can I learn it quickly?"

Wanting something and not being honest enough to commit to it fully enough to realize it is simply dabbling.

Dabbling can also mean a delusion - that SOMEDAY you'll find it, but you never commit enough to find it, or find out it's simply not what you do well.

So if you say "I want to learn to sing well;  I need to learn to sing well;  I must find my voice" - THEN DO IT!!!!!

If you are new to this,  reviewing it,  rehashing it - then dive in and explore!

If it's time for a change - make one!  If it's time for a risk - take one!

Whatever area of craft you want and need to explore - quit talking about it and COMMIT to its development.

ONE LESSON will not help you.  Years and years of study and no development will not help you.  What are you studying?  Sounds like dabbling to me.

Commitment to a goal and an honesty of that goal and a clear focus for that goal will allow for the possibility of claiming your craft,  or making another realization of where that craft should manifest itself.

You are not a singer if you have never studied voice;
You are not an actor if you have never studied acting;
You are not a dancer if you have never studied dancing;

You may have an affinity toward a craft - but until you claim the physical manifestation,  the artistic directive and the ability to summon the talent in its totality at will - you are still in process,  or perhaps dabbling.

Loving to sing, or "act" or dance is great - but do not confuse the doing with the loving!

We can learn to do and be and still love it too!  In fact, the love of craft and journey gets deeper as we gain knowledge and develop responsibility to what we are doing.

So,  if you catch yourself saying "I should really take a voice lesson...."  perhaps change that process and decide to say "I should really commit to developing my voice regularly".

The tune ups/occasional lessons/check-ins etc happen AFTER the claiming has occurred.

So,  perhaps it is a new year for claiming, re-claiming,  re-committing,  and re-alizing what you are about.  It will be for me too!

Monday, December 27, 2010

a Jazz Voice and Cabaret Master Class

January 29th  Thomas Young is offering a Jazz Voice and Cabaret Master Class in NYC!

There is limited enrollment for singers AND auditors!

TRUE VOICE NYC is hosting this event and all the registration and important info in available on their website.

Mr. Young brings 40 years experience in jazz idioms in 30 countries of performance!  He has worked with many of the great jazz musicians of the 20th and 21st century!

Whether you are a beginner in jazz idioms, curious to explore more or a seasoned professional who just wants a tune up - this is YOUR class!

You will also be able to purchase an edited recording of your work from True Voice to use as a teaching tool,  a possible clip for your website or whatever you wish!

Here is Mr. Young's Twisted on youtube.

A special registration rate til January 1st available.  Registration available til the class fills.
REGISTER NOW!!!  Singers and Auditors!

Friday, December 24, 2010


Wishing all of you a wonderful holiday season!!!

Blogging will resume I promise!

From my family to yours -  peace, laughter and love!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Is it too late?

Friday evening musings...

Often, singers ask me that it too late?

My answer begins with "too late for what?"

Often, singers who say they want a career, really don't know what that means and what it entails.

Often, singers who say they want a career, don't realize how many "careers" could be had under that umbrella!

It is never too late to do SOMETHING.  What that something is has many many factors.

Is it too late to pursue an international career as an opera singer?

That depends on your training, your talent, your temperament, your fach, your resume, your age, the universe, the business and the combination of all of it!!

 Is it too late to learn how to sing well?

To sing as well as YOU can, at any given age?  never too late.

 Is it too late to have a regional career as a singer?

Is it too late to be in music theatre?

Is it too late...

The question tires me and makes me tense.

The question has a panic about it and sense of desperation.  Panic and desperation do not bode well for success at anything, for anything.

Perhaps it is time to ask ourselves - what do I want and why?  And is it feasible to pursue it? And if it doesn't work out, am I comfortable to look at other possibilities?

I believe, if there are possibilities,  there is forward motion.

I would like to hear a singer ask me "what do you think my possibilities are?"

Now THAT is a question!!!! That has breath, and space and a forward looking optimism that will allow for a realistic view!

Are you, the singer, willing to consider the possibilities within the boundaries of YOU?  Are you willing to consider the possibilities of you within the boundaries of the business?  Are you willing to consider the possibilities of what "career" actually means?

Talent, ability, or not - some personalities are not best suited for a career as a professional singer on the international or national scene.  Some are better suited at the regional level, or even at the local and community level.  Professional comes from attitude and ethic no matter what level you are on!  Perhaps learning to sing well does not necessarily take you down the singer career-path.  Perhaps you find a place for yourself in other aspects of theatre.  Perhaps you are a teacher who sings!

Maybe you find a place in the classroom, or in a choir, or conducting a choir.

Perhaps you have a world class instrument, but you choose to have a family and build a business as a manager, or create an opera company or a theatre company and inspire and lead others into performance.

If there is a possibility, it is never too late.

Often, there are simply those who choose to create unrealistic goals for themselves.  It is almost as if they create and stage a self-sabotaged drama around themselves.

And then there are the oblivious who believe they are somewhere they are not.  They ask questions, but they don't really want to the answers, nor hear or listen to them.

So, before you go directly to "is it too late" - ask yourself what you want and what the possibilities are?  Then are you simply prepared to do what it takes to seize that possibility - and is it a REAL possibility?

It is NEVER too late to claim the truth of YOU - and then, and only then, are the possibilities real and true.

We all need that reminder from time to time in order to keep the path clear and uncluttered, to reclaim a path, or simply walk a new one.

Wherever you are, BE there.  Consider the possibilities and the realistic view and then, claim the possibility by doing whatever it takes to make it REAL.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Custom Costuming in Cabaret

Saturday musings...

Costuming for the singer really needs to be all-encompassing!

After attending a NYC cabaret showcase this week,  it bares repeating!

You don't need to think about your wardrobe as costume ONLY when you are in a production playing a character!

Costuming is what you wear when you are on stage - PERIOD.  If you doing a symphony concert, a recital, a cabaret,  WHATEVER - the clothing choices you make are costuming.

In a cabaret setting - which is much more intimate in EVERY way - it is even more crucial.  Your audience is up close and personal,  and often the stage height puts the audience's eyes at thigh level.

GREAT.  JUST the spot we want to be analyzed at!!!

As cabaret spaces are more intimate,  so the decision of what to costume in becomes more important.

Costume is NOT street clothes.  EVER.

Ultimately,  anything you use on stage should be something you simply do not wear in your day to day life.  Invest in the costume.  This is crucial to how your work is seen.

Make mistakes!  We all have!!  Ask questions!  Find out what is expected.  Be open and willing to take a risk or two in finding what works for you.

Using the cabaret stage as an example - the intimacy of the space needs to work FOR you not against you.  We need to work for more height and larger than life while still maintaining an intimacy.  This is craft yes, but part of craft is learning how to costume your SELF.   The costume should enhance, not detract from the craft and journey you are willing and able to take us on.

Ladies, we simply have more work to do.  Guys,  for good or evil, you simply don't have as many choices.

UNDERGARMENTS.  I don't care who you are.  UNDERGARMENTS.

The intimacy of the cabaret stage is...intimate.  We see EVERYTHING.  Panty-line,  rolls, bulges - you got it - we see it.  Find the undergarments that create a seamless silhouette - EVERYWHERE.

This is what I often get when I am working with singers on costuming:

"But I wouldn't wear this to the club or in my every day - this isn't me"


This is the point.  I don't WANT you in your regular clothes, in your club clothes nor in your date clothes.  I want you in a COSTUME.

If we begin thinking this way, we will be more successful in making correct and exciting choices in costuming!

YOU are the performer.  YOU need to be larger than life when you hit that stage - even in the intimacy of the cabaret house.  Larger than life doesn't mean bulges and muffin top or a push up and over bra!!! It means presence and length.

The first rule of stage visual is UP.  The audience's eye needs to be led UP your body TO YOUR FACE.  The intimacy of your performance will happen in your eyes, and if we are sitting at your thigh level and looking at bumps and a short skirt that cuts you in half, or legs that go up under and through, or a skirt that is so short that we are concerned it might reveal more than the cabaret intimacy is really needed (!)  we are not with you artistically anymore.

The malfunction of costuming has taken over the performance and your work is lost.



Work with your body type not against it.  If you are wearing boots and a short skirt, make sure the color is the same so there's no cut off from your toes to your hose to your skirt!

Daytime heel is not stage heel.

Open the upper body and bring us to your FACE.  Know that under cabaret lights you will wash out too - so figure out how to do the makeup to bring out eyes and lips and angles!!

Fabrics should never make more noise than you do!!  They should not make you look bigger.  They should flow,  they should drape,  they should balance.  Textures can be exciting in a cabaret setting too as is the use of color and hue and shade.  Cabaret lends itself to more subtlety that still stands out.

Create a FULL silhouette based on your body type.  THEN accessorize with shoes/boots,  color,  bling...and please - GET YOUR HAIR OFF YOUR FACE!  (and run a brush through it too if it's not too much trouble!)

You are creating a character - and therefore, that character needs a costume.

Short skirt,  long skirt,  wide-legged pants,  cigarette pants,  jackets, tunics,  sequins,  buttons,  satin,  silk,  wool,  boots, stilettos,  pumps,  whatever your choice - make it a COSTUME choice.

You have created this cabaret - be it a full evening or a set - and we SEE you.  Create the line,  the energy, the focus to be on YOU!!!  The largesse of you is about drawing your audience TO you, to see past you and into your eyes and into your journey and you take us with you,  not to be concerned that a seam may break, or when you sit on that stool that your belly is pouring forth, or that girls may spill with one more breath!

COSTUME YOURSELF.  YOU are the character.  Respect her enough to create the outer package as well.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Collaboration in the Studio

Sunday musings...

What does this mean to singer and teacher???  This "collaboration"?

This does not mean you are peers (otherwise, why would the singer be in a teacher's studio at the moment?)

It does not mean that because the singer is paying for the teacher's time, that the singer dictates the terms of that lesson time and tells the teacher how that lesson will go! If the singer thinks she/he can dictate, then why bother going to a teacher?  Sounds like you should be teaching, knock yourself out!

This does not mean the teacher "takes over" and makes the hour about her/him with no regard to the singer's needs or queries either.  All singers are not the same, therefore, the approach MUST be individual. When the teacher teaches the material and not the individual, or simply DICTATES this is not teaching.

Collaboration comes from mutual respect,  mutual recognition,  mutual said and unsaid response of what is needed NOW.

Collaboration in the studio should result in a POSITIVE end.  That end should be reflected IN THE SINGER.

When collaborating with new singers,  I always ask "why are you here?"  Sometimes the answer is silence;  sometimes the answer is general;  sometimes the answer is specific.  It gives me a great deal of information about the sensibility of the singer in front of me.

Often singers have very specific reasons for being in the studio;  sometimes those reasons and goals are very aware of the singer's potential, of the singer's current state of technical prowess - and other times - they simply show the singer's unawareness of where they are in their development.

The collaboration comes in the teacher's recognition of what they are asking the singer and how to interpret the answers they get!

When I ask and get an answer, then we work, in order to find out what is going on.  Do I address the answer?  Of course!!! However, of the answer to my question has no relevance YET to the singer, then I can say, "this is something we can look at, however, I see/hear/observe these things we need to address FIRST in order for what you are wanting to achieve to be possible."

Collaboration leaves no room for nasty-ness, or rudeness from teacher OR singer.  Collaboration is about openness, thoughtfulness and possibilities.  If the singer believes the teacher is not addressing his or her needs,  then they are free to leave and never return and find someone that will be better suited.  The teacher also has this prerogative:  if a singer chooses to be disrespectful or rude,  or simply not a singer that the teacher wants to invest time in for ANY reason,  that teacher can simply make a decision not to teach said singer.

Collaboration needs communication.  Communication must be open and real and honest in the studio.  Sometimes it needs to be brutal if a singer isn't listening.  Sometimes it needs to be coaxed gently if the singer cannot hear.  And if the communication cannot be established - from either direction - then collaboration simply cannot be.  The system just does not work for these two individuals and another choice must be made.

True singer/teacher collaboration, in my experience, happens when both individuals are willing and open to explore.  A singer works with a teacher to learn to teach him/herself.  A teacher works with a singer to learn to find the truth for that singer to embody and finally become obsolete.  A teacher teaches to become a better teacher.

Dictatorships from EITHER direction do not work:  "My way or the highway" from a teacher leaves no room for growth, for observation or for a possible change.  "We are working on THIS today" from a singer leaves no possibility to allow for true learning.

I will ask a singer "What have you brought today?"  because I believe in that respect.  If a singer has a specific aria/song/goal that week, I want to know about it.  I want to know what you've worked on,  what you are discovering,  what you are concerned about!  YOUR journey is crucial to how the hour in the studio is patterned.

However,  the whole point of seeing a teacher is to access those ears, eyes, experience, expertise so if the hour begins to shape itself to what is necessary for the SINGER because of what that singer begins to do in the studio,  then both singer and teacher must be pliable enough to allow it to morph and shape to the Singer's NEEDS not necessarily either person's WANTS or DESIRES.

Collaboration in the studio then takes on a life of its own - and extends to the respect of the space between and how it is shaped organically and created by the energies that inhabit it.

What we want, isn't always what we need.  What we need to collaborate on in the possibility that this is fluid and are we willing and able to follow it?

Can we "get off the script" and allow for a change if a change is necessary?

True collaboration allows for this.  A true learning and teaching balance MUST allow for this for truth to be achieved.

Respect for the possibility of collaboration allows MORE possibilities!  Disrespect shuts the process down before it begins.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

But How Does it Make You FEEL?

Saturday musings...

A very wise person once said to me (I am paraphrasing of course) -" they make not remember what was said or what was sung,  but if it's real and authentic, they will always remember how you made them FEEL."

I've been thinking a great deal about that this week.

Those of us in this business, or striving to be part of this business work very hard on developing business sense;  recognizing the pitfalls;  discovering and developing the product;  getting to the right class, the right coach, the right teacher;  developing a brand, or a catch phrase and and and;  making sure our audition book matches our type,  that our arias show our fach, and on and on...

But how does MUSIC make you feel?  How does singing make you FEEL?

I don't often get too personal on this blog,  but I have been thinking about this for myself a great deal this week.   I often get so busy with business and teaching,  that I forget to sing.  (some of you close to me who know me well will be laughing and saying, well DUH Susan!)

I haven't sung much since my Dad passed on.  That will be 2 years in March.  I mean REALLY sing.  Sing just BECAUSE I CAN and because I LOVE TO SING.

So as I question myself and get a little personal with this journey - I wanted to share it with you:

Have you asked yourself that seemingly simple question:  How does singing make you feel?

We can wrap so much neurosis up in our voices;  We can cause such great obstacles to be erected in the way of discovery;  we can simply create a fantasy life of what we can or cannot do with our craft, or lack thereof.  We can concentrate so much on what we think we MUST do to have a career that sometimes, we forget how much we LOVE to just sing.

Does "just" singing allow you to quit being critical for a moment?  To quit trying to "fix"?  To quit listening with a business ear and just make some noise cause it feels good?

Do you ever just sing something because you WANT to? Not because you HAVE to?

Do you ever sing something that isn't your fach? your type? your gender?

Are you an opera singer who would love to sing a country song? Just because?

Are you a theatre singer who loves Florentine art song?

And even if it never goes there - do you give yourself permission to sing something just so it feels GOOD; RIGHT; TRUE for YOU instead of right for the audition;  right for the class;  right for the stage; right for the teacher/coach or casting director?

We were drawn to music for a reason.  It moved us in some way.  It made us FEEL a certain way.  What was that?

I don't know about you - but I NEED that from time to time to remind me WHY I sing.  Not why I SHOULD sing,  but why in the dead of night I used to sit at the piano and JUST SING.

Why, when my daughter was a little girl,  we would put a CD in the player and dance and sing because it felt good, alive and real.

It is time for me to rediscover the "sing cause I wanna", not cause I have to.  I do remember how it makes me feel.  I don't want to be so busy that I can't recreate that love affair that is pure and uncomplicated and child-like perhaps.

I know my Dad would want that too.  He'd simply smile and say "what took you so long?"

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Excuses, Excuses...

Sunday musings...

are you simply excuse-ridden?

Do you always have an answer for "why not", "why you aren't" but can't really DO what you say you are now?

Excuses are a form of stress management I guess.  They also disguise fear, anxiousness, and often a reality check that you just feel you don't have the energy to see.

Many singers carry a trunk load of excess baggage called "excuses".   They lead with it,  sit on it, open it like and share it like they are war medals,  and contaminate everything and everyone around them with this trunk of excuses.

The excuses of why you can't do something;  why you are where you are; why it's everybody else's fault you are not doing what you think you should and on and ridiculously revealing.

Honesty is often something many singers are fearful of.  I don't understand why.  Wouldn't you want to know how you were coming across,  what you could work on immediately and thus, be a better singer and have a stronger chance to be hired to do work you SAY you want?

If every suggestion to you is met with an excuse it is time to sit back and start evaluated WHY you want to sing.

The simple truth is this: you will NEVER realize your potential if all you do is dismiss and excuse.  You will simply create an excuse-ridden cocoon you live in thinking you are safe, as it is revealed to the rest of the world how utterly ridiculous you have become.  Harsh perhaps but true indeed.

I ask a very straightforward question when a singer enters my studio to consult with me the first time:  "Why are you here?".   Many singers aren't used to that directness.  They think the "game" of the singing world is cloaked with innuendo and mystery and competition and double meanings.


I am amazed and how that question is met with excuses!

Guess what - it is okay to simply answer "I really don't know why I'm here."  THAT is honest.  THAT is real.  That means, we can get to work.

You don't have to have an excuse or an answer for everything!  JUST DO THE WORK! You don't have to explain how your first teacher messed you up about breathing and so now, 10 years later you haven't figured it out.  You don't have to blame your inability to be physically aligned on the fact you that you used to sing in a lower tessitura.  You don't have to blame your inability to access a balanced resonance,  or having a wobble,  or or or on ANYTHING.  It's there, let's fix it and move on.

How refreshing that the  teacher and singer  can JUST DO THE WORK!!!

Ultimately, what is the payoff for the excuse-laden singer?  There has to be a payoff or they wouldn't do it would they?

Often, it masks a much deeper issue/issues that a voice teacher is simply not equipped nor should they be asked to deal with.

Often it masks a fear the singer simply doesn't want to accept, or a reality that has been completely obliterated by the cloak of excuses.


The teacher, the coach, the maestro,  all have a part to play in revealing,  suggesting, creating space and time for you the singer to discover,  BUT YOU NEED TO DISCOVER IT!!!

I am not suggesting you follow blindly - but I am suggesting that you pay attention and instead of dismissing out of hand, you recognize the source,  see what is being asked of you and why,  and then taking a good careful look in the mirror to find it.  It doesn't ultimately matter WHY you are doing something that is in your way, but it matters that you acknowledge it and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.

The hardest thing we have to do is to see ourselves as clearly and honestly and then be honest about what we are going to do about it to make it better.

As a teacher,  I want to know how you see yourself.  It is revealing and helpful to me to find you where you are.  If you believe you are standing in my studio for  X Y Z and I see issues with A B C I am going to tell you.  I am will not dismiss your findings, but I will tell you why A B C are crucial to your X Y Z.

Are you willing to consider that? Or do you immediately dismiss it with another excuse?

Perhaps one of my favorite "excuse" lines was from a tenor who said "If I had high notes, I'd be dangerous".

I will just allow that one to sink in and needs nothing further.

If we are truly going to sing and BE a singer and an artist we absolutely need to capacity to see clearly;  we need the capacity to doubt ourselves;  we need the capacity to question and not dismiss;  we need to SEE it - warts and all;  we also need the capacity to seek out the solution, not another excuse that prevents us from becoming what we say we WANT.

And perhaps that takes us to the crux of it all.  Is what we SAY we want, true? Or is that an excuse as well?

Be careful what you wish for...

I'll leave you with that!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Some little secrets!

happy Hallowe'en!

It is remarkable that the "secrets" I have to share with you seem to be (and should be) absolutely no-brainers...but sadly,  they aren't done with regularity.

If you follow these,  you are actually ahead of about 75% of the pack pursuing careers...(and don't get me started on THAT!)

What do you need to do to simply create a positive reputation for yourself and begin to be seen in a positive light?


What is this?  If you enquire about an audition or a class or a lesson time - FOLLOW UP.  Either book that time and confirm it, and SHOW UP,  or let the company/teacher know with plenty of time that you are unable to attend said audition or said lesson/coaching.  Our business is small.  If you create a reputation for yourself that you are a no-show,  you've basically created your path.  If you think this isn't remembered, you are HIGHLY mistaken.

Make it your business (and respect of the person's time you are asking of) to find out what the cancellation policy is/how to contact the company/teacher et al and if you need to cancel, change or withdraw - DO IT IN PLENTY OF TIME!!  Do not expect a second chance.  Why?

When you DO have a consultation,  an audition,  participate in a masterclass or workshop - FOLLOW UP with a thank you.  It can be short and sweet but it is IMPORTANT.  Critical decisions are made by how you present yourself and are perceived.  When you have some control over that, TAKE IT and use it wisely.

PAY ATTENTION to how people in "authority" wish to be addressed - how formal or informal, and follow through with that in mind!

I do not expect, for instance, to be called Ms. Eichhorn-Young!  But if you are following up from a consultation or an audition or workshop - I am not Sue nor Suse nor anything that familiar if I don't know you well!!  If I sign my emails "best, Susan" then address me thus.  PAY ATTENTION!

THE FOLLOW UP IS CRUCIAL!!!!!  We remember who does - and who doesn't and HOW it is done.

Emails are fine and in this day and age, probably the easiest form of communication.  Phone calls can often be ignored due to the busy nature of the day.  An email can be saved and responded to at any point.

2.  BE ON TIME!!!

Seriously?! yes, seriously.  Be where you are supposed to be, ready to work with your materials in hand and get there EARLY.  Plan for early because there may be travel glitches (and often are).  If you arrive early,  it will be noted and appreciated.  If they can't see you early it gives you time to settle in and focus on the task at hand.  Do not come running in, breathless and interrupt a session and waste EVERYBODY'S time.


Are you kidding me?! have your material organized and LEARNED!  Much can be taken about the so-called actor/dancer/singer by how organized they are in the room and how they present their material and selves physically.


I mean, LEAVE IT.  I don't want to see aggressive, defiant attitude, nor do I want "jazz hands" phony attitude.  DROP IT.  Don't try to impress me, antagonize me, or piss me off.  Just DO THE WORK.  If you are there to learn, then drop it and LEARN.  If you are there to audition, just do the work.


This does NOTHING to improve your position.  Know why you are there, and be there to do it.  What are you apologizing for?  Why are you making excuses?  You are either ready to do what you are there to do or you are not.  If you are not - sit down.  If you are - then do it.

If you are not late, know your stuff, are prepared to learn and open to the process there is nothing to excuse or apologize for is there?

These seem so basic, but sadly, I see less and less of it.

So if you actually take the time to integrate these little "secrets" into your day to day, perhaps some things will change in your pursuits!  If nothing else, you will begin to create a professionalism in your behavior that can be taken seriously and given a second look.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Where is the physicality of singing?

Saturday musings...

Been asked this a great deal lately, and have discussed it with singers, teachers and colleagues alike!

This could be a long and intense treatise, but if we can simplify, let me try!

Singing is a physical and athletic activity.  It does not mean you have to be good a sports! I certainly wasn't!  But it demands a level of natural co-ordination and accessibility to the muscular balance of the body.

I am amazed at the LACK of body strength, and body co-ordination that I see - especially in this younger generation.  Just simple balanced posture seems to be lacking these days.

So - if you want to be a singer you better learn how to get your body is shape to do it well.

Singing strength doesn't come from body building!  Strength comes from cardio balance, from intrinsic balance,  from co-ordination and breathing while doing so (!),  and from building muscle stamina and power with lengthening and engaging the process!

Get thee to the gym is only part of it!

Singing (as acting and dancing!) requires strength, elasticity, engagement, lengthening, and GROUNDING.  A body needs to build on these things.  The body in its physicality and athleticism needs to be engaged to support FULLY at all times and is never rigid or shortened, but rather, in suspension and stretch!

Are you strong enough?

Are you co-ordinated enough?

Are you aware of your breath WHILE you stretching?

Are you aware of the strengths and conditioning of the many parts of your instrument and physicality, and do you know how to co-ordinate all those parts with your breath in order to support and function as an athletic singer? (and is there any other kind?!)

I am amazed at how many wannabe singers don't have a clue about their legs and how they function.  Standing on one leg doesn't support you - especially when you are trying to balance your body to find the elasticity of the voice!

The slumping of the ribcage - or "runway body" as I call it (!) is also completely negating the lengthening and active energy of the support system as a singer.  Other muscles that do not and should not take on severe responsibilities, will begin to.  Then the downward spiral of begins.

Why wouldn't we, as singers, want to find the most effective and most efficient way to build the athletic and physical instrument?  Why not recognize the issues, and develop stronger physical behavior to support the voice?

It is YOUR responsibility to find that athleticism and PRACTICE IT.  Make it behavior.  Find the co-ordination and DEVELOP it.  Create new and positive and STRONG physical behaviors so the physical body has access to the strength necessary to sing WELL and in a healthy manner.

Build power,  build elasticity, build co-ordination...the body reflects what the voice COULD do.  Why would you ignore that?!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Acting in the Audition - Opera Singers Beware!

The opera audition season is revving up...

As I wear several hats in the studio - one being character development for auditions - this is always an interesting one!

I am often asked the question "do I need to "feel" what the character feels, cause if I start feeling, my throat closes up."

Listen,  I have studied many avenues of acting.  I do not believe acting is feeling.

I believe acting is DOING.

I have done the feeling thing too - and the method and and and...sure, it was often exciting and on the edge but it was never reliable,  and frankly put me at great risk.

At a certain point,  I had an 'aha' moment and had to re-evaluate what I was doing and why.

As I have said before,  we are required as actors who sing/singers who act - to allow the AUDIENCE to experience the emotion.  If we feel, or if we pretend to be a character, we have dismissed the audience.  We need to move PAST ourselves to allow the audience to get it and FEEL it.  We just have to DO IT.

This doesn't just "happen".  This takes time and study and thought and practice.  It is another set of muscles and needs nurturing, just like your singing technique.

However,  the feeling isn't gonna cut it;  nor is the pretending;  nor is the "put on and look away" school of acting that my colleague Jagger Kaye and I giggle about:  think bad soap opera acting!

If you TRY to act, that's what it is going to look like.  If you TRY to feel, that's going to fall flat too.

Engaging a reason to DO something is crucial in acting, and when you are auditioning and pulling an aria out of context to stand alone,  the ACTION is crucial to the reality in the moment.

When I say "action" I do not mean miming,  pretending to be in the scene, blocking,  gesturing with no props or other characters.  That is a HUGE NO-NO for an audition.  You are not in the scene.  You are in an audition.  The cheese stands alone.  You must embody the reality of the character and allow that character's motivation to physicalize.

So, what DO you do?

Can you deliver the text without the music?  Can you discover the musical line within the text and the motivation behind that text?  What is the character really saying?  Use your own language, don't try to get poetic! Just say what it means!  GET REAL!

Who is this character?  How does he/she move? Stand? Breathe?  WHY???

What is this character's reaction time to the space he/she inhabits?  To the characters around him/her?

Can you find the character's subtext in his/her breath?

This should all begin with the text first - no music yet!

Then - can you simply find the physicality of the character in the music?  Can you find the subtext of the character's responses in the MUSICAL LINE and REACT AND RESPOND to it physicality without singing or speaking?  Can you give a reason for each response?  Can you give a reason to each reaction?

This is the beginning...

Then what is the character DOING with his/her textural language and musical language?  Not what are they feeling, what are they DOING?  HOW do they DO that?  WHY?

Each phrase,  each sentence, each breath needs ACTION and REACTION.

If you have something to do - an ACTION - it allows the audience an opportunity to FEEL and EXPERIENCE.   It moves from action to feeling - from you to the audience.

The action needs a verb and then can have more depth by giving the action an adverb.  HOW becomes part of the DOING.

This allows the reality of a character to emerge,  and then all of the outer motivations are real - from moving to gesturing to being still.  Movement or gesture is only real if it is motivated through action.

Are you willing to pursue the truth of your characterization in the audition?

Or are you simply going to park and bark,  or pretend?

Singing isn't pretending!  Singing isn't feeling!  Singing is ACTION and BEHAVIOR and TECHNIQUE!  So is acting!  As an opera singer - you are a creature of the theatre, and theatre is about ACTION.  Don't cut off a very necessary part of your presentation by not investing in that technical behavior too.

Act because you MUST.  Learn and inhabit it.  Invest in it.

When acting and singing behavior inhabit the same artist at the same time - magic happens and the reality of the artistry begins to breathe!

Monday, October 18, 2010

It Ain't about TRICKS baby...

As a singer we want magic to happen...

but tricks, magic and slight of hand doesn't make the voice develop or allow you to sing!

Singing is about CRAFT.  It is about DEDICATION.  It is about WORK, HONESTY,  REALITY.

Just like any discipline or athleticism - there are no tricks.  Dancing isn't a trick; Acting isn't a trick; playing professional basketball isn't a trick; playing the violin isn't a trick!

Magic happens when you are committed to the building of your instrument,  committed to the developing of your craft,  committed to the ART of what you say you do or want to do.

True technical athleticism - in ANY field - is being able to summon it at will!

Singing isn't about denial,  would-a, could-a, should-a, or "I wanna" - singing is about DOING, and CLAIMING IT.

If you want to sing - you pursue it honestly.

You get ONE instrument.  Are you going to ignore it or are you going to face it for what it is?  Are you going to be honest with what it can do and what the possibilities are?  Are you going to be honest with what you have to do to find those possibilities?

Singing is an athletic development.  This is just the beginning.  The physicality of the athleticism needs to be developed in order to take on the physical, musical, dramatic and psychological requirements that being a singer DEMANDS.  This is not about slight of hand, or quick fix, or a trick.  This is about dedication,  work ethic,  drive,  focus and relentless passion.

I believe anybody can learn the physicality of the singing instrument.  HOW that physical athleticism manifests itself in a particular body depends on the physicality of that instrument.  Some instruments will never be singers, but can learn the basic technical attributes.  Some instruments have the potential to be singers, but if there is a physical pathology standing in the way,  it may not happen, if the reality is not dealt with.  If there is damage, if there is a desire to sing in genres/styles that the physicality cannot sustain,  then another reality must be acknowledged.  Are you willing to arrive there?

Some instruments can learn what belt technique is - but will never be a belter:  may just not have the physical instrument that can sustain the physical and athletic demands on the instrument to support that technical prowess.

Some instruments can learn operatic technique but will never be an opera singer.

Are we willing to accept the reality of our instrument and then accept the RESPONSIBILITY to develop it correctly, healthily, with a realistic outlook in what can be achieved - or are we simply going to hope for a magical trick that allows us to live in denial or a dream-world?

Reality and responsibility responds to a work ethic that recognizes the voice for what it is:  a physical athletic instrument that needs time, nurturing,  and daily work.

Denial and dream-world tricks belong somewhere else - but definitely not in a voice studio!

There is nothing "instant" about singing if you are truly wanting to pursue it for its longevity.

Tricks and slight of hand belong in a momentary illusionary world.  Voice is neither illusion, nor delusion.

If you want to sing - truly WANT to - then perhaps ask yourself why.  Why do you want to sing?

Are you willing to commit to the development of your instrument?
Are you willing to hear the truth about your instrument?
Are you willing to trust someone with the development of your instrument and take the time to seek that out?
Are you willing to follow through with the development of that instrument?
Are you willing to commit to the truth of that instrument and find out what it can do honestly and truthfully?

If you aren't - then you really don't want to sing.  Not really.

As artists, we need the capacity to be honest, to discover honesty, and to see it clearly.  This isn't easy!!  There is no trick to being an artist either.  Honesty means things aren't always beautiful.  Honesty means we sometimes need to get our hands dirty.  Honesty means we sometimes get scared.

If we aren't ready to get real, then everything is a trick.

No tricks in craft.  Only a big breath, and a willingness to get to WORK.  REALLY.

Monday, October 11, 2010

So you SAY you can sing...

Monday musings...

I am astounded and continue to shake my head at the calls/texts/messages I often get from 'singers' who are in crisis.

Why?  Certainly not that they are in crisis, but because they WAITED TOO LONG to get the correct and positive help and reinforcement that could have PREVENTED the crisis.

Opera singers tend not to do this.  However, music theatre singers,  and pop/commerical/contemporary singers (sorry to sweep you all together) tend to be the ones who wait too long.


For those of you in theatre, in pop/rock/commerical genres, who study regularly, who stay healthy in all ways and look after and build the instrument,  THANK YOU.

For those of you who wait for crisis to hit - it's often too late.

This is for YOU.

Ultimately, the voice is an athletic instrument.  It has a physicality to it that needs DEVELOPMENT.  Just because you are musical, or have a pleasing sound, does NOT make you a vocal athlete!

If you are wanting to be hired or are being hired to perform 8 shows a week (or even 5!),  or go on tour with a band,  et al - and you haven't studied or aren't studying and know what your instrument CAN do and what it can't - then you have no business taking the gig. Period.

Three voice lessons and "I got this" doesn't make you a singer.  That would be like you wanting to enter a body building competition, thinking you just had to go to the gym once a week for 30 minutes for 3 weeks and be able to lift 250 without strain or compromise.


If the voice is not developed properly, correctly, in a healthy and individual way,  it will break down and let you down.  It needs nurturing, knowledge, and careful development.

If you are even CONSIDERING auditioning for show that will ask you to sing - why would you put craft aside?!?!?  This makes ABSOLUTELY NO SENSE TO ME!

If you want to sing - you learn to become a singer.  You learn how your voice works,  how it develops and you do the work to enable that instrument to become fully realized.

Why should people spend money to come and see/hear you when you haven't invested in yourself?

Honesty, knowledge and a reality are necessary for ANY performer.

Knowing what you have and how to use it to its maximum potential is key.

Strength and athleticism of the vocal instrument result in an instrument that has much more of a chance to  stay healthy and not get injured.  A strong and healthy voice allows for a strong and healthy performance and a longevity to take on the tasks you have been contracted to DO.

If your voice is injured in ANY way - MTD,  reflux,  nodes/polyps/, swollen cords,  CTR - you are in crisis and need a reality check.

Fatigue - we all get that.  Vocal fatigue happens due to the nature of the task.  HOWEVER, we can develop a technical behavior and a lifestyle that enables us to recover quickly and deliver the task at hand.

Waiting til crisis hits and then suddenly looking for a quick fix is desperate and frankly,  ridiculous.

If the body is injured,  it needs to rest to begin recovery.  Why would the voice be any different?  If the voice does not get the sufficient rest to begin recovery,  you are singing on an injury.  That injury will get worse, not better.  You have a decision to make:

Are you going to perform with an injured voice,  and continue to re-injure it,  and give a sub-par performance due to your inability to access a balanced instrument?  Or are you going to take the "risk" of healing the instrument and building it correctly to allow for the possibility of a longer career?

You get ONE VOICE.  That's it.  You blow it out - you are done. Period.

Vocal athleticism is about the physicality of that instrument, the development of that instrument and the CARE of that instrument.

If you choose to become a "professional" and take on a contract that demands your vocal instrument, it is UP TO YOU TO DEVELOP IT FIRST.

Don't wait for crisis and wonder why it won't fix itself.

"I got this?"  uhm, no you don't.

Give your head a shake, and get with reality.  Do you want to sing or don't you?  Then do it properly and well and honor your profession and yourself.

I can't wave a magic wand.  Don't expect that.  DO THE WORK BEFORE YOU GET TO CRISIS!

Friday, October 8, 2010

So you say you have a large voice...

And my response is simply, so?

Why are so many singers obsessed with how LARGE their voice is?

What difference does it make?

Bigger isn't necessarily better - especially if you don't know how to use it!

This fascination of pushing voices out of alignment or pushing into larger repertoire too soon, or at all, really makes me shake my head.

What happened to developing the voice to find acoustical balance and true resonance?

If the voice is balanced, large or small, it will project and cut.  Granted, in North America the expectation is to sing in ridiculous barns, so we often push the voices to try to rise to the expectation, but we when will we learn?!?!?!

Realizing what you have and developing THAT FULLY is more important than anything else.  Last time I checked, all opera or music theatre for that matter,  isn't just for large dramatic voices.

Why call yourself a dramatic ANYTHING if you simply aren't?  You think by saying you are,  you'll fool someone?  Sadly, all that happens, is that you, the singer, look foolish.

If you truly ARE a large dramatic voice,  then learn how to use it well - in ANY room.  Leading with the size of your voice means nothing.  Sounds like a compensation for something else to me.

"my voice is too large for the room" is simply an excuse that perhaps you have no control, no dynamic or no acoustic balance in your voice.

Ironically, a so-called "large" voice can be very impressive in a small space, but if it is not balanced, it will fall flat with an orchestra or in a large hall.  Resonance balance is crucial for ANY voice type.

Soubrettes, lyric coloraturas, leggiero tenors et al don't have to have "large" instruments, if they have athletic ones and know how to balance it acoustically to cut through an orchestra and into a hall.

Voice ultimately has to fit the body,  find an athletic physicality,  an acoustic resonance in the body and then into the room - not matter the size.  Then, the repertoire simply must tailor fit the vocal prowess.

Last time I checked,  no one opera has all dramatic voices all of the time.  What's wrong with being a lighter voice?  a soubrette?  a light lyric?  There are ROLES for these voices too!  A dramatic voice doesn't sing these roles!!!  And what about all the roles in between?  There are MANY!

So, to those of you who do NOT have a large dramatic voice - EMBRACE WHAT YOU ARE! EMBRACE WHAT YOU HAVE!  Why would you want to sing something that is not really showing you off well?  Why wouldn't you want to sing something that truly "fits",  and allows you discover the balance and intensity of your athleticism?  Why would you want to wear something that doesn't fit you?

And those who DO have dramatic and/or large instruments - are you developing that instrument and that physical athleticism to work and adjust to ANY space you might need to sing in?  Instead of complaining that the room is too small,  perhaps singing for the space using your athleticism would allow you more control,  finesse and artistry.   If it's a big voice, I think we'll get that at ANY dynamic and at ANY intensity.  Imagine not having to use it all, all of the time.

SO - when you say you have a large voice - know what you mean by that.  Compared to what?  Compared to where?  Compared to whom?

And the proof is in the pudding.  JUST SING.  Do your work, sing your repertoire, find the fit that shows YOU beautifully.

If you are pursuing craft, technical prowess, musicality, artistry and truth - THAT is what we need to experience.  The size of the voice doesn't matter if all these things are HEARD and EXPERIENCED.

Large or small or somewhere in between is JUST FINE if you've claimed it.

If you choose to leave it unclaimed,  it remains unimpressive. Period.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A Journey - sing to stage!

Wednesday musings...

I get all kinds of these questions - and ask myself so many more!!!

The journey we are on as singers are individual certainly,  but there are many factors and realities we need to consider and acknowledge to discover where we are, why we are, what we are!!! This isn't just for singers, but I will use singing as that is what I KNOW and DO!

Wanting to sing doesn't make you a singer.

Being a singer doesn't mean you will have a career making music.

And, sadly, sometimes none of these have anything to do with career!!!

Yes, it's tough, but it's true.  All of these places in the journey require their own temperament, talent and personality, as well as process and engagement.

In a perfect world,  the process would start with the ability to sing, to becoming a singer, to developing the craft and acumen to have a career.

It simply doesn't work that way.  There is no clear or clean-cut path.  There is, however, a REALITY OF RECOGNITION to discover the honesty of where you are, and what you are.

First, can you sing?  There are many kinds of singers - we don't all come to our singing the same way!  Some are natural singers,  some are musical singers, some are built singers.  This is the raw beginning.  No matter if it is natural or not,  it has to be developed.

Are you prepared to do what it takes to develop that voice and the artistry of singing to discover if you ARE a singer?  Having a natural voice doesn't make you a singer.  Being musical doesn't make you a singer.  WANTING to be a singer, doesn't make you a singer.

Being a singer requires the raw material yes, but then there's MORE.  It demands the passion and the pursuit of study to develop the technical behavior,  the musical knowledge,  the languages, the stylistic definitions,  the possibilities of the instrument you are gifted with.

Potential means nothing if it isn't developed into a reality!

BEING a singer requires not just a physicality and athleticism of instrument, but it requires a state of mind that is often single-minded to discover what is necessary and DOING that.

Having a beautiful voice doesn't mean being a singer if you are unable, unwilling or not passionate enough to develop the totality of the artistry and craft of that voice.  A beautiful voice means NOTHING if the singer shows no compatibility to the FIRE that needs to exist to develop the instrument fully.  A voice isn't a singer.  A singer isn't always a voice.

The singer's temperament and dedication speaks louder than the talent in many cases.  BEING a singer is not the same as having a lovely voice.  It would be great if the two go together, but they DO NOT.

A singer CLAIMS his/her voice and develops it fully.  A singer does not make excuses for him/herself.  A singer DOES THE WORK and does not expect an entitled handout.  A singer develop a realistic understanding of what she/he is able to do and what is simply not in the grasp of their ability or reality.

And even if the the voice becomes a singer - a singer is not guaranteed a career.

A career is an animal all unto itself.  It demands a further tenacity,  a further fire,  a further pursuit, and a little luck - or a lot of luck!

The temperament of a singer who makes a living AS a singer is not for the weak of heart!  It demands a commitment that often takes you far from those you love and who love you.  It is a commitment that often leaves you alone.  The pursuit of a career demands a commitment that honestly, you have very little control over - as the business itself makes a decision to make room for you or not.

Perhaps your talent and temperament is simply to sing.  Then claim that.

Perhaps your talent and temperament is to take that voice and develop the skill and craft to be a singer.  Then claim that.

Perhaps that talent and temperament is take that singer energy and pursue a career.  Then claim that.

And perhaps that journey plays in the spaces in between.  YOUR journey is yours.  Just don't assume or expect with a reality check of where you ARE.

Where you WANT to be has to be begin with YOU.  Where you end up - too many variables that are out of your hands, and yet many specifics you CAN control and develop and be ready for.

We are here to claim what we do not yet own.  (thanks to my husband for that).

Why wouldn't you want to being claiming YOUR reality?  It is in THIS claim that your journey begins to have substance and purpose.


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Are you READY to walk into that audition room?

Sunday musings...

The fall is upon us - and so are ongoing auditions in the world of theatre!

With music theatre - are you really ready???

Just like your back to school check list - perhaps it's time to take stock of what you have/what you need/what you should be prepared for and be prepared to DO.

Here's a few to consider:

1.  are you studying?  have you studied?  Especially those of you who are doing cross-disciplines: dancing to singing, acting to singing.  Don't assume cause you are a dancer primarily that you can just walk into a singer call!!!  Disciplines needs TIME and FOCUS and CRAFT.  One lesson, or one lesson once in awhile isn't gonna cut it.  You have to develop craft through CONSISTENCY.

2.  Do you know your type?  what you are trying to show you can do SPECIFICALLY in a room?

3.  Do you have music???? I mean seriously, do I have to say this? YES!!! You need a 3 ring binder with your music in it!!!  You need to MARK YOUR CUTS CLEARLY for the pianist.  It HAS TO BE IN THE KEY YOU WANT TO SING IT IN!

4. ONE SONG DOESN"T CUT IT!!! Your audition book needs to be rather extensive - all genres, styles and time periods so that you can audition with a piece that specifically evokes your type - both theatrical and vocal - as well as evokes the style of the show you are auditioning for.  THIS TAKES TIME.  You cannot do this THE NIGHT BEFORE.   Take the time to BUILD YOUR BOOK and LEARN YOUR BOOK.  It has to be sung in, and developed in order for you to look professional when you present it.

5.  Trying to prepare all of the above takes time, and it takes dedication.  You cannot expect you can do this alone.  You need a teacher, a coach (or several!), a few classes to develop audition technique, and then check-ins/brush ups and the like to keep you FRESH!

If you have the nerve/balls/stupidity to call a teacher or coach the night before an audition and have NOTHING prepared for that audition and expect miracles to happen - give your head a shake and guess again!  You are wasting your time, their time, and the audition panel's time the next day.

Those of us on THAT side of the table KNOW when you aren't prepared.  It comes into the room FIRST!

So, why not BE prepared?  Why not INVEST in your studies and in your professionalism?

If this is what you want to do with your life, and who you want to be - then why wouldn't you take your work seriously?????

Don't wait until panic sets in to get instruction, help and guidance!!  Seek it out NOW and CONTINUOUSLY in order to feel prepared, under yourself and ready to do a strong audition, and show by your actions how professional you are!!

Being professional means PREPARING like one and being prepared like one.  If this is new to you, then ASK and LEARN and DO IT.  If it's not new -then just brush up, get some solid trustworthy feedback and consistency, and DO IT.

If you are NOT ready to walk into that audition room - yet - then WAIT.  And get to WORK on your craft and the details that need to be in place FIRST.  You'll be more prepared, more polished, and more professional - and people can take you seriously.

If you walk in unprepared, this follows you.  Our business is too small.  You don't need to be labelled "not ready" because that will follow you.

Simply BE READY.  Do the work.  The rewards come to those who are willing to do the work, and who are simply prepared.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Could We Understand the WORDS please?

Saturday musings...

Perhaps one of my biggest pet peeves is nothing understanding singers - in ANY genre and style - while they sing.

As someone who learned to speak before she walked,  and who grew up in a family of actors, language was CRUCIAL!!

I have heard many a singer say to me "if it was just on 'ah' it would be so easy to sing!"

Perhaps you are over-estimating the excitement of your "ah" vowel - and perhaps you simply don't have the linguistic knowledge of how LANGUAGE informs tone.

As an instrument, we are the only one with language.  It is there for a reason and it would be extremely wonderful if we could enjoy it and understand it!!

Language itself is complex and marvellous.  It has its own musicality, its own cadence, its own pitch and physicality.  It is up to us as singers to weave this complexity of language into the fabric of the composer's musical choices.

The complexities of these two forms do not need to be COMPLICATED.  They need to be completed TOGETHER.   The language will inform the tone and the styles more completely.  If the composer had wanted the singer's "ah" he/she would have just left it "ah".

So, instead of just complaining how difficult it is to sing it with the words, learn how to DO it.

Language can help not hinder, the release of the voice into the line.  As we learn and understand the nuance of the language used,  how it formed and shaped, how it resonates naturally,  how it intensifies with given pitch - we begin to realize and physicalize the athleticism of language in the singing body.

EACH language brings another set of nuances, sensations, releases.  We begin to physicalize the differences BETWEEN languages, dialects, accents.  Using an Italianate [a] or an Italianate [u] will not suffice for an English one.  Language is NOT interchangeable!

And guess what?  This takes time, thought, study and discovery!!  To sound AUTHENTIC in the language presented is just as important as creating the authenticity of style and genre in tone.

The marvellous complexities of singing language and style and genre can scare the faint of heart - and cause excuses galore!  They are for those singers who are willing and able to dig in and discover the truth and reveal it no matter what it takes!

As a singer, we have the responsibility to discover these complexities - not make excuses for them, or for us.

Language has "foot" - feminine or masculine;  it has meter;  it has pitch;  it has melody; it has cadence;  it has shape and fluidity and release.  Language is music in its own sphere.

Its purpose is to communicate further, deeper, higher - and to put the music of the composer in higher relief, or in some cases, allow the music of the composer to release the language of the text in higher relief!

Whatever the decision,  the language is CRUCIAL and needs to be heard AND understood, simply from the linguistic stand point.

If we try to learn all of these complexities at once, we often come out with a giant mess - like a huge ball of yarn matted together.  If we work one weave at a time, and then gradually work them together - a wonderful tapestry of textures and colours reveals itself fully.

Just the PHYSICAL and ATHLETIC aspect of language and how it enables us to create a line,  develop a dramatic subtext,  draw on resonance subtleties and reveal timbre and tonal suggestions can open up an entirely new and exciting aspect of our singing to us!

I haven't even begun discussing the KNOWLEDGE of what that language is saying - or what it means - especially if you are singing in a foreign tongue!

Just the physicality of language and how it becomes a part of YOUR physicality is about time and practice;  about paying attention to the authenticity of its music!

As we find this authenticity of the naked word within the singing behavior of our bodies and our voices, we can begin to get excited about how is projects and is understood.  We begin to worry less about "does it sound okay?"  and realize "can you understand it?"  is more important.

If the language is internalized,  understood physically and released with authenticity - not only will the singer sound okay,  but the sound will be a glorious release of tone, timbre and clarity - of sound AND language.  Language is sound after all.  Why separate it?

Language weaves into the fabric of voice, and voice into the fabric of language.  These two musics should never feel "put upon" but rather, need to develop a sympatico that is real and necessary in the singer's body.  Anything less isn't worthwhile.

If you are going to do it - do it with conviction, til you get it right!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Big Fish/Small Pond

Sunday musings...

As we begin the fall season - many of you may feel like fish out of water!

First - this is normal.  If you have started school, changed teachers, changed programs, changed cities - made a change to another voice type or fach - you are going to feel somewhat in limbo for a bit.

THIS IS NORMAL!  Accept that and take a breath and pay attention to what is going on around you.

We often go into some form of denial or self-protection when we feel threatened in any way.  We may be legitimately threatened, but often in the case of change as I have described above, it is more about vulnerability than actual threat.

Sometimes making change shows us we aren't where we thought we were to begin with.  It happens, thus the change.

As a singer,  recognize that your previous work, your previous study, your previous self is not for naught!  It is an important stepping stone to where you are NOW.

If you are moving from high school to college or university and making a shift from one teacher to the other you will most definitely be making some huge changes!  If you were primarily a choir singer,  you have developed some marvellous skills, however, perhaps now you are working on your solo voice.  This is another set of skills, and another development of your instrument.

Recognizing that these changes are leading to growth will perhaps allow to approach your lessons and see how your teachers are trying to approach YOU!

Ultimately, no matter how much you THINK you know,  if you are studying,  you are saying there is still so much to LEARN.  In all honesty, no matter how much you DO know, there is still more out there! No one has a monopoly on truth,  and in turn, if you were ready and able, you wouldn't be there would you?

So - if you are making a change of studio, a change of fach, a change of voice type et al - believe that what you DO know will be developed and not negated.

In this instant society, and this ageism mentality of "younger is better", it is often difficult to recognize that in singing, neither of these concepts hold true.

Singing is not a trick, nor is it instant.  A singer is ultimately an athletic activity and thus, it is physical age appropriate.  In this case,  younger is not better, but rather time and maturity is on your side for the long haul!

"Knowing" mentally does not mean your physicality can do it yet!

At the undergrad and grad "age" - singers are just beginning to develop and build a physical instrument.  If the vocal instrument does not reach maturity until well into the 20s and often into the 30s, then at 18, the singer is a vocal embryo!

If a singer is more mature and has been singing in a certain fach or voice type and suddenly is seeing a need to change and morph elsewhere,  this is a MAJOR shift in athleticism - muscles will have to relearn/unlearn/redevelop and rebalance.  Resonance will have to shift and rebalance.  Psychology will have to shift and develop.

None of these things are easy,  and ALL of them TAKE TIME.

If you are switching teachers, it takes TIME to develop vocabulary that both of you inhabit.  Be patient. Be open.  If the teacher is true, he/she will work to find you.  If you hide, you are defeating the purpose. Don't make excuses!  They get you nowhere and only frustrate you and the teacher.  Listen.  Be still.  Pay attention.   Create the space between you and the teacher WITH the teacher.

Ultimately, like building muscle and a discipline of any kind,  the specificity of how YOU function and how you WILL function, takes focus, TIME and patience.  It takes an ability to see clearly, and a willingness to see honestly.

We often make excuses,  place blame when we feel unsure.  When we are taken from a perceived comfort zone and placed in a new environment,  we need to figure out how swim.  The excuses and the blame will only sink those possibilities.

As you listen, observe,  and TRY,  don't be afraid to ASK.  Don't ask because you can,  but ask because you are truly trying to put the pieces together!!  No question is stupid if it comes from a clear and open honesty.

Develop knowledge of where you are - literally and figuratively.  Realize not everything is personal, nor is a correction or a development, a negative.  Learn how to swim in this new pond!!!  You'll never know what you have to offer if you don't try!

Trying begins with a willingness to HEAR.  Hearing requires a willingness to learn.

Not knowing isn't a crutch,  but rather an incredible opportunity to discover!  That discovery is up to you!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

a youtube plug!

Just wanted to let readers know about the Thomas Young channel on youtube!

Yes, Thomas happens to be my husband, but he also is a world-renowned tenor for the past 40 years!

With performance in opera, concert, orchestra, as well as music theatre and jazz - he truly embodies the "cross over" artist to a "T"!

Two of his opera arias are now available on youtube

and then just search for "Twisted"!

hope you enjoy!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Building a Discipline into CRAFT!

Sunday musings...

After a great class at CnCStudios in NYC yesterday (that will be the start of many more we hope) called THE ACTORS VOICE,  my thought return to craft and the discipline of craft.

What are the truths of having craft?

First, and most importantly it doesn't happen instantly.  It doesn't happen overnight.  It doesn't happen cause you think you want it.

Craft and the discipline of craft is about commitment.  This commitment is about study, about pliability, about discovery and about doing whatever it takes to find out what you can DO with it.

The truth of craft is expensive.  It costs.  If you want something badly enough, you will find a way to get what you need in order to have it.  This can be literal and figurative.  As an artist building craft in ANY discipline,  you need to INVEST.  As with any investment, it requires a great deal of research first to find out what you need, what's out there, how you will find what works for you, and then pursue it.

The expense of developing craft is literally money, yes.  Classes, lessons, coachings and more.  It is expensive in what it demands of you physically, emotionally, spiritually.  It costs in time and focus.

However, if the investment allows for further development,  creates tools that are more accessible to you,  creates possibilities to work, possibilities to network,  possibilities of ANY kind  - then investing in that expense is worth everything you put into it.

You can learn to dance, to sing, to act - but it doesn't make you a dancer, a singer nor an actor.  The investment of time,  money, temperament,  tenacity and guts will truly reveal whether or not the discipline can become craft.

In this "instant" society and this "star" mentality,  the truth of how craft is developed seems to completely evade some people.

You will not be able to dance after one class, or by learning one combination.  The art and craft and discipline of dance takes YEARS to achieve.

You will not be able to sing after one class, nor call yourself a singer,  whether you have a "natural" instrument or not.  The art, craft, discipline and athleticism of singing takes years and continual pursuit.

You will not be an actor after one class!  The truth of acting takes time and consistency to discover, acknowledge and develop knowledge.

You can "read" about discipline of craft, but until you make the commitment to DO it - you are neither learning how, nor being.

After a 3 hour introduction to voice from the actor's perspective yesterday -  I suggested to my clients that perhaps NOW they were prepared to BEGIN to learn HOW to sing.

Again,  this doesn't mean you are a singer.  That comes later.  Or perhaps you ARE a singer, and you need to invest in learning how you do what you do, in order to learn to summon it at will.

If you do not develop craft,  you are deceiving yourself, and ultimately deceiving the business in giving the illusion you are ready to do something you know nothing about.

What if you can deceive something through an audition?  What if you get a callback?  What if you get offered a job and have to DO that job and simply don't have the craft to sustain it?  Then what?

Wouldn't you rather know you CAN and know HOW you do what you do?

Don't you want to be known as a reliable, inspired and disciplined artist in the business, than a deceptive flash in the pan just because you didn't want to pursue something fully?

As my Dad used to say to me when I'd get upset with something I was struggling with - "who said it was fair?"

There is nothing fair out there.  Take that and let it go.  Nothing will be handed to you.  You need to work for it.  If you don't study dance, you have no business posing yourself as a dancer in the business.

If you don't study singing,  you have no business posing yourself as a singer, nor going to a singing audition.

If you don't study acting,  you have no business auditioning as an actor.

Your responsibility is to be able to KNOW and DO your craft.  If you don't know and can't do - it's time to either do something else, or quit whining about how expensive things are, how long it takes to develop, and DO IT.  Figure it out!

It isn't easy for any of us.  We have all had to struggle.  If the craft is important enough,  if the passion and the desire is strong enough,  if the need to pursue is deep enough,  you find a way to do it!

Only in these choices,  do our realities emerge.

If we expect it come to you,  you will waste a great deal of time.

If you are willing to do what needs to be done, get creative and get real - all possibilities emerge!

So, don't call yourself a singer, an actor, or a dancer unless you have discovered vocabulary,  have developed craft/are developing craft,  and know what it takes to BE - not what it takes to wannaBE.

The reality is, you only hide from yourself.  And that's a waste of spirit.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Entitlement doesn't get you work!

Friday musings...

The entitlement factor is alive and well.

Just cause you want it, doesn't mean you've EARNED it.

The business doesn't care if you THINK you should work, or THINK you shouldn't study, or THINK you should be offered something.

The attitude of "I am therefore I should have" doesn't fly.

If you are going to pursue professionalism,  you need to recognize what is needed FROM YOU.

How to build craft,  who to go to to develop that vocabulary,  what it's going to take, and who you stand in front of.

The entitled attitude expects from everybody else but themselves.  They expect that everything will be handed to them on a silver platter and nothing has to be worked for.

The real world simply doesn't work that way.  No matter how talented you are or THINK you are;  no matter how special you are or THINK you are.

There are MANY outstanding emerging artists and developing artists, and frankly fully realized artists that still don't get a chance to work.  They are more professional than the next and even with craft, smarts, talent and will power - they still may not work.  They aren't looking for a handout;  they don't EXPECT.  THEY WORK FOR IT.

Real artists are not afraid of work.  They get tired of chicken shit - from the business, and from the entitled who expect more from everybody else than they have to actually offer.

If you want to be an artist in this business,  you cannot live in an entitlement dream world.  You must realize what is going on, and what it's going to take to even have a shot!  And even then, there are no guarantees.

However, if you EXPECT things without working for them,  then you are truly in the wrong place.

Just because you want to study with a specific teacher, doesn't mean that teacher will have time for you.  If you want to be seen at that audition, just cause you want it, doesn't make it happen.
Getting an agent, just because you think you should have one, doesn't always work in your favor.
Just because you are Equity doesn't make you better, more talented, or further ahead than someone non-union.

Art in the business is HARD.  It demands dedication of mind, body and spirit.  It demands a level of intensity, a level of intelligence and a level of commitment that cannot be compromised.

Thinking your talent is enough is a lack of awareness,  naivete and more...

Talent is NOTHING if it isn't realized.  Realizing it means WORK.  Work means study.  Study means commitment - for the LONG HAUL.  Taking a couple of voice lessons doesn't mean you can sing, nor does it mean you are a singer.

Taking a quick dance class to learn a Broadway combination to get a callback doesn't allow you the right to say you are dancer - let alone a triple threat!!

"I got that" about your acting skills, your dance skills or your voice skills shows how truly amateur you are.

True professionals talk about what they continue to strive for.  They do not expect a handout;  they do not expect a favour;  they do not expect anything but commitment and dedication from themselves.

True professionals know who they stand in front of.  They know if they ask for help, guidance, professional study they must be willing to compromise their time to engage that teacher, that class, that workshop.  If they consult with another professional that is in a position to give them instruction to take their craft to another level of consciousness, they DEMAND FROM THEMSELVES in order to get everything out of that session.

Professionals practice what they preach.  Literally.  If they call themselves singers - they practice daily.  If they call themselves dancers - they dance.  If they call themselves actors - they act.  It is never done.  The more they do, the longer they do it, the more they learn and develop craft, skill and artistic awareness.

A true professional never feels entitled.  They can feel lucky - being in the right place at the right time - and they know they work hard and have help along the way.

Professionals don't whine.  They don't assume.  THEY DELIVER.

Entitled behavior is childish and amateur.  It is narcissistic and self-obsessed with nothing of value to back it up.  The talent might be there, but the truth of its development does not exist.

True professional behavior is mature and self-possessed.  It is aware,  curious, striving and developed or in development.  It is relentless in its search and discovery.

Feeling entitled doesn't make it so and won't offer you a place in the business.  Whine all you want.

Developing craft, artistry and integrity will create a professionalism that has a CHANCE to work.

The business doesn't care who you think you are.  The business wants to see what you are prepared to DO.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

what can you be SURE of?

This is often the time of year we reassess,  recommit,  start to make plans and focus!

So many of you are frustrated with this business.  I hear you.  Thanks for the emails and messages.   I wish I could tell you there is a straight path that will allow you to make a living with your talent and your artistry.  Sadly, there is not.

Only YOU can make the decision whether or not you want to be bothered.

Do you want to be bothered - and if so, be bothered with what?

And do you know what you can be sure of in this business?  And how seriously do you take that?

Perhaps one of the biggies that you can be sure of is that you WILL be lied to!  From all sides!  You will be told a blatant lie to your face, for often no reason than just to not have to engage in the truth!  Or be told a half lie that isn't really the issue...

Here are a few I heard this week from clients and colleagues:  LIES.

1.  You are too fat (size 8) for the role.
2.  You are too pretty for the role.
3.  We want a POP voice for Guinevere in Camelot...
4.  You have an accent.
5.  You have too much facial hair.
6.  We know you've been offered another contract for the same time and don't want to give you the impression you are that talented.
7.  We can't pay you your regular fee for next season because I need to pay for health insurance for my violin section.
8.  Nobody wants to hear you this season.
9.  Don't ever expect a music director from a major theatre will be interested in you.

Yes, I am NOT lying.  I have heard ALL of these in the last 2 weeks.

If you try to riddle out the half truths and the lies you will drive yourself MAD.  This you also can be sure of!

First, KNOW THE SOURCE of the comment.  Often you will get a half truth from someone who is simply trying to cover THEIR butt.  Doesn't make it right, but it happens.


You have to dismiss it, and more on.  Know who you trust and WHY, and who has to still EARN your trust and WHY.

So, lies are part of our business.  Two-facedness is as well.  Welcome to the business of show - and frankly, welcome to LIFE.  It's sometimes just a little more colourful in the business of show.

Recognizing the dirty laundry of our business is part of surviving the business.  Knowing how you are going to handle rejection,  lies, cheating, back-stabbing in order to survive is important.  Knowing what you need to do to balance that negative with positive is KEY.

What can you be SURE of in the positive?  What can you work toward and aim for?

Again, it depends on what constitutes positive for you!

Do you have have a supportive and engaged team around you?

Do you pursue your CRAFT everyday for the sake of craft?

Do you have work or prospects of work?

Do you have auditions or prospects of auditions?

Are you feeding your artistic soul each and every day?

What gives you JOY outside your craft?  Do you nurture that as well?

What can you do to create projects for yourself and not just wait on someone else?

And simply,

Do you want to be bothered????

You are NOT A FAILURE if you decide to explore another path, or take a leave of absence, or simply go another direction in your life.  You are a winner because you are following your NEEDS.

No matter what you decide to DO,  you are always an artist.  You just might not be making a living being one.  The artistic soul and mind and spirit is nurtured or not nurtured and never has anything to do with a pay cheque!

Often, artists are good at MANY things.  They could go many directions for a life path.  This is exciting and frustrating because sometimes we just have to DECIDE.

You can be sure that you have MANY choices.  You are NEVER STUCK unless you want to be. That is also a choice.

Only YOU can decide where you want to be and what you want to be bothered with and for how long!

You can be sure that the business will allow you entry, or you will make a place for yourself, or you will simply say "no thanks" and create another avenue of creativity and life for yourself.

You need to be sure of what you are striving for.

If you have lost that focus, it is time to re-assess and re-familiarize yourself with why you are here.

Many years ago,  someone changed my life by asking me that point blank:

"Who are you, and why are you here?"

I took a breath to answer and realized I couldn't.  It was a huge moment for me and a turning point in all aspects of my life.  Sometimes we can be sure we aren't sure at all.

So,  I take that question and ask you:

"Who are you,  and why are you here?"

Only you can answer - or not.  And only YOU can decide whether you are worth the time and exploration to discover the answer or create the answer in the life and in the business you NEED to be in and PREFER to be in.

You can be sure that there are many negatives and many positives in this business.

You can be sure some will like what you have to offer and some will not.

You can be sure you will be frustrated, angry, confused and disappointed at times.

You can be sure you will have "a-ha!" moments, great discovery and freedom in your artistic day to day discoveries.

You can be sure you will be tired.

You can be sure you have a CHOICE in how your respond, how much you invest,  and with whom you invest it.

You can be sure you have a choice of whether you need/want/prefer to be bothered.

You can be sure that those choices are neither good nor bad, but simply what is right for YOU at the time.

You can be sure you have the freedom to change your mind; to follow your heart, your soul, your logic as it leads you.

First, know WHO you are and WHY you are there.  The rest are details.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

My Wish for Opera AND Music Theatre

Wednesday musings...

Sorry I've been MIA - the end of summer got ridiculously full.

As the fall season begins to develop momentum,  I have a wish for the development of opera and music theatre.

I wish Opera Singers and the training that goes into singing opera - be it undergrad, grad school, conservatory programs and semi-professional/professional YAPs and summer programs - could find a consistency in the development of opera singer as ACTOR.

Overall, this is lacking in operatic training.  Yes, there are some programs that spend time and energy on it, but in general it is a major part of theatrical training that is lacking, or in some cases, not there at all!

Ideally, Operatic training needs, along with voice development and language training et al,  NEEDS movement classes,  basic dance classes,  acting through physicality, acting through language, character development,  stage combat classes and an introduction to stage make up and wigs.

Opera is indeed about the VOCE, but it IS theatre after all!!  It is NOT park and bark.  It is NOT "light my good side",  it is not "look away acting"!!!  (ask me if you aren't sure about THAT one!!!)

What saddens me is that there are MANY singers who are operatically trained who have little to no stage craft,  little to no acting skills or discipline and have to often figure it out themselves.

If we began the integration of voice and physicality of acting from the beginning, how much more versatile our opera singers would be!!!  How much more evolved would singers be in the integration of craft and discipline - singing AND acting.  Not singing and pretending to act.

Acting is NOT pretending.  Acting is behavior just like singing is.  We don't want to see your technique while you sing, nor do we want to see it, or the lack of it when you act!  Combining of the two takes time and exposure and development.

Opera singers who have acting training,  who understand language and character - through tone, through breath, through physicality - don't walk and move and gesture like an opera singer!  They develop a dimensional sensibility of the physicality of the character.  There is dimensional realization that is larger than life and not positioned!  Character reality emerges!

On the flip side - what I wish for ALL music theatre singers is that they all study voice REGULARLY to develop a behavioral technique that allows them to align and discover the ENTIRE voice.

Singers who have learned how to find their TRUE voice,  how it aligns, how it resonates,  how it  physicalizes with the breath and the body, how athletic it can be,  are so much more able to discover stylistic authenticity, AND develop strength of endurance and stability!

Many theatre singers are afraid if they study they might sound too "classical".  Wrong.  All "classical" training does it to develop the voice fully,  so the singer can then begin to explore the details of further technical prowess to inform the styles he/she is pursuing.

The so-called "classical" training should be required for EVERY singer.  Why?  It allows the singer to emerge from somewhere and have a place to return.  It creates a balanced alignment of muscle, breath, resonance and athleticism to allow a place of departure.  If there is a "neutrally balanced" instrument (my term),  the voice has OPTIONS to move and develop specificity of style and genre.

This will allow the singer to utilize only what he/she needs.  This gives options! This develops security of technical behavior and clear technical decision.

Great technique means the voice will LAST!!!  In music theatre, because we are required to part of the equipment and often do 8 shows a week,  wouldn't you WANT a voice that LASTED?!?!?

The voice develops endurance and sustainability and longevity not cause you wish it so;  but because you BUILD IT HEALTHILY!!!

Imagine in all of "Musical Theatre" - be it Opera, or contemporary Music Theatre - that we had authenticity of character, of acting, AND of singing in EVERY style.

If each teacher and each singer takes responsibility to do their part - it is possible.

It takes recognition, responsibility, dedication and the DOING!

I will do what I can in my little corner - so what are YOU doing?

Friday, August 20, 2010

The "Skin" of the Singer!

Friday musings...

How thick is your skin?

As singers in this business - or even just getting started - we will endure criticism from many places: the business, the studio,  the stage,  colleagues and anybody else who thinks they can add their 2 cents, or anybody you deem to ask (this can be a smart move - or not!)

Criticism can come unbidden - both constructive AND destructive.

How do we deal with it?  How do we absorb and learn from the constructive, and let the destructive fall away from us?

The human psychology is unique and complex.

As artists, we need the openness, and the pliable vulnerability to grow and develop our craft.

As artists in the business, we need to be clear of the distinction.  We need to understand and not take personally some of the business activities.

Criticism is one of those complex and very gray areas.

How do you allow for both the openness and pliability to be an artist and the ability to repel anything that is destructive?

I wish there was a simple answer.

Perhaps we begin with "to thyself be true".

If we are unaware of who we are, and what we are about,  we haven't a hope in hell.  We will be led and manipulated and often wasted.

The truth of self means an ability to be honest - with where we are, what we have to work with,  where we are in the process,  what we need to do,  how we need to work.

This self-truth will draw us toward those people who will see us honestly too - and allow for constructive criticism and development.

The self-denial of talent, ability, process, can often create a denial community: we surround ourselves with people who simply tell us what we THINK we want to hear.

The skin of the singer has to have a bullshit detector.  Thin, thick or developing,  it has to be able to RESPOND to truth!

Growth doesn't happen when you are being told you are wonderful all the time.  On the flip side, growth doesn't happen when you are being told you are awful and will never amount to anything, or that your only chance at anything real will only happen with the person abusing you!

As you will need to prove yourself to the powers that be,  so do the people you entrust for that constructive criticism.  We all have to EARN our place.

Earning our place means developing an understanding or WHO we are and where we stand, and who we stand in front of and simply why we are there.

If you are a "singer" that chooses not to listen to constructive criticism and tunes out anything that may help in the development of that process, then my question is simply, why are you singing?

If you, as a singer,  ask for feedback from a colleague or friend, or coach and then are taken aback by that feedback - then maybe you shouldn't have asked, or perhaps you should have been prepared fully for the possibility!

"Skin" is simply how we process information.  Some of us recognize the difference between constructive and accessible and developmental criticism versus destructive and controlling criticism versus blowing smoke up your ass versus simply jealousy.

Some of us don't.  Some of us recognize the difference on paper and haven't been able to live the difference...yet.

Some of us simply have created a cocoon of denial so that the truth will not penetrate.

Some of us have no filter and wander from one person to the other looking for answers outside of ourselves - changing teachers, technique, ideology,  repertoire faster then changing clothes - looking for a quick fix or a place that makes us feel "good".

The"skin" of the singer needs to develop - in order to recognize the TRUTH of what is being delivered to us, and the ability to recognize the truth from within.

Often, a sense of devastation isn't so much about a thin skin or no skin, but has more to do with the internal dialogue that has deluded self.

If we ask for input and are unwilling to hear it and find a place for it - then why did we ask?

If you don't want to know, don't ask.  If you feel you don't need to know - why sing?

If you are pursuing singing, you need to pursue the TRUTH of that and where you stand in that pursuit.

If you are pursuing singing in the business,  you need to pursue the truth of what that means and what it means of you.

We need to be able to HEAR what we need to be prepared to do,  and then decide whether or not we CAN or even WANT to!

Finding out what you NEED to do is less about feeling it, and simply about claiming it and doing it!  We don't have to get overly sensitive or feel put upon.  We need to HEAR that which is being said and KNOW who it is coming from and in what spirit it is being said.

"Skin" is simply an ability of detection.  Do we ask for information and are we prepared to hear it?

Do we know and respect the person who is giving the criticism?  Do we understand why that criticism is being given? Is it constructive or destructive?  How does it uphold the craft or the knowledge of the business?  How does it benefit YOU as a singer?

Is there something in that criticism that you can take and create into a better you?

This is TRUE SKIN!  Claiming truth and development in self;  seeing and seeking honestly in self and others;  responding with an artistic yearning and desire;  responding with a business sensibility that does not deny the truth of the craft.

So, if the skin is real, then ask away!  Ask from those that have the answers and be willing to hear and absorb!

If the criticism comes unbidden - consider the source,  consider the situation and make a decision to give it weight, or dismiss it.  Either way, you will learn from it, and learn more about your skin's ability in the process!

Criticism in constructive mode will always have humanity in it,  it will have a reason for being said that is complex and important,  and it will not be a blanket statement or dismissal.

Truth needs to be pursued and recognized if you are to be a singer with depth and knowledge and craft!  If you cannot be truthful with yourself,  you will not hear the truth from others.

"Skin" is a filter.  It is not a denial. It is not a impenetrable wall.  Skin breathes,  skin sheds,  skin has layers and layers!!

Filter the bullshit - from within and from outside!
Absorb the truth - that is yours and that you learn!

 DO the work.  BE a singer!