Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Disconnect

Wednesday musings...

I have had several conversations this week, and even this morning (!) about the disconnect of investing in SELF and in the development of CAREER within this business.

If you truly want a chance at a CAREER, you need to invest in the craft of you, and the business of you.

The craft of you involves development - from lessons to classes to workshops to masterclasses - and then involves sifting and taking time to allow the knowledge to become reality.  It involves going to theatre, going to film, going to museums and art galleries;  listening to music;  experiencing dance;  and on and on.

The business of you involves commitment - learning how to present your calling card - from business cards, to head shots, to resumes, to websites, to promotion, to self-presentation.  Learning what your product is and PRODUCING if for others to enquire and then hire you!

The first point of recognition is that it costs money to make money.  If you are unwilling/unable to commit to the cost and the commitment of building craft AND business, then the business isn't going to hand it to you!

If you call yourself an artist, then it's time to get creative!!  Creativity isn't laziness nor whiny-ness, nor expecting a handout.  Creativity is sacrifice and often making compromises to get the BEST FOR YOU.

If you truly want something, you make it work. You figure out a way.

You can't always get what you want - in the time you want it.

Just as all of this commitment takes time and money,  so does the reverse.  You might whine and cry and moan that everything costs, but you wouldn't like it much if someone hiring you was moaning about paying YOU either.  It goes both ways.

Let me give you a personal example:

I received an email from a potential student.  She had been referred to me from someone and wanted to really work on her voice and wanted to work an hour a week and wanted more details.

Now, my fees are by no means outrageous by industry standard.  However, this young woman decided my rates were too high for her and because she REFUSED to consider another possibility and wanted to study once a week and couldn't afford it,  she decided to go with a cheaper teacher.

More expensive doesn't mean better,  HOWEVER,  if she had REALLY wanted to see if what I could offer her was what she was looking for, she could have come in for a consultation and made a decision.  Maybe she couldn't afford to study weekly;  maybe she would have had to study bi-weekly; or maybe weekly but a shorter lesson.  She might have discovered that less was more!!!  However, she was UNWILLING to look at possibilities that would have still allowed her an opportunity to work.

This is a disconnect.  This is a lack of awareness of what you WANT versus what you can ACHIEVE.

Another example:

What is the IDEAL calling card for up and coming singer/actor?  If there's nothing on that resume yet, you better have a kick-ass head shot.  WE SEE YOU FIRST.  Head shots are an INVESTMENT IN YOUR BUSINESS.  The BUSINESS OF YOU!!!

You do not need to invest in the extremes - either thousands or Walmart!!!!

Investing in a great head shot takes time to explore who is taking great head shots!!  Talking with photographers, looking at their portfolios, discussing possibilities is CRUCIAL.

If you find the photographer for you and you can't afford it, then you SAVE YOUR MONEY.  You make a decision to INVEST and COMMIT and do what it takes to create what you NEED.  Or you recognize what the industry standards are,  make a dollar investment and find the photographers in that range.

You will not be taken seriously if your head shot is not a professional one.  Simple as that.  A snap shot is NOT a head shot.  A Sears Portrait is NOT a head shot!!!  If you think the business doesn't know that, you are sadly mistaken.

Make a decision.  COMMIT TO IT!!

Creating YOU as business requires TIME and MONEY and PLANNING!  Budgeting for your business is just as important as anything else.  Budgeting for your craft is also important.  You can't always have everything NOW.

You sometimes have to wait.  It's not all or nothing.

As your career begins - you need to recognize and invest in the "beginning" requirements.  You need to build a resume, you need a head shot, you need to be able to DO what you say you are!!!  You need to invest in lessons, classes, knowledge!  You might not be able to do it all but you can do some of it!  You might not be able to do it all at once, but you can budget towards it!

You always find a way to get what is important to you.  If you say you can't afford voice lessons, but you bought the new iPhone - that was more important.  Simple as that.

If you say you can't afford head shots but you get your nails done weekly and eat lunch out everyday, you have made a decision of what is more important.

Learning to recognize and acknowledge what you are WILLING to do, and then ABLE to do to make the craft and the business of you work, is CRUCIAL.

You can't have it all - not right away.  Learning how to prioritize your needs and your wants is crucial.

If you NEED a head shot - because you are just getting started, or the business keeps telling you it's time for a new shot - then it is UP TO YOU to figure out HOW you will do that.  If you want to be taken seriously,  you need to INVEST.

If you NEED that class - then figure out what is less of a priority to accommodate it!

If you NEED a new audition outfit - figure out what you don't need to be able to afford it!!

If you cannot afford that symphony ticket, perhaps there's a concert in a smaller venue that allows you an opportunity to hear great music for less.

It is not all or nothing!!!  It is not looking for a 'deal' or a handout or a freebie.

The business is waiting to see what kind of commitment you are willing to give to yourself.  Lip service isn't enough - the follow-through speaks VOLUMES.

If you say you are a singer - then BE ONE.  If you are say you are an actor - then DO IT.

Moaning and groaning doesn't win friends and influence people.  It simply shows a lack of awareness and unwillingness to get the work done.

None of us have had it "easy".  We have all had to work to be where we are.  So do you.  Commit, sacrifice, invest, get involved, get creative to make your craft and your business truly your own.

Do not disconnect!!  Do not assume cheaper is easier;  or that more expensive is better.   Discover what you NEED and proceed from there.  You either compromise, or you wait to make sure you can achieve what you NEED.  Do not assume because you are talented that the world owes you a deal.  THAT is a disconnect!

With ANY talent comes responsibility.

If you say you are - then be responsible!  To your talent, to your craft and to your business.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Why am I thinking about going back to school?

Tuesday musings...

Due to a civilized day, thought I'd muse a little...

This has come up with singers around me lately...discussion, making decisions, wondering if...

Do I go back to school?  Do I go to grad school?  What do I do?

My first statement is I am not telling you what to do.  I will NEVER be that teacher who says "don't do it" - whatever 'it' is - but I will challenge you to riddle out the "whys".

As a singer hits a crossroads, often school becomes a safety net possibility.  Sometimes it is borne out of desire to further one's education in a structured way, and sometimes it is borne out of frustration of lack of craft, and sometimes it is borne out of lack of career momentum.

First, and foremost, you need to know WHY you are contemplating it.  Does it open something up for you, or is it a place to hide for awhile?

I have seen it work both ways...

Some artists need a structured environment that they cannot create themselves through private work and classes;  some artists need the ongoing presence that is integrated into a degree program;  some artists want to work under the tutelage of someone who is only available through a program;  some artists want the courses/experience that a program provides.

These are just some of the reasons...and there are MANY more that are even more personal and even more detailed.

Some are not artists, aren't getting the work they thought they would and feel frustrated and think school is the answer.  Some are perpetual "students" in the negative - can never step out on their own completely and need a base of "school" to keep them anchored.  And some are simply lost.  School seems a simple choice.

Study - whether through a structured school or through a private setting - is NEVER simple.

Going to/going back to school is not for the faint of heart!  It is not something to consider on a whim!

So my question is "why are you considering it?"

And then, "What do you expect to achieve?"

And then, "Where do you see yourself? In what program?  Are you aware of the competition/expectation/level of preparedness just to apply?  Are you willing to do the work? Are you ready?"

Again, wanting something and DOING it are not the same thing.  Wanting to be something, and actually being that something are not the same thing.

Are you being realistic with your reasons? with your goals? with your situation?

Let's say you decide to go back to school - what will you potentially achieve when you finish?  What is your goal while you are there?  What commitment level will you honour?

I believe in creating a pros and cons list!  I believe in knowing and recognizing your options!  Life is full of options even if it doesn't appear to be.  It is not one way or no way.

Often, we become so focused on a certain aspect of ourselves or our careers or our business, that we lose track of the overall picture.

Or we are big-picture viewers and never follow through with the details.

Both views are important and must be integrated, or we will lose our way and begin to flounder.

As one ponders "school or not school" - how are you feeding your craft?  Are you at all?  Are you renewing or are you stale?

Are you truly at a level that is career ready?  If not, have you done enough to discover that or have you been otherwise occupied?  If you have, does your talent truly have the staying power or does your talent lie elsewhere?  If you haven't, why not?  What is holding you back?

Often, there is much more under the question of "school or no school" that has less to do with school and more to do with self-realization!

If the main goal is NOT a post-grad diploma or a Masters Degree, then what is it?

Perhaps as you riddle out where you are/why you are there/what you are considering, it will bring you fully and thoroughly to a decision that YES! grad school or going back to school is for me.

Perhaps it will make you wonder if you are hiding from something; doing it for someone else; doing it just because;

Only YOU can decide WHY - and the more you can recognize your reasons, and your motivations and truth behind that, the more your reality will coax you down the path that is most suited for you.

Never decide on school because you are bored.

Never decide on school because it's what someone else expects.

Never decide on school because you are scared.

Never decide on school because you don't know what else to do.

Never decide on school because you think the best education lies there.

There are NO absolutes.  Big picture AND details must come into play.  Your craft, lack of it, ability to develop it, inability to recognize it - belongs to you!!!  Where you develop it is truly up to you.  TRUTH FIRST.  REALITY FIRST.

Why am I pursuing this career?  Do I have what it takes? If so, how do I develop it further?  Will it take a structured environment first?  Do I need to be an educational actor/singer and then a career-oriented actor/singer?  Can I do both? Do I take time to do one and then the other?

So many questions...and so many answers...

Nothing is easy.  If it was, we'd all be doing it.

Are you DOING it?  Finding your first best destiny and following it through takes time, courage, guts, and honesty!

Dare to ask the hard is WORTH it to find out where you need to be!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

I heard a Casting Director Say...

Sunday musings...

I heard a casting director from a major company in NYC say last week "I would rather hear what you sing WELL, not what you think I want to hear."

What?!??!!? Could it be?!?!?!? Is there a chance?!?!?!?

Could singers actually sing 'in the style of the show' without micro-managing their repertoire and sing WELL instead of sing REQUIRED?!?!?!

A collective sigh and rejoicing can be heard...

HOWEVER - then it demands the singer to say - what DO I sing well?  What do I DO well to show off?

Perhaps, the micro-managing of the audition book has taken you away from what you DO and made you concentrate on what they WANT.

Time to get back to YOU.

Yes, there are CDs that are tired of hearing overdone material - but if I can be so bold - one of the possible reasons they are tired of it is that it is not presented with any kind of freshness, of style, of personal stamp, but rather, presented safely, or imitated, or done "in the style of" the singer with whom we associate the role.

If you are going to present "overdone" repertoire - then you better do it YOUR way!  Make a CD think "oh god, not again" and then when you are done,  they say "WOW! I like that song again!!!"

So, if CDs are wanting to hear YOU - then you better know WHO "YOU" IS!!!

What are your strong suits?  What are the weak ones?  What do you want them to SEE and HEAR and what are you still working on and need to shadow back?

What type do you want to show through YOUR sound and YOUR presence?

If you are being REAL about that - and you need a teacher and coach (sometimes the same person, sometimes 2 or 3 different ones) to help you find this reality - then you can find the repertoire that SHOWS that IMMEDIATELY.

Audition material in Music Theatre isn't about a long arc - it is about letting us see it NOW. What speaks to you, why, how do you get it across in 16 bars, what does it show, is it strong enough, present enough and powerful enough to make that impression?!

If you hesitate AT ALL - put that cut in another binder.

All your audition cuts need to show you VIVIDLY, for a specific reason, and because YOU WANT TO SING IT, not because you think they want to hear it.

So, start being RUTHLESS with your audition material!  Go through your current stuff and see how it holds up.

First, simply ask the questions:
1.  What do I do well vocally?
2. What do I do well musically?
3.  What do I do well stylistically?
4.  What do I do well dramatically?

Make a list - you may have more than one answer to those questions!!!

Then, the second set of questions:

1.  What scares me vocally?
2.  What scares me musically?
3.  What scares me stylistically?
4. What scares me dramatically?

Again, the list might be short or long - no rights or wrongs!!! BE HONEST!

Then, go into your current repertoire as AUDITION CUTS.

1.  Do I like singing it?  If not, throw it out.
2.  If I like it,  what does it show about me vocally?
3.  Musically?
4. Stylistically?
5. Dramatically?
6.  Does it WOW or is it beige?
7. Does it evoke type? Is it evoking anything?  Is it what I want them to see?

Start here.  Be BRUTAL.  HONESTY will allow you to find the best cuts that you feel connected to, want to sing, want to perform and want to WOW with.  If you feel beige about a cut, chances are, so will a CD.  There will be nothing about your audition that resonates, if it doesn't resonate with you first.

Think of re-vamping your audition book like you would purging your closet.

Don't think you MIGHT wear that outfit someday if you haven't worn it in 2 years or more.  GET RID OF IT!!! Make room for something that is YOU and that you will ENJOY.

If that audition cut is "a nice catch-all 16 bars"  that doesn't show anything outstanding, then there is a reason you aren't standing out!!!

EVERYTHING in your audition book has to have a STRONG REASON FOR BEING THERE!!! AND YOU MUST ENJOY IT!!!! You MUST get excited about it!

If YOU are excited and motivated to perform and sing, this shows in the room.  NO MATTER WHAT.

Take in what is YOU.  Know YOU.  EMBRACE YOU.  Be realistic and then put it to task and show what you CAN DO!!!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

What Can You Afford to Be Generous With?

Wednesday musings...

I have touched on this before, but it bears repeating...

Truly being PRESENT in your life - allows for you to recognize what you have/where you are going/what you are pursuing - and then allows you the opportunity to recognize and deal with the people around you.

As you pursue a life as ARTIST and perhaps artist pursing CAREER, you will run into/up against people who are like you,  and people who are not.

I call these people "dabblers".  There is nothing wrong with that by the way - but recognizing the truth of what is going on is key.

"Dabblers" just want to have fun.  They aren't invested in their artistry per se;  they certainly aren't invested in sacrificing nor investing in developing a career.  They often just want want a quick fix, want to be told they are special - and often want your attention.

How generous can you be?  How generous can you AFFORD to be?

As we dance around each other - and see and meet many different types of human nature and human beings through our day - recognizing our SELVES is so important first, to allow for a better balance with others.

"Dabblers" frequent our business.  They often mean well, but they become unintentional vampires - sucking the energy out of our day.  They "wander" - and ask questions, and want reassurance, but often never follow through.  Their pursuit is limited or non-existent.

Ultimately, recognizing they exist is the first step.  Knowing they don't mean harm most of the time is an important realization so as an artist/an artist pursuing a career - YOU don't waste energy on getting angry!

HOWEVER - knowing where YOU are in your pursuit is important so you don't give more than you can afford to.

It is VERY important to recognize this.  Not being generous with certain things, does not make you rude!  There are certain things at certain points in your career that you just cannot afford to give away!!!!

Whether it is with "dabblers" or with colleagues!

Time,  contacts, information,  knowledge of craft - all of these things are IMPORTANT and not to be taken lightly!  The generosity of ANY of them depends on what is being asked of YOU.

Perhaps a peer who is pursuing a career  asks for your advice - who do you study with?  Have you heard of this class?  Giving this information for them to pursue on their own, doesn't cost you anything and it shows your support and your effort as a peer and colleague.

Having your time taken up with another's insecurities - either a 'dabbler' or a peer - who sucks your time, your energy, wants your information and doesn't really care if they follow through, or worse, expects you to help them do it - that you cannot afford to be generous with!

Pursuit of career as an artist is YOURS and YOURS alone.  Nobody can get you through the doors, the plateaus, the moments, but YOU.  There will be people and circumstances along that way that give you direction, that may suggest a door or a place to rest - but ultimately the rest is up to you!

You cannot be generous with this knowledge to another until YOU ARE COMFORTABLE with where you are.  You cannot afford to be generous until you are FULL!

Why would you give away all that you have worked for to someone who is unwilling and unseeing and wants it handed to them?

You don't need to get angry.  You just need to walk away.

We all seek our own level - and the truth of that becomes very clear with pursuit, or lack thereof.

As a teacher lo these many years - I have more to be generous with, simply because I am at a very different place emotionally, artistically, spiritually - than I was 25 years ago.  I have a choice!  I can be generous with certain things, and still task a singer and a student to discover for themselves.  I cannot walk through the door for them.

If you are just getting started on a path, or even if you have been pursuing a career for awhile - know where you are so you can assure yourself that your generosity is indeed parallel to where you are!

If you are just getting started - YOU are still seeking basic vocabulary!

You cannot afford to be giving it away!!!

Be generous of spirit - of smiles, of encouragement -  of basic information when someone asks you who you study with, of taking a class!

Giving "dabblers" or even colleagues more time and more information when you are trying to discover is taxing and unnecessary.

Let others find what they need, just like you are - and just like you had to!

As you further along the path,  perhaps what you can afford to be generous with will change.  Sometimes it won't.

Ultimately all of us - artists, career pursuit, dabblers - need to find out what we need, and find our own way and open our own doors.

So - let me change the question.  WHO can you afford to be generous with?

Ultimately the answer is YOU.  You can afford to be generous with YOURSELF!  When you allow for THIS reality, the others in your vision and along your path - and yes, even the ones who bump against you, or suddenly appear infront of you and want reassurance - will not be allowed to take from you.

Why?  You simply won't allow it.  You will recognize the difference between giving it away, and being generous of spirit.  You will know what to do - because YOU will be feeding yourself FIRST.

You can't take anybody with you on this path.  We are all responsible for our own.  We meet others along the way - we glean knowledge and understanding - or not.  We either discover and root ourselves and find real craft and real discipline and real art, or we dabble.

It is up to each of us to KNOW.

Discipline begins with SELF - Generosity is afforded only to those who recognize its pricelessness.

When we experience that pricelessness, we treat it with the respect it deserves.

Be generous with YOU.  Recognize the pricelessness of YOU.  DEVELOP YOU.

When your focus is clear, the others will not be able to sway you, suck your energy, or bother you.

This in itself, allows for a generosity of recognition.  You see yourself, and you see them!  Then you know what to do - or not do.

Be generous when you can, with what you can.  Don't give away anything that will leave you depleted.  The self needs nurturing and respect FIRST.

Leave each to his/her own discovery and path.  You are ONLY responsible for yours.  YOU walk through the doors that you are lead to;  YOU sit down when you are tired;  YOU take your path and discover it!

As you discover and claim - what you can afford will become clear.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Name vs Name-Brand

Sunday musings...

What's in a name?

Discovering and finding a teacher begins there.

A singer's needs, vocabulary,  knowledge and much more come into play as he/she contemplates WHO to study with.

We all begin as nobody.  We build reputations as teachers and our reputations begin to be passed on.  Our business - from academia to professional - relies heavily on word of mouth and reputation.

Thus, we are all "names".  The "name" circulates.  Singers hear it, recognize it, and explore it.

We have all started with "I've never heard of you" - and move from there!  Teacher, singer, artist...

The Name-Brand is something else again.

The "Name" is a teacher who has a reputation that you believe might be a person you can develop with - as a singer, as an artist.  This is someone you could develop craft with;  learn the discipline of singing with;  grow as an artist.

The "Name-Brand" is a teacher who has a reputation for business.  It is a teacher who perhaps can allow you access to a door that will further your career within the business.

The danger for ANY singer, is not knowing where they are in their development.

The danger is for a singer to believe they are ready for something they are not.

The "Name" teacher AND the "Name-Brand" teachers' reputations lead.  HOWEVER, no matter WHO they know and what door they could possibly get you to - opening the door and walking through has NOTHING to do with anybody else but YOU THE SINGER.

Using the "Name Brand" of a school/a teacher/ et al can allow you an opportunity to be heard.  HOWEVER, then you have to sing.  Then you have to be READY TO BE HEARD.

The "Name-Brand" does not sing for you.  Nor does the "Name".


Can you develop as an artist AND develop a career? YOU BET!  Knowing the difference is key - and knowing when you are READY is imperative.

I know singers who move from "Name Brand" to "Name Brand" and are never heard.  The "Name Brand" teachers are not going to put their reputations nor their contacts in jeopardy for a singer who is not ready to walk through the door.

There are no free rides.  Your development technically and artistically is earned.  So is your place in this business - it is earned.  Nothing is handed to you without a cost.  Even if you are given an opportunity - YOU MUST FOLLOW THROUGH.

SO - where are you in your journey?  How do you find the teacher you NEED at this point?

As an undergrad or grad student, you are still building vocabulary and learning WHAT you need.  You ultimately need to find a teacher you can connect with and learn how to sing from!  Someone who will give you the solid basics without drama so you can begin to discover HOW TO SING.  Do you need a "name brand"?  Absolutely not!

You are not ready for a career.  You are needing to become a singer and develop and understand your instrument, and the artistry you have yet to claim.

As you emerge into a young artist, an emerging artist, a semi-professional artist, a full artist - your needs change.  What is necessary changes.  What you are building changes.

The same teacher will not mean the same thing to each singer.  The same teacher will respond differently to the singer at different points of discovery.  Different singers may go to the same teacher for completely different reasons, depending on what that teacher can offer!

As a singer - you need to pay attention.  You need to pay attention to what you NEED, what you see in other singers,  what you hear from other singers, what your research tells you.

Just because your friend studies with someone, doesn't mean that will be the right fit for you.  It IS a place to start - certainly!  If you have friends/colleagues who are developing and growing technically and artistically with a teacher, and that is what you want and need - perhaps it's someone to consider or consult with.

Going to a teacher cause you think it will be easy, that it will allow you something you don't have to work for - this is just wrong.  And ironically, the singer will be seen - and that singer's reputation will develop as such!

The other irony is just because a singer thinks they can get a free ride with a teacher, doesn't mean that teacher will have the time of day!  Or even if they make the time, they will never allow that singer the opportunity of their expertise/contacts.

Knowing WHY you study, and WHEN you study WITH WHOM is yet another self-knowledge that empowers us as singers.  It helps us discover WHO we are and WHY we are there in the first place.

Honesty of where we are, allows us an opportunity to grow.

I have heard "I need to study with a "name" - or - you aren't a big enough "name" for me to study with" - assumes the singer is good enough/smart enough/talented enough/developed enough to study with that "name" in the first place!!

Generally - the answer is already obvious.  NO - you need to learn to SING first.

The "Name" of a teacher is known - and perhaps you just don't know it!  That doesn't mean that teacher hasn't accomplished something, or hasn't anything to offer you!

I had a singer say to me during a consultation "Well, I would love to study with you, but I have never heard of you."  My answer:  "That's fine - because I would love to teach you, but I've never heard of you and you've never done anything.  My singers are DOING something."

She blinked.  Of course, I made my point.  And to clarify - my singers DO things everyday - they PURSUE THEIR CRAFT, THEIR ARTISTRY AND THEIR CAREERS!

The "Name" of a teacher gets you to the door of their studio.  YOU must prove to them that you know why you are there.

The "Name Brand" of a teacher gets you to a certain door of your career.  YOU must prove you can actually open the door, walk over the threshold and deliver.

Know where you are.  Know why you are there.  Know how to ask the questions that will get you the information you need.  And simply know how to process the information to discover the knowledge you desire.

NAME or NAME BRAND.  We all need to do the work.  To discover and to develop.

Reputations proceed - and they proceed from the ACTION OF DOING.

Just as a teacher is responsible, so is the singer.  The collaboration is NECESSARY.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Letter to Undergrads and Grad School Singers PART 2

Dear Singers,

This is my second letter to you.

Is this you?

You the singer and developing artist who realizes nothing is handed to you, who realizes and is willing to do the work to at least get a chance?

I want to acknowledge you!

Yes my part 1 letter was harsh. But it was necessary!! By the number of requests to print it and post it on the studio door from all over the world sadly proves that there are many singers that don't get it.

To you young singers who DO get it and work hard for it - I am thrilled you are out there!

Artistry is not something to expect or something you can buy. Being an artist requires time, dedication, and work and determination!

To you young singers who recognize this and go after it - we welcome you!!

Those of us who go before you want to help you, nurture you, encourage you, mentor you.

Why? Because you do not expect to be spoon fed! You expect to work hard!

Whether you get a scholarship because you earned it, or have to take out loans, or carry 2 part-time jobs - you understand the true meaning of value.  Worth.  Cost and sacrifice of worth.

The value of learning, the value of pursuit of excellence, the value of asking questions and the quest for knowledge and being better than your previous self!

You walk in with respect for the process. You walk in pliable, willing to learn, knowing you don't know everything.

Your expectation begins with self. You require no motivation but self. You do not take energy but learn to share energy with your teachers and coaches and pianists in order to develop true relationships of collaborative learning.

You aren't afraid to ask questions. You get respect because you give it. You know the difference between expectation and entitlement. You know what real work could afford you!

You pay attention. You are an example. You make a place for yourself that is real.

Your expecation is to be in this for the long haul - and know you need to earn your place in the business.

You are  accessible, determined and clearly motivated!

You stand up for the truth. You question what is false. You commit to your journey and all the twists and turns along the way.

Yes, you will have hard days: yes, there will be days you wonder why; yes, some of your peers may drive you nuts and give a bad reputation to the singer; But YOU dear singer have the power to rise above that and learn and share and grow and be a human being that is a beacon of hope and reality in this business of singing.

You will be an example to follow; you will be a leader by example.

Your actions and how you choose to treat your craft, your discipline and the relationships you forge in the process will proceed you and make you the developing artist people want to be around!

Do not get discouraged for long! YOU make a bigger difference than you may ever truly understand! And, at the end of the day - who stands is the one who has truth to share.

Know that can be you.

Sing because you WANT it and because you MEAN it.

We will want to hear YOU!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Letter: Important information for Singers in Undergrad and Grad School!

It has to be a 2 blog entry day....

This one comes in the form of a letter.

Dear Singers in Undergrad and Grad Programs:

You may not think you are entitled, but chances are many of you are.

I am hearing - and have been witness to over my many years in this business in the "hallowed halls" of "higher learning" (BOTH ridiculous - but that's something else isn't it?!)  about this outrageous sense of entitlement that inflicts upon real progress.

Not you?  Really?  Great, still read, cause I can guarantee you, you know someone JUST LIKE IT! Please, pass it on!

School is not real life.  Not even close!

NOBODY gets a free ride in real life. NO BOD Y.

You might have your tuition paid for, or a full scholarship...congratulations.  

It means NOTHING.  Maybe you have no debt when you leave school.  That's great.  But it doesn't give you talent, a work ethic, a sense of responsibility or a career.  You have to EARN those things and CLAIM those things.

How you develop and nurture the relationships during school, how you develop and nurture your talent and your craft, and how you treat others around you WILL follow you when you leave school.

If you EXPECT a career - you may be for a jolt of reality!  Your expectations, your sense of entitlement,  your wishes - just don't always come out the way you thought they would.

It's called REAL LIFE.

If you have had a free ride in your degree - how fabulous!  But guess what?  There are still things that need to be respected and paid for.  Like what?  Well, let's start with your PIANIST.  They are an important and essential part of your university experience.  They need to be paid, they need to be respected. 

Often the singers that complain the loudest and show the least amount of respect, are compensating for a lack of talent, ability, work ethic or maturity.

A REAL singer - who has a sense of what a singer NEEDS and how the team around them needs to be treated, would never be so disrespectful.

If you have behaved this way - SHAME ON YOU.  You have NO BUSINESS pursuing a career if you cannot give the kind of respect you EXPECT in return.

Your behavior will not just follow you - it often proceeds you.  For a very long time.  You may think you are the sun and the moon and the stars, but actually you are barely embryonic in development. 

How you treat your peers, your colleagues, your professors and your pianists will not be forgotten.  If your attitude and entitlement is larger than your talent (and it usually is) you are the fool.  You are the one who doesn't see how absolutely ridiculous you look - but everybody else sees it, talks about it, and spreads the word!

If you want to be in this business, you need to recognize NOW that people's TIME is valuable.  You will NEVER have enough money to pay for their expertise - an elusive intangible.  So - you pay them for their TIME.  This means teachers, coaches, pianists.  They are not there for your beck and call;  they are building a career and making a living.  YOU NEED THEM.  RESPECT THEM.

Finding out what others need allows for a mutual respect.

Your parents might think you are MARVELLOUS.  Perhaps you are - but you aren't the ONLY marvellous out there.  You will find there are MANY just as talented as you - and often MANY MORE who are MORE talented!!  


If you get a free ride - respect what you need to DO to HONOUR that ride!  Pay with grace and thanks for a pianist/coach who will take you through your paces and support you in those recitals that are marked!!!  Acknowledge with respect the POSITION your teacher holds; and if you are not a match, quit the drama and find a better match!

None of these people are yours.  They are not available 24/7 and in an emergency.  However, they may be more inclined to be available easily if YOU treat them the way they want to be treated.

Quit complaining, quit whining, and quit thinking you are so hard done by!

You are in SCHOOL.  The real world won't have the time of day for you with that attitude and all that noise!  No one is going to change FOR YOU.  You need to recognize and DO THE WORK and find out what the business is about in order to find a way in.  You will not change anything.  There are no shortcuts, secrets or tricks.

It's called hard work,  time, dedication, motivation, respect and discovering value of worth - of yourself and everybody around you.

No one cares if you had a full scholarship.  You were lucky.  So take that opportunity and do something positive with it!

Learn how to work with people well - how to study - how to practice - how to discover - how to approach - how to LIVE.

School isn't forever, and the real world will either welcome you - or kick your ass.  Whether you are ready or not - cannot be pushed on anybody.  This is ALL YOURS.

Good luck and figure it out - or you'll be told where the door is,

Part 2: Acting for Opera Singers! Being expressive is NOT Acting!

Wednesday musings...

An opera student was confused by this statement this week and asked me to elaborate...

Thus, part 2 of acting for opera singers...

Overall - being a singer of ANY genre requires a multitude of layers and complexities to discover behavioral techniques in every aspect of what it means to SING and be on stage!  Voice, musicianship, and acting behavior.

Having a physically balanced and resonate vocal instrument does not assume a singer sings musically or expressively;  the instrument itself can sing the notes well but not be musical at all!  A voice can be musical but not be expressive - it can be pretty and have nothing to say!  And just because you gesture or pretend to "feel" the character, doesn't mean you are acting!!!!

Each technique has its behavior, and each behavior must integrate with the other to create a multi-dimensional and complex reality that shows no technique.  We can work on each simultaneously - with our focus moving from one to the other over time in order to integrate more thoroughly.

Each level of creating a multi-dimensional technique demands attention, awareness and skill.

You may love your music, but it doesn't make you musical.  You may be innately expressive, but it doesn't mean  your voice functions in a way to carry that expression.

And then the acting....

Expression comes from musicality.  Musicality is brought to higher relief with the KNOWLEDGE of what informs it.  The musicianship skills and technique of language, of articulation, of shaping, of style, or genre...expression comes from the music and the instruction therein.  It comes from the style and the form and evoking of that style and form.  It creates with the combination of knowledge and execution of style and musicianship.

This is not acting.

Acting allows for the knowledge of expression, but it is another level entirely.  In opera, or any musical genre, the music helps to create a layer of character - but it isn't the character itself.

Building a fully dimensional character means ALL aspects of technical behavior are developing...

Waiting to have one in place until you address the other simply cannot happen.  You can allow for overlap!!!  Otherwise, there is no place to integrate!!

Acting is DOING.  Doing is not feeling.  You do not "do" an emotion.  You "do" an action.

Action is how you allow your audience to feel.  You EVOKE from your action.  The security of your technique,  and expressiveness of your musicality will have even more authenticity if the character you create takes ACTION and is not passive and simply isn't  FEELING!

So - take yourself through some simple it's not easy.  If it were easy, everybody could do it!!! And even though many think they CAN, few have the craft!

WHO is your character?  WHY is your character?  WHAT is your character?  (nothing "expressive" about this is there?)

WHY the aria you are singing? What's the point?  What conflict does it create?  Does it resolve?  Does it continue?  Does it continue the plot?  Does it reinforce something?  Does it promote something?  Does it foreshadow something?  Does it give another knowledge of something?  What is it there for?

What happens AFTER the aria?  Why?

So, to get from A to B - there needs to be action!

What journey do you need to take your audience on?  What emotions do you wish to evoke in them?  How often do they need to shift or change?  Is your audience directly involved in this journey, or indirectly via another character, an internal conflict,  what?

Begin creating ACTION words for yourself - and the beauty is that they can have nothing to do with anything!  They need to be STRONG and not passive.  They need a PHYSICALITY!

"I want to be loving" a singer once told me;  well how does the character "DO" "LOVE"????

"passion?" was the confused answer.  And me " How do you "do" Passion?"

"Well, I could TASTE him", she responded suddenly and everybody laughed.

I said "DO IT - TASTE him with your breath, with your intention - through the ENTIRE first section".

She did.  It was incredible.  Everybody in the audience felt like a voyeur and loved it!  Her action brought her voice, her subtext, her expression in the relief of ACTING.  We suddenly experienced a CHARACTER and a level of subtext that transported us so we didn't SEE technique of ANY kind.

This, my gentle snowflakes, is the beginning of the discovery of acting.  THE DOING.  The doing creates the wonderful theatrical mystery that makes it seem as if the character is experiencing every emotion that you, the audience is.

Layer it, fill it, discover it - ALL.  One cannot be enough.  No it's not easy.  Yes it takes time.

Theatre isn't about chicken shit.  Theatre is about recognizing truth, committing to it and claiming it!  YOU HAVE TO TAKE ACTION AND GET IT YOURSELF.

Having a pretty sound isn't enough;  being expressive or musical isn't enough;  being an actor isn't enough;  ALL of it is necessary!  ALL of it is accessible by allowing it to integrate and develop together...

You don't put an outfit together by wearing one piece at a time - you need the outfit in all its parts at the SAME time, or it simply isn't an outfit.


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Acting for Opera Singers

Sunday musings...

I offered my "pay what you can" Dramatic Coaching for Opera Singers yesterday.

I do work with Opera Singers regularly on this, as well as teach and coach.  Growing up in the theatre allowed me to learn some amazing skills that I have been able to put into my teaching overall.

It was a solid and inspiring day.

No, you aren't going to learn how to act from reading a blog - just like you aren't going to learn how to sing!!!  Learning is DOING!

However, I thought I would share  few things that could perhaps get you thinking about how you approach  the multi-craft/discipline of the theatrical process.

Opera IS theatre.

Every aspect of the craft - utilizes the music, the breath, the body, the imagination.

Vocal technique/behavior utilizes this, and so does dramatic intention/behavior!

The magic of theatre is not to feel - but rather, to evoke the feeling from the audience.

Great actors DO, they do not FEEL.  They allow us to feel and respond.  THIS is what truly crosses the footlights to create the magic and the mystery of a theatrical experience that changes you.

The multi-dimension of dramatic intentions in opera should be an enhancement of your craft - not a detraction!

What are you trying to DO?  It doesn't matter how you feel!

Often we try to make it much more complicated than it needs to be!  The complexity is revealed when we release the FEELING and recognize the action within the process.

Complexity is not the same as being complicated! Do not confuse the two!

The action and "doing" is to evoke, and cause a RESPONSE.  The action is NOT passive.  It releases, moves past, moves through.  It intensifies through DOING.  It creates the dramatic tension and release through the complexity of action in subtext, and in the music itself.

Action allows for reflection.  Reflection creates yet another response.  And so on...

Dramatic intention is an internal ignition and response to an ACTION, not a feeling.

Dramatic intention is NOT "walk to the left" "look out the window" "move my left arm"  "gesture now".   These might be motivated by intention, and will only become real if motivated from an action and a reason.  Otherwise, they are inadequate ridiculousness put on from the outside to PRETEND ACTING.

Opera singers MUST CLAIM they are in theatre!!!!  Opera is a theatrical device!!!!  The voice acts too!!!  Opera isn't pretend acting.  Opera must be claimed as the theatrical intensity that it is.

You cannot just learn how to sing and not claim the actor you must be.  That does not serve the artistic form fully.

Even if you choose to park and honk - you must inform the park AND the honk.  It cannot be passive! It must be active!

For everything there is a reason,  and a reason for doing.

Time to claim all of your craft - not just the obvious.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Assumptions in the Studio

Friday musings...

A colleague of mine was discussing with me an issue he had been dealing with this week.  I thought it was something very worthwhile to bring up here.

What assumptions do singers make as would-be clientele of a studio?

Should assumptions be made?

What assumptions do teachers make?

I say I try not to make assumptions, but being human, I often fail in this regard.  I have ASSUMED that once my studio policies are given out that a singer actually reads and acknowledges them (not all the time). I have ASSUMED that because I value my time, a singer would (not all the time).  I have ASSUMED that since a singer has made a commitment to study with me that they value my expertise (not all the time).

First time, shame on them, 2nd time, shame on me - 3rd time: there's the door, don't let it hit you on your butt on the way out!

The primary assumption that was discussed this week was that of a complimentary consultation or "first lesson".


It shouldn't be.

Why?  It is an investment of time, enquiry and development - from both the singer and the teacher.  It involves both parties intimately.  You are DOING something, you aren't observing something.  You are partaking of someone's knowledge and expertise as it pertains to YOU and your craft.

Auditing a class is sometimes complimentary, because you are not an ACTIVE party.  And simply, there are others in the class that are already paying for it.  They pay more because they are DOING something in the class and it is for them.

To assume this in a private studio is egregious behavior.  No one dictates the business policies of a professional teacher but that teacher.  If you don't like it - find somebody else!

Education and the task of discovering teachers and classes and coaches is an INVESTMENT.  Yes it takes TIME, yes it takes INVESTIGATION, yes it takes MONEY.  It takes your COMMITMENT to find what you need.

Consultations are VERY important.  It allows for assessment, discussion, work and discovery by both the singer AND the teacher.  It gives an opportunity to find out whether this will be a worthwhile match.

I have paid for consultations and recognized I paid to find out that that particular teacher was someone I would not be going back to.  Ever.   It was an investment in KNOWLEDGE.


It allows for a slice of truth before you commit.

And simply, if the teacher is making time for you - this is their profession!  They are paid for their TIME.  Why should they give their time away to someone they have no history with and do not know?

Sadly, I have known singers over the years who try to "get the freebie" and never go back - they just wander from class to class/teacher to teacher to get freebies and one-time offers - thinking this method is going to illuminate them!!!  WRONG.

What it does is expose them for what they are: cheap and uninspired and leaches.

As a singer working with a private teacher or coach, you should always be offered a consultation first.  If a teacher or coach doesn't do this (for a fee) and expects you simply to "sign up" that is a red flag.

You cannot begin something untested.  This is just not a good idea.  Even if the teacher is highly recommended and works well for many - it might not be a good fit for the two of you!

Singers, do not apologize for asking for the details of the studio policy! And teachers, do not apologize for having one!

I have learned, after many years of doing this,  that if a singer has the audacity/stupidity/nerve - call it what you will - to ASSUME in conversation or an email or voice mail that the consultation is complimentary - that I am not there to educate them in decorum.  Good luck with your teacher search.

If you are assuming a freebie, I don't respond well to those ethics from the get-go and we might not be a good match anyway.

I have often worked out specials for ongoing singers who study with me long term and refer singers to me.  The breaks come when a relationship is established and an acknowledgement is made!  But again, that is MY studio and how I run it.

There has to be a respect for any teacher's decision to run their studio as they run it.  To assume anything else is unprofessional.  If you don't like it - find another teacher.

Teachers, you don't need to try to explain your reasoning either.  These are the policies, these are the fees, simple and outright.  What's not to understand?

Someone will always try to work you - and then you decide.  I have learned the sooner you recognize being worked the quicker you can eliminate the problem!

Assume NOTHING.  Just as you, the singer may know little about the teacher you are wanting to consult with, so that teacher knows little to nothing about you.  Pay them for their time.  RESPECT THEM.  If they are true teachers, they will respect you in return, and if a relationship can be forged, it has started with MUTUAL respect.

A mutual respect,  an open mind and a desire to discover can allow for many wonderful possibilities in the studio between teacher and singer!

If your initial email to a potential teacher is "and can I expect a complimentary consultation?"  you have been seen.  Clearly.  And you may not get much of an answer back.  And, your reputation will proceed you!! (remember, our business is rather small...)

If your initial email contains "what could I expect in an initial consultation and what is your fee?" then THAT respect will be graciously acknowledged with a response and if the teacher has space, a time if you are able to pay that fee!

Imagine it!

Yes it costs - ALL of us.  Is the cost worthwhile?  Only you can decide that.  But then that begs another question - why are you here in the first place?  If all you want is 'free', why bother?


There is a cost.  But there is an even larger VALUE.  What matters more to you?  Only you can decide that, and act accordingly.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

When are you Ready for Dramatic Coaching?

It's a two blog entry day...

A singer emailed me to thank me for offering dramatic coaching for opera singers, but said she was working on her technique right now and was not ready for dramatic coaching.

I had an "a-ha!" moment with this email!  This is part of the problem in opera!!!

Why must things be separated so vehemently?  Why wouldn't the integration of "techniques" (yes, acting has technique too) instead of separating them be encouraged?

Yes, I hear the argument:  "I have too much to think about just to get my voice aligned."  Okay, I get that. But that's not my point.

Technique is behavior.  Of EVERY kind.  Therefore, the ability to create behavior from any given direction and allow it to suggest a way into ANOTHER technique or behavior has to develop in order to find a truth and a reality in that behavior.

Yes, read that again.

Sometimes, working on the dramatic intention, the physicality of that intention,  the use of breath and language,  the DOING of a character's motivation can actually ENHANCE your voice and find a way to access a portion of your voice in a way "working on technique" will not allow.

Why?  It gives it an organic reason for BEING there.

We all know the response to opera singers and their acting.  An "acting opera singer" causes most to roll their eyes, or take a slow drink.  Why? Because we do not see any integration.

However, there are many opera singers who truly understand what opera is from a theatrical standpoint and have discovered the integration of behavior.

As with any great technique - your audience should be conscious of none.  We shouldn't be observing TECHNIQUE of ANY kind - or lack of it.

Just as vocal behavior needs depth and breadth, so does the dramatic information.

The voice doesn't need to be "perfect" (?!) to then say "Now I am ready to develop a character".

Character is developed THROUGH the voice, by the breath, in the body.  Isn't that singing?

Why must we hang onto the notion the we need to wait to discover this?

This is precisely why so many opera singers look "put on" dramatically: because that is precisely what they've done.  They have not developed a thoroughness through voice/breath/body with the character and instead have just literally tried to do something to look like acting.  I have seen this too many times.

When a true acting singer/singing actor achieves the integration and organic release of a character multi-dimensionally, we EXPERIENCE that character.  We don't say "doesn't she have great technique" - we are moved.  We are changed.

Singers do not have to wait to begin to experience this when the language is perfect, and the phrases are completely balanced.  Why? Because the dramatic intention you discover as an ACTOR may inform how you shape that phrase differently.  The ACTOR self may find intention for a different colour choice or a different breath subtext,  a different body stance, a different movement or gesture that articulates the CHARACTER and actually ENHANCES the vocal behavior.

Acting honestly does not take away from the vocal prowess!!!! In fact, acting honestly and truthfully can enhance the vocal prowess and put it in higher relief without boring the audience to tears.

Understanding what acting COULD BE for the opera singer is paramount in taking the art form to a higher level of execution and at the same time, making it more accessible to the listener and the watcher and the theatre goer.

If it's just about beautiful sound, then we wouldn't be on stage would we?

This sadly is not encouraged at the ground level - in the undergraduate schools.  There are very few schools that offer ANY acting classes/movement classes or stagecraft classes that have an ongoing development.  IT NEEDS TO BE.

But, we can't acknowledge this, and then still complain and not do anything about it!

If you are going to be a singer, and are pursuing opera, you are in the theatre.  You have a responsibility to yourself and the art form, to discover the totality of this, and be aware you do not have to wait for your voice to be ready before you discover your dramatic chops!

Breath, body, voice, movement - are needed in ALL things theatrical.  Begin there.  Develop the aria from all angles - all behaviors - vocal, physical, mental, emotional, dramatic, character, - and don't wait!!!  Know one will inform another!

Discovering a dramatic capability might, heaven forbid, allow you access to your vocal technique in a way you couldn't have discovered it before!!

So when are you ready for dramatic coaching?  How about YESTERDAY??????

I'm Waiting for my "A-ha!" Moment!

Wednesday musings...

I heard this statement this week and nearly choked on my coffee...

Why?  Because it was sincere in a very lost sort of way.  Sad really.

There are so many things wrong with this statement and this thinking.

First, you don't wait - you DO.

A statement like this shows a level of lack of awareness and reality.

The "a-ha" happens while one discovers.   Discovery happens by doing.  Doing requires work and dedication and self-awareness and passion and dedication.

Sometimes the "a-ha" hits you at a time when you are resting FROM doing.  The settling point, the still point.

It is NOT from the lazy point!!! It is NOT from the "I don't work on my craft/my technique/my voice/my artistry" point.

Perhaps your "a-ha" moment should be strong kick in the ass!

True "a-ha" moments are based on KNOWLEDGE and connecting the dots because you have dots to connect!!

The truth only sets you free, when you discover what the truth IS!!!!

I am amazed at the laziness and entitled nature of so many who call themselves "emerging artists".  Again I say, if everybody is an artist then nobody is.

Waiting for your "a-ha" moment and doing NOTHING to build your craft, is useless.  It is a futile exercise that is doing nothing but masking the truth from yourself!!!!

"A-ha" comes from DISCOVERING SELF!!!!  It is the WORK ITSELF that uncovers the "a-ha"!

"Waiting" defeats the purpose of this moment.  "Waiting" is passive.  Artistry is NOT passive.  Artistry is not pretend.  Artistry is DEFINING and DISCOVERING and FRUSTRATING and EXHILARATING!!!!

The "a-ha" often hits at times you least expect it! Not because you are waiting for it - but precisely because you are NOT!!!!

This is why it is an "a-ha"!  It is that unexpected, delightful and sudden sight of what has been there and not seen til now.

You cannot see what you do not nurture, or discover.  You cannot claim what you do not own.  You cannot own what you haven't earned and worked for.

So, leave the pretend aside.  Quit hiding.  Quit the entitled and "poor me" syndrome.

"A-HA"  is ACTIVE!!!!  If you wait for it, you'll never see it.

ONLY YOU are responsible for that active willingness to discover YOU.

And if you choose not to be responsible to find it - you are responsible for that too.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Are You Happy?

Monday musings...

Yes, those of you who know me well are laughing - happy isn't a usual "Susan" word!

So replace it!  Are you content?  Are you fulfilled?  Are you doing what you are meant to?

Even if you aren't getting jobs regularly,  are you fulfilled with your pursuit?

Are you finding a sense of fulfillment with your development and your discovery of self?

Are you content with how your life is developing?  Or are you disgusted, low, negative and wondering why?

Only YOU can create the contented life.  There are many who work regularly and are still not content.

Work does not equal a fulfilled life.

What would make you content?  Are you sure?

Finding a sense of self comes not from a job or a definition from the outside, but rather, from you.

If you are discontent, depressed, fatigued, overwhelmed, unhappy, angry - it is time to re-evaluate why you pursue what you say you are pursuing, and for whom.

Do you feel you have to prove something?  Why? To whom?

Does this make sense and is it fair?

Are your expectations larger than reality?  Why?

Often, we become so "goal-oriented"  (and that varies from person to person) that we lose sight of where we are and how we are growing, or if we are at all.  If it isn't "audition season" we don't see the point.

How sad.  This isn't artistry.  I am not sure what it is, but I see it more times than I wish to.

So many who are singularly "goal-oriented"  lose focus.  Ironic isn't it?  If I'm not getting work, why would I work at it?

This makes me sad.  I see so many in our business lost - even some who are working.

Just because you are working, doesn't promise contentment either.

What makes you feel good?  What gives you energy?  What motivates you?  What makes you smile or even makes you energy change for the positive?

No answer is stupid or dumb.  If we call ourselves artists or performers, we need to find energy, contentment, rejuvenation, fulfillment,  progress!!!  We cannot get stuck in the mire of a goal-oriented repeat!!!  What happens when you reach that goal, if you haven't enjoyed and learned and grown along the way?  The goal becomes a fatigue too.

Where's the pressure coming from?


What demands are there?

So why pursue a career in this business????

If you refuse (because it IS a choice) to claim your journey and refuse to find fulfillment,  why would you want to perform?  Isn't that just a job again?

We need to start asking those hard questions of simply WHY we are where we are.

I am amazed at the often narrow-minded and single-minded goal-oriented mindset - that is lacking artistry, possibility or LIFE!!!!  Only preparing the bare-minimum.  Only working on the craft to get a job - and then wondering why they didn't get one.

Learning 16 bar cuts, taking lessons to get a job, finding your 5 arias and jumping the hoops - this is not artistry.  This is discovering a life in the business of show.  This is not being a performer.

True performers LOVE to perform.  True artists LOVE to create.

The fulfillment comes in the DISCOVERY and the DEVELOPMENT of PASSION.

Goal-orientation in and of itself is not a negative thing - if it is filled with PASSION and IMAGINATION and EXCITEMENT!!!

Are you passionate about ANYTHING?  Or are you scared to be?  Why?

If you are not passionate about SOMETHING,  it is very difficult to discover fulfillment in any way.

Passion fuels movement as an artist and as a performer.  Passion fuels desire.  Desire gives energy.  Energy motivates.

Do you have any of these things?  Have you lost them or left them somewhere?  Have you forgotten why you are where you are?  Are you lost?  Or are you simply in the wrong place?

If you decide music/acting/performing/dancing et al doesn't excite you, if you are not passionate about it, if the pursuit and the DOING does nothing for you - may I suggest it's time to discover something that DOES!

If you aren't probably isn't the journey for you.

Your goal is to find your PASSION.  Then and only then, can you truly be fulfilled.  Is that happy? Well, that's up to you!

If you can't laugh every day -  it's time to find a way to do that.

If you've simply misplaced your passion, it's time to find it and claim it again and not let go!!!

Passion and fulfilled passion isn't about the job.  It's the journey to the job, around the job, in spite of the job (!!), and past the job!  It's the discovery of YOU and what you are capable of doing - and creating - and developing - and what you are willing to do to keep the passion alive at all times.

Even when you are angry, or frustrated - is it fueled by passion??? Or is it fueled by negativity?  Passion keeps you going; Negativity burns you out.

So, my question now changes:  It's more "Susan" anyway...

Are you Passionate?  Or are you just Pretending?

Only you can truly answer that...

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Audition "types"

Sunday musings...

This is by no means a complete nor exhaustive list but here are several audition "types" we see in the audition room/hallway.

If you see yourself in any of these, or even a little bit - perhaps it's time to re-assess...these "types" are not winning friends and influencing people, so if you are pursuing them, time to change direction! Often they morph into 2 or even 3 audition "types" which gets very interesting.

I think everybody who auditions needs to sit on the other side of the table and OBSERVE what happens in the room from another perspective. It can be eye-opening in so many ways!!!

Just some ideas...

1. The "Perky Princess": this one has such an over-stretched smiled on his/her face that it makes MY face hurt. If I look closely, the face is smiling, but the eyes are not. Often, the language is clipped and over-rehearsed, and the perky auditioner doesn't listen, but instead, jumps in too quickly, and often interrupts. Everything is one gear - jumpy and perky and almost cheerleader-like. The energy is higher than red bull and just as empty. This is a fatiguing energy and the audition is usually less-than-dimensional.

2. The "I Don't Give a Shit": this one looks bored. This one is trying to be cool and collected, but actually comes across with lack of energy and motivation. The eyes are vacant, the body energy is fallen, and simply they look like they would rather be anywhere else but in that audition room. The audition is simply taking up too much of their time. They don't speak, but often use monotone syllables if asked a question. There just isn't any energy in this auditioner, and even if they are prepared, the panel wouldn't know because the motivation just doesn't walk in. There is no commitment to the space.

3. The "Attitude": this one sucks the energy out of the room. He/She has a hardness about them - that is accusatory and demanding. Their use of language is full of attitude, bitterness, and almost anger. If asked a question, the answer is almost laughed out and scorned. Body language is defensive. There is nothing warm and fuzzy or accessible with the "attitude" auditioner. They might be talented, but who wants to keep them around long enough to find out? The room needs to be cleansed after they audition, because the negative ions linger...The "attitude" creates a huge gap between themselves and the audition panel. You wouldn't want to even shake their hand or even thank them for auditioning. Please, just get out.

4. The "Apologetic": this one is trying so hard, they think if they apologize for everything, it'll show they can be accessible. Apology isn't accessible. The body energy is sunken. There is hesitancy is presentation and language. They are wall-flowerish and ask permission with every level of being. And then apologize for asking permission. They don't take the room, they don't anchor, they don't meet your eye, they just say sorry alot.

5. The "Excuse" Baby: this audition begins with an excuse. I have a cold, allergies; I worked a late shift last night; I haven't had a lot of time to prepare this cut...I got a paper cut, my cords are tired today...and on and on. The excuse comes out before their name! When asked a question, it is answered with an excuse. These auditioners tend to sabotage their auditions over and over due to the excuse answer.

6. The "Jazz Hands": this is perky times 900!!! This is the phony auditioner - trying too hard, no depth, everything is loud, I can do everything, yes, just ask me - 5 pirouettes? Sure! Hamlet at 17? Absolutely! I can do ANYTHING and EVERYTHING - just ask me!!! And the audition is the SAME every time. One dimensional and phony. Everything is put on, and not developed from an internal source. These auditioners are exhausting because in 30 seconds they want you to know EVERYTHING they think they can do better than everyone else. You try to give them direction, and they just do it exactly the same way - and then look at you with the wide eyes and say "better right?"

7. The "Intimidator": this one oozes attitude, and rudeness time 900. She/he tries to intimidate the audition table and the hallway! He/she tries to make it a reality that YOU are wasting HER/HIS time...The attitude is generally much larger than the talent. Makes you wonder why they are there at all...

8. The "Slacker": this one is late/unprepared/in a turmoil in the hallway and in the audition room. He/she is stapling/cutting/pasting while walking in; can't find the cut she/he says she's going to sing; There is just chaos and unprofessionalism wrapped around him/her! Nothing is ready or accessible - from the resume to the music to the preparedness of the music and character. Thinks he/she can just walk in and do it - with no real preparation.

9. The "Blamer": this one blames everything on everybody else. It's the pianist's fault, the monitor's fault, the cab driver's fault, Kinko's fault; They don't make "excuses" they just distribute blame in the hallway and in the audition room and then in the hallway again while leaving...never could be their own fault. Always deflects to everybody else.

10. The "Pleaser": will always ask what YOU want and never take ownership. They want to do the right thing, but often overwhelm themselves and never claim their audition because they are so worried about pleasing EVERYBODY they forget it is their audition! They end up trying to please instead of doing the work. The audition becomes confused and overwhelming. Trying to please causes doing too much and not having a clear focus. They try way too hard. They second guess themselves. They try to read your mind. They generally miss the mark.

11. The "Sabotager": this one works in the hallway -talking too much, saying too much, trying to throw off the people around her/him. The Sabotager is loud, arrogant, saying much but nothing. They pretend to know and are happy to share it in order to throw you off, not to help you. Don't get sucked in! If you hear loud speaking, overly loud laughter - stay far away from these ones. If they truly had something to offer in the audition room they wouldn't work so hard to eliminate their competition in the hallway. Leave these people to themselves. They love to hear themselves talk.

Now - these are just a few and several cross over! Sadly, they are very much alive and well.

Often, there is just a touch of it in an audition, although we do see the full-blown aspect too!

Do you see yourself? DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!!!!

Are you not sure? Ask someone who has seen you audition or knows your work...

Sometimes reality smarts - but I think the honesty is necessary in order to allow for a stronger and more anchored and more honest audition.

Your honesty, your ability, your preparation, your accessibility, your pliability are all part of who you are and how you work. This is so important for the panel to recognize in that audition! Your talent is only one portion of that audition!

Sometimes these "types" emerge due to nerves, due to fear, due to the unknown - so PRACTICE AUDITIONING!!!! You cannot assume it's easy. It is NOT. There is, if not an "art" to auditioning, definitely a "craft"!

Explore these types - add your own! Find out if you tend to lean toward any of these types, and work to find a balance of work/authenticity/pliability and personality.

BE REAL. Phony and desperation reads farther than you think.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

What Defines You?

Saturday musings...

This question came up this weekend and I thought I would ponder it here...

What defines you?

Is it a role? Your mix? Your high notes? Your look? Your dramatic chops? Your comedic timing? Your low notes? A style? A genre? A language? A composer?

When you find that definition, it feels like you are home. People say "of course!" and all feels well in the world.

But if you continue to stay dishonest, not enquire, delude, pretend, hide, make excuses, the definition of YOU because obscured, and often obliterated.

Are you finding a defining factor and building on that, or are you caught in a book of 16 bar cuts, or a confused set of audition arias that is lukewarm at best and desperate at worst?

What defines you NOW may not be what will define you eventually. However, NOW is what matters to allow for the journey to continue. Definition takes time, observation, decision, and a large dose of reality.

Accepting WHAT YOU HAVE is enlightening - not disappointing. If you know what you have, you can develop it to its fullest. It can truly be YOU - not a watered-down version of something else;

YOU ARE ENOUGH if you develop honesty, work ethic and purpose to find it and develop it fully.

Don't deceive yourself! Just because you can sing the notes, doesn't mean you can sing the role!
Just because you think you can belt, doesn't mean you ARE.

Just because...just because...doesn't make it reality nor will it define you positively.

If the definition of you has become negative or has turned against you - please please PLEASE stop right NOW and re-assess. If you are trying to do something that isn't you - whether it's technical, voice type, true ability, attitude - it is going to turn on you quickly and define you in the business in a way that often cannot be changed. Even if YOU change, that definition can follow you for years!

If there simply is NO definition - then you are swallowed by the room. You are not standing apart. You NEED to find that definition and lead with it!


what defines you needs development. Again, the potential of definition is only potential unless you are willing to develop it.

This requires honesty, work, and no excuses.

If you could be a fantastic Queen of the Night, then why not define yourself with that? Why would you NOT work on that and BE fantastic? If the Queen could define you, why wouldn't you do it?

If your mix is textural, pliable, balanced and is developing colour and intensity - why would you mimic somebody else when YOU could set the standard and definition of mix with YOUR voice?

If your dramatic intelligence is naturally available and deep - why would you pretend to dismiss it and just play "jazz hands"? Why wouldn't you develop it, claim it, and LEAD with it?

If your are okay at certain repertoire and shine in others - why wouldn't you let that SHINE come on through? Why can't we work on things that need work, and polish the innate beauty and possibility to definition?

Dismissing is just as unhealthy as dishonesty.

A singer recently said to me, after over-singing out of fach "But it SHOULD be work, I shouldn't be relaxed and comfortable. It should hurt."


Yes, it's work - dramatically, physically, emotionally, spiritually, psychologically, technically, - but once the work has been done, we DEFINE it with recognition!!

What's wrong with trying something on and letting it FIT?!?!?! Wear the size that FITS YOU!

Honesty and Definition walk hand in hand.

THIS takes work. Sometimes the answers are hard to deal with, but I promise you - the answers, once reconciled, will give you permission to DEFINE YOURSELF with ease!

If you can find definition and not wishful thinking, you are well on your way to discover where you need to be. Then it's a matter of discovering HOW to do that.

Don't get lost in hype, as there is no definition there.

Don't get wrapped in excuses, as there is no definition there.

Don't clock yourself in dishonesty, mimicking, pretending, as the definition is not yours.

Begin to discover your definition.

Where are you technically? What defines you here?

Where are you dramatically? What defines you here?

Where are you musically? What defines you here?

Where are you stylistically? Genre?

This is just the beginning of definition...

You will never be able to acknowledge the defining factor of YOU until you discover what YOU can do - honestly, without excuses.

If what defines you right now is confusion, excuses and whining - it's the perfect time to begin the real work.

If what defines you right now, scares you to death - it's the perfect time to release the fear.

If what defines you right now, makes you giggle or get excited, then perhaps you are on the right track!

Don't hide it - from yourself or from the rest of us. Claim the definition and release it!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Honesty in your voice

Friday musings...

Why are we so afraid of creating honesty in our voices?

What is honest sound?

In a "musical" world that is more about mimicking than truth, I can understand why honesty would scare most young artists. If you don't sound like somebody, you won't be taken seriously!

Good god. Did you really fall for that crap?!?!?

Just because some from the business side and reviewing side can't HEAR and have to type/compare, doesn't mean YOU cannot set a standard for yourself.

I have many singers who come into my studio who honestly don't know how they sound. They don't have a honest sound. Their voice is so imposed upon and "trying to sound like" that the REAL self is completely buried.

When I ask "who are you trying to sound like?" - they answer with a clarity: Lillias White, Bernadette Peters, Linda Eder, et al"

But guess what??? There is only ONE Lillias White, Bernadette Peters, Linda Eder...THEY created THEMSELVES through the honesty of their sound and no one can BE them but themselves.

Then if I ask "What do YOU sound like?" I might as well speak "klingon". It hasn't occurred to so many singers that sounding like YOU and developing that honest voice can be MORE than enough.

Do you know your voice? What does it do? How would you describe it without typing it or comparing it to another singer?

Why must you try to be something that you are not?

This seems prevalent in music theatre and opera! In opera those of you who try to be a fach you simply are not. Why? Why wouldn't you want to move into a vocal fach that you truly can develop, than pretend to be a fach you are not?

As a listener, we KNOW when a voice is honest. It is unique, it isn't pretending. There is a visceral to it. It delivers, it speaks truth. It doesn't mask itself. It is simply true.

We KNOW these honest voices. They exist. Then why do you singers chase THAT honesty and try to impose someone else's honesty on their own sound?

Why wouldn't you want your OWN honesty?

Honesty will create an initial vulnerability true, but the result of claiming the honesty of your voice will bring you POWER and KNOWLEDGE. It will ALLOW you to claim what you do well, and give you the confidence to pursue that truth.

Why isn't your honesty enough?

Mimicking is just a parlour trick. Nothing more. Trying to "do" someone else's voice is a trick - not a reality. Why would you spend all that time and energy trying to be something you are not when you could spend the same time and energy DISCOVERING THE TRUTH AND HONESTY OF YOU?!

OF COURSE you are worth it!!!

Is the lack of honesty simply a cop-out due to lack of confidence? Perhaps.

Is the lack of honesty a buy-in to the corporation of the business of singing imposed on singers from a dishonest place? Possibly.

If you are going to be a singer, or call yourself a singer - you have a responsibility to find the honesty of YOUR voice. Honesty takes guts. Do you have them? Honesty takes a self-recognition. Are you willing to do that? Honesty takes asking hard questions, and ANSWERING them through discovery, work, realization. Are you willing to commit to that?

Singing honestly isn't a trick. Singing honestly isn't pretending. Singing honestly isn't corporation.

However, singing honestly changes the game. Singing honestly exposes the mimicking. Singing honestly exposes the pretenders. Singing honestly creates a response that only honesty can create.

Do you want to stand as you, or do you want to be typed into a slot?

Do you want to sing with honesty and YOUR voice in order to create a standard of your own, or are you so entrenched in the corporate bottom line that you just going to become a cardboard cutout?

Why bother? Seriously!

If all you want to do is the minimal amount and never know what you are capable of, then there are many minimum wage jobs that require nothing more than a pulse and showing up.

Why sing?! If you want to sing, then why?!?!? Why wouldn't you want to create a true standard and a true honesty?

Dare to discover what you do/what you can do/what you are capable of doing. Dare to explore what YOUR voice provokes. YOUR honesty in tone and resonance and intention will evoke a true response.

Be known for YOUR voice, not for a type.

If there is no honesty in your voice - you will never be more than a type. Types can be hired or dismissed. They are not potent, nor are they memorable. They are disposable.

Honesty and individuality in your voice is one of a kind. It DEMANDS to be heard. It DEMANDS to be reckoned with. It is memorable. It is unforgettable. It is unique and it resonates further than an audition or a show. The honest voice has something to sing. EVERY time. It demands it.

If you are unwilling to discover that honesty, why sing?

Dare to be YOU, not a shadow or a reflection or a watered down version of someone else who has honesty. Why wouldn't you want your own?

Delight in that. And go get it.