Saturday, December 31, 2011

Career Consultations Available in 2012

Susan Eichhorn Voice Studio will be offering Career Consultations in 2012.

What is offered:

An informed and objective evaluation of your present state of development.

An opportunity to have access to other professionals in the field of your choice - be it opera, classical music, theatre, music theatre.

 Are you able to articulate and visualize your goals?

What else do you THINK you need to do to get closer to those goals?

Are you prepared for the business? Do you know what the business requires of you?

Have you accessed all you can to have a complete package to present?

Are you aware of short term vs long term goals?  Artistic vs business goals?

Are you being realistic about your goals? Why? What makes you think so?

Are you ready?  If not,  what do you need to DO to attain the next level?

This consultation will meet you where YOU are!

It will help you to re-evaluate where you are, and if need be,  make adjustments to your perceptions about YOU and your relationship to the business and about YOU and your relationship to your craft.

I work to help you to create more objectivity in the development of YOU as artist and YOU as business-person.

I work to help you find more definition in your goals,  more definition in where you are now,  more definition in where you hope to be.

We assess TOGETHER.  We discuss and create scenarios and  possibilities,  learn what is needed in study, business, and how to develop good instincts.  We begin to discover what can happen NOW and begin to uncover that reality  as it pertains to YOUR ability, YOUR development, YOUR talent and YOUR career.

These assessments will lead to what you reveal vocally, artistically, dramatically;

Are you presenting yourself in the best possible light? Do you know what you want? What is that?

Are you projecting what you really want to project?
If you are not, what do you think is getting in your way?
How do you remove road blocks honestly and truthfully to  reveal your own path?

You are unique.  We will address how to make that an asset.

Consultations are available in person through my New York City studio,  and via Skype for those out of town.

I will be offering Career Consultations in other cities in 2012.

For more information on fees,  availability and to book a consultation time,  please contact me via email: with your head shot and resume.

Friday, December 30, 2011

the conversation you have with your teacher

pre-New Year musings...

I cannot speak for all voice teachers.  I can only speak for myself. 

I can speak for myself as a teacher,  and as a singer and student of singing and what has gone on with my mentors and teachers I hold in the highest regard.

I talk a great deal about the conversation you need to have with yourself as an artist,  but we don't often speak of the conversation we have with our teachers and how we need to understand it.

We as artists, are in competition with our previous selves.  If the teacher understands competition, the conversation develops thus.  I know mine does.

As singers,  we cannot and should not interpret  "good work"  with "you are ready for Broadway" or "you are ready for the Met" or any other house or company or role you deem as something you would want.

I love seeing my singers get it!  I love seeing them develop, begin to put the pieces together,  discover their instruments,  claim their voices and find out their possibilities.

However,  in discovering these possibilities,  the conversation can be misunderstood.

No one can guarantee anything.  A teacher can render a professional opinion,  but their primary focus is to help you help yourself.  A teacher needs to be there to support your journey,  not give you a destination!  As a singer,  you need to be sure you are not misinterpreting what a teacher is saying during a lesson.

I believe in honesty.  I also believe in positive reinforcement.  However,  when I encourage, build up and motivate a singer it is from a place of discovery.  It is from a place of where were you, and where are you NOW?

"You have made significant progress"  cannot be translated to "I am ready to be a professional singer".  "You had a great lesson today"  does not mean you don't need more work!

See where I am going with this?  I love watching my singers leave the studio with a spring in their step when they know they are DOING the work,  they are developing their craft, and on a path to become a better SELF. 

The process of journey does not equal arrival,  nor does it equal desire.

A teacher can be honest and still be supportive and encouraging.  Supportive and encouraging to discover what needs to be done,  and also to remind you how far you have come.  It is so important to remind yourself of that.  Looking back doesn't mean dragging baggage - but often it is a reminder of the journey thus far:  that you HAVE developed,  and in what ways,  and you ARE developing and moving forward.

I encourage you to really ask questions,  and to really LISTEN to your conversation with your teacher.  Do not assume your translation is what that teacher said,  if you do not hear those exact words.  Words of encouragement,  words of specificity of what you are discovering and accomplishing cannot mean anything else but what is SAID.

What you WANT to hear isn't always what you NEED to hear.

Encouragement and reality is a balance we need to establish as teacher and singer in order to find the truth of YOU in your studies and in your pursuit of where you want to discover and what you want to discover.

Nobody can guarantee a career.  Nobody can guarantee a path.  There are no guarantees.  What you choose to pursue has to be your choice.  A teacher is there to help you discover your best self within your ability,  your development,  your natural endowments and your attributes and how you can find truth in technique,  in craft and in artistry. 

We aren't after perfection.   What is that anyway?  We aren't after disillusionment.  What is the point?  We are after TRUTH.  We are after REALITY.  We are after DEVELOPMENT as it relates to YOU. 

How you then relate that truth and reality and development and READINESS to the development and possibility of a career is up to how the business works. 

Do not confuse your conversation with your teacher in pursuit of vocal development with a conversation for business purposes.  These are simply not the same conversation and cannot be interchangeable.

So have those conversations with your teacher.  Listen to what they are SAYING and WHY.  Do not substitute anyone's judgement for your own,  but know who you are entrusting what to and what expertise you are standing in front of.

If you are not sure what the conversation is,  then pay closer attention.  Ask.  As a teacher,  we need to be honest and supportive.  As a singer, we need to be real and open to the answers we ask for.

The path still belongs to the singer.  The teacher is simply there to guide, illuminate and keep you on the straight and narrow.  You as singer still have a choice to participate with a real conversation, or let the new translation take over in your own head!

What is being said?  Why is it being said? Are you hearing?  Are you listening? 

It IS your choice.  To converse, to listen and to hear.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Why you study

happy holidays!

As we get closer to the new year,  and clear out the old and start fresh,  here's a quote I found today:

“A coach is someone who tells you what you don't want to hear, who has you see what you don't want to see, so you can be who you have always known you could be.” -- Tom Landry
This quote works for football,  but it is also so very relevant to singing and the study of voice.  A coach or  teacher can tell you these things and see you before you see yourself.
So my question to all of us as we approach the new year,  why do you study?  Have you discussed this with your coaches and teacher and team of professionals you trust? 
We all have different reasons for studying,  and study at different points in our careers and development.  Have you simply sat down to actually verbalize and codify WHY you study NOW?  
Often, the clearer we are about WHY we do what we do,  the more focused we become to discover what we need and how to achieve the goals we set for ourselves.  If we lose touch with WHY we often can get lost,  get confused,  get delusional,  create road blocks that do not exist,  become self-involved and full of excuses - and on and on.  We can give up,  get angry,  and sadly, often attract the WRONG people into our space that will say what we WANT to hear, not what we NEED to hear.
Perhaps as the new year approaches,  you sit down with yourself and answer "Why do I study?"  "Why do I want to study?"  as honestly as you can.  Or perhaps you should ask in some cases, "Should I study?"
If the answer is YES,  then WHY?  and if the answer is YES and you aren't - then WHY NOT?  
Often the first answer is "I can't afford it".  Cop out.  Sorry, but it is.  If you WANT to study,  if you know you NEED to study,  then you simply have to find a WAY to study.
It's not all or nothing.  Finding a teacher or a class that clearly is about craft,  to help you see what you NEED to in order to find and claim the BEST of yourself is not about signing your life away.  That used car salesman tactic of "sign up for 6 lessons now and pay upfront" is a red flag to me.  As an artist,  I am not looking for that.  I want to know I can study and LEARN,  and learn how to make that study LAST.  
True teaching teaches you how to teach yourself by revealing the truths you NEED.
If you can only afford and save for one lesson a month,  then find that teacher or that class that will hone in,  and WORK WITH YOU!  Yes, you might want to work more often, but it doesn't have to be all or nothing.  Find what you CAN do and work to be prepared,  work to find your answers between lessons,  so those lessons are FULL and give you much to think about and work with between!
If you do not know why you study,  why you want to study,  you aren't going to get out of lessons or classes what is truly possible whether you study weekly, biweekly, or once a month, or once every 6 weeks.  Knowing WHY is going to clear up so much in the misconception department if you are simply willing to do the work to get there.
If you've been on automatic pilot and your "why" isn't clear anymore,  chances are some riff-raff has found its way into your space to keep you confused, to keep you closed, to keep you unseeing.  Some of that riff-raff is self-created,  and some is literally people who pose as teachers or mentors or coaches who are truly not about anything but to keep the myth alive!
Once your "why" is clear,  you are able to clear and de-clutter your space and your reasons for doing.
Asking WHY means you are waiting for and in need of an answer.  It's a big question.   You are the one who needs to answer it - truthfully, honestly and without hesitation.  This then allows the coaches, teachers and mentors to enter your space and SEE you and work with you to see yourself.  That space isn't about the coach or teacher or mentor. That space is about YOU. 
Happy de-cluttering!


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Dear Students of Voice

If we are singing,  no matter the level we remain students of the discipline.

However,  this is specifically to you,  the student who is at the beginning of this journey.

The discipline of singing REQUIRES discipline.  That discipline has to come from YOU the singer.

There is a great deal of entitlement in our society these days.  However,  the expectation of having things done FOR you as a singer just doesn't fly.  You and ONLY YOU have to do the work. Nobody is going to cut up your food and feed you.  Those of you who expect that are simply in the wrong arena. 

Discipline comes from SELF.  It is guided by outside sources until you understand what is needed to get the work done yourself.

How can you honor that discipline and learn how to embrace it fully?


There is nothing more frustrating for a teacher than to take the time to create a written document with everything clearly set out and then have a student respond and ask for an exception; or to simply not read it and ask a question that is clearly communicated already; or to make a decision NOT to follow instructions and wonder why they are penalized; or to continue to be excuse-ridden and never do the work.

Now, don't misunderstand me.  Not all of you are like that.  In fact, many of you who read this blog are not!!  However, you have colleagues who are.  My suggestion:  if you think someone needs to read this - forward it through the holiday season!  It might allow them to have a moment of clarity!

5 basic principles to begin your study of voice DISCIPLINE.

1.  READ:  what are the instructions.  This is the recipe you have to follow.  If you try to change it, the end result will NOT be favorable.

2.  COMPREHEND:  what are the instructions SAYING?!  There is little to no room to re-interpret.  If a class requires you to be ready to sing a jury for marks and the music MUST be memorized, that doesn't mean you can have the score there!  If it says you MUST be there at XY o'clock to perform at AB o'clock,   then that's the discipline.  You can't re-adjust that.  Your entitlement doesn't exist in this arena.  Be there or fail.  Pretty simple.  Still your choice,  but the parameters are clear.  Comprehension skills don't need to interpret.

3.  FOLLOW INSTRUCTIONS:  what does the course require of you?  Again,  your actual existence in the world may be enough for your mother or father or grandparents, but if you are in school,  just being alive isn't getting you a passing grade!  The discipline of following instructions is a very simple process.  Do what you need to do to get the course!  If the process means the paper has to be X number of pages or more,  doing less doesn't win you points.  If the process says you need to sing 3 songs by memory and you sing 2 - you haven't followed the instructions and will be penalized.  You have no right to get holier than thou if you simply haven't followed the instructions. 

4.  MAKE NO EXCUSES:  but...I didn't know...and I thought if...

Excuses don't fly.  Period.  If you read, understood and followed direction,  there is no room for excuses.  Period.  If you have enough energy to create excuses you could have used that energy and done what was required in the first place. 

5.  DO THE WORK.  Imagine,  just following the instructions,  comprehend it, and getting to work and DOING THE WORK!!!  The requirement is doing the work.  Do the work to the best of your ability.  Part of the discipline of voice is the self-discipline of preparation and performance.  If you have chosen the discipline of singing as a course of study, then STUDY and do the work.  This is not a study that is for the faint of heart.  This is a course of study that requires focus,  concentration,  consistency,  specificity,  and detail.  There is no room for complacency. 

The study of voice will give you an opportunity to develop a work ethic that will serve you well throughout your life,  whether singing becomes a professional pursuit or not. 

It is called a discipline because that is what it requires.  If you don't discover and practice this discipline,  it will not suddenly appear.  Teachers and mentors can encourage and guide, but they cannot do the work for you.  That is up to you.  Your successes are then yours,  and so are your failures.  How you choose to explore and take on the discipline is up to you.  If the expectation is set out for you clearly and you choose not to respect that - you take the result.  Don't delude yourself into thinking it's someone else's fault.

Those singers who simply follow the instructions will begin to discover how to discipline,  how to explore the discipline and how to grow within the discipline.  The work will get done;  the comprehension will deepen;  the truth will be revealed and understood.


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Singers and Actors: how's your SPEAKING voice?

Sunday musings...

As singers,  we are often so focused on the singing voice,  we forget how connected and absolutely crucial a healthy speaking voice is!!

Singers are not the only ones who neglect this part of their instrument.  Ironically, many "actors" do too.  I use "actors" as so many in this business really don't work on craft, but only work on business.  I have had many "actors" contact me with vocal problems because they have never really done any breath work, any alignment work, any voice work for resonance, or vocal health and think screaming is emoting. They have taken every business class and have no clue as to how to use their instrument effectively.

Your voice is your instrument.  Period.  As an actor, as a singer,  you are using that instrument regularly and the physicality in which is resides.  I am always amazed at the disconnect.  How you speak in your day to day life truly affects how you use your voice on stage, on set, and in your singing life.

Why ignore it?  Often, speaking habits are poor and then the shift into "singing voice" or "acting voice" doesn't happen comfortably, or at all.

Again, our society of "instant satisfaction" has permeated the business too and dismissed craft success for goal oriented success.

Getting the gig isn't craft.  And if you get the gig, can you actually DO the gig and sustain what is demanded of you via your instrument?

So, how aware of your speaking voice are you?  Do you tire easily?  Can you project without pressure?  Can you access different balances of resonance?  Can you speak in different dynamics without yelling or without losing core of sound?  Can you utilize different pitch in your speaking voice or are you limited?  Are you breathing to speak?  Are you supporting while speaking?  Is your body aware of its alignment and balance as you negotiate your day?

Perhaps you laugh, but let me sum it up this way:  Can you SPEAK?

(and when you laughed was it supported?!?!?)

However, honestly truthfully, so many singers and actors simply cannot.  They have not made the conscious connection between their speaking voice to their singing or acting voice.  THIS is part of the craft.  This is also part of living your instrument daily.  The more connected you become to the freedom of that speaking voice,  the more you are consistently and consciously available to your instrument throughout your day:"putting on" your singer's voice or actor's voice will not feel so dislocated if your speaking voice is simply healthy, aligned, free and available.

SO what are you DOING?  Perhaps the first thing you can do is OBSERVE!  Be aware of what you DO before you begin to change anything.  Triple redundancy is key - look in the mirror;  record yourself,  and physicalize the sensations fully.  Then, can you describe it?  What do you see?  What do you hear?  What do you feel?

There are NO value judgements!!!!  This is observation in order to learn how to access YOU more fully. 

Sit down and evaluate what issues you deal with as an actor and as a singer - what are the notes you continually get?  What are the things you are working on in your lessons?  What happens on stage?  Often,  many of these issues are VOICE related,  BODY related and simply can be addressed first through the nature of how you SPEAK.

Imagine discovering the balance of all things VOICE by working on the balance of the speaking voice! What a liberating discovery it would be!!  The craft of VOICE as instrument needs much more focus than what we often allow for.

What do you do to warm up your voice? Period?  What do you do for your BODY in order to integrate breath with alignment with balance with co-ordination? 

Dare to discover the state of your speaking voice as you function through the day,  and dare to find a more optimal balance by observing,  by study,  by integration of breath work, body work, resonance work and language work.

I am still amazed, after all this time in the business,  how many "actors" simply can't speak.  They have never observed long enough to acknowledge they are unable to truly articulate language fully.  They haven't been corrected in actual pronunciation.  The more we KNOW they more there is to know!! 

If you call yourself an actor, a singer,  a user of WORDS,  then learn HOW to use them effectively and how to use the instrument as CRAFT and as FUNCTION so it is painless (literally AND figuratively) moving from your day to day to the audition room, to the stage, to the rehearsal hall and back again.

Darn, it might take some time.  It might take some effort.  It might take some application.  It might take some change, and thought and focus and WORK. 

That's called craft.  That's called daring yourself to BE what you say you are.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

International Musicians, Singers, Actors, Dancers who want to work in the USA

I want to give you an excellent resource in NYC!  

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I know the owner/operators of this business, who happens to study voice with me,  and is a brilliant triple threat with broadway credits.

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Go to their website and contact them TODAY!!!

Phone: 917-886-7801

Let them know you got the information from my blog!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Follow your dream - not your delusion!

Saturday musings...

Ah the is that pure, uncluttered something that makes you smile....and somewhere along the line, it can get warped and twisted and become a delusion if we aren't paying attention.  Or simply, life gets in the way and the dream is replaced by something else.

How can you tell the difference?

Perhaps the first question is:  what is your dream?  And what happens WHEN you follow your dream?  There are basically two paths to take: truth, or delusion.

Dream does not automatically create reality.  It is a starting point.  It is a reminder of what you treasure. The dream will change course as the reality of discovery uncovers what needs to be DONE to achieve,  re-organize,  re-work said dream.

If we are not willing or not able to allow the dream to morph with our reality,  it becomes a delusion.  It is held onto in spite of reality.  It begins to show over-ego,  excuses,  and a self-obsessiveness that doesn't reflect the world we all must inhabit!

The more excuses we create,  the more delusional we become.  Yes it protection,  but not in a healthy way. 

The delusion weaves itself around and through the initial dream that we lose sight of where we are, where we've come from, and where we thought we were going.  It is everybody else's fault;  it is deflective and not reflective.  It is excuse after excuse.  It is ego-driven and not spirit-driven. 

It is easy to lose sight of what we are pursuing;  it is also easy to become obsessed with what we are pursuing and thus, the dream becomes infected and lost.

Often,  we play games with ourselves when a reality happens:  the dream we THOUGHT we were following or wanted to follow suddenly exposes something else:  another truth; another reality;  Perhaps it exposes that the dream we THOUGHT we wanted isn't really what we NEED.  Or what we WANT anymore.

And my response is: So?  YOUR truth is yours if you choose to claim it.  Your dream can dare to change and you have to responsibility to claim that change and grow with it.

Dreams change depending on the reality that feeds it.  Dreams have to have flexibility in order to morph and flex with the dreamer. 

Delusion however, has no room to shift, morph or flex.  It MUST remain inflexible in order to keep the illusion of order.  Its inflexibility and inability to change creates a shell that is often impossible to break.  A form of protection perhaps,  that sadly becomes a pseudo-reality that does not allow for growth, development or freedom.

As artists, we have the capacity for self-doubt.  We MUST question - and that includes ourselves.  If we stop questioning ourselves,  delusion begins to ooze in.  It is hard to question,  it is hard to look into that mirror and ask what you are seeing,  but it is SO crucial for the reality of the dream! 

Dreams must begin somewhere - but they will often end somewhere else.  This is the nature of dreaming.  If we allow it to take us where it must,  we stay open to the POSSIBILITY of something we hadn't seen, or thought of,  or were ready to discover yet.

So often, I hear singers say "why didn't I know that?"  or "Why didn't I see that before?"
The answer could simply be "because you weren't ready til now.  NOW is where you find what you NEED."

This is the reality of the dream.  The delusion will not allow you to even ask that question, let alone hear the answer, or acknowledge the possibility.

Allow your dreams to become reality - by simply letting your NOW be present; by recognizing what you dream  being a reflection of what you can DO;  and allowing the dream to remain fluid and change direction if need be,  to access the possibility.

If you resist,  and refuse that direction and possibility - delusion will gladly take over.  And delusion is simply harder to deconstruct.  It hardens deeply and quickly.  It takes more effort to chip at it and often forever to make a dent.

Again,  the decision is yours.  Each of us begins with a dream.  Big or small. How we infuse reality into that dream is up to us.  Or how we excuse it and allow delusion to take over, is also up to us.

Either way - it is work.  Work you choose.  Or not.  Dreams infused with reality give much support.  Delusion leaves one very much alone.  Nobody's fault.  That's the reality.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

So What are those Questions?

Sunday musings...

This weekend's postings have received many an email and I thank you for taking the time to do so and respond so willingly!

So many of you are wondering what your questions are.  I wish I could answer that for you.  Well, actually I am glad I cannot.  The responsibility is with YOU. 

I suggest that it is YOUR responsibility to discover WHERE you are,  and challenge yourself with questions that created your narrative. 

I will suggest this, but questions I have been asked in career counselling or when singers come to me and wonder aloud.  Often I let those questions hang in a room - the answers have to come from the one who asks them, simply because an answer from elsewhere may not be heard.

"How do I sing in "A" houses?"  is not a question that is viable if you have sung nowhere.  If you still haven't built your instrument.  If you have nothing on your resume.  It is simply not the question you must ask yourself.  This is a dream question,  not a real one.

I tend to answer with another question:  why do you want to sing in an "A" house?  What does an "A" house represent to you?  What makes you ready for that?

It gets very quiet, or the excuses will fly immediately.  This is an immediate reaction of stress management and personal narrative that is more about protection than reality.

Another question: "How do I get a job on Broadway?" 

Well, again, questions in answer:  where do you live?  what are you willing to do to play the game?  are you ready? do you know what ready is?

and on and on....

"I want" isn't always "I need".  Often this shows an inability, or a resistance to what IS.

This isn't a slam.  This actually can release some of the stress if we know where we ARE!  If you give yourself permission to be WHERE YOU ARE,  you give yourself permission to discover what you have,  where you are, and how you DO precisely where you are figuratively and literally.

Let me be even more specific.  If the question is "How do I get a job on Broadway?" and you don't live in NYC,  then my answer is,  "first you need to be in NYC". 

Are there other possibilities?  Of course!  Look at shows that are brought to Broadway - like the upcoming Jesus Christ Superstar that was a hit at Stratford Festival.  It is now playing in La Jolla and will come to Broadway in 2012.  Not everybody from the Stratford cast will come to Broadway but many will.  This is not the norm however. 

If your answer to MY answer is "I don't want to live in NYC" or "I can't live in NYC"  then perhaps it is the wrong question to ask "how".  And even if you DID live in NYC,  that does not guarantee you will get a job on Broadway. 

SO,  the next question I ask you is:  what does Broadway represent to you?  Why? 

And then:  What are you DOING now?  Where are you in that process? 

You see where I am going?

"I want a career".  Okay.  What does that mean?  If you haven't had one yet,  how do you know what that is?  That statement is too vague and at the same time, very well protected.

What are you willing to DO to discover IF you can have a career,  WHAT a career would demand,  IF  you have what it takes to claim it, and to what extent that "career" wants you?

Where are you?  Literally;  Figuratively;  in your development as artist;  in your vocal development;  in your life development;  in your financial development;

What are you prepared to DO?  Don't cop out with the answer "whatever it takes".  That means nothing.  That is an excuse answer because it does not answer the question.  BE SPECIFIC.

What are you DOING NOW?  Are you ACTIVE in your pursuits of your answers or are you waiting for the skies to open to deliver them to you? 

It is up to YOU to discover WHERE you are,  and WHAT you are about.  TRULY.  This truth reveals the questions,  changes the narrative,  and releases the excuses.

You do not need excuses if you are truly in the moment of your pursuits.  Period.  If you continue to discover your questions,  know where you are and find the REAL answers,  the NOW reveals itself and gives you permission to be there.

Dream?  Of course, but know the difference so when the work needs to be done, you actually DO it instead of excuse it or blame it elsewhere.

If you choose NOT to do the work, then accept that reality and the questions change!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

What is your Personal Narrative?

Saturday musings...

What is your personal narrative?
We are all the star of our own play,  but what are you saying to yourself?

I believe personal narrative has to be a form of stress management.  We do need that.  We need to believe in ourselves.  However, at a certain point,  are the voices in your head helping you achieve your truth, or getting in the way of hearing the truth?

That personal narrative can be a crutch, a lie, a deception, or it can be a protection mechanism that creates another reality from being reached.  If it gets in the way of a larger truth,  it stunts us - as human beings and as artists.

By nature, artists have the capacity for self-doubt.  We need to question.  This is part of the process of growth, discovery, creativity and creation.  Creating and re-creating that personal narrative is so important to a healthy development as an artist.  However, what are you really saying?  What are you actually doing?  What does it allow you to explore and what does it prevent you from seeing/doing/becoming aware of in yourself?

Such a slippery slope, that personal narrative.  It can either keep you open to discover,  or it can close you off to self deception.  It can excuse ANYTHING you choose not to view in the reality that IS.

If you want to isolate and insulate yourself fully from the world,  then that personal narrative doesn't need constant examination.  However, if you want to be SEEN in the world,  that personal narrative needs to arrive at an honesty that allows you to LIVE there too.

Is your narrative full of statements or full of questions?  And if it has questions, are you asking the right ones?  Are you only asking the ones that YOU can answer, and thereby protect yourself,  or are you asking the ones someone else who has more knowledge/understanding/experience  could provide for you?

Sometimes the answers are surprising.  Surprisingly useful;  revealing;  lift weights;  Sometimes they are hard to swallow.  Sometimes they hurt.  However, those answers that could re-create a healthier personal narrative have to challenge where you ARE.  Sometimes they DO hurt - not because they are aimed to hurt YOU, but rather because they pose a truth that YOU have resisted and couldn't deal with - then or now.  If it hurts, there is still a possibility to change that narrative.

Yes, there will always be people who want to hurt - but let's not go there.  Let the questions become: why does that hurt?  Why does that sting?  Why does that make me uncomfortable?  Why do I get angry when I hear that?

Perhaps those things that are hard to swallow, or seem to hurt are actually going to give you freedom to see a deeper truth that you need to adjust that personal narrative and focus where it was cloudy.  Perhaps you didn't know it was cloudy - and when the fog clears,  it is a relief to see what is truly there and move through it!

The honest truth in a larger sense is this:  not everyone is a world class voice.  Not every world class voice works.  It is okay to be what you are,  develop what you have and pursue where you are.  First, you need to know and claim where that is.  That is part of the narrative.

It is okay to be just where you are.  It is okay to develop a personal narrative that reflects that.  It is okay to feel sad you aren't where you would like to be, where you thought you would be, and simply take the truth of that and make it part of the narrative.

Stress management does not need to be another form of reality!  Stress management as personal narrative can give you room to FEEL and to ask the right questions to get the correct answers to be YOU as an artist and as a singer (or actor or dancer or performer of ANY kind!)

What are the right questions?  Perhaps that is the first step and the first question.

Friday, November 18, 2011

What Do You Want to SHOW in that first audition aria?

Friday musings...

YAP and opera company winter auditions are a-coming! 

As you prepare your package of arias and decide what to sing,  the FIRST aria is so important!!

How do you choose?  Why do you choose it?  Many of these decisions are made with your "team" of teacher and coaches,  but certain things need to be remembered:

As much as you think "impressive" is the way to go - re-examine your view of "impressive"!!  Know your voice and your ability NOW so that what IS impressive is not what you WISH to be impressive.  Such an ongoing problem for singers.  Self truth is an ongoing issue.

Perhaps dropping the idea of "impress them" altogether would be a much more realistic idea. 

That first aria should be what you SING WELL; in your sleep; drunk on a bet; (well not - but I think you get my point!) - that first aria should be in the body, voice, psyche, so comfortably it feels like it was written FOR you at this point in your singing life.  It should show what your voice does well RIGHT NOW.  It should allow you to access your vocal technique without angst, your musicality, and your dramatic intelligence.  It should be a total package.  PERIOD.

It doesn't need to show EVERYTHING you can do (or think you can do)!!!!  Does any one aria do that anyway?  That is what the LIST is for.  You have a list of often 3 - 5 arias to show what you are doing, and working toward doing.

That first aria needs to be sung in, lived in, slept in.  You should be content there! You should know that even if you were under the weather, you could DELIVER it!

Doing your BEST work is what you can control in an audition.  That first aria establishes it - or not. 

Trying to "impress" simply takes you out of the process.  You will never know WHAT would impress those at the table.  They are there to see what YOU do.  Not what you think they want to hear and see to say "wow let's hire him/her or accept him/her into our program".  You will NEVER win that mind game.

Expressing something real is far more important than trying to impress someone.  Expressing says you know what you have to say.  Trying to impress says you don't know what you can do and you are coming "out" to say "am I good enough, is that what you want?  do you like me???"

That's not what an audition is for or about. 

The healthiest audition from a singer's perspective is about preparation and execution of that work. Period.  Show what you have. Period.  Do not show what you DO NOT have.  Period.  Do not try to riddle out the "audition process" from the other side of the table.  Period.  Do not take it personally. Period.  Do not try to impress.  Period.

What aria do you sing the best?  And if you have several, what do you want to show FIRST?  What is the calling card you want them to SEE?

This allows you to begin to less emotional about the audition, and more matter of fact.  Just do the work.  The rest looks after itself.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

But What If?

Sunday musings...

sorry I have been MIA - still dealing with the healing thing and all the joys that brings.

This blog has come out of numerous discussions with singers over the past few weeks: some seasoned professionals, some just beginning their journey.

Often, in our profession, we are called gypsies, or certainly our lifestyle is called that of a gypsy.

I think that more often than not, it can be misunderstood, even by the very people that are trying to live it!

Perhaps the most exciting, and yet frightening part of our lives as artists is its unpredictability.  Feast or famine is often a phrase that is used.  Be careful what you wish for.  The unpredictability often makes it difficult to plan for things.  But what if...I want THIS and THAT happens?

Perhaps it's where I am in my life, in my career, and in my response to things.  My answer is simple: So?

Anymore,  even those most mundane and predictable career-choices can be unpredictable.  LIFE is unpredictable.  However freeing and refreshing that we have chosen, (or the profession has chosen us) a LIFESTYLE of freedom - in being an artist.

So many "artists or performers in waiting"  stop the flow of unpredictability but trying to impose rules of "but what if" too quickly.

I have a chance to get a great day job that will pay my rent and keep me going for a while...but what if I get a show?


I am in a great relationship and I am wanting to pursue my career...I want a family too so what if I get pregnant?


What is possible NOW?  Do you have that show yet?  Are you pregnant yet? What is the NOW looking like?  If the job is amazing and you are offered it - take it.  When the possibilities change,  you will see where you are and make the changes needed and necessary to remain true to you.  Stopping short a career possibility just in case you get pregnant?  Why?  Keep singing,  keep the possibility open for babies,  make decisions as they appear.

This is not being unrealistic nor is it being dishonest.  The unpredictability of life in general often makes us feel out of control.  We often then try to control the little we feel we can.  How ironic that that arts tend to attract the type A personalities isn't it?  Seriously, how much control do we actually have?  And what is it honestly?

So I turn the question around:

But what if you take each day as a renewed opportunity to ask yourself what is needed of you and for you today?

But what if you stay true to being the most realized artist you can be in this lifetime and allow that artistic endeavor to find its path?

But what if you claim your life's unpredictability and create an adventure?

But what if you simply claim what comes before you and work with it instead of looking past it to see if something looks better?

But what if you say "here I am, NOW.  What do I have to work with today?"

Turning down work because you MIGHT get a show and have to quit later, or adjust later does not pay the bills, nor get you that show.

Not taking a shift because you MIGHT get an audition doesn't guarantee you that audition.

Not dating someone who might end up becoming the love of your life, or a simple companion because you WANT to do a tour and wouldn't be available and don't want a long distance relationship does not guarantee the relationship, the date, nor the tour.

I think you see where I am going...

But what if you just take each day and BE?  But what if you admit it's a little scary and do it anyway?  But what if you claim what you do not yet own and discover the artist that resides in your being?  But what if you can actually do more than you think is possible?

But what if you have to make decisions?  But what if they are hard?

My answer: So? 

But what if you don't want to?  Then don't.

But what if you DO????

Do not un-create if you are offered possibilities.  Just breathing allows for possibilities.  Do not dismiss them because of what ifs.  Seize a chance to change to your life,  make it fuller, allow for living it.

But what if you find more than you ever hoped to look for?

Imagine it!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

How large is your range?

Sunday musings...

(still healing - keep those positive thoughts, prayers and energy heading my way!!! I feel it!)

When a "singer" feels the first thing they need to tell you is "I have a 3 1/2 octave range" or "I have a 4 octave range" my reaction is either "So?" to the first and "Really?" to the second.

Leading with your range SCREAMS amateur.  Lack of knowledge of what is truly important in the physicality of the voice.

A range that grunts at the bottom and squeaks at the top isn't range.  It isn't singing.

Most singers who lead with that simply have not learned enough about singing to understand just because you kinda sorta wanna "hit" that note,  doesn't mean you can, and doesn't mean it's a good idea.

The middle voice is so crucial in the true development of the voice.  This establishes a balance in the resonance to then allow the extensions - however large or small - to reveal themselves fully so that the ENTIRE range is resonance, vital and vibrant.

That range needs to be accessible.  Fully.  However,  it doesn't mean you want to use it all the time!  Where are you comfortable?  What tessitura shows YOU off the best?  Where does the voice balance most comfortably for the longest period of time?

Just because you have a high C doesn't make it a good idea to live up there.  Just because you have a low E doesn't mean you can project that over and over comfortably over the course of a show!

Range is irrelevant if you don't have balance of resonance anywhere.  Range is irrelevant if the voice is not balanced from the centre out.  If you stay in the extremes too long, the centre begins to develop inconsistencies. 

I know, especially in theatre,  singers are often asked what their range is.  This is a stupid question frankly. It doesn't give the answer that is truly needed. How should you answer it?  Give your range and then follow up with the part of the voice that you KNOW you can balance and sing in all day and never get tired.  Find your comfort zone and live there!  Acknowledge that,  nurture it and live there to allow for more!

Of course there are roles that need extreme.  OF COURSE.  So obviously if your range does not access that physically,  beating on it isn't going to coax it in!!  Until you truly find a balanced middle, you often cannot say with certainty what will happen to be able to access those extremes.

If you know that the "range" of a role is X to Z  and the majority of the time the character sits in a certain tessitura that is YOUR comfort zone,  THAT is more key!  Then it's about timbre, weight, and all those other things that DEFINE a voice.

So, bragging about having a 4 octave range means NOTHING if you can't SING it!  Sadly, most that brag about it, can't actually do it.  I know many mezzos who have high notes, so?  And many tenors who can sound like a baritone, so? If the mezzos don't live in their comfort zone,  if the tenors aren't comfortable where the tenor voice is most accessible,  it simply doesn't matter.  Range is irrelevant if you can't LIVE vocally where you need to, in order to perform the task at hand.

Many coloraturas have chest voice and can vocalize under the staff - but that's not what defines their voice type and if they stayed down there they would tire out so quickly! 

Range is less important that a solid, balanced and vibrant middle and a knowledge of the tessitura you can live in ALL DAY.

Lead with the reality of that.  Claim it. Own it.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

What is your definition of success?

Sunday musings on my "jammie day"!

Lead a Music Theatre Audition Process class yesterday in NYC.  First - what an amazing group of talented souls!  It energized me and gave me hope for our business.

I began thinking about "success" and what it means as I drove home.  The many definitions of success.

What does "being successful" mean to you as a singer, as a performer, as an artist?

Often we look to outside markers to determine our success.  I encourage you to begin to create your OWN markers.  Your internal decision of how you measure YOUR success is no one's but yours.  Measuring up to/comparing to is going to automatically dismiss you - we simply cannot be compared with someone else's path.

Each path is unique;  each artist/singer/performer is unique;  thus, each definition of success has to be unique and purely personal.

Perhaps this is what we get afraid of.  That personal responsibility and dedication to our own individual and unique definition of success.  You simply cannot make excuses for it, or for the lack of it.  You cannot compare it,  you cannot quantify it.

In class yesterday,  one of the things I felt was necessary to talk about is about PROCESS and PRESENCE.  How AWARE are you in your moment?  Aware of being, doing, deciding, responding, sensing- all those things that keep you present and in the moment of what you are actually EXPERIENCING in the NOW! 

There is great success from the work of NOW - whether it be an audition,  building craft,  embracing artistry,  being YOU.

Perhaps something I am beginning to realize is that the differences between 'success' being far off into the future, esoteric and exhausting and the 'success' of being in the moment, and aware of the process as one walks, runs, skips and rests doing it.

Your success is what you discover, what you embrace,  what you discard,  what you walk toward and what you walk away from.  Your success, ultimately, is about your DECISION.  It is ACTION,  it is NOW, it is REAL.

And true success simply relies on YOU to make a decision.  The decision doesn't make YOU.

Saying "One day I will be successful" almost sets you up for failure!  What are you doing NOW?  Waiting for what?!  Success is in the NOW. Why?  cause that's all we have. 

Perhaps instead of searching for success,  we have to begin defining it and allowing success to FOLLOW us.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Having a Voice doesn't Make you a SINGER!

Sunday musings...

We have all experienced it: a performance that seems flawless vocally but doesn't move us, nor do we take the experience away with us.

On the flip side, a performance that IS flawed perhaps,  maybe a voice that hasn't developed completely, has issues, or a voice that is simply not an athletic animal,  and yet the performance is VIVID.  We are moved, we are changed.  We never forget it.

It doesn't matter the genre,  the voice doesn't make you a singer.  The voice is a tool - a very important one - but the communication and narrative is so much more than that.

Once we allow ourselves to SING,  the voice will follow.  The demand on perfecting your technique,  the demand of "not being ready yet", the demand, the demand, begins to lift,  and the reality of what you are ABLE TO DO can be claimed.

Singing - and BEING a singer uses the voice as a vehicle.  But what fills that vehicle?  Technique only?  Physicality only?  Athleticism only?  I have heard some voices that are athletic animals and certainly make a great deal of impressive sound - but no music.  No singing.

Discovering the voice - its faults, its growth, its imperfections, its flaws - is crucial to recognizing where you are in your technical development and simply where you are in the development of the vocal body.  These discoveries,  wins and losses are about the vehicle.  They are never going to be perfect.  However, those physical discoveries are important to explore in order to find out what you CAN do, and simply what you can't.  This work happens in the studio,  in private.  This is not singing yet in the larger sense. 

The SINGER lives.  Experiences.  Discovers.  The SINGER doesn't spend 23 hours in the practice room and never experiences life.  The SINGER knows how to LIVE.  The SINGER experiences laughter, pain, loss,  anguish,  joy.  The SINGER knows what passion is.  The SINGER embraces the road map and lets it lead.  Scars are simply part of the fabric.  Passion and compassion, laughter and tears, fear and joy are complimentary to the singer.  They are integrated and woven into the fabric of the life the singer embraces and acknowledges and breathes each day.

The voice is a life force that is generated by that experience.  It is not important to be perfect.  It is important to DISCOVER.  It is not important to be flawless.  It is important to accept the flaws.  Every flaw has a story and a uniqueness that is YOU.  It is not to be hidden away.  It should be drawn out to see if it can be used to further the narrative or not.

If a singer discovers a voice - the voice is a vehicle of narrative, of passion, of anguish, of whatever the music demands it to do.   The singer can allow the ego to release and the song to be sung.  These are the performances that are riveting and remembered.  The voice can be flawed and no one remembers that.  Why?  Because the singer is aware of the fully integrated performance and what they are there to DO.  The audience is taken on a journey and will remember how it made them FEEL.

We work in the studio on what we cannot do yet.  We LIVE as singers.  We lead with the integration of life in our work and in our sound.  We do not hide away until it is perfect.  Perfect will never arrive.  Perfect has no place in our world.  A singer in progress who dedicates themselves the life of a song and wants to SAY something through it,  commits to the narrative and never lets go finds a glimmer of truth that the audience can absorb and be changed by.

Study yes!  Learn and discover about the voice,  but remember it is a vehicle that is highly motivated to absorb more than a physicality.  It can absorb TRUTH through living and release that passion through true singing.

My dad used to say "boredom comes from within".  If the voice is boring to an audience,  I wonder why? Could it be that boredom is projected? Something to think about...

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Professional versus Personal

Wednesdsy musings...

The outline of what happens in the studio is vote professional and personal. It has to be. If it is all personal it leans too far into therapy. If it becomes too professional it can become about teaching the material and not the student.

There is a great deal of gray and at the same time, must be a clear awareness of boundaries. The responsibility of those boundaries lies with the teacher as it is her/his studio. The level of professionalism has to be established by the studio. A singer enters and may push those boundaries or may need to be coaxed to come out and play!

Ultimately the teacher must be true to what they are there to do. Each teacher defines that.

A singer needs to know what they want to accomplish and must stay focused on where that knowledge takes them, how it grows and changes as their understanding grows.

That being said, there are many singers who simply THINK they know what they need and truly haven't a clue. I mean from a professional perspective. This allows opportunity for the teacher to discover where a singer actually is and find a way to meet them there and show them what they truly need and create a course of study that will meet the need not the want - which I believe encompasses both professional and personal.

If a student resists me or pushes back as I lean forward, we are dealing with more than vocal pedagogy. I don't need to know why. That is beyond my training and pay grade! But I need to discover how to reach someone and create a safe environment to allow said student to lower their guard enouh to begin to discover what they might be able to accomplish.

Much of vocal pedagogy is about translation. It is about knowledge that is ever changing and vast being individualized to fit the voice, talent, limitations, physicality and psychology of every single singer who walks through the door.

The professional is trained to understand the textbook. The practioner takes that knowledge and adapts the book knowledge to the physical development of each voice that presents itself. The professional finds a way to approach the discovery of the physiology of voice with the personal awareness and the personality of each singer.

One simply does not effectively without the other. The book knowledge without ability to translate effectively is not helpful. A friendly "teacher" who cannot discover a singer's needs is simply treading water.

Just as it is a teacher's responsibility to find the person in the professional development and atmosphere, so must it be the singer's responsibility too.

A teacher must earn your trust, but you must be open enough to want TO trust. Your behavior must show respect and professionalism while allowing an opportunity to remain open personally to allow a teacher to reach you.

It then becomes simple. As a teacher, if you cannot reach a singer, are disrespected professionally, then you simply must allow that singer loose.

As a singer, if you are not being treated like an individual, if you are not being respected for your concerns or questions, then it is time to discover another teacher.

The relationship of teacher/singer is profound and unique. It must have its boundaries and its latitude to create itself both professionally and personally.

The personal develops healthily when the trust exists for the work to take place. The work and professionalism develops when their is mutual respect in the studio.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

you want respect? You GIVE IT!

Sunday musings...

after watching the awesome that is Sheri Sanders on Oprah Winfrey Network's MY TIME this morning,  and after a couple of interesting interactions with "singers" this week, the reminder of what respect truly came to the fore.

Sheri very firmly and with care and love made it clear to her student on MY TIME after she missed her voice session and showed up too late,  that she needed to learn how to respect the teacher's time, Sheri's ability to set up professional assets that the student couldn't get on her own, and the student's own development.

I am constantly amazed at this lack of respect.  Just as a performer wants respect in their audition, as a performer,  as a student,  so they need to offer it in ALL aspects of their lives.  The singer/actor/performer may believe they are the centre of their own universe - but when you collide with others, you simply are not the centre anymore.

One simple one:  if you disrespect someone's time you will be told to look elsewhere.  If your teacher doesn't show up on time,  you as a student have every right to look elsewhere.  However, it works both ways:  if YOU don't show up and are given an opportunity to redeem yourself and you do it AGAIN, you will be shown the door and don't let it hit you on the ass on your way out!  There is no room in a studio for singers who disrespect the time of a professional you are there to learn from.  It also has a domino affect:  often teachers have a waiting list and could have filled that spot with another singer who would NOT disrespect the time.  You also cost that teacher money.  You should be offering to pay for your session - as most of us has a 24 hour cancellation policy or 48 hour policy.  Respect the rules of the road.  Why do you think you are exempt?  Hair salons have this policy - so why wouldn't you respect someone who could help you pursue your craft and may have the professional assets you NEED.  You are furthering your reputation of disrespect into places that may prevent you from getting an audition or a job! 

Respect the rules of a studio.  If you do not agree - then move to a studio that you can agree to.  As I have said many times,  the fee of a teacher is determined by that teacher.  It is not up for negotiation.  I believe the fee is simply for that teacher's TIME.  You cannot put a dollar figure on expertise.  You pay for a teacher's TIME.  If you begin to question it, or barter with it,  you are again showing disrespect for a professional's time.  Please, remember your reputation is being built on your BEHAVIOR!!  In fact,  it leads first - your talent often is secondary!  If a casting director calls me (and they do!) to ask me about a certain singer, they don't ask me if they have the talent to do a project - they ask me how they are to WORK with. 

With the fall season beginning, many of you are looking for a teacher or a coach.  As you are consulting with different professionals,  realize that if the fee is higher than you can pay per week, if it is someone who can really help you - you find a way to work with them!  Maybe not every week, maybe a half session instead of a full session - but you WORK!!

Just as a student must show respect,  so does the teacher.  You cannot expect respect if you do not offer it. 

Respect comes simply from action and behavior.  Behavior speaks volumes. 

First time, shame on you.  Second time,  shame on me.  There isn't a third time.  From EITHER side of the piano.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

the physical athleticism of our craft

Saturday musings...

As I continue the rehab and recovery process of our near fatal car accident back in June,  I am continually reminded of how physical and athletic the craft of singing truly is.

Our instrument, at its core (no pun intended) is about balance, strength, endurance and presence.  It has to have pliability, elasticity, useable tension and release.  None of this is possible without a consistent and constant reassessing of the physical alignment we move in all day.

You do not need a trauma to recognize something is amiss! Or as dear friend comedian and actor Lewis Black says "something is askew!!!"

More and more, we as singers must release x y and z  and go back to a b c.  This is not going backwards.  This is recognizing the physicality of our instrument needs constant nurturing, recognition and care.

The body is the instrument.  As singers we are athletes.  We are long distance trainers ultimately and we need to know the mechanics of the physicality in order to make sure we have the physical capability to rise to the occasion!!

What are you doing to develop physical endurance? Physical strength? Physical pliability? physical alignment?  breath consistency?  physical balance?

Often I have singers who come in and say their only feedback from an audition is that there isn't consistency.  Guess what?  The voice cannot develop consistency if the body has none.  Period.

The stronger and more developed the body is - the more potential the voice will have to develop the even consistency to sing a full role,  to sing through an orchestra, to perform 8 shows a week.

There are no pat answers.  Your physicality is individual, and your sensibility is unique.  What works for one person may not work for someone else.  Ultimately, the goal is the same but how you get there may be different.

Physical alignment is key: developing clearer behavior in alignment and recognizing where you hold your tensions and how you need to rebuild behavior and release those tensions has to be a continual process.  Stress,  weight loss or gain,  pregnancy, and more affects this. Do NOT ignore the importance of it!  It will be what sets you free or if not taken seriously, will be your demise!

Alignment can range from yoga to Alexander Technique to Feldekrais to Reiki to acupuncture to T'ai Chi to Chi Gong and more.

The breath intensity we need as singers needs to find an athletic cardio component - either passively or actively.  Are you breathing when you work out with weights?  You NEED to.  Are you breathing when you run or jog or walk briskly? Is breath viseral during your day in ANY active activity or in the quiet moments of meditation or stretch?

Are you building strength as you align? Are you making conscious choices through your day to be aware of your physical behavior? Simply, are you IN your body at ALL TIMES?  You need to be. Begin to make a choice to be aware several times a day - while you walk from A to B; while you sit on the train or subway or in the car;

You cannot develop your singer physicality ONLY at your lesson.  If you only think of it while in the studio, it is too late!

Claim that athleticism - do not apologize for it.  Know it shifts each day, and each day we need to be aware of where we are.  Wherever you are BE there.  Stretch from it, breathe from it, do not make excuses and simply claim it.

This leads to behavior and behavior leads to possibilities.  If we have possibilities, we have everything to gain and nothing to lose!

Monday, September 5, 2011

When is craft enough?

Labor day musings...

I have many of you asking questions about craft, about readiness, about technique and auditioning...

And simply, are we ever ready?

So I begin to explore that process with you.

If we are expecting perfection, we will constantly come up short. Perfect technique is not the goal. Whatever that even means. If we waited for "perfection" we would never perform, audition and would always find an excuse!

As artists on the mission of revealing truth, we have to begin with ourselves. Where are we? What are we? What can we do NOW? Are we doing the now? Or are we pursuing past it? Does it allow for us to explore or does it limit us.

Technical behavior is never in stasis due to the physical adjustments we make day to day. Are we committed to allowing for that flexibility?

Technique doesn't need to be perfect to put yourself forward. We need to know where we are and where that "forward" is at the time.

Even if the technique is perfect, it simply isn't enough. A beautiful voice gets boring, a well modulated monologue is flat, a lovely physicality of dance does not move the audience if we the performer are not committed to something more:

The narrative.

What are we trying to say? What are we trying to do? What is beyond and under and through the technical behavior?

The most incredible performances don't move an audience because their technique was flawless. They move an audience because of the commitment and the respect the artist has to the narrative and the form. They realize the art is larger than the artist. They succumb and dedicate themselves to the narrative.

What needs to be said? Through text, through physicality, through language, through breath, through gsture, through movement? And are you willing to move past yourself, your insecurities, your imperfections, to claim and commit to that narrative?

Craft encompasses so much - from the physical technical behavior, through the narrative. How do you achieve it all? Simply a step at a time. Simply recognition of self one step at a time.

Not always easy I know. But while you are building physical technical vocabulary you need to be involving the narrative of what you arr doing. If all you can do is think technical behavior when you perform, you have dismissed the narrative.

Technique is informed from so many places, and the narrative can give you strength and reality and focus and purpose in audition and in performance. If all you are doing is worrying about the high note ( trust me, been there, done that) then you have lost the narrative.

Consider exploring your work from both ends - technical one day, narrative the next. As they begin to inform each other, they begin to weave together instead of oppose each other!

What do you want to DO with that song that aria that 16 bars? Work within the NOW of what you CAN do and explore the levels of CAN not cannot.

Ah-ha moments give us the reality check we need to embrace where we are and how we proceed. Enjoy them!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Game, Hype, Brand but what about CRAFT?

some musings today...

As we ramp up for the fall season,  preparing for auditions and possible work, I see a great deal of classes about brand, the game of the business,  hype developed by some teachers about themselves and more.

Do we need these classes?  Of course we do.  If we don't know how to market ourselves in our area of the business, we can be at a disadvantage.

However, I simply ask - what about CRAFT?

The business of show - from opera to music theatre to theatre to tv/film to voiceovers is simply oversaturated.  Some are actually talented; some are not.  Some have actually studied; some have not.  Some have actually developed craft;  some have not.

I just see too many resumes with "industry" type classes and not enough actual STUDY OF CRAFT classes.  To me, this is simply ass-backwards.

Industry classes present you with a door.  As a singer/actor if you don't have the tools to walk through that door,  it is wasting everybody's time.

The tools are the craft.  Not the game, not the hype, not the brand. You cannot find your brand, your type, your marketing until the TRUTH is in working order.  The truth is simply craft, technique, knowledge, and the ability to access it,  and develop it, and draw on it without hesitation.

How can you create a brand if you haven't studied the craft of your discipline enough to inhabit it fully?

Those that start with the packaging and fake their way into the room will begin to be exposed as surely as those that bring something real and truthful and present that!

Ironically,  the hype and the game exposes itself when the resume is set on the table and has no craft or discipline represented.  Then, all you have to do is open your mouth and we know if the hype is larger than the talent, or the brand is more aggressive than the craft.

If you want to really find your brand/your type - you will drop the hype and the game and simply pursue your craft and your technique with the talent you hold.  The stronger your ability to understand and inhabit your craft, the more obvious your brand and your type become.  Often it even gives you options!!!! Or it simply narrows it down to what you CAN do, not what you WANT to do.

What do you need?  The desire to be where you are and discover what you have.  You need to pursue craft with passion.  You need to find out what your instrument can do - and what you need to do to get it to a place to inhabit fully and luxuriously!

You need patience, you need focus, you need honesty with yourself.

Your game, hype and brand will show its facade very quickly if the truth of your craft doesn't exist.

Ironically, when the truth of craft is a living, breathing part of you,  the game and hype is unnecessary.  The brand reveals itself,  and gives you choices as to how you want to be seen in the industry.

None of this is instant.  Surprise!!! If you want REAL, you gotta work for it.  If you want instant, you got a whole lot of nothing.  The packaging might be interesting, shocking, and may catch someone's eye, but once you go back after the double take and begin to unravel it,  you are disappointed, disgusted and bored - nothing there but hype and game and no real craft or technique.

However, if you DARE to work from the inside out and actually build craft, build technique, discover WHO you are and HOW your talent blossoms with the craft of discovery,  you don't have to be fake and shiny to become noticed, to get a lingering look,  a longer discovery,  and an invitation to come into the room and show us MORE!

It is hard to show more, when there really is nothing there, or you simply are a one trick pony.

So even though the industry classes are bright and shiny,  and we need them,  ask yourself if you are ready to be SEEN there yet.  If you haven't begun your journey as an emerging, discovering artist,  you have nothing yet to show.  Be seen when you know there is craft you can rely on.

Find the substance first - create it, mold it, and know it is an ongoing journey.  The icing of discovering where it will be best molded happens when that journey is well on its way!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

What are you looking for and how do you find it?

Sunday musings...

It is that time of year when the fall season is gearing up and many performers, would bes and will bes are looking for classes, teachers, coaches and more.

After being solicited by an scammer yesterday myself I thought it was time to write a blog about this.

First, not everything is what it seems.

I can scream about red flags but if you haven't got the experience nor the red flag gene you may get sucked into something that will not serve you. We all have survived poor teaching, bad teaching, and good old snake oil salesmen/women.

The point is, once you realize the poor choice, you run. Fast. Far. And never go back. Intuition needs to be turned on high and paid close attention to!

I once went into a voice consultation with a "teacher" only to see if the rumors were true. They were. He was nuts. I sang two phrases of an aria, listened to him talk about his non-career for an hour and at the end of that session, he told me I was an "ina" fach because I was "petite and cute". Well, those who know me are laughing hysterically!!! Far from it! Without missing a beat, I paid his fee FOR HIS TIME and responded "if I am ever ready to sing in that fach you will be the first I call". Done and done.

Sometimes we don't know what we need and we wander in blind. Ultimately craft means technique first and if a teacher or class doesn't explore that or offer that, I would be suspect.

Know the difference between classes about craft versus classes shout business and industry. They are not the same and not meant to be. You may have a natural gift, but it doesn't mean you should be in an advanced monologue class if you have never studied acting!

Real teachers don't solicit or spam. In this age of social media, the scammers do this religiously. Real teachers have reputations through advertising and word of mouth.

Real teachers don't call you. Real teachers are too busy to be doing a used car salesman pitch to continue to hound you about why you aren't coming to his/her class or studio.

Real teachers make time to consult or speak with you to find out what you are looking for and what you need. Sometimes the student isn't aware of what they need, and only what they think they need. A real teacher is able to see through and past, in order to adjust the possibilities. Real teachers are not afraid to speak truth to a possible student, even if it means that student walks away.

Real teachers want what is best for the student.

Real teachers do not claim a students credits and accomplishments. They rejoice in them!

I have always said, when your foot hits the boards the success you have created is yours, and if you fall flat on your ass, that is yours too!

A real teacher does not promote hype. They do not promote with "so and so might be studying here" as a way to lure students to them. A real teacher knows his or her strengths about craft and business and promotes those strengths. Those strengths are re-iterated in a consultation or conversation, and then if the student CHOOSES to continue, those strengths are developed in a student's development in the studio.

You are not a singer til you learn to sing and all that entails. You are not an actor just because you recite a monologue, but when you can establish a technical behavior to allow you access to craft. You are not a dancer because you can move to a beat!

A real teacher will not blow sunshine up your nose and tell you that you are wonderful just to keep you paying a fee! A real teacher will risk losing you by speaking truth and then showing you how to find it for yourself.

A real teacher is about YOU. A real teacher doesn't pander for clientele. A real teacher will figure out a way to meet you where you are and guide you through.

A real teacher is honest. A real teacher will listen.

Real teachers wait to hear from you. They do not invade your space and follow you around.

Real teachers put the truth out there, let you know what you need and how you can develop the tools and then allow you to develop the vocabulary to use those tools.

Real teachers teach you how to teach yourself. Real teachers can say "I set you free!" when you are ready to fly to the next!

Real teachers want to be obsolete at some point.

Real teachers do not create drama in the studio. They are about the work and the individual. They do not throw you into the lion's den of the business of show unless they believe you are ready!

Real teachers do not promote themselves falsely. Trust your gut. As a performer you need to develop that intuition immediately.

If you've been scammed, don't beat yourself up! Learn from it and move on! Leave the baggage at the door of THAT studio and refuse to drag it with you to another.

If you aren't sure what you need, ask someone you trust. Do not commit to any class or studio until you have had time to explore several studios, teachers, classes. It is your time, your investment and your life. YOU deserve to have that choice, and you deserve to make mistakes, and learn from those and make better choices!

Real choices do not bully, do not pressure, do not harass.

The path to true technique, to craft and thus to embodied art lies within you. You simply have to trust it, walk it, open some doors and walk through or choose to close a door and walk away.

Real teachers are not desperate.

Real students of craft are not desperate either.

Real students and emerging artists find real teachers. The rest are just finger painting and pretending.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Study, move, sit down, reflect...

Saturday musings...

One of my singers Miss Geri Brown inspired this post as we were texting last night.

Google her. She is a brilliant young actor/singer/performer that is on her way to making a big splash!

The inspiration came from the simple fact that I have been out of the studio for 8 weeks now due to our accident. That may not be a long time over the course of a lifetime but it is a long time when you are relying on a teacher's expertise and guidance.

But Geri reminded me of more, thus this post.

Often we are taught in school that time is crucial. We have to get out there and hustle and learn and retain and do and and and...

We are like puppies trying to please a master. We rush, we work hard, we run to each audition, we try to cram more and more in and we are in motion to the point of a self-induced twister.

We are often in the "use it or lose it" phase beyond literal!

What an artist begins to realize is that the study, the teaching, the knowledge needs time to focus; needs time to reflect; need time to be still to acknowledge what the truth is; needs time to absorb. You simply can't absorb the full truth of study by never taking time to recognize what you are learning.

Developing true craft is learning how you are changed. It is about recognizing the choices you have, and the freedom you can claim because of it. This doesn't fully absorb on the run. These "aha" moments happen when you give yourself permission to reflect and allow yourself to see it.

May I suggest to you that sometimes "school" doesn't always speak truth. That LIFE needs time to take you on! True artists live. They ponder. They can have a lot on their plates but they are not rushed. They make time to study. They know when to move. They aren't afraid to sit down and work a problem, or trust their gut, or trust their gut. They do not follow blindly. They are not afraid to take time to absorb, to rediscover, to reflect...

As I continue to heal and get stronger each day, I know that this summer has been all about stopping and reflecting for me. The truths that have revealed themselves to me have been stunning. As an artist, I shall take that sight into my next when I can move and study and create further.

Your path is that, yours. It belongs to no one else but you. You decide when you need to sit down. You decide when you need time to absorb and reflect. You decide when study is crucial, when study is ongoing, when study is necessary. You only can truly know and decide when you truly know yourself and the honesty of your instrument and your ability and your strengths and your weaknesses. That requires thought and reflection. The path, you see, is not necessarily linear, but perhaps infinite spirals of coming back to the truth of self, moving out to expand it and coming back to absorb it.

When you need time to sit and BE there, you need no one's permission. Just your own. Sometimes that is hardest of all. But the results can be endless and ongoing as you get up and move through your 'next'!

Happy discovery!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Imagination of Fall

I love this time of year! The air is starting to just hint at crispness and the "season" is beginning!

Around midAugust I begin to slow down in order to re-assess. September brings on the season of the year and the fears shift.

Granted, my life is forever changed by this car accident, and I haven't been in the studio since late June. I will consider it a summer off!

What about you?

Is it time to re-assess, revamp, rediscover what you want, where you are, what the next steps look like?

Do NOT look back. Where you are and where you are going is key. If you took the summer off, so what? We need those too. Time off is as necessary as time put in. (quit laughing at me those of you who know me too well)!!!

Seriously though, looking back is only necessary to see how far you have come. The tiniest steps or changes or movements are as crucial to an artist's craft and development as the big jumps.

Ironically, I have seen young artists burn out, get so discouraged, and even leave the business because they tried to do too much too quickly. They never stop taking classes of all kinds, are running to every audition, hold down a survival job, and never have time to let it truly ooze in and become real. The steps are frantic and end up running them into a void rather than giving them freedom and assurance.

So as I am asking myself these questions I pose them to you:

Who do you want to be this fall as you enter the season?

What is necessary? What is crucial? What is important?

Where is your heart pulling you?

Where is your head pulling you?

Can you listen to both and negotiate?

Are you trying to wear too many hats? Why?

Can you find and will you find time and energy in your schedule to be with YOU?

How many classes can you afford to do? How many classes can you afford not to do? What are they? Who are they with? Why?

Do not take the attitude of all or nothing. Let the true priorities lead you. We cannot afford to everything at once. Sometimes we have to wait. Sometimes we have to negotiate the amount of time we can devote. Sometimes when we find a teacher we KNOW is right for us at the time but the fee is more expensive we just don't study as often. Do not say all or nothing and settle for something cheaper on all accounts!

As an artist, are you making time for those things that bring you joy? Do you even know what those are outside your discipline?

What do you want to focus on? Why? Are you ready? Do you have that small unique team around

you that speaks truth to you even when you don't want to hear it?

This time of year can be both a chance to slow down and take stock and then gear up and move into the next of fall.

I have already started. Truths, desires, needs, wants, necessities, clarifiers. All are crucial in discovering where you are, why you are, and what that next step will be: as an artist first, and then as an artist pursuing a career.

Enjoy the possibilities! If sandwiched between two semi trucks hasn't stopped me, nothing can stop you, but your lack of imagination!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

All those steps!

A few musings today...

Recovering as I am from this accident is teaching me much and sending me many amazing souls who remind me what I need to hear when I need to hear it!

The life of the singer needs to hear those voices too.

Often as singers we get impatient. We want to be somewhere we are not. We get frustrated at whatever place we happen to be and lose sight of the process.

Each step is crucial to our development. We cannot skip one or we have a hole. Sometimes we have to stand still for awhile and learn how important that is, and, heaven forbid, sometimes we need to take a step back and retrace to see where we got off the path.

These steps we learn how to take happen in our technical development, in our artistic sight, in our career aspirations, and in our ability to see ourselves honestly.

I know very few, if any artist who hasn't had to atep and restep, back up, stand there and re-assess in all these areas at some point!

As a teacher, I often have to encourage a singer to slow down! You get a taste for what might be and instead of really solidifying the NOW you want to jump ahead. I know you because I have been there too. We want to keep moving!

However, movement and development happens between the steps, just as singing happens between the notes! Learning to trust where you are is such an important and integral part of being an artist.

"I should be able to sing this by now"
"I should be having this kind of career by now"
"my voice should be doing this by now"

I would be a rich woman if I was paid every time I heard those and many like them!

You SHOULD be exactly where you are, simply because you are.

Learning to be where you are and breathe there is about living in the moment of YOU and discovering what you are discovering. You should simply be wherever you are. You will discover your technique, your repertoire, your career path when you commit to the steps YOU need to find it!

This is not a race or a contest or a reality show! There are no winners or losers. There are singers who choose the path and dare to discover and take the steps and those who simply don't.

It isn't easy. I know that. The steps of honesty and self analysis are tough. The steps of working and reworking technical issues can be tedious. The frustration of having to stand still when you really want to run can be trying and annoying. However, they are YOUR steps. You take them, you retake them, you stand still and breathe. Nobody gets to do it for you.

And so, the steps can become exhilarating and non-judgmental. They do not need to be explained nor excused.

Take each step. Retrace and redo if you aren't satisfied. Sit down and rest when you are tired. Just do NOT miss a single one! They are all important and a part of what makes you the singer you were, the singer you are, and the singer you will become!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

What is Priority?

Sunday musings as I wait for the coffee to perk...

Often we can go into a downward spiral of overwhelming crisis when the priorities get confused and it seems there is too much to do.

This can happen in life as I have experienced many times and again now as I learn patience to heal.

This can also happen in our quest for artistry and a career.

Ironically it is the mental and emotional spiral that pulls us off our game. If you are strong enough to follow the spiral you are strong enough to stop it and sit down and reevaluate where you are and what you are doing.

Priorities change every day. We have many of them. Write them down. Let us look at this from an artistic and career perspective. Don't be afraid to make lists! What is priority with the building of your instrument? What is priority with feeding your artistry? What is priority for building your career? These lists might be lengthy or short- it doesn't matter! it is yours!

There are only 24 hours in a day. Surprise!! Remember you cannot get it all done in a day. Each day one of those priorities simply takes the top spot. YOU decide. If the instrument needs repair, I might suggest that is going to be an ongoing priority but you will figure that out! An instrument that still needs careful building or reworking will not be out auditioning right away! The artistic side of you might be a priority to be fed in other ways while the priority of building the voice is being done.

Simplify. What do you NEED to do each day? What is extra? If the priorities make you anxious, exhausted or confused, then you simply have too much for that day. If the priorities make you determined and focused and strong then you have just enough to fill that day!

There are no rules. There is simply the rule of you: what do you need today and how do you claim it?

One step at a time. Focus on each step. And when you get tired you sit down!

Didn't get through the list today? Guess what? There will be tomorrow. Priorities are like that. They can have some fluidity. Let the fluid ones stay that way. Let the set ones have your focus. You will see then that your focus doesn't split and cause anxiety.

Each day needs a little joy. Find out what that is for you! Embrace it. That has to be part of the priority too.

Ultimately the artistry and the building of a career has a chance to grow if we simply make time for ourselves. Those few moments to breathe and center and calm wherever and however that makes sense to you.

YOU are priority. The rest is fluid. The lists will shift and change day to day. This will give you permission to be where you are and explore the space you actually have around you rather than feel like you are suffocating.

Physician heal thyself! I am learning too!