Sunday, January 30, 2011

Substance or Stylized?

after an amazing jazz voice class that was offered yesterday by Thomas Young (who happens to be my husband!)  many things came to the fore again.

I would like to respectfully suggest to all of you to keep studying,  keep taking classes and keep finding some inspiration.  Our discipline is so solitary sometimes, that when you get an opportunity to come together to work and explore with like minds and have an opportunity to stand in front of a Master,  DO IT.

So, today's blog offering is simply ongoing realizations that were brought into higher relief yesterday.

An artist is simply about SUBSTANCE.  Substance isn't "put on".  Substance reveals itself from the internalized knowledge and sight.  It dares you to step forward and take a look.  It reveals itself as you begin to take a look and actually see it.

STYLISTS do everything from the outside in.  Illusion and deception.  And simply puts on,  instead of exuding from.

There are TRUE jazz singers - and then there are jazz STYLISTS.

There are TRUE opera singers - and then there are opera STYLISTS.

There are TRUE music theatre singers - and then there are theatre STYLISTS.

True singers in ANY genre study the TRADITION of that genre.  They INHABIT that tradition.  They dare to breathe, eat, and sleep that tradition until they can live it faithfully, authentically from the INSIDE OUT.

Stylists simply dabble.  Stylists aren't about tradition, truth or inhabiting.  Stylists are are about themselves, not about the art form.

Look around you.  "Stylists" are everywhere in EVERY genre.

Some of them are great illusionists.  Sometimes they can confuse you for a minute.  But as the great Sondheim song,  'Ah But Underneath' says: "Sometimes when the wrappings fall,  there's nothing underneath at all."

Stylists are about themselves.  The "look at me look at me" syndrome.  True artists are about the work;  they are about the truth of the music,  the language,  the tradition of the style they are singing in.

True artists DARE to discover the naked truth of their instrument,  their technique,  their breath,  their tone,  their language,  their narrative.  True artists create, paint, mold, flex, stretch from an internal realization of what IS and what WILL become.

Stylists have no depth. They have created such an illusion, that they themselves are locked into an impossibility to be reached or TO reach.  Stylists often appropriate language to again, give the illusion they are artists.  However, very quickly, what they SAY they are about, or what they do,  is shown to be nothing but smoke and mirrors,  illusion, delusion,  and jazz hands.  Everything is pasted on,  and nothing exudes from everywhere.

Stylists want you to look at them, but not see them.  Artists want you to see the TRUTH of the work;

Artists are not afraid to allow the truth to reveal itself, or be revealed.  Artists are,  as Thomas continues to say,  arbiters of truth.

Stylists are scared to death of ANY truth.  They just want to be the centre of attention.

Artists reveal.  Revelation allows us to consider, think, and make decisions.

Artists make decisions that allow the possibility for the audience to find a truth.

Stylists think they can tell you what to do and how to do it.

Wow.  Amazing isn't it?

And of course, the universe can have a sense of humor.  Sometimes true artists don't have beautiful instruments naturally.  Sometimes stylists have lovely instruments.

Isn't it interesting that even that reveals another truth?  I would much rather listen to a voice that is about something real - lovely or not - than a voice that is pretty but completely self-absorbed.

Our gut reactions need to be trusted.  Artists' spirits are drawn to each other.

The others find their level too.

Sadly,  the stylist pretends so carefully,  they are revealing the facade to those who truly see.  And the only one they pretend to is themselves, and those who need to pretend along with them.

Artistic commitment takes TIME.  It takes work.  It takes journey.  And it takes the willingness to go where it takes you and inhabit those places for as long as necessary.

Artistic substance is often not pretty.  It is not clean.  It is not comfortable.  However, what it reveals is an undeniable honesty and truth that is beyond awesome.

Stylists, continue among yourselves...

I am an artist.  I choose to commit to THIS journey,  no matter the time, energy, effort.  The reward of truth is beyond worth it.  And when I get discouraged or tired,  I'll just sit down and breathe for a minute.

Thank you Thomas for reminding the artistic spirit of that through your teaching, your example and your dedication to revealing truth.

Friday, January 28, 2011

A Book is in the Works!

Greetings all!

THANK YOU for reading!  I have found out recently that the readership is over 16,000 and is all over the world and that the blog is being translated into 7 languages currently!

What a wonderful gift to ME.  Thank you!!

I am busy with pursuing writing a book based on this blog.

I would love your input,  dear readers,  as to what you would like to see and read and in what format.

Hard copy?  Ebook?  either/or? both?

What about content?  Taking some of these blogs and elaborating?  Other ideas?  Things I haven't touched on?

What would you like to see?

Of course, I shall continue this blog,  but as this book goes forward,  I want it to reflect YOUR requests, so message me on facebook, comment here, or email me directly with your ideas...

I thank you in advance!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

On Trish Causey's Radio Show tomorrow - Wednesday January 26th!

I am thrilled to be Trish's guest on her talk radio program MUSICAL THEATRE TALK  tomorrow, Wednesday January 26th at 11 a.m. EST

check it out!

We are discussing crossover - from opera to music theatre and what it might entail....

edited to add: if you missed the show this morning - you can hear it in its entirety on the above link...

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Is it me or is it the room?

Saturday musings...

And the answer in a nutshell?  uhm, it's YOU.

YOU are the primary acoustic.  Either the room enhances it, or simply doesn't.

A 'singer' said to me during a session this week "do other singers tell you it's impossible to belt in your studio?  It just doesn't let me belt!"

I smiled, and said "No.  perhaps it's because the room is so balanced acoustically it reveals pushing.  Perhaps you need to really know if you are belting or pushing.  All my belters belt just fine in here."

That's right - blame the room.

Learning to sing,  among many things,  DEMANDS you create an internal acoustic and recognize what that means.

Acoustic has sensation,  and the singer must learn to know what they are hearing,  how they are hearing, what they are feeling and how the sensation of sound and vibration and breath affects the body and therefore the room.

We cannot listen outside our bodies while in process!!! (thus the recording device is KEY while developing and studying to find another "outside set of ears"!)

How often have you had the recorder on and thought it didn't "sound" right - to rewind and listen and change your mind????

The room you sing in either enhances your voice or doesn't.  The ignition of acoustic and therefore RESONANCE develops with you and IN you.

Developing a voice requires muscular balance for resonance and clarity and intensity and projection.  Vibration,  vowel position,  resonance, breath and muscular balance have to work at such intrinsic intensity in order for the "voice" to sing!!


Power doesn't come from PUSH.

Power comes from ignited intensity that is INTERNAL.  

Your internal source of voice and balance requires careful work and time and patience.

As a teacher,  I will create a space - literally and figuratively that allows you the possibility to explore that internal and muscular balance of YOU - your body and your muscles and your sound and your resonance.

If you choose to invest in the excuses and not the work,  that is your choice!

If you blow it in the room - it's yours and it wasn't the room!

If you nail it in the room - it wasn't the room and IT IS YOURS!

Learn to listen with your body;  learn to experience your sound and your breath;  learn what you are hearing and why;

Learn to trust what your body can do to create the acoustic of your voice.  If your body and your voice are developing a truth in development,  the room is irrelevant and the excuses simply don't exist.

It all comes back to YOU.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

How to Be a Great Student PART 2

Wednesday musings...

How ironic that I have received emails from enquiring singers for lessons since my last writing - some fabulous and some ridiculous.

So we continue that "quest" of how to be a great student...

A great student is prepared.

What does that mean?

A great student needs to be ready TO WORK, and ready FOR WORK.  Indeed, I believe trust in the relationship of student/teacher needs to be earned on BOTH sides,  the WORK has to come first.

Are you ready to work?  Are you ready to drop the excuses and the ego at the door and walk in able and ready to get to work and discover what you need and claim what you do not yet own?

A great student prepares to simply BE AVAILABLE during that lesson time.

A great student doesn't interrupt.

A great student asks questions but doesn't confront.

Confrontation, interruption and excuses do NOTHING to enable a singer to learn.  The space between teacher and student needs to be earned, respected and trusted.  If it is not,  it simply must be dissolved and each must move on.

A great student asks herself/himself WHY they are there.  And guess what? It's okay to say "I don't know" because that is the first step to finding out!

Often, a student may THINK they know why they want to study, and if they remain open to possibility and truth of the process, come to another realization!

Great students WANT to learn.  They want to experience.  They want to be better than their previous selves.  They are willing to learn to laugh,  They are wanting to take their work seriously.

Great students practice.  Regularly.

Great students do not meet every request with an excuse.

Great students do not suck the life out of the room.

Great students RESPOND and CONTRIBUTE.

Great students WANT TO BE THERE.

Great students bring respect,  give respect, and get respect.

Great students know they are not perfect.  They are constantly seeking,  constantly enquiring, constantly discovering.

They lead with something real,  they do not waste time,  they do not waste energy.

They recognize that the space of teacher/student and how it is developed has something to do with them - and what they bring to the space in order to create an environment of trust and discovery.

They know who they stand in front of and respect that position.

They respect the expertise of said teacher and glean what they can from that expertise.

They make a decision to CONTRIBUTE to the energy of the studio and not negate it.

They listen, question, apply,  discover, ask,  and enquire.

When asked, they clarify and DO.

When tasked, they dig in and FIND.

When challenged, they take a breath and PURSUE.

They do not disrespect time, space or expertise.

They do not dismiss possibility.

Great students are willing to embrace, discover and TRY.

When a a great student meets a great teacher - ANYTHING is possible.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

How to Be a Great Student PART 1!

Sunday musings...

This will be a multi-part blog as ideas begin to gestate and develop...

Being a great student doesn't mean you kiss ass,  or bring coffee for your teacher (although that's always welcome!!), or that you nod and agree and never ask a question.

Seriously - what makes a great student?  How does the entire process begin?  Are you aware that from your very first query into lessons with any said teacher you are already paving your reputation, not just toward that teacher, but into the business itself?

It doesn't have to be daunting.  Being a great student just has to be claimed and dealt with.

Let's begin with the initial query.  You are trying to decide with whom you would like to study.

Have you done your homework?  As you've asked friends and colleagues and  other professionals in the business,  have you then researched these teachers to the best of your ability?  Google is your friend!

Have you discovered information about the possible teacher's background, philosophy, teaching style, and studio policy so you have specific questions formed to ask about when contacting them?

Should you call or email?   Ask around.  No harm in doing both.  The phone call could be a follow up to the email - as an email can contain much more information and be re-read and answered to more easily.  I prefer email,  but that's me.

How formal should you be?  If you do not have any contact with this teacher, err on the side of formality.  If the teacher prefers less formality they will answer you thus.

Your query should introduce YOU and what has brought you to the decision to contact the teacher and what you are looking for in requesting information.  If something clicked for you while reading about said teacher, tell them!  I always like to know if you read something on my site that directed you my way!  If someone recommended you to that teacher, mention them.

Be respectful.  I know that sounds like a given, but it's not.  Respect comes in many forms,  and the first email of enquiry must show that respect.  How?

Having assumptions and visiting those assumptions in an initial enquiry are disrespectful.

What YOU expect isn't going to read well in an initial email or phone message.

Learning how to use language appropriately to show respect of self, said teacher and the discipline you say you want to study is key.

We all know how important money is!!!  However, there is way to ask about lesson fees without it sounding rude, or simply leading with it.  What a teacher charges for his/her time is her decision.  This is part of the studio policy.  How a teacher runs his/her studio is her decision.  As an enquiring student,  you need to know these policies.  After introducing yourself,  respectfully asking for information regarding the studio policies for lessons, fees, cancellations and other pertinent information is fine!

Emails or phone messages that simply offer a first name and only ask what I charge are ignored.  These are not serious students.  They do not yet know how to come "correct" and therefore, are not ready to study intensely nor seriously.

Probably one of the most bizarre and ego-filled "enquiries" came from a young man who mis-spelled the name of the person who recommended me to him,  and then instead of asking what was required of him, began to tell me what he would do for me and what he wouldn't - including what he would pay and what he would expect.

Last time I checked,  I don't sell used cars.  I replied to that one.  And I haven't heard back!!!!!
However,  the reputation of that young man has been affected by that email already.

One of the most eloquent emails and enquiries I have received gave me information about the singer,  why she contacted me and then finished with - would you be interested in working with me ?  THAT showed an understanding of being a great student!  And yes, she finished with  "an opportunity to consult with you would be something I would look forward to; if this is a possibility, please let me know the details of your studio's policies and I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience".

Serious students enquire and reveal.  They recognize they need information, and they need to give information.  The teacher/student relationship has to develop that recognition and mutual respect from the very first contact,  or it simply does not have a place to launch from.

This is just part 1....

Sunday, January 9, 2011

What is the Disconnect between Disciplines?

Sunday musings...

I taught a class at CnCStudios yesterday - called the ACTORS VOICE - and worked with a great cast of primarily actors who are looking to invest in their voices and their instruments.  It was a successful class from all accounts, and this question came up.

When we,  working in our individual disciplines,  decide to cross-discipline,  what can we expect?  How can we prepare?  What do we need to know to begin the process?

As a teacher of singing - especially within the business of music theatre - I meet many who are not singers first.  They are actors first or dancers first.  Yet they seek out, or are told to seek out,  a teacher of voice and of singing, to begin to discover another discipline and how they intersect.

Is it always successful?  It depends on how you define success.

Success has to do with how informed that dancer or actor is walking into a voice studio.  If they are not informed about what to expect,  from the study of voice or from themselves in pursuing it,  it isn't stupidity.  You can't be stupid if you've already invested and developed a discipline.

It is simple ignorance and it is a choice.  You do not need to be ignorant.  You choose that.  And why?  Why the disconnect between disciplines?

If I was given money for every time a dancer has stood in my studio and said "I need to learn to sing for an audition next week,  can you teach me?"  I would be a ridiculously rich woman.

Is it necessary to walk into another discipline with this ignorance?  Absolutely not.  It is a choice.  If it wasn't a choice, then there would be a different set of questions.

The disciplines of singing,  dance and acting are interconnected if by nothing but the fact that the instrument has a physical and athletic base line.  That physicality and athleticism needs SPECIFIC training and development.  Each discipline requires a specificity and so just because you have one developed, doesn't mean the others are going to be easy!

If it takes years, hours, work, classes, study, exploration to acquire competence in ONE discipline,  why would it not take the same amount of energy/time/study and development for another?

You said "DUH!" - I say,  ah but you'd be surprised...

Perhaps you are a dancer, or an actor, that has never studied voice or singing.  You cannot really say you are a singer.  Perhaps you LIKE to sing.  Just like I LIKE to dance.  That doesn't make me a dancer.

Perhaps you think coming in for a voice "lesson" once a month or once every few months suggests you can sing and have developed a discipline of voice and technique.  Perhaps you would be wrong.

I would ask you - if I go to a dance class once or twice a year - have I developed an instrument that can do what is required to call myself a dancer if I have never studied before?  If I go to a monologue class and 6 months later,  go to a commercial class and have never studied the craft of acting, can I call myself a classical actor?

And you would blink at me like I had lost my mind.

When a dancer says "Can you teach me to sing for next week?"  I answer with "Can you teach me ballet and how to do the splits in a week?"

And why should I have to even ask that?

What is the disconnect between disciplines?!

ANY discipline,  to achieve a level of competence demands a CONSISTENCY.  You cannot have a lesson once in awhile, or a class occasionally and think you are ready to take on that discipline.

If you do not know what is required - THEN ASK.  Ask what you need to do to find success in this discipline.  ASK a professional in that discipline.  This is RESPONSIBLE DEVELOPMENT.

"Singing the right notes" is NOT being a singer!

"Singing in tune" is NOT being a singer!

Just because I can kind of stand at the barre and move my body parts through ballet positions doesn't make me a dancer!  Just because I can read the words out loud from a play doesn't make me an actor!

When we move into another discipline,  we must be prepared to acknowledge there is another skill-set and craft that will take TIME and ENERGY and COMMITMENT AND CONSISTENCY!

If you are not willing to acknowledge that and commit to it - then you are choosing ignorance and frankly it's insulting.

You are insulting those who are professionals in a discipline that you think you can simply claim without knowledge, study or development.

Why is it so difficult to realize that?  You are simply hiding in plain sight.

If you call yourself a professional in your field,  and choose to be a business that demands you to work with cross-disciplines,  why wouldn't you be aware and want and choose to explore another discipline with as much attention as the one that got you this far?

How do you respect yourself and anyone you query about developing craft in another discipline?

YOU ASK WHAT IS REQUIRED.  You either commit to that requirement,  or you walk away and quit pretending.

You either develop a skill fully,  or not.

You call yourself a dancer with one or two classes in your lifetime and walk into a dance call with dancers who have lived, eaten and breathed dance forever and watch how you don't fit in - REALLY FAST!

You call yourself an actor with a class or two and no sense of craft and walk into an audition for a Shakespeare play that requires skill and language and physicality and watch how quickly you are dismissed for lack of technical ability or craft.

Your responsibility is to find out what is going to be DEMANDED of you.  Then you find out how you need to meet that demand.  If you cannot or choose not to meet it, then you simply limit yourself as an artist and need to explore your craft in another venue.

If you are a dancer who is classically trained and will always be in the corps or in concert dance, then no,  singing will not be a demand you need to face.

But if you are a dancer exploring music theatre in ANY venue then you will be asked to sing.  If you cannot or CHOOSE not to discover the discipline of voice and how it manifests itself in YOUR physicality, then you have made a choice to ignore what is required of you in that theatre.

It IS your choice.  Please do not misunderstand me.

Just remember,  your ignorance is seen as choice as well.  And if you make a query,  prepare to recognize what is required to make the CONNECTION in order to discover how you can best succeed in that other discipline.

Continuing with a self-involved ignorance that may end up biting you in the ass may cause you to wonder why you aren't getting a job or why no one is returning your calls.

Hmmm...I wonder.

My guess is, if you are beginning to recognize the connection between the disciplines of theatre and ask a teacher in a "new to you" discipline:

What can I expect and what should I expect in this discipline?
How can I prepare to become successful in this discipline?
What do I need to know and need to DO to begin training in this discipline?

You will be on your way to breaking the negative stereotype associated with dancers and actors who "have to learn to sing" to be in the business!

Again - your choice.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

What is the CORE of the singer?

A new year first weekend musing...

What are we after as singers?

I speak often of building and achieving CORE...there are so many levels to this,  and perhaps the consciousness of many of them allows us to be clearer in our intention.

There is core of the body;  core of the sound;  core of the intention;  core of the spirit;  core of the psyche;

What is this?  Does it relate from one part to the other?

I believe it does.  Basically,  building and/or revealing CORE is finding the basis of what everything else is built on.

Core, be it physical, acoustic, or metaphysical - needs strength, balance and flexibility.

Perhaps I can even ask - what is AT the core of a singer?

If the core is not strong or even built correctly, or at all (!) -  all we do is superficial.

We can fake it for awhile, and then suddenly,  the fakeness is revealed for what it is.  Sometimes, we are the last to see it - which is always sad.

"Fake it til you make it"  has never made sense to me.  This is a frivolous sayings that means absolutely nothing.

Be in process - yes, but fake it? NO WAY.

Faking requires hiding, and frankly, that takes WAY too much effort.  It is much easier to claim where you are,  and just be there.  Knowing you are in process means you have nothing to hide nor make excuses for.

If CORE is strength,  then faking is lack of it.  Faking is weakness.

A singer must find physical and athletic CORE STRENGTH.  The physicality of a singer determines how the sound develops and how it is supported and contained!  You CANNOT, as a singer,  dismiss your physicality.   The knowledge,  development and continued renewal of its intricacies are key to a complete instrument.

A singer must find vocal CORE strength.  This is an ongoing process too.  The voice is never in stasis.  Voice by nature is vibration and in motion!  The "ABC" of core vocal strength relies on the physical strength and intrinsic balances and elasticities that we must work on daily.  We are constantly finding and reworking the ABC of the voice core.  You don't say "got it" and never address it again!  Too many variables can cause an imbalance.

Weaving a strong, vibrant, flexible and penetrating vocal CORE takes time, patience, willingness to discover and re-discover and focus focus focus of intention!!

CORE of spirit for a singer is a tough one but necessary too.  Do you REALLY want to sing?  Do you REALLY want an instrument that will deliver a totality of you?

You must not just want to sing - you must be PREPARED TO DO THE WORK.  And, you must be prepared to truly be honest with what the work reveals to you.

I may want to dance,  and be prepared to take ballet classes and work hard, but I also must be prepared to understand that due to my age, my body type,  my limitations - I will NEVER be a ballerina.  EVER.
But my willingness to WORK and discover all of what my physicality CAN do, will reveal what I can do with that instrument for me.

If you want to sing - you must claim the core of that intensity you have.  If you do not have it - then acknowledge it.  Develop it.  Discover it and see what it discovers FOR you.

Many of us are told we cannot;  we should not;  we will not.  Sometimes it's correct.  Sometimes it's not.

Do you have a core of spirit that is hard-wired to pursue and still be honest?  Core of spirit doesn't need to be stubborn.  It needs to have a strength and flexibility to shift gears and re-adjust in order for the development to be real.

"I wish" needs to translate into "I will" into "I do" into "I am".

The CORE of your physicality, of your voice, of your spirit is unlike anyone else.  It is crucial that you discover that uniqueness and develop it uniquely.

How does your core respond?  What does it respond to?  How is it innately woven to create a more vibrant and integrated YOU?

The CORE of the singer - is the GUT - the TRUTH - physical, acoustic and spiritual.

The CORE of the singer needs to be recognized for what it can BECOME.  You, the singer, are responsible to find that and find those around you who can often see you better than you see yourself in order to help you, guide you,  and encourage you to pursue and build, and claim.

However,  that core is YOURS.  If you choose to claim, it is yours.  If you choose to fake and walk away, it's still yours.

I don't know about you - but claiming what I can is worth the work, sweat, sacrifice and challenge.