Monday, March 21, 2011

Toronto Intensive in MAY and MORE cities!

Yes, I DO travel!

I have a satellite studio in Toronto, and then next "intensive round" is May 12 - 14th, 2011.
Email me if you want information or to book a session or be on the waiting list.  I fill up VERY quickly!

I will be planning a trip to Boston to work with singers there in the spring...

And YES, I do entertain other cities, depending on the response.  Do not hesitate to contact me about masterclasses/workshops and private sessions.  If it comes together and makes sense,  I will always entertain the idea!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Who is your Competition?

Saturday musings...

I listen very carefully to how singers talk and what they speak of and about.  I did a very loose, non-scientific observation poll in the studio these last two weeks without directly asking my singers but by listening to them speak about their auditions - current and upcoming.

Here's the observation:  those singers who were concentrating on their work,  themselves,  their best traits are the ones who are not only more positive, but tend to book work more regularly.  Those singers who are talking about all their friends who book,  trying to describe themselves by comparison to other singer/actors,  wanting to be like someone else and focusing on others and THEIR response,  do not.

So who truly is your competition and who gets in your way.

A clue:  a mirror will help bring this into perspective.

YOU are your competition.  YOU and you alone.  Why?  Simply because you are responsible.  You can either decide to pursue and claim your best self,  or wallow in your worst self.

Competing with your previous self is key to successful auditions,  performances, rehearsal process, practicing!  Are you aware of your PRESENT?  Where are you? How are you? Why are you?

These questions require no comparison to anyone else.  They require no excuse, argument, whining or false pretense.

Success is being better than your previous self.  Artistic achievement, and even getting a job, isn't about being BETTER than someone else.  It is about growth, development and personal achievement.  Getting a job isn't about being "like" someone else; better than someone else;  but rather, being exactly what "they" are looking for.

How can we be exactly what they need, if we constantly make excuses for it?

Think about it - we have all had those "meh" auditions, thinking nothing will come of it and gotten a callback, or even booked the gig!  Why?   They saw something they wanted to see again.

The more we compare to others,  want to be like others, create a competition with others, then less we focus on our own work.  Our focus is split or in some cases, completely in the wrong place.  Then my question is,  why are you bothering?

You are not supposed to be anybody but you.  You can have inspiration but you do not have to be like them, imitate them,  or mimic them.  Then you are focused not on your best self, but rather, hiding self from the work needed to do to become the best self.  You are hiding the inevitable:  the mirror is lurking and what you see might shock you.

I am amazed at how much energy certain singers spend on consistently comparing themselves to others.  This is denial on too many levels.  You will always fall short in some way, because your path is simply not theirs.  Ironically, that singer will always be more successful in your eyes, because you are taking so much energy to watch and compare, that your path is being neglected, and overgrown by negativity.

The only competition you have it your previous self.  Your last audition,  your last practice session, your last coaching, your last lesson;  your last run through of that aria/song;  your last class;  your last performance;  YOURS.  And the competition of the last is with the NOW.  Where are you NOW?  Who are you NOW?  What are you working on NOW?  What is happening NOW?  Not for someone else, but for YOU???

How often were you pulled to answer by comparison as you read that?

Deflecting is a form of stress management.  Why are you afraid to be YOU?  What is so wrong with THAT?  What is so undesirable about YOUR path?

Mirror time - you are NOT someone else.  No matter how much you wish it,  think it would be "better", whatever.  The more you focus elsewhere the less YOU get the attention you need and deserve.

This is not a race.  There is no defined "winner" to anything.  Each path is unique and carved out by past meeting present and forging into future.  YOU do that.  Or you do not.  Ironically, even if you ignore YOUR path and focus on someone else's, it's still YOUR path being forged.  Just pathetically.

You are not Stephanie Mills or Lillias White, Linda Eder, Vivian Reed, or your roommate (unless you are!);  you are not Anna Moffo or Maria Callas,  Sylvia Sass or that lyric soprano you keep seeing at YAP auditions (unless you are!).

Why are you wasting energy on something you have no control over?  Why are you wasting time on things that are fantasy and frankly, ridiculous?

Feeling defeated when you see someone walk into an audition space is a CHOICE.  A choice to say "I am nothing, and cannot do what she/he does, so I might as well go home".  Really?  Well is that what you really want?  If it is,  why are you even there?  Maybe you should be finding your path elsewhere? Feeling like you have to "beat" someone at an audition is a CHOICE.  It is highly misinformed, because there is not "beat" in an audition.  Your focus is on everything else but YOUR task.  YOUR audition.  Your game, your competition in its true place, is completely off.  Your self-prophecy will be correct. You will not book the job/the program/the whatever.  Because your "friends" are better?  No.  Because your "friends" are focused on being themselves and doing their job.  Your focus is on being better than them, or feeling defeated because they are there.   How about focusing on YOU and what you can DO and DO IT?!

Time to quit comparing,  quit wallowing, quit excusing, and just DO THE WORK FOR YOU.

What others do is their business.  What YOU do or fail to do, is your business.  Make it your business.  Make it your focus.  If your focus and competition is so singly focused on being better than your previous self,  the others simply fail to cloud your thoughts.  The work of others will be seen for what it is;  your audition will stand on its own for what it is and what it represents.  Your path will become clearer, cleaner and uniquely yours and you will be content to be there.

The rest is simply distraction.  And you've created it.  If you create it, you can dissolve it, or simply choose to ignore it.  Again, your choice is your power.

Do you know your competition?  You have the upper hand in this truth!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Respect and Awareness - A Professional Behavior!

Sunday musings...

less an hour of sleep due to daylight savings time here on the east coast...

Are you simply AWARE in your professional life?

I am always amazing at how many performers in our business talk about being professional, but are truly not.  BEHAVING professionally is crucial to being taken seriously and given a chance to show what you have artistically.  We remember BEHAVIOR.  The behavior either enhances the talent or simply dismisses it.

Here are some of the no-brainers.  Trust me - the reason they are on the list, is that they are violated continually.   And there is a reason those violators of the no-brainers are often not asked back.  These are common sense, yet, common sense doesn't seem to be so common anymore.

In our world of performing arts where it seems we are saturated by so many who say they want to work,   by simply paying attention to our behavior,  we have a much better chance of being seen in a positive light and of being invited back to the table for a continued play!

Professionalism means creating boundaries,  and respecting others' boundaries.  Know the boundaries.  You don't have to agree with them, but you need to respect them.  If a professional teacher or coach needs 24 hours notice to cancel a class or session,  then give it.  Give MORE if you can!!  If you cannot,  get the money to her/him IMMEDIATELY.  OFFER.

If you have been given 48 hours to make a decision about taking a role,  don't saunter in 72 hours or even 52 hours later and wonder why the role was given to someone else!!

Know the boundaries.

BE ON TIME.  Being on time isn't running in the door at 10:30 for an appointment, session, class or rehearsal.  Being on time means ready to BEGIN said work at 10:30.  Your process will tell you how much time you need PRIOR to that to centre,  get into the space literally and figuratively,  get your coffee or your tea,  hit the bathroom,  and be there READY TO WORK at said time.

There can be kinks - trains running late,  no cabs etc etc etc.  Make allowances for that.  And in this digital age,  a text message/voice mail to make those waiting on you can save you.  It won't save you repeatedly if it keeps happening, but it shows you are making a true effort to be there.

BE PREPARED!  What are you there to do?  Are you prepared to do it?  If you are going to a lesson or coaching - is your book ready?  Have you practiced?  Are you prepared to do the work, or do you expect the teacher/coach to do it all?  If you are in a lesson/coaching - are you recording?  Do you know the protocol for recording?  Do you take notes?  Do you expect someone else to do it for you or are you serious enough to take responsibility for getting the information?

Again, kinks can happen.  They do.  Regular clients sometimes forget their digital recorders accidentally,  or batteries die.  These are not the rule, but those sometimes things that happen.  If they happen every time the professional respect of space and of SELF just doesn't jive.  If you forget, say so up front and see what an alternative can be that time.  Honesty is also a form of respect and awareness.  Don't assume your ass will be yanked from the fire due to your lack of awareness.

Preparedness comes in many forms.  Again, you'd think it would be common sense, but often a sense of entitlement gets in the way.  Are you in rehearsal?  Are you prepared to BE there? Do you know your lines?  Have you learned your music?  How many show up not knowing and STILL giving attitude or excuses? 

Be aware of those around you - other clients,  your colleagues on EITHER side of the footlights,  your teachers/coaches/directors.   Know with whom you speak,  and give them their due.  You do not need to like them, befriend them or hang out with them,  but their POSITION deserves respect.  No man or woman is an island in this business called show - and there are many supporting roles that are going to make or break what YOU have to offer.  A simple acknowledgement of their work and their being there at all will create a professional behavior that will gain YOU some respect too!

Awareness of self - in behavior and reaction - is also key.  People are watching!!! How do you treat others?  How are you prepared to be there?  How do you react to change?  How do you react to criticism?  How are you going to handle conflict?  How rigid are you?  How pliable?  Do you know how to take your work seriously and still laugh at yourself?

Professional behavior - in studio or on stage - requires a sense of self.  It requires a respect of self and an awareness of self in order to SEE others.  It needs a sense of balance,  a sense of focus and a sense of pliability.  Behavior also needs to see outside itself, and observe:  Observation of self, and others and perception of same.

Perception IS reality.  If you and your behavior are perceived as disrespectful,  unaware, entitled, unprepared, you will be dismissed.  Sadly, often not given another chance, as this business is small and word gets around.  However, if you and your behavior creates a professionalism that is giving, focused, prepared,  ready to work,  ready to accept/challenge/develop,  and that energy is engaged and engaging - it will motivate others to WANT to work with you!

Being a professional is behaving like one.  From the guy who holds the elevator,  to the stage door security,  to the technical professionals in the theatre,  to your teachers and coaches/directors ,  to your colleagues and peers,    Their POSITION deserves respect and awareness.  As a performer,  you simply could not be shown in the best light without them.

Be aware of your process and THE process.  Respect it.  Give it attention.  Know the boundaries.  Respect them. 

Be on time.
Be prepared to do what you say you are there to do.
Be pliable.
Be focused.
Discover and respect ALL boundaries.
Be aware of ALL of those who are there to create a process and acknowledge them.
Simply BE a professional.  Being professional allows no room for negativity, whining and excuses.  Those things are for the wannabes who will be asked to leave the table.

See? That isn't so hard is it? 

Saturday, March 12, 2011

a grunt and a squeak!

Saturday musings...

What is your vocal range?  Why is that important to have on a theatre resume and what does it really tell about you?

I honestly don't know.  It has very little to do with voice type,  nothing to do with vocal weight, timbre and color,  and nothing to do with quality, sustainability, endurance or singing in tune!

I have often told some of my singers to simply put, when asked, "Range: Grunt - Squeak",  since it truly doesn't attest to whether you can actually SING!

I have seen ridiculous things like female singers saying "I have a 4 octave range".   Really? Have you sat down at the piano and figured that out precisely?  Can you actually SING every note in those 4 octaves or do you grunt and squeak more than a few?! 

Being a smart singer in theatre means having to see through some of the things that are absolutely not important and getting to the things that are.  "having a high C in the studio" is very different than "sustaining a high C in a phrase numerous times during performance in the context of a song".

So what is crucial and how you make that clear to those listening to you?

Clearing know your "studio" range and your "performance" range.  There will often be 'studio' notes that never make their way into public space in order for those 'public' notes to be confident each time you perform!

 More importantly,  what is your drop dead,  always vibrant, always exciting, balanced and accessible tessitura?  In other words,  where does your voice LIGHT UP and ignite?!  Where is the "butter zone"?  THAT is more important than ANYTHING.  That is what you need to show in an audition:  the magic of your voice.  The tessitura is a range of sorts and then can be fleshed out to inform a voice type/theatre type more vividly.  This is much more crucial than range as it shows where your voice lives most effectively for long periods of time. 

If you don't have a "butter zone" yet - it's time to find it.

Get into that studio with a teacher who knows how to help you build that voice and BUILD it!  Discover what is there in the rough and shine it up!

A grunt and a squeak are not necessary if the voice finds its area of happiness!!!  You need to continue to explore that, and lead with that.  Of course, keep working on the vibrancy everywhere else, but there is always going to be a certain part of your voice that you keep going back to, in the tessitura and in the stylistic choices you make there, depending on the material you are singing.

The healthy, well developed vocal instrument isn't about grunts and squeaks and an impressive high note once in a while.  It is about claiming the physicality and athleticism of the body and developing muscular balance to discover what kind of vibrant acoustics YOU can create and replicate and live in constantly!  True technique is to command at will,  not hope it comes out!

Stating your range on your resume is extremely deceptive.  Let it simply be a way into the voice in order to show the voice where it wants to live.  Lead with your butter zone!  Lead with your voice tessitura, theatre type,  voice type.  These qualities on paper will allow for more imagination to allow YOU to then show in that audition room that indeed, you CAN sing,  in the voice that is uniquely yours, in a healthy balanced, stylistic way to show a range that is accessible, vibrant and true.

If you say you have what you have,  SING it.  No grunts, no squeaks, but REAL VOICE.

Show your knowledge on paper - not your ignorance!  Claiming a grunt and squeak with a range that is simply impossible physically is not impressive but rather, revealing!!!  And it isn't revealing anything you actually want them to see!

Better to list your voice type,  your comfort zone (tessitura) and then SHOW them what you can do! Making an impression is not on paper - it is by DOING it.  If you say you can sing - then SING IT!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Gifts for Readers

I am offering my CD "Taking My Turn" to any blog readers for $10.00 plus postage!

Just email me at

subject line: I READ YOUR BLOG!

let me know how many copies, your email address and your mailing address.

I will invoice you via paypal and send it out asap - and hope you enjoy!
You can check it out here:

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Delusional Singer

I have just finished adjudicating a music theatre performance festival.  This involved many age groups and genres of theatre music.

I've been adjudicating some 22 years or it theatre, opera or classical voice;  sometimes speech arts and other areas of voice and/or theatre.

You knew this was coming right????

I heard some marvellous things and some awful things.  Every edge of the spectrum and then some.

With the poor performances,  and down right horrid,  poorly prepared and executed performances, I simply ask:  how do one think this is okay?

I realize that deluding oneself into believing you CAN is a form of stress management.  However,  at a certain point,  a reality check MUST be in place.  A "singer" cannot simply "sing" a song just because they like it and want to.  This is disrespectful to the art form,  to the genre,  to the discipline and frankly, to oneself.

Due to the "American Idol"ism of our culture, everybody thinks they can.  Guess what?  No you can't. We are not all singers.

Just because you like a song doesn't mean you should sing it.  Theatre music is just as complex as any other genre!!  If you do not have an instrument that is athletically balanced and developed,  if you do not have an instrument that can take on the physical, vocal, psychological and emotional demands of what a composer asks for in a song/role and execute it successfully, you simply should not sing it!

If you are a light lyric coloratura soprano you would never be encouraged or even think about singing Tosca!!!  Why would a light ingenue consider a full belt song like "Defying Gravity" either?  You shouldn't.

Theatre music is NOT slumming.  If you think you can sing theatre music well without studying voice and musicianship and acting and movement,  you need to reconsider why you want to sing.

The delusion of "I can sing what I want" shows not only ignorance of what is required, but a certain arrogance and level of disrespect.

As someone who has devoted her life to theatre and its many facets,  I simply cannot abide that.

If you want to sing theatre music and participate in publicly presenting it and enter competitions then you have some reality checks to consider.

1.  Do you study voice?  If you don't you, you better begin.  Find a teacher that can help you build that instrument fully and in a healthy balance.

2.  SING IN TUNE!!!!  DAMMIT!!!  There is NO pitchy - you are either in tune or not in tune.  There is nothing between.  Record yourself so your "outside ears" can hear what your inside ears may not.  Get used to how your sound FEELS.

3.  Research theatre music.  Do you know its history, its development?  Do you know the genres and styles and composers and expectations of them?

4.  Do you know the vocal technical demands of theatre music depending on genres/styles/composers?

5.  Do you understand and can you embody the musical pulse, rhythms, subdivisions or rhythms,  of not just the music but also the textural life of a song?

6.  Do you know what your strengths are vocally, technically, dramatically, musically?  Can you find songs that allow you to express fully through this?

7.   Do you understand what is age appropriate repertoire?  Emotionally, vocally, technically, dramatically?

8.  Do you know how to take stage?

9.  Do you PRACTICE performing and taking stage?

10.  Or do you think you know and are delusional?

I saw few this week who demonstrated they had an honest answer and therefore an honest demonstration of ANY of these let alone all of them.  We are not all called to the stage.  However, we can still find the best of ourselves by dropping the delusion and discovering the truth of what we have, and how we can develop it.

Singers,  ultimately YOU are responsible to find these answers.  You cannot blame it on a teacher or coach or pianist.  If the "support" system around you is not serving you, you need to find another support system.  Remember there is a difference between a true support system offering constructive criticism and you, the singer just trying to find someone who tells you what you want to hear.

If we truly want to KNOW and discover,  we need to have the capacity to doubt ourselves, to question, and to ask questions.  If everybody is an artist, then nobody is.

If we do not seek and discover truth in self,  we are wasting everybody's time.

And if you just want to sing songs because you like them,  enjoy that.  Just don't take it into public space, public performance or competition, audition and the like.  They don't belong there.

I love to sing "Vissi d'arte" - at home, sitting at the piano,  with a glass on wine at hand!

Know what is ready to show the world and what is simply for your own enjoyment.

When you present in public, you are saying "I believe I am ready to take this on."  If you show the world you are NOT by your performance,  your delusion belongs to no one but you.

Singers be SMART.  Study!  Read!  Listen! Ask questions!!  Don't be led by the "bright and shiny" instant gimmicks you see.  Singing isn't about instant.  Singing isn't about delusion.  True singing can only happen with the singer begins to take risks in order to find out what she/he has to offer and is willing to work and practice and make the sacrifices necessary to find the truth about him/herself and how that voice can meet or exceed the demands required.

If you choose to ignore the demands and sing anyway,  you have chosen the delusion.  If you cannot meet the demands and sing anyway,  you have chosen to disrespect the art form.