Wednesday, April 27, 2011

How do I OWN my voice? type/fach and other hangups! Part 3!

I have learned, and continue to learn so much about SOUND, VIBRATION and VOICE by listening to great horn players.

As we continue to discover "owning" the voice - part 3 - I offer two of my favorite quotes from two of my favorite horn players:

Sometimes you have to play a long time to be able to play like yourself.
Miles Davis

It's taken me all my life to learn what not to play.
Dizzy Gillespie

How do you own your voice?  You take the time it takes to discover it.  

Singers often are so ready to make excuses,  want to be another "type" or another "fach".  Nothing like making life more difficult before you even know what is going on!

May I suggest, as radical as it may seem (insert sarcasm font here) that YOU define the voice type and vocal fach,  the type and fach do NOT define you?

If you are ready to fall for the company line of type and fach without really knowing your instrument - without spending a lifetime - figuratively or literally  -  with it;  without discovering what makes you sing the way you sing;  without claiming why you sing;  without making choices to then make new choices; then you simply have not owned anything.  You have fallen into the trap so many singers fall into: "tell me what I am".

Only YOU can determine who you are, what you are and how you respond to your voice.  Only YOU can claim it, own it, and make it work.  Only YOU can spend the time, the energy, develop the process, the craft, the dedication and the passion for the TRUTH of what you do not yet own. (see part 1)

The whiny "but I don't LIKE my voice type"  "I don't WANT to be an ingenue"  "I want somebody else's voice"  do not allow a nurturing atmosphere to find yourself.

If you don't want it - nobody is making you.  Do something else.
If you are not willing, able, or want to do the work,  then don't.  Then don't complain, bicker, whine or make excuses.
You will want and be passionate about your voice,  when you make a decision that no matter what your voice is YOURS.  It DEMANDS your respect.  The relationship you develop with it requires TIME.  It does not tolerate impatience.  It does not tolerate hissy fits.  It does not tolerate pretend.  It does not tolerate kinda sorta.  It puts up with nothing.  It embraces WORK, HONESTY, PASSION, COMMITMENT, and simply NOT giving up nor giving in.

Your commitment to revealing your voice,  allows you to claim it, and in claiming ALL of it - the good, the bad and the ugly - it allows you to truly SING with it, and in doing so, OWNING IT.

Revealing your voice to YOURSELF is sometimes the most difficult thing.  Relinquishing the type and fach in order to find YOU and YOUR TRUTH is often what singers fear the most.  They want to be told.  They want to follow.  They want it laid out for them.  They want something or someone to blame it on when it doesn't go as expected.

Guess what?  We survive or we don't.  We only can look internally.  We can only learn if we are willing to see, recognize and be taught.  We only begin to learn to sing like ourselves, when we simply refuse to allow something else to define us.  Another one's  definition can either illuminate or cripple us.  Ironically, the choice is OURS, not theirs.

"What if I don't like my voice type"?  Well, darling,  you haven't lived with it long enough.  You haven't discovered it truthfully.  You are singing from the outside in, and have yet to discover the inside out of your artistry and your craft.

And simply,  quit singing for your voice type.  Sing WITH your voice.  There's your power.  There's your ownership.  THAT is what you are here to claim.  And guess what? It might take awhile.

Friday, April 22, 2011

How do I OWN my voice? it's the only one I've got! (part 2)

Friday musings...

The continuing musings on the topic of owning and claiming one's voice...

What have you GOT?

It is yours.  You belong to it.  It belongs to you.  You cannot trade up, trade down, trade bigger, trader smaller.  IT IS YOURS.

So what are you going to DO with it?  Acknowledge it, or make excuses for it?

When singers walk into my studio and give me some background of them,  it is often very revealing about how they view their voice, and whether they have even begun to own that voice, or know what it is about.

How can we we begin to own something when we refuse to see its relevance? NOW?

When it is the only one you've got,  a certain reality check has to begin to emerge.

If this is the only one you've got, do you sigh, defeated, and say "oh okay, I'll figure something out" or do you say "yes this is mine. This reflects ME.  This is my life in living vibration!  What do I DO with it for it to belong to me?"

Our voices reflect who we are.  If they didn't, we would certainly all sound the same given that the habitation of it lies in a physicality that is similar in each of us.

The voice you have needs recognition for simply being that!  It is mine, and mine alone.

The voice you have needs nurturing,  not tolerance.  Only in a nurturing environment does anything have a chance to grow, let alone thrive!! Tolerance means you put up with it.  And if you are simply putting up with your voice and would rather be elsewhere,  you have not owned anything - voice nor attitude toward it!

The voice you have needs a physicality.  Are you building that?  Do you know, and are you studying how the physical athleticism needs time,  acknowledgement, strength, power, elasticity and purpose?  This physicality houses your voice.  Is this physicality merely competent or is magnificent?

If the voice is the only one you've got - so is the physicality in which is lives.

The voice you have needs inflection, not deflection.  This is taking responsibility for the reality of it just being there.  Taking command of what is possible,  and working toward it.  It is not everybody's fault it doesn't "sing" the way you want it to.  It does not grow, develop, and realize potential with excuses, pointing fingers, defeatist attitudes and excuses.

You own NOTHING let alone your voice, by creating barriers around it, to let no one close to it, including yourself.

If all you are going to do is wonder why you don't have the voice someone else has, then why are you singing?  Why do you call yourself a singer?  Why are you pursuing singing?

If this voice is the only one you've got,  shouldn't it be enough to say, for the SAKE OF THIS VOICE, I must discover what is POSSIBLE with it?  I need to FIND IT FULLY and quit making excuses?

Often we make the excuses of "it's not big enough", "it's too big",  "it's not pretty enough", "it's not this it's not that..."  We use the voice as an excuse for a bigger issue.

The voice is indeed ENOUGH if we have the conviction of self to prepare ourselves for the reality of what it reveals to us, and then in turn,  what we do with that revelation.

Read that last line once more...take a breath.

Sometimes, the fear isn't about what we cannot do, but rather, what we can.

The fear isn't about what "everybody says" but rather, what YOU KNOW in your heart of hearts.

Your voice.  The ONLY one you've got.  Needs YOU.  Needs your responsibility, needs your acceptance,  needs your dedication, needs your nurturing,  needs your ability to see its truth,  needs your ability to NOT make excuses, needs your ability to accept,  needs to your ability to get down to work and deal with WHAT IS THERE.

If you've got it, you better own it!  If you don't, you need to simply sit down, keep your mouth shut, and do something else.  Owning it takes time - literal and experience!  Owning it takes perseverance;  Owning it takes a reality check and a smack upside the head from time to time;  owning it means making tough decisions;  owning it means taking a step back to oversee;  owning it means taking a step deeper internally and getting real;  owning it means asking questions;  owning means clearing a way through the good the bad and the ugly and acknowledging ALL of it.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

How do I OWN my voice? The beginning...

A reader on twitter asked me when I might write a blog about how we own our voice type...a great topic to be sure and thank you for the idea!

What is owning the voice?

Perhaps it begins with acknowledging the truth of it.  We cannot accept, acknowledge and own ANYTHING if we do not recognize the reality of it.

I remember a conversation I had with a colleague and friend of mine many moons ago. We were talking about how our bodies had changed after childbirth - the stretchmarks, and all - and she said that she began simply looking at her body at a roadmap of where her life had been - and embraced it as the truth of her life - the good the bad and the ugly.

I never forgot that conversation.  It continues to resonate even more poignantly now, as cancer took her body away this last year.

I had often wondered why during my vocal journey, I had to deal with, or seemed to deal with, such difficulties, and ordeals, and hurdles in building and rebuilding my voice.  As I see it now, if I hadn't gone through what I had to, I could not teach the way I do, with the knowledge I have, because I had to learn through DOING IT and figure it out.

I offer these as a beginning of how we OWN what we have, not what we wish we had.

We always seem to want what we don't have.  Or think it would be better if...if only...I wish...

The focus seems to often be on what isn't instead of what IS.

How do we begin to focus on what IS?

We cannot claim what we do not yet own.

Read that last line again.  My brilliant husband uses that and offered it to me.  I thank him for it. Over and over again.

First, we must own.  We must SEE.  We must recognize, warts and all,  and NOT PRETEND.

What is actually there?  Believe me, it is not all negative!!  Acknowledging the REALITY is crucial to owing your voice, your voice type, and CLAIMING IT.

Often we look in the mirror and instead of saying "that works"  "I like this about me" - we go negative immediately.  We are ALL guilty of that.  What is wrong with saying first "I have great eyes"  "I have great cheekbones"  "I have great teeth" - say OUT LOUD what is great about YOU.

The beginning of claiming our voice, is owning the TRUTH.  What is THERE?  don't discuss what ISN'T there.

It isn't about good or is about TRUTH.  It is not about right or is about TRUTH.

The colors of my voice could be described as...

The timbre of my voice reminds me of...

The reason I love to sing is...

The best technical feature of my voice thus far is...

The role/song/aria/style that FITS me RIGHT NOW is...

When I sing that role/song/aria/style it makes me feel like this...

When no one is around, I love to sing this...


We begin there...
This idea, dear twitter reader,  has become a mutiple part blog!

Stay tuned for more this weekend!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Spring Cleaning

Saturday musings...

Well, it is spring - so they tell me...

As we move through the seasons, spring brings a sense of renewal,  or shedding extra stuff...

This is great time of year to discover and re-discover YOU as an artist,  how you are feeding yourself, what  you need to purge and clear, how to renew things, and discover MORE!

What do you need to do to clear space to allow your artistry more room to grow, to flourish?  

So many things you can access.  As someone who tends have her plate more than a little full (yes, laugh you who know!) I am constantly learning how to clear and rediscover; to simplify;  to breathe; to see;  to not over-subscribe to my life!!! One copy is plenty and how often do we (do I!!) pile on?!
Spring is often a time I re-assess what I NEED.  Often,  what is required simply allows for the dismissal of what I no longer require on my plate. 

What we do and who we are as artists, and as artists in the business is often complex and dense.  It can often become heavy and weighted.  Using spring as a literal "refresher" can help to create space ON the plate and around us.

What would renew you?  Perhaps a revamp and purging of your audition book - be it music theatre or opera. Is it time to find out what your voice does in that new repertoire?

Perhaps a session with a new coach to get a fresh perspective on how you are seen or what you are working on.  

Perhaps investing in a a class or two you haven't discovered yet!  

Maybe it's a class to do with the business or the craft or maybe it's a class that has NOTHING do to with business, but rather, something that gives you JOY!  I have many clients who have taken salsa dancing, pole dancing or burlesque classes;  some have taken workshops on the goddess within;  

Daring to explore the SPIRIT of self gives a weightlessness to the process again.  

Perhaps it's making a true commitment to the training of your craft,  instead of dabbling and hoping for the best.  

Making a true commitment to the self and what the artistic self is capable of, is never realized until the commitment reveals itself.  Wanting to, and DOING IT are not the same.  True commitment is never half way, kinda or sorta.  It is, or it is not.
Spring cleaning reveals what is actually there;  when you know what is there,  you can decide what NEEDS to be there.  The rest is simply taking up space and limiting you.  

Don't make excuses.  Simply commitment to the process of renewing, of re-discovering, of clearing and purging,  and the excuses have nowhere to live.

You do not need to re-invent the wheel - simply choose to see where you are.  See what you have, see what you need, and trust what you have.  Build on those realities.  Discover what takes you further into your craft, your artistry and your human-ness.  Allow for mistakes.  Dare to make them, as they tend not to be mistakes, but rather an acknowledgement to see another direction!

A renewal of commitment to your craft, artistry and your pursuit of being in the business begins with acknowledgement of the truth of where you are.  Dare to be there.

As we renew the commitment to where we ARE,  what we have and what we need, the panic often releases.  New choices are possible.  Challenges become exciting and not a chore.  Possibilities exist.
What we do with those possibilities is up to us;  and our ability to see ourselves honestly.  This is the TRUE spring cleaning!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

A letter to a student

Dear Singer:
So here it is, in response to your letter...
No matter who we are, we are a part of this business, because we are invited.  There are lots of reasons why they are issued and lots of reasons they are not issued to us.

We only have a limited amount of control of who issues that, when it's issued and how it's issued.  

All we have control over is how well-prepared we are.  That's it.  

We don't work in this business because we are good.  We work or don't work on the basis of how we are perceived.  

Our perception of ourselves is not necessarily what reads in a room.  Learning the TRUTH about that perception can be difficult, alarming and often disappointing.  It does, however, reveal honestly to us and allow us to make decisions that we either choose to acknowledge or not.

You are under the mistaken impression that talent = career  and that guarantees it.  It does not.  NO guarantees.  Anywhere.

You were sent to me because you were having major vocal issues.  There was damage and that's what I do - I repair voices and build voices.  You have worked hard and successfully to remedy that, and together, we have found and discovered a healthy balance in the voice.  This is just the beginning.

 I build voices.  I don't build careers.

I don't teach in negatives, but rather teach from ACTION. If you want negatives, you've come to the wrong studio.  I have always prefaced our work with saying we are building behavior create a stronger positive response, in order to allow the negative/unneeded behaviors to move out! 
Our work in the studio is about vocal behavior to allow that behavior to become consistent in audition/in performance and beyond.  I want you, as a singer, to find your best YOU, vocally;  Not to mimic, not to be like someone else , not to compare yourself to others.  If you are so focused on who is working, you are not focused on you.

HOWEVER,   I think you have to come to terms with who YOU are and what you have to offer.  You are so busy trying to get hired, that you haven't connected fully to yourself.  I have no control over how you see yourself;  YOU DO. I have no control over getting you an invitation; THEY DO.  All I can do is set up an opportunity to help you develop that instrument and develop the artistry you have to the best of your ability.

I see you haven't really been hearing what I DO say to you.  We work for and from ACTION from within.   I don't tear down.  I build up.  We have made decisions about repertoire.  From a pedagogical standpoint, I am working with you on your INSTRUMENT and within the repertoire you choose.  A COACH who works to rebuild repertoire books will help you build your book.  That's not what I do ultimately.  I can certainly suggest things, and continue to help you find integration to allow you to embody a song, a 16 bar cut or what you need.  Ultimately it is YOU who has to connect to the music, find a way to act through it.  The tools are there for you to pick up and use.  

I have given you the basic tools to begin to develop the voice.  This takes time.  Trying to build the instrument fully and audition at the same time - which I told you at the beginning - is more than a little difficult,  especially when you are trying to audition on vocal fatigue and damage.  You simply cannot reveal your best self if that self/voice is not at optimum.

Respectfully,  it's time to really figure out WHO YOU ARE as an artist,  not who you think you want to be, or who you think they want you to be.  If you aren't what they are buying, you will have to come to terms with that too.  We all have to figure this out and make it work.

Take your break by all means.  Make sure you know who you are seeing and why.  
Taking a step back and getting some perspective of what you want, why you want it, and what you need to do to facilitate it; is always an ongoing and necessary thing.  Do what you need to do.

I am here to help you find the best vocal instrument you HAVE.  I cannot create an instrument you do not have.  If you claim YOU best self, the authenticity of you will be much easier to claim and therefore,  it will read true in a room.  That is really all you can be sure of.


Saturday, April 2, 2011

Jazz Hands and Park and Honk

Late Friday/early Saturday musings...

My colleague and friend, the great and inspirational Sheri Sanders,  who is THE rock/pop music coach and is coming out with a book via Hal Leonard 'Rock the Audition'  just did an amazing video interview and it and SHE raised great points that I believe are crucial to ALL singers in ALL genres.

In music theatre, we have become so obsessed with typing, mimicking, sounding like, looking like - that we have gotten away from finding out what truly makes us unique as artists and developing artists.  The whole "jazz hands" blank look and never connecting to what we sing just to have a book of 16 bar cuts and sound like...(fill in the blank) has started to turn.  At least I hope so.

As a teacher it is an uphill battle when I hear singers who know nothing about their instrument just try to mimic someone they think they are "like" in order to call themselves an artist or performer and simply refuse to believe that they could actually learn about era, genre, style in the music they choose after they find the uniqueness of their own instruments.  I believe (I truly am an optimist you know) that we are turning a corner in our business.  I believe the more we can walk into the room knowing who we are,  what we sing well, how we sing it, how we connect to it,  we begin to announce "I am here, this is what I do well"  and there simply doesn't need to be a need to hide behind typing/vacancy/mimicking.

I want to believe that.  I will continue to fight for that.  The artists that stand for something, connect to their music, to the craft, to their technical behavior is EVERY genre believe that too.

A singer came into my studio not long ago and said she needed to sound a certain way.  I challenged her - perhaps she couldn't sound that way and that what would happen if she learned what SHE could do and how SHE could sound.  She refused to acknowledge that as a possibility.  And she wonders why she's not working.  Hmmm....

Sheri talks about the simple CONNECTION TO THE MUSIC.  The "business" of the 16 bar audition has certainly taken that connection away.  However, we've allowed that to happen.  How many of you think you can learn something well enough to connect to it the night before?  Wrong.  Terribly wrong. And terribly sad.

Music needs time - of all kinds.  It needs to be given time to nurture, to settle, to sink in.  It needs time to gestate, to gather itself.  It needs experience,  it needs discovery, it needs motivation, it needs narrative.  It needs understanding: stylistic understanding, traditional respect and realization of the time and genre it comes from.  The composer needs relevance;  the performance practice and attitudes need careful scrutiny and decisions need to be made.  You cannot do that the night before.

When you assume you can, you assume incorrectly.  You disrespect the craft, the tradition and the music.  And guess what?  You come across as disconnected, unconnected, vacant, mimicking, pretending and the stereotypical "jazz hands" that theatre people are accused of.

The "Park and Honk" in opera is the same.  "Voice first" is all well and good, but if there is only noise, and there is no real connection to a character, to a narrative, to an understanding of conversation with the music,  with the breath, with the composer's intentions,  noise it remains.

Some of the culprits are simply the size of the halls we have to sing in - just making ENOUGH noise to be heard is often all we can do.  What a disservice to the art form, to the artist, to the composer, to the craft.

The park/honk and bigger is better simply doesn't serve the music.  Do you know your voice? Truly?  Have you worked through it - learned to roll over, sit up, stand up, crawl, walk and then run?  If all you are trying to do in an audition or even in rehearsal or heaven forbid (!) performance (sigh) is to make more noise,  what are you doing?!  Why are you there?  What has been lost???

Sheri's passion in her work and this video she has made can translate to the music theatre world and to the opera world.  Pay attention.  It's about passion,  and it's about study.  It's about KNOWLEDGE - of your instrument, what it does, what makes you unique.  It's about DISCOVERING the repertoire through knowledge of era, style, genre and putting into your body.  It's about LIVING it and BREATHING it and not becoming vacant and disconnected.  It's about daring to take risks in order to create something larger than yourself - not about dialing it in.

It isn't about how big your voice is.  Truly it's not.  It isn't about you parking and barking as loudly as you can.  This is hiding in plain sight.  Opera IS theatre.  Music theatre IS theatre.  Theatre is conversation, and interaction,  and conflict, and emotion, and mind, and thought, and reflection, and discovery through music.  It is about connecting to it and through it to have something to say.

If you have nothing to say that is uniquely yours,  why are you there?

Thanks Sheri for inspiring me.

Thanks for listening so late into the night...sweet dreams...