Tuesday, January 31, 2012



In Concert The World Renown Victor Trent Cook, Rodrick Dixon and Thomas Young Musical Mix from Opera to Soul

Friday, February 10 through Sunday, February 12

Critically acclaimed tenors Victor Trent Cook, Rodrick Dixon, and Thomas Young delight audiences with a singular musical mix that easily bridges opera to gospel, American songbook standards to soul, and everything in between, from Handel to Ellington and beyond. This trio of talented, ultra-versatile singers, known as Cook, Dixon & Young, take your spirit, body and mind on a fantastic, memorable and awe-inspiring musical journey through the worlds of opera, Broadway, jazz, blues, soul, spiritual, gospel and spoken word. These concerts are the culmination of over 15 years of a creative association of George Faison with Cook, Dixon & Young.
Victor Cook began singing at age three and continued as boy soprano soloist with renowned conductors such as James Levine and Seiji Ozawa, and performing in the world’s most famous venues, such as The White House, Carnegie Hall, and the John F. Kennedy Center. He also competed on “Star Search,” where he was named Star Search 1998 “$100,000 Male Vocal Champion!” He won roles on various soaps, including All My Children and made guest appearances on The Arsenio Hall Show, the Today Show and the Rosie O’Donnell Show. On Broadway he starred in such Smokey Joe’s CafĂ©, for which he was nominated for a Tony Award.
Rodrick Dixon’s dramatic stage presence and stunning vocal qualities have established him as one of the rising stars in opera, contemporary opera, oratorio, concerts and recitals. In 2009, Mr. Dixon made his Los Angeles Philharmonic debut as Oedipus Rex.
In 2008 for the Los Angeles Opera and Philadelphia Orchestra, he delivered a powerfully gripping performance as the Dwarf in the opera Der Zwerg conducted by James Conlon. Opera News considered his portrayal of the Dwarf a triumph! In the spring and summer of 08’ at the Cincinnati May Festival, he performed the Beethoven 9th. He recently headlined the December Opera Is Hot Series at the Faison Firehouse.
Thomas Young, a Grammy-award winning lyric tenor, has appeared as a principal soloist in the major concert halls and opera houses of some 30 countries, and under the baton of, among others, Zubin Mehta, Roger Norrington, Simon Rattle, and Esa-Pekka Salonen. In addition to his distinguished performance career, Mr. Young serves as a tenured Professor of Music at Sarah Lawrence College and is in demand as a conductor, clinician and master class specialist.
Matinee Ticket Prices are $25 in advance, $40 day of performance
Evening Ticket Prices are $30 in advance, $45 day of performance
For tickets and other information please call: 212 665-7698 or email your ticket order to mail@faisonfirehouse.org
The Faison Firehouse Box Office 11AM-6PM Tue. – Sat
  • Friday, February 10, 2012 @ 8:00 pm
  • Saturday, February 11, 2012 @ 3:00 pm
  • Saturday, February 11, 2012 @ 8:00 pm
  • Sunday, February 12, 2012 @ 3:00 pm

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Taking Responsibility

Sunday musings...

So you say your last teacher messed up your voice and it's all their fault.  Okay.  So what about YOU?

So you find another teacher that might be able to help clarify that damage and get you back on track. Okay.  So what about YOU?

Where is YOUR responsibility in all of this?

These are two very common issues.  The blame game and then the ignore it away. 

"So and so messed me up royally"  to "now so and so wants me to rethink my voice and go another direction".

So often,  these two issues collide but the psychology behind them, underneath them is never addressed fully. 

Yes,  shit happens.  Truly it does.  Most of us have had to survive poor teaching, or simply bad teaching.  The key word is SURVIVE.  If you know enough to get out and survive it, you have enough brain cells to say it is time to rework it!  Whether you CHOOSE to do anything about it is up to you.  To simply say "I was RUINED" and not begin to explore possibilities to find a healthy instrument again is often a cop-out.  You running into and colliding with a bad teacher does not make you special.  Welcome to the club.  How you choose to handle it is what makes you rise above the self-pity and blaming it on someone else.  You really don't want to be remembered or be special because you allowed someone else's incompetence to take over your being do you?  Especially in a profession where many of us has not just survived it, but learned to turn it around and thrive and succeed? 

Now, you CHOOSE to either stay "ruined" or you CHOOSE to look clearly into the vocal mirror and say "what do I need?"

Sometimes what we do need is overwhelming.  After our trust has been violated in one instance,  we must learn to trust someone else who may need to take us away from a comfort zone and protective space that is literally hurting us.  As a teacher,  we must earn your trust,  but as a singer, we must prove to that teacher we are WILLING to explore what is being asked of us. 

Responsibility lies in the action of a singer's decisions.

If you are smart enough to say "something is wrong, I am making a change" and you seek out another professional's expertise to say "what is wrong?" and they answer you,  it is your responsibility to explore that and see where it leads. 

Sadly, many singers are so invested in a false sense of themselves - how they appear, what "fach" they are tied to,  how they THINK they want to sound,  what they THINK they want to do,  (none of which is actually realized by the way - only in their minds) - that they do not have the tools to realize that positive changes are actually making them better.

Honestly,  the hardest cases I liken to abuse victims that continue to go back to their abusers.  That might be a strong analogy but it does give one pause doesn't it?

If the "victim" does not recognize the help, the change, the possibility for themselves, they will repeatedly return to what they "know" because in some strange and bizarre level it is "comfortable".  Comfort doesn't mean right;  it doesn't mean correct;  it is KNOWN.  It is the UNKNOWN that is frightening,  unsure and unstable. 

Singers who have invested time, energy, money with someone who led them in a direction that was not healthy, not realistic, not true have to make a DECISION once this is understood and take responsibility for that decision.  Yes, it is complex.  Yes, it is tough.  But if you KNOW you must CLAIM.  It is simply the first step.

Finding the truth can be daunting.  If you have been singing the wrong repertoire,  if you have a very distorted view of your voice,  if you have damaged the voice,  and if you take the steps to discover what has happened,  why it has happened and what you need to do to fix it,  then you must decide if you WILL.  This is YOUR responsibility.

If a dedicated and true teacher will tell you and show you and lead you and offer you the tools to discover what you NEED,  you must decide whether you will relinquish the "comfort" of victim and move forward into an unknown territory or stay where you are.  YOUR decision.  YOUR responsibility.  Learning what you NEED may not be what you thought - it might not be what you WANT.  Wants have no reality if the needs aren't meant.

If you begin this new and tentative journey,  each step will reveal where you are.  Not where you were.  Where you ARE.  New, possible, positive. It will reveal something new, and perhaps not what you expected.  That doesn't need to be BAD!  However, you need to decide and take responsibility for it.

What if a teacher invests in YOU and you begin to see progress,  discover possibilities,  make healthy changes?  YOU need to invest in you.  YOU need to trust the re-working and re-discovery might actually benefit YOU and make you a better singer and lead you into the repertoire and roles you are truly meant to learn and sing.  The PROCESS needs to be discovered.  If you can see the progress,  if you are a healthier singer,  how can you NOT relinquish the victim?  If you see positive investment around you,  how can you NOT invest in your new possibilities?

However, some simply cannot relinquish the victim mentality.  That can be a choice, or an issue that is much larger than singing. 

If you are a singer who is making progress with a new teacher and makes a DECISION to go back to old ways, old fach - that is YOUR responsibility.  That isn't someone else's fault. 

Singers CHOOSE to listen or not.  Singers CHOOSE to study or not.  Singers CHOOSE to stay "comfortable" and perhaps put themselves in a detrimental situation or get uncomfortable for a while to discover the truth.  Singers CHOOSE.  They are not held at gun point. 

Real teachers of craft,  who have integrity and see each singer as the individual they are are willing to part with a student because they KNOW the choice is up the singer.  They will wish that singer well,  saddened that said singer could be their own worst enemy but recognize that choice is not a reflection of them, but rather a reflection of what a singer has decided to do, or not to do.

Some singers learn the truth and go another way.  Some singers stay deluded because it gives them a false sense of security and control.

As teachers with integrity,  we can't save them all.  We often have to let those singers go who simply make a choice not to see, or have issues larger than our training allows us to address.

As singers,  if we KNOW we have an issue,  if we truly WANT to be a better singer,  we must take responsibility for the decisions we make.  If we blame everybody else for our issues,  it might be time to re-evaluate what we are truly victims of.  Realization can be illuminating, but it can be worked very had to hide for fear of the unknown.

As a teacher, I take responsibility for what I am responsible for.

As a singer,  I am responsible for the decisions I make for the decisions I choose to make or choose not to make.  Those decisions are completely and fully at the feet of the singer.

As a teacher, if a singer makes a choice to not accept and goes elsewhere - fly, be free!  Take responsibility to find what you need  -not what you THINK you need.

As a singer,  quit making excuses if the truth sits in front of you.  If you choose NOT to do anything about it,  claim that choice too.  The responsibility is simply yours.

Friday, January 27, 2012

so you call yourself a professional singer...

Friday musings...

 Mezzo soprano Cindy Sadler  and I were discussing this topic.  Cindy is a marvelous artist, a wonderful friend and colleague and someone I admire greatly for her strength and focus and dedication, and her humor and ability to say it like it is.

The question was simply a stunned and unbelievable one:  How can you call yourself a professional singer (or claim you are) and yet never seem to afford to study voice and take lessons?

How is this possible?  How is it you can call yourself professional yet never really DO it?

I know, some of you are screaming and whining and saying "yeah but study is expensive".  Yes it is.  So you figure out what is important and you make it work.  Why?  because it is NECESSARY.  It amazes me how many people talk about wanting something, yet seem to make every excuse not to do anything about it.

You cannot CLAIM you are anything if you do not DO it.  It is that simple.  Professionals work to get to where they are by study, and action.  They don't wait for a handout.  They don't sit and moan and groan about "poor me".  They don't put energy and time into smoke and mirrors.  They actually DO THE WORK and INVEST IN THEMSELVES!

Calling yourself a "professional singer" could mean many things but it evokes are level of expertise and knowledge.  It evokes a level of being able to DO something.  It evokes a level of preparedness and thus a level of execution, and a level of success in that execution.

Yes Virginia,  professional singers of EVERY level still study!  They have to in order to keep their craft growing and building and their instrument healthy and able to actually DO what they say they can.

If you can NEVER afford a lesson - to check in with your teacher,  your coach - what are you doing?  We all have to eat and pay the rent and the bills, but this is part of the budget!  As a professional, the investment in your instrument is CRUCIAL.  If this instrument is what may pay the bills, or some of them,  shouldn't it be in great working order???  And isn't that working order needing a second set of ears to make sure you haven't developed some habits that are not beneficial?  Or perhaps that working instrument needs a tune up?  A clarity?  More development?

You may know what you need.  You also need a second set of ears to reinforce that knowledge or to perhaps suggest something you hadn't thought about.

Every profession requires "updates".  Standards require professionals of ANY kind to continue training,  attending seminars and classes and the like.  Why would you think you are any different?

You cannot claim the word "professional" if you are not working as one, or living as one.  "I simply can't afford a voice lesson"  is a cop-out.

Many professionals, once reaching a certain level in their development don't study every week,  but they know when they need to check in with a teacher they have created a relationship with. 

Many professionals make time to do intensive study if they are preparing a role.

Many professionals know how crucial it is to have regular voice work while doing a show.

REAL professionals who CLAIM their craft would never say "I simply can't afford a voice lesson".  They would never makes excuses for it.  It would never enter their mind.

They find a way to respect their craft,  and respect themselves fully but doing what they say they are.  How do you develop knowledge and technical finesse, specificity and speciality if you do not study? You cannot be a specialist in anything if you do not study!  Professional singer is a speciality.  It, by definition, evokes study!

Calling yourself a professional singer while at the same time, never having time to DO what it takes to BE a professional singer simply doesn't fly.  You aren't fooling anyone, except maybe yourself.

Actions speak louder than words.  Walk the walk if you dare.  Ultimately it's your choice.  TRUE professionals don't have to tell everybody that's what they are:  they simply DO it.

Friday, January 20, 2012

If you don't know what a tour jete' is - get out of the audition line!

Friday Musings...

after a discussion with a singer who dances (or a dancer who sings depending on who you talk to - her or me!) of the annoyances at the audition...(and am talking MT here)

There are MANY taking up space at the audition that simply should not be there.  People who do not follow the rules, who bitch, who complain, who try to sound and look important and simply SHOULD NOT BE AUDITIONING.

Why not?  Talent aside,  there are certain things that expose you and if so exposed,  you have no business being at an audition.

"They asked for a tour jete' - what's that?"  If you are at a dance call and you do not know the terminology - you probably do not know how to dance.  Certainly not at the level that is required to be a professional and be hired for a job.  You should not be at the audition.  You should be in a CLASS LEARNING HOW TO DANCE.

"What's a bell tone?"  get out of the singer call.  If you do not study singing regularly, semi-regularly and can put down a CURRENT teacher or do not have your voice in working order,  you shouldn't be auditioning. 

Harsh?  Hardly.  Real? Yes indeed.

Those of you who study regularly to build craft know the exhaustion of going to an audition, being 151 on the list and then find out they are only seeing up to 149.  You also know that half of those people just got there early and probably do not study regularly and just want to be at a music theatre audition.  They aren't right for the show,  they haven't done anything to develop craft.  So the casting director is listening/watching to people who simply are wasting their time,  where there might be and most certainly are, those of you cut by number who would have been much better suited to be seen.

So, if you don't understand dance terminology - get thee to MANY classes to learn HOW to say it, WHAT it is, and HOW TO DO IT WELL.  Then and only then have you begun to be ready for a dance call.

Singers - STUDY.  HONESTLY PLEASE!  Don't put teachers' names down on your resume if you don't work with them or didn't work with them regularly enough (or more than once).  The business is small.  I have had casting directors and directors call me asking if I work with so-and-so.  You are found out pretty quickly if you fabricated something.  Casting gets to know what certain singers who study with a certain teacher DO,  and you can't fake that.  Period.

Singers, you need to know what a bell tone is for an audition.  You often need to know your range - which isn't always relevant from a squeak to a grunt - but a range that is easy to SING well.  You should know what tessitura means and what it means for YOU;  you should know what your passaggio is;  You should know your voice TYPE for any given show.  You should know the difference between voice type for choral singing, and voice type for solo singing.  An "alto" is NOT a solo voice type.  If you call yourself that, it tells us a great deal of what you do NOT know.

Many of the terms in singing have translations depending on the voice teacher you study with - but know how to translate them back!  If you don't know, ASK! There are no stupid questions in the studio  - you are there to LEARN.

"Faking your way" in an audition exposes you to bigger issues.  First,  you might only be faking to yourself and everybody sees PRECISELY who you are and what you are about.   People remember - others in the line, the monitor,  the casting director and anybody else at the table. 

Real artists keep building their craft.  Real dancers keep taking dance classes.  Real singers keep studying voice.  Real actors keep themselves in acting classes.  If you SAY you are, DO what you say you are.   Know what you are talking about by doing it.  If you don't know, LEARN. STUDY.

DO it well, or simply step aside so someone who is behind you has a chance to be seen.  If you aren't smart enough to realize it's YOU,  then you might be told to move. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Pulling yourself out of "stall" and into "create"

Wednesday morning musings...

We could all whine - but what does it do ultimately?  Whine, get it out of your system and then decide what you WANT and what you NEED.

A wonderful singer/writer/performer and human being with whom I work is Trent Armand Kendall.

His facebook status this morning was this:

"To: all of my colleagues who might be feeling creatively stalled,
Use this time to re-invest in who you are as an artist and and a worthy product ripe for consumption. Take that class, buy that new outfit, learn a new song or monologue.... Expand your list of skills. Write, compose, create, breathe life into something that is just a germ of an idea! Do this with out worrying about the outcome. Dance on the wind.


I immediately shared it. 

Thank you Trent for your BEING.

On my Voice Studio Page yesterday I suggested "If you need to study, why aren't you?"

It is always amazing to me how we can really put energy into the whining, and knowing what we NEED and simply refusing to get creative and find a way out of "stall".  If we put half the energy we use in whining to find a creative solution,  we would HAVE the solution!

Of course, the first "stall" is a legitimate one:  study costs money.  Yes it does.  So, instead of whining, get creative.

Do you have a teacher?  Perhaps it's time to find one that will help you, challenge you,  support you to achieve what you need.  Teacher, class, coach - whatever you need in your singing, acting and/or dancing!

If you can't afford weekly lessons,  if you budgeted could you afford a 6 week "installation" plan?  Could you work every 2nd week for 6 weeks,  record and work with those lessons, take a 6 week hiatus and then return for another 6 week installation? Just a suggestion...

Where are you in your development?  What do you actually NEED from your studies? Break that down and be honest.  If you haven't developed your craft to a level to be hired, whining isn't going to get you where you want to be.  If you truly and honestly WANT what you speak about,  then you have to GET IT.  Nobody is going to hand it to you.  Many will help you along the way, but it is still UP TO YOU to see you are stalled and make the DECISION to move into an actual gear and slowly but surely build up to where you need to be!

If you are a dancer and keep getting cut because you aren't singing well enough - why are you whining? You have been TOLD EXACTLY WHAT YOU NEED TO DO!!!  Why not figure out a way to make it work? 

If you are a singer with certain vocal issues,  or needing to move more effortlessly on stage, or need more acting development - then quit sitting in stall!!  DO IT!

If you are an actor who would get more work if you began vocal study, then why aren't you?

Is it really easier to just sit there?  If you call yourself an artist, a creative, then BE one!  YOU are in the driver's seat.  YOU make the choices, and if that is true, YOU have to accept the consequences.  Period.  Your creativity must be nurtured,  in order to discover what YOU can do.  If you accept that challenge (and yes, often it IS a challenge) you can then claim the rewards!

Creativity has to be nurtured in HOW WE LIVE not just in what we think we WANT.  If we begin to explore the creative of our every day living,  we can then get creative with how we handle the demands of what we need as an artist,  how we feed that,  how we find that,  how we nurture that fully.

Who can afford anything anymore? But as artists,  emerging artists, developing artists,  how can we NOT afford to invest in ourselves? 

What is necessary in your world?  Do we view study as a "necessity" or an "extra"?  Perhaps that is a first step...necessities are CRUCIAL to being alive.  Perhaps if we view our artistic development as a NECESSITY we will put in the column of rent/food/heat.  In doing that,  we begin to see the VALUE of NECESSITY and will find the means to eliminate the whining,  and know what we need to do to take a breath, release the clutch and put our artistic lives into the first gear and begin MOVING!!

Friday, January 6, 2012

More Reading Lists 2012 for The Actor in MT AND Opera!

Lots of great response from the first list I posted...

So I am adding more...opera singers,  please consider  some of these titles to help access what you need on stage - you ARE in theatre too!!

1.  The Third Line: The Opera Performer as Interpreter

This is a must have in the opera singer's library.  Not really a "process" book, but accesses the ideas of subtext,  dos and don'ts,  in an informative manner.  It will give you some things to chew on, consider, and ways to discover characterization within the music itself.  The sense of "larger than life" is discussed and entertained as a declamatory style for theatre.  Some interesting concepts and clear accessibility.

2.  Singer and Actor: Acting Technique and the Operatic Performer - Alan E Hicks

This book explores a history of acting technique  and what is required NOW in this digital age on stage!  It takes things step by step and is a great "review" for those who have stage experience and just want to access a tune-up,  and a wonderful resource for those pursuing opera and have little to no experience on stage or in an acting class.  (one of my pet peeves - the lack of actual ACTING training in opera programs)

3.  The Actor Speaks: Voice and the Performer - Patsy Rodenburg

The brilliant Patsy Rodenburg has put this MUST READ book together as a complete voice workshop.  This should be an absolute MUST HAVE for EVERY actor and EVERY singer.  I cannot recommend this highly enough.  She tackles everything a voice must demand of itself - from breath to projection, to resonance, to different sized halls, to different types of text - speaking AND singing.
This is a CLASSIC in the making!

4.  Freeing the Natural Voice - Kristin Linklater

Ms. Linklater,  another brilliant pioneer in the use of voice as instrument,  has created this must-have book.  Dealing primarily with the speaking voice as actor,  singers NEED this perspective as well.  So many singers do not use their speaking voices well and this is what needs to be addressed FIRST!  Written with clarity and MUCH imagery (if you learn well by imagery you will love this book),  the exercises will be inspiring and easy to access.  Again, a book you can read and re-read and access what you need when you need it.  This new edition is a more expanded text and easier to access.

5.  About Acting - Peter Barkworth

This is a must have.  Mr. Barkworth truly reveals the British theatrical approach to the stage with ease. There is much practicality and use-ability in this book.  There are also many humorous moments as well as some great historical information that will be useful and fascinating.

These are 5 more you might consider purchasing to peruse, devour, use as reference material and add to your library!  Happy Reading!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2012 Reading List begins!


As a music theatre student/singer,  what is on your bookshelf?

I thought to start the new year, I would suggest some reading to you - great books to read, to peruse, to go back to for excellent information!  This list is by no means definitive but it might get you looking in the right direction!  These are not books I say I use - although I read them and discover that ANY book has SOMETHING I can glean.  I do not have to agree with it all - but I can appreciate where it comes from, what it is trying to evoke and discover truths and discoveries in all of it.  We find what we need when we need it.  Reading accesses into the DOING that we must then seek out in study,  exploration and performance.

1. Rock the Audition - by Sheri Sanders

This is the ONLY text that addresses what is required for rock/pop music theatre auditions.  I know Sheri well,  and cannot recommend this enough.  It reads like she speaks to her singers - it is FULL of great information,  truth,  compassion and all things Sheri!  You NEED this in your library.  And there is a DVD for viewing.  You will read and absorb and go back and read again.  NECESSARY for EVERY MT singer!!

2.  Make it Your Business - by Paul Russell

Paul is a former actor and a current Casting Director in NYC.  He writes a great, no-nonsense blog about the business and this book is funny,  and dead on! Paul reveals common mistakes that you can avoid as you pursue your career.  He discusses so many aspects of the business that we often take for granted and need to revisit to remind ourselves of what can work for us and not against us!  Needed in your library in MT and straight theatre.

3. Self-Management for Actors - Bonnie Gillespie

ANYTHING Bonnie writes has relevance.   This is for ANY of us in ANY aspect of the business.  Straight forward,  solid common sense (which isn't so common anymore),

4. The Tao of Show Business - Dallas Travers

Dallas is motivational and works thus.  This book really shares the day to day.  It is powerful and real and will perhaps give you perspective.  From definitive action, to motivational inspiration,  you will discover MORE here in all aspects of being in the business.

5.  The Artist's Way - Julia Cameron

This bestseller works with the Artist within.  It begins to uncover the creativity of self day by day. The balance of artist and business person is so important and this journey allows you permission to access that creative spirit fully.  Intensive and action-oriented,  you will be tasked to be true to your path!

6.  An Actor Prepares - Stanislavski

Legendary and needed read!  Written very conversationally, and with wit and common sense,  this is a must read on any actor's shelf.  It is a manifesto of sorts,  and whether you CHOOSE to subscribe to this particular system of acting or not,  it is a solid read and delivery and discovery of what acting could be. 

7.  The Art of Acting - Stella Adler

Another legend and necessary read!  She actually studied with Stanislavski!  This collection of her lessons begins to give an actor an opportunity to find each chapter named in its action.  This is a stimulating read, and re-read!

8.  The Oxford Companion to the American Musical

A great book on the shelf to refer to,  and a rather detailed overview to the musical.  Of course there are always things left out,  but there are some great little tidbits of information that will be interesting.  A great resource material!

9.  Get the Callback: The Art of Auditioning for Musical Theatre - Jonathan Flom

a good easy-to-use no-nonsense step by step book.  Some great dos and don'ts lists, but being published in 2009, know some of those lists have changed!!  Again, great information to those getting started,  or to refresh some common sense reminders to those who have been doing it awhile!

10.  Acting the Song - Allison Bergman/Tracy Moore

Chapters are well defined to discover the different elements a singer needs to integrate the acting of the song.  Sections for beginning students, intermediate and advanced performers.  Some clear insights, and specific exercises to add or enhance one's development.


These are simply suggestions you might want to add to your shelves...find what makes sense to you!  Find what you can use!  Read,  utilize, and discover the professionals that can help you lift it off the page and make it CRAFT!