Keep On Learning & Growing

I know firsthand how important it is as an artist and as a human being to continue to learn, grow, and never become complacent. I teach students of all ages and levels and I’m constantly encouraging them to seek out new repertoire, expand into different musical genres, and discover new meaning in each song. Sometimes I need to take my own advice.

This past Sunday, I had the opportunity to sing a solo with an awesome group of vocalists at Shaw’s Tavern in Washington, DC. My specific piece was recommended to me by the music director, Jill Parsons, and I had never heard of the song nor did I have the sheet music. I learned by listening to the lyrics and then using my own voice to tell the story.

In all honesty, I haven’t performed as a soloist very much since my twins were born and they’re now 21 months. Before this, I was performing professionally with several concerts, recordings, and shows a year. I felt really nervous at this performance. Looking back afterwards, this was silly and unnecessary; all of the singers in the program were welcoming and supportive. I jumped into my song quickly (could have taken 2 more measures), rushed a few phrases, and made a skip in lyrics (thankfully, Jill gracefully followed me on piano so the audience wasn’t aware). I would have performed better if I had just relaxed, told my story, and found the joy in this awesome singing opportunity. It was a learning experience for me; a strong wake up call that I need to do just want I propel my students to do and enjoy the journey!

I thought I would share a home rehearsal of the new musical theatre song that I sang at this event. Here’s “A Man In Mind” from The Route to Happiness:

Playbill Series: If/Then

_dsc9111It’s September and I’m going to share my experience seeing If/Then on Broadway. I’m going to preface this post by saying that I saw the pre-Broadway engagement at the Kennedy Center here in Washington, DC and already loved the Tom Kitt/ BYorkey score. I will also note that I think Ms. Idina Menzel picks someone in the audience to wave to as she exits after curtain call each performance and I think that I was that lucky person during this particular Saturday matinee.

Since I had already seen this show during its’ pre-Broadway tryout, it wasn’t at the top of my list to see during one of my NYC trips. I was already 6 months pregnant and knew that I wouldn’t be able to hop on a train to the city whenever I felt like it once my twins were born. My good friend, Courtney, and I were planning on seeing 2 shows during my short stay with her, a Friday evening show and a Saturday matinee. We decided to try our hand at a lottery ticket when I first got to town and if that failed, we’d hit up TKTS in Times Square. I mentioned this in a previous blog, but I have very little luck when it comes to these lotteries. We each put our name in the drawing at Aladdin and neither of our names was drawn. Usually all of the lotteries take place at the exact same time and since you have to be there when your name is called, it’s impossible to be in the lottery for more than one show. As luck would have it, If/Then had their lottery a half-hour later than all of the other shows so we decided to try for it. Courtney’s name was called second and I was called fourth…what?!?! My name didn’t even need to be called since each person can buy up to 2 tickets.

On this mild Friday evening, we scored $35 orchestra seats to the show and had just enough time to meet Courtney’s husband, Rick, for dinner at 5 Napkin Burger in Hell’s Kitchen. We made it back to the theatre with time to spare and settled into our bargain seats!

Having the opportunity to see this show again allowed me to see how they tightened things up and refined the book for their Broadway engagement. Although there were certainly mixed reviews for this show, I loved seeing it both times and really related to the storyline. Maybe this is because I was pregnant and being a mother (and a military family) is a part of this show. Maybe it’s because I sometimes think about life in terms of if I had done this versus that and where I would be. Maybe it’s because it takes place in NYC and everyone knows I love the city. Or maybe it’s because the show had an awesome cast, a cool ensemble, and great energy! There is nothing that excites me and inspires me more than an evening of musical theatre.

 

Finding That Perfect 16-Bars

16-bar-cutIt is common practice in musical theatre for auditions to consist of singing 16-bars at both the professional and community level. On occasion you may be asked for 32-bars, a short song (2-3 min), or even an 8-bar cut (yikes!). I’m focusing on finding 16-bar cuts, approximately 30 to 45 seconds of music, for the purpose of auditioning. Many of my students want to show everything they can do in this short amount of time from their highest note to their powerful belt to their awesome acting chops to their musical prowess. In short, this is an impossible task and not what I want my students to focus on.

What’s important in those 16-bars?

  1. Find a song that is age and voice appropriate. I don’t want to hear a thirteen year old singing “Send In The Clowns” or a fifty year old singing “Good Morning Baltimore”.
  2. Find a song that fits the style of the show you’re auditioning for. If you’re auditioning for Rock of Ages, a rock song (preferably not from a musical) is what I’d recommend whereas if you’re audition for The Sound of Music, I would generally suggest a legit classic musical theatre song.
  3. Find a song that you love. There is so much music to choose from that there is no need to settle for a song that you think is just okay.
  4. Tell a story in sixteen bars and make sure that your cut makes sense. We don’t want to end in the middle of a phrase or on a leading tone (note that wants to be resolved to Do). It is possible to have a cohesive story in 16-bars.
  5. You! Directors, music directors, and the producing team want to work with awesome people. Don’t get so caught up in vocal technique and acting and musicality that you forget to simply enjoy the performance of your 16-bars!
  6. Last, but not least, HAVE FUN! It’s your time and your audition so enjoy it.

Seeing Broadway Shows On The Fly

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http://www.playbill.com/

I recently made a day trip to NYC to see a show and spend time with my husband. It was a Wednesday so I decided to see a matinee and I was open to many different shows. I submitted my information to 3 online lotteries and actually won 2 of the 3. I ended up seeing An American In Paris. There are no guarantees that you will win these lotteries, but I’m confident that you can get tickets on the day of a performance at a budget price as long as you are not picky about what show you see or where you sit.

I’ve seen numerous shows through rush tickets, lotteries, and TKTS. I’ve scored amazing orchestra seats, obstructed view seats, and back balcony seats all at prices way below box office price. The best resource for these seats is Playbill. Click here to see the current line up of rush, lotteries, and standing room tickets. If you have no luck with these options, there’s always TKTS, which offers discounts of 20 to 50 percent on orchestra seats for every performance. They even have an app that you can download to see what is listed each day.

On this recent trip, I also submitted to the Hamilton online lottery again (I did this on my last trip too) and sadly, I once again did not win. It’s the hottest ticket in town right now, and the entire street was mobbed as I strolled by the theatre Wednesday afternoon when they were in-the-midst of the live matinee lottery. I then waited in line for a cancellation ticket to the evening show (at full ticket price) and yet again was unable to score tickets. I’ll keep trying and will post a photo as soon as it happens.

With plenty of options for discounted tickets to Broadway (and off-Broadway) shows, there’s no reason not to take in a matinee or evening (or both!!) show when you’re in NYC. It is paramount to a young performer’s development to see live theatre and learn! From hearing new music, seeing strong acting choices, observing performers’ technique, and taking in a new experience every time, artists can continue to grow.

 

She Loves Me On Broadway and In My Living Room?!?!

13521857_1024304054312864_5784175967038987441_nOn June 30, 2016, BroadwayHD provided the first ever live stream of a Broadway show: the current revival of She Loves Me (which just closed last weekend). BroadwayHD continued to offer this live recording as an On-Demand Encore through July 10th. I was finally able to rent and watch this last Friday evening, July 8th. I quite simply enjoyed my evening in with this gorgeous production!

Though I have known the songs from this show for years and years, I have never seen a production of She Loves Me. I own both the original  1963 recording and the 1993 Roundabout Theatre Company revival recording. I also have the vocal selections and have sung several of the songs in this show including A Trip To The Library, which I performed at my senior voice recital in college! I’ve assigned both the lyrical and character pieces to my female and male students. There’s lots of vocal technique to be learned from these classic musical theatre songs (breath, legato line, and phrasing to name a few)!

BroadwayHD is in one word: phenomenal! I love that I could catch this limited run in my living room (while my children were sleeping upstairs) even though I wasn’t able to make it to New York City. The owners of BroadwayHD blatantly state that this is by no means a replacement for live theatre. I wholeheartedly believe that! I also think that by providing a way for people across the globe to watch live Broadway performances, we are sharing theatre with those that don’t have access to NYC and these high quality performances on Broadway.

I know there are men and women of all ages (including my young students) out there just like me that listen to this music, watch this show, and it takes them to another world. It inspires their creativity, encourages them to pursue their passions, and makes their heart happy. We need more of this everyday and I’m hopeful that BroadwayHD will continue to spread the joy of live theatre throughout the world!

 

 

 

Playbill Series: Sweet Charity

Sweet Charity PlaybillI’m featuring a musical that I saw in the month of July in this month’s Playbill post. It was 11 years ago in July 2005 that I saw Christina Applegate in a revival of Sweet Charity at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre. I was already familiar with the music (Cy Coleman), plot, and choreography (Bob Fosse) from my musical theatre studies.

This was my first summer teaching at the Emma Willard School, a private all-girls boarding school in Albany. Each two-week session in this academic program for middle and high school students had the opportunity to travel to NYC twice: first on Saturday for entertainment and exploration of your choice (museums, shows, shopping, Statue of Liberty) and then on Wednesday for an activity that directly related to your program (in my case, performing arts).

I saw Sweet Charity on Saturday, July 9th, with a group of 10 teenagers (mostly my performing arts students with 2-3 students in other sections). The entire program traveled on a coach bus and had a drop off spot in Soho.  We then grabbed lunch at a local cafe and headed uptown on the subway. It was many of these students’ first trip on the NYC subway and on a hot summer day with crowded trains, I was very careful not to lose anyone on the platform. We made it to midtown and all grabbed student rush tickets. With a little time for souvenir shopping, we made our way back to the theatre in time for our 2pm matinee.

It was fun to be in NYC as a tourist again. Even though I hadn’t yet made Manhattan my permanent residence, I spent quite a bit of time there for continuing education (aka voice lessons and musical theatre classes), auditions, and social fun! I even interviewed for this specific teaching position in Brooklyn.

I glance at this playbill and I smile with the memories that were created at the Emma Willard School’s summer program, both in and out of the classroom. I made friends that I’m still in contact with today (one of those friends was even a bridesmaid in my wedding), gained experience in teaching (this was my first teaching gig outside of college), and discovered my passion for training young musical theatre artists!

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My first group of students!

Singing on Broadway Today

I’m teaching a musical theatre workshop this week and we are exploring songs from shows that are currently running on Broadway. From the classic, legit musical theatre in the revival of She Loves Me to the pop stylings of Sara Bareilles in Waitress to rap in Hamilton, there are a wide range of vocal styles and abilities featured on Broadway right now.

We focused on three categories of Broadway musicals: new (in the last five seasons), revivals, and long-running hits. New musicals could be completely original works like Hamilton (the 2016 Best Musical Tony Award winner) and Something Rotten!, but could also include shows based on movies (School of Rock), books (Tuck Everlasting), or featuring music by a particular songwriter (On Your Feet). Even shows that flopped this season have fantastic songs so I think it’s always worth a listen to the cast recording.

Musical theatre singers are true vocal athletes that must have versatility, musicality, and strong acting chops. It is important to develop healthy vocal technique while strengthening your voice and building your endurance. Working on dynamics, range, musical style, acting the song, and challenging yourself as a performer through both repertoire and vocalises are all essential ingredients to getting yourself Broadway ready.

Here is a video that highlights two of the songs we’ve been working on this week: