I’m a big believer in warming up the voice on a daily basis. There are several warm-ups I use in my studio that are both educational and fun for my younger students. While singing scales and arpeggios on open vowels can be extremely helpful to teen and adult singers, children can find these types of exercises boring. I certainly want my students to look forward to singing in our lesson and not feel a rush to speed through warmups to get to actual songs.
What I’ve found works best for kids are exercises with words. I have several warmups that utilize different animals, foods, and even musical terms (legato, staccato, and marcato). I also encourage movement with the words and funny sounds to correlate with the words. In short, anything that can make learning to sing fun and promote healthy vocal production in the studio and while practicing at home.
Here’s a video with a sampling of warm-ups that children can practice at home. Feel free to sing along with me and add a comment if you have your own wordy warmup!
In the past month, I have seen three Stephen Sondheim musicals in the local DC community. As a singer, I absolutely adore his music and lyrics. I find them to be at once complex and beautifully simplistic. His songs (stories) always take me on journey whether I am the performer or the listener.
I started my Sondheim month by seeing Sweeney Todd at the St. Mark’s Players in SE Washington, DC. Featuring two of my amazing students, Brevan Collins (Tobias) and Carla Crawford (Ensemble), the story came to life in this church space under the direction of my good friend Christine Callsen. I have seen several productions of Sweeney Todd and, of course, the 2007 feature film with Johnny Depp. This is musical theatre at its’ finest with captivating and intriguing music. By no means an easy score to sing, all of these characters have complex harmonies, wide ranges, and overlapping melodic lines. Personal song favorites are “Johanna” (beautiful…please listen if you don’t know this song!) and “By The Sea” (just a fun character piece).
Next in my journey was Into The Woods Jr. at Aldersgate Church Community Theatre. Featuring a cast of 8 to 18 year olds, this production featured several of my students. I always enjoy this show! It has characters that we all know from childhood fairytales, imagined in a brand-new light with music that is memorable and fun to sing! An attention to diction is essential in this show as the songs have lots of detailed words, move the story forward, and bring these characters to life. When I think of this show, I immediately hear the music for “Moments in the Woods”, “On The Steps of the Palace”, and “Children will Listen”.
I closed the current winter DC Sondheim tour with Road Show at Signature Theatre. This is Stephen Sondheim’s most recent musical. It has been reimagined several times (I did not see the original incarnations) and includes actor-musicians in the ensemble. I could absolutely hear Sondheim’s voice in this show through the musical storyline. It is a one hour and 40 minute show with no intermission (a little unusual for Sondheim) and has orchestrations that are written for a small number of instruments (primarily piano and violin). Memorable songs for me are “The Best Thing That Ever Happened” (I really loved the relationship between Addison and Hollis) and “Addison’s Trip”.
It is no surprise that there seem to be a multitude of Stephen Sondheim shows playing in the DC area. Road Show is Signature’s 26th production of a Sondheim musical! If you are unfamiliar with this composer, please seek out his work on iTunes and find a production to see. Vocalists can learn so much from studying his music in terms of diction, breath support, pitch, harmonization, patter, and song interpretation (distinct character choices).
It’s February 14th, the day each year to celebrate love! Thematically in musical theatre, love is at the center of so many shows, both classic and contemporary. Romantic love, of course, but you may also notice love for children (South Pacific), for life (Fiddler on the Roof), for yourself (Matilda), and how love can change over time (The Last 5 Years).
I’ve decided to share with you a video from the NYC premiere of my solo cabaret, Broadway Lights, Manhattan Nights. It is a song from the musical Ordinary Days, that is both heart wrenching and optimistic. The show itself takes place in NYC and reminds me of my journey in the Big Apple. My love for the city that captured my heart when I was a little girl with big dreams and my love for my spouse, my partner, and my best friend are all in this song.
Music is powerful and love is powerful so it’s no wonder that musicals explore love in so many different ways. Hope you enjoy!
It’s time to start thinking about summer programs if your middle or high schooler is planning on furthering their musical theatre studies this summer. Even though it’s still February, summer is just around the corner and there are many local programs in the DC metro area that are fantastic!
1. Aimee Bee Inc will be offering a one week half-day workshop intensive for students to learn about contemporary musical theatre. It will take place from 9:30am to 1pm, June 27 through July 1, in Alexandria, VA. We will be exploring songs from shows that are currently on Broadway and the week will culminate in a cabaret style performance. Check out my website for more details and email me with any questions.
2. Signature Theatre’s Stage One is a two-week workshop for ages 14 to 17. Auditions are held in Arlington, VA on March 26th or by video submission. Taking place at this Tony award winning theatre, students are immersed in musical theatre for two weeks. Click here for more information!
3. Theatre Lab’s Summer Musical Theatre Institute produces two full-scale musicals each summer over a three-week experience. This summer, students ages 13 to 19 can audition for either or both Jesus Christ Superstar and Carousel. It’s a great opportunity for students to gain performance experience on a large production. Check out their website for more details.
4. High School Summer Musical Theatre Institute at Catholic University of America in Washington, DC offers rising high school juniors and seniors an opportunity to hone their musical theatre skills in a two-week residential program. Click here for more information!
If you’re looking to improve your musical theatre skill set this summer, there is absolutely a program in our local area that will fit your goals.
Did I miss any local programs that you would recommend to your friends interested in Broadway? Please comment and let me know if there’s another program I should add to my list and tell my students about. I’m always excited to learn more!
Breath is the foundation of singing. If you’ve taken any type of voice training whether private lessons, a group class, or even choir, I’m sure you have heard this first sentence. You may even remember something about a diaphragm (what is that?!) or singing from your belly.
I’m here to help you understand breath support and why this “foundation” is so important in all voice training. I like to describe our breath as low and open. You might feel an expansion in your lower rib cage, belly area, and lower back as you take a big breath. Yes, we use a muscle called the diaphragm in breathing, but this an involuntary muscle and I find that just knowing and understanding this doesn’t actually aid in correct breath support. The other word I like to think of when focusing on my breath is “relaxed”. A low, open, relaxed breath will help you to get more support for singing longer phrases, sustaining notes, and releasing tension.
Taking time to focus on your breath in warmups, technical exercises, and repertoire can be beneficial to all singers. As a musical theatre artist, looking to the lyric for a clue in where to take a breath and develop clear phrasing is important. Obviously, we don’t want to breathe in the middle of a word, but we also don’t want to breathe in the middle of a phrase if it doesn’t make sense with the lyric. Think about your character, your story, and the lyrics as you develop your voice!
Check out this video for some simple breathing exercises:
It’s time to start thinking about summer programs and camps even though it’s only February. I have taught at summer programs all over the country and I’m confident that you can find a local program that is the right fit for your little star.
I’m focusing this post specifically on opportunities for kids in elementary school and early middle school in the Washington, D.C. metro area. Stay tuned later this week for information on programs for middle and high school students…
1. Mount Vernon Community Children’s Theatre (MVCCT) is a great place to foster your child’s creativity. I have taught at MVCCT for 3 years and the children in these camps have fun, learn, perform, and make friends! Classes are divided based on age (5 to 14) and there are 3 two-week sessions and 1 one-week session over the summer. There is also a spring break camp and specialized workshops on school holidays. Click here for more information.
2. Creative Cauldron offers theme-based camps for children ages 4 to 14. This summer, puppets, music, and storytelling will all be explored. Children will work on performance through improvisation, storytelling, music, and even composing! Visit here for more information.
3. Imagination Stage has great programming for young children interested in theatre starting at age 3. Located in Bethesda, your child can explore their dramatic side with a one or two week summer camp. Check out their website for more information.
4. Adventure Theatre MTC has summer camps for children that focus on musical theatre and culminate in a performance of a show that is age-appropriate. Check out their website for more information.
The DC Metro area has a plethora of opportunities for children interested in the performing arts. Spend some time seeing some local youth theatre this spring and see if your child longs for a moment in the spotlight!