I mentioned in my last blog post that it is important to cultivate your interests outside of singing and musical theatre. I am an avid reader and enjoy nothing more than spending a short time before I go to bed each night reading a book. I’d love to have more time to sit outside on a beautiful day, enjoy an iced coffee, and read, but with two two-year-olds running around, I rarely have time for this treat. This past month, I finally read the debut novel by Caroline Angell, All The Time In The World, that was released this past summer. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this on a nightly basis and didn’t want to finish (I try to savor good books as much as I can).
I knew this author in college; we had several courses together and even interacted in the campus dorms. We were both musical theatre majors at American University and we both ended up in New York City after graduation (though our paths didn’t cross in the city). Caroline also directed several theatre productions including one musical each summer at The Theatre Lab in Washington, DC. Some of my private voice students were even in these productions! When I heard that she had published her first novel, I was excited for her and couldn’t wait to buy my own copy.
The main character in this novel just so happens to be a musician (a composer, to be more specific). She is an educated artist living in NYC and working as a babysitter as she figures out her path. The novel explores topics of grief, family, romance, and finding your way in this world. It was a resonating read and had me tearing up at moments. As a mom of two little boys, I certainly thought about what it would be like if I wasn’t there for them (more tears!). As an artist, I thought about when I first moved to NYC and babysat afternoons on the Upper East Side while going to auditions in the morning. I also thought about how my experiences in babysitting influenced my career path.
I’ve never truly embraced reading on an iPad or kindle; I’ve tried it a few times, but nothing compares to holding a book in my hands and turning the pages myself. When I saw All The Time In The World sitting on the shelf at my local Target, it was immediately in my cart. If you haven’t read this novel, find a good weekend to relax outside or snuggle in by the fire to read it. I, for one, can’t wait for Caroline’s next book release!
I decided to take the first month of 2017 off from writing on this blog. As a voice teacher, performer, mom, and wife, my days are full and finding time for more things can be a challenge. With every new year comes new resolutions for many people. What types of things to I want to achieve this year? Better grades, a slimmer figure, a raise at work, more time for fun, and the list goes on. I want to focus on some great resolutions for singers and have compiled this list of five goals that are attainable.
1. To practice more. Find time to sing everyday: vocalises, repertoire, breath and foundational work. Even ten minutes a day is better than nothing (though to be honest 30 minutes is ideal for most of my voice students).
2. To seek out performance opportunities. Whether in a musical theatre production, a recital with your voice studio, or a solo with your school or church choir, find ways to sing in public.
3. To listen to music in multiple genres. If you primarily listen to pop music in the car, on your walk to work or school, and at home, then find time to listen to classical music or Broadway music. You can learn so much about different styles of music just by listening!
4. To take a workshop that will broaden your vocal skills. This workshop could be at your current voice studio, at another local arts organization, or at a top-notch conservatory.
5. To embrace your other interests and know that they make you a better singer and a better performer. What else do you love? Is it cooking, playing soccer or tennis, writing, traveling, or creating a new phone app? Whatever it is, it is important to spend time doing things that are not singing because that will make you a more well-rounded human being and a stronger performer.
I finally tuned into the NBC annual live musical for 2016, Hairspray. I was teaching on the night of the actual broadcast (December 7th), but managed to DVR it and watch it on the eve of Christmas Eve. I will first say that I’ve seen Hairspray on Broadway three times as well as watched the original (non-musical) movie and the 2007 musical movie. I love the show for so many reasons: the amazing score and orchestrations, the pertinent social and historical themes, the high energy dancing! In any form, I always want to jump out of my seat to sing and dance along, which you can easily do in your living room wearing pajamas and slippers.
One notable thing about this live broadcast was their casting decision for Tracy Turnblad. Maddie Baillio was discovered at an open casting call in New York City that was attended by over 1,000 hopeful musical theatre performers.”You gotta think big to be big” is Wilbur’s line in Hairspray, but it is a testament to all Broadway hopefuls that get up at the crack of dawn, grab their audition book and heels, and head to midtown to audition for their next show. Maddie was joined by already established Broadway and film actors as well as pop stars and Disney sensations.
One huge shout out to Jennifer Hudson who was brilliant (as always) and owned the role of Motormouth Maybelle. Darren Criss served as a host for the event and I thought having this element was unnecessary and interrupted the storyline.
NBC’s live musicals are getting stronger every year and I always await the announcement of their next one (Bye Bye Birdie with Jennifer Lopez has been reported as the December 2017 show). It all started with The Sound of Music starring Carrie Underwood then Peter Pan then The Wiz and now Hairspray. Fox also jumped on the bandwagon with Grease last January. As a musical theatre performer and teacher, this is awesome news! I love making all of these musicals accessible to people across the globe and to have my students watch and learn from these performances (did they notice any diction issues? stamina? breath? tone quality?).
If you haven’t seen this broadcast, find it on demand or buy the DVD and watch it. It’s certainly a fun night at home and you might learn a little something to help in your own musical theatre training!
For my December playbill (and an ending to the 2016 holiday season), what better show choice than Elf? I saw the original cast on December 14, 2010 with my mom and it was a great addition to my yearly holiday festivities.
I was living on the Upper West Side of Manhattan at the time and my mom came for her annual holiday visit. She loved to visit each Christmas season to soak in the holiday spirit and check out all of the holiday markets. Over the years, I’ve been to every one in the city from Union Square to Grand Central to Bryant Park to Columbus Circle. It’s a fun tradition that we developed while I lived in NYC. We’ve returned twice since I moved to the DC area 4 years ago and always have a blast, shopping, seeing shows, trying new restaurants, and returning to our favorite places!
I was a tourist for the evening at this particular Broadway show. I got my tickets at the box office ahead of time, we both bought souvenir t-shirts from the show (pictured above), and wandered around Times Square before the evening performance.
I love New York City at Christmastime and always relish seeing Broadway shows that put me in the holiday spirit. I even purchase the cast recording after it’s released. I own the Elf recording as well as How The Grinch Stole Christmas, White Christmas, and A Christmas Carol.
Elf is a fun musical for the whole family. If you want to see this show in the local DMV area, Aldersgate Church Community Theatre is producing Elf Jr. (a one hour version with cast members ages 8 to 18) in January. Consider adding this cast recording to your festive music list; it will certainly put you in the “sparklejollytwinklejingley” mood!
It’s the perfect month to sing your favorite holidays carols! From songs you remember from your childhood to new holiday tunes on pop radio stations, there’s at least one song that everyone just loves to belt out (even if this only happens when no one is watching or listening).
I frequently perform in trios and quartets with the group, The 42nd Street Singers, during the holiday season. I’ve been with this group for four years and always have a blast on caroling gigs all over the DC metro region.
I also teach classes for kids and teens that focus on harmony within holiday songs and encourage my private vocal students to apply the technique they’re learning in lessons to carols. The basics of singing including breath, phonation, registration, and enunciation are all important in music of this festive season!
I’ve decided to post a video of myself singing Merry Christmas, Darling in my teaching studio. I hope you find time to sing your favorites this season!
This November I’m revisiting my experience seeing the Broadway revival of Promises, Promises with Kristin Chenoweth and Sean Hayes. I chose this show because it has a great Thanksgiving Broadway number in it called “Turkey Lurkey Time”. It always puts me in the holiday spirit and makes me want to dance around my living room!
I saw this show on May 1, 2010. These tickets were TKTS scores. My in-laws were visiting us in Manhattan (we were living on the UWS) and we decided to make our way to Times Square for last minute tickets to a show. We chose Promises, Promises because it was a classic show that I had never seen. I had, however, heard numerous numbers from this show in films (the “Say A Little Prayer” scene in My Best Friend’s Wedding) and dance classes (the aforementioned “Turkey Lurkey Time”) and old records that were played in my house. Burt Bacharach and Hal David were contemporary songwriters in their day and heard on the radio!
When I was living in NYC, I always loved taking friends and family that visited to the theatre district for tickets to a Broadway show. Since I moved out of the city (over 4 years ago now?!), I still return for visits with the intent to catch a current Broadway show. Or two or three….
Here is Turkey Lurkey Time featuring the original 1969 cast for you to enjoy!
Mount Vernon Community Children’s Theatre’s production of The Little Mermaid is perfect for the whole family! I saw this fun-filled Disney musical on Sunday, November 13th, and thoroughly enjoyed my afternoon. Aimee Bee Inc has 11 students in the production that either take private lessons on a regular weekly basis or coach for specific auditions and performances. I am one proud voice teacher! All of my students’ hard work on strengthening their sound, their diction, and their expression was seen on that stage.
MVCCT is a special place. I started teaching in the summer camps at MVCCT my first year living in Northern Virginia and have since taught spring break camps as well as workday workshops. I’ve met amazing artists, teachers, and friends through these opportunities as well as worked with some incredible groups of students.
I am writing today about how wonderful theatre is for these young performers. MVCCT is more than a children’s theatre company; it is a family. The community that has been built within MVCCT is admirable. It is a place to sing your heart out, laugh with your cast, figure out how to move a giant set piece as a team, cry when you’re having a bad day, and share your many talents.
I wholeheartedly believe that theatre is empowering to children and teens, that it offers a means of expression that can benefit students within their everyday life. I also believe that theatre explores themes that are applicable to other subjects including history, English, and geography. Maybe some of these cast members learned about a new sea creature from singing “Under The Sea”!
If you’ve seen the movie, you’re sure to recognize many of the songs in The Little Mermaid including the classic “Part of Your World”. I will once again say that I always love the songs that are written specifically for the Broadway show and not in the movie version. Some of these are “Beyond My Wildest Dreams” (I just LOVE this piece and the staging in MVCCT’s show is perfect!), “If Only” (the quartet of this song is beautiful!), “Positoovity” (don’t forget Scuttle’s big moment!), and “The World Above” (I had tears in my eyes during this opening number because I was so proud of Nicole, our Ariel, and could really hear the growth in her voice).
The Little Mermaid is running through this upcoming Sunday, November 20th. Get your tickets now and take the whole family “Under The Sea”!
On Friday, November 4th, I saw the opening night performance and the youth production regional premiere of School of Rock at West Potomac High School. I had several students in the production that I coached for their auditions, which consisted of singing from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s score. We worked on extending our range into a balanced effortless high mix, eliminating vibrato, releasing notes (without cracking or pulling back or falling off), and switching between registers seamlessly.
Four things I learned from watching this production:
A. The role of Dewey is exhausting. The sheer amount of energy required for this role is astounding.
B. Singing strong and high (in both mix rock and legit) is difficult to master. I knew this one already, but seeing this show definitely reiterated it.
C. Becoming more than a triple threat and being able to also play an instrument is a huge component of this show for multiple characters! Doing this at the high school level is another awesome opportunity to hone skills that will benefit young performers in the professional theatre world.
D. The ensemble in School of Rock is great and there were some memorable moments within the ensemble! Kudos to Director Clark for utilizing the ensemble in interesting and notable ways.
Here is a video examining two short sections of musical theatre rock vocals and how to execute them!
The fall is here and I have students performing in productions all over town in lead, supporting, and ensemble roles. I’ll be writing about many of these shows over the next month, but have decided to start with a professional staged reading that I saw at Signature Theatre this October.
I am a strong advocate for new musical theatre, learning about new composers, new shows, and new repertoire. As I discover new material, I also develop opinions on these pieces. It may be apparent that a show needs a lot of work (re-writes, cuts, edits) before heading to a larger venue or it may be ready for something more and leave you (the audience member) excited about this new show. I always consider whether a show has something unique to offer our contemporary musical theatre world and whether the storyline is compelling.
On October 22nd, I had the opportunity to see a staged reading of Light Years at Signature Theatre as part of their SigWorks: Musical Theater Lab. Watching a bare space with 6 actors sitting in chairs behind music stands in everyday clothes, I was captivated by these artists that brought this story to life through vocal inflections, pacing, and simply telling the story.
Robbie Schaefer, who wrote the book, music, and lyrics for this show, also performed the role of Older Robbie and played guitar (the main source of accompaniment with some piano). This was a brand-new show to me in every way. I did not know the composer or the story or even the style of music. The score had a folk influence and feel (and if any of my students were auditioning for this show, I would look beyond musical theatre and find a song that is folk or country). It was directed by Eric Schaeffer (a big name in the musical theatre biz) and the music was beautifully and seamlessly connected with the book.
This was my first experience with SigWorks and I can’t wait to see what is next. They are creating art and bringing to life new musical theatre works that need to be seen and heard. Being in this small audience on that Saturday afternoon was a joy and I soaked in every minute. Don’t be afraid to see a show just because you don’t know anything about it! It’s important to support new musical theatre and to be open to these new and exciting works of art.
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: