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 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:
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:
It’s that time of year again! For me, I love going through my clothes, shoes, and household items to decide what to donate, what to sell, and what to keep. It gives me such joy to organize and get rid of things that I no longer want or need. The same can be true with our audition books.
As people, we are always growing and songs that may have worked for you in the past may not work for you anymore. What should I take out of my audition book?
For starters, there are songs that no longer fit your type. If only a year ago you were a 4’11” boy soprano singing “Lift Me Up” from The Secret Garden and you are now a 5’3″ fourteen year old boy with a tenor range, this song can easily be discarded from your audition book. The same can be said if you feel that you no longer appropriate for teen roles, 20s roles, and so on. Height can play a big factor, especially in children’s roles. In fact, certain casting notices list height restrictions. Matilda (max. 4’3″ for the title role and 4’10” for children’s ensemble) and The Producers (women 5’8″ and up for Ulla) are great examples!
Next there is your vocal development. Has your voice changed since the last time you went through your audition book? Have you developed a stronger belt or polished your legit chops? As you continue your development as a singer, you’ll notice your ability to sing certain repertoire will change and therefore your audition book must also change.
Then there is material that you no longer are passionate about singing, don’t feel a connection to, or simply can’t relate to anymore. This can be a little harder to decipher, but look through your book and think about what songs you actually enjoy singing. If you’re bored with the song, then there is a huge likelihood that the people auditioning you won’t be impressed either. There’s so many songs out there in every genre that there’s no need to audition with stale material.
Once you have done all of this, think about what types of songs you still have in your book. What are you missing? What do you need for the upcoming audition season?