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’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:
Julie at my annual recital
Kendall at my annual recital
When you’re studying voice, it is important to seek out performance opportunities. This could be singing in a community or school choir, performing at your studio’s annual recital, or auditioning at a professional level. I have so many talented students that get extremely nervous when performing and I want to offer solutions for these singers that will help them to find enjoyment when singing in public, especially when they are soloists.
Preparation is key! My first piece of advice is to make sure that you are completely prepared for the performance. You should have your music memorized (go over those lyrics daily!), be entirely comfortable with the musicality of the piece from notes and rhythms to dynamics and phrasing, and fully understand the lyrics/story so that you can easily incorporate facial expression and vocal inflection. The day of the performance is not the time to be going over those lyrics in your head, scared that you will not remember what comes next. At this point, you should be focusing on storytelling through your song.
Go over those vocal warmups! Every vocalist should spend time warming up their voice whenever they have to sing for a performance or an audition. Some singers need a longer warm-up, while others are able to spend 5 to 10 minutes on vocalises and feel prepared. Use the same warmups that you do in voice lessons. In fact, feel free to record a voice lesson one day so that you have these exercises on your phone or other recording device. Humming, arpeggios, lip trills, and sirens are all helpful in feeling more secure in your voice and thus combatting nervousness. I would also suggest 2 minutes of breathing exercises simply to ground yourself, relax, and get a nice full breath.
Finally, discover the joy of performance and have a little fun! This is so much easier said than done, but singing in public should not be the equivalent of going to the dentist. Students generally choose to take singing lessons and commit to performances because they love to sing (it feels good and it makes them happy even if they’re just singing to the radio). I want my students to be able to share their love of singing with others and the way to do this is to seek out opportunities to perform. The audience is not there to critique your technique or have a watchful eye in case you make a mistake. The audience is there to enjoy the show and applaud wonderful work!