Things I've Learned from Teaching Voice, Part 1

on . Posted in Teaching

things ive learned from teaching voice part 1In 2004 I started teaching voice. It was the last thing I wanted to do. Long story short, I thought I was too good for it, that I should be singing, not teaching, and I was soon proven completely and utterly wrong.

I LOVED it. My first student was an attorney who sang in the concert choir in the Musikverein Lippstadt and took voice lessons to enrich her life and so that she might enjoy her singing more. Other students followed, from teens who wanted to sing the choir music arrangements from Harry Potter to rock singers to adults who only wanted to sing classical music.

Since then I've taught hundreds and thousands of hours of voice and I'm happy to share with you several of the things I've learned. Here's Part 1.

1. Your students will always show you their utter humanity.

There isn't much more bittersweet than a teen telling you how much they really want to do well at contest or how frustrated she was that something went wrong in an audition. Teens (and adults) come to lessons as whole beings, which means they have all their hopes and their dreams and their own perfections and lack of perfections. Somehow I thought teaching voice would be really nice, fun, and somehow cute, yet students come to their lessons with every emotion you can possibly imagine--I am continually changed by the stories they share, how they connect with the text or with the music, and how much they seek my undivided attention. It is an honor to give it to them.

2. Your students will crack the funniest jokes you've ever heard.

I have a blog post started on this, and I'm still collecting the funnies. Stay tuned for this.

3. You will be witness to the most beautiful music... and no one else will ever hear it just like you heard it.

This is one of the toughest things I've learned and I learned it again yesterday. A student came in with a piece with a solo that she's auditioning for so we worked on it--by keeping it simple, and by focusing on the story and the perfectly written melody, her voice and the music, the story flowed out of her. The room (at the school) was hot so I had the door propped open and a teacher walked passed us--when the teacher heard her singing that song, it stopped him in his tracks. He looked at me, his eyes wide, and he just stopped and listened.

She was singing the story.

 

Bel Canto 2015 Regional Artists Competition

on . Posted in Singing

Bel Canto Regional Artist Competition 2015

The Bel Canto Chorus is now accepting applications for their 2015 Regional Artist Competition. The postmark deadline for applications is Thursday, March 26, 2015.

The 26th Annual Bel Canto Regional Artists Competition is Saturday, May 9, 2015.

From the Bel Canto site:  "The competition was established to support and encourage singers with strong oratorio experience of any age who reside in Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, and Ohio.  Adjudicators come from a wide variety of performing arts organizations from throughout Southeastern Wisconsin.  The winner is awarded a solo performance contract with Bel Canto Chorus in the following season, which includes a $1000 cash award. Past winners have gone on to sing with recognized organizations throughout the United States and Europe, including the Metropolitan Opera.

The 2014 Regional Artists Competition winner is Mezzo-soprano Clara Osowski of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Osowski will perform with Bel Canto Chorus in March 2015."

Read more and get application materials from the Bel Canto Chorus website here.

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I had a wonderful experience meeting the folks at the Bel Canto Chorus for the first time back in 2010 and I'm very happy to have worked with them every season since. It's an honor to be in their national ad this year, advertising the Regional Artist Competition, and I wish them every success and loads of fun listening to the singers on May 9!

Get your application in now!

Black History Month 2015

on . Posted in Singing

It's Black History Month. I'm into Social Justice. So here you go.

 

Oh, Nina Simone...what an incredible voice.

She wanted to attend Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, but she was denied...and she was not able to pursue her chosen career of becoming a concert pianist.

Ms Simone was able to turn another situation into an opportunity, and thank goodness she didn't let racism stop her from creating music.

Her voice has such a distinct quality it stops you in your tracks. Check this video out:

[embed=videolink]{"video":"https://vimeo.com/35409491","width":"800","height":"450"}[/embed]

 

Reginald Mobley, countertenor extraordinaire.

Reggie has one of the most beautiful voices I've ever heard. His ornamentation is exquisite, the result breath-taking.

I had a verbal agreement to do a St. John Passion once, and I lost it to a countertenor when the conductor found out he was getting a period orchestra. That burns me to this day.

If it had been Reggie that I had lost the gig to, however, I wouldn't mind. Not one bit.

Listen up here, and listen real good:

 

Camilla Williams, soprano

THIS is the soprano who sang the Star-Spangled Banner before Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech. THAT would have been spectacular to witness.

Here is Ms. Williams in "Ritorna Vincitor" from Aida. A stunning beginning, incredible musicality, and she gave me goosebumps at 3:50.

 

What other African American singers do we need to know about? Post your links, comments, and video links below!

 

Dealing with Audition Rejection

on . Posted in Singing

Every audition is a job interview. It's a chance to get one step further in your career, to get another contract, another paycheck, and another business relationship.

It's a chance to practice your skills and to prove to yourself what you can do.

It's also another opportunity for rejection. And it can sting. But it doesn't have to sting as badly as it might--here are 3 rules of thumb to keep in mind to prepare yourself well and, if need be, to take the sting out of the rejection.

If I wanted rejection id go audition

1. You can only control what you can control.

You audition to have a chance at something--in actuality, an audition is no more than this. You cannot make them give you a gig. But you can control how you present yourself, you can have your pieces so well-known that you could sing them backwards with candy in your mouth and still be understood. You can control how well you respond when the pianist loses his place or the pages stick and you keep going like the prepared, professional you are.

At some point in some audition somewhere, things will go wrong, strange notes will come out, you'll feel pressured to take that earlier time slot that's open because someone else didn't show up, you'll realize your right shoe is pinching in a spot it has never pinched before.

So what. Notice it, let the thought pass through, and move on.

2. Realize that an audition is exactly what you've always wanted:  a performance!

That's all you really want to do, right? PERFORM! There's a captive audience, a pianist, and you looking fantastic, with beautiful material prepared. If you think it's anything other than a performance, think again.

Plus, a director once told me that when she was casting one particular show, she sat there, watching auditions for two days, praying that someone would walk in the door who would fit the parts they were casting. She wanted someone to really show what they could do, to really perform for them. (Someone did it finally 3/4 of the way through day 2 and she was happy.) Show what you can do. Directors are waiting to see you present what they are looking for.

Hopefully you will have your own goals for this performance, perhaps it's to add two gestures you haven't done before, to try moving around the stage more, or simply to make sure you nail those 2 difficult measures at the top of page 87. If you achieve those things, then you've achieved your goals for this performance and you'll walk out the door, knowing what you have done.

3. Either you'll get it or you won't.

If you don't get it, take time to lick your wounds if you need to. And then get up and go do it again. For whatever reason, you didn't get this part, this gig, this opportunity. Leave it at that one--it's just this audition. So put yourself in line for another opportunity.

If you do get it, great! Have a little celebration and feel that excitement. For whatever reason, you got this part, this opportunity. Leave it at this one--this audition. And put yourself in line for another opportunity.

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How do you deal with rejection? How do you measure your own successes and goals--the things you can control? Comment below! (No registration necessary.)

Break the freaking rules.

on . Posted in Singing

Rule #1:  You have to be doing "big stuff" all the time.Romanov poor musician.svg.hi

Rule #1 broken:  No, you don't. You need to be doing the real stuff--engaging with people, doing the best you can do on any given day. That's it.

We don't *always* need to be doing the big concerts, having the "big career," which by the way, doesn't exist in the same form it did even 10 years ago. It's changed.

New Rule:  Make your best art as often as is appropriate for you.

 

Rule #2:  You have to suffer to make art.

Rule #2 broken:  Nobody actually likes a martyr. So quit beating yourself up for following rule #1 and taking crappy opportunities because you "need the money" or "maybe it'll lead to something else." You know what comes from low pay? More low pay. And more bills. And a reputation that you'll put up with a lot of crap. Don't contribute to the Wal-Mart economy of music and start requesting an appropriate fee. (Notice I didn't say "high fee." I said appropriate.)

New rule:  Figure out