Video Report - Bel Canto Concert from Colonia, Uruguay

on . Posted in Travel

While on tour with the Bel Canto Chorus last summer, we stopped twice in Colonia, Uruguay, and most of us fell in love with it. Old cars had been made into art on the streets, small artisans showed us their art and their wares, and we were welcomed with open arms. They even danced us through the streets to the restaurant after our concert there!

Ana Belen Tourin was at the concert in the Teatro Bastion del Carmen and recently shared this video posted to YouTube - the report itself is in Spanish, with plenty of beautiful singing in the video!

Thank you, Colonia, you are magnificent!

 

We Need a Revolution

on . Posted in Inspiration

Are you ever disappointed to hear a band live in concert, only to realize they are really a “studio band” because they don’t sound very good live?

When was the last time you spent an entire afternoon listening to new music on the radio?

How many times have you heard someone speak about classical music and were totally turned off?

ENOUGH!

 There are too many singers who are making a career out of auto-tune. If you can't sing that well, either get voice lessons, find a coach, or play a different instrument. Auto-tune is a crutch and it lessens the quality of music when you use it. There are thousands of people who can sing well and don't need auto-tune.

I used to love listening to the radio. Not anymore. There used to be these things called playlists, and DJs would create them, put interesting lists together, and between songs they would give you background on the bands, where they are from, and their influences. Now this is unfortunately the exception and not the rule. (Thank goodness for public radio and 89.3 The Current!)

And snooty classical music people really get my goat. I'm glad I'm not one of them.

 

QUIT WITH THE AUTO-TUNE

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Earlier this year, I estimated that approximately 40% of the 2011 Billboard Awards presenters used auto-tune. (The Billboard Awards had 7.5 million viewers.) Weeks later the Tony awards are presented—where NO ONE used auto-tune (The Tony awards had 6.9 million viewers).

Seriously, if you need auto-tune to sing in tune, you are NOT succeeding at music and you need to learn to match pitch. Find a voice teacher who can help you. Many of the performers on- and off-Broadway have invested huge amounts of money in their education and professional training and they don’t make nearly as much money as those who appear on the Billboard Awards. This is totally skewed and needs to be corrected.

Thankfully there are plenty of other people whocriticise auto-tune and its use.

And then there was Saturday Night Live this past weekend, were Florence (from Florence & The Machine) sang so out of tune it was a hot topic in my Facebook feed. First watch their YouTube video, obviously from the studio (with its own relatively minor pitch problems).

Now watch the video from Saturday Night Live.

Really, that kind of pitch problem is unacceptable.

In my opinion, Florence doesn’t have enough breath support and doesn’t have a deep enough connection with her voice in her body. For her to continue singing without major vocal issues (if she doesn’t already have them), she needs to change her technique and breathe more, breathe more deeply, and create a better sense of deep connection in her own body. Florence & the Machine make such GREAT music, and she would serve her music, her audience, and most importantly her voice well by investing in her vocal technique.

 

WHO EVER SAID THAT SINGING OUT OF TUNE IS OK?!

 

However, what I really want to know is 1) When did singing out of tune become acceptable? 2) Who ever said that you can call yourself a singer if you actually really need auto-tune? 3) Why is it that so many singers with auto-tune make tons of money, and so many that don’t ever need auto-tune, even when they are ill, are not that well-known or worse, having a hard time making it?

 

AND ADELE...

 

The woman has a bleeding nodule on her vocal cords (which looks like this, WARNING, not for the faint of heart: http://www.evmsent.org/cysts_or_polyps.asp ) and not only does she need to 1) heal from the surgery, but she needs to 2) learn new technique so that it doesn’t happen again, which takes a lot of work and a lot of time. Don’t expect her to be back soon, and if she is, don’t expect her to be back for long. I truly hope, because she is a fantastic musician, that she takes the time to heal her voice and learn a healthier technique so she can continue to produce great music for decades to come.

 

I DON’T ♥ RADIO.

 

Let’s not forget the fact that Adele’s songs are sickeningly over-played, as fantastic as they are. I for one change the station because I’m so TIRED of hearing the same songs over and over again. Don’t get me wrong, I love her music, but I’m tired of it! Today I hit two pre-set stations in my car and both of them were playing Adele. A few weeks ago the same thing happened, and it was the same song.

One radio station I frequently listen to (which shall remain nameless) has been playing a certain set of songs since I was in high school. Since 1997. Really?! Like there haven't been thousands of new records released since then? When CDBaby can pay out $200,000,000 dollars to their independent musicians over 13 years, there are surely plenty of new songs to keep radio new and interesting.

So, Big Radio, where are they?

Radio stations would do us all a favor if they would play a) a greater spectrum of music, b) pay attention to more under-sung artists, c) require a higher degree of musicality from all musicians and producers.

 

CLASSICAL MUSIC

 

is still so amazingly relevant. Mozart’s Requiem on September 11th, beautiful orchestral music in movies, creepy orchestral music in horror films, open-air concerts, multi-media presentations, tours, Classical Revolution--and we need to keep running with it, creating new relevance, keep bringing it into the media, keep bringing it into our everyday lives, keep it in schools, get it back in other schools, bring it to those who need it most, those who need their souls filled by absolute beauty.

MUSIC

People have varying opinions on different types of music, but really, ALL music exists on a spectrum. Music has always evolved and is ever-changing and we need to see music in all its forms as equals. Yes, rap next to country next to art song next to folk next to orchestral next to pop next to oldies next to experimental next to everything else.

So here you go: fill your soul up with any of these below, 3 completely different pieces of music, all on the same spectrum called MUSIC:

 

  

 

 

 


"My high school choir director told me I couldn’t sing, but my kids love it when I sing to them. Should I take voice lessons?"

on . Posted in Singing

YES!

I can barely express HOW OFTEN I have heard this from adult voice students. People have come to lessons fearful and practically trembling because they so badly want to sing and someone once told them they couldn’t or they shouldn’t. For these students, it’s a particularly meaningful journey as we explore their voice and their musical creativity together.

As a music teacher, as a voice teacher, as an advocate for the arts, it’s baffling to me that so many people have this experience in their school music program. Thank goodness this isn’t true for a lot of the high school teachers I know today! HOWEVER, this has been a very common obstacle to a lot of people who love to sing. So what do you do?

1. SING. If you like to sing, then SING. Sing in the shower, sing in the car, sing when you’re home alone, sing out on a walk through the forest, sing with your kids, sing in your place of worship, join the choir, join a community choir, join a community theater troupe, sing with the music at the grocery store, sing as you craft, sing as you file papers.

2. Remember that your voice in high school was different than it was now. Everybody’s voice changes with time, our physical health, and our physical development (remember, our voices don’t fully develop until we are 30-45 years old).

3. Find a voice teacher you can get to know, you like well from the beginning, and you can come to trust. Use the voice teacher search at the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) site, search on the internet, ask your choir director for a recommendation, ask a musician friend, and set up first one month of lessons.

Over the course of 4 lessons, you should be able to get a good feeling for this voice instructor and how well you’ll work together over time. If you do like this first teacher, stay. Enjoy the beautiful music you will make together. If you aren’t sure or definitely don’t care for this teacher, go ahead and set up another month’s worth of lessons with a different teacher and re-evaluate after those 4 lessons.

4. The real work is up to you. No voice teacher can make you sing perfectly or make your voice anything in particular (in fact, the NATS code of ethicsprohibits voice teachers from making any such promises (Section II Nr 6))—the work is up to you. This is why it is so important to find a teacher you trust so you can break through the barriers created when that one person said XYZ so long ago. Find a great voice instructor FOR YOU, sing sing sing, and enjoy the journey!

Fill Up With Music - 5 Ways

on . Posted in Inspiration

If you're busy creating music, re-creating someone else's music, editing someone else's music, or recording someone else's music, you're creating a lot of musical output and it's vital that you have some musical input. Here are 5 easy ways to fill up on music:

1. Pandora - Create a channel, listen to someone else's channel, and listen to your favorite music for FREE. Get more than 40 hours a month by paying their low, yearly fee. You can mix as many artists as you like; my main channel includes Radiohead, Don McLean, Alison Krause and Johnny Cash. I think we call that eclectic. ;)

2. CDs - Yeah, remember those? Go find a CD you haven't listened to for at least 2 years and dust it off...rip it to your computer first if you want. Just sit down, do nothing else, and listen.

3. Buy something new - Consciously visit Amazon or iTunes and go to a category you haven't visited in a while. Go find something that's only rated 3 or 4 stars and just listen. Buy it if you like it.

4. Change the Station - If you usually listen to a 'hits' radio station, go off the beaten track. Scan until you get a station you don't usually listen to but is playing something you like. Leave it. Just listen.

5. Create a Routine for your favorite music - there are two CDs or tracks I listen to just about every night as I'm going to bed. One is Grace by Snatam Kaur ; the other is "The End of Suffering" and "Horizon of Gold" from Namasté a collection of various artists. This is such a standard part of my routine now I automatically relax when I hear the music.

Music is a great part of our lives and it can play an even greater role. Take 15 minutes and listen to something new & different; you never know what you might discover!

Sing for Free—A How-to Guide for Creating a Singing Donation Budget

on . Posted in Singing

In 5 Tips for Taking a Gig (or Not!) I brought up this rule of thumb (from Ratgeber Freie) on taking or turning down a gig:

Does it make me happy? Does it make me rich? Or does it make me proud?

There are gigs that definitely won’t make you rich AND they are incredibly valuable. Because it’s inevitable that people will call you up during the year and say, “We don’t have a lot of money, but…” or even “We don’t have any money, would you sing this as a favor?” Sing for free? I think not!

 

But hold on for a sec.

 

There are a couple of situations in which it is appropriate to sing for very little money or even, yes, for free. And there is a limit, which I will get to.

  1. The Goose Bumps. A gig pays next-to-nothing, but you get goose bumps and the “oh-my-goodness” chills when you read the text and play through the score. This is NOT the “oh, wow, that’d be so cool…” reaction. This is the “Stop the train, where did THIS come from?!” reaction. This kind of situation happens maybe once a year…if even that often! So d o it. Do the work. Sing it. Pour your heart out. You won’t regret it.

2. Favors. You already know when it’s time to “sing a favor.” Your best friend’s wedding. Your Great-Uncle’s funeral. A short project for a musician friend. Know when it’s time to ask for a favor, and know when it’s time to return one. And know when it’s time to pay into the favor bank because you might need one in the future.

 

 

TIP: Keep the reigns tight on favors. And don’t ‘spread the word’ about them, either. Your reputation as a professional, paid performer depends on it. Maintaining a professional reputation is key to your success; once people know that you are a paid professional, they tend not to call you for freebies and cheapies. However, word does get around if you sing for cheap or for free; this devalues your work, our industry, and eventually, people don't think of you as a professional, but an amateur.

3. Donations. And here’s what I mean by donation:  A) you sing once a year at your church, for free, and are doing special programming; it’s one rehearsal and the church services. Or B) A non-profit organization asks you to sing a program at their event and you forego an honorarium (or donate it directly back to the non-profit). You need to clearly communicate that these are clearly donations and not favors.

To put it in monetary terms, think of a budget worksheet. In every budget worksheet you’ll see the section “Donations,” a percentage of your yearly income. If your yearly percentage works out to be $200 and you made two, $100 donations in March, you’re done for the year. That means, come Christmas, when everybody and their brother starts calling for a donation, and your budget hasn’t changed, you need to say no. One appropriate response is “I’ve already made my donations for the year.” This is the same and wholly appropriate for making Singing Donations. If you haven’t yet, it’s time to create a Singing Donation Budget.

 

Creating your Singing Donation Budget

 

Look at previous years’ schedules:

  1. How much singing did you do and how much did you get paid for it? Calculate what your average hourly pay was. (And since we singers operate as independent contractors, remember that this is *gross* income.)
  2. How many Singing Donations did you make?

Calculate roughly how much time previous years’ Singing Donations took. How much time did you need to schedule rehearsals? Mail music to the accompanist? Did you have to special order music ahead of time from a publisher far away? How many rehearsals were there? How many hours of rehearsals did you have?

 

Calculate how much you donated by taking the hours you spent on Singing Donations and multiply it by your average hourly pay (#1). That’s how much money you donated by way of Singing Donations last year. Now, is how many Singing Donations you made (#2) proportional to the total amount of gigs you had?

 

Take some time and let this sink in. Make a truthful decision about how many Singing Donations you will make in the next year that’s aligned with your yearly budget, your other financial (cash) donations, and your time budget. (I’ll talk time budget in another Open Intervals post.)

 

Here are two Singing Donation Budget examples:

  1. Singer Susan determines that she won’t sing any big projects for little money this year, but she will do a church service for free at her own church. And she’s going to call up a music director friend who needs a favor returned and sing a short recital at that church for free. Singer Susan’s yearly Singing Donation Budget is full.
  2. Singer Sally received a HUGE favor from true friend Composer Caroline when Caroline recommended Sally for a gig; the gig came through to the tune of Holy-Huge-Honorarium. Sally knows Caroline needs a singer for a demo recording and offers her services in return. In addition to the Special Music Sally will sing at her church for 3 Christmas Eve services, she’s filled her Singing Donation Budget for the year.

We are professional singers, we have studied long and hard to be able to do what we do, and we deserve to be paid for it. We also deserve the opportunity to give to our communities, the people who support what we do, and we deserve the right to put appropriate boundaries around it, as with any healthy budget. It’s the path of giving and receiving; selling a service (our singing) and giving donations (as cash or as singing), just as any other business would do.

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