How Would You Want to be Introduced?

Today I went to the Women in Theatre Conference: Empowerment and Connection. It was incredibly empowering and I felt a real connection to the other participants (so I guess it was a successful conference). And something happened right at the very beginning that really struck a chord with me.

A few weeks ago, I listened to a podcast on branding yourself done by my friend Megan Ihnen. In that, she asks you to identify characteristics that you see in yourself and that your audiences see in you (this could apply not only to performers, but to teachers/students or businesspeople/clients). And then think of how you would introduce yourself to people – and then how you’d like to be introduced by people.

The first person to speak at today’s conference was the Dean of the Arts and Humanities Division at Howard Community College, Valerie Lash. Although I am about to start my 6th year at HCC, I’ve never actually met Ms. Lash before. I have heard that she’s a force of nature, however, and apparently, this must be the case, because her introduction included these two words:

These are such unique words to describe someone.
Indomitable: impossible to subdue or defeat.
Tenacious: persistent, determined, dogged, strong-willed, tireless, indefatigable, resolute, patient, unflagging, staunch, steadfast, untiring, unwavering, unswerving, unshakable, unyielding, insistent (I couldn’t limit myself to just one word).
I didn’t know Valerie Lash at all up to this conference. But now, based on those adjectives, I really want to know her better. 
This is how I want to be introduced, both by myself and by someone else:
  • I am Christine Thomas-O’Meally, and I am a singer who helps people find their voices, either by listening to what I’m singing or by teaching them to sing. 
  • This is Christine. She has made a difference in so many people’s lives with her singing and teaching.

How do you want to be described?

Pomodoro Technique

I’m working on becoming more productive. This summer has been a particularly terrific one for me – I learned 6 new pieces. Well, actually 3, but they were in two different languages. One set was in English, the second in Irish Gaelic, in which I’ve never sung before. I organized my practice time well, but I think I could do better. 
Today I read about the Pomodoro Technique, which was named after a Pomodoro Timer used by the creator to keep track of time. 
There are six steps in the original technique, found in this article in Lifehacker:
  1. Decide on the task to be done.
  2. Set the pomodoro timer (traditionally to 25 minutes).
  3. Work on the task.
  4. End work when the timer rings and put a checkmark on a piece of paper.
  5. If you have fewer than four checkmarks, take a short break (3–5 minutes), then go to step 2.
  6. After four pomodoros, take a longer break (15–30 minutes), reset your checkmark count to zero, then go to step 1.
The stages of planning, tracking, recording, processing and visualizing are fundamental to the technique. In the planning phase, tasks are prioritized by recording them in a “To Do Today” list. This enables users to estimate the effort tasks require. As pomodoros are completed, they are recorded, adding to a sense of accomplishment and providing raw data for subsequent self-observation and improvement.
So, how can we use this for practicing? And do you need a timer shaped like a tomato? 
We all have timers. On our phone, on the microwave, everywhere. Maybe you don’t have 25 minutes in a row. Maybe you have ten minutes to do vocalises. Set the timer for ten minutes. Then do what else you need to do. Then go back and work on one song, and really focus on it for another ten minutes.
Another great source for time management, specifically for singers, is a podcast by a friend of mine, Megan Ihnen. It’s called Studio Class. The episode I listened to today was about “Diva Metrics,” and one of the things that really struck me was the idea of the Ten Minute Meeting. (Podcast also available on iTunes.)
Check it out and see what works for you. I’m going to start with the Ten Minute Meeting tomorrow morning and then do things later with the Pomodoro Technique.

There’s a lot to do before the fall semester begins! (Studio policies come to mind first!)

Ringing vs. Wringing (in Singing and Business)

I receive daily email updates from marketing guru Seth Godin, which have been inspiring me to make some changes in the way I approach my studio management. This morning’s advice resonated with me in a way that transcended business. It was:

Ringing vs wringing

Ringing is resonant. A small force causes sympathetic vibrations, and magic happens.
Wringing requires significant effort and can even destroy the object it is applied to.
When you ring a bell for your clients, you’ve delivered with care and empathy.
But when you seek to wring every dollar out of a transaction, you’ve probably engaged for the last time

Of course, we talk about resonance in singing, which is frequently called “ring” (or “ping” or “edge” or “focus,” but I like ring).

Ringing, in singing, is resonant. And when you engage things properly to cause sympathetic vibrations, magic happens.

Wringing, in singing, is manipulation and artificiality. You’re doing something contrived and unnatural and it will, ultimately, affect your technique negatively.

When you sing in a ringing tone for your audience, you are delivering your message with clarity and in a way that is pleasing and moving.

But when you seek to wring every last overtone out of a note, you are singing with too much pressure and force, and you are not engaging your audience.

So when we work on a resonant sound, work on finding balance and freedom to create clarity and magic. I’m working on new vocalise sheets, which I will distribute at the beginning of the fall semester (post-Labor Day), and we can go over any exercises with which you’re not familiar.