Yay! I get to PRACTICE

How often do you say that?

If you’re me, hardly ever. It’s usually, “Ugh, I have to practice.” Unless I have a gig lined up, in which case, the “ugh” is missing because I am looking forward to the gig. Or an audition, which I endure because it might get me the gig.

But practicing for practicing’s sake? I haven’t done that for years.

I just completed Peter Jacobson’s Total Vocal Freedom practice class series just a few moments before starting to write this. We tied up the 8 classes with a final theme of “Celebration” and literally had a dance party at the beginning of class. (Guess which song we danced to?)

We got into music because it was joyful. And somewhere along the way it became something we had to conquer and wrest control from because we didn’t have control over what we were trying to do.

What if we celebrated the moments along the way that worked, and focused on refining them and repeating them? What if we sang something we loved because we loved it, and celebrated that? What if we have one phrase that we know we sing really well, and we sing that phrase over and over, and celebrate how well that went?

And then move on and work on the skills we need to establish, by chunking up the piece into sections, slowing it down and repeating it with intention, and learning to feel it. These were three elements of deep practice that Peter outlined in class, but I’ve experienced them listening to my husband practice piano, and he was trained by Reynaldo Reyes at Towson University back in the 1980s. From what I recall at Reyes’ retirement event, it sounded like that was the way he trained all his pianists to practice.

During practice class today, we took ten minutes to practice anything on our own (on mute). I pulled out a Rossini book that I had on my piano and sang “Beltà crudele,” which I haven’t sung for nearly 10 years (the last time being on the recital that I wrote about here). Even though that recital didn’t go as well as I wanted it to (probably because I didn’t chunk, slow down, and feel it), I still love the piece, and celebrated that there were parts of it I sang pretty well, even after all this time, and they really felt good. I did sing through the whole thing to find where that moment was, the “Stay for you are beautiful” moment, that I needed to repeat, refine, and feel (although, unlike Faust, not die once I find it). And then I played around there for awhile, till class resumed.

Something I want to do in the fall is set up both Pop-Up and Regular Practice Times, where we get together, set an intention, put ourselves on mute, and practice for about 20 minutes. And then come back and share what we experienced. It’s a sort of co-working thing, which is very trendy right now and keeps people accountable. Being accountable is hard when you can’t or don’t have to go anywhere. I’m hoping it will keep me accountable as well.

Find the joy in your practicing, the joy which brought you to singing, to voice lessons, to music in the first place. And if you’ll excuse me, I need to go practice some Rossini.

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Published by Mezzoid Voice Studio

Christine Thomas-O'Meally, a mezzo soprano and voice teacher currently based in the Baltimore-DC area, has performed everything from the motets of J.S. Bach to the melodies of Irving Berlin to the minimalism of Philip Glass. As an opera singer and actress, she has appeared with companies such as Charm City Players, Spotlighters Theatre, Chicago Opera Theater, Opera Theater of Northern Virginia, Opera North, the Washington Savoyards, In Tandem Theatre, Windfall Theater, The Young Victorian Theater of Baltimore, and Skylight Opera Theatre. She created the role of The Woman in Red in Dominick Argento’s Dream of Valentino in its world premiere with the Washington Opera and Mary Pickersgill in O'er the Ramparts at its world premiere during the Bicentennial of Battle of Baltimore at the Community College of Baltimore County. Other roles include Mrs. Paroo in Music Man, Mother Abbess in Sound of Music, Dorabella in Cosi Fan Tutte, Marcellina in Le Nozze di Figaro, both Hansel and the Witch in Hansel & Gretel, and many roles in Gilbert & Sullivan operettas. Her performance as the Housekeeper in Man of La Mancha was honored with a WATCH award nomination. Ms. Thomas-O'Meally received an M.M. in vocal performance from the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore. She regularly attends master classes and workshops in both performance and vocal pedagogy, and is certified in all three Levels of Somatic Voicework™ The LoVetri Method. Her students have performed on national and international tours of Broadway productions, at prestigious conservatories, and in regional theater throughout the country.

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