Practice Challenge – October 1-December 14, 2018

I have decided to pose a practice challenge to my students. And to myself, as well.

A year ago, I made a recording of some songs I had commissioned by local composer Garth Baxter on poetry in both English and Irish Gaelic. The date of the recording was August 10. So, beginning about 2 months before, I set myself a goal of learning the music thoroughly and getting vocally ready to perform them in a manner that I would be comfortable with having posted on YouTube for all the world to hear forever.

The first few weeks were spent working on text and notes. I didn’t really sing all that much during that time, but I did a lot of mental preparation, listening to the Irish Gaelic text as spoken  by the poets, and plunking things out at the piano. Then I went to the NATS Conference and picked up Nancy Bos’ practice journal and a collection of vocalises (something I’d never really done before) and decided this would inform my organization.

I set myself a goal of actually singing – this is hard for teachers sometimes, because we feel like we sing all the time for our students but we’re really not putting in our own practice time. I spent 20 minutes per day preparing my voice for the repertoire with basic warm-ups and selections from the vocalise books. Then I put another 40-50 minutes in on the repertoire. And I really worked it in sections, not just singing it through. (I also had a soloist audition for a local chorus which was also part of the focus, at least through the end of July.)

The result was that I felt pretty good about the audition (even though I didn’t get any work from it) and the recording session. So now it’s time to start applying myself again.

I have three things coming up:

  1. Ding-a-ling, I feel so Christmas-y! on November 30 (a cabaret with Michael Tan at Germano’s Piattini in Little Italy). I did this last year at Spots but I was sick for most of October and early November so I felt underprepared.
  2. Respighi’s Lauda per la Nativita del Signore on December 14 (Christmas oratorio in which I sing the role of Mary with the Harford Choral Society). It’s my first time singing with them, and I love the piece.
  3. WNO re-audition – date still TBD, sometime in January. I’d like to do something new this time. I have two pieces in mind, although I’m reluctant to trot out two untried songs.

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So there’s a lot of work ahead and I’m going to challenge myself to practice five times a week for approximately an hour per day. I’ll probably take off on Thursdays because of church choir at night, and maybe on Sunday.

What I want my students to do is:

  • Use your vocal exercises that we do in your lessons (on the BRAAP™ vocalise sheets and any others that we throw out there)
  • Use the checklist that I’ve given you to keep track of what you’ve done
  • Write down how much time you spent each day in a journal of your choosing – either the practice journal by Nancy Bos or any kind of method that works for you
  • At the end of the week (Sunday) use the Weekly Practice Record form to record what you did and submit it to me. Those dates are:
    • October 6
    • October 13
    • October 20
    • October 27
    • November 3
    • November 10
    • November 17
    • November 24
    • December 1
    • December 8
    • December 15

I will determine who practiced the most based on these and will give out a prize at the December 18 recital, the theme of which will be music from shows about the holidays (Christmas, Hanukkah, Solstice, winter, whatever). The prize will be an audition/lesson binder organized for you to use in your lessons and to take out with you to auditions. (FYI, I’m exempt from the prize, so I won’t be competing, just working alongside you.)

Who’s in? (Current students only)

Playing with Weekly Practice Forms

Playing with Weekly Practice Forms

I’m exploring options for how to submit a record of your practice without having reams of paper to keep track of (I really hate paper). I’m hoping to do a Practice Challenge for fall, culminating in a prize to be given out before the holiday break (probably at the recital – date/place TBD). But how to keep track?

There’s Nancy Bos’ excellent practice journal, which many of you have (as do I), and I recommend it highly. But that means you’d either have to:

  1. Turn in your book to me, which means you wouldn’t have it to work with unless I gave it back to you right away, and then that’d mean I’d have to go write down what you did to keep track of things (paper!);
  2. Copy your sheets and give them to me (paper!);
  3. Copy them and scan them and email them to me (no paper, and convenient for me, less so for you).

In my searches, I found JotForm, a free platform to create fillable forms. I was trying to create a form that included entries for each day you practice. At first, I came up with a form that you could submit, but it only was one day at a time, and I figured that that would be hard to come up with (and trying to do a separate page for each day was NOT intuitive – then again, it’s a free platform).

So I came up with this form, which seemed much easier. It’s a variation on a form I created for my Milwaukee students about 7 years ago – I found it when I was cleaning out files. (I don’t even remember doing this, and I suspect that people didn’t comply, because, well…. paper!)

It doesn’t have everything that I want, and maybe I’ll figure out something later this summer, but for now, I think it’s going to work. You’re still going to need to keep something separate for yourself to keep a record of your daily practice (whether it’s Nancy Bos’ book or your own method), but give it a try!