Who takes voice lessons?

My mother never understood how I had so many students. She would say, “So many people want to be professional singers?” and I’d say, “No, mom, some want to be professional performers, but some just want to get into the musical at school, or into a special ensemble in choir, or some just want to be better.” That blew her mind. She couldn’t understand why anyone would spend money on something if they weren’t planning to make money at it. (And why they’d give it to ME, of all people.)

But my mother issues are a whole ‘nother story. And ones only hinted at in this blog.

This summer, I read Seth Godin’s This is Marketing: You Can’t Be Seen Until You Learn to See.  In the chapter, “In search of ‘better,'” he creates an X-Y graph showing elements that people care about. From a business perspective, one element might be convenience, and another one price. What kind of clients fall within these parameters? Who is willing to pay for both? Who wants one but doesn’t care so much about the other?

I decided that, from a voice teacher’s perspective, my parameters would be technique and performance. What kind of client/student wants to be a better singer, but doesn’t really want to perform? What kind doesn’t really care about developing strong technique, but just wants to be able to perform with a band or at open mic? Who wants to understand technique better so they can help their classroom students, but doesn’t really want to perform themselves? Who wants to perform at the highest possible level of ability? This is what I came up with, based on the students I’ve worked with over 20 years:

Types of Voice Students (click here for bigger version)Image 9-19-19 at 9.44 AM

By “professional performer,” I mean opera/musical theater, because that’s what I do. CCM performer means contemporary commercial music such as rock, pop, jazz. And please don’t feel that I’m judging any kind of singing here – except maybe “shower.”

This doesn’t mean that students are forever relegated to these arbitrary quadrants. The “always wanted to sing” dabbler might start out not wanting to perform (and, in fact, be terrified of doing so), but then dip their toe into karaoke, and maybe later, community theater. Or start out in the church choir, and then decide to try auditioning for a symphonic chorus. A community theater ensemble singer might go for a lead role – and get it!

As a teacher, who do you want to work with? I have to be honest – I prefer working with people who want to perform and who want to develop their technique to the highest extent possible. That’s my “ideal client.” I have friends who enjoy working with adults who have no intention of performing and who do not want to work with high-strung high school students with tons of rehearsal conflicts (in other words, my people). Knowing who you click with might mean that you don’t market yourself as “all ages, all styles,” because that might not be the best way you can serve yourself and your client. It’s not for me. But some people are happy to serve all markets, and good for them!

As a student, where do you fall? Does your teacher recognize what’s important to you? Are they helping you get to where you want to be? Are they pushing you hard enough or too hard? Are you their ideal client? Are they your ideal teacher?

New Music to Hear and to Teach!

New Music to Hear and to Teach!

I’m in the process of cramming new music into my brain so that I can spit out new music for you to work on in the fall. (Spit out was my edited way of saying that.)

When I was in Milwaukee, I had a lot of students bring me things from new shows – one of my boys (who is now a working actor in Chicago) had a connection in New York via his dad with all the new composers on and off Broadway, so he was constantly bringing new things.

Since I’ve been here, I’ve been focused on finding balance between singing and teaching, so I haven’t been exposed to as much that’s new and exciting. So there’s a gap in what I’ve been listening to. Some of that has been filled in by On Broadway on SiriusXM, but even that’s just a song at a time. So – I’m going to spend some time and listen to:

  1. Hadestown
  2. The Prom
  3. Be More Chill
  4. Come From Away (I know a lot of it but I need to listen to the whole thing)
  5. The  Band’s Visit (because I love Tony Shalhoub)

Any suggestions? Feel free to comment!

***

Meanwhile, enjoy New Music – “Haunting me, and somehow taunting me” (the staging in the first is REALLY static, but the singing is lovely, especially the young woman playing Mother) in two completely different ways!

New Music to Hear and to Teach!

New Music to Hear and to Teach!

I’m in the process of cramming new music into my brain so that I can spit out new music for you to work on in the fall. (Spit out was my edited way of saying that.)

When I was in Milwaukee, I had a lot of students bring me things from new shows – one of my boys (who is now a working actor in Chicago) had a connection in New York via his dad with all the new composers on and off Broadway, so he was constantly bringing new things.

Since I’ve been here, I’ve been focused on finding balance between singing and teaching, so I haven’t been exposed to as much that’s new and exciting. So there’s a gap in what I’ve been listening to. Some of that has been filled in by On Broadway on SiriusXM, but even that’s just a song at a time. So – I’m going to spend some time and listen to:

  1. Hadestown
  2. The Prom
  3. Be More Chill
  4. Come From Away (I know a lot of it but I need to listen to the whole thing)
  5. The  Band’s Visit (because I love Tony Shalhoub)

Any suggestions? Feel free to comment!

***

Meanwhile, enjoy New Music – “Haunting me, and somehow taunting me” (the staging in the first is REALLY static, but the singing is lovely, especially the young woman playing Mother) in two completely different ways!

What’s Next? – It’s BIG

The other day I wrote a blog called A Year In Review about all the things that happened that were studio-related since about this time a year ago. Today I’m going to write about the things that I see on the horizon. This is what I’ve got planned for 2019-2020:

  • Write articles for the Roland Park News about music/arts related activities in the North Baltimore area (first one due August 1)
  • Start taking credit cards both online (Acuity) and in the studio (Square)
  • Organize a December holiday recital (date/place TBD) and a June studio showcase (6/7 at Springwell)
  • Start using Mailchimp to coordinate studio communications
  • Offer an online lesson option for people who live further away or for days when you just can’t get here and you want a lesson
  • Monthly (or more) Facebook Lives on various areas of technique
  • Offering master classes/workshops outside the studio
  • Hoping to get one of my former students now working in the professional MT world to come in and do a master class (if I can get them between gigs)
  • Going to the NATS National Conference in Knoxville, TN next June, possibly as a presenter (fingers crossed)
  • Continue working on using Appcompanist to its full potential for myself and in the studio
  • Work on increasing my knowledge of more recent musicals (I was up on them all when I was in Milwaukee because I had so many students that I couldn’t help but be up on them – less so now)
  • Coordinate a studio cabaret show at Germano’s Piattini in Little Italy (3/30)
  • Create a video library of vocalises based on BRAAP (breath/resonance/articulation/alignment/phonation) that will be included in studio membership and available for an extra fee to non-studio members
  • Switch to a tuition-based system and have studio packages for students based on their needs and availability and my own performing (and life) schedule

This last one is a big one. Rather than paying per lesson or for four at a time, as I have been doing, I am going to go toward a full-year (September-June) program and offer packages that allow for flexibility while still allowing continuity. There will be payment options offered that will allow you to choose what works for your circumstances.  This will go into effect on September 3, when the fall semester starts.

I will be sending out specifics to my current students by July 3 at the latest, and the package options will be shown on the website.

Golden age musicals – why you should bother

I hear this way too often from people:

“Why should I sing golden age music? It’s so old-fashioned! I don’t know any of it.”
  • Technique. Today’s musicals tend to be very text-driven, and aren’t necessarily vehicles for mastering things like legato and breath management. (And that doesn’t make them less than, just different.)
  • Revivals are big nowadays. Two revivals were nominated this season – Kiss Me, Kate and Oklahoma (see below). 
  • Sometimes it’s right for the audience where you’ll be performing. A retirement community will appreciate a Rodgers & Hammerstein song more than they will something from Pasek & Paul. Usually.
  • Because choosing repertoire is one of my superpowers. If I’m picking it for you, it’ll be right for you. Trust my judgment.
    AND
  • History. Most of all, history.
Oklahoma won the Tony for Best Revival of a Musical. It’s supposed to be fantastic, and I want to see it. And I don’t even like the show. However, the way they’re looking at it is more contemporary – the accompaniment is a band, rather than a full orchestra, the casting is diverse, and the direction takes it to a darker place than most traditional productions.

In undergrad, I wrote a paper about the characters of Curly in Oklahoma and Figaro in Le Nozze di Figaro and how groundbreaking both of them were for their times. Frank Rich pretty much wrote the same thing in this article:

“At its birth, the show was to its America what Hamilton has been to ours: both an unexpected record-smashing box-office phenomenon and a reassuring portrait of our past that lifted up theatergoers at a time of great anxiety about the country’s future. Its Broadway opening took place less than 16 months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, when America was shipping its sons off to war and still digging out of the Great Depression. Like Hamilton, too, Oklahoma! was deemed artistically revolutionary for its time. A self-styled “musical drama” rather than a musical comedy, it dispensed with the usual leggy chorus line and leveraged its songs to advance character and plot.”
There is a vast history of American musical theater, going back before Oklahoma! Knowing about it makes you a more well-rounded singer. 
And again – trust my judgment.

New Resource for Choosing Repertoire!!

Last week, I added yet another item to my list of things-to-spend-money-on-so-that-all-our-lives-can-be-better!

This resource is MusicalTheaterSongs.com and offers thousands of songs from 1850 to the present day (with the purchase of a subscription – and my NATS membership gets me 50% off of the annual subscription price).

For example – are you looking for a song for an audition for a girl under 13, written between 2010-2016? Just plug those things into the search engine, and voila! Thirty-five songs come up. Click on one of them to find out – let’s look at this obscure one:

It’s short (1 page?); it has an octave range; it’s not too difficult to play; and it’s pretty obscure. In fact, it’s only available if you subscribe to contemporarymusicaltheatre.com (sigh, another one to check out), which you find if you go to the “find the sheet music” link.

AND you can create a song list of songs that you’re saving. Right now, I have one saved for a project I’m going to propose for a conference next year for musical theater songs for women of a … ahem… certain age.

This is offering so many possibilities! I can’t tell you how excited I am. But I’ll show you:

https://tenor.com/embed.js