Don’t rain on my p̶a̶r̶a̶d̶e̶ recital

Weather – specifically precipitation – has been the bane of my existence. I’ve had shows sabotaged by blizzards and ice storms. Birthdays rained on for 6 years in a row, including my graduation from high school on my 18th birthday. And I held a graduation party three days later. It rained then too. It’s enough to give you a complex.

However, some of my favorite songs have been about rain.

Just noticed that both of those songs are by the same composer, Harvey Schmidt.

The song that started me on my journey as a singer was about avoiding rain. Metaphorical rain, but rain, nevertheless.

Tomorrow afternoon, the Mezzoid Voice Studio is scheduled to hold a semi-live, semi-virtual recital out in my backyard. And there is an 80% chance of thunderstorms. Not just rain, but thunderstorms. My plan was to have people sing live, interspersed with videos sent to me by some of my past students and ones who weren’t comfortable singing live in public during the pandemic.

DON’T RAIN.

JUST THIS ONCE.

But if it does, I will ask my students who were scheduled to sing to self-tape themselves (it’ll be a good exercise!) and submit the videos to me. I will then create a playlist of videos from those and the people who had submitted them for the live recital and then send them out to my studio.

Resilience. Adaptability.

These are good traits as a singer.  And a teacher.

But still. Let’s hope it doesn’t rain.

What are your favorite songs about rain? Or weather in general?

“From Shrill to Potato-y”: How I Got Back on the Chiaroscuro Trail

“From Shrill to Potato-y”: How I Got Back on the Chiaroscuro Trail

Nearly 8 years ago, I gave my first classical recital in a long time. I was in Milwaukee and teaching at Carroll University in Waukesha, and I had the opportunity to do a recital. So I prepared a full program, hired a fabulous pianist, and started taking lessons with Connie Haas again, after not having had regular lessons (or really done any year-round singing) for over 10 years.

During my lessons, Connie was telling me that my resonance was not as balanced as it could be. And I wasn’t really buying it, because that had never been an issue for me during the time I was at Peabody and singing in the DC metropolitan area. I knew that the recital was coming harder for me than it would have earlier, but I attributed that to my not having done one for a long time.

When the recital was over, I wasn’t pleased. I had hired the late, great sound engineer Daniel Gnader to record it, but didn’t listen to it until over 3 months later, on January 1, 2012. I listened to it with the idea that I would be able to pull something from it for a demo recording.

I was not pleased. (This is putting it mildly. I was weeping copious tears.) And then my friend Carolina got online and asked how I was, and I said, “I just listened to my recital from September and I sound like poop.” (I didn’t say poop.) She said, “Oh, come on, it can’t be that bad. Send me a clip.” I sent her one. She didn’t think it was bad. I sent her another. She said, “Oh. On that one, you run the gamut from shrill to potato-y.” I asked if by “potato-y,” she meant as though I was singing with a large serving of potatoes in my mouth. She confirmed that was, in fact, what she meant.

This meant that Connie had been right all along. My resonance was out of balance. At times my sound was too bright. At other times, it was too dark. Because I had not had an ear and someone to guide me back on the Chiaroscuro Trail (which sounds like the coolest trail in a national park), I had been too cocky to accept it. And I had not been practicing regularly.

I went back to Connie and told her I was ready to work and fix it. And I did.

I needed someone to tell me the truth about where my singing was at that point. Connie did. Carolina did. And, finally, my own ears did. So I had to do something about it.

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I won’t say that “You run the gamut from shrill to potato-y” was necessarily positive, but it sure was specific. I didn’t feel like Carolina was telling me that I sucked, but that I needed to address a resonance issue that had arisen. Connie gave me the next step – work on being mindful of where my tongue was and of the shape of my vocal tract. Work on the awareness of the tone quality and what it felt like when the sound was right.

Awareness, mindfulness, and acceptance are all things you need to have as a singer.

As a teacher, I will tell you honestly what you do well and what you need to work on. I will give you the tools to expand upon your strengths. I will not tear you down, but I will tell you what your next step should be, whether we’re going to have to focus on breath, resonance, articulation, or registration, or some combination thereof.

Your job, as a student, will be to accept and implement those steps, and to be aware of what it feels like when you’re doing the work and what it feels like when you’re not.

I’m up to that challenge. I’m confident that all my students, past, present, and future, are as well.