June Practice Challenge (Mine, Not Yours)

I’ve been seeing a lot of my colleagues set themselves a goal of singing through the entire 24 or 26 or 28 Italian Songs collection. They’ve taught them ad infinitum over the years, but they’ve never actually sung them themselves. So, in this time of respite from performing and in-person teaching, they’re recording themselves singing the songs.

That’s nice.

I don’t wanna.

Maybe I don’t wanna because everyone else is doing it. (I’m like that.)

Maybe I don’t wanna because there are only a handful of them that I really like.

  • Vittoria, vittoria mio core
  • O del mio dolce ardor
  • Amarilli, mia bella
  • Se miei sospiri (or Pieta, signore, depending on which book you’re using)
  • Quella fiamma (and I like the tacky version with the “Il mio bel foco” recitative from the 24/28 series, even though it’s really not authentic and very cheesy)
  • Tu lo sai

But if I commit to singing those, I’ll have to sing

  • Caro mio ben
  • Sebben crudele
  • Alma core
    AND THE WORST ONE OF ALL
  • Se tu m’ami

I hate that song with a white hot passion. Teaching that song is truly the definition of having taught something ad nauseum.

So I’m not gonna. Because I don’t wanna.

But what I do want to try is singing through a technique book of vocalises – which I never did in my undergrad or grad school studies, and which I’ve never used in my own teaching. I’ve always done ones I’ve gotten from books, or teachers, or workshops, or made up myself. But a lot of my colleagues teach from the technique books – mainly Vaccai. So a couple of years ago, I picked up a book of Collected Vocalises: Concone, Lutgen, Sieber, & Vaccai (medium key).

I really like the Concone and the Lutgen. Vaccai leaves me as cold as Caro mio ben. (But not as bad as that which shall not be named again.)

Appcompanist has all of the Concone accompaniments, although they’re in the high key, so I have to adjust them a bit. They also have the Vaccai, but, unfortunately, neither the Lutgen nor the Sieber.

So my June challenge is that I’m going to read through all of the Concone this month. Maybe I’ll put them on FB – maybe on my personal page, maybe the studio page, maybe on Insta, maybe all three. And maybe if I feel like it, I’ll throw in one of the Vaccai.

If you’d like to try this, you can pick them up on Amazon. (Note: I do have an Associate Affiliate account, so if you purchase from one of these links, I will receive a small pittance.)

Appcompanist for Android is AVAILABLE!

From my friend, fellow voice teacher and music director/studio pianist Michael Tan, on the studio FB page this morning:

FYI: The free prerelease version of Appcompanist for Android is now live on the Google Play Store! (Just search Appcompanist) [The rest is Appcompanist’s blurb]

The free prerelease version includes access to all 550+ Vocal Exercises and 50 Sample Songs chosen by NATS from their list of most auditioned repertoire (all found in Playlists). The purpose of this prerelease version is to at least rush something into the hands of teachers and singers who have been forced to transition to online lessons, distance learning, and practice in isolation. As a prerelease version, you may experience some instability and technical issues, but our testing has found it to work well enough to be a help at this time. We would appreciate it if you would report any bugs or problems you encounter to info@appcompanist.com so we can work those fixes it into our ongoing development. We are working hard to make the subscription version with the full library of 5,000+ titles available by May.

Please feel free to visit our website www.appcompanist.com for information and helpful tutorial videos to make the most of this great learning and rehearsal tool. Keep in mind, however, that not all of the features highlighted in the videos from the Apple version will be immediately available in Android. We will keep working to get every great feature into the hands of our Android users as soon as possible.

If you choose not to keep Appcompanist, you will still have access to the vocalises. I took the liberty of going through the vocalises curated by them and writing them out, so that you’ll know what to do with them, and am attaching them here: Accompanist_Vocalises.

Some of these are vocalises we do in the studio. Others are new and I might be adding them to the rotation and will introduce them in online lessons in the coming weeks (hopefully not months). I have included suggested vowels/syllables and have written out based on where I probably would start them in your lesson and have included a couple of them going down (mostly).

The vocalises on the app default to C major and go up. You can change that. I prefer to start in E or Eb (for the most part) and go down, and then return to the original note and go up. I’ll make a video of myself doing that, as well as other fancy things you can do in Appcompanist, and post it later.

At the very least, this will allow you to have some vocalises that you can use, in addition to the ones I have posted for my private students on the website (the portal access is being worked on by my webmaster as we speak).

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)

Sumer is i-goin’-out….

And fall is coming in (well, technically not until later in September, but when school starts, summer is over).

Exciting things happening…

  1. Moving to a tuition-based program to allow more flexibility for everyone.
  2. Eliminating 24 hour notice (or even 12 hour notice) if you’re in one of those packages! (Because the flu doesn’t always have the courtesy to hit the day before.)
  3. A new studio portal on the website which will include information only for studio members! Things like: vocal exercise sheets (in case you lost yours); a list of all students having lessons and their times (in case you need to switch with someone); and coming soon, a video library of vocal exercises.
  4. Two studio recitals and a cabaret show!

You might be asking, “But, Christine, how do I find out about all of these things?”

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Everything regarding packages and policies was sent out on August 14, right before I left for Milwaukee.

What would also be great is if payment could be made by September 1 so that I can have everything on Acuity and ready to go before we start up on September 3. Payment (or arrangement of payment) guarantees your spot in the stuio. I’m limiting the number of people I’m taking this year in order to provide the best service I can to you with my performing schedule, so if you’ve indicated that you are continuing in the fall, please confirm. If you have changed your mind, please let me know so that I can offer this opportunity to another interested singer!

Please go ahead and register for your preferred package here.

The title of this blog is based on “Sumer is icumen in,” the title of the medieval English round that my husband once taught a bunch of drunk kids on a bus in Ocean City while he was in medical school – and which we sing at our Renaissance parties. I don’t know if there’s an end of summer version, but maybe someone creative can write one.

Enjoy the song – maybe we can do it on our end of the season studio showcase. 😀

What If You Were Your Own Teacher….

I just read the phrase, “as if they were their own teacher” on a FB page of independent teachers, in regards to how a student would do self-evaluation, including:

  • Finding three things they did well
  • Finding a couple of things they’d like to fix
  • Figuring out how to fix them
This was based on the idea of submitting a video to a teacher in the event that you were unable to make your lesson that week. The teacher would then review the practice video and give his/her own observations and suggestions. I thought this was a really great option. I’m thinking of making this an option in the fall.
So here’s a challenge for you this summer:

  • Video your practice session (you can use your phone) as if it were a lesson. Include:
    • Vocalises
    • Repertoire
      • Do each song all the way through without stopping
      • Stop and address the issues you need to address
  • Watch the session – either afterwards, or stop after vocalises
  • Evaluate it
    • Were your vocalises varied enough? 
    • Did you vocalize long enough?
    • Were the things you stopped and addressed the things you should have stopped and addressed? Did you leave anything out?
    • What did you do well? (There must have been something.)
    • What do you need to address the next time you practice? How are you going to address this? When?
    • Is there anything you noticed that you need to ask me about?
I’m going to try to do this too. Let’s see what happens.