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College Audition Panel Discussion: Meet the Panel (Part 3)

Before we meet the panel, an important announcement:

Now that we’re done with that…. 

As promised, it’s time to meet the student panelists on our June 30 panel discussion.

Lauren Manna, Minneapolis, MN

Coming to us from Minneapolis, Minnesota, Lauren Manna.

Lauren Manna is a musical theatre student from Minneapolis, MN. She studies voice with [my Speakeasy Cooperative colleague] Jerry Elsbernd, with whom she has won the State and North Central Regional NATS, and is currently a National Quarterfinalist. She also is an NSDA speech student, and will make her second NSDA nationals appearance this June. Some of her favorite roles she has played include Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors, and Rusty in Footloose! Theatre is a huge part of Lauren’s life, and she is so excited to continue her musical theatre education at the Boston Conservatory at Berklee this fall.

Our second student panelist is Iyana Johnson of Annapolis, Maryland.Iyana Johnson, Annapolis, MD

Iyana Johnson will be an incoming freshman at Baldwin Wallace Conservatory, studying vocal performance and music production. She identifies as a mezzo soprano (but her teacher, my MDDC colleague Alyssa Amber Cox, calls her a “baby contralto”) and she has been studying music “classically” for the last 5 years. Iyana has a particular interest in exploring spirituals and African American song, which she hopes to focus on in her studies at B-W.

Our final student panelist is Olive DeVille of Towson, Maryland.

Towson student Olive DeVilleOlive DeVille recently graduated from Carver Center for Arts and Technology, where she was a Vocal Music student. Over the past 4 years she enjoyed performing in local community theatre, performing in shows such as Man of La Mancha (Antonia), Newsies, The Music Man, Hello Dolly!, and studying voice and dance. In the fall, she will be attending Long Island University as a BFA Musical Theatre student. Olive is a student of Christine Thomas-O’Meally at Mezzoid Voice Studio (why, that’s ME!)

These three young singers went through the audition process this year, which was entirely virtual! Hear what they have to say about the experience, what they might do differently if they could, and what they’re looking forward to as they take the next step in their musical and educational journey!

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To reserve your spot for the June 30 panel discussion, What To Know and What I Wish I Had Known About College Auditions, register HERE.


It’d be a great birthday present for me.
And since June is birthday month,
I’ll accept presents up through June 30.
Just sayin’

College Audition Panel Discussion: Meet the Panel (Part 2)

(I couldn’t wait till Tuesday.)

As promised, it’s time to meet the musical theater teachers on our June 30 panel discussion who teach in musical theater programs.

Meet the Panel: Karla Hughes, Viterbo UniversityFirst up – Karla Hughes from Viterbo University in LaCrosse, Wisconsin (named one of the top 30 musical theater programs in the country).

Karla Hughes heads the Music Theatre voice area at Viterbo University where she instructs vocalists in a wide variety of genres including music theatre (legit and belt), classical, pop, rock, gospel, country, and R&B. In addition to her work as a voice instructor, she has also taught acting and stage movement courses and works as a music director. Former voice students have gone on to perform on Broadway (Six the Musical, Amélie, A Bronx Tale the Musical, Tina; The Tina Turner Musical), off-Broadway musicals, national and international tours, international cruise lines, regional and international theaters, voice overs for animated Disney films, and have been featured vocalists on national public radio (NPR) and television programs (ABC, NBC).

As a professional musician Karla has performed throughout the U.S. with opera, musical theater, and theater companies and is represented by Wade Artist Management (NYC). Hailed as displaying “vocal pyrotechnics” and “effortless dexterity” (Opera News), being “nimble of voice and feet” (The Toledo Blade), and “exceedingly convincing [as an actress]” (Opera News) she is equally talented as a vocalist, actress, and dancer. Highlights from Karla‘s performing career include Zerlina in Don Giovanni, Ellen in Lakmé, and Barbarina in Le Nozze di Figaro with Michigan Opera Theater, Flora in Turn of the Screw with the Toledo Opera, Valencienne in The Merry Widow, Dainty June in Gypsy, and Hodel in Fiddler on the Roof with The Ohio Light Opera, and Sophie in Terrence McNally’s Master Class with Chamber Theater (Milwaukee).  In 2011, Karla made her Lincoln Center debut as the soprano soloist in Mozart’s Coronation Mass, presented by Distinguished Concerts International New York (DCINY). As a recording artist, she can be heard on over 15 different titles with Albany Records and Newport Classics including the roles of Mabel in The Pirates of Penzance and Yum-Yum in The Mikado. Karla earned a Master of Music in Opera Performance at Wichita State University and a Bachelor of Arts in Music at Colorado State University.

We’re also honored to have Matt Edwards join us from Shenandoah Conservatory in Winchester, VA.Meet the Panel: Matt Edwards, Shenandoah Conservatory

Matt Edwards is one of the leading voice teachers for commercial and musical theatre styles in the United States. He is currently an Associate Professor and Coordinator of Musical Theatre Voice at Shenandoah Conservatory. He is also Artistic Director of the Contemporary Commercial Music Vocal Pedagogy Institute. In 2017, he was the recipient of the Van Lawrence Fellowship and in 2018 he was a master teacher for the NATS Intern program.

Edwards’ vocal interests encompass many styles. He has performed numerous roles in plays, musicals, and operas. Former and current students have performed on American Idol, Broadway, off-Broadway, on national and international tours, and in bands touring throughout the United States. He has written numerous articles for the Journal of Singing, Journal of Voice, VoicePrints, American Music Teacher, The Voice, Southern Theatre, and Voice Council magazine. He has contributed chapters to “A Dictionary for the Modern Singer,” “Vocal Athlete,” “Manual of Singing Voice Rehabilitation,” “Get the Callback,” “The Voice Teacher’s Cookbook,” and the CCM, Sacred Music, Gospel, A Cappella, and Country editions of the “So You Want to Sing” book series. His book “So You Want to Sing Rock ‘N’ Roll?” is published by Rowman and Littlefield and was called “an authoritative text on rock ‘n’ roll singing” by Classical Singer magazine.

He has presented at the National Association of Teachers of Singing National Conference, Voice Foundation Annual Symposium, Acoustical Society of America, Southeastern Theatre Conference, Musical Theatre Educators Alliance, Pan-American Vocology Association, at numerous universities including Penn State, Florida State, University of Toronto, Brigham Young, Wright State, Otterbein, Illinois Wesleyan, Missouri State, University of Northern Colorado, Bårdar Academy (Oslo, Norway), NATS Chapters in Toronto, Virginia, Oregon, Georgia, North Carolina, Texas, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Arizona, and many others.

Online at CCMInstitute.com and EdwardsVoice.com.

This is not to be missed.

I have worked closely with both of these artists, with Karla at the Skylight in Viva La Mamma and with Matt at Shenandoah Conservatory in a training program. Karla has taught several of my Milwaukee studio alums, and her students routinely win at Wisconsin NATS auditions. Matt is well-regarded internationally as well as nationally, as you can see if you search his name in Google.

Stay tuned for part 3 of this series, in which I will introduce you to the three students who successfully navigated the 2020-2021 audition process (and lived to tell the tale), and who will be attending college in Fall 2021. 

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To reserve your spot for the June 30 panel discussion, What To Know and What I Wish I Had Known About College Auditions, register HERE.

 

 

College Audition Panel Discussion: Meet the Panel (Part 1)

Today I would like to introduce the teachers on our June 30 panel discussion who teach in classical/opera programs.

Meet the panel: Soprano Elizabeth FutralOur first panelist is American soprano Elizabeth Futral, who comes to us from my alma mater, Peabody Conservatory.

Elizabeth Futral has established herself as one of the world’s leading sopranos. She is currently a Professor in the Vocal Studies department at Peabody Conservatory.

 Reared in Louisiana, Ms. Futral studied with Virginia Zeani at Indiana University. She joined the Lyric Opera Center for American Artists at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, won the Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions in 1991 and was catapulted to stardom with critically acclaimed performances of Delibes’ Lakmé at the New York City Opera in 1994. Career milestones soon followed, cementing her star status: a win in Placido Domingo’s Operalia Competition, the title role in Rossini’s Matilde di Shabran in Pesaro, her debut at the San Francisco Opera as Stella in the world premiere of André Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire, and her Metropolitan Opera debut in a new production of Lucia di Lammermoor.

Since that time, she has returned to the Metropolitan Opera as Princess Eudoxie in a new production of La Juive, Princess Yeuyang in the world premiere of Tan Dun’s The First Emperor, Elvira in I Puritani, and additional performances of Lucia. With the Lyric Opera of Chicago she has sung a vast range of roles including Cunegonde in Candide, Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro, Handel’s Partenope, La Traviata, and The Merry Widow. She has notable relationships with the Washington, Houston, Santa Fe, Los Angeles, New York City, Vancouver, and Minnesota opera companies. Internationally, she has been heard at the Royal Opera Covent Garden, the Bayerische Staatsoper, the Staatsoper and Deutsche Oper Berlin, the Theater an der Wien, the Grand Theatre de Genève, the Gran Teatre del Liceu, and Hamburg Staatsoper.

Ms. Futral debuted with the New York Philharmonic in Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 under Zubin Mehta and has returned there for Handel’s Messiah with Sir Neville Marriner and Mozart’s Abduction from the Seraglio with Sir Colin Davis. Other orchestral highlights include Berlioz’s Benvenuto Cellini with Sir Colin Davis and the London Symphony, To Be Certain of the Dawn with Osmo Vänskä and the Minnesota Orchestra, the Brahms Requiem with Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony, arias and duets with Placido Domingo and the Chicago Symphony led by Daniel Barenboim, and a New Year’s Eve Gala with Claudio Abbado and the Berlin Philharmonic.

In demand for contemporary repertoire, Ms. Futral has sung the world premieres of Ricky Ian Gordon’s 27 at the Opera Theatre of St. Louis, Tobias Picker’s Dolores Claiborne at the San Francisco Opera, Andre Previn’s Brief Encounter at the Houston Grand Opera, Philip Glass’s Orphée for the American Repertory Theatre, Ricky Ian Gordon’s Orpheus and Euridice for Great Performers at Lincoln Center, Dominic Argento’s Evensong: Of Love and Angels at the National Cathedral, and Stephen Paulus’ Three Poems of Dylan Thomas with the Tucson Symphony. Other notable performances include concerts and recording of Paulus’ To Be Certain of the Dawn with the Minnesota Orchestra and Osma Vänskä, Ricky Ian Gordon’s The Grapes of Wrath at Carnegie Hall and Carlisle Floyd’s Of Mice and Men at the Houston Grand Opera.

Our second panelist is opera director Andrew Ryker of Ohio University.Meet the panel: Andrew Ryker, Ohio University

Andrew Ryker is the Director of Opera and Assistant Professor of Voice at Ohio University.  He is the former Artistic Director of Boston Opera Collaborative and he has served on the directing staffs at New England Conservatory, Opera New Jersey and Des Moines Metro Opera.  Ryker’s productions have been seen with the Yale Institute of Sacred Music, Intermezzo Chamber Opera, Eastern Nazarene College, Boston Opera Collaborative, Millikin University, MetroWest Opera, Drake University and New England Conservatory.  Andrew was the 2006 recipient of the Goldovsky Directing Fellowship with the Harrower Opera Workshop in Atlanta and was a member of the Resident Artist Program at Opera North. Ryker has been featured in The Boston Globe, The EDGE and Classical Singer Magazine; his production of Benjamin Britten’s Curlew River was named Boston’s “Best Staged Opera of the Year” by the Boston Phoenix.

Ryker has been heard with the Boston Pops, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, La Musica Lirica, College Light Opera Company and the Des Moines Gay Men’s Chorus. He was baritone soloist for Trinity Church Boston’s performances of Durufle’s Requiem and Bach’s Johannes Passion. Operatic roles include Papageno (The Magic Flute), Count Almaviva (Le Nozze di Figaro), Marco (Gianni Schicchi), Silvio (Pagliacci), Don Alfonso (Cosi fan tutte), John Brooke (Little Women), Strephon (Iolanthe), St. Brioche (The Merry Widow), Le Suritendent (Cendrillon) and Jenik in the US premiere of Dvorak’s Kral a Uhlir.  Andrew has sung in master classes with Pierre Vallet, Vinson Cole, Alan Held and Warren Jones and has been featured on the St. John’s Concert Series as well as various gala performances throughout the Marché region of Italy.

Ryker is also very active in musical theatre and has a diverse background as a performer, director and educator.  Recent highlights include the title role in Andrew Lippa’s I am Harvey Milk, Leo Frank in Jason Robert Brown’s Parade and a solo cabaret at Noce Jazz Club. He’s performed regionally in TitanicThe Scarlet Pimpernel42nd Street, Kismet, South Pacific, Brigadoon and On the 20th Century with Alice Ripley.  Andrew has staged productions of Cabaret, Into the Woods, West Side Story, Candide, Side by Side by Sondheim and Songs for a New World.  Music directing credits include Ragtime, The Wild Party, Jesus Christ Superstar, Spring Awakening, Fiorello, Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill, Rock of Ages and 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.  Andrew’s 2015 production of South Pacific won Best Musical at the Cloris Leachman Excellence in Theatre Arts Awards.

Andrew began work with Des Moines Metro Opera in 2010 and has staged touring productions of The Elixir of LoveCenerentola and The Barber of Seville as well as directing for their nationally recognized Apprentice Artist Program. Ryker previously taught at Drake University and New England Conservatory.  He’s an active adjudicator and clinician who has judged for the National Opera Association and he continues to serve as an advisor for the Entrepreneurial Musicianship Program at New England Conservatory.  Andrew’s students have been accepted into many of the premiere graduate and young artist programs in the US including Sarasota Opera, Cincinnati, Ash Lawn and Sante Fe Opera. An active participant in the National Association of Teachers of Singing, Ryker has had over 50 winners in regional and state NATS competitions as well as multiple award winners in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.

Ryker studied voice with Kathryn Hartgrove and William Cotten and is a graduate of Millikin University. He received his master’s degree in Vocal Performance from New England Conservatory where he was a student of John Moriarty and graduated with Academic Honors.

I cannot tell you how honored I am to have both of these fantastic artists/educators.

I am particularly thrilled about their interest in new music (Futral) and in crossover/musical theater (Ryker). I believe that, for classical music to continue to thrive, it must grow and encompass new art forms. The big tent, folks!

On Tuesday (or maybe before, if I can’t contain myself), I will introduce you to our Musical Theater panelists in Part 2 of this series, to be followed by Part 3, introducing the music students of tomorrow (or at least Fall 2021).

Stay tuned!

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To reserve your spot for the June 30 panel discussion, What To Know and What I Wish I Had Known About College Auditions, register HERE.

 

 

The Cicada: Nature’s Krumhorn

This past Sunday, we held the 2nd annual outdoor studio recital in my backyard, called “For the First Time in Forever” (since it was the first time in forever that we got to sing in front of people – thanks to Nichole Feltner for the suggestion and for opening the program with that song.

It was a lovely event,  and everyone sang well, the program was entertaining, and people were supportive of each other.  However, we had a few uninvited special guests join the program. Actually, we had thousands of special guests.

CICADAS!!.

I did not take these into account when I planned the recital. I had set a rain date for next Sunday, just in case. But it’s been 34 years since I dealt with cicadas (I missed the 2004 invasion because I was living in Wisconsin). They didn’t seem as bad this time, although I did recognize that they were getting louder over the past week.

This is a recording I made while walking home from Hampden on Friday:

(I wasn’t just talking to myself, this was an audio I sent to my husband.)

I notice that they all seem to be tuned to F. The other day I had toads in my pond, and they were tuning to A, so I had a nice major third going on in my yard.

And they didn’t seem to be as loud on Sunday, or maybe I was just USED to them, so I didn’t think it’d be a factor. Plus everyone was going to be using a mic, so I figured we’d be fine.

It wasn’t until I got the first video that I realized how… present… they actually were. It was like a drone. And then I realized that what I should’ve done was embraced the cicada sound and programmed around it. After all, aren’t cicadas basically nature’s version of krumhorns?

So, mark your calendars. In June, 2038, the outdoor studio recital will feature music that allows the cicada to shine. Everything will be in keys that complement the cicada, rather than compete with it. The repertoire will be chosen carefully to enhance its drone-like qualities.

Or maybe we’ll just go inside.

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Three weeks till What To Know/What I Wish I’d Known About College Auditions! Reserve your spot here.
Can’t be there on June 30? That’s okay. The replay will be available through August 31 for all registrants. Registration is only $25.

Pay Attention to the Tension

(FYI: I know the end of this post will tick some people off but yeah well)

Yesterday, I was giving a lesson to one of my favorite people in the world, Sasha Kostakis, and we were talking about a little bit of tightness in her jaw that was getting in the way for her high notes in the song, “When he sees me” from Waitress. Sasha is a great belter, and belting requires a bit more mouth width than a song sung “legit” or classically. So this is not something that is unique to this particular singer, and I’m not telling tales out of school. While I’m not advocating for adopting a more vertical mouth position for belt (because that wouldn’t work), we still need to make sure that the temporomandibular joint is free and flexible and that the jaw can MOVE. It can’t come forward, it can’t be locked straight down,  and it needs to be flexible enough so that you can adjust your position quickly for the next pitch/phoneme you’re producing.

After working on finding where the jaw needs to “live,” we approached the song a second time and I invited Sasha to be aware of any possible tightness that might occur and to allow herself to release it, particularly at the jumps up to the high notes in the song. She replied with:

Pay attention to the tension

As singers (and as human beings), there are many places we can hold tension:

  1. In the jaw
  2. In the shoulders, either slumped over as shown here (the “smartphone slump” is real and can carry over from your devices to your singing!)
  3. or artificially pulled back in what is often called “noble posture,” a term that is still used as an example of good posture but often presents as tenseOld School 19th Singing tips on Posture and Respiration | goodkarmamusic
  4. In your tongue, like the lovely head I have in the picture above (which is above a window in my studio and used to be on the overhang of the steps leading down to my Milwaukee studio, which was intended to signal two things: “Singers Ahead,” and “Watch your head,” because that overhang was LOW)
  5. In your neck
  6. In your knees
  7. In your feet
  8. In your arms and hands (I personally used to stand with my right arms pulled down straight, my wrist bent and my fingers splayed – why, I don’t know)

Tension isn’t always a bad thing.  A tension rod keeps your curtain up (that’s definitely a good thing if it’s your shower curtain). Think of dramatic tension – it’s necessary for a play or story to be interesting. It builds and then it releases.  Tension keeps us upright – otherwise gravity would pull us down. In that case, tension allows us to maintain balance.

When tension is physical tightness, rather than balance, that’s where the problem lies.

Alexander Technique is one of the modalities that can help you release unnecessary tension (while maintaining that which keeps you upright). Another is Feldenkrais. Or yoga and dance might help inform you of where tightness happens in your body and offer you strategies on how to release that tightness.

Because I am a terrible person, I am attaching a video that, to me, illustrates tremendous tension in most of the body parts listed above. If you are a fan of the Hof, well, I will judge you. (Sorry.) But notice the position of his jaw,  the tension in his hands (which could be “acting”), the leaning forward posture, and his tongue. OMG, at 2:30 minutes in, there is so much tongue tension there that there is an actual groove in it. I can’t duplicate that in my own body. I have no idea how he’s doing it. But you could serve soup in that tongue. (N.B.: I do not recommend that as a serving utensil.)

I will say that his knees and feet seem very flexible. (See, I can be nice.)

(And yes, I realize that he has more money than I will ever make in my lifetime. This is not jealousy, it’s just an observation.)

Please … enjoy? … these video.

(And if you still like me afterwards, please feel free to register for the upcoming
College Audition Panel Discussion on June 30)

Reflections on Summer Goals

June 1! Officially two weeks till my birthday.

 

When I was younger, everything after May 15 and before June 30 was related to how close it was to my birthday.

That’s less of a big deal now.

But I do see June 1 as the unofficial beginning of summer and a new year (for me) and a time to evaluate what to do during the time “off.” (Although after 15 months of a pandemic, what’s different?)

I have a few goals for this summer:

  1. Watch all of the Marvel movies in chronological order (I’m paying for Disney+ for more than just Hamilton at this point).
  2. Re-watch WandaVision after #1 so that the stuff I missed will make sense to me.
  3. Learn two new arias for my WNO audition in September, which I hope to coach with a friend of mine, Shannon Coates (she doesn’t know this yet because I haven’t asked her).
  4. Successfully host What To Know/What I Wish I’d Known About College Auditions on June 30 at 6pm.
  5. Plan and implement a new membership program for serious vocal students for the 2021-2022 season
  6. Write some new cabaret shows!
  7. Lose the 8# that I gained back since the beginning of the year (still 17# down, but I’m trying to avoid the slippery slope).

All of these goals are, hopefully, achievable over the next three months, which is what goals should be.  Not pie-in-the-sky goals, but ones you can get done. (Oooh, maybe I shouldn’t be talking about pie right now…. see #7..)

If you’d like to see another point of view about goal setting and re-evaluating them well after the New Year (which is when we usually set goals), here’s a great article from the website Stage Agent. What I really like about this article is the acknowledgement that goals shift and it’s okay for them to do so. Lord knows mine have!

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Do you have goals for the summer? What are they? Drop them in the comments and we can talk about them!
If one of your goals is to audition for college next year, check out the June 30 panel discussion.
More info and registration can be found HERE.

 

What To Know/What I WISH I’d Known About College Auditions

Because it’s been over a month since World Voice Weekend and I need another project….

But what could I do that would offer the same kind of benefit (if not quite the scope of that project because it was exhausting) to people. And then I thought, hey, where can people get information about college auditions all in one place?

Things have changed a lot since I was preparing students for college auditions from 2006-2013, as I discovered this past year when I prepared someone for college auditions for the first time since I moved to Baltimore. In some respects, it’s easier because many of the schools now have standardized audition requirements and people submit their applications and prescreen videos through Acceptd,  You don’t have to prepare a completely separate set of audition packages for multiple colleges anymore.

But more schools are requiring prescreen videos just to get an audition, and this past year, with the pandemic, many schools didn’t even have in-person auditions. Either they were online, or they used the prescreen videos to make their decisions.

And with musical theater, there’s the “wild card” audition submission. That was something I didn’t hear about till last summer – it certainly wasn’t a thing 8 years ago! And what’s going to happen this year? Will auditions still be online? Will they be in-person? Will there be some kind of hybrid option?

So on June 30, at 6pm, I will be hosting a panel discussion called

What To Know/What I Wish I’d Known About College Auditions

I’ve put together a panel discussion of university/conservatory voice teachers from both the classical and musical theater world to discuss the audition process, plus three young singers who navigated the 2020-2021 audition season and were accepted to programs for Fall 2021. The panelists are:

  • Elizabeth Futral, Professor of Voice, Peabody Institute, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland
  • Andrew Ryker, Assistant Professor of Opera/Voice, Director of Opera, Ohio University, Athens, Ohio
  • Karla Hughes, Associate Professor of Voice, Theatre and Music Theatre, Viterbo University, LaCrosse, Wisconsin
  • Matt Edwards, Associate Professor, Voice/Coordinator of Musical Theatre Voice/Artistic Director, CCM Vocal Pedagogy Institute, Shenandoah Conservatory, Winchester, Virginia
  • Iyana Johnson, future freshman in classical voice at Baldwin-Wallace, student of Alyssa Amber Cox, Annapolis, MD
  • Lauren Manna, future freshman in musical theater, Boston Conservatory-Berklee, student of Jerry Elsbernd, Minneapolis, MN
  • Olive DeVille, future freshman in musical theater, Long Island University, student of Christine Thomas-O’Meally (why, that’s me), Baltimore, MD

More info, including bios and headshots, will be forthcoming over the next few weeks. But believe me, these people are tops in their field and I’m so honored to have them!

The cost will be $25 and you can register here. Can’t make it on that day? The whole thing will be recorded and made available for replay (platform TBD) through August 31, so you can catch it later. Or watch it again later, if you want to refresh your memory.

Find out

      • What they want to hear
      • What they don’t want to hear
      • What a good pre-screen video should include
      • Video auditions vs. in-person auditions (will that even be a thing?): Advantages vs. disadvantages
      • How many schools should you audition for?
      • Other questions — input to be taken at registration*
      • Followed by a Q&A, as time permits

 

If you are planning to audition for college music/theater programs in the next year or two (or three), or you’re the parents of a student, or you’re a teacher preparing a student for upcoming auditions, this panel discussion is for you.

College Audition Panel Discussion


*Register HERE and fill out the intake form to have the opportunity
to add input to the panel discussion (I can always use ideas)

Re-Petition rather than Repetition

I am currently reading a book by Eric Maisel called The Power of Daily Practice: How Creative and Performing Artists (and Everyone Else) Can Finally Meet Their Goals. He offers a very specific approach to establishing a routine that is regular and rewarding, and can apply to various ways of self-improvement, career, personal, etc. The book is divided into three parts:

      1. The elements of practice (there are twenty!)
      2. The types of practices you can undertake
      3. The challenges to establishing a daily practice

Of the twenty elements of practice, some are lovely and fun and are what got you started on your practice in the first place, but a few are hard and take effort, and those are the ones that might result in your abandoning your practice because it’s just too much WORK.

The one that struck me was the element of repetition. This is a part of practice that is difficult for even the most dedicated practitioner. The act of repeating things over and over to make them better. It’s part of the whole “Practice makes Perfect” mindset, that you have to practice something over and over till you get it right (really, the better approach is to practice till you can’t get it wrong). But it’s tedious! It’s boring, and mind-numbing, and sucks the soul of my performing. I don’t wanna!

What if, instead of approaching our practice as having to do something over and over again, with the idea that there is an endpoint at which we’re going to perfect, we approach it as a new “ask.” As a petition, a request, an intention. So that when we run a passage over and over again, we are asking for something specific to happen as a result of this effort. For example:

Today, I will sing this passage in “Cruda sorte” and ask myself [or the coloratura gods] to find the phrasing I need to make this clear, reproduce-able, and musical. Tomorrow, I may ask to try that same passage at different tempi, both slower and faster, so that I can adapt to whatever tempo the audition pianist decides to play on a particular day.

This is not the first time I have hyphenated a word to find meaning in it (see my 2020 Word of the Year).

There are many things in this book about which I can write – but first I have to finish it. I admit I’m a little stuck right now because I realized, in part III, that the author has a few points of view regarding subjects such as ADD, ADHD, anxiety, and depression with which I vehemently disagree and it’s causing me to question everything he’s written up to this point. But he is considered one of the foremost creativity coaches in the world, so I’m going to overlook our disagreements so that I can take what I need – and leave the rest.

Does the idea of “re-petitioning” sound interesting to you? Or am I grasping at straws here? I don’t think so, but I’d love to know what your approach might be to keep things fresh, whether it’s yoga, singing, exercise, meditation, or whatever. Drop me a comment below and let’s hear what you think.

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Stay tuned for information on an upcoming panel discussion called “What To Know/What I WISH I’d Known About College Auditions,” coming up on June 30. You can find more information HERE
(and it’ll be the focus of Thursday’s blogpost)

Curiosity Killed the …

Nothing. It kills nothing. 

Curiosity is a good thing. According to Seth Godin (who I haven’t quoted for a while), curiosity is one of the three foundations of art:

  1. Curiosity
  2. Generosity
  3. Connection

These three components allow us to create and to make art, which “is a tool that gives us the ability to make things better and to create something new on behalf of those who will use it to create the next thing.” (The Practice, 2020, p. 55).

(Also remember the bumper sticker: “EARTH without ART is EH.”)

His 2008 book, Tribes, is a bit outdated now because of all the technological advances that have occurred in the nearly 13 years since its publication. But the roots of his work on curiosity are there, in his discussion of the difference between fundamentalism and curiosity, management and leadership, the settler and the heretic.

“It has to do with a desire to understand, a desire to try, a desire to push whatever envelope is interesting. …. Once recognized, the quiet yet persistent voice or curiosity doesn’t go away. Ever. And perhaps it’s such curiosity that will lead us to distinguish our own greatness from the mediocrity that stares us in the face.” (pp. 63-64)

I’m blown away by this because curiosity is the driving force of my life. And I can’t abide mediocrity. I don’t know if I can say I’m great (I am, after all, from the Midwest), but if I felt I was even remotely mediocre, I don’t think I could stand it.

So maybe curiosity kills mediocrity. Yes, I’m going to go with that.

Plus, the whole “curiosity killed the cat” thing is completely bogus. The phrase is actually, “Curiosity killed the cat – but satisfaction brought it back.”

To say half the phrase implies that it’s okay to settle, not to question, not to try, because to do so might actually court death. But instead, while pursuing something different might take you down for a while, ultimately, the satisfaction of the effort will allow you to bounce back up. (This, and other phrases, are frequently misquoted and misinterpreted.)

So if you’re curious about anything, say, I don’t know, maybe singing, maybe now is the time to take the risk and try it.

After all, look at these cats. Do they look dead to you?

Singing cats
Curiosity kills the mediocre. The cats are fine.

Also, thinking of curiosity – this song was played by Peter Jacobson in a Total Vocal Freedom class I recently took and I was just enthralled by it. It wasn’t this version, but this version was just the right length for what I wanted to include here. The song is “Experiment,” from Nymph Errant by Cole Porter (1933).

Original lyrics:

Before you leave these portals
To meet less fortunate mortals,
There’s just one final message
I would give to you.
You all have learned reliance
On the sacred teachings of science,
So I hope, through life, you never will decline
In spite of philistine
Defiance
To do what all good scientists do.

Experiment.
Make it your motto day and night.
Experiment
And it will lead you to the light.
The apple on the top of the tree
Is never too high to achieve,
So take an example from Eve,
Experiment.
Be curious,
Though interfering friends may frown.
Get furious
At each attempt to hold you down.
If this advice you always employ
The future can offer you infinite joy
And merriment,
Experiment
And you’ll see

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If you’re curious about finding your voice and speaking/singing your mind, contact MVS to set up a complementary 20-minute chat about what Curiously Strong Singing & Performing can do for you.

My First Webinar!

This past Saturday, I hosted a webinar on the topic of singing the Schubert Ave Maria. Each attendee received a handout afterwards covering:

  • The history of the piece (spoiler alert: Schubert did not write the Ave Maria – at least that wasn’t the name of the song, it wasn’t in Latin, nor was it intended as a setting of the Hail Mary prayer)
  • The translation of the Latin text and its setting in the song
  • The pronunciation of the Latin text using the International Phonetic Alphabet
  • A deconstruction of the song for practice purposes, including
    • Deconstructed sheet music 
    • A practice track for a singer to work with before adding the actual accompaniment

I posted a video of the webinar to YouTube last night, and you can find here. (Note: I accidentally did not record the first half of the webinar in real time – forgot to take it off pause when I was waiting for folks – so the first half was made after everyone had left; which allowed me to fix a few things I had issues with, tech-wise, during the actual webinar.)

You can watch it here:

If you are interested in getting the handout about the history/translation/pronunciation, please click here and I’ll be happy to send it to you.

What other topics would you like to see in a webinar? Someone suggested “O Holy Night” when we get closer to Christmas. Some ideas I have include:

  • International Phonetic Alphabet
  • Structuring your Practice Session

I’d love to hear your thoughts! Leave them in the comments.

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Have you been asked to sing the Ave Maria (any version, not just this one) or another song for an upcoming wedding, and you want to make sure you do it right? Contact MVS to set up a discovery call
to see if a drop-in lesson or a package of lessons is right for you!