Seth Godin does not like the term “taking” lessons. He feels that it sounds like something you have to do, like take medicine, or take your punishment, or take your lumps (that last one is mine). It’s not something that he associates with something you do voluntarily or eagerly.
Learning is different. Learning is something we get to do, it’s a dance, an embrace, a chance to turn on some lights.
I love this quote! A chance to turn on some lights. Working together to illuminate, to shine, to shed some light upon something that might have been in the shadows or in complete darkness. Or maybe something you thought you could see but when you looked closer, you realized it was something completely different.
You don’t take a workshop. You are part of one.
Creating community is one of the most important parts of having a studio. Supporting each other, working together, and being part of something – it should be an immersive experience, not a passive one. This is my goal as a teacher – as I once wrote, “I am here to inspire and facilitate.” And turn on some lights for you.
If you would like to be part of something, you can contact me to set up a Vocal Discovery Session OR you can register for my musical theater history & performance course, From Tin Pan Alley to Today, which starts next Sunday, October 18. There are only four more spots left – come and learn about the history of American musical theater and how the past has influenced what’s happening now (what, did you think Hamilton came out of nowhere?)
An artist’s impression is defined as the representation of an object or a scene created by an artist when no other accurate representation is available (Wikipedia). The above graphic has quotes by 17 different artists about what art means/meant to them.
My favorite artist is Gustav Klimt. I have several prints of his in my home. His quote here – “Truth is like fire; to tell the truth means to glow and burn” – is something I find apparent in his work, particularly the glowing aspect.
But there are several quotes above that also resonate with me, specifically:
Matisse and especially
(Rivera’s just makes me hungry.)
What about you? What speaks to you? Tell me in the comments – and why.
I don’t really like the musical Pippin. I’ve seen awful high school versions of it, including one where they decided to do it in hip-hop style, but the director clearly had no idea of just what that was except for posturing. Plus the only person who had a really good voice was my student, Elyse Wojciechowski, in the role of Leading Player. (That performance is remembered in my household as the one my husband left at intermission.)
I do like a lot of the music, particularly the opening song, Magic To Do. That came to me a few weeks ago when I was reading Seth Godin’s daily blogpost, which I decided would make a great meme – so I made one.
Think of your to-do list as full of possibilities instead of tasks, to think of your practice time as time to create, to think of your work or school assignments as opportunities to do something innovative. Imagine that you have magic to do – but maybe it’s not just for you. For your audience, for your teachers, for your family. And for yourself.
People have told me that I would love Pippin if I’d seen the 2013 Broadway production – and based on this video from the Tonys that year, I think they’re right.
It’s been a little over 6 months since we switched over to online lessons. A couple of people didn’t like the format and took a break, but most people are handling it quite well and, as I’ve mentioned before, there have been some advantages and people have had some breakthroughs (or grapefruits).
As I mentioned in a previous blogpost, I was recently published in the NATS independent voice teachers magazine, Inter-Nos. Also featured in that issue was an interview with my Speakeasy Cooperative colleague, Deanna Maio, founder of Confident Voice Studio and Portland Musical Theatre Company in Oregon. She has been teaching online since well before the pandemic and is doing wonderfully creative things with online musicals and other programs. She is a tremendous inspiration to me. This outline of the benefits of online/live-streaming lessons really spoke to me yesterday, and I wanted to share it with my readers.
In the past 6 months, Mezzoid Voice Studio has brought in people like Richard Carsey, Lissa deGuzman, and, most recently, Amanda Kaiser, in wonderfully successful masterclasses that allowed us to expand our knowledge base beyond Baltimore. We began studio classes that are going beyond standing and singing in place and that include singers from the area and ones that have rejoined me from Wisconsin.
Even though we might consider ourselves “trapped” or at least limited in these circumstances, we arecreating, we areconnecting, and we are doing so confidently, consistently, and conveniently, and will continue to do so. And of course, we’re doing so as curiously strong singers and performers.
At the beginning of 2020, I drew up a lot of plans for marketing and expanding my studio. One of them was to do a photoshoot of me at work. The plan was to hire a photographer to come to my studio, see me work with individual students, come to the venue where I was doing a performance coaching series and get shots of me working in that capacity, and then finish up at our end of the year showcase at an upscale retirement community to catch my students in performance, the culmination of my semester’s work.
The students were in place, the venues were booked. All I had to do before this could happen was to finish my performing gigs for the season, get new lighting in my studio, have the room painted with the teal and purple brand colors I had chosen (which was going to be done while I was on my April vacation overseas), and hit my goal weight.
Well, I do have new lighting.
And my hair is now teal and purple.
But the gigs were cancelled, the venues closed, the vacation didn’t happen, and we’re not going to talk about my goal weight.
I decided to go forward with the branding photoshoot anyway.
A branding photoshoot is different from ones focused on headshots and performance because it is meant to show you working – it is intentional, not posed, not in character. You aren’t recreating scenes or looking off into the distance mysteriously or flirtatiously into the camera with a semi-smile and your head held just so. Your goal is to establish who you are in your business and to attract your ideal client so that more people will come and work with you. There is an energy and an authenticity that needs to be a part of it. There needs to be action.
My brand name is Mezzoid Voice Studio, and the tagline is “Curiously Strong Singing.” My brand name came from being in a church choir where the director said to my section, “Altoids, let’s try that again.” My response was, “Excuse me, I happen to be a mezzoid.” He said “what’s the difference?” and I said, “I’m still curiously strong, I just happen to sing a minor third higher.” (Cue music nerd laughter here.)
Curiously Strong Singing came about through consultation with my business coach and curator of the Speakeasy Cooperative, Michelle Markwart Deveaux. Over the past year, I have defined exactly what that means to me in my blog. But a big part of it involves embracing risk, telling the truth, and bringing others in to the process.
How did I do a branding photoshoot in the middle of a pandemic without in-person students? Well, when I moved online, I connected a stand-alone monitor to my laptop so that I could see larger views of people than what my MacBook Air’s screen would allow. I decided for the photoshoot, I would turn the monitor around. That way, my photographer could see the student and see me without having to come behind the piano.
There are many articles about how to prepare for a branding photoshoot. I read none of them. I knew I probably should wear a solid color – but I didn’t. I didn’t have anything solid that felt like something I would actually teach in.
I didn’t plan the photoshoot except that I knew who I would be working with. I pulled out a few props that I knew would look good on camera – my Hoberman sphere and my flow-ball pipe that I got at the Voice Foundation last year.I used them in places where they were appropriate and where I figured they would look good. Basically, I just gave a lesson the way I always do – perhaps slightly higher energy – and pictures were taken.
My photographer was Shealyn Jae of Shealyn Jae Photography in Baltimore. We didn’t discuss a plan for the shoot – I said I’d be teaching a 14 year old girl and I just wanted her to get pictures. I trusted her to get the right pictures. She does a lot of work with theater companies throughout the DC-Baltimore area taking pictures of shows at their dress rehearsals and during their opening weekends. She is excellent at capturing things as they happen and finding the right angle (or in my case, the left, because my right side is not my good one).
I had budgeted $350-$500 for the shoot. My particular shoot came in at somewhat less, to my delight, and included all the shots that she had curated from the shoot, from which I chose about 50. From those, I used about 40. I only had one picture retouched in any way, which was the only one I really posed for. Some are already on my profiles in Facebook, Instagram, and other social networks. Many will be on my new website, www.mezzoidvoicestudio.com.
Perhaps I should have read some of the online articles to prepare for this. But I’m extremely happy with how mine turned out, because I feel as though they’re representative of where I’m at in my teaching and my life.
When we go to in-person lessons, I will probably do another shoot in the scenarios I outlined at the beginning of this article. But these will work for now, and since I intend to continue an online presence even after in-person lessons are possible, I can use these. At least until I change my hair color again.
Originally published in InterNos (Fall 2020), a NATS publication for independent voice teachers. The article (with pictures from my shoot and other teachers’ shoots) may be found here.
This Thursday evening at 7pm, Mezzoid Voice Studio is hosting Las Vegas performer and voice teacher Amanda Kaiser in a workshop/masterclass that will cover how to do the perfect self-tape. Whether you need to know how to set up lighting and sound for a prescreen audition, an online performance, or just how to look best on camera (because being online is a thing that will continue post-pandemic), this is the workshop for you.
Following a presentation on the details of setting up a self-tape, Amanda will work with up to 4 singers on their lighting, sound quality, and audition cut (we still have room for one more!). All present will receive handouts on:
I know it’s supposed to be more inclusive, but “folks” is not not-inclusive.
And peeps is weird and seems self-conscious. And don’t get me started on “dawg.” Please.
Kids/Kiddos – maybe if I’m talking to my students, but it seems awfully casual.
But “Peep-a-doodles” tickles me.
I also like “Change Makers.” Because I feel like we do make change, as performers (and not just at the restaurant or retail jobs that support us as we are starting out).
Arthur O’Shaughnessy’s poem Music and Moonlight (1874) is known primarily for its opening stanza:
We are the music makers, And we are the dreamers of dreams, Wandering by lone sea-breakers, And sitting by desolate streams;— World-losers and world-forsakers, On whom the pale moon gleams: Yet we are the movers and shakers Of the world for ever, it seems.
The poem has been set to music by a variety of composers, most notably Sir Edward Elgar in his work, The Music Makers for mezzo-soprano and orchestra (why don’t I know/haven’t sung this??). But how we know it best is from this more contemporary classic:
So perhaps this week I will greet you with:
“Hello, dreamer of dreams!”
“Good day, music maker!”
It’ll all depend on my mood. Wait and see.
Don’t forget about studio class this Wednesday! More on that (and the following ones) to come!
I am delighted to introduce my new website, www.mezzoidvoicestudio.com! This is basically where you are right now, but I’ve built a whole new website around this blog site and moved it from my previous platform, mezzoid.com.
Mezzoid.com still works. I have too many pencils, bags, and business cards bearing that URL to let it go just yet.
You can also find me at curiouslystrongsinging.com and christinethomasomeally.com, and mezzoidvoicestudio.blog (which is actually the legal name of this site and what everything redirects to).
I am very proud of the blog. I think it reflects me, my feelings about singing, performing, and what I can offer you as my students, as my audience, as my community, as my people. Please take a look at it when you get a chance – I made a little video launch video yesterday, which is also on my FB page and instagram, but I’ll put it here so anyone reading it can have a chance to see what I’ve highlighted.
I am almost done with the new studio website, which I have built all by myself using WordPress. It was a learning curve, and it’s not completely done (for some reason, the studio portal is giving me just as many fits as it did with the previous platform, except for this time, at least, I know my webmaster isn’t going to ignore my requests).
There will be things to tweak, and things to improve, but I think it looks pretty great so far. One thing I added was a space for resources: what kind of things I have in the studio to make lessons function at a high level, suggestions for things you should consider getting to do the same on your end (there’s even an Amazon shopping list I curated just for you all), a list of accompaniment options, both live and virtual, and an overview of some of the resources in my music library. At first, I was going to type out a list of things, but then I thought, “I have a camera. Or at least a phone with one.”
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. In order to fully encompass what’s in my library, I would probably have to take a thousand pictures. (I have a lot of music.) But here’s just a sampling of what I have to draw upon in my teaching:
And with that in mind, there are going to be studio classes beginning in a few weeks and one of the things I want to have you work on is knowing more about your craft. Who wrote the song you’re singing? Are they still alive? What was their life like? I’d like you all to be more “curious” about everything that we do.
Registration for the 2020-2021 season will continue till September 30, but if you have a lesson scheduled before then and have not registered, please do so.
I am in the process of completely revamping my website and moving it to this platform. Sneak peek:
As a result, I probably won’t be writing much for the next couple of weeks, but I did want you to know that I’m here and what’s coming up.
After the success of Richard Carsey’s masterclass last week, I’ve decided to make this a part of the studio going forward. I am looking at doing masterclasses on Thursday evenings, at least until my church job starts back up (which I don’t anticipate happening until at least after Thanksgiving or 2021, depending on what happens with COVID-19 going forward (wear your masks).
Right now I have arranged for Amanda Kaiser, a teacher and performer in Las Vegas, to do a 90 minute workshop/masterclass called Self-Tape Success. She will spend 30 minutes doing a presentation on equipment and logistics for a successful self-tape. After that, four singers will sing for 10 minutes each, and she will evaluate their lighting, sound quality, choice of attire (not fashion policing, just determining how it works on camera!), song selection, and other elements of their presentation. Performers will also have the option of receiving an asynchronous evaluation of an actual self-tape if submitted to her within two weeks of the masterclass. The cost is TBD (I’ll figure that out later this week).
I have also invited Lissa deGuzman to return, specifically to work on pop music for the musical theater singer’s audition book. Not sure when this would be.
A former student of mine, Matt Bender, recently received his MFA in acting and is now available to do monologue coaching. We’re supposed to talk this week about figuring out some kind of project we can do together.
I’ve also spoken to my friend Sorab Wadia, with whom I went to Peabody, about doing something. He is currently based in India, so this would probably have to be a weekend day time (I don’t know what our time difference is). Sorab was a pianist when I knew him and was dabbling in opera, but wound up becoming an actor and has performed in national tours (Ali Hakim, Oklahoma), a one-man show of the book The Kite Runner, in regional theater (Bend it like Beckham The Musical), as Hussein al-Mansour in Jihad! The Musical at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and in London’s West End (I am not making that up), and off-Broadway as Raj Dhawan in Bunty Berman Presents…., which I saw in NYC and I will never forgot his head popping out of that papier-mâché elephant’s butt.
Other things I’m planning to get going are regular studio classes where we can sing for each other, online for now, in person later.
I want to do more with asynchronous lessons as well, utilizing the Marco Polo app.
I also want to teach a musical theater history/repertoire class, where we focus on a specific period of time, the style requirements for that period, and everyone gets to sing something from that era. I’d like to start with the 1920s-1930s (Tin Pan Alley), move into Golden Age (1940s-1960s), early contemporary (1970s-1990s), and then current contemporary (2000s-present), so basically 100 years of American Musical Theater (although we will include pieces by other composers that are traditionally done in the US). I’d like to do that once a month, probably on Saturday mornings or Sunday afternoons. These would be open to studio members and non-studio members.
But first, I need to go work on the website. Talk to you next week!