This is a new addition to my blog. I'd like to be able to keep up with the activities of my students on my blog, so that it can be edited more quickly and efficiently than on my website. So . . . please let me know what you are up to and I promise it will get published here!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Creative Vocalises for Young Male Singers

I work with several young students (below the age of 16) including a couple of boys.  Most of these kids are professional actors already.  This is a challenging age to study singing.  The voice is changing or just about to.  Attention spans vary widely in length.  Musicianship, or lack thereof, can be a big issue.  In addition, there is the age difference between us and the balancing act of respect and friendship that occurs in any private lesson situation.  Most of my young female students have done just fine with either the classic vowel exercises that adult students use or the "fun" vocalises devised for younger singers, like "koo-koo-koo-koo-clock!"  But for boys . . . well, the embarrassment issue raises its ugly head here.  Who wants to sing about "koo-koo-clocks?" when you are doing everything you can to appear cool and masculine at the ripe old age of 10 or 12?  So, today I asked one of my young male students to make up his own vocalise.  Just come up with 5 syllables that make up a sentence.  "All chimpanzees rock" was the result.  You know what?  At least it got him to sing out and use his full voice for the first time.  The resulting flow of energy led to more enthusiasm from him for the rest of the lesson and more creative teaching from me.  ("Magic energy belt" and other space-age props were added to help my young sky warrior).  He improved vastly from his last lesson.  I had fun.  I think he did too.  He stayed cool and masculine.  Win-win. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Any Questions?

It's been a very busy few months, with teaching, traveling, auditioning, rehearsing, filming and living.  I'm enjoying writing these blog entries a great deal and especially enjoy reading any comments or responses I've been receiving back from you.  I'd like to know now if there are any questions you might have for me.  As the summer arrives and many of my students take off for camp or summer stock or European gigs I find myself with more time on my hands and the desire to communicate more through this new creative outlet.  So, here I am.  Is anybody there?

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Dancers CAN sing

I just got back from an exciting and challenging three days in Seattle, working for the Jerome Robbins Trust helping to cast the upcoming Pacific Northwest Ballet production of "West Side Story Suite."  Twenty-eight dancers, most of whom had not sung since they were in middle school chorus, if at all, were required to sing either "America" or "Cool" not only as a solo, but in front of a video camera!  Can you imagine if you were given a challenge like that in an art form you were almost totally unfamiliar with?  I had one and a half hour group lessons with each of four groups and then ten minutes with each individual to help them do the best job they could to portray Anita, Rosalia or Riff and tape the audition.  The group session proved a terrific way for everyone to learn with a feeling of comfort and playfulness and taught me how to teach them.  Then, when the individual auditions came, these magnificent artists, who amaze me with their physical genius and grace, came into the room with such vulnerability, terror, and insecurity all I could do was wonder at the strange and wonderful workings of Nature and the gifts of talent and courage.  As it turned out, many of the dancers actually could sing and act very well.  There wasn't a single one who could not sing at all.  One sweet girl had been kicked out of 6th grade chorus because her teacher said she couldn't sing.  There she stood at her audition, literally trembling; I put my arm around her and sang softly into her ear and she sang on pitch and in correct rhythm.  That dancer CAN sing!  They all could sing.  And most of them could act when given half a chance.  Let's all give ourselves a chance.  And give our kids a chance.  And when we are trembling, an arm around the shoulder and a sweet song in the ear couldn't hurt.