Thursday, February 27, 2020

Summer Singing and Musical Theater Programs: Why Summer, what do YOU want, and Details on One Right Here that is PERSONALIZED for You or Your Child

                                                                 Summer Singing Programs and Musical Theater Programs

Why is summer the time to do an intensive Singing or Musical Theater program?  We often have unstructured time to fill in our summers.  Do something constructive that takes focus and concentration while having a fun time!  Sing, dance, and act and fine tune those skills to enhance your experiences throughout the year and increase your chances of getting cast in bigger roles, being given a solo, whatever your dream may be.

There are so many different options to choose from, how do you decide?  Take some time to analyze what you (or your child) need and want to get out of a program.  NOW is the time to address those things that need to be worked on or what you want to fine tune.

Do you need direction in what is the best repertoire for you to sing either in the musical theater genre or in general?  Do you need Vocal technique only?   Dance training?  Acting coaching? Vocal technique in combination with acting and dancing or work on all 3 simultaneously?  Confidence building?  Do you need a small setting for individual attention or a large setting where individual work is minimal?  Do you want a combination of all of the above?  Maybe you do 2 programs of different structures.  One can give you the individual attention you know you will thrive under and the other a larger stage experience.  If taken simultaneously or back to back you maximize your potential!  What is right for you or your child?

Here is an option to consider:

Summer Musical Theater Series:  

What is it?  Longer individual voice lessons over a span of a few weeks (5 lessons of 1 hour each over a 6 week period), an Acting a Song Masterclass and Dance Workshop.  This enables repertoire selected for each individual,  focus on learning 2 songs quickly, address vocal technique, text analysis, acting a song, and delivering musical theater repertoire in a performance.

Will this work with other summer programs?  This program is designed to work on all of these skill sets and enhance your skills in any other program you may be doing.  Commitment is 5 1 hour blocks of time over 5 1/2 weeks of Tuesday and Thursday teaching times.  You identify when you are available during teaching hours presented and which of 2 Workshops work for your schedule.  Focus on the INDIVIDUAL voice and how to add it to other performance aspirations.

When is it?  Tuesday/Thursday June 9- July 16, July 6 or 13 Masterclass and July 18 Performance

How do I find out more?  Visit Susan Anders Brizick Website and Registration  Full Program Information and Registration page is found here.  You may also comment on this blog requesting information.   Happy Singing!!

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

What are the 2 most important things for you to do in the height of your intense Musical Theater rehearsal schedules? 1. Warm Up 2. Stay Healthy (and be disciplined about it)

What are the 2 most important things for you to do in the height of your intense Musical Theater rehearsal schedules?  1. Warm Up  2. Stay Healthy (and be disciplined about it)

Why is warming up on your own important?

Warming up is so essential to the health of your singing voice.  Everyone’s voice is different and needs different levels and amounts of warming up to perform well.  Think about athletes a minute.  Do all of them have the same routine of warming up before they go and play a game or a match?  No, they all may have similarities, but do different individual things to get themselves ready to go.  For example, one singer may only need 10 minutes to warm up and be ready to sing a full 2 hour rehearsal.  Another may need 15-20 minutes and start with a few yoga poses prior to that to make sure her body is in good alignment and her nerves are in check.  You never know how much time a director or teacher will give to warm ups or not.  If you know your voice is ready to go, you are in safe and productive territory.  Take the time to figure out what works best for you for warm up exercises both vocally and physically.  What did you do vocally in some of your best lessons or before a rehearsal?  What warm-ups do you like? What yoga postures help you get centered and focused?  You will feel good about what singing you are about to share.  Arm yourself with taking care of the muscles of your instrument to be the best singer you can be.

Why is staying healthy important? (or MORE likely HOW do I do it?)

We know it is important to stay healthy to sing and perform well, but HOW do you do it when you have so much on your plate with rehearsals, homework, work?  There are a few key things you can do:
1. Make sleep a priority 
2. Drink LOTS of water 
3. Add some extra vitamin c, orange juice
4. Wash your hands and use sanitizer 
5. Stay away from those who are sick

Believe it or not, your friends and family will understand if you explain you need to take care of yourself first and foremost, you are making sure you can be the best you can be for your performances.  Yes, you can say," I will talk to you later, need to stay healthy" OR" text me later, ok?".  You can put down the phone or ipad and focus on what ABSOLUTELY must get done so you get it done quicker and more efficiently.  Taking a little extra time for you and your vocal health by warming up ahead and health in general is going to put you in the best place!  I know its hard but you've got it.  Remember the old adage: "I can't, I've got rehearsal" and go do what you love!  Everyone will love YOU for it with the result (including you).

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Belt is Legitimate Vocal Pedagogy and ALL Voice Training Should Develop Whole Voice in its Study

There is so much talk about 'belt' singing and all of the things that should go into developing a good 'belt' sound, many versions of 'belt' and many way ways to make sure it is healthy.  First and foremost, one must consider, "Are you using good technique and what is that technique?"

In an explosion of the may forms of popular vocal music, now termed CCM or Contemporary Commercial Music, there has been much study and development technique.  Sure, we are using the same instrument and muscles that we use for a more classical sound, but also using them slightly differently.  There is a different balance of how our muscles are used, but a balance nonetheless that is related to our more 'classical' voice.  For example, a lyric soprano has to be a lyric belter with thinner thyroarytenoid activity (TA) than a mezzo soprano/belter might use.

Let me back up and give a quick review of vocal muscles and how they work.  You have both thyroarytenoid muscles and cricothyroid muscles located in your larynx which with air help you to make sound or your vocal fold activity.  The thyroaryteniod muscles (TA) are responsible for shortening and thickening the vocal folds (a more chest voice sound) and the cricothyroid muscles (CT) are responsible for stretching and thinning the vocal folds (a more head voice or falsetto sound).  There are other helping muscles, but identifying these two will help you to understand how we create a more chest dominant sound versus head voice (falsetto in male).

When you are singing a lower chest/belt, your TA are more active and when you are singing in head voice/falsetto your CT are more active.  The opposing muscles are active to create a healthy and efficient sound.  It is keeping the TA-CT muscle interaction balanced which creates a healthy sound, whatever sound you are trying to create.

Vocal fold activity in combination with resonance create your overall phonation (what you sound like).  Your vocal folds are your sound source but do nothing without air.  Giving breath to your sound initiates it all and how your air resonates within the shape of your resonators (throat, mouth and nose) creates your unique sound and why no two voices are exactly alike.  When training singers, we teachers instruct you to think of taller, round vowels in classical singing and bright, narrow and more square vowels and often speech like sound in CCM singing.

"All voice training, Classical or CCM, should include the development of the entire vocal mechanism from the lowest TA- dominant sound to the highest CT-dominant sound, as well as he multitude of resonance options, so that the entire musculature gains strength, flexibility, coordination, and endurance"  Robert Edwin, Belt is Legit Journal of Singing November 2007

In other words, whatever area of singing you are working on, you should train your whole voice in that style, activating your CT dominant or TA dominant sound and its delicate balance.  Similar vocal exercises may be used to do this for both Classical and CCM, but with a belt voice versus a classical voice.  This concept of cross-training carries not only through your range, but through style transition, helps keep the voice healthy.  Imagine only ever using your quadracept muscles and not using your hamstrings.  Your legs would be out of balance.  Working both in balance, creates strong, sustainable legs.  Working both your TA and CT muscles in balance creates a solid and beautiful singing voice!

Stay tuned for more on Cross-Training the Voice!

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

The Value of Learning to Sing in Other Languages

In last week's blog, I advocated singing in different languages, specifically Italian and Latin as being very valuable study.  I started with these as they have fewer individual pronunciation rules and less numbers of altered vowels.

The value of singing in many languages is immeasurable and so beneficial. So, I do not want to leave some of the others behind: German, French, and Spanish topping the list.  Each of these languages have their own challenges such as the consonant cluster and umlauts of German, the dark vowels and silent consonants of French, and the many dialects of the Spanish language.  All of these qualities are able to be mastered with the guidance of a teacher, diction coach, or the assistance of pronunciation guides (online or hard-copy).  They are also wonderful languages with a large variety of beautiful music.   As a voice major in college, you are required not only to sing in all of these languages, but at the very least take a diction class dealing with them all (and in some cases a year of each language).  Not all of us want to major in voice in college, but singing in a variety of language under the guidance of a singing teacher is valuable.

Why valuable?  

Enrich your cultural knowledge: You are exposed to many different styles of music:  the Italian Art Song is so different in quality than the German  Lied and the French Art Songs have distinct qualities as well.  If you only sample some of the different languages, it is like going to a breakfast buffet and not tasting all of the wonderful selections provided.  You will leave the restaurant not completely satisfied and possibly be cheated out of of a type of song that may show your voices truest light.  Of course not all styles of song suit all singers, however, you owe it to your voice to sample them (at the very least listen to a few of them).

Learn music history: Songs in different languages have distinct qualities, but certain characteristics exist across the languages through the various time periods.  Music didn't just develop in this century.  All music builds upon itself so it is important (and interesting) to learn the history and characteristics that have continued through history to today's music.

Build your instrument and tone quality:  Singing in different languages strengthens your overall instrument and makes your voice more versatile.  Studying the pure vowels of Italian and other languages actually enhance your English singing!  So often we sing modifying our vowels or put 2 to 3 vowels into one which affect the resonance and overall sound quality.  Learning to sing in a different language heightens the vowels in our vocal tract biologically and we often then carry it over to singing in our native tongue!!

Make yourself more hire-able in the work force /desirable to a voice program:  The time you take now to learn to sing in a variety of languages makes you more diversified to perform in the work force or be accepted into a college voice program.

Explore all of the beautiful music composed for the voice!

What if you are taking voice lessons just for fun? It is fun to play with our own language and how we change is slightly when we sing to maximize our vocal quality.  How much more fun would it be to do in a few languages?  Even if you just dabble in it briefly, give it a try.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Why Should You Learn to Sing in a Different Language? Why Italian?

I very often am asked the question, "Why should I learn to sing in a different language like Italian?"  As Americans, we think everybody speaks English and we listen to most of our music in English, so why should we bother to learn to sing in another language?

Backtrack a minute- what were the first languages of the world?  Latin, Italian, French, German, Hebrew, there are so many.  Therefore a large bulk of music written to date has been in a different language.  I am not speaking of pop music and musical theater, but many other styles of music that seem to be tossed aside.  Why SHOULDN'T you learn to sing in a different language?  Why should you rule it out simply because it is not your first language?  Singing is a form of communication in addition to being a think of beauty.  If we want to be able to communicate our song, we should learn to sing in more than one language.

Why Should You Sing in Italian or Latin?  A short list:

- Italian/Latin have PURE vowels that make it easier to sing than English once you are familiar with the language.  This can carry over to our singing in English since it enhances the resonance and overtones.

-  Because we do not generally speak it, we do not inflect our accent upon it.  (Southern, Mid-western, or Northeastern).

The beauty of the music itself!  There is a variety of beautiful songs for all ability levels available to study

- Studying music in another language broadens your horizons and exposes you to music you may not even know exists.

-  It increases your historical knowledge of music how we got to the music of today
   Most Italian art songs use the following:
     - Sequence
     - Verse and Chorus
     - Embellishing (adding notes to) a basic melody

- Creating artistic licence through embellishing a melody.
*Think about it -When was the last time you heard the National Anthem sung without added notes or     looked at sheet music for a pop song that is written differently from how you hear the artist perform it? This concept did not develop in the 21st century, but is centuries old.  When songs were performed as entertainment in parlors for guests, singers added notes and embellishments to the melody as personal artistry.

- Learning a little bit about other cultures helps us to appreciate differences and understand our own.

- When you then go and sing English, your singing of English is improved because of your mastery of pure vowels which CARRY the sound.  This is not to say we do not stylistically need to alter vowels, but it helps you to find your true sound first.

What if people don't understand the language or what I am saying?

Few people in your audience would actually claim to know word for word what you are saying. However, if you have researched the meaning of the words, you are able to sing the piece in a way that communicates the MEANING of the song.  Most recitals also provide a translation or opera's have subtitles.

Why not give it a try and see not only if you like it, but what it can do for your singing voice?  It is great to explore singing in many languages.  Some may be more comfortable for you then others, but expose you to so much beautiful music!

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Break it Down Part 5: Share How Practicing Voice has helped YOUR stress, academics. How did you get it all in?

As I encouraged you to keep a journal and track your practice and progress in the series, "Breaking It Down",  I wanted to share about how I "Practiced What I Preach".  I have been working on a regular practice schedule and noting what changes it has made in my overall demeanor as well as the progress I have made.  Here is a quick summary of thoughts:

1.  Overall I notice I am happier when I have made the time to practice.  I feel good when singing even if I face challenges in my practice session.  I got something done on my list and it lifts my mood!  The more often I practice, the less challenges I face because my body remembers the good techniques through more frequent practice.

2.  I am feeling great because I am perfecting more and more repertoire and researching more repertoire for my students.

3.  I get more accomplished after practice sessions because my brain is motivated.  It helps me to organize my thoughts to carry forward in my days.

4.  I am less stressed because I feel good when singing.

Now, it's your turn to share:  What did you notice?  What has become easier or harder?  How is your mood?  Motivation?

Let me know how this has helped you!!

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Break it Down Part 4: Which learning style are you? How do you use this knowledge in learning to sing?

We all learn in a different way, which one are you?

We all have different strengths that best guide our learning. Are you primarily a visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learner?  How does this knowledge help you?  It can help you to learn a song faster and more effectively!

Each of us use a different combination of these skills to learn something new, but take a moment and ask yourself:
1.  Do I learn things the best by listening (auditory)?

      ** Do I remember what my teachers say the most?
      **Can I think back to remember exactly what was said?
      **Can I produce singing best by listening and then trying to recreate the sound?

2.  Do I learn things the best by seeing it (visual)?

      **Do I remember best by looking at the board or my notes?
      **Do I think back to remember and visualize what was written down on the page?
      **Do I want to see the notes and rhythms or vizualize a concept and then sing to
            understand/remember or recreate the sound?

3. Do I learn things the best by doing (kinesthetic)?

      **Do I remember something the best if I have actively moved while learning?
      **Do I think back to remember and need to do the action?
      **Do I repeat a physical action or practice, practice, practice to physically recreate the sound?

You may find that you answered yes to many of these questions and under each category.  Since we all learn with a combination of the above, that makes sense.  But, which one do you lean on the most?  It may be helpful to think about when you are studying for or taking a history test.  Which resource do you use the most?  Do you write to study?  Do you talk through it?  Do you study the page and then close your eyes to see where the information was on the page?

We learn and process information in the different areas of our lives in a similar fashion.  Especially if you are new to musical study (voice lessons), determine which of the 3 learning styles you lean on the most in your academics and then try to use that element more in learning to improve your singing.  Your singing teacher most likely uses a combination of elements to help you to learn, but by identifying your DOMINANT learning style and sharing it with your teacher and remembering it, you can facilitate (and speed up) your learning better technique!  In teaching singing we are dealing with an instrument that we cannot see and which our brain has a lot of control over.  If we help classify how that brain processes information best, we speed up the learning process!

Lean on your dominant learning style when you practice.  How did this help your singing this week?  Happy Singing!