Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Final Countdown: The Top 5 Blogs of 2012 Written by Susan Anders Brizick

The Final Countdown:  The Top 5 Blogs of 2012 Written by Susan Anders Brizick

What a wonderful journey we have traveled in 2012.  From Performance Anxiety to Speech and Singing to Exercise and Diet and the Affect on Singing.  We have discussed a myriad of topics.  

Here are a few favorites of the year!

1. Musical Performance Anxiety and How to Overcome It! Accomplish that Goal (Part 1 of 5) January 2012

2. Speak As You Would Sing, Sing as You Would Speak March 2012

3. The Exercise, Diet, and Singing Connection.  Can It Equal a Successsful Singing Career? April 2012

4. Pilates Study and the Affects on Singing June 21, 2012

5. Repertoire for Child Singers.  The Dilemna of What They Want to Sing vs. What They Should Sing July 2012

What are your favorite blogs from above? 

Thank you to those of you who have participated in conversations.  Please sign up to receive this blog on a regular basis!  Also, let me know of any new topics which you would like to discuss or want to be re-visited or expanded upon in 2013.  Like this blog?  Share it on Facebook, Linked In or Twitter below.

Wishing You All a Happy, Healthy New Year!  Let's Make 2013 a Singing Year to Remember.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

What are you favorite musical things about the Holiday Season? Happy Holidays to All!

Happy Holidays to All! What a wonderful time to share our music with others no matter which holiday we celebrate.  I hope you all are enjoying the holiday season! I eagerly anticipate each holiday concert I get to sing in or hear and relive the joys of Christmas.

What are you favorite things about the Holiday Season? 

As a singer, I love performing or listening to the first concert of the holiday season. The warmth and joy that is shared between the performers and the audience through a musical event is beautiful.  Singing about the joy in a child's eye when they see the tree Christmas morning, the description of seeing baby Jesus in the manger or playing a dreidl game in Hannukah is a glorious experience. It makes us remember our past holiday experiences and also to look forward to what wonderful things we have yet to enjoy in the next weeks.

My second favorite musical time is listening to children sing songs of the season. The joy in their faces and hearts about the magic of the season is heard in their singing.

Another favorite is singing Christmas carols around the tree.  What a great time for family and friends to share the season in the glow of the tree and share the love of the season which warms their hearts.

Music is the language of joy and communicates in a way that words cannot quite express.  Let your love of music and love of your holiday shine through your performing and singing this holiday.

Ways to Share Your Talents and Your Love of the Season-

- Have an impromtu sing-a-long at your home
- Sing Christmas carols door to door in your neighborhood with friends
- Go support your local musicians in the many Holiday Concerts this season
- Volunteer to lead children or the elderly in a sing-a-long

Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Happy Kwanza and Best Wishes for a Happy, Healthy 2013.

What are your favorite musical moments of the season? What do you do to share your musical talents in the holidays?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

What do you do and what can you do to take care of your singing voice at this precious holiday performance time?

Ah, the cold and flu season is upon us!  What do you do and what can you do to take care of your singing voice at this precious time?  You want to share your joys and talents at the holiday season and you get sick. What do you do?  How do you lessen the impact?

It cannot be said enough times, TAKE CARE OF YOUR BODY and PRACTIC GOOD HYGIENE!  No matter where you go you can pick up a bug that can make the busy holiday performance season rough. 

What are the top 10 things you can do to prevent getting sick and get through it if you do?

1. Wash your hands and keep hands away from your mouth and face.

2. Get enough sleep.  (At least 8 hours a night)

3. Drink lots of water.  Aim for 64 oz per day.

4. Eat well.  You are what you eat.

5. Exercise in moderation (it will help get the germs out!)

6. Take Vitamin C, Echinachea, or a cold remedy like Zicam.

7. Use nasal saline spray.  First thing in the morning and before you go to sleep.

8. Put a humidifier in your bedroom.

9. Gargle with salt water.

10.  Save it for performing:  Minimize talking and practice mentally as best you can if you do catch a cold.

More tips on keeping a healthy voice found at  Allergy tips

What are your top tips for staying healthy in this busy singing season?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Do you select the music you sing or does the repertoire select you? Successful young singer stories and repertoire selection. With Whom Do You Identify? Part 4 – Melissa Rivera, Musical Theatre Cross-Over

Do you select the music you sing or does the repertoire select you?  Successful young singer stories and repertoire selection.  With Whom Do You Identify?  Part 4 – Melissa Rivera

Melissa Rivera is a classically trained singer who has successfully transitioned into musical theatre.  As a student pursuing a master of music degree in opera/musical theatre performance, Melissa has always sung in choirs, been in musical productions, and sung pop tunes for fun.  Melissa admits that she never really intended to be a classical singer, but chose to study voice because she knew she wanted to sing.  When she heard about auditions at a local community theater, she asked her voice teacher to help her prepare for the audition.  In preparing, they realized that she had a strong belt voice and a lot of potential.  At that point, she knew that musical theatre was her niche- she received a callback for a leading role and was cast in both The Sound of Music and My Fair Lady. November 2012. 

Melissa Rivera made the transition to Musical Theatre with luck and hard work.  Shortly after receiving her Bachelor’s she found success working at the professional and community theatre levels and won first place in the musical theatre division at the NATS Mid-Atlantic Regionals.  Melissa states, ‘my voice took to musical theatre very well once I began to understand the differences between operatic and musical theatre styles, developing the middle mix of the weight of the voice.’ November 2011.  Her voice naturally took to musical theatre despite her classical training.  Her personality and voice led her to change her singing path to pursue musical theatre.
Melissa's voice chose the right repertoire for her after some study.  How does your voice respond to what you are singing?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Do you select the music you sing or does the repertoire select you? Successful young singer stories and repertoire selection. With Whom Do You Identify? Part 3 – Keith Phares

Do you select the music you sing or does the repertoire select you?  Successful young singer stories and repertoire selection.  With Whom Do You Identify?  Part 3 – Keith Phares

Keith Phares, a young Baritone in the opera world is another example of a musician turned singer.  Keith actually got his start in music as a trumpet player.  When in high school, he played the trumpet in the band and pit orchestra.  One year, the director of the musical encouraged him to try out for the production as a singer and actor as they were very short on men for the production.  Keith gave it a whirl and made it.  His thoughts were why not?  I like musical theater, singing with the radio, and cute girls.  Keith was in many small productions in high school and early on in college.  His true passion for singing however did not develop until junior year in college.

At the University of Richmond, Keith played trumpet in the jazz band and pit orchestra as a psychology major and was in a couple of music theater productions.  He also took voice lessons.  The experience which really changed him was participating in a summer program in his home town.  After that summer, he returned to school and asked his voice teacher, Do you think I really have the voice to make it as a professional singer?  His voice teacher encouraged him to pursue it as she felt he really had the voice and the passion.

Keith auditioned for and got into New England Conservatory of Music and admits he really didn’t have a clue about the work required to be a professional singer.  Here he learned a ‘good work ethic and learned to be self-sufficient while taking classes’, December 2002.  Keith then attended Julliard Opera Center where he was given opportunity to prove himself as a singer and musician.  Through much work, he has developed a very successful opera career as a 35 year old baritone.  For details on his singing career, visit  

Keith Phares admits, ‘the music found me’.  Who would have thought a trumpet player from South Carolina who first started singing to impress the girls in his high school would have a career in the opera world?  Another example of how the repertoire finds the singer, the singer doesn’t always choose his best repertoire.

What is your repertoire story?  With whom do you identify for repertoire selection?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Do you select the music you sing or does the repertoire select you? Successful young singer stories and repertoire selection. With whom do you identify? Part 2 – Tony Arnold

Do you select the music you sing or does the repertoire select you?  Successful young singer stories and repertoire selection.  With whom do you identify? Part 2 – Tony Arnold 

Soprano, Tony Arnold, is another musician turned singer whose singing path has been defined by what her voice naturally does well.  Tony also started as a piano student at a young age.  She started study at Oberlin in piano which quickly changed as she had so many things to fix.  She then auditioned 3 times for the voice program there and finally got in.  Oberlin is a place for many fine voices and Tony admits that she was not one of them.  She learned a lot and decided that she would study conducting in graduate school and pursued singing just for herself. 

While in school for her doctorate in conducting she sang the contemporary vocal piece, Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird by Lukas Foss with musical group, eighth blackbird, in concert.  Within days, she made the decision to quit school and follow her passion of singing contemporary music.  In this style of music, one must have ‘perfect pitch’ for it all revolves around how the vocal line fits into the piece as a whole.  You must be an excellent musician to sing this style of music as you are busy trying to sing notes not phrases or harmonies, but the exact pitch.  It is all about the ‘sound and the relationship to the body’ ( , November 2011).  The music released something in her that made her want to sing and use her voice for her profession, not conduct.

Another example of a piece which Tony Arnold sings well is the obscure Ancient Voices of Children by George Crumb.  She realized in singing this piece that it was not about singing notes, but singing sounds.  Her body responded by relaxing and she found her voice by singing things that few people had sung and that few people had any expectations for what they are supposed to sound like.  (Tony Arnold, CS 2011).  A change happened to her when singing this style of music and she developed a passion for it.

Contemporary vocal music is a very different style of music not focused on the beauty of the voice and vocal line, but on how the voice fits into the rest of the musical piece.  Tony Arnold chose to take this path with her singing voice after her experiences, but the repertoire also chose her as only a musician with perfect pitch can sing it.

How would you follow your path to singing different music?  Did the music you sing select you? 

Stay tuned for another singing sensation following where their unique voice took them, Keith Phares.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Do you select the music you sing or does the repertoire select you?  Successful young singer stories and repertoire selection.  With whom do you identify? Part 1- Kiera Duffy

Kiera Duffy, Soprano, and Opera and Classical Contemporary Music Singer, says sometimes it selects you.  Kiera grew up in a middle-class neighborhood with parents who had a large popular music collection and a love of musical theater.  She started taking piano lessons at an early age.  She practiced diligently because she wanted to.  She loved making music and the discipline of practice. (A trait that would follow her to Westminster Choir College and her successful career).

In high school Kiera auditioned for the musicals and chorus and didn’t start taking voice lessons until junior year. In college, Kiera thought she wanted to be a choral conductor and to figure out how singing works.  Somehow she was accepted to Westminster Choir College as a voice performance major.  I am a musician who happens to sing!  Kiera Duffy

Kiera admits that she is a technical singer whose technique is rooted in the Bel Canto tradition.  She focuses on breath, space, phonation, and resonance (Classical Singer, November 2011).    Despite her musical theater and piano start in music, Kiera developed into a coloratura soprano.  A coloratura sings high and fast most of the time and is a delicate instrument.  Kiera sang much Italian opera and found eventually that her voice is very well suited to German art song and arias.  After completing her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Voice Performance and many auditions, she found herself in a series of opera roles and at the Metropolitan Opera National Auditions! 

Although it was out her realm of coloratura repertoire, Kiera auditioned for a Tanglewood production of a brand new work with James Levine.  When she was offered the role in Elliott Carter’s opera What Next?, she took it.  Kiera credits this role to have really started her career.  She ‘was pretty good at singing these kinds of complex scores, and people noticed me for it.’  She never saw herself as the next new music singer, but came to it naturally!  There are more choices with a new role that one does not have with the classic opera roles she normally sings.  Her personality gravitated to the music and the music suited her voice. November 2011.

The niche of new classical music chose Kiera’s ‘steely, silvery’ voice to catapult the new opera’s success and the success of her career.

Do you think repertoire selects the singer’s voice?  Read more in next week’s article on another new singer, Tony Arnold.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Singing Repertoire Selection- Do You Choose What You Sing or Does the Musical Style Choose You?

Musical Repertoire Selection- Do You Choose What You Sing or Does the Musical Style Choose You? 

What a question!  Each individual has a distinctly different singing voice.  As we take singing lessons, our voice develops and morphs in a variety of ways.  We may start off singing along with the radio and want to sing that music better.  Through developing technique and exposure to other music, we may find that we have a great singing voice for Opera or Broadway.

Often the style of music you sing best is revealed with concentrated study in singing lessons.  Trust the instincts of your voice teacher and yourself.  What feels good to sing?  Did you surprise yourself with how well you just sang that aria?

Learning good vocal technique reveals the true color of your singing voice.  The voice develops as nature intends.  Are you a coloratura soprano or a true alto?  Tenor with easy falsetto or a deep bass?  Are you a pianist who wants to learn to sing a little better and find that singing is your true passion?  (A very common thing.)  In the past did you always sing songs in the mid-range, but find that your high voice began to soar with good technique?  The voice is ever-evolving, explore it.

As the voice develops, good repertoire for you to sing and the style of music at which you excel pick your voice in a way.  You may love Adele or belty musical theater songs, but your voice is actually best suited to coloratura (high soprano) repertoire.  Or in reverse, you may love the high falsetto sound of many tenors, but actually have a solid bass voice.
We all like certain styles of music because we have always listened to them or been exposed to a particular composer whose music strikes our heart and core. Not only do our voice types but our personalities and musical preferences help shape what we sing.  Sometimes what we like to sing and what we sing well match perfectly and sometimes we stretch the boundaries and ultimately find that we may LIKE to listen to certain music and SING other music well!  There are many successful musicians who have learned this.  Stay tuned for examples and discussion on young singers in many singing genres such as Kiera Duffy, Tony Arnold, Melissa Rivera, Kristin Chenoweth, and Keith Phares.

What do you think as a student or teacher? How do you guide your singing students to find their true repertoire calling?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Generalizations (and Specifics) of How to Take Care of Yourself for Singing

Generalizations (and Specifics) of How to Take Care of Yourself-  Of course there are generalizations and specifics of how to take care of yourself in regards to singing, but ultimately we are all different beings.  I may love to run or do yoga and use that as a means to be physically and mentally fit, but it may bore you and your prefer to go biking or do kick-boxing.  
Find what works for you.  Take care of yourself physically and the mental health will soon follow.  Physical conditioning in moderation is a benefit to both the act of singing and the mental focus needed for performing and dedication to a singing career.

Some general advice on how to best take care of yourself as a singer can be found at  A routine of taking care of yourself both mentally and physically can make a huge difference in how you deal with the rigors of performing and singing in general.
Spend some time figuring out what re-routes you when you are in a bad mood. Do you like to go for a run?  Do you sip a cup of tea?  Do you call a friend to talk it over? Do you write it out in a journal identifying what went wrong?  This will help you re-organize you mentally to be able to focus on your success again.
Take the time to explore what works for you and set a routine for yourself to maximize your singing potential.  Find someone (a good teacher and a friend) to help you and support you in your quest.  Time spent on physical attention and mental re-focus will make you a more balanced individual set for success.  Follow the advice of others in taking care of yourself, but ultimately you learn what works for you to make you the best singer you can be! 
Sing on!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Continually Evolving – Your voice is continually evolving as an instrument.  You as a singer grow and grow older.  Your voice is a different instrument at 16 than at 25 and different at 32 than at 54.  It continues to evolve as you grow older and gain life experiences.  Our body cells, life situation, stressors in life are constantly changing.  It is so important that you keep on track with what your body and mind are saying about where you are with your singing.

The experiences that you have as a 16 year old high school student are completely different than those of a 25 year old newly on their own in the world.  A 32 year old who has had success as a singer but now is married with one or two children and a spouse to consider has different experiences than they did as a single 25 year old.  The list goes on.  When your body is your instrument, the stressors of life and decisions that you make really can change where your singing goes.

 A singer at all ages and experience levels must pay attention to body and mind signals- What works and what doesn’t work for you as a singer and as a person?  Can you go out with friends the night before a big performance or do you know that you will be much better off if you stay at home and go to bed early?  Do you sing best after doing a short cardiovascular workout and a few yoga poses?  Do you sing best after a small bland carbohydrate snack or on a relatively empty stomach? 

Life changes.  What works for you today may not work 10 years from now.  Sure some things will stay the same, but keep listening to your body and mind and take care of them both to make yourself be the best singer you can be!  What are the generalizations of how to take care of yourself as a singer?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Maximize your Success – You practice, you take care of your body (eat well, exercise, get adequate sleep, you improve your instrument and make it the best it can be).  What next?  Do you see a difference in your singing? How about your overall mood?  Do you deal with barriers and hurdles in your singing better?  Undoubtedly the answers are yes. 

Most singers agree that when they take care of themselves, they not only feel better, but they have more successes.  Get that solo, land a role in the musical theater production, get into that college, feel comfortable singing in front of others when you were timid before.  The accomplishments of singing are so deeply rooted in the efforts put forth not only in your practice and dedication to your craft, but also how you take care of yourself. 

As a teacher, the best we can do is practice what we preach and take care of ourselves while encouraging our students to take care of their physical and mental well-being.  Just like in all aspects of our life, taking care of oneself leads to greater success.  Our needs and tolerances of what we can and cannot do and still produce quality singing are continually changing throughout our singing lives.  You are unique and it is worthy yout time to dicover your individual talents and what makes your instrument work at its' maximum potential.  Stay tuned for more in my next blog Continually Evolving Singing Voice. 

What experiences have you had with your evolving singing voice?  Has taking better care of yourself physically improved your singing and your self-esteem? Have you seen big changes in your voice and your success?  Have you as a teacher witnessed changes? 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Voice Teachers View on Overall Health of a Singer. How do you foster the drive to take care of yourself?

Overall Health- It is not whether you are skinny or overweight, but that you are healthy all around that will impact not only your self-esteem, but your singing.  In order to feel good about what you do, you must feel good about you.  In Classical Singer, November 2011, voice teachers give their view on Does Size Matter.

Most teachers agree, if students are very fit, sometimes they have difficulty releasing the body for good breath work, and may be scared that they look fat on stage, whereas if you are heavier, they may be self-conscious about their size and see their smaller colleagues as being more attractive.   How do you foster the development of a voice in a student who does not have high self- esteem?  You encourage them to do the best for their body and mind and work on their self-image through the development of the person as a whole and the beauty of their individual voice.

How do teachers approach the subject? Approaches vary, but body image in terms of overall health and athleticism reinforces the idea that singers need to be vocal athletes.  Your body is your instrument, take care of it as such.  An athlete takes care of their body, is fit physically, emotionally, and spiritually. A singer should also strive to do so to be the best they can be.

The most important thing for a teacher is to encourage students to think about how they take care of their bodies.  A performer’s appearance has always been important and in many cases, determined the repertoire that they sang, William Neil, University of Oklahoma Vocal Chair.  Great voices are rare and should be nurtured and developed carefully at their own pace and own time in a friendly and supportive environment.  The discovery of what repertoire each voice is meant to sing is a quest for the teacher and singer alike.  Does physical appearance play a role sometimes?  Unfortunately, yes.  Does personality also factor in? Absolutely. 

Finding the drive to be fit- emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically to have a singing career can be guided and encouraged by the teacher but ultimately the decision of the singer.   How do you help your students approach their self-image?  What do you as a student find the most valuable from a teacher in regards to your self-esteem?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

How do a positive self-image and being physically and mentally fit impact singing?

As part of any personal journey, you must be comfortable in your own skin and have a positive self-image and healthy outlook on life.  Singing as an avocation is fun.  It can be challenging, but ultimately the goal is to have fun and share your talent and communicate with others.  Singing as a vocation can add another element of dedication and commitment.  It is tough either way to compete with all of the other singers out there.  How do you make yourself the best you can be as a singer and have good self-esteem to carry you through?  Part 1 of 5.

“I must be emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and physically fit to have a singing career,” is the summary of Does Size Matter ?, Classical Singer Magazine, October 2011.  In this polling of a variety of singers, most feel that their perception of their body image influenced the way they sang and how they communicated on stage. How you feel about yourself and how your body reacts to that feeling is extremely valuable to the performing capabilities of a singer.

A singer must have a positive self-image in order to sing and perform at their best capabilities. You have to feel good about yourself no matter what you look like.   The competition is tough and you are sharing a part of you when you sing.  If you are well-balanced emotionally, physically, and mentally you have a higher chance of success.   If you are just learning how to sing, have patience with yourself and try to better yourself as a whole in any way you can.

People with a negative body image cannot get over how poorly they feel about themselves, and therefore cannot truly present themselves to an audience.  Isabella Ivy, soprano

If you make healthy lifestyle changes through being physically active and altering eating habits, you start on a path to being more physically AND emotionally well-balanced.  Feeling good about your outside and inside make you emotionally strong.

The more in tune I am with my body physically, the more connected I am to my instrument and singing comes from an inner strength and confidence.  Christina Foster, soprano.  No truer words could be spoken.  If you are in tune with your body physically, your mind is in a more positive place and confidence follows.  Yoga is a great way to get in tune with both body and mind quickly.

My body is my voice, and they are both unique, Michelle Brook Alexander, soprano.  Your voice is unique to you and you are unique.  Your voice and your body have a place.  Your voice may fit a role and the music, but this unfortunately can only be overlooked to a certain degree.  “Look the part” has been a part of performing forever (both acting and singing).  If you do not look the part, you may need to vary the style of your singing (oratorio versus opera versus musical theater) to maximize your success. 

Practice a “lifestyle diet” in which you are passionate about health, fitness, wellness, and singing.  The more time you spend on you as a whole, the greater a singer you can become.  What can you do in your everyday life to improve your physical, emotional, and mental state to maximize your performance potential? 

For more information on singer’s thoughts on the importance of appearance, body image, and singing visit and June and July 2011.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Singing Lessons are a Personal Journey - Which Path Do You Take?

Singing Lessons are a Personal Journey - Which Path Do You Take?

Singing lessons are a personal journey for everyone.  The music that each individual creates with his or her own singing voice is very personal and awesome!

Singing lessons involve the interactions of what your body and voice can do or learn to do together.  Through learning solid technique, it is amazing what the voice can achieve.   
Part of the journey depends on the initial gift of your voice, but a large majority rest in the dedication of the individual to perfect the craft of singing.  It is a passion to be followed.
Additionally your interpretation of the music and text can carry you to the next level.  How you express the song has such an impact on not only the quality of the voice,  but the overall presentation of the music you sing.

Where you want your voice to take you (whether it be a better shower singer, opera singer, lead in the next play, or soloist at a concert) in combination with your drive and dedication to study are so important to the personal journey of singing.  It is not mind over matter, but matter and mind working together that help you to achieve your goals.  Set your singing goals with the educated guidance of a teacher and revisit them.  Singing, as a career or hobby, is a passion- Embrace it and take your personal journey through song!

How is singing a personal journey for you?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

How Do You Learn Best?  Are you a Visual, Auditory or Kinesthetic Learner?

We all have different learning styles and learn things in a number of ways.  Think about how you best learn math skills, reading, chemistry, music and singing.
There are 3 main styles of learning.  Some of us use a combination of all 3 when learning something new, but others predominantly use one style or another.  Which type of learner are you:  Auditory, Visual, or Kinesthetic? 

-       Auditory- Do you learn best by example?  Do you HEAR something and then able to replicate it?

-       Visual – Do you prefer to SEE something to understand it?  Do you often visualize a concept?

-       Kinesthetic – Do you learn best by DOING?  Try and try again is your motto until you get it?

In a private lesson situation, a teacher can tailor the lesson and instructions to meet your learning style.  If you visualize things best, a teacher may use imagery to teach a concept. If you learn best by example, she may sing a phrase to explain a theory.  If you physically DO to learn a concept, you may be given a physical task when singing to show an idea.  If you learn by doing a mixture of things, she should combine ideas.  Find a teacher (or BE a teacher) who works with learning styles, strengths, and weaknesses to make you the best singer you can be.  You may not know HOW you learn best because you never thought about it.  Let someone help you discover it along your musical journey!
Which way do you learn about singing best?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

What do you (or your student) want from private voice lessons?

What do you want from private voice lessons? 
Seems a simple answer, to sing better, right?  But, how do you get there?  What is better and why?  Take the time to explore your goals realistically with voice lessons with a qualified professional.  Find the right fit for you and open your mind to all of the wonderful styles of music out there. 

Do you want to find the courage to audition for the next solo in your choir’s concert?  Do you want to get the lead in the next musical theater production in your high school?   Do you want to learn to sing better because that is something that you have always wanted to do and never had the time?  Do you want to sing back- up vocals in a band or sing better karaoke?  Do you want to become an opera singer?  Do you want to sing without others asking you to stop?  The singing opportunities are endless.  Where do you see yourself and where does your teacher see you going?
All singers need to learn solid technique to achieve their goals and to truly enjoy the beautiful music their voice can create.  Not everyone has the same goals or the same instrument.  It is the job of both the student and teacher to explore and expand upon the music that exists within each individual voice.  Establish technique and discover what your voice can do.  What new direction might you discover?

After you live with that for a while, explore the wonders of your singing voice and work together with a voice teacher to shape your voice lesson experience. 
An aid to the process:  How do you learn best?  (Read more in my next blog on learning styles).

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Why Should You or Someone You Know Take Voice Lessons in a Private Voice Studio?

Why Should You or Someone You Know Take Voice Lessons in a Private Voice Studio?

Think about it.  Why do you sing?  Why does your daughter, brother, sister, mom sing?  It is something they enjoy and often something they simply have a desire to do (and do better).  What better time to start a journey towards singing better than the present?
At the start of the school year, students and adults alike often set new goals for the things that they want to accomplish.  The network shows such as The Voice, Duets, American Idol, and Glee are about to begin which give many the ‘bug’ to sing.  Why not try it out?

Why should you take voice lessons in a private voice studio?  Can’t everyone sing?

Almost anyone who can speak can learn to sing, but most people don’t use their voices to their full potential. Voice lessons teach singers how to control their breath and find vocal resonance to create a fuller, healthier, and more beautiful sound. Lessons also teach general musical skills and build more confident singers. 
The average singing student needs weekly guidance to establish a solid technique.

Should I take voice lessons with a teacher or can I really learn to sing from an online program or DVD?

Every voice and every person is different and responds differently to technique. Learning to sing demands a personal touch and ears and eyes outside of oneself. With the guidance of a live teacher, you will get direct response to what is actually heard and seen by others, not just what you hear inside your head. A live teacher can also help you explore to find what repertoire and vocal range actually suits your voice best.

What we hear while we’re singing just isn’t true, so we are always dependent on someone we trust to take the role of our ‘outside ears’. Renee Fleming
In a private voice studio, the student not only gets access to a voice teacher and vocal coach, but to the camaraderie of belonging to a group of people who enjoy singing.  Most voice studios provide opportunities to perform musical repertoire one or two times a year.  Some also give the opportunity to work on the repertoire in front of and with others in the studio (please see more information on my studio at  With more opportunities to share music with others, a student has a higher drive to perfect the craft of singing, builds a higher confidence level in their singing and themselves, and the better music we create!

Again, why NOT take singing lessons?  Keep on Singing!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Musical Study and Voice Lessons - Why do We Sing and What do We Get from Voice Lessons?

Musical Study and Voice Lessons - Why do We Sing and What do We Get from Voice Lessons?

We study an instrument to fulfill a passion and to perfect a craft. We love music and want to share that love with others. A singing teacher gives you the tools to get there, achieve your goals, and instill the drive to get you there. Together a student and voice teacher find the path to where each student is meant to be as a singer, but the student must follow through on the task. The nuts and bolts of a solid technique are provided and much repertoire is studied. Working within a studio gives a student individual support and interaction with others who are focused on fine tuning their own singing voice.

Singing lessons are so like and unlike studying any other instrument. Voice study is not only a way to perfect and fine tune an instrument, but you actually learn how to play that instrument called your body. You also study yourself. What makes you tick, what inspires you, how you can take care of yourself to improve your singing, and how you communicate a song with your body that you live and breathe with all the time. You never put the instrument away in a case or walk away from it. It is a part of you and therefore you guard it.

Singers want to share their song with others but sometimes get caught up with fear of sharing a part of themselves (as do all musicians). Voice Studio masterclasses, performances and comraderie can help to foster development and overcome the hurdle of fear through moral support, regular interactions with others who enjoy singing, and instill a drive to be the best they can be.

Why is Studio Interaction Important?


  • There is a drive to perfect performances because there is always opportunity to share one's talent.
  • There is constant exposure to new literature.
  • There is comfort in sharing the musical gift of singing with others in various settings.
I feel it is essential to have regular masterclass opportunities, both on specific topics and generalized study, and a few performance opportunities a year. There is always something new on the horizon for students to gleam from various experiences and ways to meet others who love to sing and may encourage them to "reach for the stars"! Voice lessons begin as a way to perfect the art of singing, but in this business, how wonderful it is to find a support system to help you get there and have fun in the process!
As a teacher, the highest reward is watching your students not only greatly expand their abilities and talents, but supporting one another in their quest to share music with others and be the best singer they can be!

As a teacher, what is the best thing you gleam from teaching?

As a student, what is the best thing a teacher can do for you?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Musical Performance Anxiety- Coping Cards and a Cheerleader?

Musical Performance Anxiety - Coping Cards

When we can help a student can get musical performance anxiety under control (or get rid of it all together), we empower the student with the ability to appreciate and enjoy their singing strengths and realistically address any weaknesses.  We can help the student (or ourselves) appreciate the good in our singing.   We can start to accept what we cannot or do not need to change and develop strategies to improve those that need improvement. (Ideas spawned from “Musical Performance Anxiety, Journal of Singing, September/October 2011, www. .

Someone struggling with performance anxiety must have assistance to “cognitively restructure” or target dysfunctional thoughts and beliefs people have which say that they are ‘inferior, cannot succeed, insincere compliments’ and place them behind.  The constant struggle to perfect our music sometimes invites these voices to call to us and it may be hard to turn the negative voices off.

A good way to combat these thoughts is using ‘coping cards’.  These are therapy/work cheat sheets which help the singer remember what they already do well.  These cards can serve as affirmations for the person to remind them of the value in life- what they do well, what will help them calm down in a nervous situation.  Have the nervous student write down 3 things that they know they do well when singing on 3 different cards.  For example, “(I have a gift and can learn to develop and share that gift with others”, “I communicate the meaning of this piece well”, and “I have a beautiful lyrical line when I sing X phrase”.  Some of these cards can be developed with the teacher to remind the student of what others also say about his/her singing.

Poor self-esteem is often the main culprit.  First look at:

1.       Accepting who you are.

2.       Capitalize on strengths (See card ideas above)

3.       Strategically deal with weaknesses (nerves, etc.) by tapping away at them bit by bit.

Working with strengths to address weaknesses allows someone to use ‘reasonable thinking’.  A reasonable thought is “I have talent that deserves to be developed and I can do that and be comfortable sharing that gift.” 

The physical act of looking at the cards re-affirms the positive thought or their abilities to help a student with nervousness.  When practicing, have them look at the affirmation cards to help them get over anxiety.  Repeat the exercise going into a small performance and again for a larger performance. 

Using ‘coping cards’ may be very effective moving into a first big performance in addition to continually working on the interpretation and characterization of the music one is singing. 

What do you think about ‘coping’ or ‘encouragement’ cards?   It never hurts to have a personal cheerleader in your corner.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Masterclass on Movement, Acting and Singing - Yoga Poses and Enhancing Performance of a Song

I recently ran 2 Masterclass/Workshops on Pilates, Yoga, and Acting and their Effects on Singing.  What an amazing time!  All of the students had fun exploring how freeing up space in your body can affect the singing voice.  They also had a chance to work with an acting coach on individual songs that they are singing both as a monologue and in song.  It was great for all to see how truly connecting to the character of the song can change how it is sung.  We also explored how establishing purpose to our movements we can free our sound even further. 

Why Pilates?  Pilates focuses on good posture, freeing the head and neck, free flowing breath and core strength which are all essential to singing well.
Why Yoga? Yoga also focuses on free flowing breath, good posture and core strength.  It also adds the concept of relaxation and focus of the mind.  The mind and body communicate to create an empowered state of strength and focus/stress relief.  This is an excellent way to combat performance anxiety. 

The combination of the two helps you become connected with body and mind so you react faster and work better as a unit to create.  free, relaxed and beautiful singing.

The Yoga portion of the Masterclass consisted of a few vocal warm-ups followed by a series of simple Yoga and Pilates poses and stretches designed specifically for the singer.  At the conclusion of the section, we repeated the vocal warm-ups to see if they had any effect on our singing.

- “The yoga poses really had an impact on my singing.  All of the sudden my body and my voice were open and it was easy to sing.”  Current Student

The Yoga and Pilates poses which we did in the Masterclass can be found in my Yoga Sequence for Singers or Shortened Yoga Sequence for Singers  Most poses are pictured in the sequence, but some are described in the contents.  I suggest adding at least 4 poses to your warm-up for singing.   Make sure that you take at least 3 complete breaths in each pose, inhaling through the mouth and nose and exhaling through the mouth.  Repeat each exercise at least once. 
Acting and Singing

The second part of the Masterclass included acting games and work on expression in a song each student is learning.  What a difference connecting to the character and emotion of the piece can have when you sing!  Compound that with allowing yourself to move and elongate your motions just how we stretch the length of our breath support for a phrase and wow did the singing change.
Many students said they enjoyed singing in front of others, hearing others sing and watching the transformation of the singing before them, or actually getting outside of yourself to interpret the character and song and think about how you were physically expressing yourself or not (happy but not smiling or scared, but not reflecting it on the face or body). 

“Acting out the song makes you try something new and look at things from a different perspective.” Current Student

A great time was had by all!  Go to see some samples of the Masterclass at  I am so proud of all of my participating students and look forward to a great Summer Recital!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Repertoire for Child Singers- The Dilemma of What They Want to Sing and What They Should Sing: Finding the Common Barrier Reef.

Repertoire for Child Singers- The Dilemma of What They Want to Sing and What They Should Sing: Finding the Common Barrier Reef.

Most voice teachers encounter this dilemma weekly.  How do we get the young student to understand what they should and shouldn’t be singing?  Yes, there is the eye roll from the pre-teen and teenager.  It is not merely a matter of style or musical genre but more what is appropriate for the age and what are BELIEVABLE lyrics to be coming out of their mouths.  (There can be a whole other chapter on what is appropriate vocally, good for their voice, teach good technique, etc.) .  The fact of the matter is, there is a great deal of repertoire out there for our young singers to sing that they can connect to and learn how to communicate in all realms of literature.

What do you do when the 11 year old student wants to sing Adele?  Ask what it is they like about the songs.  Ok, nice voice, being in “in” crowd, good beat.  Are these songs right for them?  Yes, the eye roll again.  Read some of the lyrics of the songs- are they believable if they are coming from a young girl?  Can a young student relate to those words?  Who in any audience (besides close friends) will believe them if they sang these grown up songs?   Who is going to believe a 12 year old singing about the loss of a love that is crushing them to their core?  (, R. Edwin, Journal of Singing, April 2012)

It is so important in our song selection that the believability and connection to the character are sound and secure.  This is what carries the successful delivery of a song.  We must find pieces that the young student can relate to and then can learn how to communicate.  This authenticates their performance and enables them to truly communicate with the audience in song.

What are some sources to consider?  Explore your Broadway books for selections from the Young Cosette in Les Miserables, Mary in Secret Garden, Gretel, Brigita, and Louisa in Sound of Music, Baby June in Gypsy or Nellie in Annie Get Your Gun. All of the Walt Disney classics and new musicals have a plethora of options.  With Pop options, you may need to be more selective, but look at Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift, Christina Auquilera, Demi Lovato.  They are believable pieces for your pop-loving students. Remind your students that sometimes the voices are electronically enhanced.   In exchange for and in addition to these selections, have your students sing folk repertoire or art songs which have easy to interpret messages.  GUIDE them in interpreting the repertoire and guide their ears to open to all of the wonderful music out there. 

Careful explanation of WHY the song might not be believable shows a lot to a child (and parent).  Finding pieces that achieve the believable goal and teach solid technique are priceless (and all the more reason to keep those nugget pieces of a more classical nature) in your pocket.  This approach may help you merge the common Barrier Reef and help students not only discover their wonderful voices but learn to like a new genre of music.
What are your suggestions for other great repertoire for the young  or child singer and overcoming the Barrier Reef?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Patriotism in our “Star Spangled Banner” or Show of Vocal Talent? A Closer Look at Our National Anthem

As the patriotic Independence Day passed, I began wondering about our National Anthem.  Do we show our patriotism through singing the “Star Spangled Banner” or has it become merely a show of vocal talent?  As a voice teacher, students ask me to work on the song frequently so that they can sing at their high school football or basketball game, sing at a ball park, or local softball game.  The difficult 1 ½ octave range song is a hurdle for some, the words are another hurdle for most. 

In teaching the song, of which we mostly know the melody, I stress authenticity of the melody with not too much embellishment.  In other words, sing the song how it was written without too many added notes.  I also focus on what the words MEAN.  This not only helps the student remember the words, but the meaning and intent of the piece.  It is about our nation’s independence, not a flash of how many notes you can sing. 

When looking at the words of our “Star Spangled Banner”, as with all pieces, one should look at the Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How. (Star Spangled Banner- A Tutorial by R. Edwin, Journal of Singing, Sept/Oct 2011).  First I include a little history lesson:

The “Star Spangled Banner” was written by Sir Frances Scott Key during the War of 1812.  He sailed out on a ship to rescue a civilian prisoner of war who was being held by the British.  He witnesses the attack on Fort McHenry in Baltimore.  He is pleased to see the American Flag flying high the next morning and began to write “The Defence of Fort McHenry”, now known as the “Star Spangled Banner”.  In 1931, it was declared the National Anthem.

The poetry of the song is in Old English and difficult to decipher, so I review the history of the song with the student:

1.       Which War was it written during?  War of 1812

2.       Where and when was the battle? Baltimore Harbor (1814)

3.       Who won? We did

Then we take a look at the lyrics:

“Oh say can you see, by the dawn’s early light”

Question: What time of day is it? Dawn

Question: What is he trying to see? Flag flying in the fort

“What so proudly we hail, by the twilights last gleaming.”

Question: When did you see the flag?  Last night at twilight

"Who's broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight"

Question: What does the flag look like? Bright stripes and bright stars

Question and answer through the whole song.  Why is this analysis necessary?  It helps the student to understand and remember the words to our nation’s anthem.  Also, when they comprehend what they are singing, singers add so much more emotion and meaning to a performance.  This is something we should keep in mind for ALL of our songs, especially one that is the example of the pride of our nation!

“What key should I sing it in?” is often the resounding question.  Sing it in a key which the high note is still comfortable even if it means sacrificing a little clarity on the low notes.  A female belter should sing in F (high note is a C) or F#.  A-flat is generally a good key for the average voice.  The starting note of the piece is the fifth of the key, so play around with what works for the student, remembering to make sure they comfortably reach that high note. 
Above all, make sure that you are singing the National Anthem with our nation’s pride in your mind.  It will not only to enhance your performance, but drive home the meaning of the piece- we are PROUD to be an American watching the flag fly freely.