Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Act Up in Auditions - Move but have it make sense!

When auditioning, you are always aspiring to do the right thing and the best thing to land that role or solo. There is an ongoing dispute if someone should act out the piece they sing or stand still. The answer?  Neither, be natural and go with what makes sense.  Make any motion or movement that you make MEAN something, not just be oh, I am going to move my arms now.  Motions should have a purpose and help show you understand what you are saying in the song.  The level to which each auditor thinks a person should move varies, but most agree you should act when singing an audition.

In an article from Classical Singer Magazine, many directors spoke candidly about what they like to see in an audition.  It is helpful to think about these things when preparing that next audition or a student to do an audition.  Here are some of the quotes we should take to heart:

Singers should always demonstrate acting in their audition. Acting doesn't imply taking over the entire room.  It simply means being committed to story telling.  James Marvel, Stage Director

Acting involves knowing what you are saying and why you are saying it at that particular moment.  The singer should know what her or she wants to say in the aria and share it in a way that the audience will know it. Ellen Rievman, NYC Acting coach

Thoughts should appear on the face externally (seeing someone or some object in the room) or internally (seeing something in your mind or reflecting on something).  These change from phrase to phrase and thought to thought.  Thoughts must precede gestures, and gestures must precede the words coming out of the singer's mouth.  They are not naturally simultaneous. 
Dan Montez, Director of Taconic Opera

Include the audience somehow.  Communicate naturally and unselfconsciously.  This may mean you look someone in the eye or not. Brian Dickie, Chicago Opera Theater

95% of singers use meaningless gestures during an audition.  Dan Montez  Don't be one of them.

Take the time to interpret your music and figure out where and when you might move based on the text. Make movement mean something, not just flailing your arms.  It is important to have an outside perspective when working out motions.  Work with an acting or drama coach or ask you sister or roommate to listen and watch you sing and get their input.  Less is often more.  Use your dynamics to express and make your movements truly because you are expressing the text.  Simple and clean while using a little bit of space are good mottoes.  Ultimately, the people at the audition are going to listen to your voice, but it is helpful for them to know you are comfortable on stage.

Find out more about acting and singing by asking your voice teacher or acting teacher to work on connecting the two!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Audition- Raise the Bar on Your Quality Audition

Auditions can be a daunting thing or not!  An audition is what you make of it.  It is another opportunity to share what you do well with potential employers or casting auditors.  What you do to prepare and what you do in the audition room both matter!  Make the most of it by doing the following:

1.  Preparation
 - Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse and be prepared beyond your wildest dreams.
 - Know the audition piece inside and out musically and dramatically
 - Be accountable to present your BEST from making sure the language and music are well coached and the dramatic qualities of your pieces are exceptional.

2. Think of the Audition as a First Date - Put on your best clothes and be a good host!
 - You want to make a good impression, so dress appropriately for the character and make eye contact when you shake hands with the auditors.
 - Make the auditors comfortable in your presence
 - SMILE and bring positive energy into the room
 - You want the auditors to know you will be fun and pleasant to work with- show it!
 - Be kind to your accompanist - they are your best ally in the room
 - If you are well-prepared,confident, and determined to have fun in the audition, you won't have time to think about being nervous.

3. Auditions have changed- Don't just stand and sing- MOVE
 - It's okay to move around and act out your audition piece
 - Move with confidence so they can really see what you are expressing
 - Movement will also free your voice and keep wobbly legs from nerves under control

4. Know Yourself
 - What are your strengths as a person and as a singer?  Be honest with yourself and then bring those attributes to the table.  Take time to find your strengths.

At an audition where you select the repertoire, pick it carefully:
   * If you are funny, make sure you have a couple of comedic selections in your repertoire
   * If you know you sing faster songs best, start with an Allegro selection
   * If you know you express sadness well in singing, start with a depressing aria

At an audition where they select  one song to sing:
   * Research the music. Know it's history so you can act it out accurately
   * Make it YOURS from there and add your own personality/interpretation
   * Be your (funny, happy, pleasant) self in the room no matter what!

You make the most of each audition by bringing your best prepared dish (song) to the table and letting the auditors feast on (listen to) the knowledge that you are talented and will be a pleasure with which to work.  Happy Auditioning!

Monday, June 2, 2014

A Masterclass? What is it and why should I (or my child) sing in one?

A Masterclass?  What is it and why should I (or my child) sing in one?  This is a very common question I receive as a voice teacher.  A Masterclass is exactly what it sounds like, a chance to work in a class (group) environment with a master (teacher) of the subject.

Many national conventions, Voice Foundation, National Association of Teachers of Singing, Music Educators National Convention, run masterclasses for those attending.  Some are large and for the whole convention, some are small and individualized focusing on one specific topic.  Teachers and singers can visit the masterclasses of the most interest to them in workshops made of all masterclasses such as are held at the Voice Foundation Convention.  Colleges often offer their music majors masterclasses or studio performance class on a weekly basis.  It unifies the studio, gives them a chance (and responsibility) to perform often and is an essential part to the performing experience.

In the independent voice studio, it is difficult to schedule a masterclass, but very important to the process of developing performing singers.  In a singing masterclass, students are given an opportunity to perform in front of others as if it is a real performance.  Then the teacher (or master) works with each individual on the song that was presented, teaching them in front of the other students or attendees. It is a great opportunity for all.  I try to plan a few each year in my studio.

The singer gets extra performance practice and more time with their current teacher (or visiting clinician).  They can work on getting over the nerves of singing in front of others in a comfortable environment.  They get practice emoting the text to an actual audience instead of to themselves in the mirror and experience what nerves may do to them.  The singer also gets practice at following direction of the new clinician and trying something out or work with their voice teacher in a different environment.

The audience gets to learn from watching the teacher instruct others.  They may learn something that the teacher has yet to say to them or hear it in a different way that clicks! They get to hear the difference in another singer's sound when the student follows instructions regarding interpretation or breath support. Or see the difference in a singer's appearance when communicating the text (and the change in the sound).   It is an educational opportunity in which much can be accomplished and learned!  Plus everyone gets to know one another a little more!

The teacher gets to teach many students at once and see how different students react to different instruction.  It also gives the teacher a chance to address specific ideas regarding singing that cannot be addressed in a regular lesson.  For example, I will often add a yoga component or acting games to a masterclass to show students how they can positively impact singing and performing.

I have recently begun asking my students what their favorite part of a masterclass is.  I have heard a variety of responses from "I learned I don't really have to be nervous to sing in front of others, if I just focus on what I am really saying in the song" to "Yoga has such an impact on freeing up my voice" to "I really enjoyed hearing the variety of repertoire sung by others."  Although the responses vary, one thought is ringing true:  Masterclasses are fun and you can learn a lot from singing in and attending them.  Read more about masterclasses at Susan Anders Brizick Voice Studio Happenings

The next time the opportunity presents itself, I encourage you to sing (or go to) that masterclass! You never know what you might learn.  Let me know some of your experiences with masterclasses and why you like them!