Saturday, February 21, 2015

Sick and Singing- A big topic in these cold winter months!

Sick and singing seems to be a lot of what I am encountering with so many students that I wanted to bring up the discussion again!  Recently an article that I wrote on Sick and Singing was published in the NATS Internos,  I am proud to have my article published and eager to help you all make the best decision you can about singing should you find yourself sick leading up to a performance!

A quick summary of tips:

Take care of yourself first in the hopes that you can ward off any illness.  At the first sign of illness or if you have been around others who are sick, start going to bed early, take extra Vitamin C, drink more water and of course keep washing those hands!

The weeks leading up to the big performance demand more of us mentally, physically, and time-wise. We are stressed if we are going to remember it all and do it right!  This causes our defenses to be down and more likely to catch that cold.

Take some extra time to take care of you physically (as seen above) and mentally.  Allow yourself a break from it all, but make it smart.  Do some yoga or read a good book and get extra sleep.  Make it something that relaxes you, but rests your voice.

Also, more tips can be found in other articles on this blog:  Sick but Singing....Fa la la la lah..... and Wintertime and Singing, A Double Edged Sword.

Happy singing!

Monday, February 2, 2015

An Informal Studio Recital- What it is and why should you do it? What are the benefits?

Informal Studio Recital- What is it and why?  What are the benefits?

For a few years I have been doing an “Informal Recital” for students in the winter in addition to my formal Voice Recital every spring.  I am frequently asked, “What is it? What is the benefit to having a recital without a parent audience?”  Here are the answers and why my students and I think it is a good idea!

“What is an Informal Recital?”

It is a performance opportunity for singers.  Students fine tune a song or two and bring it up to performance level.  Each singer gets to work with an accompanist and sing in a performance space different from the voice studio.  Students then sing for the other students on the recital.  No family or friends are present.  We record the performances so that the students and family and friends can view the performances later.  I put the recordings on my YouTube channel and use the recordings as a teaching tool in subsequent lessons. 

The concept is modeled on college “Studio Class” which often takes place once a week or once a month depending on the school.  Students perform for the others in the voice studio on a rotating basis.  A few times a year there is a “Studio Performance Class” in which you perform for all of the singing students once a year. 

“What is the benefit to having a recital without an audience?”

From a teachers standpoint there are many reasons this is beneficial:

-       -   It is a performance opportunity good for students for various reasons.
-       -  Good practice fine tuning and perfecting a vocal selection (or two).
-       -   A chance to work with a professional accompanist.
-       -   A good step to dealing with ‘stage fright’.
-       -   An opportunity to meet other students in the studio.
-       -   A chance to hear different music and learn from others.
-       -   Opportunity to view how you sound and appear as you perform a piece.

At the conclusion of my January Informal Recital, I polled my students to see what they liked and learned from their experience.  Here is a list of the top things:

What Students Like:

-       Listening to all the other voices
-       Less pressure without a full audience or performing in a less intimidating environment
-       Getting to know and meet the other singers
-       Listening to the other songs that people sang
-       Having another opportunity to perform in front of others
-       Getting to hear songs I may want to do later
-       The formality of the ‘informal’ recital- almost like it was for a full audience but not

What Students Learned:

-       Memorizing the lyrics well and early on is very important
-       I need to spend more time really understanding and knowing my lyrics to communicate the song
-       Practicing low breathing before singing and truly planning out where I am going to breathe is   important (Breathing technique)
-        Posture and how to stand is important to performing (stage presence)
-        Everyone gets nervous, but there is no need to get so stressed about performing
-        Stress or nerves in performing affect your breath
-        Use facial expressions and show the meaning of the song through your body language.  It can       make a huge difference.
-         You don’t have to move your hands tremendously or walk around to show expression
-         Watching others helped me observe singing technique in others (and SEE what is addressed in lessons) to help better apply it to myself
-          I learned about different styles of songs and singing
-          Sing louder (we sound louder to ourselves than to others in the room)
-          Go slower mentally when singing to stay in control

This is just a summary of the things that students can learn from the Informal Recital experience.  There were also many specific things students addressed about their own performances and what they would do differently or want to improve upon.

Time permitting, we would take the time to work through or restart a couple songs if the student is not happy with how they performed or forgot lyrics.  Feedback from the other performers afterwards might be useful too.  Although time constraints sometimes prevent us from doing this, watching the videos afterwards allow us to evaluate ourselves and see and hear what others see.  We do not see or hear ourselves as others do, so we learn a great deal from viewing ourselves singing in addition to watching and listening to others (both live and on video).  Overall, the Informal Recital platform is an active way to encourage students to perfect their craft of singing, performance, and stage presence.