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!

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Break it Down Part 3: STRESS- how will practicing my singing more help me?

STRESS- It is all around us.   We have so much homework to do, tests to study for, sports practices to attend, rehearsals, family obligations, and don't forget, sleep!  How can it possibly help us to squeeze in practicing singing??  It's one more thing on the list.  YES, it is, but it will help your overall self in so many ways!!

1. Music reduces stress and anxiety.  It releases endorphins which make you feel good.    It relaxes you and builds your self-esteem. Overall, music improves your mental health.

2. Creating music makes your brain process things better.  It helps the right and left side of your brain communicate better. It helps you think!

3. Making music helps your brain to organize its thought processing better thus enhancing your IQ.

4. Music improves your verbal memory and verbal skills. (Helps with English class)

5. Music makes you more empathetic.  We work on communicating the words of our songs, this enhances our abilities to relate to others and their situations.  It makes you a better friend and member of society.

6. Music helps brain development and maintaining that sharp edge no matter your age.

7. Music enhances your math and science skills and reasoning. In addition to your English skills. It helps to make you smart!

8. Music improves your motor skills.  (Makes you more coordinated and better at dance for all of you Musical Theater lovers, and sports)

Many studies have shown these benefits and more from studying music! Go try it now!  Take the time out and practice your singing (or instrument)!  It really will improve your mood and help you academically!

Read more details for these:  Give it a week or two and write down how practicing helps YOUR brain.  How do you feel afterwards?  Keep a journal of how it makes you feel after you practice.  How is the homework going when you do get it in?  Share it here now or on week 5 for an overall check in on how practice is going, your mood, and other things you noticed.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Break it Down Part 2: How to Get in Singing Practice Time While Adjusting to Your FALL Schedule

How do you find time to practice now that you are in the full swing of things?  There are exams to study for, homework to do, other activities, sleep and work or school classes.  Scheduling practice time is essential to quality practice and to actually doing it!  You will notice your progress faster.

-So, MAKE the time!  Schedule it into your planner.  Put it in your mental and physical to do lists!

-WRITE DOWN what you need to accomplish EVERYDAY. Add PRACTICE TIME as a priority on that list and know that it is something you will enjoy.

- Make PRACTICE a BREAK from other things.

        ** If you know you want to study for your math test for 2 hours, schedule a 1 hour study
             session. PRACTICE as a BREAK and then go back to your homework.

        ** Do your English homework and then PRACTICE before going to soccer.

        ** PRACTICE while you are waiting for mom to take you to an activity

        ** Mentally PRACTICE on the long bus ride or before you go to sleep
        (this helps with MEMORIZING music)

Figure out how it works best into your schedule and your lifestyle.  Does it relax you and serve as a wind down to the day? Does it get your brain working better and spawn good studying?  This will tell you when it will be the most productive for you.  Then schedule it at the SAME TIME and SAME LOCATION.  Using practice sessions in this way help you to manage your time.

Scheduling practice time gives you the MOTIVATION to do it.  Set GOALS and a plan of action for each practice session to maximize your practice time.  Now that you have time blocked out to practice, find out how to make the MOST of that PRACTICE time in next week's blog and  in "Practice Makes Perfect" by Michelle Latour in Classical Singer September 2013.

**Keep a log of how and when you get practice in to share next week! 

Friday, September 13, 2019

Break it Down Part 1: Learning a New Song for Voice Lessons: A Step by Step Guide

Its a new school year, and a new time to learn!  Learning to sing a new song is sometimes daunting if you have just started lessons and are learning to read the music, been given a song in a new language or more difficult rhythms, or are singing in a different style than you are used to.  Take a second and break down learning the song into different parts, don't try to do it all at once.  Our brains can process the information to be successful if we take it step by step.   Think of it as a math problem, get the basics down and then add the other components. Here is a simple guide:

1. Listen to a recording of the song (piano recording of the melody or YouTube version)
  *If you play the piano, play through the melody yourself

2.  Listen again and follow along with the notes.  Note where the pitches move up and down.

3. Sing the notes on a neutral syllable such as 'la' or 'do'.  Lip buzz the melody.
  *This way you are focusing on matching the pitches and the rhythms only.

4. Repeat step 3 until you know the melody and rhythms.

5. Look at the words and mark in where you think you should breathe based on the text and how the composer wrote the melody.

6. Sing adding the words to the melody. Repeat it.

7.  Mark where you have troubles matching the words with the melody and work those specific parts.  If you still have difficulty, try it the next day and make a note to ask for help on those spots.

8.  Build on your knowledge of the song with each practice session and you will be able to sing the lyrics with the melody and rhythm soon.  Any trouble spots? Ask for help in your next lesson.


* Longer songs

-Break it down into sections.  Allow yourself to focus on 2 pages one day, Chorus only, Verse only, Section A .
- Follow the steps above on one section at a time.
- Review those sections the next practice and then add another part to it.

*Song in a foreign language

- Get to know the song inside and out with the melody and rhythms.
- Speak the text in rhythm to get the nuances of the language (ask your teacher to review pronunciation and listen to reputable singers on the language).
- THEN  sing the text.  It may difficult at first.  Look at where each syllable falls (this should be helped by first speaking it in rhythm).
- Mark any places you have difficulty with so you can ask your teacher in your next lesson.

Just like learning how to do a complex math problem or writing a multi-page essay, learning to sing a new song is easier when you break it down into steps and then build upon it.  HAPPY SINGING and tune in next week for tips on how to fit more practice time into your schedule!

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Summer Musical Theater Series- A Unique Musical Theater Program Focusing on the Individual Performer

I am looking forward to another a fabulous summer program full of Musical Theater Repertoire!  It is so rewarding to watch all rise to the occasion with learning repertoire in a short period of time and perfecting it enough to perform! What proof that doing a summer program is so worthwhile!  Every year I watched timid singers grow by leaps and bounds in confidence, mastering hard repertoire, friendships blossoming between those who already know each other and brand new friendships being formed.

Why is the concentrated format of a summer program so beneficial?

-The concentration of longer lessons for just a few weeks makes everyone work harder.
- Much practice must happen in between lessons to master technique (breathing, phrases, and pitches) and to advance to the next phase of the song.
- Focus on the lyrics really enhanced the understanding that we are communicating when we sing.
- Masterclass work on acting emphasizes expression &how we must feel the emotion of the song.
- Dance workshop made everyone more comfortable moving in general.
- Masterclass work helps make all more comfortable with one another.
- Shorter span of time between first starting a song and performing it really creates a spark to practice and make it the best it can be.
- Keeps the singing voice working.
- Focused time can be spent working on singing without extra pressures of the regular school year.

No matter the exact format, a concentrated music program is so beneficial in the summer months!  Watch these clips on YouTube to see what can happen! Astonishing from Little Women 

Keep on Singing!

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Summer Music and Working on the Trio of Talents- Why is Summer a Good Time?

Image result for summer musicNow that Spring Break is upon us, we are all starting the think about the next big milestone, SUMMER!  What is your child going to do during the summer months? 
It is a great time to work on your singing or any of the trio of talents!  Sign up to take voice lessons or a Musical Theater Singing Series, audition for a summer production, pick up dance or acting lessons. 


- You or your child have a little more free time (school is out or you have summer hours).

- There is more time to schedule something that might not fit into your school year.

- There is more time to practice.

- It can give structure to an otherwise unstructured time.

-It will keep you motivated to work on your goals.

- It will increase your chances of attaining those goals during the school year (get into a select choir, get a lead in the play, get a music scholarship for college)

- Many summer opportunities combine singing, acting, and dancing with an emphasis on one of the three.

- You can pick up something new or something that you know you need to work on.  (ie you are a dancer who know she needs to sing better in order to get the lead in the next musical).

- Summer programs are often an intensive concentration on a subject.

- It builds your confidence as a performer and a person.

-It is fun!

Give it some serious thought and sign up for something now! Find out more about summer music programs, especially those that focus on developing your individual talents. Happy Singing!

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Take Care of Your Body and Your Instrument- It May Be Allergies or a Cold or Stress

Take care of your body, it is your instrument as a singer!  

As the spring rapidly creeps in, so too do the problems of allergies (thank you budding trees and flowers) and colds (thank you germs and fluctuating temperatures).  It is so important to take care of your body as a singer at the first sign of a sniffle. You can stop it from getting worse with some preventive measures.

It may be allergies.  If you are prone to spring allergies due to the budding trees, flowers, and fresh cut grass, start taking your allergy medicine. Wash your hair before you go to bed or regularly change your pillowcases so you don't sleep in the allergens.  

It could also be the start of a cold.  If it has been going on for a few days, it may have started as allergies and gone to a cold.  Go to bed earlier and drink some more O.J.  

You may be feeling some stress in the full swing of school, rehearsals, and start of spring sports! Stop and pay attention!  The best thing you can do is respond to what your body is telling you! What are some specifics?

10 Top Things to Take Care of Yourself and Your Singing Voice 
1.       Good Hygiene- Wash your hands and don't touch your face

2.       Drink 8-10 glasses of water (or non-caffeinated beverage) a day

3.      SLEEP  at least 8 hours every night!

4.       Exercise 3-5 times a week to keep up your immune system 

5.       Reduce Medicines - Use nasal saline spray first, medicines last, but take allergy medicines

6.       Sing Well - good posture, breath support, and sing in correct range       

7.       Speak Well Support your speech as if you are singing, minimize talking, don’t
          yell over loud noise!

8.       Practice Everything in Moderation (Singing and Speaking and Activity Level)

9.       Pay attention to your body signals.  If it doesn't feel good, don't do it!  

10.   Find time for a little relaxation and de-stressing time!
     Your body knows what it is saying.  If you take care of it and listen to it, you can make it through the allergies and stress and not get sick thus preserving your wonderful singing voice!  Keep singing! 

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Musical Performance Anxiety and How to Overcome it!

Musical Performance Anxiety and How to Overcome it! Accomplish that Goal.  

Performance Anxiety:  It is a high emotion this time of year as many of us prepare for performances in schools for musical theater productions and auditions.  Maybe you have never been the lead role before or are nervous about that duet you have.  Maybe you have an audition coming up for a solo in the spring concert or a voice competition.  You or your student is very nervous about the upcoming performance.  Memory lapses are happening, technique is suffering, music and the enjoyment of it stops.  How do you deal with this? How can you control it and turn anxiety into performance excitement?

Try to identify what is the problem. 

What happens to you physically, emotionally, and mentally?  Take the time to recognize when performance anxiety really hits you. What happens to your body? What is your brain saying to you?  Then talk it through with your voice teacher.

Physical:  Do you get butterflies or actually feel like you are going to faint? Take a deep breath and relax. Work backwards a little bit first.  When does it happen? Only at the actual performance or even when you are just thinking about a lesson?  Are you nervous about not knowing all of the notes and words or is it more than that?

Emotionally:  How do you feel emotionally?  Are you scared?  Are you excited with a little anxiety?   Get a feeling on what your emotions really are.

Mentally: Are you psyching yourself out even though you are prepared?  Do you fear what you can do is not good enough? Think about how you can improve your mental state and empower yourself with positive thought.

In preparation, learn the piece thoroughly.  Know the notes, rhythms, words, meaning of the text.  Just learn it without the concept of performing it.  If you get worked up for the first couple of days, walk away and come back.  Identify what frustrated you and get help from your teacher.  The second week if you get worked up, force yourself to ‘get back on the horse’ and keep going.  Your teacher can help you with this.  Have patience with yourself.

Once you know the nuts and bolts of the piece, put yourself into the character of the song.  Paint the picture of the scene you are describing in your head or imagine you are truly telling your love of your commitment.  Connect to the meaning of the piece and put yourself in the scene you create.  Try to forget that anyone else is out there listening.  You are that person. The more you connect with the text, the more your body and your mind may just remember what to do and you create beautiful music.

If it is not working, to calm you down, explore yoga poses and deep breathing.  Center yourself with a few yoga poses such as Tree Pose and Mediation Pose.  Visit a blog on yoga

Pull together your resources above and identify if your anxiety is more physical, emotional, or mental and approach it from that angle.  Regroup and give it a try.  YOU GOT THIS!!

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Rehearsals, Rehearsals, How Do I Keep Up with Practicing and Singing So Much?

In the crazy times of many, many rehearsals, how do you keep up your good vocal health and make time for your own practicing?  Many of us start to feel overloaded at this time of year.  Rehearsals for the school (or community) musical are in full swing, you have rehearsals for choir, and All Catholic or District Choir music on top of that.  How do you get it all done with your school or work load?  It is essential to be organized and healthy!

1. Make a plan for what absolutely must get done in a week.  A sample list might look like this:

-Study for math test Friday
-Practice repertoire for voice lessons
-Learn new song for musical
-Learn 2 songs for District Choir
-Workout 2-3x

2.  Determine how much time you need/want to devote to each activity

-Homework - 2 hours per night
-Study for math test Friday - 1/2 hour each night with 1 hour on Thursday
-Practice repertoire for voice lessons -4x this week at 30-45 minutes
-Learn new song for musical - 3x this week at 20 minutes
-Learn 2 songs for District Choir - 2x this week at 20 minutes
-Workout 2-3x

3.  Plan out what you will do each day and stick to it!!  Make sure to include time for relaxing or working out to keep your brain and body in check.  Some days will be easier than others to stick to your plan.  You may run over a little bit in different categories, but if you stick close to it, you will get it all done!  Put that phone and anything with social media attached to it in another room!  If you have time after all is done, then is your time to interact. 

3:00-4:00PM Homework
4:00-4:30PM Regular voice practice
4:30-4:50PM Song for Musical
4:50-5:10PM District Choir
5:15-5:45PM Study Math
6:00-7:00 Dinner and relax
7:00-8:00PM Finish Homework
8:00-10:00PM FREE TIME
10:00PM  Go to Bed!

3:00-5:00 Play Practice (musical song practice included)
5:00-6:00 Homework
6:00-6:30 Yoga
6:30-7:00 Dinner
7:00-7:45 Regular voice practice
7:45-8:00 District Choir Music
8:00-8:30 Study Math
8:30-9:30 Finish Homework

3:00-4:00PM Homework
4:00-4:30PM Regular voice practice
4:30-4:50PM Song for Musical
4:50-5:30PM Run on treadmill
5:15-5:45PM Study Math
6:00-7:00 Dinner and relax
7:00-8:00PM Finish Homework
8:00-10:00PM FREE TIME
10:00PM  Go to Bed!

3:00-5:00 Play Practice (musical song practice included)
5:00-6:00 Homework
6:00-6:30 Regular voice practice
6:30-7:00 Dinner
7:00-8:00 Study Math
8:00-8:15 District Choir
8:30-9:30 Finish Homework

You worked hard all week, take a break or using singing as a fun break!  Paint a picture, go out with friends.  Have a busy weekend?  Get a head-start on planning out what you need to accomplish next week.  Not too  much going on over the weekend, make a plan to get ahead on work for next week!

Be Healthy
Always make time for being healthy and make it a priority.  Most importantly:

- Get at least 8 hours of sleep each night
- Drink lots of water (64oz daily is ideal)
- Fuel your body with healthy food
- Make time for exercise
- Wash your hands frequently
- Make time for free time/relaxation (especially some without technology)!

With a little planning, there is time to make everything happen and to feel good about it all!

Enjoy everyday and make life your own masterpiece! Susan Anders Brizick

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Sick but Singing? "Ah the Joys of Singing in Winter"

Sick but Singing? "Ah, the Joys of Singing in Winter....."

The winter season is filled with singing, concerts, and shows.  What do you do if you find yourself sick?  Despite our best efforts to stay healthy, sometimes we do catch that cold.

First take a minute and assess if you have to do the performance or not.  If you are in the chorus, maybe you can back off a little bit on a song or two.  If you are the soloist or lead maybe not.  If it hurts when you are singing, really take a moment to re-evaluate your technique.  If the show must go on.....

Be Smart

Take care of yourself physically.  Get extra sleep, drink lots of water, wash your hands, take extra vitamin C, stay warm, avoid talking if you don't need to.  Do anything that will support your immune system and get you better.

Take care of yourself mentally.  Think about what you can and cannot do about the situation and get a little mental R & R.  Don't go overboard with the ramifications, just make a plan.

Take some time to take an unemotional and honest look at how the sickness is affecting your voice. Sore throats often lead to a raised larynx and reduce vocal power and resonance.  Swelling of the mucous membranes absorb some of your sound and affect your resonance.  If the cold has gone to your chest, it may impact your ability to rapidly fill your lungs for good breath support.  General aches can impair your endurance.  Figure out how this illness if affecting your singing.

After you do this, make rational adjustments.  Reduce your expectations a little bit.  You may not sound as you usually do.  Maybe that high C is not going to be as loud as you know it can be, maybe you need to add a few breaths into phrasing to help you, maybe you need to increase your support or warm up for more time than usual.  It is best to get through a performance by singing on cue and in tune than worry about subtle changes.  Showing up and showing professionalism is part of a singer's life and everyone will understand.  In the meantime do your best to relieve your symptoms and get better so you can do your best on that day!  Remind yourself that you will wake up again tomorrow and the next time you sing you will be well and astound everyone!

Many singing greats have had to make the show go on and admit they learned something from singing with a cold.  Opera singer, Renee Fleming, states in her autobiography that she truly learned to sing when she was sick.  She could no longer cheat on my technique and get away with it, she had to listen to her body and trust her technique to get her through.

This is not encouraging you to sing if you are very sick or if your throat hurts, but a means to help you get through it when you need to.  Of course, the ideal would be to take care of yourself to the point that you never get sick (but let's be realistic, we do), but be smart if the show must go on.

Dr. Jahn's Advice (Professor of Clinical Otolaryngology at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and author for Classical Singer):

-Make a realistic appraisal of whether you really need to sing or can cancel.
-Make an unemotional checklist of how your vocal production is impaired
-Develop a strategy for working around those impairments,
-Use medications and adjustments in technique
-Accept a philosophical attitude toward a temporary setback

Stay healthy and smart about your singing!

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

New Year's Resolutions 2019 for Singers Only!

Image result for happy new year

As we enter the seasonal New Year Resolutions, I find myself making new resolutions for my singing, teaching, and personal life.  Make the resolutions realistic and attainable.  Maybe you just need to get more organized or take more time for you to be more effective in your practice. Make your own tree of resolutions that can grow throughout the year.  What can you resolve to do to make yourself a better singer, better, student, better teacher, better you?  A few things always come to mind for me:

1. Make a schedule of practicing and stick to it!

2. Pick a focus for each practice session.

3. Set goals for singing for myself (and my students).

4. Make a timeline to achieve those goals.

5. Sing just for the sake of singing a few times a week.

6. Workout (cardio and/or yoga) 3-5 times per week.  Do what suits you and your mind.

7. Drink lots of water and try to get 8 hours of sleep per night.

8. Take 10 minutes a day (or more if you can) to do something for yourself.

9. Tell people in your life how much they mean to you and take the time to say "Thank you" or "I love you."

10.  Breathe when it seems too much and regroup.  It will all work out.

This may seem like a long list.  They are little attainable goals.  I think I can make them work.  Take what you like, disregard what you do not.   Regardless, do your best to make 2019 a happy, prosperous, and wonderful year!