All posts by admin

Singers Integrity

It is a mystery to someone of tribal heritage as to why a person brought up in a western city can’t sing.  Many singers need to travel backwards to find what it is that has locked up natural voicing.

One important thing gets very overlooked.  It is simply the power of choice.  Choice is a fundamental power of the human experience.  So authority and how we think of that sometimes needs to be considered and really understood.  Ultimately singers need to be their own authority.  Of course that won’t happen in a choir so choral singers often find the voice lesson studio to be  challenging experience.

There are choices that matter when it comes to vocal health and expression.  Empowering some of those small choices may not seem powerful at all but choices that seem insignificant can effect our sensitivity and well-being and therefore what we express and show to the world.

Generally a singer will present with a number of concepts that they almost understand or they may have a list of things that they feel they need to know.  At other times they might present with excuses for not being able to sing.  If all those singers do is try harder, the difficulties may become chronic and blame even plays out.

Choice is powerful.  This is why some singers are terrified of the consequence of being held accountable for their vocal choices.  “I don’t know” becomes an answer because the brain is thinking about what we might feel and the heart and head are not working together.  When this is the case, choices get postponed.

So here’s a few steps for choices along the vocal journey.  Remember that this is the part that doesn’t always get talked about.

1  Decision to be in Integrity

Don’t betray yourself by trying to impress or forcing others to please you.  An honest singer will go a long way.  People who have a moral crisis will blame others who make choices that they should have made themselves.  They then express their confusion through their body language and vocal tone.

2  Don’t pass on your Anxiety, pass on your Wisdom

Many great singers have experienced a lot of suffering.  Healing is not about forgetting.  It is about moving on and not being defeated.  Great singers are often great healers.

3  Choice to take risks – Don’t wait for proof

Fear of humiliation and failure that may not even happen can hinder expression.  This needs to be acknowledged for what it is.   Don’t take the safe path.  Don’t look backwards for guidance.  There is nothing back there.  That part is over.  Choose to go forward.

4  Be Grateful

The act of singing makes us feel alive.  It is a great escape when life is hard and there is room to be creative.  Be thankful that you have a voice and for the gift of communication it provides.

Music is a Conversation

Hi Singers

In 1984 I moved to Australia.  I really wanted to get into the WA Academy of Performing Arts known to many as the WAAPA.  I was also searching for other groups interested in Opera, as nobody in Perth knew who I was.  I was privileged to go to many classical music concerts and one such concert featured a clarinet player.  After the concert I was introduced to the musician and I told him how much I had enjoyed his concerto.  He looked at me with absolute distain and told me it was a sonata and then ignored me.  The enjoyment I had felt turned to shame and brought up many old feelings of not being good enough.  I didn’t react outwardly but in the years that followed, I did study music full time at the WAAPA and later the Queensland Conservatorium of Music.  I learned what separated each musical period and yes I studied sonata form as well as instrumentation, arranging, orchestration, different types of opera, dance suites, renaissance madrigals, the introduction of various instruments into an orchestra etc.   I learned how to write a critical analysis of a symphony with the best of them and I continue to learn.

 

I have never made the uneducated comment again of mistaking a concerto for a sonata in the context of classical music.   I have however learned a lot about contemporary music from my students. Some might think that as a teacher, I would find this humbling.  Actually I find it musical because music is a conversation and every musician expresses himself or herself differently coming from their own completely valid experiences.  Music is also an incredible power and so it’s important to keep powerful communication open and not disempower by dismissing others or overpower by ignoring others.  Balance is essential to every part of music making.

 

It’s a pity I didn’t know that in 1984.  I was young, lacking in confidence and I was in a new place with nobody to ask.  There was no google in those days!  My strategy was to learn as much as I could so that I would never be caught out like that again.  Actually, there was nothing wrong with me in the first place!  We all know what we know and the non-musician knows what they like and what they don’t like.  Comments that suggest that there is something we need to learn before we can have permission to say what we find enjoyable when listening to music are very unfortunate.

 

So for me, some reclaiming has happened.  I think reclamation is a common theme in my teaching studio as I enjoy the privilege of watching singers and musicians unlock those barriers to creativity that have sometimes been hidden away for many years.

Using Your Voice in the World

I’ve often said that singing reveals the best and worst of everything.  As the singer takes each new step they reveal parts of themselves.  Re-framing, having the courage to really look and update beliefs about voicing and expression are also part of voice training.  Having the firmness to say what needs to be said is different to venting or gossiping.  The directness of theatre training brought about by time constraints encourages singers to speak clearly and say what they need as opposed to complaining, criticising or getting defensive.  If each singer has what they need they can be responsible for themselves.  It’s not a journey that’s for everybody but language is important whether it is via a lyric, what is said in rehearsal or through musicality.  Expressive language is powerful so if we can use that power wisely and articulate truthfully as opposed to acting out old pain it makes for a better world.

Preparation and Performance

Some of my studio workshops like Anchoring, Breathing and Vocal Placement are very important ones and I advise singers do these workshops as often as they can.  Other workshops are one-offs and usually relevant to some singers who have asked about different areas of musicality or vocal technique.  Sometimes workshops are scheduled as part of the semester for a given group but private students (especially those who don’t come every week) and group students who have time to do a bit extra are encouraged to book in for any studio workshop or masterclass that interests them.

I think the workshop Preparation and Performance could also be classified as a very important one.  The lessons of performing provide a different training ground.  Singers learn about professional respect, being in step, holding space, maintaining authenticity, working under pressure and understanding the big picture.  

Understanding that a commitment to a date is part of preparation etc. may seem basic but it isn’t as cut and dry as it might seem.  Preparation and Performance is about knowing where you can stretch yourself but it’s also about respecting your limitations.  Commitment is part of preparation so understanding exactly what your important role is can be vital to the smooth running of your special song at a wedding, family event or professional engagement.
Part of your preparation is understanding your audience.  Sometimes concerts are amped up so high that it doesn’t matter what an audience does.  Other performances motivate the audience to participate or dance but classical music concerts, choral concerts and performances that are not amplified usually require full engagement from the audience. 

There will be some discussion about studio concerts in my teaching space as many singer who attend this workshop use this space to practice these important skills.    I am not the teacher at a studio concert.  This is your time to show your professionalism and I watch, listen and learn a lot about the singers during that time.  

preparation-and-performance