The Ideal Chorister!

Happiness-Singing-Choir_smChoral season has begun, and here is my description of The Ideal Chorister. These ideas are for EVERYONE, regardless of level of ability or experience. I know beginners who are better Ideal Choristers than professional singers, so I hope this list is useful for everyone!

The Ideal Chorister!

Arrive on Time (or before) for rehearsal

It takes time to build a safe, creative atmosphere, but only a second to destroy it. Habitually coming late to rehearsal pulls focus from our work to you. I know that people get stuck in traffic or have to come straight from work or a child situation, but persistent latecomers aren’t showing respect for others, and are often the ones who would benefit most from the voice training and stress-busting warm up.

Please note, before rehearsal is not the best time to ask your director a question or chat. There are a lot of moving parts for a successful rehearsal and he/she is preparing mentally for the marathon that it is.

Pitch In to the Best of Your Ability

It’s all too easy to let your choir director or other singers in your section do all the work. Yes, the director is in charge, but the final result depends on every single individual in the choir. It’s no good thinking that your fellow singers will back you up and cover you through the bits you don’t know that well. If every singer in the choir thought that, there would be no choir. Everybody has a place in the choir or you would not be here.

Please try to attend regularly, to know your part, to stay aware of rehearsal schedules, to listen to the director and so on. Those of you who wear hearing aides, please do wear them,  adjust them frequently and carry an extra set of batteries!

Develop Self-Awareness and Self-Monitoring

Many people walk through life not really paying attention. Or they are focused on things that are not in their best interest. Or they are aware of everything and can not focus on their role as a chorister!  Become aware of when you are humming your part when you are supposed to be silent. Become aware of how your constant chair shuffling is distracting to others. Turn off your cell phone, of if you must take a call, excuse yourself quietly and walk out of the room to talk.

Please do not cross in front of the director after rehearsal has started.

Please do not wear perfume or scented creams or lotions. Many people are allergic to these things and have trouble breathing around them.

Self-awareness means being present and engaged in the moment. This can be developed by focusing on the warm ups each session which assists in the transition between your busy daily life and the joy of being in a choir.  Many church choirs don’t really have an effective warm-up because the conductor is a keyboard artist and responsible for covering a huge amount of material.  YOU have to take charge of your warming-up before rehearsal, perhaps in your car before you arrive.

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http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/thewashingtonvocalconsor (medium-high)

Always have a pencil and lightly mark your score with everything the conductor wants.  If you are singing by rote or by ear, use memory games to remember what you are asked to do with the music.  You can even draw a “music map” to show repeats, dynamics, word changes, etc.

Trust

Sometimes it can feel very uncomfortable to be in the middle of a learning process. When you first start to learn a new song it can feel frustrating that you can’t hear or get your part. Even when you’ve been singing a song for a while, you might still keep tripping over some of the words.

Try not to get frustrated, but give yourself up to the process and trust that it will come out right in the end. Your director has a vision for the song that you might not understand, and you have to trust that the process is going somewhere good. In this choir, feel free to make mistakes. That is one very important way to learn.

Practice Empathy, not Sympathy

Stay strong within yourself but respect others. We don’t know what’s going on in someone’s life, or what they have experienced. And don’t try to be helpful unless someone asks. Your attempt to be helpful might tick someone off, and your job as a chorister is to tend to yourself.

Develop a sense of the whole

While you are focused on your own part or hearing the voices immediately around you, try to get a sense of the whole choir. Hear the harmonies working and observe the balance of voices.

Ideally you can hear your own voice, but never louder or more pronounced than the voices around you.  If you can not hear yourself, you are singing too softly, and if yours is the only voice you hear, tone it down.  This is relative, of course. Some voices are larger and more present than others, while other voices are insecure or ill-produced.

While I do not have a huge operatic voice, it is a very present lyric soprano, and I usually have had to sing medium-soft (“mp”) as a base-line, most of the time I am singing in any kind of  choir, which takes a great amount of flexibility and energy. There will always be ill-produced sounds that can be heard louder than well-produced singing.  As a colleague of mine says,  “Ugly will sound louder than beautiful every time.”

It’s not up to me or you to sing louder than ugly, frankly. It is up to us to allow music through us.

Keep on Smiling, Keep on Smiling

Maybe this is the most important aspect of all. Find the humor in any situation. This includes in the person standing next to you who constantly sings the wrong note – loudly! Exist in a relaxed, alert and playful place.

This is the place where music-making and learning, in other words, THE MAGIC, happens!

Cate Frazier-Neely
http://www.catefrazierneely.com
http://www.levinemusic.org

Clairsentience as a Teaching Tool, Part III

These posts are an introduction to a topic that is never discussed in academia or professional organizations, yet can be a crucial part of vocal pedagogy for 1 in 20 teachers. Please see the first two posts in this 3-part series HERE.

One possible definition of an Empath and/or Clairsentient is one who gathers information in ways other than with the five senses, usually experiencing the “energy” of others as physical sensations within their own bodies.

In the first two posts, I discussed these intuitive types in general. But here are some practical tools for Empaths and Clairsentients who are teaching music and voice privately, in groups or classes, or who conduct rehearsals.

For private teachers during lessons:

1. This first idea is from Dr. Sarah Adams Hoover. Take 4 small stones and place them on one side of your keyboard or in a pocket. You are to move each stone from one side of the piano (or change pockets) to the other, at 4 different times during the lesson. Take about 7-10 seconds to move the stone over, feeling each fully with your hand and fingers. Use this time and the physical sensations of feeling the stones to return to your own consciousness and your own body.

Breathe fully and release your breath by blowing out quietly while deliberately pulling your abdominal muscles in.

2. When you take a drink of water, take a full 5-10 seconds to feel the water move down your throat before you return to fully listening or speaking. Take a moment in gratitude that you are ingesting clean water as you need it.

3. Place a tennis ball or other small therapeutic ball by your feet. Remove your shoe and roll the ball under your foot, massaging as you bring awareness into your feet.

Each of these tools brings you back to your own self, as opposed to reaching to merge energetically with the other person. These are ways to begin to learn to turn your Empath gifts OFF at will, rather than unknowingly being a drive-through for each student’s emotional state. Clairsentience will remain but recede momentarily to give your body a chance to center. This also gives you the option to test whether or not you are truly picking up another’s issues or, if in fact, you are projecting your own stuff onto them.

4. Begin every lesson with a few seconds with your empathy turned OFF, and set your intent to be of help to the student as well as honor your own body.

People without these gifts, or who have rolled their eyes at them for whatever reason, can not begin to know the depth of your experience. My own husband and children could not accept these gifts in me until I accepted them in myself. I was always thinking THEIR way was better and constantly trying to emulate them. You can not imitate others. You have to accept yourself. We hear this over and over and it can be so long in coming!

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For leading groups:

1. Being well-organized with a group plan in place every single class or rehearsal keeps you on track. When you have been doing this for years and years, it becomes easy to coast, but then the tendency to become diffuse through endless merging with the crowd energy easily takes over.

I would not be able to lead with what business schools are calling ‘Resonant Leadership’ if I did not take the time to be organized. This includes regular moderate exercise, meditation/prayer, nutritionally sound meals and regular “play.”

2. In order to stay centered and lead effectively, I set up my room early and then usually leave and do not return until a few minutes before rehearsal starts. I can not visit with people before rehearsal because I will automatically start to merge with their energy and it pulls my focus from the task at hand. I have asked choir members NOT to speak with me before rehearsals, and need to remind them of this from time to time. There are always those who need your attention to feel good about themselves and I have learned to draw limits. They will continue to come at you until they learn. Sort of like parenting…

3. I treat myself seriously as someone who needs to gather energy from inside myself before proceeding and leading effectively. (Introverted personality.)

3. I try to make sure I am vocally warm-up. (see posts on Healing Vocal Fold Paralysis.)

4. I use a microphone, not only as I recover from the paralysis, but because I have come to value the energy it takes to project continually. This is especially true for rooms full of children, those over 65 and in rooms that have noisy fans blowing or old air conditioners. Most singers take pride in their ability to project and I know several classroom teachers who boast of their ability to be heard. Good for them. But as a recovering vocal paralysis patient, Clairsentient and Empath, a microphone helps me focus on the sound of my own voice while I am helping others find their voice. It returns me to myself in the midst of what used to feel like a chaotic ocean of propelling through others’ auras and energies.

The results are well worth it, for the group as well as me. Music, Joy and Learning fill almost every second of rehearsal. Personality conflicts and special needs’ students don’t suck up as much of my time and energy.

I have had to learn to accept and hone my particular gifts as well as let go of ego defenses that I built up over a lifetime to protect the gifts in the first place.

When you teach, you are teaching who you ARE even more than what techniques you use or what you have learned.

Mid-Life Manifesto

Sunset+Beach+North+Carolina

“I no longer have patience for certain things, not because I’ve become arrogant, but simply because I reached a point in my life where I do not want to waste more time with what displeases me or hurts me.

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I have no patience for cynicism, excessive criticism and demands of any nature. I lost the will to please those who do not like me, to love those who do not love me and to smile at those who do not want to smile at me. I no longer spend a single minute on those who lie or want to manipulate.

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I decided not to coexist anymore with pretense, hypocrisy, dishonesty and cheap praise. I do not tolerate selective erudition nor academic arrogance. I do not adjust either to popular gossiping. I hate conflict and comparisons.

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I believe in a world of opposites and that’s why I avoid people with rigid and inflexible personalities.

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In friendship I dislike the lack of loyalty and betrayal. I do not get along with those who do not know how to give a compliment or a word of encouragement.

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…. And on top of everything I have no patience for anyone who does not deserve my patience.

– Meryl Streep

All photos taken by Cate Frazier-Neely

Columbia Heights’ Farmers’ Market/Washington, DC

Scenes from a trip to a farmer’s market in Columbia Heights–an area of Washington, DC

Farmer’s Market food colors and shapes are better than porn as far as I am concerned….

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What do you suppose is in here? Need to find out sometime.

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