Part I, Journal of a Richard Miller Week

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I recently came across a journal I kept during five days of intensive teacher training with the great vocal pedagogue and singer, Richard Miller, at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1994 . It is a combination of notes, observations and feelings–but not a standard academic report.  That’s how I roll.

It is also record of how far we’ve come as teachers, because now, much of this information is considered standard fare in masters and doctoral programs and continuing education workshops, webinars and CD courses.   But back then, it was not, and few people had access to the Internet regularly.

At this point in life, I had been teaching 14 years, established a credible performance career regionally in contemporary chamber music and had two young children.  I also was in a slow, debilitating physical decline due to an as-yet unidentified double gene mutation which causes massive endocrine dysfunction.

May 21, 199Been looking forward to this week in Nashville to study with Richard Miller for a long time.  This damn travel anxiety messed with me on the way to the airport and I am already missing the kids even though I am looking forward to a break.  Breathe into belly and exhale.  Breathe and exhale.  A thought flits across my consciousness: “your knowledge comes from your belly and heart, not from your head.”  2.5 hour layover in St. Louis from DC where I get to read a book for more than a few minutes before being interrupted by little Neely’s age 2 and 6.  Arriving in Nashville, there’s my sweet baby bro, smiling and waiting with a big hug to pick me up and take me to his house.  I get to see Benjamin. (my brother’s first child)

May 22, 1994

Systematic Vocal Technique, first session with Miller

There are 50 voice teachers from around the world here.  I met 4 teachers from the DC area already.

His comment that “The process of staying in the inspiratory position has no counterpart in speaking except for stage speech” really strikes me.  Miller uses a microphone to teach. There’s static on the amp. EEK! How can a room full of voice teachers stand this?

Breath Management is establishing the cycle of Inspiration with Onset/ Phonation and Renewal. Air seeks to fill its reservoir at its lowest point.  Atmospheric pressure should lead to subglottic pressure.

Fast staccato on one pitch    mm  mm  mm  ha ha ha

Miller calls the ‘rectus abdominus’ the outer shell for all the muscles of singing–not as important as the external and internal obliques, etc.  I guess I have been focused on this sheet of muscle because of all the abdominal surgeries over the past 4 years.  Perhaps the rectus is the only muscle I can feel right now due to scar tissue and trauma??

Miller suggests starting warm-ups with “onset exercises”

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He says “we’ve been brought up with too many vocal myths.  Cites a quote by Lamperti “do not crowd the lungs with breath, but satisfy them.”  He says that British oratorio circles advocate upper back breathing, which collapses the sternum.  I want to ask him more about this but he has requested that we note all our questions and ask them at the end of the week in a Question session.

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The diaphragm expands sideways more than down.  Miller frequently cites faulty teaching he’s observed by artists and clinicians at NATS’ functions.

  1. The Voice is an Acoustical Instrument
  2. The Voice is a Physiological Instrument, therefore it must go by the laws of acoustics and basic physiology

Miller disagrees with the statement that “all voice teachers are after the same thing,”  No we are not–there are too many tonal ideals, he says.  I am glad to hear this because every time a colleague says that, I think “nope.” Just listening to all the voice teachers at American University (where I was adjunct at the time) and what’s going on in their studios and in juries… wow.

Lordy I miss my babies.  I am listening to Miller and taking notes, but my heart feels sad- mother-lonely-longing sighs.

He is discussing the German “grunt and hold” technique:  Take a breath and grunt to cut it off, then let go at the throat and begin to sing without losing thoracic pressure.  Says it is not necessary to prepare to breathe!

There is a relationship between onset and agility.

He REALLY nixes “squeezing the anal sphincter” because there are sphincters all over the body and they all respond at the same time.  Please, no “pinch a penny’ or ‘hold a coin in your bum.’  People really try to sing that way??????? People really teach it????? Why???????

The most efficient coordinated singing will also be the most appealing to the ear.

It is very easy in any “system” to go rigid.  Do agility exercises.

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He suggests using the term “support” only with the body’s structural system, not with muscles.  You can not have the appoggio without starting with the structural system.  He is assuming we all know what appoggio is, at least intellectually.  I am feeling like a dum-dum.

The singing voice as a Tripartite Instrument:  1.  Motor Source (breath management) 2. The Vibrator (larynx) and 3.  The Resonator (supraglottal or vocal tract)

In a balanced and free structural support, you must be able to hop on one foot. (visual image of 50 of us all clattering to our feet to hop about like the Dufflepuds in the Narnia series)

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Reminder-the front lower ribs are attached to each other–it is the back ribs that float.

When the sternum falls, the rib cage HAS to cave in and the diaphragm HAS to mount.

He talks about physical types of bodies and how that influences breathing.  I wish he’d talk more about this.  It seems crucial.

The ideal is a balance among all four of the following muscle groups:
pectoral, epigastral, umbilical, pubic (hypogastral)

He says most teachers emphasize one or two over others.  He is showing us pictures of muscles before resonators on purpose.  Slides show origins and insertions of thoracic and pelvic muscles.  These slides show me why the chiropractic and body work have been so integral to starting to reestablish health after all my surgeries.

I’m hungry and my focus has gone to the beach.  I may have met a distant cousin who is a voice teacher, too.  We know enough about Frazier family history that there seems to be a connection.

  • Coming Up Next: Part II, Journal of a Richard Miller week

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seven Lessons for Voice Teachers…

….from Thirty-Seven years of teaching singing.

  1.  Allow Yourself the Uncomfortable Luxury of Changing Your Mind

Ours is a culture where one of the most embarrassing things a professional  can do is not to have answers and strong opinions.  If a voice teacher is smart and emotionally mature,  they are continually learning and changing, even if it means abandoning cherished beliefs to make room for deeper understanding of their craft.   There is no shame in this.   Always be open to learning knew things or new ways of saying what you know.

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     2.  Do Nothing Out of Guilt, Prestige, Status, Money or Approval Alone.

This is definitely counter-culture in America.  These kinds of extrinsic motivators are fine and can feel life-affirming in the moment, but ultimately they don’t make it thrilling to get up in the morning and gratifying to go to sleep at night–and, in fact, they sometimes distract and detract from your work.

As a teaching artist you are “selling” who you are as well as your knowledge and experience.  This is the secret to building and maintaining a thriving voice studio.   Continually, seek, find and maintain a balance of inner and outer motivators.

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     3.  Be Generous.

With your time and resources, and with giving credit where credit is due. It does not diminish your worth to give credit to another colleague or singer.

It is much easier to be a critic than a celebrator.  (Believe me, I know…) To understand and be understood are among life’s greatest gifts, and every interaction is an opportunity to exchange them.

This is different than letting people walk all over you or to work for nothing.  Very few people know or care what goes into being a teacher of singing and guess what–they don’t need to know.   You know, and so you value yourself.  Turn kindness on yourself at every opportunity and you will be able to shine joy onto others while sharing knowledge, modeling, or building an instrument or group of singers.

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      4.  When people try to tell you who You are, don’t believe them

Maya Angelou once advised that when people tell you who they are, believe them.  I can add, when they SHOW you who they are, believe them. However, when people try to tell you who YOU are, don’t believe them. You are the only custodian of your own integrity, and the assumptions made by those that don’t get you and what you stand for say more about them and their littleness and absolutely nothing about you.

This took me a long time to really live.  But it is truth.

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      5.  Build pockets of stillness and gratitude into your life

Meditate, go for walks, exercise, ride your bike going nowhere in particular.  Be as religious and disciplined about your sleep as you are about your work–the ability to get by on little sleep is NOT a badge of honor that validates a work ethic but a profound failure of self-respect.

Seek endocrine health and nutrition–which will make or break your sleep.  As a woman of a certain age, my endocrine health determines my ability to do all the above and more.

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6.  Presence is far more intricate and rewarding an art than productivity.

Another counter-culture move.  As Annie Dillard, the American writer says, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

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       7.  Expect anything worthwhile to take a long time.

The myth of the overnight success is just that, a myth–the flower doesn’t go from bud to blossom in one burst, yet as a culture we’re disinterested in the tedium of blossoming.  But that’s where all the real magic unfolds in the making of our character and destiny.

So go make some magic.

To transform breath into sound is the stuff of miracles!

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Singing, Teaching and the Healing Arts

IMG_0450 Recently I looked up “Ancient Roots of Singing.”

The first article listed in the Search Engine was a 2013 article about the Grammy-award winning work of an oncologist who uses music to help heal his patients.

Science is catching up to what musicians have known for 10,000 years. So now that science is catching up, music as a healing modality, is suddenly worthy of an article on Grammy.com.

And the first person featured is a scientist, not a musician.

Even though the ways that music heals are countless, and many healers, musicians, teachers and other professionals have applied music in intentional healing ways for millenia, it is a first for healing-based music to attain the high-profile status of this Manhattan-based oncologist. The article completely glosses over the Grammy-award nomination of Steven Halpern for his healing/meditation album several years earlier.

But more importantly, what is “healing-based music?” This has been foremost in my mind as a teacher of singing and musician for most of my life.

I think the answer lies in the intent of the musician and in the intent of the teacher. If either is full of Ego, music may impress, or amuse, or flatten back the ears, but it won’t heal. Healing-based music stitches together the body, mind, heart and soul into a more complete tapestry for both the singer and the listener. The web is chock-full of videos of teachers and their students showing off unmusical belting, whistle tones and screaming, as if that is what singing is about.

And by the way, as some of you know, I am in a long recovery for the condition of severe vocal fold paralysis, and it is interesting that I can now “belt”, use whistle tones and even scream, but I can not yet SING. One is not the other.

Belting, whistle tones and healthy screams can be tools for expression, but are not a way to sing through a song or show or role. (classical singers, I include you in this–I am appalled at the number of videos on the web of singers heaving and pushing their way through opera arias. While sometimes impressive, I, as the listener, am caught wondering how it will end–will you crash and burn, or will we all be left standing at the end…not a great musical experience for either of us, although I am sure you have reasons for forcing yourself into Queen of the Night or Violetta…and by the way, the great Beverly Sills did not publicly perform the Queen until she was 35 years old.)

But I digress.

Some music expresses for us what we can not express, but that does not automatically mean it heals. Perhaps it expresses anger or violation or injustice, but the qualities of the music keep us stuck in those feeling states. That does not lead to healing, either. In order to heal, there has to be some sort of alchemical process, catharsis, transformation or change of the physical structure of our bodies at a profound level. This is the stuff of great theater and great music and great teaching. To transform, transport and help us to imagine ourselves as part of Something Greater.

And when you, as a singer or teacher, become transformed or healed through your work, you automatically transform others around you. It has become a daily practice for me to silently state this intent, before every lesson I teach or every choir or group workshop I lead, to be an instrument of healing and positive change. Both for the singers and for myself.

Then I use specific and very practical tools and exercises, plus my manner of working, to coax physical, mental and emotional change slowly, at the student’s pace, over time. This is the heart of Somatic ReEducation, and it must happen before a singer is completely free to release the music in them and communicate with an audience.

Now what is interesting about this is that you might light a healing change in a listener or a student which causes them to face things in themselves they can not face. That is not your issue. Do not accept their projections of their issues onto you. The process of change is often not easy and requires time and energy to work with an effective healer/teacher/musician.

Singers and singing teachers work with transforming breath into sound. While we take this alchemy for granted, it is the stuff of miracles.

Be on your way to transforming–yourself, your listener or your student–that is the ancient understanding of the arts that translates to today. The ways and methods we alchemically heal may change, but the basic premise of singing and music as healing arts never will.

Creating Singing Work for Museums and Art Galleries

Creating a market for singing as a professional singer often requires thinking outside the box and seeing opportunities where others see nothing.

From 1985-2005 I was successful in creating programs and performing opportunities which were brought into many museums and art galleries in the Washington, DC area.

Combining art and music has always been a passionate interest. When I studied Latin and Greek in high school (hey, I wanted to, so there) I found out about the Greek work “ekphrasis,” which originally referred to the various perspectives of an object that a visual artist was painting or sculpting. It has come to mean poetry and prose written to describe visual art, and by extension, song and music written to describe visual art. For an opera history project in graduate school, I chose Paul Hindemith’s “Mathis der Mahler” to survey and was completely blown away by the story of the painter Mathias Grunwald told through the music of Hindemith.

Pavarotti, Joni Mitchell and Jerry Garcia are just a few musicians who all painted. Many singers I know are jewelry designers and artisan craftspeople. And it is most interesting for me to see this passed down to our adult son, Adam Neely, who has twice won the national young jazz composers’ ASCAP award as well as a grant from The Jerome Foundation.  He hears in color. (synesthesia.)

Anyway, I went into all that so you would see why pursuing work in museums and art galleries was a major love for me. I did it because it was an expression of my core self.

Here are some questions about this topic posed by singer Tiffany Thorpe on the New Forum for Classical Singers on Facebook. I asked Tiffany if I could use her questions as a jumping off point for this post and she agreed.

Tiffany: How would I go about proposing something like this to a gallery owner? How do I start the conversation?

Moi: I realize that things are quite different from even five years ago, but I think some things are the same. All my programs were built around what was being exhibited, and sometimes included poetry about the art or the subject of the exhibition. (I just got a Facebook message from Victoria Kirsch out in L.A. who has programmed in a similar manner!) This means that before you approach the museum programs’ director or gallery owner, do your homework. Find out what exhibits are planned for the next two years. Some exhibits are easier to plan music around than others.

(There is a great deal of research and imagination that goes into planning music around an exhibit but I love that kind of thing.)

Then you email the contact person, with their name spelled correctly, and introduce yourself. If you are not associated with an organization, say that you are a professional singer who specializes in integrating visual art with music. Even if you’ve done this only with children as a teacher or parent, that counts. Ask if they would be interested in collaborating with you on a program of music related to xyz exhibition. Always mention that it would be beneficial to the gallery/museum to combine audiences and that you would be able to bring in people to a program that might not visit the exhibit otherwise.

Along the way, sometimes I found out about a concert series that I did not know about—this was partially before the Internet. I actually cold-called a few program directors and got immediate positive results. Do not mention money or funding at this point unless they bring it up. Usually, if they are interested, they will respond to your email asking for a proposal or ask you what you have in mind.

Tiffany: What’s in it for them? What’s the normal percentage of ticket sales for the gallery owner or small venue to take?

Me: 1) You will be bringing more people into their space who would normally not be there and 2) help them to connect into the greater arts’ community via any publicity you generate. Think of your friends, work associates, students, church or temple connections, gym, child’s play group, book club, etc.and estimate how many people you might be able to draw in personally.

Financial or Other Compensation was different for each of my experiences. Each concert was negotiated differently, and each time I got smarter. Here are seven selected experiences to give you some ideas.

1984—Bethune Museum Archives, Washington, DC. (first meeting place for the National Council of Negro Women. ) Back then, The Washington Post had two arts’ reviewers who were known to be sympathetic to up-and-coming musicians. I contacted one of them, Calvin Le Compte, and let him know I had created a program of classical songs by African-American female composers (lots of time spent in the Library of Congress—pre-Google,) and he introduced me to the museum’s curator. She managed to come up with a tiny honorarium from The National Parks’ Service, but Le Compte wrote a wonderful review that appeared in the Post. The museum did a fair amount of publicity in their materials, which got my name out.

1986—My former chamber ensemble, The Amoroso Chamber Consort, performed for an afternoon Tea at Strathmore Mansion in North Bethesda, Maryland. This is a venue that has a small art gallery and concert hall. All the songs had to do with food or drink, including the soprano aria from the Bach Coffee Cantata. Their first financial offer was just tea and crumpets in exchange for our services. I said no. The negotiation went back and forth several times, but we eventually settled on–they would do their usual publicity, and pay us through another source other than the Tea IF we agreed to perform two sets back to back, and if we filled 3 tables with ticket-buying customers. I also reduced the ensemble from 5 to 3 people, and we made a decent wage.

1989–This same venue sponsored a John Cage Retrospective with him in attendance– both his art and music. I called the director of the John Cage Festival to pitch my wares and she asked for my resume and cassette demo. I did not get invited to do a program alongside Cage’s art installation, but I was invited to be the soprano in the John Cage Festival Orchestra! Note: I was the soprano IN the orchestra, not WITH the orchestra….and that score was very strange. And I got paid. And met John Cage.

1990—I approached a small art gallery in Kensington, MD, (now defunct) about bringing Hebrew and Sephardic songs to their gallery, as the gallery owner was Jewish and the art was very Chagall-like. She told me she already had a music series and put me in touch with their coordinator, who happened to be her husband. I auditioned for him and ended up singing 4 concerts with him and some fine instrumentalists. We shared ticket sales. Even though this wasn’t a big money-maker, the venue was 5 minutes from my home—I had a toddler then–and I didn’t have the responsibility of singing an entire new program. I got to perform some awesome chamber music. I did bring in many people to the gallery to hear me sing who would not have gone in normally.

2005—I noticed that the National Museum of Women in the Arts was sponsoring an exhibit called “Nordic Cool: Hot Female Designers,” and I cold-called their program director to offer a noon-time program featuring Nordic composers. I arranged a collaboration among them, me and Levine Music, where I received a faculty grant to execute this project. I typed up the program and Levine printed them for me. The museum contributed wonderful publicity and set up, including a tuned grand piano. The central rotunda, where the concert took place, was full. Later I would sing an evening program on their concert stage, with advance ticket sales of $20.00 a piece. We split the proceeds 50/50. That wasn’t as successful financially or in the way logistics were handled.

2007–This story is a good one. The Smithsonian Resident Associates program contacted me to do the Nordic program I had sung for the NMWA. They were having a Swedish festival and wanted the concert performed at the New House of Sweden, by the Potomac River, that had a new art exhibit of Nordic multi-media artists. Their financial offer was insultingly low and they would not budge. AND, get this–they actually asked me to bring a piano.

After I got over THAT, I said, seriously, “well, I have a portable Yamaha digital but you will have to pay ten times what you are offering. If you do that, I not only will get the piano to the venue, but you will have solved the piano situation and the musicians with this one phone call. I never dreamed they would accept it.

2008—I cold-called the Renwick Gallery in Washington, DC, when I noticed that they had an upcoming exhibit of American quilts. I offered them a program I had written about quilts and quilting several years before for a women’s chorus which I conducted. This is how I was paid: I formed another women’s chorus that met every week for 5 months to learn the program, and the women paid me a preset fee which was handled by a former student who acted as business manager. From that fee I paid my accompanist, paid for a good recording and the rental on the church room where we rehearsed. The second floor recital hall of the Renwick Gallery was packed with standing room only, and it was a wonderful experience for everyone. I am still in afterglow 6 years later! The museum printed the program for us and created beautiful posters and publicity.

General thoughts

1. Each situation is different and needs to be handled creatively, but I went into each conversation with information. I also knew what I could and could not live with in terms of pay and extra responsibilities. The Smithsonian was a weird one. If I didn’t have an athlete for a husband that piano would never have made it…

2. Be specific about what publicity they will do and what you will do. You will be responsible for creating copy and making sure it reads well. Don’t leave it up to them or your name will appear as Adele Dazeem.

3. Some places have a set fee and percentage for ticket sales, and some are open to negotiation. Do your homework, and above all, practice what you are going to say to just say it. Often your confident, relaxed delivery speaks volumes about what you are willing to accept.

4. Yes, it is a huge amount of work. That’s the business. Like I said, decide what you can and can not do.

5. If there are ticket sales involved, always have the museum or gallery handle that. You have more than enough to do, let alone the craft, artistry and maintaining physical health for singing.

Happy Singing and I hope this helps spear head some great collaborations!

Youtube Voice Lessons–Pros and Cons

Thanks to the wonders of the Web, there are millions of people in all businesses peddling their expertise, including voice teachers. Since I’ve been teaching singing privately and in workshops for a long time, I’ve watched this form of education and advertising mushroom over the years. Part of me is fascinated by the ease that many people have in front of the camera, and part of me hears what’s being said and watches anyway, like someone who is not able to look away from a horrible train wreck.

Recently I began contacting some video voice teachers who have many subscribers to their Youtube channels to ask questions. This is consistent with my history–if many people in my field are doing something, and I seem to be missing “why,” I ask “what do you get out of this?” Most of them were gracious with their time and honest in their answers, but some reminded me of “the olden days,” when voice teachers closely guarded their trade secrets.

There are some good voice teachers on the web, but in my opinion, they are few and far between. It is a great deal of work to make and produce a video voice lesson series, and most of the teachers I interviewed admitted that they have not seen much financial return for that work. They spend a great deal of time answering questions in the comments’ section, or get a Skype lesson or two out of it, but regular recurring students are a rarity. It seems to take about two to five years of making video lessons part of their regular work day, to start to get regular private students on Skype. My impression was that the number of students seeking Skype lessons does increase, which keeps income steady, although the retention rate is dismal.

For some teachers, possibly the advertising revenues from Google can be greater than income from teaching. One mid-20’s instrumental musician/teacher I interviewed says that he has made about $600–$700 from Google in the ten years he has sporadically posted video teaching lessons. He reminded me of something I have read consistently–that the key for getting students or increasing advertising income is to post regular and inspiring video content. More experienced video lesson teachers taper off making the videos after they have the work they want, and let their old video lessons continue to pull in students.

There are those who are making video lessons because they have a burning need to be famous or have true narcissistic issues, which can usually be spotted a mile away.

From what I have observed, creating video lessons makes great sense if you are trying to sell a book, educational material or fill a webinar, but it may not translate to more regular students unless they are Skype lessons.

There are two issues I have with many video voice teachers. And the fact that I have not made videos (yet) is not wasted on me….I get it. Those who have not done something easily cast stones. I know that things are different than when I began teaching singing 35 years ago and know that it is harder to navigate the market place. Or is it? After talking with video lesson teachers, I think that the same skill sets of ingenuity, creativity and hard work were necessary a generation ago as they are today. The difference is that academia is graduating many more musicians whose inbred qualities do not include those three attributes. Read Colvin’s Talent is Overrated.

Yet there are two things that are often missing in most video voice teachers that I feel are the foundation of being a good teacher of singing.

1. Knowledge of how the voice is supposed to work is only a PREREQUISITE for all good teachers of singing. And now, thanks to voice science and the evolution of the species called “the voice teacher,” we have voice teachers who know the science of how the body is supposed to work in the production of sound. Just because you have explained the science does not mean you know how to work with an individual over time.

YET in spite of this progress we still have voice teachers talking about doing something with nasal resonance, nasal cavities, the vague directive to “support from the diaphragm” and forward placement, all of which are SENSATIONS due to something happening efficiently elsewhere in the body, larynx, throat and mouth. I hear many video voice teachers talking science but sometimes it is not accurate. (Kind of like using “facts” in a political debate–you never know what is accurate and what is not. Thankfully, voice science is pretty straight forward.) But the unsuspecting public gets pulled in.

And, I repeat–if you happen to get your scientific facts straight, just because you know the accurate science behind how the larynx works, or just because you have figured out how it works in your own body and come up with your own terminology, it does not mean you know how to work with others because singing is such an individual act. You also need to be able to observe, sense and diagnose how and what is not working in another singer, much like a body worker or physical therapist. You need to understand a basic physics’ principal that where a tension is released, it must be picked up somewhere else in the body. Which means you need to observe and hear fine muscle movements with an eagle eye and ear. You need to understand how emotion (fear, anger, sadness, just to name a few emotions,) can be stored in the body and affect singing. And then know how to work with muscle groupings and the mind to help slowly release dysfunction and build up vocal function. And on top of all that, you must be, or have been, a good musician and/or singer yourself.

2. The greatest musicians and teachers are HUMBLE in the face of their art and the traditions from which they come. No voice teacher or musician or entertainer ever exists in a vacuum, however much they think they do. Many video voice teachers as a whole are not communicating anything other than that they have the answers and learned the answers themselves so they are the experts.

We live in a culture of Personality Worship. The problem is our cultural understanding of Humility. Sometimes the word is synonymous with being a door mat or mild-mannered. Humility, as an expert, comes from understanding you are where you are because of the work of others. It comes from knowing that the things you have “discovered” are indeed, worthy, but not because you have originated the idea. You might be the One to take an idea to the next level, but we are part of a web that reaches further than the internet, further than we can fathom. Becoming humble means you are in service to something Greater than Yourself and you are there to serve the student. How can one teacher be of service to everyone on the Web? It doesn’t work that way.

Video voice lessons are a great way for people to find out more about their own singing but the truth is, you learn to sing by singing. Which means that just about any video voice “tip” will be of help if it gets you singing or starting to practice more consciously.

I’ve found a few web voice teachers who are accurate, knowledgable, great singers, humble and have a great sense of humor. But let the buyer beware….they are few and far between.

Chamber Music for Soprano

cfn_82506_DSC6033In the 27 years I worked as a classical singer, I was incredibly lucky to sing a great deal of chamber music.

Chamber music fed my heart as a musician and collaborator.  In addition to performing standard chamber music repertoire such as “The Shepherd on the Rock” of Franz Schubert at the Goethe Institute in DC, and Bach’s solo arias with obligato instruments with The Washington Bach Consort, I worked for many years for the former American Women Composers, premiering numerous American works in 8 languages throughout the Mid-Atlantic and on the West Coast of the US. Eventually AWC absorbed into The International Alliance of Women in Music.

If you are looking for chamber music repertoire, here’s a partial list from those performing years. Back in the day, I had to go into downtown Washington,DC and the Library of Congress to research this stuff. Some of it may be hard to find, but it is worth a little sleuthing.

G.F. Handel–“No se emendera jamais,” Spanish Cantata, soprano, continuo (keyboard and cello)

Albert Rouseel–“Deux Poems de Ronsard,” soprano and flute

Johann Christian Bach–“Semplicetto, an cor…” (from the opera Endimoione) soprano, flute and piano

Arnold Cooke–“Three Songs of Innocence,” soprano, clarinet and piano

Aaron Copland–“As it Fell Upon the Day,” soprano, flute and clarinet

Gustav Holst–“Four Songs for Voice and Violin”

Virgil Thompson–“Five Phrases from the Song of Solomon,” soprano and percussion

Lynn Steele–“Breviario,” soprano and harp

Clare Shore–“Four Vocalises” for soprano and mandolin

Nancy Carrol–“Songs from the Heart of a Child,” Soprano, mandolin and guitar

W.A. Mozart–“Komm, Liebe Zither, Komm,” K 351 soprano and mandolin
“Die Zufriedenheit,K 349 soprano and mandolin (this makes a nice mini-set)

Herman Berlinski–“Psalm 23” Soprano and Flute

Clara Lyle Boone–“Slumber Song” voice and mandolin

Winifred Hyson–“Love and Beyond” for soprano, flute and Japanese koto (I sang this with Lori Laitman, flute, before she became a well-known American composer!)

H. Villa-Lobos–“Suite for Voice and Violin” for voice and violin, and
“Bachianas Brasileiras no. 5,” for soprano and 8 celli

Franz Lachner–“Frauenlieben und Leben” soprano, french horn and piano. Franz Lachner had two brothers, Ignaz and Vinzenz, who also wrote chamber music for high voice.

Granados–“La Majo Doloroso” soprano, english horn and piano (I’ve also done this with a french horn playing the english horn part.)

Chamber Operas:

A Game of Chance by Seymour Barab

A Hand of Bridge by Samual Barber

Green Eggs and Ham, by Robert Kapilow (listen to an excerpt here, although this performance used a piano reduction of the chamber music score.)

Birthday of the Infanta by Ron Nelson

There’s so much out there! If you are planning a recital or program, explore some chamber music.

The Business of Music for College Arts’ Majors

moneyThere’s a great deal of talk these days about how college music and arts’ programs need to include more matter-of-fact courses in marketing and the music business. I may be a lone voice in the world of career singers and singing teachers, but it seems to me that it is not so much a question of learning business skills as it is of developing 1) Creative Entrepreneurship and 2) Learning to Manage Money.  These skills are necessary even before you learn about music as business.  And those two things must be cultivated when you are growing up, BEFORE you get to college. I don’t think it is the college’s responsibility to teach these things. It is the parents’ responsibility to encourage an environment where a creative person starts to think in these ways and begins to acquire the skills.

So once again, we are blaming teachers and curriculums for things parents should be doing.

That being said, my parents did encourage my creative projects and interests, but didn’t do so well with teaching my brothers and me about money management. I can not blame them for two reasons. The first is that they were both musicians and very spiritual and religious souls in a certain era of American history who still managed to raise three kids on a church musician’s salary.  They had mom’s supplemental income but no outside help or family inheritances. They had many mixed feelings about money because of their ingrained belief that Christianity and financial security could not exist within the same life. They also had swallowed the belief that musicians needed to work as a service to the Lord, which is not a bad idea, but their beliefs translated to working their asses off for little financial return. Children will inherit attitudes modeled by their caregivers.

The second is due to my nature.  I fall in the category of creative dreamer-souls who have had to learn the hard way that learning about money is in my own best interests. It’s like I couldn’t leave the part of my life when my parents’ took care of everything, like some people insist on the notion that love is nothing but romance. I couldn’t seem to grow up for a long time.

I had the Creative entrepreneurship thing down, though, and my website outlines some of what I’ve done.

But in this post, I offer you my version of Handling Money as an Artist when I was in my 20’s here. Fortunately, time and wisdom (and getting my butt kicked a few times,) have helped me grow up.

Tax Forms
1.  al+x_________ _________ squilgy lines wack-a-doo ___________________
2. form c sized to which never (silence in brain)              ___________________
3. we will kill you unless you put a number here              ___________________
4. (this spot for doodling with cool pen)                               ___________________
TOTAL EARNED INCOME                                                         hahahahahahaha

Credit Card Debt Credit cards mean I have money and can pay for things even though I have not actually earned or obtained the money to pay. The balance due is a reflection of how much the creditor trusts me. They really trust me a lot.

Itemized Item Deductions for Self-Employment Tax

I actually have receipts by the Miracle of Lourdes but it took me over 25 years to learn to do this in a systematic way.

Sheet Music………………………….                                $ 310.45
Piano Tuning…………………………                               $ 220.00
Private Lessons and Coaching…………..              $1,000.00
Students Who Suck Life Out of Me……              $7,000.00
Psycho Parents of High School Students        $9,000.00
Corporate Administration Mindset in
the non-profit arts’ educational
institution where I work……………………….             $503,006.82
Self-Doubt as an Artist/ Educator……….             priceless

Cars
Put gas in and go

Paying Bills On Time to acquire good credit score
Wait for collection agency letter, then pay. Pay for all books, recordings and craft supplies BEFORE rent and food.

No number of college courses in marketing or business could have helped me with what are basic adult skills in a contemporary society. Those skills were (and still are) so BORING compared to the music and visions in my head and heart that I could not bear to focus on financial common sense.   Suzie Ormon herself couldn’t have persuaded me otherwise in college.

Money management starts before you go to college, and if you are not the type of person who will learn, it will catch up with you later. So learn what you can now.

I hope my little list has been of help….