No-Cost “Warm-Up Wednesday” Appointments Now Offered On Zoom

Since we’re stuck inside for a while longer, we might as well stay in shape for our glorious return to normal. All current, past and prospective vocal studio friends are invited to set up a private no-cost Zoom appointment with me for Warm-Up Wednesdays between 9:00a and 11:00a. We’ll start with ten individual slots for 12 minutes each. Just have your laptop or cellphone ready with your warm up tracks and we’ll jump on and off at the appointed time! Lemme know!

All Voice & Instrument Lessons Online Now!

Our position as music studio owners, theatre people, musicians and music educators has always been “don’t make it about the money.” We’re here to help you realize your dream and “living the dream” often means waiting tables, tutoring/teaching/assisting, construction gigs, etc. between auditions. If you’re a parent, you want to keep your child’s daily and weekly experience as close to “normal” as possible – which involves social interaction and continual learning with friends, schoolmates and teachers.

Thus, we are not shutting down the studio to wait out the virus. Until at least April 19, everything we do is going to be online via FaceTime or WhatsApp. If you have a laptop with a camera, great, let’s use it and get to work.

Speaking of which, what if you’re not working right now?

Easy. Pay what you can. It is a long-standing theatre tradition that recognizes the need for art and joy over class, social status or checking account. Don’t make it about the money – we’re not.

In the meantime, let’s at least get some weekly vocal warm-ups in, shall we?

Between 10a and 12n daily M-F, I will be offering NO COST weekly vocal warm-ups via FaceTime/WhatsApp to as many friends as I can. Just text or email me to schedule. All you have to do is make sure you are looking into a mirror at home.

See you soon!

FaceTime and Online Voice & Music Sessions To Get You Through

It’s been two whole days of social distancing and, like you, we’re already feeling pretty stir-crazy. A high percentage of our friends/clients/students are still coming to the studio in-person, which is great because it’s nice to get out of the house, it’s super fun to sing and play and there are only two of us in the studio at any time which keeps transmission chances extremely low. That, and the fact that we have 15-minute buffers between sessions, before and after every session we spray and clean all surfaces that have been touched (doorknobs, piano keys, chair armrests, music stands, etc.) and elbow bump or give a friendly wave hello and goodbye is about as safe as we can be without resorting to full-time hazmat apparel.

However, as we aggressively “flatten the curve,” the FaceTime/Online option is a good one for students who want to stay in practice during quarantine. We use FaceTime and WhatsApp and if you have a laptop or phone with a camera, that’s about all you need to get going. It does help to have a mini-stand for your phone because it can get pretty awkward holding a phone and playing guitar. Our online approach continues to evolve and for those of you who do use a laptop and have gmail, we can utilize Google Hangout. In the meantime, we make sure you have the materials and we take it from there.

30-minute online voice and instrument sessions are very efficient and since our music studio is open 24/7, we’re ready when you are.

We’re Open, Just Stay On Top Of It

We have taken the extra step of creating 15 minute buffers between sessions during the Coronavirus pandemic. If you or your student don’t feel well, stay home, no worries. Here is an email from our dear friend Dr. Marc Futernick:

I’ve been asked about this pandemic by many people, so figured I’d share my thoughts with this group that has been with me for so long.  As always, feel free to share.

The virus is currently in our communities, throughout the country, in much higher numbers than the official counts. There is still insufficient testing, and the majority of people are minimally symptomatic so will never be tested, but are still spreading the virus.
Even if some medications are found that might help, this will have minimal impact on the overall morbidity and mortality.
An effective vaccine will not help this season, and even when available will have less than perfect efficacy, just like the flu vaccine.

Right now, the only answer is in all of our hands.  We must shut down every public contact that is not essential.  If you are able to protect yourself by staying home, you should do that as strictly as you can manage.  This is the only real protection.  Don’t visit people at risk in person, and there are a lot of people at risk.  I’m nearly 50 and feel like I’m in great health, but statistically I am still at significant risk of getting critically ill if (when?) I get this virus.

If everyone practices social distancing, staying home and limiting exposures, then those of us who don’t have that ability will be much safer.  This virus will burn out if we stop giving it to each other.  Right now, that is the only way to protect our healthcare workers, police, and others who must interact with the public.  

  • If you have even a very low grade fever or a mild cough, assume you have the virus and be vigilant about quarantining yourself. 
  • If you do not have symptoms, stay home, and only go out if you absolutely must.
  • Don’t come to the ER unless you’ve talked to a health professional first (feel free to call me) and you absolutely need to (e.g., you are having trouble breathing).  The ER is where you will undoubtedly find the virus.

 Please stay safe, and take this seriously.  Do this for yourself, for your family, and for your entire community.  

Marc Futernick, MDEmergency Physician
Climate Reality Leader
Follow @marcfuternick on Twitter
Feel free to share

Navigating The Waters

stormy seas
Each one of us is the captain of our own ship.
And if our crew consists of some good friends, teachers and mentors, we are likely to navigate a course utilizing a steady supply of their wisdom and experience in tandem with our own best instincts, drive, education and desire to arrive safely at our chosen destination.
Knowing that a clear course, decent weather and great determination are essential to our getting from here to there, you ask yourself the questions:
  1. “Where am I now?”
  2. “Where do I want to be?”
  3. How do I get there?”
And from there, you initiate preparations for a very long voyage.
Yet no matter how long you have prepared, on that day of departure, with even the most detailed plans for success having been decided upon, vetted and penciled out, you finally launch — only to discover that the sea has its own ideas about your path.
This is when the “deep learning” begins.
There are days and nights of no wind to fill your sails followed by days and nights of storms. There are schools of fish swimming just underneath the surface waiting to be caught by you followed by sharks just waiting to catch and eat you.
You encounter other vessels on the sea. Some have goods for trade, some are journeying to the home you just left…and some have pirates.
Your experience in the water grows as you continue to navigate your path.
At a certain point, while you may have already landed at several ports along “the way,” you begin to realize that your ideas of the importance of where “there” is and where you “want” to be have evolved.
You recognize that you may have already landed at your destination goal once or twice only to discover that it wasn’t “exactly” what you thought it was. Whereupon, without hesitation, you set new plans for a very long voyage and once again take to the sea to navigate your waters.
And this time, when the days and nights of no wind to fill your sails arrive, you take that time to rest or create or write or get a tan. When the storms arrive along with hundred foot waves, you ride the waves with the skill of a surfer knowing you have the experience to outlast them all the way to shore. You adapt. You navigate. You know how to do this.
And when you realize that you have now spent just as much time at sea as you have in port, well, then you’ve arrived.

Vocal Performance: The Eyes Have It, Pt. 2 — Maintain An Even Plane

Now that you have practiced your points of focus: start Center, look Left, look Center, look Right, look Center, etc. (always coming back to center between Left & Right), you want to make sure that you “maintain an even plane.”
In other words, don’t let your eyes go over the audience’s head and don’t let your eyes look down at their shoes, either.   In an audition, you might have three people sitting at a table.  Not a problem.  When you perform, don’t look your auditioners right in the eyes, that can be fairly uncomfortable for everybody.  Better yet, create/imagine a friendly face right next to the face of the person in the middle.  Imagine your new friend sitting at that table.  Look them in the eyes.  This will be your center focus.
Now imagine a friendly face just next to the face of the person on the left at the table.  Left Focus.
Now imagine a friendly face just next to the face of the person on the right at the table.  Right Focus.
There you have it.  Three simple points of focus that don’t invade the casting people’s space, but that share the same eye plane for all to see and feel your vocal performance.
This works for all singers from the stage whether it be Pop, Rock, Cabaret or Broadway.
Another issue for those of us watching you; if you close your eyes to show us how moved you are by your own performance, you’ve lost us.
Next: WHEN to change your point of focus.    

Vocal Performance: The Eyes Have It, Pt. 1 — Points of Focus

The eyes do have it.  While your voice can fill a room with energy, it is the eyes that bring it all into focus.

Points of Focus (Left/Center/Right) are crucial in vocal performance; in sharing your eyes or line of sight with the audience.

Some people read lips.  Everybody reads eyes.

Simplest approach (for now) is to:
1) Stretch out your arms in a “V” in front of you.  It should look like you’re about to hug someone. Eyes are already at Center.  Pick a point about 15 feet in front of you and “see” it.  Really see it.
2) Turn Eyes and Face (just your eyes and your face, not the whole body) left along the left arm.  Don’t go beyond the left arm.  Let the eyes lead the face, don’t go all robot on us…Pick a point about 15 feet in front of you on the left and “see” it.
3) Back to center.  Eyes first, face follows.  Center Point of Focus.
4) Eyes lead face to right along right arm.  Pick Right Point of Focus (15 ft., etc.)
5) Back to center.  Eyes lead the face.

That’s the start of it.  More tomorrow…

Being Present

I talk about this all the time….

But it does bear repeating.

In an audition, many things are out of our control.  We usually don’t control who our scene partner is when we get paired up to read for a musical.  Today’s economics pretty much dictate that we don’t hire and bring our own accompanist to a musical audition anymore. We certainly can’t control whether or not a production team sees us as having the right look or image for the characters and matchups they have in mind (even if we do wear an original sailor’s outfit from Dames At Sea to the first audition — btw, don’t do that…).

But we can certainly control whether or not we are “present” when we audition.  “Present” means simply being there.  When you walk in the audition room, be there.  If they say hello, say hello back. Don’t prepare a speech or a witty line for when you first walk in — that moment of inspiration is long past and you might not have their immediate attention if and when you do say it; you may unwittingly appear controlling or just loud and obnoxious, possibly interrupting their conversation about the singer who auditioned just prior.

We flip the switch when we are asked to perform.  At that point, we must let go of all self-observation as it is most important that we are present and focused on not just how we sound, but what we are saying, who we are saying it to, why we are saying it and thinking all the thoughts that go along with the freedom of being present.

When you can walk away from a vocal audition and honestly say, “I felt present when I sang,” then you truly did your work as an artist.

Removing The Emotional Distance….

Music has some very magical properties. Magic happens in my studio quite a bit, mostly because I push my singers to “remove the emotional distance” between themselves and the song.

We don’t ever want to fake ourselves or our audience out of the real energy that is present in our being. That would not only be inauthentic, but, ultimately, pretty boring.

Of course, we don’t need to be a serial killer barber in real life to pull off the lead in Sweeney Todd on stage, either.

Our job within the context of a song or a musical theatre role is to find the through-line of humanity and spirit, which makes all things “relate-able.” Let the sets, lights and costumes do their part. Let the orchestra do theirs. Let us choose to be the vessel of informed energy, armed with words, pitch and emotion, and, having burned said information into our DNA, let us become full energy in performance; concentrated and free, focused and present.