Musical Theatre Prescription

One of my favorite people told me last night that she was considering going back to college to get her degree in Musical Theatre….

Uh…okay, “yipes!”

I mean, don’t get me wrong, musical theatre is fun and all and if you know how to save money when on the road, it’s even better….

But when colleges do so many things right (science, poli-sci, environmental science, business, law, accounting, history, chemistry, literature, phys ed, marketing) why go through the expense of something they continually do so wrong like musical theatre?

And no, I’m not talking about EVERY college — just 99% of them.

In my one year of college, I flunked Intro To Theatre (was busy rehearsing and having fun instead of reading the book). 13 years later, I won the L.A. Drama Critic’s Circle Award for Best Production.

In theatre, you don’t need a degree. You need guts and a willingness to learn about everything in your theatrical environment.

Which ain’t always in L.A.

But, if you’re “stuck” in L.A. and you ultimately want to do musical theatre in N.Y., here’s my best prescription for proactive, positive growth and development:

1. Focus on getting commercials: The pay’s good and you can become a familiar face throughout the world;

2. Focus on getting in front of the camera: Any instance where you say words with your clothes on is a learning experience, so get started — you can become a familiar face throughout the world;

3. Study acting with a teacher who has trained people who are currently working in front of a camera: Makes sense, doesn’t it?;

4. Study voice with a teacher (like me) who has trained singers who are currently working on the stage;

5. Take a dance class at least once a week: It’s good for you.

6. Every audition is a chance to create a positive relationship with a producer, director, casting director, musical director…GO TO EVERY AUDITION. NO EXCUSES.

You can work and you can train at the same time. Don’t worry about the money. Budget accordingly, but PRACTICE YOUR STUFF.

Love on ya!

The Five Octave Range Myth

Uhm, did I miss something in my college music theory class? If I read one more time that pop star #1 or voice teacher #2 has a five-octave range, I’m gonna start holding protest rallies in front of the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

If you’re a singer, don’t buy into it. It’s a publicist’s claim for more ink in the Calendar section, not a claim rooted in music reality.

First, claiming five octaves doesn’t mean one is a “better” singer.

“Circus freak” comes to mind, but not better.

There have been hundreds of female belters in pop, jazz and Broadway recordings who did groundbreaking work within an 11 or 12-note range. Think (old school) Mary Martin, Ethel Merman, Billie Holiday, Peggy Lee… I never heard anything about those gals having a 40-note/five octave range! My female belters work from a low F (in the traditional alto range) up to a high Ab (about a 16 or 17-note range or two-plus octaves) which is more than plenty for a true pop/Broadway belt song. Elphaba in “Wicked” belts about a two-octave range. Perhaps Stephen Schwartz didn’t know what to do with the other three octaves? For us guys, even Luciano Pavarotti in his prime probably had a 20-note range (about two and a half octaves). Sure, I didn’t count his falsetto which could have given him maybe another octave — maybe — but I guess that, like Stephen Schwartz, Verdi and Puccini didn’t know what to do with those two extra octaves either.

Really, composers simply don’t write five octave songs.

Burt Bacharach wrote some range-y tunes (“Do You Know The Way To San Jose?” comes to mind), but a five-octave song would have been professional suicide (and think of poor Dionne Warwick!).

No one person could sing the material — and if one person could, probably only dogs and whales would want to hear it anyway…..

Imagine your favorite karaoke bar then…

The most popular melodies of all time have well under a two-octave range. That’s because the public, the untrained singers out there, likes to sing along, too.

The best dancers don’t have the biggest feet, nor do the greatest singers have the highest or lowest voices.

In singing performance, it definitely helps to have a solid, flexible range with some excitement or “heat” in the voice complemented, more importantly, by knowing what to do with a lyric — how to interpret a song.

But great singers don’t need to “brag” about their range because, frankly, that’s not what made them great singers in the first place.

By the way, from the very bottom to the very top, a four-part choir sings in about a five-octave range.

Welcome!

My voice students and friends now sing on Broadway and in Broadway Road Companies, Animation, Industrials, Theme Parks, Recordings, etc.

This blog is open to all who want to continue working as singers and those who want to get started as working singers. We can meet here as often as you like.

Bottom line, being a working singer is a hustle.

If you want to be a working singer, then you need to sing…constantly. Everywhere and anywhere they’ll have you until the demand for you is so high that you have to start turning the free gigs down and only taking the highest paying ones. Hey, we only have so many hours in a week….!

Feel free to comment, challenge, etc. Just keep it honest and direct. Having a sense of humor helps too!

See you soon!