Posted on | October 3, 2014 | No Comments
Rant begins here:
I am generally pretty polite when asked about what I think about this performance or that. And I don’t intend to be specific here. But I must say that I do get fed up with hearing classically trained singers sing contemporary musical theatre songs, or any CCM song (Contemporary Commercial Music) in what I believe is a disrespectful way. Now, if you are a student, that is fine. But please, if you are a professional, learn how to sing the style. If you cannot belt that note, so you change to upper register – in a belt song – that is disrespectful. Continue training – put the song on a “not yet” list and choose a song you CAN do well and appropriately right now. And really, I am really sick of listening to singers who have classical training using speech quality and twang and believing that they are belting. No. That is not all there is to it. If your teacher cannot make the sound you want to produce, are you sure they can actually teach it? Also, these types of performances, instead of showing what you are absolutely fabulous at singing, actually showcase what you cannot yet do well. They deliver up all the holes in your voice. People may be polite and say that was a good performance (acting was believable etc) but for me, if the vocal set up isn’t appropriate for the style of song, it is distracting and less believable. There is a reason it was designed to be sung in a certain registration. If a song is a legit piece, great. If it is in that (large) body of repertoire which can be either CCM or Legit, fine. If it is a bona fide belt piece, and you cannot belt that last C, or C#, mixing is ok, but just transitioning to upper register means the song loses its fire, its passion and you just lost me as an audience member. The integrity of the piece is damaged.
As I stated earlier, if you are a student, that is fine because hopefully you are learning these skills and moving towards the appropriate vocal set up for the pieces, but if you are performing in a showcase, or audition, don’t show what you cannot do. Show what you can do REALLY well. And if your belt cannot go into a smooth mix where the sound is a seamless shift, perhaps you need to work on this before attempting songs which require this skill.
I have been making myself perform in order to “do the do” not just tell my students what to do. I was a booth singer for Hairspray which involved lots of belting. VERY high. And lots of mixed belt sound. I am now in My Fair Lady with lots of legit sound. It is a different set up and I am training the sound into my voice to ensure that what I am singing is authentic. I don’t pretend it is always perfect. I work at my voice daily. I do 30 minutes of technical work, followed by practice. I understand what it takes to sing many styles, because I do them everyday. A typical day in my studio probably includes students singing country rock, pop, R&B, Musical Theatre belt, Musical Theatre mix, Legit, folk, indie rock, and occasionally thrash. I have been teaching these sounds for 15 years. I put them into my own voice. I play with my voice. And I try not to let a student get up and perform something which demonstrates the fragilities of their voice in my concerts. Of course, sometimes it happens anyway, nerves get the best of them. Or some students can be a little too headstrong to take my advice (even thought hey are paying for it!) But if you are serious about getting this stuff right you do the work. As long as you actually know what the work is.
Posted on | June 23, 2014 | No Comments
Tania de Jong AM is an Australian soprano and international speaker on leadership, creativity and innovation. She founded Creativity Australia and Creative Universe and she works with disadvantaged communities through the ‘With One Voice’ choir social inclusion programs. In this podcast of Ockam’s Razor she discusses the incredible benefits of singing. This is about 15 minutes long and a great way to start your singing journey today! Listen here.
You can read the transcript here.
Our Mid Year Concert is coming up on 20th July at the Metro Arts Studio. Tickets are $15 / $10 and there will only be limited numbers available at the door, so please contact me if you would like purchase extra seats. I love preparing students for this concert. The song choices are coming together and students are sounding great, so come along and support these growing singers.
This weekend I am adjudicating at the Brisbane Eisteddfod. I am looking forward to seeing and hearing the young singers of Brisbane out in force!
USQ Singing Student Jesse Ainsworth has been given the role of Radames in the Toowoomba Philharmonic Society’s production Aida – congrats Jesse!
Melissa Pleschka and Alicia Poulter have just finished a successful run in Prima’s “Hairspray”. Alicia wowed the crowd with her triple threat skills as the movable Tracy Turnblad and Melissa Pleschka played a fabulous Prison Matron and Peaches from the Black Council. What is astounding is Alicia only began voice lessons in November to prepare for her audition – amazing work Alicia and great performances all round. Also involved in this show were students Tenille Flower (Set Design) and Mel Evans (Director).
Tiana La Spina just received a High Distinction for her second Grade AMEB Singing for Leisure exam and is on to Third Grade! Congratulations, Tiana!
Former student Hayley Mayberry was terrific in the Queensland Conservatorium’s Con2Cabaret 2nd Year performance, which I saw on Saturday night, as well as being selected to perform in a masterclass on Monday with John Bucchino! her new teacher at the Con is John Peek. It is lovely to hear students as they grow and develop. Also Former student Rachel Gobel stars in Gifted – check out more about this short film here.
Cass Croucher attended the Cabaret Winter Workshop with Queenie Van de Zandt, and has been selected to perform in the Short and Sweet Cabaret festival on the Gold Coast.
This is just a snippet of student news – every week my students have exiting things happening! So, don’t forget to warm up your voice, and sing today! You never know where it might lead you
Posted on | February 25, 2014 | No Comments
I love teaching belt and in my studio I have yet to find a student who cannot access this part of their voice. However, generating a strong, supported, energised belt which is not going to tire out your voice takes care. Having a lower register dominant belt which can change into a strong mixed sound before transitioning into upper register or head voice takes skill. Managing the breath for these transitions takes practice and understanding. And time. So often we want our voice to just work, first time, every time. For some students, this does happen.For others patience and time and working slowly and carefully week in and week out is the way this happens. this week I taught a wonderful belter. Her voice, when she came to me, was too big. ‘How can a belt be too big? Isn’t that what you want?” I hear those with smaller voices cry out in despair! But a big, throaty, heavy belt can be (and in this case, it was) very damaging. We have been working on voice fundamentals, breath, and how much (or in her case, how little) is required. How and where to support (and no, the answer was not those bulging neck muscles!) the sound. And, I wish I could say all of a sudden, but it wasn’t, it was over a couple of months, this student “got it”. It feels like magic, but in fact has been a steady collection of new, refined muscle co-ordinations. She has a big voice, still. But also, a small controlled sound, and more expressive choices. She has a big audition this weekend, and my fingers and toes are crossed. The panel will not know how hard she has worked to get such control, and such beauty, as well as the magnificent enormous sound she can create. But they will hear a voice which is healthy, can survive the show’s run, is disciplined and reliable. And that, my friends, is why I do what I do. Everyday. Come and join the studio and learn how to find the best of your voice!
Posted on | February 5, 2014 | No Comments
I know! Amazing! My timetable has seen some students shift about and I have four after school timeslots available! Thursday at 5.30pm for 30 minutes, And Friday 4pm, 4.30pm AND 5pm! These are tightly held slots, and those who have shifted have been int hess times for over a year, so if you always wanted to come for lessons, but cannot get here until the afternoon – now is your chance!
I still have Monday at 2pm, and Saturday at 11am free too. Otherwise the timetable is filling up nicely and we are off to a great start to 2014. I have enjoyed meeting new faces and hearing some incredible new voices this week. Yesterday I taught a brand new young teenage beginner, and a professional singer. My days and lessons are so individual. It is great to teach beautiful strong fabulous voices, and just as rewarding to help grow a teenage voice, help a boy through his voice changing, teach a mature voice to find strength and power. The reasons people come for lessons are as varied as my students themselves. One thing that I treasure is their trust in me to teach them to go to the next step.
I love my independence as a teacher. It means that I am not tied to the end of semester exam, the end of year concert (although I do have concerts as I believe performance practice is vital to your vocal education), to a 10 week, or 13 week program. I can work with the student at their pace, as quickly, or as slowly as is required for their lessons to work best for them. I do not follow a program. I listen and adjust each lesson according to each student’s needs. I do have plans for each student, but to insist on a strict regime which is a method to be followed at all costs in each lesson is not my idea of student centred learning. We get there, wherever “there” is. “There” might be to perform at a concert, to prepare for an audition, to prepare for exams or performances. To build repertoire, range, to fix holes. Or the goal may simply be to maintain a healthy strong beautiful voice. I love that my independence from any institution allows me and the student a chance to stay focused but also to allow the learning to unfold over the time that they are with me. All of my students know that I am always asking what is the goal? Where are we going? For some it takes a session of maybe ten lessons. For others it takes years, just like any other instrument. Students often will stay, then go off as life priorities change, then come back again as the desire for singing creeps back in to their lives. Thank you to all my wonderful students who are with me now, thanks to those who have journeyed with me in the past – what a privilege to share your voice! And for those thinking of finding their voice, of stepping into the place where you are thinking of putting your voice into my hands, I say welcome! I can’t wait to meet you! I can’t wait to hear you! Let’s find your true voice.
Posted on | January 13, 2014 | No Comments
I am so excited about being back to work today (13th January) and I have some exciting events planned for 2014. As well as my mid year and end of year Showcases, I am planning some Masterclasses. I am looking forward to working in small groups (about 10 people) on Sunday afternoons on a semi regular basis. These afternoons will be open to anyone, not just my vocal students, so if you are interested in having a second opinion or a Contemporary / Music Theatre teacher’s perspective on your singing, and hints as to how to engage in safe and strong contemporary voice, feel free to contact me. 2nd March is pencilled in as the first date! I also will be running a Performance Anxiety workshop – not how to get it but how to get over it! This will be later in the year and have a Masterclass component and lecture / workshopping. I have run these in the past and they have been responsible for quite a few singers out there getting over their nerves! Welcome to 2014! Come and join the song!
Posted on | December 29, 2013 | Comments Off
I am hugely excited about 2014 and what is to happen in this new year. For me it is a back to basics. My first news is that I have left the private school where I taught voice for 3 years. It started as a one morning a week, and ended up being a day and a half. I loved teaching the teenagers, and the choir, but I found that as more and more enquiries were coming in for studio times, I couldn’t fit everyone in. So, I have taken the plunge and it is back to studio hours for me – 6 days a week. I am thrilled as this allows me to focus more time and energy on those who are passionate about finding their voice, refining their techniques, crossing over from classical to contemporary, rehabilitation work and professional students.
This means that I have about 10 more teaching hours in my studio week. There has never been a better time to discover what your voice is really capable of doing! I am passionate about functionality. There are so many singers who sing knowing that something is “not quite right”. If it hurts – it is not right! If you are having pitch issues, tonal issues, control or breathing issues, or something is just not right, the sound is not what you want and you don’t know how to change it, I am the teacher for you. Some of the students I have worked with have wanted:
To stop sounding like a choir singer and start sounding like a soloist
To sound clear, not breathy or hoarse
To get rid of a nagging problem with extended intervals
To extend their range
To have a consistent tone throughout their range
To work out just what is going on with a changing teenage voice (both girls and boys)
To discover what their true sound is
To be able to sing in tune, in time and not sound tone deaf
To fine tune a new style (there are lots of different terms for lots of different sounds, eg, belt, mix, twang, head voice, chest voice, speech quality etc. I try to demystify these and just get a functional sound which is reliable and style appropriate – nothing worse than a classically trained singer trying to do a mix belt gospel sound simply relying on classical head register and twang- not pretty!)
To train consistency into the voice. This is SO important!
So, I hope from that list you can see that I train beginners to professionals from about 14 years up. I have a Masters in Music Studies majoring in Voice Pedagogy – not performance (although I have been performing now for 34 years) but my whole post graduate degree was in both research and the practicality of teaching voice. I teach voice all day everyday. Some of my students are studying at a masters and doctoral level at University, some are absolute beginners in their 50s, some in their teens. Some singers are professional, some are enthusiastic amateurs. This is my passion, not a secondary interest, and the focus of all my ongoing research and conference attendance.
I invite you to join me in my studio this year. Come along and find out just what you are capable of doing, and free your voice!
Posted on | October 12, 2013 | No Comments
Term two begins! I have had a great week back to work and due to time restructuring have now opened up Saturdays for lessons. Keep track available times on my availability page, but right now Saturday 9am, 1pm and 2pm are available! So those of you who work Monday to Friday and have been trying to get into lessons, now is your chance!
Also, the End of Year Showcase will be on November 24th at the Metro Arts Theatre and Registration is now open. Make sure you pick up a form at your next lesson!
Posted on | July 24, 2013 | No Comments
I teach lots of growing teenage voices in my studio. Teenagers singers require special care because they are still growing and developing. Female larynxes are considered mature at around 23, male at around 25, so how do you teach a flexible, growing instrument? With care. What are warning signs that a teenage voice may be struggling? I often hear students who mimic adult sounds – they are very clever and may sound strong, but in fact are often placing way too much pressure on their instruments via air pressure, or external musculature (tongue, neck etc). Developing a healthy, balanced teenage voice will lead to a healthy adult voice with longevity. Teenagers who sing with unhealthy mannerisms often develop large problems later on which become extremely difficult to deal with when they are older. They often give up singing because their once flexible voice becomes an inflexible tight, painful instrument. If you have a teenager who sounds like a 30 year old, get a teacher to listen to that voice! They probably have a quite wonderful voice hiding away – but it might sound a little bit different!
Posted on | July 14, 2013 | No Comments
I had a wonderful time in Leipzig, Germany moonlighting as the WorldSkills International Secretariat as the Team Leader for Social Media. It was busy and exhilarating and exhausting, and now- back to teaching! I have rested up, the jetlag is going, and the studio WILL be ready for students tomorrow.
One of the things that I love about WorldSkills is that it rewards excellence in young people who train and hone their skills, and then compete on the world stage. How to explain WorldSkills? It is like the Olympics, with 67 Member Countries / Regions represented by over 1000 Competitors in 46 difference skills, from stonemasonry (my personal favourite) to web design, from bricklaying and hairdressing to floristry and CNC Milling and Turning. It is fascinating, exciting and huge. Very very big. I always find it sad that I spend time explaining this amazing event and organisation to people, because it is relatively unknown, although this is slowly changing. Check it out here.
So I return back to the studio tomorrow focused on my skills and training, ready to help my students become the best singer’s they can possibly be. I am inspired. Amazing things can happen when you practice, when you train correctly, when your technique is excellent. I can’t wait to hear the music again!
Posted on | June 2, 2013 | No Comments
3.30pm Brisbane Arts Theatre
Petrie Terrace, Brisbane
Tickets $14 / $10 / $35 (family) – available at the door.
For the first time I am running a smaller event int he morning for the private school students I teach from Prince of Peace Lutheran College. This Showcase is
11.30am, Brisbane Arts Theatre
Petrie Terrace, Brisbane
Ticket prices as above and available at the door.
Everyone is welcome to attend – look forward to seeing you all at one of the concerts!