Posted on | January 18, 2016 | No Comments
Right now I am finalising existing student’s times, then I will be taking new students. Thanks to all those who have been emailing me. It shouldn’t be too much longer before we chat!
Also, a new development is my LAST MINUTE LESSONS page! Let’s face it. People get sick. Cancellations and reschedules happen. All the time. SO, this year I am putting a last minute lesson page on the site (check it out) where if I have a timeslot available, you can book it!
HUGE (for this teacher) development – Skype lessons are happening. Technology is awesome, my wifi is great and my sound system rocks and we are doing SKYPE lessons. So, you lovelies in Sydney and Melbourne, Gold and Sunshine Coast who have been asking (thanks!) it is finally here. This year! We are doing this! You can book these with me using my LAST MINUTE LESSONS page or by contacting me directly.
I will always believe in the personal one on one lesson in the studio, but I can’t be everywhere!! You’ve asked for it so here we go!
Lesson teaching dates are up for the first six months of 2016. I have adjusted my prices slightly (for the first time in 2 years).
I have committed to ongoing skill development by going to the CCM Institute at Shenandoah University in July 2015, and becoming certified in Somatic Voicework The LoVetri Method Levels I, II and III. I have attended lessons in New York with Jeannie LoVetri and have just committed to regular Skype lessons with Jeannie. I have just returned from New York and San Diego, seeing shows and listening to great voices, attending the MTEA conference in San Diego and meeting and learning from some of the most amazing educators in the world. I am returning to Shenandoah and New York in July. I pay for these trips to educate and inspire me and stay on the cutting edge. I have plans to attend the National Voice Symposium in Philadelphia and the Summer Vocology Institute in Utah sometime in the next few years. I have a wish list of conferences a mile long. I am committed to bringing you the best voice teaching that I can.
I look forward to a brilliant year with you all!
Posted on | January 14, 2016 | No Comments
Posted on | December 23, 2015 | No Comments
What a huge year 2015 has been! Travelling to the U S for training and meeting fabulous teachers such as Jeannette LoVetri, Matt Edwards, learning from Marci RosenBurg and Wendy LeBorgne. Lessons in New York with Jeannie. More theatre and performances than I thought I could squeeze in. Huge numbers of students in the studio! Fabulous success stories – students getting lead and small roles, ensemble roles, recording deals, performing gigs, huge breakthroughs and freedom of expression through functional voice work. The best end of year concert ever! I have a waiting list for the timeslots available in 2016 and am very excited to be beginning my Phd journey. I love research, but I LOVE the practical application of voice science and research and look forward to more of everything in the voice world. So now, a break! Well, kind of – because New York beckons so I am off to visit with Jeannie again, and to hear more of the amazing music offerings available in the city that never sleeps. Then on to the MTEA (Music Theatre Educators Alliance) conference in San Diego – super excited about the speakers and what the future holds!
If you have messaged me about becoming a new student you should hear from me around the 20th January once existing students have finalised their timeslots.
Wishing all my wonderful students, friends and supporters a wonderful break, a Happy Christmas and New Year.
Posted on | December 10, 2015 | No Comments
For the last six months, on and off, I have been working with a new student who had a breathy, soprano voice. I used many functional exercises but the problems in her voice were not changing much. There would be very small changes which would then revert back to her old habits. Finally, we managed to get some chest voice happening with more volume. I was very excited and asked “How was that?” She responded that it felt “like shouting”. I paused for a moment. The sound was nowhere near shouting. I asked her if she had ever been told to be quiet when she was singing? She responded that yes, when she was ten she had a great big belt voice, it was stronger and more mature sounding than the voice she has today, but her parents had asked her to be quiet one day. So she was. I asked her why she had to be quiet? Three people had died in the family in quick succession. Perhaps her parent’s grief made it hard to hear her cheerful joyful voice filling the house. Perhaps it was an inappropriate time for singing. Who knows? She had been quiet now for eight years. I asked her to be loud, to make the “shouty” (not a shouty sound!) sound. We played with her voice and to our great joy a beautiful big chest voice AND belt voice reappeared. In one lesson! I asked her how it felt? She replied, easy, free, wonderful! Wow! Such a joy!
Sometimes the blocks in our progress with singing are not functional, but emotional. We can hold onto emotions emotions and instructions for far longer than was originally intended. I always say to my students “This is where your voice is this week, so this is what I want you to work on this week”. I have found that I can give a specific instruction for a student for one week, or two, or for a song, which then becomes a rule for every lesson, every scale, every song! Once the functional use of a scale has achieved its goal we move on. Sometimes I will say, “try this quieter, try this louder”. But I hope I make it clear that this is an instruction for what we are working on in that moment, that week.
Words are powerful. Words speak into our hearts, souls and bodies. My first diet began the day after a family member told me I needed to be “careful or I would end up fat”. I was a size 8/10 (Australian). I had someone ask me to sing “more like Christina Aguilera”. How do I do that? What was actually wrong with my voice? Three years of twisting my voice around followed that gem. How many of us have stories like this about our bodies, our voices, our lives? Be kind to yourself, listen to those who have knowledge and wisdom on the subject and find your voice.
Posted on | December 10, 2015 | No Comments
Last week we had the End of Year Showcase at the Metro Arts Studio and it was wonderful. I was incredibly pleased with all the singers who performed so well. Over the years I have learnt that it is my role to ensure that the student knows HOW to prepare for the concert. The amount of time and preparation a performance requires is different from student to student and voice to voice. New students with lots of anxiety or even little bit of nerves require many many weeks of repeated practice to ensure that the new techniques they have learnt are in their muscle memory and that even with a bit of natural anxiety (more on this later) their voice is fairly reliable and the song will flow, even when they are shaky. Some new students have no nerves and just jump up and sing – but I have found these students to be in the minority. The earlier we start performing and the more regularly we get up and do it, the easier it becomes. A few years ago I had a concert where anxiety spread like wildfire through the students and the concert was a little bit ordinary. Perhaps others didn’t notice, but I knew that all the students were performing under their best. Since that day I have made sure that students are strong in themselves and in their ability to get through the song well in practice. I will change a key, or a whole song, if it isn’t going well for the student. Songs are chosen for new students weeks in advance to ensure that they know every pitch, rhythm and word inside out and back to front. Once the technical work of how to sing the song is done we can get down to what the song is about. I often start with this, then talk about the functional aspects and come back to the “acting” of the song later. I ask students to write out each phrase in their own words and write the “I feel” statement of each phrase or section of the song so that they understand the emotional arc within the music. We look at how the lyrics, music or rhythm help them with this aspect of the piece. Then, when all of this work has been done, we practice performance. This means on the microphone with appropriate accompaniment. I video the students, and we discuss how their faces and bodies present when they are performing. When all of this work is done, they are ready to perform.
Sometimes illness interferes with the preparation. This is unfortunate. Sometimes we cannot hide illness from our voice, and while others may not hear it, we feel it. Sometimes the illness impacts on the vocal strength. As long as the student is fully physically recovered, I still encourage them to perform. If we wait until everything is perfect sometimes we never get up on stage. All performance experiences are useful in the learner. I have had students go out to a concert the night before a performance and wonder why their voice isn’t up to scratch, or stay up late, or have a party ….. performers need to occasionally cocoon themselves to ensure they are giving the best they can do on that day with the health and fitness of their voice. If that happens, what more can you ask for? Every performance is a gift to the audience, so preparing the gift properly will make it beautiful. A halfhearted preparation makes for a halfhearted performance – and a new learning experience!
A word on performance anxiety – studies have shown that up to 80% of performers suffer from performance anxiety. There are generally three levels of performance anxiety. Mild – giving the performer the buzz of excitement and some nerves but not anything which will stop the performer singing. Moderate – some help may be needed to address flight or fight syndrome symptoms or some unhealthy mental patterns. Severe – requiring expert help. I have studied some performance psychology and recommend that if this is an issue for you, don’t let it stop you performing! Confidence can come with 1. Understanding more about the condition, so read up or ask for help and 2. strong preparation. Nothing beats knowing what your voice is doing, what your body is doing, and then being brave enough, and vulnerable enough, and frightened enough, but courageous enough to step out and have a go. You learn about performance by doing it!
Posted on | November 1, 2015 | No Comments
Ok, so I have been sick with a lung infection for a week and coughing everyday – making me sad, my vocal folds sad, basically my lungs and trachea and vocal folds and throat are all bit sad at the moment.
Why is coughing so bad for singers?
Coughing, clearing your throat, sneezing, vomiting – they all irritate the vocal folds. Coughing, clearing your throat and sneezing all create a large force of air rushing past your vocal folds at a high speed and your vocal folds “clap together” or vibrate very strongly – check it out on youtube here. Coughing is vocal fold violence! Vomiting can result in stomach acid coming up the oesophagus and irritating the vocal folds leading to further irritation.
OK – a disclaimer – I am not a doctor. Check with your doctor first – especially about medications and for your individual situation.
So, how do you avoid coughing when you need to cough to get the sputum / mucous out of your chest when you are ill? These ideas have worked for my students and I:
1. You are probably going to have to cough. Just saying. I live in the real world, I hate coughing, I avoid coughing, but I do it, you do it, it happens. You need to move that mucous out go the lungs somehow. Accept it, then move on to cough reduction mode!
2. When you feel the need to cough or clear your throat have a sip of water. It can often take away the urge to cough which is important if the cough is a dry irritating one that you just need to try and stop. Also, tea with honey, or lemon and honey in boring water sipped slowly can sooth the throat and slow the cough reflex.
3. Thin the mucous. If the mucous is thinner it easier for it to cough up / be reabsorbed back into the body with minimal coughing.
- Drinking fluids helps thin the mucous / sputum (sputum is mucous that is in your lungs).
- Steam helps thin the mucous – steamy showers, humidifiers (keep them clean) and I love my personal steam inhaler. A bowl filled with boiling water and a towel over the head is great too (Thanks Grandma! She used to do this for me when I was little and sick and it works a treat).
- Medication like Bisolven tablets contain bromhexine which thins, loosens and clears mucous in the lungs. I find these help reduce coughing. (Check with your doctor!)
4. I usually don’t take decongestants or cough suppressants which dry the mucous out because we need the mucous coating on our vocal folds to function as singers, however, at night time a decongestant or cough suppressant which avoids night time post nasal drip and that awful dry sore morning throat can be just the thing (Postnasal drip – mucous drains from the back of the nose down the throat and into the …. stomach or lungs? Whatever – it is disgusting, right?). Be aware, though, that often these can last for up to 24 hours and you will feel better, but your vocal folds might be dry dry dry and singing on them may irritate them further. Again – check with your doctor! I never sing with a decongestant in my body.
Ok, so I hope that helps to you address any coughing problems. Feel free to send me your helpful tips.
Posted on | October 28, 2015 | No Comments
I normally am pretty cheery and happy when I talk about my work, but today I am sad. After three days of a chesty cough and problems breathing (I don’t DO coughing!) I came home today from the doctor’s with a verdict of bronchitis. OK. I knew I was feeling unwell, fevers etc. But coughing drives me NUTS! With each cough I imagine my vocal folds going redder and getting more inflamed. I have to take more time off work. This makes me sad, because I love my work. I don’t want to infect my students, and I am certainly NOT coughing through a singing lesson. Very bad form! It means I have to reschedule many many lessons and cancel others. It inconveniences me, and my students who may have auditions or performances coming up in the near future. It interrupts our learning. Many times students come to lessons unwell and in no condition for a lesson. Sometimes they are exhausted from performance schedules / work / studies / exams. Sometimes they are sick, recovering from being sick or on the cusp of being sick. Unfortunately infectious diseases are infectious and airborne. I catch them – and this year has been remarkably plentiful in terms of both student illnesses and my own illness. The other nasty side effect is being self employed I miss out on income. What to do?
I need to stop being upset about being sick and look at recovery. Here are my steps to vocal health:
1. REST. Get enough sleep. If your body is sick it needs to recover.
2. FLUIDS. LOTS of water, herbal teas (non drying!). I love the Vocal Five Teas because the seed which comes with the beautiful organic teas (Sterculia Lychnophora) is great for reducing inflammation (Chinese medicine) but check with your doctor if in any doubt. Try to avoid menthol based teas and try chamomile, liquorice, ginger, lemon and my favourite, jasmine tea. Hot water with lemon and honey and bits of fresh garlic is another favourite of mine. But beautiful filtered water and lots of it is the best!
3. VOCALISATION – rest but not COMPLETE vocal rest. Unless your doctor or an ENT suggests this (usually after surgery – or if you have laryngitis where the larynx is inflamed), some resonant voice exercises may be useful in the healing process following inflammation. (LeBourgne, W, Rosenberg, M. 2014. The Vocal Athlete. Plural Publishing: San Diego. p116.). What are resonant voice exercises? Try some semi-occluded vowel exercises, such as making sounds through a straw, bubbling the straw into water, small quiet glides on ee or oo. Check out this article from The Voice Council which included Ingo Titze’s now famous straw exercise YouTube video.
4. Keep up your body stretches. Head, neck, shoulder back and body stretches. I start every lesson with stretches and see no reason to stop stretching because my lungs are playing up!
5. PRACTICE SILENTLY. This really works! Practising using your imagination, imagine you are singing, use all the muscles but make no sound. This avoids excessive vocal use in recovering voices but ensures your muscles and brain are still doing the practice. Research presented by Prof Graham Welch at the Hobart ANATS conference (October 2015) “Singing Futures: Pedagogies, Practices and the Digital Age” indicated that the brain continues to lay down the neural pathways seen during practice almost as strongly when imagining you are practicing. This was shown via MRI scans which clearly demonstrated similar brain activity levels during actual practice and imaginary practice. Great news if you have a performance or audition coming up and the large strikes. Try it – I have used it here in the studio to great success.
So now, I am off for cup of tea, some straw exercises, and some more rest.
Posted on | July 17, 2015 | No Comments
I have had an amazing time in New York. I saw Kinky Boots, Mamma Mia, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, On the Town, Beautiful – The Carol King Story, On the Twentieth Century and An American in Paris. Each musical was absolutely stunning and each had great performers, singing, acting and dancing. More than ever Musical Theatre professionals really MUST be a triple threat. The standard of dance in the productions Mamma Mia, On The Town and An American In Paris was absolutely stunning. On Broadway they really do only have the best!
It was fascinating to listen to the different vocal styles in each production. Singers need to be able to adapt to whatever genre of musical they are performing in, in order to serve the musical style. The singing in Kinky Boots and Mamma Mia was completely different from the singing in An American in Paris and A Gentleman’s Guide to Murder. One sound does NOT fit all, and one singer may be required to produce sounds from belt to legit within a musical, within a song! Classical training just doesn’t work to cover all musical theatre genres and this was completely obvious in this sample of shows.
I was also lucky enough to go to the famous Blue Note Cafe for some wonderful jazz and to Subculture, a fantastic music venue where Jason Robert Brown, his band and two wonderful singers performed both new and old compositions. I must admit, this night was so good, I had trouble sleeping afterwards. Actually, each performance I have attended has left my brain and ears and eyes buzzing so much that getting to sleep has been tricky! But hearing Jason Robert Brown perform his own works (lucky me – my second time) was definitely a trophy in a week full of incredible music performances.
The absolute highlight of my week, however, was my three lessons with Jeanette Lovetri in her Upper West Side home studio. Jeanette is warm and approachable and an affirming teacher and voice pedagogy expert. Her husband Jerry also made me feel welcome, even though my lessons interrupted her break and their private time. I am so grateful that Jeanette agreed to teach me.
I loved my lessons, which I recorded and have listened back to a few times, and made notes, and have been practicing in anticipation of the weekend where I begin the CCM (Contemporary Commercial Music) Vocal Pedagogy Institute at Shenandoah Conservatory in Winchester, Virginia. Voice teachers from around the world are coming to soak up Jeanette’s knowledge in this ten day, three level course. I am here with my colleague, Jenny Howlett, and am extremely excited about the coming week, and of course, bringing it all back to my studio!
Posted on | June 30, 2015 | No Comments
Just a reminder to all students that I am overseas doing more study in New York and at Shenandoah Conservatory. The studio is now closed and will reopen on 1st August. Any lessons prepaid remain in credit until I return. I look forward to sharing with you all my experiences with teachers in New York, going to as many performances as possible, and my study with Jeanette LoVetri at the Shenandoah Conservatory!
Enjoy your break!
Posted on | June 9, 2015 | No Comments
Following on from the fantastic success o the Performance Preparation Workshop, the Mid Year Student Showcase is on Sunday 21st June at 4pm. The venue is the fabulous Metro Arts Studio, 109 Edward St, Brisbane.
You are invited to attend, support and celebrate a semester of learning, singing and performing.
All students have worked hard at improving their voices, and now they need an audience! Come and use those hands to applaud our student performers.
Tickets may be purchased via Try Booking