Tuneful Tuesday Week 11: “Watch Duet” memorization dance party

In two days I leave to teach a Yoga For Singers courses and perform with the Redwoods Opera Workshop. It is such a blessing to learn from and be inspired by an amazing faculty and to work with such talented singers each summer. Unfortunately, the program always begins just a few days after my voice studio has its end of the year recital performance, so my own personal practice and memorization time is always severely limited…… that’s why this crazy dance party is absolutely necessary. 

I actually learned this technique from a yogi who was working on perfecting her dristi “focus” in balance postures. She would perform the poses while her friends ran around trying to distract her. The point is, if she could maintain her focus through that, she could handle anything. I started taking this idea into my own vocal practice when attempting to memorize quickly. I would stare at myself in the mirror acting as ridiculous as possible and constantly trying to distract myself. If I can keep the words in my head while dancing around the room, then those words are going to be seriously locked in there. It sounds nuts, but it works! It gets me out of “thinking” mode and into muscle memory mode, which is where the real memorization happens. Plus, it’s fun to dance around like no one is watching…. well, except you are watching. Ah well. Enjoy my ridiculousness and try it yourself. It’s fun! 

A big thank you to this video of the Watch Duet I found on YouTube to sing along with. In the middle the Rosalinda makes a few sounds which are interesting…… but that way you could hear how the two parts of the duet go together.

Tuneful Tuesday Week 10: I Can Sing A Song

This Sunday my vocal studio has their annual recital. 25 of my students, of various ages, styles, and levels, will take the stage to share their progress and their love of music with the community. As their instructor, I am both excited and nervous for them. Performing is such an intense experience. When you’re successful, it can lift you up and make you realize you have a strength and courage that you never thought possible. However, if you’re performance is not as successful as you’d like, it can break you down, make you feel inadequate, and make it difficult to keep the drive to move forward. This week, I am doing everything in my power to prepare my students both technically and emotionally so that they’ll enjoy the process and continue to love singing. In honor of their performance, here’s a silly song I wrote to help my youngest students remember the meanings of various musical terms. Can you figure them all out?

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14 till I’m 30

As I reach a new decade and a new phase in my life, I give gratitude for the fact that I’ll continue to grow as a teacher for another 10 years. 

I never planned on being a teacher. It sort of just fell into my lap. When I was completing my vocal pedagogy course at the University of Southern California, we were required to offer 10 voice lessons to a friend or aquaintence and report back weekly. I found a fellow student in my school choir and, when she and I met for our first “lesson,” I think I was more nervous than she was– wondering if I would have any information to offer her. As soon as we started working together, my intuition kicked in and my mouth was going a mile a minute: sharing stories, confessing my own vocal experiences, correcting her technique, coming up with ideas for fixes, and offering guidance. We were only supposed to meet for 20 minutes, but those 20 minutes turned into an hour as she and I learned from eachother. I couldn’t believe how much fun I was having and how easily teaching came to me. At the end of the semester, the girl I worked with created a giant giftbasket for me and wrote my first testimonial which is still on my website to this day. She made me feel, for the first time, like I was making a difference in the world. 

When I moved on to grad school, I was given the opportunity to be assistant opera director at West Virginia University. With that position came the responsibility of teaching acting classes to the entire vocal student body as well as directing the opera scenes program. With knees shaking, I created lessons plans, answered questions, and started to use my own imagination to problem-solve and make something new. I was teaching students who were older than me, and yet, I still felt like I had something to offer. So, here I was, the quiet girl with low self-esteem, who finally found her voice by using it to help others. 

After moving back to California, I instantly set up a private voice studio, as I went through the audition circuit in search of a performance career. I thought I’d take on 2 or 3 students to help supplement my other jobs, but word-of-mouth in this small community brought over 10 students to my studio within the year. After 6 years of private teaching, I currently have over 25 students and a waitlist. It’s been a long process over the years of seeing what works for me and for my students. So much has changed about my teaching style as I continue to do research, learn, and try new things…yoga being one of them. I am so grateful I get to fill my days sharing, learning, and helping others grow. I may be a big fish in a little pond, but I care about this little pond and I love each and every one of my students. Their progress, joy, and vocal journeys give me purpose and I am excited to see where the next decade of teaching brings me. 

Time Will Pass Anyway

Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.” -Earl Nightingale
This past year, I’ve been debating putting my vocal aspirations on hold. My vocal journey has been a long, difficult struggle filled with tears, frustration, and exhaustion. After all this time, I thought that since I haven’t “made it” as a singer, maybe it wasn’t worth it to continue pouring thousands of dollars and hours of practice into my voice. So many artists find themselves in this situation time after time. We put such high standards on ourselves. Our dreams and aspirations seem beyond our achievement and the pressure becomes too much to bear. It’s in these times that I stop and reflect on my connection to music and its place in my life. 

This year, though, I was forced to take a break from my vocal career through a more than two-month hiatus due to injury and illness. All that time away from the art form which I had poured my heart and soul into for most of my life made me realize how much I missed that aspect of myself. Without being able to sing, I lacked my emotional releas. I missed that catharsis, that challenge, that creative outlet. Without singing, I did not feel like myself. 

As I slowly pull my body and my voice back together, I return to singing with a new understanding of exactly WHY I am doing this. I don’t need to “make it” in order to consider myself a singer. I need to sing to feel like myself again. I need to sing because, through all the frustration, the tears, and the fear, I find that I enjoy it. It is such a freeing realization that I don’t need more from my voice than to enjoy the act of singing. So, here’s to my dreams and the time it takes to achieve them.  

 

The Technology Generation

Recently, I have read a lot of criticism of children growing up in the midst of the technological revolution. Burying their faces in their phones, e-readers, and iPads, this generation has always had a wealth of information at their fingertips. While many say that growing up with technology impedes creativity, imagination, focus, memory, mindfulness, and the like, I disagree. If used correctly, this coming generation has so many doors opened to them. They have the tools to record albums, direct movies, take photographs, write novels, and research to their heart’s content. They have unlimited resources available in the palm of their hands. In my voice studio and the opera camps I run each year, I still see unbelievable imaginations, unwavering courage, and mindfulness. Each child has their own personality and unique approach to life. While I have had to ask several students to put their phones down, once they do, they shine as performers, singers, and human beings. 

Just today, one of my new piano students was frustrated, worried, and becoming flustered on a specific fingering. Suddenly, she closed her eyes, crossed her legs on the piano bench, and uttered a hum to herself. Opening her eyes, she played the line seemlessly. It was beautiful to see this young girl able to harness her focus, soothe her mind, and find success. Her face lit up with joy at her own ability to be fully present in her music-making. Rather than being flighty, giving up, or letting frustration get the better of her, she persevered and changed her mind-body relationship for the better. We then used her phone’s recording device to track her progress and provide her with instant feedback. The beaming smile she offered me after hearing herself play was the bright spot of my day.

Technology is here to stay. Children today have never known life without Internet or instant messaging. But, if we can teach them how to use these devices creatively, efficiently, and as an extension of their own mental abilities, we won’t be raising a generation of technology zombies, but instead a group of well-informed, well-rounded, and successful children. The choice is ours.  

 #detoxyobody challenge day 30: utkatasana/chair pose. Take a seat and stay for awhile. Life is so much better when lived in color.