77 Days ⏰

For a year that seemed to drag on and on and on, can you believe there are just 77 days left in 2020? 

With that kind of timeline, it’s easy to say:

  • There’s no point in starting something new now (the music project you’ve been wanting to dive into for months)
  • I’ll wait until the new year to make any Big Changes (voice lessons and band practice can wait)
  • There’s not enough time to make any real progress (so why start vocalizing now?)

The Broadway community got a big update this week as well, extending the Broadway shut down until May 30, 2021. 

In a lesson with my student Jake this week- he’s in the Broadway cast of MEAN GIRLS- he shared something pretty insightful.

He said, “At the start of quarantine in March, every day was completely unknown- will we go back to the show in April? Summer? Labor Day? This most recent announcement, while it’s completely sad to think of 8 more months without theatre in New York, gives me a more concrete timeline. OK, I have at least eight months to do something different, to figure out how I’m going to fill my time.”

Something about a definite length of time makes it easier for us to plan for, obviously!

So what if you crushed the last 77 days of the year, tackling goals you just “haven’t had time for” yet? Or pursued another skill or talent that can supplement your income in the future, knowing that Broadway won’t be back until mid-2021?

Here’s a few ideas to make the most out of the next 77 days:

  • Make a list of roles/shows you want to play in the future. In lessons or on your own- learn every piece of music that character sings!
  • Revamp your audition book with material that is *actually right* for the kinds of roles and shows you want to be seen for. 
  • Now that you love your audition cuts- self-tape each and every song in your book! Compile a library of your audition material that you can send out to casting directors when auditioning resumes (and I guarantee much of it to be virtual!).
  • Make demo recordings of the songs you’ve written this year and be brave enough to share them with a few trusted friends for feedback. 
  • Reach out to the fellow songwriter you’ve always wanted to collaborate with.
  • Set up a recurring time on your calendar (set an alarm!) to vocalize for 10 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Just do it! And be amazed at how your range and stamina improves. 
  • Are you a voice teacher? Request to observe other voice teachers teach. Book an interactive lesson where you and another co-teach a tricky student of yours that you’d love another opinion on.

How do I find the right vocal placement? And what does “placement” even mean?

“Placement.” It’s a word singers love to use. I’d say it’s right up there with “breath control” as one of the terms singers use most often!

But what is placement? And how do we actually find the “placement” we’re looking for?

Shooting hoops—what leads to good placement?

Let’s compare vocal placement to shooting a basketball. (Go with me on this!)

When an athlete is shooting hoops, you know they’ve made a decent shot if the ball goes into the basket. If the ball misses the hoop, the athlete needs to figure out what they did wrong so they can adjust their next shot for a better result.

The result of a good shot is that it lands in the hoop. But the ball landing in the hoop is just that, a result! The specific act of the ball landing in the hoop is not the work of the athlete. The athlete’s actual work happens right before the ball goes through the hoop—it’s when the player is coordinating their wrists, legs, and core to ensure the ball leaves their fingers and goes where they want it.

You can throw the ball and affect whether or not it goes in the basket, but you don’t actually put it (or place it) in the basket! (Unless you’re dunking the ball, but let’s leave that out for the sake of this analogy, since we’re talking about shooting it from a distance.)

Placement is a helpful tool of perception

For us singers, the idea of placement is similar. Talking about placement can be a useful way for singers to remember a feeling or sensation, but it’s even more important to remember the process that led you there.

Chances are, something related to the three systems of singing (breathing, phonation, and resonance) is what’s leading you to feel that a sound is “placed” in a particular spot. This may include certain exercise flows, phrasing choices, vowel shapes, or dynamics that may have resulted in that awesome feeling you experienced on a particular note.

To be clear, it’s the choices you make that affect placement; you don’t just choose placement itself. Placement is an effect of the choices you make within your airflow, phonation (how heavy or light), and vowel shapes.

So the next time you feel like a sound is “placed” somewhere that you really like or that feels awesome, remember what the process was that led you there!

Pinpointing this process is a much more effective way to increase the accuracy of your singing rather than crossing your fingers and hoping that you can place your sound in your mask—or your forehead—or your toes!

Seven and a half years in the making

My friend Carolyn is a gifted actor. She’s incredibly passionate about theatre (particularly Shakespeare) and continuing education. I’ve watched from afar (largely through social media) as she’s made career shifts as an actor and director, and as she’s auditioned for graduate acting programs for the past seven years. That’s right – seven!

Carolyn isn’t a student of mine, but she shared her story on Facebook this week and I just knew you needed to hear it (don’t worry, I asked if I could share her post here!).

“Seven and a half years ago I first started applying for graduate acting schools.

Over that time I was: rejected, gave up acting, found myself and the courage to start acting again, earned more rejections, started taking Shakespeare acting intensives at some of the best schools in the world, was hired for my first Equity Contracts, earned more rejections, gave up on graduate school and refocused on just acting professionally, had a personal awakening and realized how important graduate Shakespeare training was for me, earned even more rejections, received more Equity Contracts, continued to arrange more training with some of the best Shakespeare coaches in the world….

And then…. in March 2020 I was offered a place to train on the “MA in Classical Acting for the Professional Theatre” at London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. 

It doesn’t make any logical sense to start a training program I’ve worked years to find in the middle of a pandemic, with upheavals at all levels of education and training, but I am where I’m supposed to be.  Sometimes you’re given a glimpse in life, showing you exactly where you need to be, when you need to be there. I’ve learned that IF I’m given the gift of a glimpse, I’d better trust it…even if it doesn’t make sense.  So here’s to faith in the future and a wonderful, years worked for, year of training at LAMDA.” – Carolyn H.

Sometimes, the timing of things just doesn’t make sense.

When it comes to working towards a long held goal, there are often so many factors at play, many of which are completely out of our control. 

But what is in control are our choices– do we keep pursuing? Do we take a break? Seek more training, knowledge, and skill development? Pause on one goal to work towards another?

Just because you don’t have something you really want (or have worked for, or feel like you deserve) right NOW, doesn’t mean it’s not coming.

Is it worth it to you to keep working until it does?