13 February, 2006

Dec.23 The Bizness of Singing Part 2 (High School)

23 December 2005 @ 06:53 pm
The Business of Business (part two)- Highschool
Ok, back from dinner- filled with yummy roasted chicken and roasted vegetables. Apple Crisp to come out of the oven in less than 30 minutes. It's good to be home for the holidays. Or should I say Hannukah- since this whole war on Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays has been going on for the past few weeks.

Now, back to my master plan of advice.

Let's begin early- let's say something like my own experience.

You are a highschooler who has a good amount of musical theater experience. You may know every word to every musical written by either A. Andrew Lloyd Webber B. Rogers and Hammerstein C. Sondheim, or D. Any of the newer musicals, like Wicked and Rent that have been popular for the past 5-10 years.
You are probably in Choir, and also in Select Choir, and also got into All-State Choir. Maybe the drama department at your school is just OK- so you've done a few community shows too.
Suddenly, you ask your parents for voice lessons (in addition to the piano and guitar) because your choir teacher says you really have some talent.

Finding a teacher in highschool: It could be your chorus teacher or someone he or she recommends. I'd recommend going to the nearest college to where you live and checking out their voice faculty, or any of the vocal MM students that are at the school. You must have a good rapport with them. You must be willing to experiment with new warm-ups, physical sensations, rolling around on the floor or sticking your tongue out- this is the trial period for everything. If you get your technical studies started early enough, you will be so much ahead of anyone else your age entering college to possibly pursue music.

What to study in highschool (or, 24- no, not the TV thriller): I admit, my teacher gave me arias. But I would absolutely NOT recommend that to anyone this age. Start with the good old 24 pieces of Italian music. Art song, as it is called, is really the key- short pieces that are not too overreaching, but still challenging enough to feel you have accomplished something once you learn them...ALL.
If you want to succeed with this method, buy a Vaccai warm up book as well. Establish a practicing routine- don't just mess around on the piano (like I did).
Translate EVERY word of those songs. Know what they all mean from memory after you translate them. Make sure your diction is on the verge of impeccable.

What the 24 can teach you if you let it:
Singing with dynamics- they are all marked in there. Learn how to sing the second verse of Tu lo Sai as it is marked and you can sing Pianissimo!
Italian Diction- already mentioned. Your languages need to be a strength, by the way.
Legato, Staccato, marcato, LINE (the ever-elusive word used to describe how the song connects to itself, to your breath, and to the output for the audience)
Breath control (Ma ricordati di me in Tu Lo Sai for Ex.)
Interpretation of Italian Song! These are beautiful, beautiful songs. Learn them as an excercize for technique, but also have fun with their characters- the girl that sings Nel Cor is much different than the one who is singing Lasciatemi Morrire.

IN addition to the 24 to establish good habits and good technique, YES, I'd say take a look at arias that are appropriate for your voice (size, weight, color). Do NOT perform them. Study them with a trusted teacher and get their feedback. Make sure you don't have any bad habits or they WILL come back to bite you in the booty when you have to sing them for real (thank you, Juliette's Waltz).

If your teacher thinks you'll be a coloratura soprano do NOT jump in singing Queen of the Night. Listen to it, sure. Have an aria book that includes it, fiiine. But what about starting with something like a lighter Mozart- Durch Zartlichkeit? Bester Jungling? Every coloratura soprano I know now was once just singing all of the soubrette music, keeping her high notes in shape, and waiting for the mental and physical and vocal OK to jump into the high-flying and often heavier roles that coloratura voices feel most comfortable in.

Know and love Handel if it works in your voice. Not only will you be re-hired to do those cantatas in concert once you're in or out of college, it's great for vocal agility.

If you're in the mood for the more sensual or something that needs to be acted- try some French art song. Research cycles of music so there is a definite character/beginning/journey/end to what you are singing. Debussy, Faure wrote most of the hits. Look for something off of the beaten path as well.

Opportunities in highschool may seem few and far between, but you CAN start a resume.
It can include musical theater if it has been legit.
It should include concerts you are involved with, and of course any soloing that you do.

One of the best things I found was this competition, the ARTS scholarship, run by the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts (NFAA)- open to highschool seniors and ages 17-18 I think. All arts groups are represented (dance, theater, voice, MT, writing, instruments, etc), and you apply by Cd in the first round. If you're accepted you go to ARTS week in Florida with other talented kids and have coachings, concerts, make connections and friends- and best of all- FREE, with the opportunity to be funded FURTHER from anywhere between 500-5,000 dollars. Not a bad way to end HS.

There is also All-state, and the Governor's award in most states (in Music). There are your own school's music awards if they have them. Join a community chorus. Put on your OWN concert if you need to raise money for college or a summer program- ask your local religious center or recc. center if you can use their space (usually they'll say yes and it will be free, too- since you're such a cute highschooler) for a recital. FUN! Experience! Contacts! People who may want to be your sponsor or patron for a certain program or for a few years throughout college! Dealing with nerves! Dealing with accompanists, publicity, resumes, headshots, decorating! All wonderful things to have under your belt before you attempt to go to school to "learn" how to be a singer and "learn" how to have a career".

Ok, before I end this section of highschool singing (next phase is college) I will say, that if you feel you are advanced enough (and so does your teacher) and you have parental support ($$), think about doing a pay-to-sing music program over a summer.
It can be in Italy for the big bucks to learn the language AND get to do some scenes and take voice lessons, or it can be in the US where you get to do scenes, maybe a legit MT show, an operetta, and take voice lessons.
Check out classicalsinger.com to read more about the tons and tons of programs offered for all age and talent levels. But I personally feel that if you are ready, it's a good idea to sing for someone other than your teacher and your choir in highschool. You will immediately meet at least 40 more singers from all over the US who are your age or older, you will make contacts with the administrators of the program who will smile and coo because you'll probably be the "baby" of the program, yet you'll be READY to take on anything vocally and on-stage regardless of your age, and you'll make really really good contacts that you can keep updated about where and what you are doing while you are in college!
Who knows- one summer in the future they may just need a last minute soprano to sing Barbarina, OR Susanna.

High School.
Aside from the breakouts and fashion faux pas, the plastics or the music geeks- if you really start to get your act together early in terms of singing, you'll be leaps and bounds ahead of anyone your age when you get to your next destination: College.

Things to remember for Level I:
Choirs- outside of school if possible
Lessons- teacher you trust, stick to art songs and technique, be familiar with future arias
Competitions and Scholarships- find them, make that money, and get out there if you can
Resume- start building one with legit MT, chorus and maybe a recital if you can get one in
Summer study- either do language immersion, pay-to-sing or both. Get a head start and make contacts.

And in addition, academically of course you want to be taking MORE than one language if possible, participating in a drama class, familiarizing yourself with opera stories, composers, libretti, scores, recordings, and making sure you are comfortable with piano (for piano proficiency classes in the possible future), and music history (to pass those pesky entrance exams IF you major in music).

--------high g

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