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Voice - the funcrunch files


Dec. 16th, 2004 11:43 am Voice

I'm trying to figure out what I want to do musically in the upcoming year.


I'm waitlisted for two band workshops - jazz and rock/blues - at Blue Bear, but I'm thinking I may be better off taking private lessons at this stage. The best voice teacher I've had so far was Jane Sharp at the Jazzschool in Berkeley. I wish I'd stuck with practicing the exercises and techniques she taught us in that class, "Full Body Singing", which I took about three years ago (and got Cal college credit for, as well). She was very thorough. When I Googled her to see if she was offering private lessons, I found references from numerous other voice teachers who said that they studied with her, often ten or twenty years ago! So I didn't fully appreciate a good thing when I had it.

Blue Bear has been somewhat disappointing to me so far. I really didn't get much out of the Advanced Voice class I took there last term. I didn't even write up the recital in LJ, or invite too many people to it, as it was so embarrassing - though our group was OK, many of the other performers were square-one beginners, and in some cases acutely painful to listen to. Plus, my reward for staying to the very end of all the class performances was that all of my fellow classmates and teacher had already went home. No celebratory party, no sense of closure. Very depressing.

I was not impressed with either of the times I've seen the jazz group that I'm waitlisted for perform either, at least not with the lead singer or the sound quality in the hall they perform in, Tongue and Groove. Last night I went there to see a co-worker who was playing guitar in the jazz workshop. The house sound guy simply needed to be taken out and shot. We were sitting directly behind him, and he clearly did not understand how to do an appropriate mix (let's actually hear the soloing instruments, what a concept) or how to eliminate feedback. At one point when I looked down at him to see why I couldn't hear my friend playing his guitar solo, the guy was drilling something into the board to hold his headphones. Headphones secured, he left the board and wandered over to the bar for a drink.

Despite the lack of support from the sound department, several of the musicians were actually pretty good, but the lone singer had very little range. I had sung several of the same songs they performed, and I was fairly sure I could do better. Unfortunately, there can only be one or two singers in these workshops, hence the waiting list.

Regardless of whether I choose to focus on voice, piano, or songwriting, or some other instrument entirely (I have an electric bass gathering dust and gave up on clarinet after only a few weeks), I must develop the discipline to practice every day. I'm a terrible procrastinator and actually dropped out of a good jazz piano class at the Jazzschool because I just couldn't stand practicing. Scales and the like aren't sexy, but they are absolutely necessary for good musicianship. And if I stay the vocal route, I need to get and keep my body in shape and learn effective breathing techniques as well.

At least right now I have an incentive to practice, since I'm singing at my friend's wedding in only a couple of weeks. The last verse of the song is a stretch, but just by singing a little bit every day I've already become more confident with reaching the highest notes. I just have to keep it up every day, and to make sure to warm up before the big moment arrives.

I'm currently reading an inspiring autobiography, The Inner Voice by soprano Renée Fleming. She talks a lot about all the hard work it takes to become a professional singer. Not that I imagine myself doing that, and certainly not in opera, but many of the same principles apply for any serious student. My father said that if I ever get the chance to hear her I should take advantage, as she is quite amazing. I found out that she is performing in Berkeley next month, so I may go to that. I'm seeing Richard Goode at the same location just a week before, but I do get a 10% discount as a subscriber, so may be able to justify squeezing in one more concert.


If I don't end up at Blue Bear next term, I want to at least make a commitment to myself to find open mics and to sing karaoke regularly. I've been too focused on wanting supportive friends in the audience. As Ziggy reminded me last night, as a performer you have to get used to not always having that luxury. Even if I have to go to The Mint by myself every single week, it will be good discipline and experience.

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