The 9 Essential Steps to Preparing for a Role and Maintaining Vocal Health Throughout the Run of a Show

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You Booked The Job!…Now What?!?
9 Essential Steps To Preparing for a Role and Maintaining Vocal Health Throughout the Run of a Show
The day you’ve been waiting for has arrived!  You nailed the audition, kept your cool through what seemed like an endless round of callbacks and finally got the call you’ve been waiting for. You booked the job. Congratulations!

After you’ve finished your obligatory happy dance and called your nearest and dearest who’ve been supporting you through this process, it may begin to hit you that you actually have to DO this now. You’ve got a ton of material you need to learn, you’ve got lifestyle preparations to make, and you may have to prepare to leave town- very likely at a moment’s notice . It’s exciting, a relief and anxiety inducing all at once. Many performers feel overwhelmed with the task at hand.

The following is a  guideline of basic steps that you can take to prepare yourself for success in the run of your show while helping to maintain your vocal health along with your general well being.

images1. RESEARCH: Begin to do your homework uncovering the world of the show and your character. You may have already scratched the surface in the audition process.  Now is your opportunity to find out as much as you can and use your creativity as well. Try to uncover the details of where the piece is taking place, the time period, important events of the day, how people interacted and so forth. The more you can understand the world of the show going in, the easier it will be for you make strong and creative decisions in the rehearsal process.

2. NOTE BY NOTE:  Get a hold of the score and script ASAP . You’ll want to go through the score and first identify any specific challenges you may want to work through with your teacher. Begin to figure out sustainable approaches to any challenging sections and make yourself familiar with the rest of the score. You’ll also want to take a look at the text and become aware of any moments that may be vocally or physically challenging there as well.  Keep in mind that everything can change once you begin the rehearsal process such as vocal line designation and even entire songs and scenes being replaced. You want to go into the rehearsal full of information but ready to be malleable and open to new information.

ChorusLine3. KNOWLEDGE IS POWER:  If it’s a revival – know what’s out there- know what’s been done. I’m not saying one needs to obsessively watch every performance of Gypsy that’s crossed the boards. I’m saying it’s a good idea to have some awareness of what’s come before.  Have a knowledge of the work that’s been done on the piece and then see what you can bring to it  to make it your own.

If it’s a new piece of work, try to become familiar with the teams previous work.  Get a sense of their general sensibility.  Seeing as you’ve booked the job, chances are you’ve already got a good sense of this. It can’t hurt to delve a little further and see what you can find.

bigstock-The-d-words-What-s-Your-Plan--241257414. PLANNING: Rehearsal can be the most challenging part of the process and it’s helpful to go in with some sort of game plan as to how you need to pace yourself.  Decide in advance if you are going to try to keep up with your regular workout schedule during rehearsal or reduce it. Keep in mind that every body is different and has different requirements for rejuvenation. It’s important to be in tune with your body and have a strong sense of when it needs rest, when you are feeling vocally tired and what foods you can eat that will help to promote your well being , energy and focus through your rehearsal process. Come up with a solid game plan for work time, rest time, play time, homework and food prep going into the rehearsal process and make adjustments as you discover they are necessary.

my-daily-routine-2bu3bqq5. ROUTINE:  Once you’ve gotten through the rehearsal process, you will want to discover what routine works for you on a regular basis to maintain your health and well being throughout the run of your show. It can become tempting to fall into to some bad habits after the rigors of a challenging rehearsal process.  Balance is an important key to keeping everything copacetic. Take the first few weeks of a run to ease into a routine that is going to keep you healthy and able to be at your best regularly and at the same time is fulfilling on a personal level.  You can always make adjustments along the way as you discover the need for them. 

6. WARM-UPS:  Identify 3 specific set vocal and physical warm-ups that are great for this specific show that will prepare you for: 1. When you are under the weather  2. Feeling ok- it’s an average day and  3. Looking to challenge yourself.  These are not the only warm-ups you will do while you are working on this show.  However, it’s always helpful to have at least three tried and true warm-ups that you know you can turn to and that you feel confident will get you ready to go.  Keep in mind these don’t need to be drastically different from one another, you may make some slight adjustments to your favorite warm-up for when you are under the weather or when you are feeling great and Voila!

2054147. CHECK-UP:  Check in with your ENT before you start the rehearsal process. Assuming you have health insurance, this is a great opportunity for you to check in and be sure that you are starting the rehearsal process with a clean bill of health.  If at any point you run into to difficulties either during rehearsal or the run of a show, it’s great for your ENT to have a record of what you looked like when you were healthy and perhaps be able to trace when your problems started to arise. In checking in with your ENT on a moderately regular basis you are also developing a relationship so that if an issue should develop at any point you are dealing with a doctor that you know and trust as opposed to someone whom you are meeting for the first time.

8. CHECK IN:  Whether or not you are going to be in town, out of town or on the road ,set up a game plan for checking in with your voice teacher intermittently. That can mean weekly lessons , Skype or Facetime sessions, email correspondences or pop in lessons when you are in town. If you are not in town, you can also find out if there is someone in the area that your teacher would recommend working with as well as an ENT they may be aware of.

9. YOU DESERVE A BREAK:  If you have the time and funds  before the run-SCHEDULE YOURSELF A VACATION – you’ve earned it! Hoping and assuming your show is a hit, you may not get another break for a while. If you don’t have time for a vacation , try to reward yourself with something grounding like a massage, some meditation or even a nice bubble bath before you dig into the rehearsal process. You’ve worked very hard to achieve this and you owe yourself a pat on the back and a moment to take a breath and enjoy the victory.vacation_965867

Please feel free to make suggestions for other topics you would like us to explore in this blog, comment or ask any questions.

Be Warm,

Kim Stern

Co-Creator, The Broadway Warm-Up 

A completely synchronized vocal and dance warm-up that can be completed in 30 minutes! 

www.broadwaywarmup.com

TOP 10 ROADBLOCKS MUSICAL THEATRE PERFORMERS FACE (PART 2)

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Last week I started to explore the Top 10 Roadblocks that I have seen my students consistently face-regardless of how far along they are on their career path. As a private voice teacher, I have the privilege of exploring these obstacles with my students on a regular basis and finding creative solutions. No matter how many times I’ve confronted each challenge with a student or on my own, I am always inspired when someone overcomes a hurdle and discovers their true potential.

This list was inspired when Deidre Goodwin and I did an interview for Theatre Cast: a  webcast where theatre teachers and professionals that share a passion for theatre trends exchange practical advice and tips. We talked about our work in developing The Broadway Warm-Up and shared stories of our experiences as performers and teachers.  At some point in the conversation, I mentioned  that I could name about 10 obstacles or roadblocks that I have seen my students come up against consistently.  At this point, a listener of the program wrote in and asked me to go further on that topic.

The following is intended to help you work through the rough points, stick to your resolutions and reach your goals. For more details on items 6-10, please check out the previous post (creatively titled The TOP 10 ROADBLOCK MUSICAL THEATRE PERFORMERS FACE ( PART 1) )

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5. COMPARISON TO WHERE OTHER’S ARE ON THEIR PATHS

When we were in grammar school and were assigned a creative project, the teacher would tell us, “Eyes on your own page!”. She wanted us to focus on our own project and use our own creativity to create something without being swayed or influenced by what other people were doing. I find this motto to be very useful when it comes to my students wondering if they are where they need to be on their career path. It’s oh so tempting to take a look at where our friends and colleagues are and wonder what we are doing wrong or how we can follow in their footsteps. We can spend so much time and energy focusing on other people’s paths and comparing- that we lose our own focus and take energy away from the things that can lead to our own victories. Stay on your own path. Celebrate your friend’s triumphs and at the same time acknowledge that your path is different and your victories will come in their own time.

4. EXPECTING ONE’S SELF TO BE WHERE YOU WANT AS A PERFORMER WITHOUT ALLOWING TIME FOR GRADUAL GROWTH

When a little baby takes it’s very first step, everyone in the room claps and cheers. There are smiles and celebration – and when the baby plops down on his behind seconds later, there are more smiles, applause and encouragement to try again. If he falls, he is not admonished but encouraged to reach further. No one would expect that infant to be up and running a race moments after his first step. Watching the child develop we understand that he must literally put one foot in front of the other to develop muscular strength , coordination and stamina.

As we develop our skills as an artists it’s easy to become impatient with ourselves and expect instant results. We want to see the fruits of our efforts quickly and get frustrated with our status quo. Try to embrace where you are in this very moment as a performer and celebrate that. Acknowledge that you are on a journey as an artist and are developing actual factual muscles. That takes time , patience and practice. Recognize that while you are reaching for greater goals, that does not take away from where you are and what you have to offer in THIS VERY MOMENT.

3. FEAR OF MAKING A MISTAKE- NOT LEAVING SPACE FOR THE “BAD” SOUNDS

It’s very rare that something will come out just perfect on the first try. Great ballerinas have had to fall out of their pirouettes when they were first learning to dance, renowned painters have thousands of sketches that end up painted over or in the trash.  When it comes to singing , I’ve found that most people would like to “sound good” all the time.  For some reason we leave very little room for breathy, cracky or vulnerable sounds when we are working on our singing.  We will go to great lengths creating tension or shying away from notes to avoid “sounding bad” . One of the first things I point out to my students when we begin our work together is that we are not in the studio to “sound good”.  We are in the studio so that we can “sound good” out in the world.  That means that there may be times when we will take the voice to places that are weak, cracky, vulnerable.  As opposed to creating tension and trying to cover those areas up, I encourage the student to actually deal with the reality of what is going on with their instrument so that we can give them the exercises to build upon those areas that need development. It reminds me of going to the gym. Personally, I don’t look my best as I’m sweating on the elliptical machine. However, I hope that as I continue to put in that work I will leave the gym looking and feeling a little better. It’s so important to have at least one safe space where you can feel completely free to “mess up”.  Let that space be your place to play with your instrument, find your creative voice and really let go.

2. NOT GIVING ONE’S SELF THE OPPORTUNITY TO BE BRILLIANT DUE TO LACK OF PROPER PREPARATION

There’s a certain magic that happens when we have done our homework and are truly prepared for a performance . Suddenly, our shoulders release, our breathing becomes easy and our confidence swells. We are able to be present and in the moment and lo and behold-we can have some fun. Anything becomes possible. Proper preparation involves several factors that can sometimes get overlooked or skipped but each element can make a major difference in leading to a victorious outcome. Simply being familiar with our material and having rehearsed it is a good place to start, but preparation can go deeper than that. By giving yourself the opportunity to practice your material in front of other people several times before your audition or performance, allowing yourself the time to warm-up your voice and body,  being certain of how you are going to enter the room and communicate with your accompanist, checking to be sure your music is set up in the proper format and in the proper key and clearly marked, exploring your piece several times and playing with your acting choices and so forth you are setting your self up for an enjoyable performance. Challenge yourself to create opportunities to be brilliant on a regular basis.  As Oprah says, “I feel that luck is preparation meeting opportunity. ”

1. QUESTIONING “AM I GOOD ENOUGH?” 

This is most certainly the #1 road block I see Musical Theatre performers come up against no matter how far along they are on their career path. A performer can have multiple Broadway credits and award nominations or wins. Still the “evil doubt monster” can rear his nasty little head at a moment’s notice. Part of our job as performers is to continually nurture our sense of value and worth. Create a strong support system of teachers, friends, mentors and medical professionals that you trust to guide you on your journey and fill your days with work that inspires you. Continue to strive towards improving your skills while acknowledging how far you’ve come on your path thus far. Practice and be prepared. From there, do the work and just keep doing it. When it comes down to it, we have very little control over what other people’s opinions of us might be — quite frankly it’s none of our business. I’ve seen people talk themselves into the idea of begin good enough and just as easily talk themselves out of being good enough. Make the decision to do the work and let it be an exciting journey rather than a one time trip to greatness. There will be great days and less than great days but you will always be an artist . In my book, by definition, that is more than good enough.

Be Warm,

Kim Stern

Co-Creator – The Broadway Warm-Up

A Completely Synchronized Vocal and Dance Warm-Up that can be completed in under 30 minutes!

Anyone Can Whistle… but can anyone SING?

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“So, can you teach anybody to sing? Or is singing a natural gift that someone needs to be born with?”

If I had a penny for every time someone asked me that question… well let’s just say I’d have more than a few dollars. The first time I was asked, I proudly answered, “I can teach anybody to sing!” and at the time I believed that answer 100%. As the years have gone by and I have become a little more experienced, my answer has refined itself into something that I feel I can stand behind with a little more grounding, “I can teach anybody to sing BETTER.”

Usually, when someone asks me that question, they are really asking, “Can you teach ME to sing?” Having never worked with them before, it’s a tricky question to answer in the moment as there are many factors that go into working with a vocalist. However, I find that most people begin to understand what their potential might be when I relate it to the idea of an Olympic Runner.

Most of us are born with some basic ability to run. There are certain people who are naturally born to be Olympic runners. Their bodies are just made for it. From the day they were born they had the strength, stamina, speed and agility to be one of the fastest runners in the world. They have long powerful legs, their movements are efficient, they’re naturally aerobically fit. Some of those people discover their talent, hone their gifts and go on to win Gold Medals.

There are others whose bodies might not have the same natural gifts but with proper training, persistent hard work and dedicated practice will go on to win races and achieve those very same Gold Medals. These are the people who are committed to training their instrument to be the absolute best it can be. They will quite literally go the extra mile in order to reach their goal. These people take the raw materials they have been given and maximize their potential. They may not have been born with a gift for running, but through passion, persistence and training have overcome obstacles to achieve their goal.

Then, there are runners that fall into every category in between. There’s the naturally gifted runner who doesn’t have the desire to train every day. There’s the runner who is not so gifted and strives for the gold , but lacks the focus to train consistently. There’s someone like myself who loves a good walk or spin on the elliptical , but really will only be inspired to actually run if there’s someone chasing me… you get the idea.

In training a singer , we are dealing with an instrument of the body. We must develop strength , flexibility and agility similar to the way an Olympic runner would in preparing for any race. The primary difference is that the majority of the muscles that we are dealing with in singing are internal and not visible– so they are a little more challenging to access. We also must take into account the mind and spirit of the performer. How quickly a vocalist progresses can vary greatly depending on their motivation, their intelligence, their creativity, their confidence and their passion- to name a few.

A voice teacher can help to train the muscles and develop coordination. We can teach proper vowel structure and breathing. We can help the student develop their ear and match pitch. We can expose them to great music and vocalists and inspire their spirit and creativity. At the same time, we must recognize that we are working as a teammate with the student and there are several variable factors at play. Some of those factors include the student’s willingness or ability to practice on a regular basis, the way and speed in which their mind receives information, the connection between teacher and student -how well they communicate and how comfortable they are with one another, the student’s willingness to try new ideas and stray from their comfort zone. There is also that fantastic moment when after months of exploring an idea, for one reason or another, the clouds part and something just clicks.

One of my favorite moments as a teacher is finding my way into a students way of thinking and into their hearts and helping them to unlock the voice that has been waiting there for them all along. I’ve seen gifted singers who had lost their inspiration regain their spark and create magic. I’ve seen people go from not being able to match pitch, to singing songs full out and booking jobs in the ensemble of Broadway shows. I’ve seen people who thought that maybe, they just might have a voice, come in for a first voice lesson and discover that not only did they have a voice , it was something to be reckoned with and something to be shared.

When someone asks me, “Can you teach anyone to sing?”, I can confidently say, “I can teach anyone to sing BETTER.” Where we go from there , well that’s the fun part: discovering how far you can go if you put your mind to it. : )

If there are any topics you’d like me to address or questions you’d like me to answer, give a shout out by contacting Kim@broadwaywarmup.com

Be Warm,  Kim