5 Things to Make Your Practicing More Beneficial:

So since finishing up my senior recital and a few other performances, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on my practice techniques. I thought creating a list of the top 5 things I try to work towards in order to make my practice a beneficial as possible might be helpful for other young musicians like myself. So, here is a list of 5 things I like to keep in mind when practicing:

  1. Outline of the Practice Session: When I go into a practice, I find it important to have a goal and outline of what I am doing. I start out by thinking of the amount of time I will be practicing, and then start to think of what I can focus on in the practice session. In my opinion, unless you are practicing just for the sheer enjoyment of an already seasoned piece, you should have a plan for what you want to accomplish from your practice. Having an objective in your practice session will ultimately keep you on task and making your practicing much efficient.
  2. Practice as if it Were a Performance: The biggest mistake I have made in the past, is practicing as if I were just going through the motions. It is crucial even when you are learning the notes and rhythms of a piece, that you still give the music the energy and technique that you would use when in a performance. From past experiences, I have found that it is difficult to correct mistakes that become a part of the muscle memory that is developed when learning a piece, and that is why I find it so important to practice with correct technique and energy throughout.
  3. Work from the end to the beginning: When learning a piece, it is important to work from the end of the piece to the beginning. This is important because if there is a chance that you are not as comfortable with a piece as you would like to be, then when performing the piece, you will be more familiar with the piece as you work your way through it instead of it falling apart.
  4. Work pieces in sections: When learning or even practicing your music, it is important to work through the piece in sections and phrases. What I like to do is section the piece off based on phrasing and work from the last section to the first section, not moving on until the section I am working on is secure. This is a great way to correctly learn your music and also correctly memorize the pieces you are working on.
  5. Never leave a practice session upset: Everyone has those days were they are frustrated with the way their practicing goes. When I was a sophomore, one of my favorite professors taught me to never leave a practice session upset with myself. They told me to all think of one thing that I had done well even if it were small or something I had already achieved before. It is so important to do something along these lines, because if you leave frustrated, it is much more difficult to practice after that.

My Professional Opera Debut

So about two weeks ago marked the first time I’ve ever sang in a professional opera production. It was a small start, but I am more than happy to say that I was a member of the chorus for Opera Roanoke’s 20’s themed rendition of Verdi’s La Traviata. The process of learning the music and staging for this production may have been very time consuming, considering I was also finishing up things for my senior recital, but ultimately I’ve never loved performing as much as I did in this production. So below I am going to list a few of my favorite things about my experience in my first professional opera:

-The Music: Obviously this is the most important part of the production, because without it there would be no show. Before I started working on the ensemble parts for this opera, I had never seen it all the way through (which is not something I’m proud of), and once I started to learn my music and hear the parts come together, I was completely blown away. Verdi had never really been a composer that I paid a lot of attention to before this production, but now I constantly find myself listening to various arias and scenes from his operas because his compositions are just that genius. La Traviata has pieces of music that are all over the spectrum, in terms of emotion and style, from upbeat party scenes, to heart wrenching arias, which to me means that it has something to offer every opera fan. Ultimately, the most exciting part of being in this production was getting to sing such incredible music, and share it with the audience.

-The Principles: This opera is infamous for needed immense talent to pull off, and the principle characters had just that. It was an other-worldy experience to walk into rehearsals and hear people with such incredible instruments, knowing that soon you would be singing right along with them. For me personally, the sheer joy and inspiration that these singers provided to everyone around them, made my first professional performance more comfortable than nerve-wracking, and that’s not something that many people are lucky enough to experience.

-The Costumes: When I found out that this version of La Traviata was going to be staged in the 1920’s, I became a bit nervous, just because I am rather curvy and this is a time period notorious for being more flattering for small frames. All of my nerves melted away when I met the costume director for the show. She pulled incredible pieces for everyone in the ensemble and I was completely in love with my beautiful drop-waist dress. On top of how awesome my dress was, the accessories that we were given took the costumes to a whole other level. I was given a few different head pieces to try out over the course of tech week and ultimately ended up with a turban that really tied my whole look together. I think this production showed me just how much fun it can be to play dress up.

-The Staging: Having been in quite a few scenes and arias programs in college, staging was not something new to me. Staging tends to be something that I have loved getting into but being around people that weren’t too familiar made me a bit more apprehensive than normal when we began working. With this new task of warming up to all of the principles and ensemble members, came the realization that we were all in the production together and that there was no reason for me to be scared to interact with these people.

So what I took from this incredible experience, is that trying new things (especially in a professional setting) can be nerve-wracking, but ultimately it’s likely to uncover an incredible experience. I learned so much from being involved in this production and hope to continue performing in opera choruses in the future.

Why Millennials Have a Distaste for Opera

In the past century, the US has seen a growing obsession with celebrities and the entertainment industry. Another thing that has happened in the past century, is a decline in younger generations having an interest in Opera as an art form. In this blog post I want to speak about two large reasons I’ve heard for why people do not think they will have an interest in Opera.

“It seems like it would be boring”: If people would take the time to just watch one Opera, they would realize that the art form is far from boring. In a society in which we are obsessed with Reality TV, we are always looking for the next big scandal. Operas tend to have a large helping of scandal, sometimes with multiple scandals occurring at the same time. In any given opera you can see anything from love triangles, violence, and even death, which seem to be large staples of the modern entertainment industry, but better because it is paired with beautiful music. On top of the incredible plots and music, the settings of operas are becoming more elaborate and ultimately more attention grabbing. Many companies are moving towards more modern stagings of classic shows, for example the Metropolitan Opera had their rendition of Rigoletto by Verdi set in Las Vegas during this past season.

” You have to be sophisticated to enjoy Opera”: Although like many other art forms, Opera is considered to be pleasing to people with more sophisticated palettes, I am here to say this is not true. As someone who just a few short years ago had no interest in classical music at all, I know first hand what it is like to fall in love with opera. I also know that falling in love with this art form does not mean that you have to be sophisticated. Having recently completed my professional opera debut just a week ago, I saw a wide range of audience members who came from all walks of life. Yes, in media opera may be portrayed as something that you were ball gowns and use binoculars to watch, but this is not the impression I get when I see the attendees of these shows. Although ball gowns are not the norm for these performances, I must admit that it is fun to get a little more dressed up than usual. The way I like to think of going to an opera is that you are getting ready to go out on the town, but instead you’re going to bare witness to incredible story lines and some of the most earth-shattering music ever written.

As I have said in other posts, the only way to truly find out what you think of this and any other art form, is to give it a go. Go onto Youtube and look up popular operas with translations and take the same time that you would to watch an Episode of something on Netflix to really figure out your feelings for these incredible works, you might just love it.

Singers Fitness Challenge Update for Week 1 and a half

So this past week and a half has been the busiest week of my college career. Why I chose to start a fitness challenge the week of my senior recital, and with the start of tech week for my first professional opera is beyond me. Needless to say, I have yet to start the actual physical part of the challenge, due to 6-10 hour rehearsals on top of going to school full time.

So with that being said, here is my exercise for the past week or so:

I have done a lot of walking, about 5-6 miles a day just between going to classes and walk throughs of my recital and the opera I am a part of. I have also been learning how to walk in both heels and character shoes for the first time in my life, so that has been a pretty big part of my physical activity as well. From all of the walking I have been doing, I’ve noticed a small difference in the tone of my thighs and my calve muscles also feel like they are gaining a bit of definition.

Now here is the vocal part of my challenge:

Since I have been singing on average about 4 hours a day, most days, for about a week and a half, I have noticed a difference in my vocal health. First off, I have noticed an overall increase in my use of my diaphragm and lifting of my soft palette. This is a result of both lack of energy in the beginning of these rehearsals, thus making me support better out of necessity, and also from some directions that the opera chorus received from the director. After running my recital once a day leading up to the actual recital, and then doing staging and tech rehearsals at the same time, it’s safe to say that my stamina has also improved since starting this journey.

I’m hoping to start the actual exercise portion of this challenge next week and do an update on how that has helped my vocal and overall health.

My Singer’s Fitness Challenge

When I was in Grade School, I played soccer for about six years and was always in pretty good physical shape. I would get home from school and go run for forty five minutes just because it was something that I loved doing (almost as much as I love singing). As I started college, I found myself having less time to play soccer, to the point where I stopped playing completely. I would try to occupy myself with other physical activities, but nothing stuck, mostly because I just didn’t have the time to keep up with them.

Flash forward four years: I’m a senior in college getting ready to graduate in 44 days. Due to lack of exercise and a poor diet (plus some alcohol consumption), I have put on roughly 45 pounds while I’ve been in school. This is not only making me feel tired all time, but could also be affecting my singing ability. In general, if I were in better shape, I would have better energy, breath support, and less tension when singing, not to mention I would feel a little more confident than I feel now.

So as of tomorrow, I would be starting a month-long fitness challenge in which I will exercise for at least 45 minutes a day, as well as sing for an hour a day. I am also going to change my diet in order to eat more healthily. What I am hoping to gain from this challenge is a healthier lifestyle overall. I would love to lose some weight but more importantly than anything, I just want my energy back.

Vocally, I am looking forward to seeing the way this challenge will affect my voice. I have read quite a few studies that say that cardio and neuromuscular activities are great ways for singers who are looking to gain better breath support, and increasing energy and stamina.

This is the routine I am looking to follow for my first week of this challenge:

-I will do 45 minutes of cardio 6 days this week. I bought a dance program called Cize that I have been wanting to try so I’m thinking I will do that as my cardio.

-I will look up a few basic yoga moves to start doing before bed and in the morning.

-I am going to try to also incorporate 30 minutes of walking in as well, just because I feel like it would be a good stress-reliever on top of the cardio.

-I am planning to cut fast food and sugary drinks out of my diet, while incorporating more water and raw foods into my diet.

-In terms of improving my vocal practice, I will be practicing an hour a day in order to strengthen my voice as well.

So this is what I plan to get started on this week and I will post an update in a week!

In the meantime, what are some things you would recommend someone do when they are trying to get in shape?

My Focus

So over the course of the past two months, I have been posting about opera as a passion project for a social media marketing class that I am currently taking. Although this is one of my biggest passions, it can sometimes be hard to sit down and write a post as in depth as I would like to. From here on out, the focus of my blog will be more centered on singing as a general passion of mine, and ways that I will incorporate singing into the other passions I have found. So here are a few themes of blogs I will be posting in the coming weeks:

-Beauty: With my Senior Recital fast approaching, I will be trying out some makeup styles to match my dress and may post a few ideas to the page. I am also thinking of doing a jury or performance look post to show how I dress for more casual performances. I will also be doing a test to see which lipsticks withstand singing the best.

-Performances: I will be performing in my first recital ever, and my first professional opera within the next three weeks, so I will be blogging about my experiences with those two big milestones in my musical career.

-Practice: I would like to make a post or two talking about the way that I practice and prepare for performances. This could involve memorization methods, warm ups, characterization exercises, etc.

-Fitness: I have been looking to get in better shape lately, and will be starting a challenge within the next few days to begin exercising and eating healthily on a regular basis, and I will be tracking to see if this has any effect on my overall ability to sing.

These are just a few ideas I have up my sleeve for the upcoming weeks, but I would love to hear what you would be interested in seeing me blog about!

 

 

If Pop Stars Were Opera Singers

A few weeks ago, a friend and I were listening to the radio when “Hello” by Adele came on. We both started to wonder what Adele’s fach would be if she sang classically. So for this blog post I thought I would write about what I think different popular vocalists’ voice types are. As a disclaimer, this is not something that is easily determined, especially by someone like me, who has only been studying voice for four years; so I’m not saying by any means that these classifications are accurate.

So to classify the voice types I was listening for vocal range, tessitura, weight of voice, color of voice, and agility. So here is what I think these four Pop Stars’ fachs would be:

Adele:  Her vocal range is around C3-G#5, and her tessitura tends to be in the middle of that range, while still utilizing the upper and lower limits of this often. Her tone is dark throughout the middle and lower part of her voice, but her head voice tends to have more of a lyric quality. Adele also tends to have an average level of agility to her voice. If I were to take a stab at what I think her fach is, I would say that Adele is a dramatic mezzo-soprano.

Brendon Urie: This man’s voice may be virtuosic, even in the eyes and ears of the biggest classical fan. With a staggering vocal range of D2-C7, he has almost five octaves of range, including his falsetto. As for the tone of his voice, if tends to have warmer quality but his voice is fairly light in weight. Pairing his interesting tone with his nimble agility, I would hands down say Urie is a Tenor Leggiero.

Justin Bieber: His vocal range spans A2-F#5, and his tessitura tends to be towards the lower-middle part of his range, but he has falsetto that he uses fairly often as well. Justin’s voice is light in both weight and in color, but he is only 22, so it is very likely that his voice has a lot of growing to do before it can be classified completely. If I were to determine his fach for his age, I would say that he is a lyric tenor.

Beyonce:  With a pretty extensive range of F#2-F6, I thought I might have a hard time defining Yonce’s fach. She has a pretty consistent tone through out, but I would still say that the majority of her music sits in the middle part of her voice. Beyonce’s tone is on the warmer side, but does not have a ton of weight to it. As can be seen in songs like Love on Top, Bey seems to have a good handle on her high notes as well, which makes this classification that much harder. Eventually I came to the conclusion that I believe Beyonce is a lyric coloratura mezzo-soprano with an upper extension.