Studio Class Podcast

I discovered that an opera singer friend of mine, Meghan Ihnen, has a podcast called “Studio Class.” I love listening to her podcasts. Although it’s geared towards classical singers, it’s applicable to my art as a singer and songwriter. Audition tips work for my preparation.

I am pumped because on Friday, I submitted my FIFTH grant proposal for the month. As I was submitting it, the captcha was this: PAIN. Yes, I have never worked so hard in my life as I have this month. Not only have I gained new insights for my musical future in essentially writing a business plan by creating the proposals, but I also reached a monthly income goal that I set to reach by November 2017. I reached it in January!

I made sacrifices for time – I used to exercise 4-5x/week, but this month, I exercised 4 or 5 times total. I also had less time in the practice studio, which really sucks. I need that time to feel happy and develop my future by improving my music. So. This month is dedicated to elevating my time in the studio and getting baller with tracking finances. I started taking a finance course at the Actor’s Fund called Cash Flow for Artists that helps artists with irregular income build a budget and plan to financial wealth.

Getting to it!

Live Video Shoot Day

Early to rise – 6:30. Ready in the studio to warm up at 8:30 before heading to the recording studio to shoot.

12 minutes of yoga to start the day at home.

Piano and vocal warm ups to get in the mood. Warming up on piano on Lovage – new song in the works and Moonlight Sonata. I’m teaching my young pianist students Moonlight Sonata. Yes, it’s definitely a challenge, but if you want to inspire the love of music in a young student, you have to give them a beautiful epic piece that is a challenge but within their reach. Because it’s a truly great piece and not a small simple exercise/song out of a training book, the student feels she’s capable of reaching great heights. Plus, there’s a lot of theory that correlates to the piece and the students can understand the practical application of theory; it’s not abstract anymore. My benefit is that I get to learn the piece, too. : D

Vox warm up. Listen to recordings from Winnie’s on the train to get in the zone and remember ornaments that worked well. Here we go. Most importantly – have fun and chill. That’s what it’s all about.

 

Audition Video Shoot Prep

Tomorrow – a music video shoot of three songs for content and also an audition.

Goals:

  1. Warm up on piano and voice – because it feels so good on piano, even if I won’t be playing in the shoot. This is a reward I give myself – it’s beneficial across multiple levels. Makes me feel good, brings me to my inner childlike state, and benefits my musicianship.
  2. Watch videos of MKO Sun performing live. That band and the singer, Hannah Macklin are my new inspiration. Great hooks and singing. Exploratory instrumentation. Transcribe MKO Sun’s vocal runs.
  3. Practice the pieces for tomorrow: Just You, Pulses, and Georgia On My Mind.

I feel a bit unprepared going into this because I haven’t given much time to practice this week. I’ve been working on the grants non-stop and relaxing in ways that I should not – procrastinating with going to practice and getting out the door on time. Self-motivation!

Warm ups on piano – scales. Woooph – Fm is a good one to practice! A good challenge to play it without looking at the keys. Now I see why scales are good. I develop muscle memory in my fingers that relates to the music I’m playing. I can move much more quickly through learning a piece and will arrive at performing it sooner.

Vocal warm ups: hums, ya 1234531 ascending with staccato descending. I use this with my students but rarely use it for myself – definitely an athletic exercise and important to do.

Practicing MKO Sun’s “Withoutcha”. Transcribing it on piano and transcribing the vocals. Learning new piano approaches for keyboard solos and rhythms, like a tremolo on an octave – what is that called? Hannah’s vocal runs move like waves in how they float. They’re fun to do when you figure them out.

Thoughts on the upcoming Brooklyn Arts Council SU-CASA songwriting residency with senior citizens. It is tied WITH my goal of being a better songwriter, pianist, and music director. I’ll use ideas from the seniors to inspire works that I’m writing my my next album. Plus, getting there early to warm up on piano and vocals 1) starts my day with my focus – musical mindset and good shape; 2)  makes me feel more confident by being prepared.

Performance review of Monday’s gig at Winnie’s – feeling good with Georgia On My Mind. Here’s a bootleg recording from the gig. Tim (guitar) and Lars (bass) are stellar, as always. I like the vocals best when they come in on 3:15.

 

 

Plan for tomorrow’s video shoot:

  1. Arrive at Sage at 8:15am for a relaxed vocal and piano warm-up. Head out at 9:15am. Balloons.
  2. Just You – extend the bridge for riffing and soloing. Play midi keyboard for bridge? TC Helicon VoiceLive 3 vox hamonies.
  3. Georgis On My Mind
  4. Pulses – TC Helicon VoiceLive 3 vox hamonies.

 

Influences: MKO Sun, Oh Land, FKA Twigs

Sobbing woman at Starbucks

The other day, 4:30pm, Financial District, NYC
I was working on my computer at Starbucks, and this woman sat down next to me, sobbing. I debated – should I reach out? Would she rather be left alone? I decided to ask if she was ok, and if she didn’t want to talk, well, I tried. 
She was open to it. She revealed that she was angry and frustrated at herself for screwing herself over at her job. It wasn’t the first time she took a certain action, and she was so upset for not learning her lesson this second (or third – or fourth) time around. Her frustration with herself meant ultimately that she felt a lack of power over herself. I got the feeling that she just wanted to step away from decision making at the moment. She was exhausted. She explained that she just bought a pack of cigarettes and wanted to go smoke one, even though she quit smoking two months ago. I told her to throw out the cigs; that first act would give her back her positive power. Next, sit up and roll her shoulders back. The body senses confidence and, even if she didn’t feel it now, it would subtly signal her brain that she was taking charge again. All she wanted to do was go home and go to bed, but she had an appointment with a therapist. Because rescheduling that appointment would lead to a week off, I suggested she go to the appointment and then go home. I suggested she not make any decisions until she was rested and in a place of more confidence. 
This woman just needed someone to talk to, someone to listen and lend a hand. It helped a lot and she thanked me for doing a good deed for the day. We never even said our names. 
Lesson – people are open, people need and want help sometimes but might not ask for it. We never know what we’re all going through. All you have to do is be aware, offer to listen, and pick each other up. Sometimes it takes 10 minutes at Starbucks. 

Grant writing

Grant writing.

Big project in the works combining electronic music x opera x Gypsy jazz +++ interactive visuals.

Yesterday I confirmed some very important leads for my projects – places and people. Top level. I can’t reveal them yet. But I am excited.

My friend said it in a video – when she’s on tour auditioning for opera roles, she’s auditioning for her life. I never thought of grant proposals like that. Of course, I wanted to make them good, but I never attached such weight to things. It is true, though. Every decision we make influences its future consequences. So, I’m going to submit my badass proposals and find fun in the work of writing them. After all, my 2017 resolution was to set and review goals. That’s exactly what grant writing is. Les do dis.

Stage Design Plan

I’m really inspired by Jack Conte’s DIY video setup for his live shows.

Focus. Distraction. Focus.

Knowing what to focus on – first and foremost, the music.
Build the visuals later. They are secondary to the music. However, a performance is an immersive experience, like theater.

Grant writing for my big album / collab between incredible classical, jazz, and electronic artists is taking all of my time, but it’s something that could affect the rest of my life. Here we go! Another full day of giving it to the grant. Exciting ideas are filling in – places and people and interactivity between genres and light projections. 

First practice session in NYC in 2017

First structured practice session of the new year at Sage. Lofty, airy. 100 year-old Steinway with real ivory keys and a natural wood finish. I am so lucky and I am grateful to have this in my life.

My goal is to develop mastery with the TC Helicon voice and instrument processor pedal by May. It sounds far away, but it’ll sneak up quickly.

 

I’ll start with my song Pulses. My vision for this song is a bit different than how it is on the record. I want to make it a combination of Latin and boss’s nova harmonies with beatboxed percussion going through the TC Helicon. A mixture between Gal Costa & Caetano Veloso’s Baby and James Blake’s rocking style. Not as him as a rockstar, but literally, his music rocks / sways back and forth. Like dancing.

Notes on last night’s performance at Winnie’s: feeling proud. I set intentions during the day and listened to my favorite podcast on visualization while I was getting ready in the green room. I used to have conflicting feelings about gigs. I would treat them differently depending on the venues and repertoire. For example, I would care more about my original music than covers I was playing because I felt a stronger emotional connection to the music. This is all in line with my last blog post about interpreting others’ music. Since I started setting goals in the fall, I’ve been holding myself to a higher standard. Now, every performance is at the highest standard I can give. I imagine myself on stage at Carnegie Hall. When there are lights in front of my feet at the microphone, I imagine they’re the footlights onstage at Carnegie. I stand more still and am more deliberate with my gestures. I have been getting into dance recently. I imagined my vocals dancing in the rhythms and pitches. I think it was one of the best singing performances I’ve ever done. I wasn’t drinking. I think that helps – not so loose. I was on my own tip. A jib jab. If you know, you know. One of my favorite excerpts was a cover of Georgia On My Mind. I want to record this piece. I started it with more of a speech-singing approach with direct vocals that weren’t too “singy.” Honest, real. Not trying to be Ray Charles or others who have sung this song. It was my own. Then, in the B section going into the final A section, I opened up to a chest voice – and later asked Justin, my bandmate, what note that was – it was an E!! Yeah, baby. The technical key to replicating that kind of delivery is to tilt my held back to change the position of my larynx and to stretch far and open in the back of my head. For high notes in head voice (classical style), you stretch up and diagonally back. For high notes in chest voice, it’s a lower position in the back of your head, behind your ears. Most importantly, it’s all about feeling. Being with the music. This technical approach is to just be able to repeat it and to teach others how to do it, too.

 

Me and Ian Hutchinson (bass) at the gig last night.


Maria Callas, one of my favorite opera singers, and one of the greatest of all time, has a few videos up on YouTube where she’s interviewed about her process in getting into a role. The art of performing. EVERYTHING has a purpose. Every gesture. Every look. It’s acting. You know, Beyonce steps into a role onstage. She created a stage persona named Sascha Fierce. The idea is that your character is not the same as your performance and your voice or instrument. I take this in my daily life, too. Even walking down the street, I think about my posture, my arms, the distance between my steps. This attuned awareness informs the performance and also just who I am and want to be.

 

If you’re interested in Maria Callas’ interviews, start here.

 

Ok, goals for today’s practice session:
Warm up on voice and piano – done
Play piano though Lovage (an original piece in development) and the intro to Franz Schubert’s Nacht und Traume – done
TC Helicon pedal —- my main goal, and I should not forget it by being distracted with so many other wonderful things. I need to figure out why my harmony settings change after shifting in and out of presets. This should not happen. Also, why does the stutter function not work properly? It stutters background noises and not my voice. I need to focus on loop and beatboxing practice for Pulses and addressing these two issues.

 

Alright, getting to it. L8r.