Friday, April 06, 2018

The Royal Conservatory’s 2018 Annual High School Vocal Performance Intensive

I’m thrilled to announce that this July I’ll be a vocal coach for The Royal Conservatory’s Summer Vocal Intensive programs from July 9-14 and 16-29 in Toronto. If you’re a singer 14-18 years old and are interested in experiencing the kind of integrated program that is usually reserved for more advanced performers, you should definitely take a look at The Royal Conservatory’s two summer intensives. Take a look at the full faculty list for the program:
Here’s a quick rundown of the program from the RCM’s Dr. Robert Loewen:
For a number of years I have felt there was a genuine need for a High School Voice Performance Intensive in Canada. I am well aware of a number of very fine High School programs in the United States, some of which have been extant for many years now. A number of High School programs exist that seem to have a focus on the High School singer as a young opera singer. While I am sure the intentions are very good, it has always been my opinion that High School singers would benefit from the intensive environment, focusing on exposure to, and acquisition of, important musicianship and performance skills.
The inspiration for content came from hearing of the experiences students of mine had had in various programs around North America. Some of these programs were focused on high school, some for university-level singers.
Based on those experiences, and my own pedagogical perspectives, the important elements I saw as need in a program were:
  • Voice lessons
  • Coachings
  • Movement
  • Musicianship
  • Acting
  • Diction
  • Masterclasses
  • Performances
While serving as a mentor examiner in the spring of 2015, I found a very willing, and highly capable colleague interested in precisely this type of program. In the Spring of 2015, Dr Victoria Holland (Chicago) and I began to plan; our visionary quickly turned to the concrete planning needed to kick off this great idea.
July 2016 marked our first year of the Royal Conservatory High School Voice Performance Intensive. While talking to teachers and singers across the country, we both felt nervous about whether the vision and singer numbers would actually come together to give us year one. Our required numbers were modest, and we remained optimistic. As an unofficial deadline loomed we actually had 12 registrants, one from Chicago, and the rest from within Ontario.
Victoria and I felt so inspired by the success of year one; we immediately began planning, of course bigger, for Year Two. We mapped out two sessions: a one-week program, and a two-week program. Both programs were full, with singers from British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Newfoundland.
As in 2017, the 2018 Royal Conservatory Voice Performance Intensive will run as two programs, including movement classes, musicianship classes, daily lessons, daily coachings, acting/performance classes, and masterclasses. As well, participants will attend master classes in the Art of Song portion of the Toronto Summer Music Festival.
  • Movement
  • Musicianship
  • Lessons
  • Coachings
  • Acting
  • Masterclasses
  • Performances
  • Movement
  • Musicianship
  • Lessons
  • Coachings
  • Acting
  • Masterclasses
  • Performances
  • Scenes

Thursday, April 05, 2018

Do Freelance Pianists Need Secretarial Skills?

Photo by Fabrizio Verrecchia on Unsplash

Best of luck to everyone playing juries and recitals this spring! How do you feel about being required to do endless photocopying, printing, and collating of music in order to be prepared for your engagements? This anonymous comment from the Required and Preferred Skills posting gives a sense of the frustration that many of us feel:
This is an excellent list. It says nothing, however, about the classical skills that seem to be encroaching on our professional time and energy. I resent and refuse requests to print out, collate music sent via email from musicians seeking my collaboration. Please do likewise. I did not go to graduate school and work so hard learning to be a good musician to spend my professional time doing secretarial work.
I've always been okay with printing out stuff and putting it in binders. I have a particular way of hole-punching, taping, and organizing music in order to minimize page turns. In my freelancing years, I remember everyday-carrying a three-hole punch and tape on a regular basis so that I could collate pages in a hurry when I received a bunch of photocopies. Not everyone shares this view. 

We Are Rhythmic Beings

Photo by Ahmad Odeh on Unsplash

Christin Coffee Rondeau writing in the Full Voice blog about why singers need to move:
1) Because music and movement are inextricably linked.  We’re all used to hearing the term “music and movement” applied to children’s music classes, so on some level, we acknowledge that movement is an important aspect of music education. Perhaps, on an intellectual level, we even think of ourselves as rhythmic beings. However, as we grow in age, we also grow in inhibitions, meaning that creative, expressive movement eventually takes a backseat to what we perceive as more sophisticated musical pursuits. In so doing, we miss the fact that movement cannot be removed from music--even sophisticated, nuanced music.
Christin's points are highly valid, and not just for singers. It's important for all musicians to realize that rhythm, more than being an intellectual concept, is something physical and tangible, and the feeling of rhythm in the body is something that unites the every genre and style of today's music in a direct line of descent to the very first music-making impulses of our early human ancestors. 


A quick tangent and shameless plug for my friends: Take a look around the Full Voice website after the link above. Hamilton-based Nikki Loney and Mim Adams are quickly growing their Full Voice series into one of the major voice methods, with a strongly growing international distribution. They also have a blog and podcast that I highly recommend. 

Monday, April 02, 2018

Don't Forget the Backflips

You won't find a more seasoned or eloquent page turner these days than Liz Parker in Toronto. Liz's recent article for looks at the challenges and rewards of turning, both for family and for visiting artists. On last-minute gigs:
Page-turners are often an afterthought; the number of times I’ve received a last-minute message pleading for my services with little notice. I have sprinted several city blocks to get to the concert on time, with no prep. I’ve seen page-turners clearly not dressed for the occasion. Don’t blame them; they likely stepped in with no warning, though some of the outfits I’ve seen are unacceptable anyway. I’ve seen page turners take a bow with the pianist (which we deserve, but is a major no-no), or scoot onstage after the pianist is seated, and scoot back off after the pianist has reached backstage. I go by the newly-hatched-chick method of imprinting: I follow the pianist around closely (which may seem weird but hey, I’ve gotten lost backstage).
Some timely advice as well:
It takes skill and finesse, people.  
My advice for pianists? Be really nice to your turner. My other bro, Jon, always posts on Facebook a picture of himself with the page-turner de jour, to thank them. Mark your music CLEARLY for the turner, especially the repeats (Jamie uses super obvious markings in bright red). I appreciate directions such as “stand now” or “NO TURN” or “back three pages” or “UNFOLD THE BOTTOM FLAP SECTION NOW”. (When you’re onstage, that instruction makes sense.)

Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Mandarin Translation of 31 Days to Better Practicing

In 2007, I wrote a series of articles entitled 31 Days to Better Practicing, which quickly became one of the cornerstones of content on this blog. A few years later, I expanded this series of articles into a free ebook of the same name, which has been read widely and been used in many piano pedagogy classes. Until now, one of the drawbacks of this work was that it was only available in English.

That changed this weekend, as Yihan Zhang has just released the first instalment of the 31 Days Mandarin translation on the WeChat platform so that the ebook can be available to Mandarin speakers in China and throughout the world. You'll need the WeChat app and can subscribe to Yihan's AndMusic channel on that platform to receive the rest of the articles, which will be released over the next month (a QR code to subscribe is below).

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Huge List of Musical Theatre Songs for Legit Sopranos and Mezzos

Drawing from shows as diverse as Alphabet City Cycle, Bridges of Madison County, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Wicked, and many many more, Kevin Michael Jones' gigantic list is a great resource for singers and pianists looking to expand their contemporary MT rep.

200 Contemporary Musical Theatre Songs for "Legit" Sopranos and Mezzos

Not sure what "Legit" means? Take a look at Kevin's article on the four main types of singers on Broadway today.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018


Music for the first day of spring - Schubert's Frühlingsglaube, sung by a young Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau with Gerald Moore at the piano.

For those in the southern hemisphere, where today is the first day of autumn - Mahler's Der Einsame in Herbst from Das Lied von der Erde, sung by Christa Ludwig and the Israel Philharmonic, conducted by Leonard Bernstein.

May the seasons turn meaningfully and pleasantly for you in 2018.