Thursday, May 29, 2008


This is a test! But, it's not only a test. It is a trial. It is an adventure. It is a proving ground. It is life as we currently know it. People will admire you, hate you, love you, judge you, help you, hurt you, so, it is up to you to very wisely choose your friends and associates. Most people will never see your "big picture" as you will also never fully see another's "big picture". So, from time to time, you will be judged and it won't be based on your entirety. It could be that you will be judged on one word or one sentence or one project or on several. You can be judged on how you look, talk, walk, act, think, and on your product in life and even on your production methods, procedures and the expeditiousness of those, or the lack thereof.

All of the above is why friends and family can be so valuable. We need a support group much more than we need harsh criticism. Being a teacher, I have to see as much of the picture as a student will allow me to see or hear. When a student holds back, the student is also not revealing the best. Why the best is also held back never makes any sense. The more criticism a person has been hit with, the more the person tends to hold back or be careful or withdraw or even eventually relinquish the dreams and goals which are so much a part of the person.

How could we handle criticism so that it doesn't squash the very life out of ourselves? We could always prepare and always seek to improve every facet of our life's products. We could always speak as if we are going to see ourselves on YouTube, as will the entire world. We could work on the nearly lost art of good manners and start to have more consideration, tolerance, compassion, understanding, and love for others. If karma is real or if simply the "law of attraction" is real, we may well get back what we give. If your integrity is intact and you have done enough to feel good about how your product measures up to the industry standard, then criticism has little effect BUT be sure that the product IS at the industry standard.

If you run into a person who is mostly or even nothing but a critic, realize that the person most likely could not stand up or measure up to his or her criticism imposed upon others. The most critical seem to also be the least competent. Remember this: It takes a few seconds to criticize but it takes days, weeks, months, and years to be a great artist. When you hear that four minute song, you do not see or hear the time, all of the time, that made it what it is.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


As a teacher, there are many times you learn some valuable lessons. Sometimes these lessons come from the oddest circumstances. There is a saying in Karate that you should enter the dojo (karate studio) with your cup empty. Why is this? Because, when your cup is full, there is no room to add even a drop more, without overflowing. Therefor, you will leave with the same as when you arrived and there will be nothing new for you to take with yourself.

So, how would this relate to a singer? Before I answer my own question, I'll say this: I had a friend when I was a teenager who broke his leg in a motorcycle accident. He told me that "once you feel you have mastered the bike, it is time to stop riding." I had a student recently whose ego was so far beyond the skill level that it had become more than just an impediment to improvement and learning. The student's cup was beyond full and it wasn't water that was in that cup.

What is a teacher to do? Be patient and either the student will enter with an empty cup or will never return and reality will hit hard and painfully, when it is least expected. Sad but true.

What is the student to do? Figure out how to be honest and objective.

You have to have confidence and skill and artistry and even ego BUT when the ego is beyond everything else, you are living in your own "Truman Show" and you can't see the world around you but the "world" is watching and listening to you. It is a hard reality and there is no sugar coating it, no excusing it, therefor, it may be time to reassess

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Sense and Sensibility

What is sense and what is sensibility and why should we care? A sensible answer might be the one based on thought, being sense, and on wisdom, being sensibility.

In terms of singing and of taking good care of one’s voice, it might be prudent to first determine where to find reliable and accurate sources of information so that we can make educated decisions on the best course of action. You would not want to do things which would harm your voice. You also wouldn’t want to do things which would make you sing worse than you do and you would want whatever you do to be safe and effective. You wouldn’t want to take forever to reach your singing goal. Forever can mean different things to different people but if we are being sensible, we wouldn’t want to spend the next 10 years preparing to perform if we were already in our twenties or older. Most people don’t want to wait that long and understandably so. That wouldn’t be sensible, would it? So, as singers, we want to be the best we can be and always have use of our voices on which we can rely.

This should be obvious but it isn’t and there are reasons that it isn’t. Here is why: there are people who believe that there are singing methods. There definitely are and some are effective while others are less effective, slightly harmful, and even dangerous. How would a singer make an informed decision? One way would be to examine the statistics of vocal pedagogues. A singer should find out the level and rates of success of the students of a pedagogue, find out the numbers of professionals in the music business (including opera, Broadway, Pop, R&B, Country, etc.) who have studied directly or indirectly with the instructor. Additionally, the advice and writings should be evaluated in relationship to the organizations of singing instructors and even of the medical profession, specifically E.N.Ts (ear, nose and throat specialists).

Why would such an approach not be so obvious as the one to take? Simply because there are several colleges, universities, high schools and lower level schools which are teaching some so-called "traditional methods" of singing, which are out-dated, useless, and some are even dangerous as far as the "catch phrases" they are using. These are over one hundred years behind the times, yet their methods and fabrications are so deeply fixed in their pedagogies that they are never questioned by the innocent, inexperienced, and naive.

If ever a student should find herself or himself in the presence of a teacher who tells them to “place their tone” somewhere, to “sing from the diaphragm”, or to visualize silly things while they sing, they would do well to hold tight to their money and run away very quickly. Many of us have wasted our time with teachers who never had the personal integrity or ethics to study such things as anatomy, acoustics, or physics. Just because they were taught at the university level the things with which they now infect others does not mean that they are correct or that it is a moral justification for so doing. This may sound intense or even harsh but the realities of vocal fold injuries from unknowing abuse can be even more harsh.

Monday, May 05, 2008


From the American Heritage dictionary extraordinary is "beyond what is ordinary or usual." If you look at the first definition of the word extraordinary, that is an interesting concept. As an experiment, I tried doing something that is just a little more than usual and it was quite interesting as far as the possibilities which popped up as a result.

What if every day a person would do just one thing that is above and beyond the usual? It doesn't have to be a big thing or a remarkable thing but just one thing "beyond what is ordinary". What could happen?

Look around where you are sitting as you read this and notice what is there that you had something to do with. I remember years ago being told that if "you keep doing what you are doing, then you will keep getting what you are getting." This is obviously and even painfully common sense when viewed superficially but when observed more profoundly, there lie greater truths to be discovered.

How many times have we all decided that we could set the world on fire with our talents and abilities, only to have the matches taken away for fear we may be pyromaniacs? The solution is to hold on to the dream and the goal and let the purpose be the fuel. Write out the reasons, maybe 100, for why you do what you do that you care about, your goal. When you do that, your grip on your matches will be far stronger than before and when you start the flame going, it will be too big to put out.

BUT where does it start? One match or one thing that is beyond the norm and beyond the ordinary and what do you gain from this? You immediately gain hope. The same thing carried out on a daily basis for a long enough period of time can lead to the second definition of extraordinary "highly exceptional; remarkable." It is almost like STEP ONE and STEP TWO in the order in which the definitions appear in the dictionary.

This is a good place to start because hope can lead to excitement, which leads to more action, which leads to enthusiasm and a new muscle is being developed and disciplne becomes easier and life goes beyond the ordinary. Who wants an ordinary life? True artists, ever seeking to improve, understand this very well.

What little extra thing are you going to do today?