Often, when I tell my students I have an upcoming audition I’m preparing for they say, “Woah, you still have to audition?”
Yes, even professional singers still audition. I’d like to share with you my most recent audition experience.
In September, I was asked to re-audition for a gig that I’ve held since before Covid. It is not strange to be asked to re-audition…things change in a year and a half! I was thrilled to get the chance to sing live for humans again!
In preparation, I took 2 lessons with my own voice teacher (YES, I still take my own voice lessons as the voice is always growing and changing…and aging!). We warmed up, and worked through technique for my chosen repertoire. The company asked for 1 aria/art song in English and one in either French, Italian, or German.
I chose “Joy” by Ricky Ian Gordon and “Du gai soleil” from the opera Werther. I love singing both of those pieces, and they fit my voice well. They are also just different enough to be exciting and show off a couple of higher notes where my voice sparkles!
The company also asked that we prepare to sight-sing. This is always so nerve-wracking! They give you several lines of notes and a starting pitch. After 30 seconds of looking over it, you must begin! I look for the key, any tricky rhythmic places, wide intervals, or accidentals. I trust my musicianship and use a combination of solfege, pretend piano playing with my fingers, and interval recall to sing through the line. My best advice is to just keep going! Try not to judge yourself as you’re singing through. Did I sing the lines with 100% accuracy? No way…but I did keep going, trying to nail the rhythm and accidentals! As someone who is a much better “preparer” than “on the spot” singer, I was relieved when I came to the end!
Auditions are always nerve-inducing, but if you prepare fully you’ll be less nervous. Allow yourself to really become your character, so you’re not thinking about anything else. You can’t truly be present as your character if you’re thinking about your dress, what the conductor is thinking, or what you’ll have for dinner
I walked out of my audition feeling grateful and fulfilled. I sang for an actual human being!!! It was truly thrilling.
Last night we were walking through Downtown Bentonville and as we approached the square we stumbled upon a group of people gathered to play a pick-up jam session! They were seated in a big circle, each person with their instrument or lyric book ready to solo when their turn came around. I saw guitars, violins, a double bass, harmonica, and a banjo!
I love that on a random summer Friday night there’s a community of musicians (some may be professional, others hobby players) playing and singing! What joy! I think that’s the root of why we enjoy listening to and physically making music—it’s joyful.
Joy is what I strive to create in the studio when someone is here for a lesson. We find your voice and find the joy in singing! Singing should feel good, and I love to help make it easier for you. Make an appointment for a private voice lesson in our Northwest Arkansas studio and have the most joyful 30 minutes of your week singing with me! We’re in Rogers, close to Bentonville, Cave Springs, Pea Ridge, Centerton, Lowell, Springdale & Fayetteville. I can’t wait to hear your voice!
Yes, you read that correctly...we are relocating to Arkansas (specifically the Bentonville/Rogers/Fayetteville metro area)! We are incredibly excited to explore this beautiful region of the country and look forward to teaching singers in person at our new Rogers location: 3607 W Beech Drive Rogers, AR 72756.
We will still continue with virtual lessons for our NJ/PA students, and plan to fly back one week every couple of months to teach in person at our studio location there: 1 Straube Center Boulevard, Pennington, NJ 08534.
Are you in the Rogers/Bentonville/Cave Springs/Fayetteville area?
Sign up HERE for in person lessons!
SPA is back this year!! Join our next "class" of performers as we prepare for our final performance through private voice lessons, masterclasses and more! Click on this link to sign up!
NEW this year is a Meet & Greet with Industry Professionals who will share their experiences, tips and guidance for the aspiring artist!
See you on the stage :)
As you know, I LOVE teaching singers of all ages and abilities. This year, I’ve had many students under the age of 12 sign up for lessons and I decided I needed to beef up my music arsenal for those singers!
I know more about singers who have fully developed larynxes, so I needed to supplement my knowledge by reading more and watching more instruction for younger singers. I stumbled upon “The Full Voice” series and I am loving it, so far!
I’m learning that for this age, lessons and music-learning really should be more like play. I’m infusing more tongue twisters, simple songs, body percussion and games into lessons. This is incredibly fun for both students and for me! The Full Voice series has allowed me to become more flexible with my teaching style, and I love that!
Try these super-duper fun tongue twisters:
There was a minimum of cinnamon in the aluminum pan.
Toy boat (5x fast)
These inspired one young, bright student to research the hardest tongue twister. Try this:
The sixth sick sheik's sixth sheep's sick
I love that what I’m doing is inspiring my students to research music-related topics outside of lessons. One student asked me to build a Kahoot so she could take fun online quizzes---that’s awesome!
I feel so much more confident in teaching young ones now. It turns out that play is good for everyone!
I try my best to keep up with what’s current, I really do. I have definitely missed a few *must listen to* albums this year, so when the Grammy’s rolled around this year, I wasn’t surprised when I hadn’t listened to the bulk of the nominated music. *ahem* Taylor Swift's 2 newest albums--Sorry, I know!!! I'll get right on it...
The most exciting categories to me are:
Best New Artist
Best ____ (you name the genre) Album
Best Opera Recording
I also love to watch the presenters and performances from the banter to the fashion!
Super exciting wins in my book are:
Beyonce becoming the winningest woman in Grammy history!
Porgy and Bess winning Best Opera Recording!
I also love that Billie Eilish has been recognized…she has made space for lighter voices in the pop industry. You don’t have to yell everything to create meaningful, exciting music!
Tell me your favorite Grammy's moments below!
Sunday's Super Bowl made history for many folks: the Tampa Bay Buccaneers team, Tom Brady, and a host of artists performing this year!
I hope you were able to catch Jazmine Sullivan (Grammy nominated R&B singer) and Eric Church (Grammy nominated country singer and guitarist) sing the National Anthem! They blew me away with their artistry, soul, and energy. With Eric on most of the melody, Jazmine was able to let out her vocal fireworks singing harmony and interjecting tasteful echoes.
I was thrilled to see Amanda Gorman once again in a stirring public performance after first being introduced to her work at the Inauguration. It is the “chorus of the captains” who allow us to move forward with large-scale, public event like the Super Bowl.
H.E.R. brought the house down with a Jimi Hendrix like heavy guitared version of “America the Beautiful.”
The half-time show by The Weeknd was well-sung, but I wish his mic volume were higher. I truly appreciated his use of a choir! I haven’t seen a live choir in nearly a year, so that was a real highlight for me!
What did you think of the music during the Super Bowl?
If you're like me, 2020 felt like an eternity and a blur all at once. Looking back, I cried, laughed and loved harder than ever before. I'm entering 2021 with a renewed sense of accomplishment, hunger to reach new goals, and excitement for what this year will bring.
One of my favorite ways to ring in the New Year is to watch New Year's Rockin' Eve on tv! Although I lived in NYC for a couple of years I have never wanted to stand outside all night in Times Square to see the ball drop. TV will do just fine, and the view from my couch is perfect! This year the performances I caught were Jennifer Lopez, Doja Cat, Cyndi Lauper and Billy Porter. I'll be honest with you...I've never heard of Doja Cat until that moment. I was really looking forward to Cyndi Lauper and Billy Porter's performance, but perhaps there were some sound/technical difficulties for Cyndi's performance? Listen here and decide for yourself...
I love her music, most notably "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" and "Time After Time." She also wrote music for Kinky Boots on Broadway! She's a legend! What did you think of her NYE show? Let me know in the comments! Does it inspire you to work on your music goals so you can perform at the NYE party one day?!? We hope so!
One of my favorite traditions of the December holiday season is caroling! In many carols, the lyrics contain references to wassail (pronounced: wah-sail) What exactly is wassail, you ask?
Well, there are a couple of different ways to define it, but my favorite is this:
"to sing carols from house to house at Christmas"
Isn't that lovely?! Due to the pandemic, we were unable to sing house to house this year, but Finely Tuned Voice Lessons students have presented a Virtual Cabaret to be viewed in the comfort of your home! Please enjoy our WINTER WASSAIL with those you love.
I want to start this post by saying I am absolutely in support of wearing masks in public to protect against Covid-19. I also think it's important to share my experience wearing the Singer's Mask in case there are other folks out there who are singing gigs while wearing them.
On Saturday, I got dressed up in my Victorian Caroler costume and headed out for a gig! I wore my Singer's Mask which is specifically designed so that when you take in a large breath, you don't suck the mask into your mouth! That feature is awesome, but when I had to wear it and sing for 3 hours, I had an interesting experience. We were in the middle of "Silent Night" when I started to feel incredibly lightheaded and found myself needing to take a breath in every 2 words. This is not normal for me! Normally, I make it through the whole phrase: "Silent night, holy night, all is calm all is bright" without needing a breath. I felt that the mask was preventing me from fully exhaling and inhaling a new breath. This is a testament to the fabric of the mask (!), but incredibly concerning to me as I am singing and seeking oxygen!
I took a small break after this experience, and went outside to take my mask off so I could breathe freely. This helped tremendously, and I didn't have any further problems for the rest of the gig. I've been doing some research about why this lightheadedness occurred:
From "Solutions to Common Face Mask Frustrations"
"Wearing a mask may can affect how you breathe. You might find yourself taking shallow breaths, or even holding your breath. This can cause you to breathe in more carbon dioxide, which can cause headaches and nausea.
Moving around while wearing a mask can also be fatiguing, because you have to breathe harder to do regular tasks.
And masks may make you feel claustrophobic and anxious, which cause hyperventilating (taking rapid breaths). This will make you feel dizzy, lightheaded, cause numbness and tingling of your lips, and possibly spasms in your hands and feet. You might be hyperventilating and not even realize it.
If you notice any of these symptoms, try some mindful breathing exercises or find a place to be alone without your mask for a few moments while you return your breath to normal."
From now on in my gigs, I will be taking frequent outdoor mask breaks to keep my breathing levels normal. The Singer's Mask is made of thick fabric and has a sticky tape so it stays in place on the bridge of your nose and cheeks. It is my belief that these 2 features contributed to my breathing issues, but by taking a mask break I believe I will be able to sing without issue in future gigs!
As always, sing on BUT mask on!
Maria Palombo is a Voice Instructor and Singer living in Central NJ. She is the founder of Finely Tuned Voice Lessons, a private voice studio in Mercer County, NJ.