Yesterday I had the honor of adjudicating at the New Jersey National Association of Teachers of Singing festival in Princeton! In the span of 5 hours I heard so many incredibly talented singers. New Jersey is a talented state, y'all!
The festival is open to high school singers through adults (if the adult is not already a professional singer). The purpose of the festival is for the singer to receive feedback from three professionals who are not their own voice teacher. The feedback is written and scored on comment sheets, and the singer holding the most points in their category wins the chance to perform at a recital and advance to the Regional round! Of course, it's nice to win your category and advance to the next round, but what's really beneficial for everyone is receiving comments: what you're doing well and what you can work toward. When writing my comments I always try to first state what is working well, then weave in a suggestion.
It's odd for me to be on the other side of the table. I sang in this festival (NC NATS & Mid-Atlantic Regionals) from high school into my college years and I remember the preparation, nerves, heartbreak, and joy!
Here are 3 things I learned from being on the other side of the table:
There's so much that goes into preparing for and singing in a festival like this. Each singer is wonderfully talented, possessing their own unique strengths. My hope for you (if you happen to walk into my room) is that you've worked diligently with your teacher to craft a program that you are able to sing well and that you enjoy. I can tell when you sing something you like singing because you sing it with more style.
At the start of each year (or whenever I need a pick-me-up) I make a list of goals. Some are about musical pursuits, and others are about general health and wellness. As your voice teacher, it's my job to help you achieve your voice-related goals!
It's time to get SMART about our vocal goals this year! Goals should be:
For example, if you want to sing an A5 in head voice by the end of March, that would be "SMART."
If you want to be in a Broadway show by November...that wouldn't check off the boxes of "SMART" because you can't measure week to week or by month how close you are to achieving this! It would be better to set your goal of attending 5 Broadway auditions by November! Make sense?
Let me know what your vocal goals are for this year and we will get to work! :)
This time of the year is PACKED with activities from school, work, hobbies, friends & family obligations, etc. It's so exciting, but it can be really stressful, too! I always value taking my own voice lessons during this time of year to make sure I'm still in my best vocal shape.
This season, I'm selling gift certificates so you can give the gift of voice lessons to someone you love! You can purchase a single lesson or a package of lessons. As always, we welcome beginner singers through advanced singers. Your skill level does not determine whether or not you will receive a place in our studio! We welcome all with open arms. After all, that's what this season is all about.
On 11/9/19 Finely Tuned Voice Lessons took over Halo Pub Ice Cream Shop in Hamilton, NJ for an afternoon of songs & stories. Maria chose songs that were meaningful to her and her journey as a musician from childhood until now. She shared laughs, tears and free ice cream for all! Spenser Gallo played beautifully on the keys!
The set-list included:
American Honey by Lady Antebellum
New York State of Mind
Make You Feel My Love
She Used to be Mine from Waitress
Babygirl by Sugarland (Rich Phillips on guitar)
Glitter and be Gay from Candide
Getting to Know You from The King & I
Seasons of Love *featuring student soloists!
We hope, for those in attendance, that learning about Maria's story helps you in some way in your own musical journey! :) Keep practicing, keep singing!
There seem to be quite a few shows that are always done in high schools. Have you ever thought about why? Let's explore. The first 3 are considered "The Most Popular High School Musicals" from Dramatics magazine for high school teachers. The last one is my pick---you've probably also been in that.
1. The Addams Family
Ah, the beloved TV show from the 1960s made into a musical! Can you believe I actually haven't seen this show? With songs like "Pulled" and "When You're an Addams" there's something for everyone. Since its Broadway debut in 2010, we've been toe-tapping to this wonderful score by Andrew Lippa. Since the song styles match each character's personality there's a wide range of style in the show: jazz to flamenco! There are, of course, many main characters as this is about a whole family....but there are also plenty of ensemble opportunities as well. Quite a bit of the music involves a chorus of ancestors! There are more leads than in most shows and there's plenty of ensemble singing--that's a win for high school productions!
2. Mamma Mia!
Ok...who doesn't love this show? You love it. Your parents love it. Your grandparents even love it. This is a real crowd pleaser for both performers and the audience. Since this is an ABBA jukebox musical, most people will know at least a couple of songs. This is another great ensemble show: 5 main female leads, 4 main male leads. Can't go wrong there! This is also a great show to highlight dancing ability, and the costumes are incredibly fun!
3. The Little Mermaid
As we know, everything Disney touches becomes gold! If you're in high school, you probably watched the movie version as a child. Who doesn't remember Sebastian chasing after Ariel and Flounder trying to be brave. There are so many characters in this show, and audiences LOVE the music. This is a super kid-friendly show, opening the door to families of all ages. Also, this show can be done with very elaborate sets and lighting effects, or barely any at all. It doesn't require a fancy set, but the visual is amazing if a school is equipped with a nice lighting/sound system and a tech crew.
4. My pick: Guys & Dolls
We did this show at my high school, I've music-directed it, and have since had students star in it. It's an old gem that's been around a while. It debuted on Broadway in 1950 and practically everyone has seen the 1955 movie version with Marlon Brando & Frank Sinatra. Why this show, you ask? Well, the style of music is easily accessible for most people. It's a little jazzy, but also has sweeping ballads which showcase both belters and legit voices. The pit musicians also have a wonderful score to play. This show can carry a large ensemble and features many dancing moments. It's a great show if you have strong dancers...think Hot Box Girls, the Crap Game, the Havana scene, etc. It's a classic feel-good show where everyone goes home happy.
Ultimately, schools pick shows based on the talent they are aware of, amount of money a show requires: set, costumes, score rentals, etc., and ensemble opportunities. At the high school level, shows tend to be more inclusive as you have to cast experienced actors and first timers together.
What I'd like to see on a high school stage: A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder! It's a hilarious ensemble show with a fantastic musical score. Check out why it won 4 Tony's!
First thing's first...I am not a parent. However, I can offer observations from a third party who has witnessed many parent-child interactions before, during, and after voice lessons.
In my experience, students often have a strong preference: they'd either like their parent to wait upstairs or in the car, OR they don't mind having their parent sit in on lessons. I can't tell you how many times I've consoled a parent who was a little offended when their child looked at them and said, "Ok, you can go now." It's very normal!
Sometimes students want the privacy of a one-on-one lesson to make mistakes without hearing about them later at home. Sometimes they open up more when it's just the two of us. Sometimes they actually want to surprise their parents with a song. You name it, i've heard it!
Some students ask that their parents stay with them. I do recommend this for younger students! Sometimes they are very shy, and parents can help by offering more information.
My best advice is to ask your student if they would like you to stay or go. It is their lesson, and they should be able to choose what is most comfortable for them. If you ask instead of assume, they will feel like they have a little more independence in making a choice. Students don't always get the chance to choose things for themselves. Much of their day is planned for them with everyone else telling them what to do and how to do it. Wouldn't it be nice to give them a choice?
If you do stay:
Voice lessons are incredibly personal and the singer always feels vulnerable whether it's your first lesson or lesson # 876,5373. Their preference for you to stay or wait outside may change week to week. Please don't be offended if they ask you to leave, and please be as encouraging as possible if you do stay.
When I was in grade school, my mom or dad stayed in the room for the first couple of lessons until I felt comfortable. Then, they waited in the car until my lesson was complete or until I could drive myself. I cherished my one-on-one time with my voice teacher; it was always the highlight of my week. An adult that wasn't my parent took so much interest in me for a bit of time, and that was a huge confidence booster.
At home, please encourage practicing 3x a week. Singers are often afraid to practice if parents are home (remember, we are making and exploring new sounds that may not be so beautiful to start). Please don't assume that if you haven't heard them singing they are not practicing. There are many ways to practice: listening to their songs, thinking through acting choices, translating the lyrics into English, etc.
If you truly believe they are not practicing, please let me know! I often already know if a student hasn't practiced by their level of preparation for lessons :)
Thank you for allowing me to teach your student and for allowing an open dialogue about their progress!
We are excited to announce a new class offering at Finely Tuned Voice Lessons! Songshop is a gathering to workshop a song for a supportive audience of other performers. You'll sing a song of your choice and then receive feedback and helpful tips from Maria. Then, you'll be asked to sing the song again with the feedback in mind.
The idea of Songshop was born from the concept of masterclasses which are prominent in advanced levels of music study. Wikipedia even says that "Aspiring classical musicians, and their teachers, typically consider master classes to be one of the most effective means of musical development." Performers are able to listen and learn from the instructor, but also from watching their fellow classmates.
This is a great compliment to private voice lessons and a wonderful way to receive feedback on an audition song or something you're performing at a recital, concert or show! It's also a way to meet other people in the mercer county area who have goals similar to yours!
Helpful tips before you arrive:
Our first Songshop will be on October 12th from 11 am to 1 pm at the FTVL studio. This first Songshop session is for high school and college singers only.
Want to learn more? Can't wait to get started? Visit the Songshop page on our website or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today is the first day of class for many of the local NJ schools! Students: best wishes for another wonderful academic year! Parents: Congratulations, you made it through another summer! :)
This week, I'd like to tackle the concept of how to succeed in your choir/chorus class. Your teacher has been preparing for this year since the end of last year. They are likely excited and nervous, just like you. Here's how to make this year legato (read: smooth).
On August 24, 2019 our 5 singers from the "Summer Performance Academy" sang their final showcase at Westminster Choir College's Williamson Hall. Congratulations to all of our performers and their families! Thank you for an outstanding summer!
1 Final Showcase
A lifetime of memories!
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.