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!
This year there is so much to be grateful for. It's the little things: a hot cup of coffee on a crisp morning and the big things: like quarantining for 2 weeks so you can finally see your family. Here, at Finely Tuned Voice Lessons, we are grateful for our students and their families who fill the studio with music and joy year-round! When I think of all of the amazing people I've met through music it brings a tear to my eye. While we are based in Central NJ, we have students from Michigan, Pennsylvania, California and more! Our YouTube cabarets have reached hundreds of people, bringing the joy of singing into homes all over the world.
If you'd like to spread the joy of singing, we are offering gift cards for lessons! You can purchase them for family, friends and loved ones near and far. Since all lessons are virtual, the recipient can be anywhere in the world and still be eligible for online lessons :)
Please email email@example.com to purchase a gift card
Happy Halloween, everyone! This year certainly doesn't look like a "normal" Halloween, but we still hope you have fun and stay safe. Please check out some of our students *in costume* singing our Howl-oween Virtual Cabaret! :)
Can you believe September has come and (is almost) gone? In the studio we are still all virtual as students and clients go back to school and work. It has been an exciting month of growth for our singers and pianists as well as new faces to meet on the computer screen!
Nothing excites Maria more than to put on her snazzy purple blue-light blocker glasses and log into a lesson to teach! This is just one of the ways I help my body adjust to online lessons. Eye strain, anyone? I also purchased a table where I can put my laptop and other teaching supplies: pencils, notebooks, music, etc. and I'm able to stand and teach when needed. What are some of the best ways you've found to cope with days where you're all virtual? Comment your tips below!
This past Saturday the 6 singers in our Summer Performance Academy hit the stage of The Newtown Theatre to perform in their Final Showcase! Each singer performed 2 songs for our small audience of 25 (due to Covid restrictions) and Zoomed out to the world!
I couldn't be prouder of their resilience, poise and grace. This year has been heartbreaking for so many people. Just getting through each day during this pandemic can seem like a chore. These singers were so consistent in their lessons, practice sessions, and masterclasses that they were incredibly well prepared for our live show! I prepared them all to have a Zoom recital from the beginning, but when I found an opportunity for us to perform live I jumped on it! You CAN perform safely at a time like this, it just looks different! The entire audience was masked (and at least 30 feet away from the singer). Check out this fun photo of us below!
Clips from the Final Showcase will be uploaded to our YouTube channel as soon as possible! We can't wait for you to hear these singers! I was so proud of them I got choked up during my closing speech. My heart is bursting with love and pride!
Thank you, singers, for a wildly successful performance. I will never forget it.
We are thrilled to announce that we will be having a LIVE performance for our Summer Performance Academy singers! Of course, we will follow all guidelines, but it will be live with a majorly physically distanced (and masked) audience of just their parents and siblings. For those who want to view from home, we will be posting a link to a live stream!
It took many hours of researching places that might accommodate a small, physically distanced gathering of people, but the Newtown Theatre in Newtown, PA really came through for us! Until now, they've been renting family movie nights in the theatre for no more than 25 people. They agreed to let us rent the space to perform on Saturday, August 29th at 2 pm! The singers and I couldn't be happier with this plan. After many months of no performances, we will finally be performing in an actual theater!
Summer Performance Academy is a program for high school aged singers who are serious about a career in the performing arts. Each summer, they receive weekly lessons, and group coaching in a masterclass style format. 10 weeks of hard work culminates in a final performance for an invited audience! Last year (our first year) was a smashing success and we can't wait to see this year's group shine!
Last week I posted my take on back to school in the Fall. Since then, I've been interviewing music teachers across the Tri-State area to see what they think could work. Here's what I found:
Q: What are your feelings on back to school specifically for music classes?
A: I cannot wait to get back to teaching, but I feel it should be online only for the time being.
A: To go back in person I would need a bigger space to teach in order to social distance. My class size is much larger than a core class size. I truly don't feel that my district will prioritize giving me a bigger space and since we live in NJ, being outside is only possible a few months of the year.
A: If they ask me to come back to school I will take an early retirement.
Q: What are the steps that are currently in place to go back?
A: There is a committee of music teachers in my township who are responsible for making decisions on music classes. I hope the board will honor our research and requests.
A: I truly feel that my classes need to be held online. Once we have a vaccine it will be ok to return.
A: If we want a safe return to making music together, the first stage must be online until we can phase students in safely.
Q: How safe do you feel in the classroom?
A: I don't and I won't until there is a vaccine or herd immunity.
A: I have friends in other states who are already being furloughed, so from a job outlook, I don't feel safe.
A: Teachers should not be asked to risk their lives or the lives of their loved ones to enter the classroom when there is an option to teach online. I have students whose parents have died from the virus and one of my family members has died. There is no way I will feel safe in the classroom.
In short, the majority of teachers I interviewed would push to have online classes for the next year. Their safety, the safety of their students, and families would be at risk until the virus is under control.
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.