Starting voice lessons–some guidelines

The question “When to start voice training” is an old one, but also pertinent. There are several schools of thought on this, and, since there are some professional roles for children, it might seem that you want to start training them as soon as possible. I have a slightly different opinion on this, which is based on my experience, as well as what I’ve observed through the years.

Children’s voices are beautiful–who doesn’t love listening to a trained boys choir, for example? Children’s choirs amaze with their pure, angelic sound,  which is often, if not impossible, to replicate after the onset of puberty. You want to avoid any possible bad habits, and instill good ones, as soon as possible, such as breath support, phrasing, and a pleasant expression.

Children’s voices, and teenagers voices, should be handled very, very gently–within the confines of a professional children’s choir if possible, or with teachers who have solid pedagogy behind what they’re doing, and experience. The voice is a muscle, and a very delicate one at that. It is an instrument that cannot be traded in–you only get one voice. So students must be taught to treat it appropriately. (I definitely screwed up in this area a few times as a young student!) Ear training is also important here, so the student can learn a cappella singing.

Classical singing is what I consider to be the best way to begin, in that you start with the solid foundation of reading music, scales, pitch, and musicality. You also begin, usually, with Italian exercises, which focus on vowels and purity of sound. Also, if any problems haven’t been corrected up to this point, they can be now, and still have lasting effect on the student.

If you’re a parent, be sure to call around to local conservatories, or ask at the local high schools or junior highs (Usually they know former students who teach, or can recommend teachers at their alma maters. Heck, they might teach themselves.) If you can’t find a good voice teacher for a kid, then it won’t really hurt for them to wait until they are in high school, when it becomes a lot easier to find voice teachers and honor choir opportunity.

I also think it’s worthwhile for all vocalists to learn the piano. That way we can read music and accompany ourselves as necessary.  (It’s a very useful skill, trust me!)

Other vocalists out there–what have been your experiences, for god or bad? What do you think about the right age for starting?

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Fall audition #1

My first fall audition is on the books, and I am really excited!

It’s Columbus Civic’s A Christmas Carol, adapted and directed by a former Earnest castmate of mine (he played Jack Worthing in the show). He does great work, both adapting, writing, directing and acting, so I would love to be a part of this show.

The audition consists of reading from the script.

I’ve actually never been in a production of A Christmas Carol, so this would be a fun challenge, because it is one of my favorite Dickens works (and works, period). The novel itself is so rich with story, character, and detail, so every adaptation pulls something new from it. But it’s also beloved because of the character that we know–Scrooge, Marley, Bob Crachit, the Spirits, Fezziwig, and of course, Tiny Tim.

Do you have a favorite adaptation of the story? (movie or stage version) Mine are, in no particular order: The Muppets’ Christmas Carol (“This is our island in the sun!). Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol, (especially the music!), and Mickey’s Christmas Carol, which is animated beautifully, and Scrooge McDuck is a perfect, um, Scrooge. 🙂

Fall Theater season begins!

(And winter theater season, and spring theater season…)

So, the summer is over. Summer musicals have wrapped, scores have been put away, and costumes stored for next season. But what if you want more theater?

You’re in luck. Fall is a super busy time for auditions. For theaters that run on an “academic” schedule (Sept-May/June), this is the time they are auditioning for their shows. Big winter/spring musicals often have auditions in October/November/December. As the year turns to 2012, then the summer theater auditions/rep theater/ summer musicals are being prepped.

So if you want to break out, check out the local theater companies and see what shows they’ll be doing. See if you like any of them. I tend to audition only for musicals I really like. Plays, I’m a bit more adventurous (OK, a lot more adventurous!).

It’s a good idea to get your resume together, and to check your headshots–are they still an approximately accurate photo? Do you need more copies? It might not be a bad idea to start or revisit the audition notebook. Check your closet for audition worthy outfits, and look over those audition cuts of music! Do you need monologues? Check out libraries or bookstores for books and find some favorites. Practice them-which also means staging them.  You don’t want to just “stand and deliver.” Put copies of the resume, headshots, music and/or reading in a thin black binder so you can whip them out. Remember to put the music in page protectors for ease of turning!

For additional audition tips, see Auditioning for Musicals and Auditioning for Plays.

Any questions? Ask me in the combox!