This week’s exercises

As I come back to Webster University this week after sabbatical, I am planning specific vocal exercises to start each lesson.  These will help me hear how students have progressed over the last five months!

Screen Shot 2019-03-17 at 10.05.36 PM


Things I’ve said

A collection of things I’ve said to students in voice lessons recently:

  • Breathe!
  • More of the height . . . less of the bright!
  • On that vowel, less space and more of the cheeks.
  • You’re making sound.  What if you made meaning instead?
  • Use the syncopation to create a sense of anticipation, rather than holding back.  Rush forward . . . .
  • Breathe!
  • Gotta use the holy trinity there.  The three work together, remember?  [this about the tongue, lips, and jaw]


Four vowels, one voice



Fail hard

From my buddy Rey:


Fail hard. Fail fast. Fail often.

Reach. Fail. Make a corrected reach.

Musical theatre audition songs #2

From the International Thespian Festival in Lincoln this week, this list of songs we heard on Wednesday and Thursday at rising-senior auditions (song, show):

  • Fight the dragons, Big Fish
  • I can’t say no, Oklahoma
  • Everybody says don’t, Anyone Can Whistle
  • Do what I do, In Transit
  • Diva’s lament, Spamalot
  • When he sees me, Waitress
  • Honey bun, South Pacific
  • Defying gravity, Wicked
  • On my own, Les Miserables
  • Right hand man, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
  • Much more, The Fantastics
  • Wishing you were somehow here again, Phantom of the Opera
  • A way back to then, [title of show]
  • Fight for me, Heathers
  • Corner of the sky, Pippin
  • Maybe I like it this way, The Wild Party
  • Salt Lake-a City, The Book of Mormon
  • Think of me, Phantom of the Opera
  • Lifeboat, Heathers
  • I’ll be here, Ordinary Days
  • Someone like you, Jekyll and Hyde
  • Gimme gimme, Thoroughly Modern Millie
  • I’m not that smart, Spelling Bee
  • Look at me now, The Wild Party
  • Stupid with love, Mean Girls
  • I am what I am, La Cage Aux Folles
  • The color purple, The Color Purple
  • She used to be mine, Waitress
  • Never fall in love with an elf, Elf
  • Suddenly Seymour, Little Shop of Horrors
  • I miss the mountains, Next to Normal
  • Do it again, Nice Work If You Can Get It,
  • Home, Beauty and the Beast
  • Another suitcase in another hall, Evita
  • To keep my love alive, Rodgers and Hart
  • The games I play, Falsettos
  • I’d give my life for you, Miss Saigon
  • I’m breaking down, Falsettos
  • I’m allergic to cats, Theory of Relativity
  • Dream on, Carrie
  • The kite, You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown
  • Carrie, Carrie
  • I could be Jewish for you, Nikko Benson
  • What it means to be a friend, 13
  • Waiting for life, Once On This Island
  • No one else, Great Comet
  • One night only, Dreamgirls
  • Even though, I Love You Because
  • See I’m smiling, The Last Five Years
  • Green finch and linnet bird, Sweeney Todd
  • You will be found, Dear Evan Hansen
  • All falls down, Chaplin
  • Bring him home, Les Miserables
  • Lost in the brass, Band Geeks
  • One song glory, Rent
  • Dyin’ ain’t so bad, Bonnie and Clyde
  • Waiting, Addams FAmily
  • Positoovity, The Little Mermaid
  • Live out loud, The Little Princess
  • One by one by one, Ordinary Days
  • Stars, Les Miserables
  • I just want to be a star, Nunsense
  • Everybody’s got a home but me, Pipe Dream
  • Screwloose, Cry Baby
  • Like other girls, Daddy Long Legs
  • Out there, The Hunchback of Notre Dame
  • Safer, First Date
  • Someone to fall back on, Jason Robert Brown
  • I don’t need a roof, Big Fish
  • Show off, The Drowsy Chaperone
  • All grown up, Bare
  • Flying to the future, Vanities
  • Hold on, The Secret Garden
  • I’d rather be sailing, A New Brain
  • Vanilla ice cream, She Loves Me
  • All that matters now, Finding Neverland
  • A hundred easy ways to lose a man, Wonderful Town
  • Freddy my love, Grease
  • Tonight at eight, She Loves Me
  • Don’t rain on my parade, Funny Girl
  • It’s hard to speak my heart, Parade
  • Not getting married today, Company
  • Wonderful guy, South Pacific
  • I didn’t plan it, Waitress
  • Is it really me, 110 in the Shade
  • Luck by a lady, Guys and Dolls
  • Beyond my wildest dreams, Little Mermaid
  • Nothing stops another day, Ghost
  • Gorgeous, The Apple Tree
  • If I were a bell, Guys and Dolls
  • Notice me Horton, Seussical
  • I’m done, Rocky
  • Heaven’s light, Hunchback of Notre Dame
  • Unworthy of your love, Assassins
  • Skid row, Little Shop of Horrors
  • Take a chance on me, Little Women
  • Movie in my mind, Miss Saigon
  • Run away with me, The Unauthorized Biography ….
  • And they’re off, A New Brain
  • Without you, My Fair Lady
  • Not while I’m around, Sweeney Todd
  • Wherever he ain’t, Nick and Nora
  • It all fades away, The Bridges of Madison County
  • She was there, The Scarlet Pimpernel
  • Use what you’ve got, The Life
  • You can’t get a man with a gun, Annie Get Your Gun
  • Funny, Dogfight
  • Adelaide’s Lament, Guys and Dolls
  • I want to go to Hollywood, The Grand Hotel
  • Woman, Pirate Queen
  • Pretty music, Parade
  • The girl I love, Finian’s Rainbow
  • I don’t remember you, The Happy Time
  • Testimony, Amazing Grace
  • In my life, Les Miserables
  • What do I need with love, Thoroughly Modern Millie
  • Proud of your boy, Aladdin
  • Step one, Kinky Boots
  • The streets of Dublin, A Man of No Importance

We heard over 600 auditions in four days!

How to design an audition cut

After hearing numerous audition cuts recently, a few thoughts:

  1. Ask for a bell tone.  Anything else may well confuse you.
  2. Unless your piece really truly requires a bar or two of introduction, breathe and jump right your first phrase.  Here’s the deal: you get to set the tempo if you start right in, but the accompanist sets the tempo and tone if you ask for an intro bar or two.  And if you start right in, you have no questions about when to join the piano!
  3. Know that the B idea or bridge of the song is rarely going to be the best audition cut, since it’s explanatory and serves to drive us back to the return of the A idea. Without that A idea, the audition cut just sound incomplete and even inadequate. And the bridge is almost always not in the home key, which means that we don’t gain closure.
  4. Consider asking a music professional to help you devise an appropriate 16- or 32-bar cut, especially of more contemporary music.  So much newer music is not built in standard 4- or 8-bar phrases, and needs a well-considered cutting to make it work!
  5. The cut should have a clear start.  Rarely, for instance, is the last phrase of the first A idea going to be a clean starting point, since you are already in the midst of a longer textual idea.
  6. Likewise, the cut should have a cadential ending.  Don’t leave us hanging on a V chord, or a transitional moment. A do chord is your best ending, unless the song is supposed end in a nebulous way.
  7. The text of the cut should tell a very short story, or give us insight into you or your state of mind.  Text and music must work together to make a satisfying cut.

And a few other notes:

  • Unless you are in NYC, or know that you have a demi-god at the piano at the audition, please consider not singing pieces that feature highly rhythmic, detailed accompaniments. Or pointillistic accompaniments (Adam Guettel, Pasek & Paul). Many contemporary pieces are not necessarily conceived for piano, and even those that are (think Jason Robert Brown!) are challenging for the mere-mortal collaborative pianist.  That pianist wants to make you look good, but can’t collaborate as well if lost in the notes.
  • Be certain you can sing all of the notes in the song all of the time.  If you’ve cracked in rehearsal, you will indeed crack at the audition.
  • Unless you truly understand belting, consider not belting.  We are happy to hear lyrical sounds, and we are delighted to hear a healthy mix.
  • Deliver the text.  We just want some honesty, and that starts with words, not notes.
  • And remember that you have about 20 seconds at the start to land the impression.  The beginning of the cut really matters!
  •, and
  • The plastic-sleeves-or-not debate depends on the collaborative pianist’s desires, but at the least, put your music in a three-ring binder.  Or better yet, get your cut down to two pages, and paste or tape it onto a file folder.  Single sheets and a piano music rack don’t mix!

Musical theatre audition songs

As I hear auditions at the International Thespian Festival in Lincoln, I’m keeping a comprehensive list of the songs that these rising high school seniors are singing.


The view from my audition desk before the students arrive.

From Monday and Tuesday (song title, show):

  • Lost in the brass, Band Geeks
  • Your daddy’s son, Ragtime
  • Dear Daddy, Welcome To My Life
  • There’s a fine, fine line, Avenue Q
  • Fly fly away, Catch Me If You Can
  • Watch what happens, Newsies
  • Woman, The Pirate Queen
  • I don’t need a roof, Big Fish
  • Sibella, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder
  • Always starting over, If/Then
  • Home, Phantom
  • I’m your man, Meet John Doe
  • I’d rather be sailing, A New Brain
  • Flight, by Craig Carnelia
  • Before the summer ends, Dracula
  • The life I never led, Sister Act
  • Tonight at eight, She Loves Me
  • As we stumble along, The Drowsy Chaperon
  • I like him, The Man of La Mancha
  • Mama who bore me, Spring Awakening
  • Time stops, Big Fish
  • On my own, Les Miserables
  • One normal night, Addams Family
  • I have a love, West Side Story
  • I can cook too, On the Town
  • Carrie, Carrie
  • Astonishing, Little Women
  • Where am I now, Lysistrata Jones
  • What do I need with love, Thoroughly Modern Millie
  • Art is calling for me, by Victor Herbert
  • All that jazz, Chicago
  • It only takes a moment, Hello Dolly!
  • A trip to the library, She Loves Me
  • I want to go to Hollywood, Grand Hotel
  • So big so small, Dear Evan Hansen
  • Memory, Cats
  • Who can I turn to?, The Roar of the Greasepaint etc.
  • Here I am, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
  • She was there, Scarlet Pimpernel
  • Killer instinct, Bring It On
  • Will he like me?, She Loves me
  • When you’re good to mama, Chicago
  • Set those sails, In Trousers
  • Run away with me, The Unauthorized Biography of Samantha Brown
  • My Petersburg, Anastasia
  • Music of my soul, Memphis
  • Mr. Cellophane, Chicago
  • Kindergarten boyfriend, Heathers
  • Come out of the dumpster, The Wedding Singer
  • Bring it on, Bring It On
  • Heaven on their minds, Jesus Christ Superstar
  • Always true to you in my fashion, Anything Goes
  • Vanilla ice cream, She Loves
  • Come to your senses, Tick Tick Boom
  • Cute boys with short haircuts, Vanities
  • What am I doing, Closer than Ever
  • On my way, Violet
  • Gooch’s Song, Mame
  • Funny, City of Angels
  • Safer, First Date
  • Diva’s lament, Spamalot
  • Breathe, In the Heights
  • Wishing you were somehow here again, Phantom of the Opera
  • If he knew my story, Bright Star
  • Purpose, Avenue Q
  • Franklin Shepherd Inc., Merrily We Roll Along
  • Like a god, Flower Drum Song
  • Santa Fe, Newsies
  • If I didn’t believe in your, Last Five Years
  • The moon and me, Addams Family
  • Old-fashioned wedding, Annie Get Your Gun
  • With you, Ghost
  • Lost in the wilderness, Children of Eden
  • Beautiful city, Godspell
  • If I loved you, Carousel
  • What do I need with love, Thoroughly Modern Millie
  • How did I end up here, Romance Romance
  • Easy as life, Aida
  • The history of wrong guys, Kinky Boots
  • Quiet, by Jonathan Read Gealt
  • Mandolin waltz, Western Star
  • Corner of the sky, Pippin
  • Don’t rain on my parade, Funny Girl
  • She used to be mine, Waitress
  • The view from here, by Ryan Scott Oliver
  • Some other me, If/Then
  • A little bit in love, Wonderful Town
  • All grown up, Bare
  • Till there was you, The Music Man
  • Shy, Once Upon a Mattress
  • Before it’s over, Dogfight
  • I’ll be here, Ordinary Days
  • Words fail, Dear Evan Hansen
  • Her voice, The Little Mermaid
  • Journey to the past, Anastasia
  • What do you do with a BA in English, Avenue Q
  • Never getting rid of me, Waitress
  • Kiss the air, by Scott Alan
  • I love Betsy, Honeymoon in Vegas
  • Gotta get out, Ordinary Days
  • Not for the life of me, Thoroughly Modern Millie
  • Please don’t make me love you, Dracula
  • I didn’t plan it, Waitress
  • I have found, The Royal Family of Broadway
  • I want to be bad, Good News
  • What I did for love, Chorus Love
  • I am playing me, [title of show]
  • She’s got a way, by Billy Joel
  • Last one picked, Whoop De Do
  • Everything I know, In the Heights
  • I’m allergic to cats, Theory of Relativity
  • Some things are meant to be, Little Women
  • There once was a man, Pajama Game
  • I miss the mountains, Next to Normal
  • Once upon a time, Brooklyn
  • Beyond my wildest dreams, The Little Mermaid
  • If ever I would leave you, Camelot
  • Monticello, by Pasek and Paul
  • Holding to the ground, Falsettos
  • A new life, Jekyll and Hyde
  • I got plenty of nuthin’, Porgy and Bess
  • Picture Show, Bonnie and Clyde

The gay voice

This is an interesting op-doc from the New York Times.

I often talk about the difference [s] sounds, as I’m teaching voice lessons.

Broadway songs for 12-15 year old boys

My studio suddenly has a handful of younger boys, several with recently-changed voices, and one who is not there yet.

I’m building a list of songs that are appropriate for them, both vocally and temperamentally.  I’m looking for texts that are also age-appropriate.

Here goes, with what I’ve taught in the last few months (song, show):

  • Just one person, Snoopy
  • Giants in the sky, Into the Woods
  • Wonderful day like today, Roar of the Greasepaint
  • That kind of a day, Sheldon Harnick song book
  • Leaning on a lamppost, Me and My Girl
  • If I ruled the world, Pickwick
  • Love I hear, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
  • There’s me, Starlight Express
  • If the world only knew, Scott Evan Davis
  • Edwina, Edwina
  • I’m home, Captains Courageous
  • When I get my name in lights, The Boy from Oz
  • Just wasn’t meant to happen, Calvin Berger (or any of Calvin’s songs)
  • Sara Lee, Kander and Ebb songbook
  • Try me, She Loves Me
  • Rhyme for Angela, Firebrand of Florence
  • It’s not where you start, Seesaw
  • The kite, You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown
  • Suppertime, You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown
  • Put on a happy face, Bye Bye Birdie
  • All my devices, Stephanie Salzman

C’s E5

My student C. has a weak spot in her voice at E5.  She knows it.  I know it.  We hear it.  We feel it.

She’s now a senior, and we need to get this fixed before she leaves college.

So today I gave her a simple isolation exercise, moving over the E5 on five basic vowels.  The idea here is to slowly connect over the E5, really feeling the move from one pitch to the next, and deal with this one little corner of the voice the same way an athlete would isolate a particular muscle.


After singing this five times in D-flat, move up a half-step to D for five more reps, then up to E-flat for five more reps.