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A Friday surprise

Some days one opens Facebook to find nothing but happiness.

That was today.

Brian Parrish is choral director at Parkway West High School in Saint Louis County.  I teach three of his choral students in my private studio.  Two of these sing in the select jazz choir, which dropped a YouTube video this week.

I’m so glad to see them singing, and to know that our work together has been part of their progress, and to know that Mr. Parrish is pleased with the work too!

But to ice the cake: the chart they are singing is arranged by Kerry Marsh.  Kerry and I sang together at the University of Kansas when I was working on my doctorate and he was doing his undergraduate degree.  I’ve marveled at his strength-to-strength career.  He’s now one of the top vocal jazz arrangers in the country.  And to think that I drank beer with him in a British pub back in 1997.  He was a sweet guy then, and I’m betting he’s still a truly nice man!




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]



Sent to my voice students recently:

From an interview I read the other day with an aged opera star…..

Subject: DO THE WORK

Date: August 17, 2017 at 7:34:22 PM CDT

His advice to singers was simple: DO THE WORK

“You don’t know what’s going to happen to you. You have dreams, you have aspirations, but you don’t know what’s going to happen and you can’t control it. But while you’re involved in the process, DO THE WORK. We don’t know where it’s going to lead but you can know with surety that you haven’t wasted your time. You’ve learned lessons that will help you in life no matter what road you end up on. Regardless of the outcomes, DO THE WORK.”

We talked for a while longer—and I’ll share more of his thoughts in later blog posts—but his admonition to DO THE WORK stuck with me. Whether we’re a singer looking for a breakthrough, a teacher trying connect and inspire a struggling student, or a businessman trying to carve a niche in a small and competitive industry, we all face similar challenges. All we can do is do the work. That might not lead to the outcomes we expect or plan for, but as Mr. Shirley assured me, things will work out for the best if we DO THE WORK.


The Classical Singer site is filled with helpful and informative and interesting articles.

Here’s an important one:

Teaching singing

Our Webster alumnus Derek posted this on Facebook today.

The anonymous author speaks truth!  Every lesson is different, and many feel like therapy, sometimes for me, but more often for the person taking the lesson.

What a resource!

Scott Miller has put together an incredible set of musical theatre resources at his New Line Theatre site.

I mean . . . WOW!

What to do?

I was visiting with a musical theatre alumnus a few months ago, one who is now working in the industry as an agent’s assistant.  He is seeing the musical theatre world from a wholly different angle.

I asked him what he knows now that he wishes he would have known three years ago.

His response:

  • Do a student film.  You will need to have a reel, and you need experience acting in front of the camera.
  • Engage in other creative activities.  Write.  Read novels.  Do improv.  Take an art class.  All of this will feed your own creativity on stage.
  • Leave college with a video reel.  You need quality excerpts of your on-stage work in college.  Beg your department for a two different two-minute clips of your best work on stage.

I would add to this:

  • See everything you can.  Even community theatre can be instructive.
  • Learn from the negative example.  We can learn what not to do just as readily as we can learn what to do.
  • Do experimental and devised theatre.
  • Learn a song — and learn it well — in at least one foreign language.
  • Take music theory courses seriously.  Anyone who sings needs to comprehend and be able to apply the symbolic language of music.

And read and do this: