Saturday, October 3, 2009

Welcome to My Vocal Studio

Readers of this blog may have noticed that I have added a posterous widget in the right hand column of this blog. As you can see, I am inviting everyone to come in and hear me practice singing.

A new friend recently e-mailed me and said, "you're very brave to post clips of your practice sessions!"

I want to explain what I'm doing there. Yes, it could b considered "brave." But because of my particular journey, I seem to always be in the "process" and not ever really have any finished products to show. Because of my focus on being a wife and mother, and the limited opportunities I have to perform, especially due to my technical level, I sometimes don't get to satisfy that need that all singers have to express themselves for others through their voices.

If we seek a kind of truth and honesty with our art, we can only show what we really are. If what I am right now is a struggling singer, who has many things to master technically and who is taking a long time to do it, and may or may not ever achieve the high level she is striving for, then that is the performance you will get from me. I cannot pretend to be more or less than what I am at the moment.

So, I have come up with this idea to invite you into my vocal studio. To examine a work in progress. Perhaps they can be thought of as my "before" pictures. An opera singer who writes a great blog about her tremendous weight loss journey, Cindy Sadler, is brave enough to post pictures of herself on her blog (The Next Hundred Pounds) that she takes every month as she shows the gradual and steady weight loss she is experiencing. Each month that she posts a photo, it is as finished a "product" of her journey as she is in any given moment. She always looks wonderful, and she expresses happiness at her progress, and usually a new outfit, yet she continues to plod on toward her ultimate weight loss goal. And we the readers are invited to observe her transformation as it happens.

Well, these clips of my practicing are kind of like Cindy's photos. I am opening up my journey. It is my way of being creative and expressive about my experience. I hope that the clips you will find there will be the "before" pictures. But each clip is also an "after" picture from the weeks before. It is that kind of development and evolution.

Perhaps a young singer might find these pages and have a peek into someone else's process, and understand a little more about what the journey is like.

Here is another way of viewing what I'm trying to do with the posterous clips:

Say you have a friend who is an artist, a painter. And she works all day in a studio downtown. You and she have planned a lunch date, and she says, "come meet me at my studio."

You arrive at the designated time, climb the stairs, and come into a spacious area that is lit from big ceiling to floor windows. There are easels spaced out in the room with various paintings in progress. There are all kinds of artists supplies, and an open closet with tools of the craft on the shelves.

She is working on her current painting. She greets you, walks over to the sink to wash out her brushes, leaves the room and tells you she'll be ready in a few minutes. "Do you mind if I have a look around," you ask? And she answers "Be my guest, but remember that none of these are finished."

You walk around the studio and stop in front of each easel. Some are more complete, some are less, and some are just a sketch on the page. Some are just a smear of paint, and some are more defined and developed.

These paintings on the easels are like the songs I'll post on posterous. They are my "paintings," my works in progress. You are invited to spend time browsing and listening to my "works" in various stages. I invite you to look without judgment, but with interest and curiosity about the process.

You might also walk over to the table and pick up your artist friend's little sketch book. Inside you will see little drawings, and practice paintings and sketches. You will see drawing exercises as she works out little details for an idea she will later use in a painting.

These are like the singer's exercises. This is like, as my daughter's piano teacher says, the "cut and paste" method of working on a song, where a singer will take a phrase from a song and only work on that phrase before re-inserting it into the piece again. A singer has a sketchbook too. From time to time I may post some of what is in my singer's sketchbook as an example of the detail work that must be done as one constantly works on one's craft.

I'm doing something here that is similar to a web site I found where a young model shows how they turn her into a cover girl. It is a web site for young people so they can feel better about their natural looks and see the process that goes into making an airbrushed beauty.

It is also something like what an old college friend of mine did on facebook when he took a picture of himself all sweaty after working out at the gym. He let us have a peek into the process. The time when it "ain't so pretty," but very real nevertheless.

So, sometimes you will hear my dog barking in the background, or my husband walking into the room, or my kids interrupting me and me hushing them up because I am taping. These tapes are also my sketchbook, because recording myself helps me to evaluate the work I am doing.

Yes, this is kind of a daring and personal thing to do, I guess. But actually, it's all I have. I have no masterpiece. Maybe one day the work I am doing in my studio will add up to a masterpiece. In that case, I will showcase it. You'd better bet on it that on that day I'll showcase it!!!


  1. I wanted to share with you how much this passage from your blog entry resonated with me:

    "If we seek a kind of truth and honesty with our art, we can only show what we really are. If what I am right now is a struggling singer, [...] then that is the performance you will get from me. I cannot pretend to be more or less than what I am at the moment."

    This is very much in line with one of my current mantras: "Sing where you're at." That is to say, when it comes time to perform, I need to make peace with myself and accept all of my current warts and flaws (and my progress and strengths and beauty!) and just give the most committed performance I have it in myself to give, whatever level I may be. This is so hard for me, though - I am an extremely self-critical singer who wants to set a high bar for myself. Sometimes, though, I get positive audience comments about a performance that I might otherwise pick apart and rip to shreds, and it helps me put things into perspective. It reminds me that despite all of my shortcomings and despite the fact that lots of singers out there sing a lot better than me, I have still reached a level of accomplishment where I have something to offer an audience that they might enjoy or even find moving. That's reason enough for me to feel grateful and fortunate.

    Also, I love that passage from your blog because it illustrates your gift of being able to distill truth and wisdom from your own experience and put it into words that are a guiding light to others. You are so humble and modest about your own journey as an avocational singer, and yet even some of the most talented and experienced professional singers who post on the blogs and forums we visit do not have this same gift of distilling wisdom that you have. That is one reason that I and others enjoy reading your posts so much!