Sunday, December 4, 2011

All She Wants For Christmas...

Last night was our Ward Christmas Party.

Ivy with Santa (the boys are too old for Santa now...)

Roger and I sang "Star Bright"

Then little Ivy sang, "All I Want For Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth"

She did such a great job that we decided to film her tonight. Talk about "singing with expression". SO CUTE!!

Friday, December 2, 2011

My Recital: As Told Through Photographs

I had my friend Katie Hulett of K Hulett Photography come to my recital and take photos. I can't even put into words how much I love these pictures. It was so hard to narrow things down, but I finally got it down to 16 photos of the 73 that she sent to have me preview, that I will share with you. The ones I love the most are of my family and friends. I have always been a fan of candid shots and photographs that tell a story. I felt that with each one of the photos Katie took. Some of the ones I will display here (and others that I painfully left out) I will cherish forever. Thank you so much Katie!! (click on a photo for a closer look)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Vocal Recital 2011: Up To The Mountain

One of my favorite artists, Patty Griffin, wrote this song as a tribute to Martin Luther King. It is based on his last speech (I recommend you click the link). The next day he was assassinated. I am so moved by his words and what an inspired leader he was.

I hadn't sung many songs that are in the "gospel" genre. It was fun to work on. My main challenge was getting the right emotional feel and conviction as I sang. I had to tap into some very personal beliefs to get this song to ring true and convey it's message of hope and inspiration...

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Vocal Recital 2011: You And I

This song, You and I, by Ingrid Michaelson is FAB! My family loves Ingrid's music and this is one of our favorites. (You can tell that by Chester's sheer joy in "the percussion" section at the end) Roger and I purchased our first ukelele about a month ago and Roger learned the chords. This is our ukelele's maiden voyage. Enjoy!!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Studio Time

Back in August I stepped out of my comfort zone and participated in and won a vocal contest. One of the prizes from this contest was two hours in a state of the art recording studio. Well, today I went in for a recording session to redeem that prize and it was awesome! The studio is in lovely Lindon, UT, about 45 minutes away from where I live and it is called the "The Castle" and it is really nice! I was greeted by Rick Priddis the owner and he showed me into the studio where I met my "producer" Miles Fulwider. I explained to Miles that I hadn't done much recording so any help he could give me would be appreciated!

For the next two hours we recorded 7 songs and it was hard work, but also a blast at the same time. I can see why recording artists love their jobs! We did 2 or 3 (on one song 4) takes of a song and then we would listen back and would talk about any tweaks or producing styles that would be applied to that particular piece. This time around I recorded songs my family loves and I plan on giving them out as Christmas gifts to my family and close friends.

This whole experience got me stoked about writing songs and getting into the studio again to do some original stuff or covers with me actually playing the guitar or being accompanied by live musicians. Wouldn't that be the bomb?! It has been a couple years since I picked up the guitar seriously, but I just want to get to work and get back in that studio. So cool!

Here I am in the studio singing.

And here I am with Miles after my session.

It took a lot of vocal stamina to get through the session. I basically sang with maybe one break for two hours straight. But my voice felt great! I was tired but I didn't lose it and I was able to sing challenging stuff until the very end. Again, I attribute this to SLS and knowing what I need to do as a vocalist to sing balanced. At one point during the session my chest voice was breathy and not as vibrant as it usually is. That is when I took my break and did some vocal exercises that helped me get back into my chest. I thought maybe what caused that was me singing near my first register and into the mix with a higher larynx. That isn't the ideal. SO doing some exercises that help get that larynx down made a world of difference.

Now that we have laid down the tracks, Miles is going to do his magic and produce what we recorded. He had some great ideas to stylize some of the songs. Once he is done he will send me an MP3 of the final cuts and I will give any feedback on what I want changed. Once I am happy with the final cut he will send me a master disk and from that I can make copies for Christmas Presents! This will be fun! I am not going to give away what songs I recorded but I will say, I didn't record any Christmas songs. haha

Monday, November 14, 2011

Vocal Recital 2011: The Man That Got Away

Judy, Judy, Judy....I can't listen to Judy Garland sing without being emotionally connected and moved. In particular I love her later stuff. Her singing live at Carnegie Hall is just magical to me. She sings with her heart and guts!! What a talent. This song was one she made famous later in her career from her remake of the film, A Star Is Born. In the film she sings this song surrounded by the band after hours. It is one of my favorite movie moments. I hope one day to bring the same emotion and passion to a song like she could, but for now this is my interpretation of, The Man That Got Away...

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Vocal Recital 2011: When Will My Life Begin

Here is Ivy singing When Will My Life Begin from Tangled for my recital. It was fun to work with her on this song. She is a little young in my opinion to start vocal lessons. Maybe next year or the year after. She has great pitch and intonation and to top it off, she loves performing. She gets kind of shy especially the older she gets. But I am the same way so I am not too worried about it.

For this song we mainly worked on how to perform a song like this in front of an audience. She just wanted to stand and sing the song...that is fine. But I know she is capable of interpreting the song and actually conveying the message to the audience. We talked about what it meant to be a character on stage. Even when one isn't in full costume the performer can still bring meaning to the song. She fought me on it, so I used examples of other children performing on YouTube and she was able to see the difference of someone just standing and singing with no body language or facial expression and those that put more into it and thought about their audience and what their experience would be watching the song. I filmed her both ways and she finally determined that my way was the what we needed for this particular venue.

I didn't want to push her but I wanted her to understand that it was OK to let loose and use more expression. I wanted her to discover it on her own and it be her own decision so she saw the logic behind it and she wasn't just doing it because "mom told her to". She did very well and I was so proud of her.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Vocal Recital 2011: Poker Face

Here is my third installment from my recent vocal recital. I heard this version of Lady Gaga's "Poker Face" on an episode of Glee. I thought it was an amazing and innovative arrangement of the hit pop song. It was done as a duet on the show, but I think it works just as well as a solo. This turned out to be one of the most fun songs I have ever sung. It bounces around and is very playful.

It was hard for me at first to not try and find an "interpretation" of the song. Being an actress and having a strong musical theater background I wanted to find subtext in the song and give it a back story. But after Roger watched me perform the song this way he thought it didn't work and was too confusing. It wasn't written as a musical theater piece although this arrangement is very much in that style. I decided just to "sing" the song, not giving it any deeper meaning. I think it worked. The end product feels like an adult pop song from the 60's...something you would see Sinatra, Bobby Darin or Dean Martin pull off. Just a song that is quirky and has a catchy tune, but is not an "acting" or emotional piece.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Vocal Recital 2011: I Wanna Hold Your Hand

Most of you who know me know I LOVE the Beatles. Can I hear it for George Harrison!! AH! Love them! A few years back my sister Lissa gifted me the movie and soundtrack to Across The Universe, a Julie Taymor film that was visually stunning and told the story with ALL Beatles' songs. I listened to the soundtrack so much I think I wore it out. This arrangement of I Wanna Hold Your Hand is Track 2 on disc one.

It was the first song of the night for my recital and we got started late because of a previous group that was using the space. I was a bit flustered trying to get everything set up, so I just jumped into it. I wish I would have had a moment before to get my mind in the game but as the song goes on I feel I connect with it better. Vocally it was a bit of a challenge since most of the song is sung at the approach to my first bridge. Despite the challenges and a rough start, I manage to keep things together. I love this arrangement and I had a great time singing it. Enjoy!!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Vocal Recital 2011: Gravity

Here is my first post from my vocal recital on Oct. 29th of this year. Others will follow in the coming days. This song was introduced to me by my niece Ami. It is a beautiful song originally performed by Sara Bareilles. It was great to work on more contemporary, non-musical theater pieces in this recital like this one . So, this one is for you Ami!!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Why Speech Level Singing?

I have decided to teach Speech Level Singing. I have signed up and am in my per-certification stage. It will take me a year to 18 months to reach my level 1 and officially be called an SLS Teacher. This Blog will be dedicated to my journey in this amazing program. Some people may be thinking, "What?! You sing so well, just teach voice. You'll know what to do after all of the training you've had." But this method is special and much more structured and to be completely honest: "This method of singing has pretty much saved my vocal career." (You can quote me on that) Here is why I want to teach this particular method:

When I was ten years old I was cast as Annie. Here I am at the start of my career. I had raw vocal talent and could sing very well. The director of this show taught me some vocal tips to help me sing more consistently and correctly. Things like "support" (with your diaphragm) and how to really "push" those high notes out there. I was young and could do what he asked with no worries. As I grew up and reached my later teen years, I started running into problems when I was cast in roles that sang above the C above Middle C. But I was given help from the music directors on how to "push" through all that, and we made it work.

In college I took on a more classical approach to the voice and studied with teachers who helped me develop my upper register. Things were good! I could sing up high in my head voice....I could sing down low in chest voice....but there was a is a place in the voice called the "passaggio".

We all have "bridges" in our voices that take us to the higher registers. The most obvious for women is the passagio from the chest voice into the mix or the "first register". Some of us can mix this bridge smoothly, without strain and to an audience it sounds like just "one voice". There is no obvious break in the tone. It is balanced and coordinated. With my voice I would sing in this loud chest voice to that C above Middle C, or sometimes I could get up to a D above Middle C and then I couldn't go any higher without breaking into an obvious head voice. Once I got into that head voice I could go on up to high C and above, no problem. So, that passaggio into my first bridge was not connected and it was a real issue for me.

I went to many different vocal teachers, coaches and friends to try and smooth things out and nothing was really working for me. So for YEARS I dealt with this and just made due. To make matters even worse, while I was trying to start up my professional career on the East Coast a tragedy in our family occurred. My brother, just 3 years older than me, died suddenly of a drug overdose. His death and the events surrounding it were so traumatic to me that I lost my singing voice for a time. When I was finally able to sing again, my voice was very fragile and I had this "cracking/yodel" type thing that would happen spontaneously. It created much anxiety and was a huge blow to my vocal confidence. But, singing was so much a part of me that I just pressed on and tried to make the best of things.

I will say that my acting ability and how I was able to interpret a song became a strong point. I had to make up for my vocal imperfections so I would just act the crap out of a song to compensate. As a result I was always told, "you are such an amazing actress". Which was wonderful, but deep down I wanted to hear just one person say, "You have an amazing voice". Audiences may not know technique but they know a connected, well balanced sound when they hear it and I did not have that.

Fast forward to Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, a production I did at St. George Musical Theater in 2006. My voice was having major issues. It sounded "sickly".

At the same time I was in production for Seven Brides, I was in rehearsals for Beauty and the Beast. My director, Ryan Norton, could tell something wasn't right with my voice. He introduced me to Speech Level Singing and told me I needed to go get my vocal chords scoped.

After getting scoped my doctor informed me that I had vocal chord damage due to Acid Reflux. I was sent to a speech therapist and we talked about the shows I was in and the new Speech Level vocal exercises that my director gave me. She was surprised and said that the exercises he gave me were the very ones she would have given me to help me recover. I was vigilant about taking my medication and doing these vocal exercises every day. I wanted my voice back!

Then in 2008 I was cast at Tuacahn. My voice was improving and I found a teacher that claimed she taught SLS. I asked her about my voice cracking and she really seemed to skirt the issue. I knew she wasn't equipped to help me and I was frustrated. I worked on my own and then I got a call one afternoon from Kerry Perry. She is the wife and business partner of Brodie Perry who was also in the cast of Tuacahn with me. She explained that the teacher that I had taken from that claimed to be an SLS Certified Teacher was NOT certified anymore. She had been asked to step down as a teacher in the organization but was still toting herself as an SLS Teacher. They were dealing with her on this matter. Kerry then went on to say that Brodie was certified if I wanted to take a lesson and see how things went. I was a bit skeptical after my experience with the previous teacher but I agreed.

Three years later Brodie is still my vocal trainer, teacher and mentor. Here we are in Les Miz that first summer I started taking lessons from him. My voice was literally "saved" by this method of singing. I still have much to overcome but my voice is getting stronger, more balanced and connected, I am able to sing in my chest voice, then into the mix on up to my head voice. I am more confident and I am starting to hear, "Wow! You are an amazing singer!" And I just jump for joy inside. I still have old habits that need to be conquered and that weird cracking still happens on occasion, but now I know why and I have the tools I need to correct it. I want to give to others what this method has given me. I believe in it and I am so blessed to have found it.