... (ellipsis)

Happy Almost May!

I am sitting here taking a break from practicing to update you on a performance of mine! This piece is VERY personal to me because I had to talk about past and current insecurities. This does not JUST mean from a professional vocalist lens, but from a personal lens as well.

To my family members: not all the information that is talked about is aimed at you or is to personally attack you. I was speaking from my heart and used some hard times in my life to help the piece flourish.

A quote from the composer:

“An introspective view on what goes on in the mind of performers, focusing on the doubts and insecurities before the performance.”

-Kyle Morrow, composer

To me, this piece was about using my past hurdles and I used them to floor my performance. As I have stated in previous posts, singing is very vulnerable. You are yourself and a character at the same time, but sometimes the character you are playing is yourself. This means the separation between the performance and personal identity is not there. For some this can be very scary and hard to process, but for me, I find it inspiring and resourceful. I know what my feelings (past or present) are and can create an authentic representation of my experience. This helps the audience relate to it and (hopefully) makes the performance more captivating.

Much Love and Joy,

-Sarah-Jane

Here is … (ellipsis):

Performer Check List

Hello, my dear friends. I hope you are enjoying the beginning of January! I finally got a moment to breathe before life starts back up again, even if it is just for a few days. I had the opportunity this past summer to be a part of Don Giovanni. I was even lucky enough to snag a lead in the production. I have never been casted as a lead in an opera before, so I was unsure on how to go about memorizing all of that music. To me, this lesson can be overlooked in schooling because lessons can be more about a single song/aria. So having ninety minutes of music to memorize with blocking and cuts made to the music seemed impossible. After my brief panic, I was able to sit myself down and make it manageable for myself.

I want to share my “system”/checklist with you all. I think it can be very helpful and hopefully I can look back on this as a reminder on how I managed to do it.

  1. Take it one song at a time. When learning and performing it’s normal to try to sing and remember the whole thing at once, but very taxing. Not once in my life was I able to recite a 200 page book, so why should I be able to do that with music. You need to break it down into smaller chunks. So while I am singing or before I am on stage, I only think of that ONE song. Sometimes if the piece is long I even chunk it into smaller sections and take it one step at a time. This way you do not panic on stage and you are in the moment running through the music. It gives your brain enough to focus on without overwhelming it, but not so much where you can’t act and use the music to move you.

  2. ALWAYS review your music. Just because you had the music memorized six days ago does not mean you aren’t going to make mistakes. It means that six days ago you had the music memoized and no matter what mistakes will be made. I always give myself thirty minutes to review the music before I perform that day. It gives me confidence knowing I reviewed it and I am not relying on muscle memory. I also walk through my blocking in my head before the performance so I remind myself of my own movement. This will give you reassurance and a panic-free performance, hopefully. If not just look confident and no one will notice the fire in your mind.

  3. Learn the music right the first time. When learning anything, you do not want to cut corners. It causes back track later on, and the habit is even harder to break! Take time everyday, if possible, to go over sections of the music. Spend time getting to know the piece and the drive behind it. This will give you a clear understanding of the piece and you won't second guess yourself. This also means learning other parts well too! You need to know the piano accompaniment and the other vocalists in the piece as well. You cannot and should not rely on others to know their own part. This means you have to count, know your entrances and know your cut-offs really well. To help with this listen to recordings that are correct or record you part on the piano to learn it well. Not all music will be learned at the same rate so do not be discouraged when one piece took three weeks to learn while another is still in the process. Just keep working at it and ask for help if your stuck!

  4. Spend time with yourself learning about the character. It takes just five min a day. This is something I still need to work. Knowing the drive, emotion, story and context of the character will take your performance so far. This will also help understand the music better too! For example, in the opera Don Giovanni Donna Anna’s lines are always higher and her arias tend to lean that way too. To me, this is her grieving, crying, screaming, crying out, etc in the opera. She is without her father and is just so full of emotion that she cannot be subtle a lot. It helps give the music more depth to it, which helps the audience enjoy the performance. 10/10 recommend

  5. Take a break when you can. It is not sustainable to sing for three hours everyday for months. Do not even try to prove me wrong, or you will hurt yourself. Your voice needs time to relax and recover. You are like an athlete and need to have days off to rest. I can hit some super high notes, but that doesn't make me superhuman. As a vocalist I need to know my limits and how far I can push myself before I am going to tire myself out. There needs to be a line you do not cross and make sure you stick to it. Although, this does not mean skipping a work day completely. You can do so much on your non-singing day. You can write out your lyrics, walk through blocking, listen to the piece, analyze the piece, look over the piano part, etc. Again, you need to fully know the piece! The more you understand the piece the better.

I hope this list helps you all get started! This checklist helps me everyday and keeps me at ease. I am not superhuman and I never will be and this lists helps break down those “superhuman” deadlines. If you work hard and put in the effort, anything is possible! Everything will fall into place and opportunities will come when you are ready for them. Do not get discouraged, and keep working away.

 

Much love and joy <3

Sarah-Jane

400 Audience Members and Little Me

Hello everyone, I hope everyone is enjoying some nice weather. Summer is almost over and I am so glad I get to share my musical experiences with you all. 

I have put performing on the back burners for now and have shifted my focus to practicing! So much practicing and it never seems to end! While I have some fun music to share soon let’s chat about my performance that almost made me pee-my-pants (is that professional to say, even if its true?) On May 13th I had the incredible opportunity to perform at Benaroya Hall in Seattle for Cornish College of the Art’s Graduation ceremony. For those who are not familiar with the Seattle area, Benaroya Hall is where the Seattle symphony plays. It seats a LOT of people. It is in the heart of Seattle, near Pike’s Market and near my favorite Target. As you can see from the pictures, the hall is pretty large. Many big names in the classical world have performed here, technically I shared the stage with Renee Fleming even if it was about a year apart. 

Benaroya Hall&nbsp;

Benaroya Hall 

To be honest, I did not think the hall would be very full because the school I attend is small, but I was wrong. The bottom floor was completely full, somewhere around 400 people where there. Now, I have performed in front of a crowd this large, but this experience was a bit different. The last time I performed in a hall this large I was one of many sopranos for Faure’s Requiem back at Eastern Illinois University. This performance at Benaroya Hall, I was singing one of four different parts of a SSSA a cappella piece. So I was all along on my part and this piece was difficult.

The piece, “The Sleepers” was composed by my very talented and dear friend Ashley Hickey. She fortunately has experience writing for voices so the lines that she wrote for each part made sense. Each line had their own melody and drive, certain sections would line up together, and the tempo was much slower, which made learning the piece easy. While I might be painting this picture of effortlessness, that was not the case. Many different phrases would start on a very “crunchy” chord. Some of those would be stacked minor seconds, or for people familiar in set theory it would be a (0123). So I had to be very confident on my own part. I could not even second guess myself or I knew my intonation would suffer badly. 

 

sleep.jpg

I got together with the other members once before the day of the performance. To me this was a test to see if I really could pull my part together quickly. I threw myself in the ocean and told myself I had to swim. Pretty scary, but folks THIS DIVA SWAM. The rehearsal was just several different run-throughs of the piece. Occasionally, we would spend more time on certain sections. In my opinion when working on new music with different performers, it is best to do a complete run through first. This way everyone knows what needs work and the group can focus on the harder sections. After the one AND only rehearsal I was dissatisfied with my progress, but it gave me perspective. I was able to see what needed the most work and gained even more knowledge on how to practice. 

The day of the performance I was pretty calm until about three hours before the event started. I had to plant myself in a chair to make sure I would not pace back-and-forth backstage. All of us gathered about twenty-five minutes before it was our time to shine. Somehow I was able to pull myself together and walk out there, center stage, with total confidence. I felt excited and a bit nervous, but ready to share my gift with others. I, then open my binder and looked up. For a nanosecond, the blood drained from my face and I felt my hands get clammy. 

 

So

Many

People

 

The second I started to sing I pushed all those fears behind me and was somehow able to focus. In my opinion it was very successful performance and we made some beautiful music. The second I walked off stage I was fueled by adrenaline, honestly in the moment I thought I could lift a car. 

Honestly, I cannot believe I was given such an opportunity to sing in front of so many people. It was truly humbling and almost an out of body experience. Part of me doesn’t believe I actually performed, but I did. I am pretty proud of myself and I hope this opportunity helps keep me on my path to success. 

Much Love and Joy <3

Sarah-Jane

Blog Updates

Hello my friends!

Welcome to my blog, you beautiful people! I plan on updating this page starting in mid-June. It will be filled with my struggles, triumphs, and awkward moments as a professional singer. I am a very awkward person so the stories will be embarrassing for me, but hopefully insightful for you! Until that inspiring day comes along, I thought I would give you a treat! I have attached my recital Growing Up for your viewing pleasure. Hopefully this ties you over until mid-June. <3

Much Love and Joy, 

Sarah-Jane