Loren Graziano performs well at Kiwanis festival in Toronto

I was delighted to watch and listen to Loren Graziano perform this past week in the Kiwanis competitions in Toronto.  Loren is truly developing as a mature voice, and at 16 she shows great depth and maturity.

She placed 1st at the Grand Opera competition and light opera, and performed beautifully last night in Forest Hill against older competitors.

Loren not only has a beautiful gift, she has the attitude that will promote ongoing growth.  She is patient, open to suggestions and very interested in her craft.  I’m so looking forward to continuing to be a part of her development and watching her grow even more as her instrument grows and matures.

Great job Loren.

 

Skype Singing Lessons in Toronto

Skype music lessons are becoming more and more common as we try to juggle the various demands of modern life.  Having conducted a considerable amount of these lessons out of demand (either I was out of town or the student was) or just accommodating a warm-up before a particularly important audition or performance, I conclude that they are really quite effective.  Yes, occasionally there is a small lag due to bandwidth when accompanying the student.  This generally can be alleviated with a fast internet connection by both involved parties and by closing down all other browsers.  Sending mp3 files with the accompaniments prior to the lesson is probably the best solution, however.  All the student needs to do besides downloading the free skype software, is to ensure they have an adequate microphone, webcam and some good speakers.  Both the student and instructor need to set up the webcams in such a way that visibility is not compromised. Specifically, it is paramount that the teacher can see the singing student’s mouth and to be able to observe and monitor their posture and alignment.  I have found that these lessons are particularly effective when I have already established a relationship with the student and they are familiar with my language and references.  That is not to say that new contacts would not benefit, of course.  Those in remote areas or others who are away for extended periods of time, or even for those when commuting is impossible due to inclement weather – skype is absolutely a viable option.

Please contact me to discuss terms and conditions and how we can use technology to assist with your progress moving forward.

Healthy Habits for Singers

Happy New Year to all!  This is a time to reflect and to redefine our goals for the future; a great time for singers, in particular, to reassess their vocal health.  There are many factors that contribute to good vocal health, of course.  Adequate sleep, exercise and good nutrition are the obvious contributors.

It is recommended to get 7 to 8 hours sleep regularly in order for your body to perform at its best.   As well, regular exercise not only reduces stress, but can increase lung capacity, flexibility and improve posture.  Eating a well-balanced diet and avoiding overly processed and salty foods is essential to good vocal health.

The winter months bring new factors to consider; regular hand-washing has been proven to reduce transmission of cold viruses.  Furthermore, hydration becomes even more vital with the dry air.  Drinking 8 glasses of water daily is recommended to keep the vocal folds functioning properly and if your environment is particularly dry, a humidifier may be in order.   Limiting your caffeine and alcohol consumption is also advisable, of course. Be aware, as well, that the use of antihistamines will dehydrate all of the mucus membranes, including the vocal cords.  Local anesthetics (numbing lozenges included!) are best avoided as they mask the symptoms which may lead to overuse of your instrument.

At any time of year, treating your voice with care by avoiding shouting and heavy throat clearing is a must.  Remember: we only get one voice and treating it with kindness and respect will increase its lifespan and quality.

Cantare Studios holiday sing-a-long 2012

Sunday evening I welcomed my students and their families into my home to enjoy their gift of song.    A variety of styles representing their individual interests were performed.  Naturally this was followed with some festive noshing, and by everyone in attendance joining in singing carols and enjoying the holiday spirit.

This was yet another reminder of how fortunate I am to work with such gifted students.

Happy Holidays Everyone!!

Norma

 

 

Holiday Concerts Toronto 2012

Wow!  It has been a very busy December, filled with many performances by my students and my own children.  Happily, I managed to get to most of them amid all of my teaching and other festive activities.

Lizzie Moscoe recently played Elphaba in Wicked (Camp Manitou) and will soon be seen as Tracey in Hairspray (CHAT) both at The Vaughan Playhouse, while Loren Graziano starred in Earl Haig’s production of Guys and Dolls.  In addition, Tommy Amoroso (Perchik) and Audrey Bruce( Tzeitel) performed successfully  in CATS Mainstage’s  production of Fiddler on the Roof.  Furthermore, this proud vocal teacher has also been treated to choral performances at Massey Hall (St. Michael’s Choir School) a number of CCOC performances including Dickens of a Christmas (Celia Pantis and Orly Morgan) and Cardinal Carter’s Christmas Concert (Mary Diemert, Celia Pantis, & Sabrina DiBattista) as well as  “Lessons and Carols” at Holy Name Church just last night.  What a heavenly way to begin the Christmas season!

I truly feel blessed to be able to watch these students grow in confidence and abilities and know that I have played a part in it.

What is Vocal Pedagogy?

Pedagogy is the science of education so, naturally, Vocal Pedagogy is the science of vocal education.  This encompasses so much; from the anatomy of the voice to specific vocal techniques – which is a whole other blog unto itself!  Regardless of one’s opinion, however, it includes posture (the Alexander Technique approach is one I favour), breath support (for example, appoggio of the Bel Canto school), exploiting maximum resonance and exploring vibrato, negotiating register transitions, diction (vowel formation and articulation), consistency of tone quality and the execution of legato and staccato.  Furthermore, a vocal teacher must understand the various periods, styles and genres of vocal music and be able to coach competently in at least the three main languages of singing – French, Italian, and German.

When choosing a Singing Teacher in Toronto be sure that you ensure he or she has a firm understanding of the above criteria.  Remember….you are interviewing them as much as they are auditioning you!

What’s an appropriate age to begin singing lessons?

Recently I was interviewed for an article for the Montreal publication, La Scena Musicale, asking me, “what is an appropriate age to begin singing lessons?” This is a question that I have been asked often over the years. Traditionally singing lessons in the very young was discouraged, instead waiting until after puberty. The thought was that singing in a choir was sufficient and, furthermore, fostered a healthy vocal production.

In my experience, however, with the exposure to the pop genres of today and the many vocal competitions on television, some youngsters would indeed benefit from one-on-one instruction. In a choir the director’s instruction will be filtered by individuals very differently depending on their personality and learning styles. This can be clarified in solo lessons. Another thing to consider is the repertoire and whether it appeals to the young student as it is very important to foster the love of music in the very young. The exposure to musicality, the role of story-telling and expression, and the use of musical markings in doing so all contribute to their musical education whether in private lessons or in a choir. If, however, they are acquiring undesirable vocal habits a private teacher can address those directly.

I tend to advise parents after consultation with them and their child. In many cases, I will direct them to a reputable choir if I feel that is a better fit.

Most of all everyone should experience the joy of singing!

The importance of vocal warm-ups

The importance of vocal warm-ups

Warming up the physical body before practicing songs for whatever audition or class for which one is preparing is a must.  For one thing, singing is physically demanding and so the muscles need to be “awake” to ensure the correct ones are engaged and able to support the voice production. Failing to do so could create some undesirable muscle memory.  In addition, the vocal folds themselves require warming…

Always begin with correct posture and by establishing a relaxed “belly breath”.  Humming and sighing both help get the air moving, and lip trills (with correct form!) help to connect the voice to the breath supply.  Follow this up with a variety of scales which you can find in your dictation books from your lessons.

Remember that daily practice is essential in order to build and maintain a “fit” and healthy instrument.

Happy Practicing!

Norma

 

Music is a gift for all time

No matter how busy life gets, I step back and consider myself blessed.  I found my passion early in life, and even after making my living in the field of music for over twenty years, I still look forward to my day.  A new student, the discovery of a new method or exercise; they all contribute to the joy of my chosen profession.  This is my first website, and blog so I write this with some trepidation, but I do hope you’ll check back soon and share the joy of music with me.

Norma