Tuesday, September 20, 2016


Folks, a few of you have asked about my expectations for AMAHL rehearsals. These are outlined quite clearly in the syllabus. If it helps to have them reiterated here, they are included below.

  • It is expected that you know your music when you come into to rehearsals. Rehearsals are not the time to teach notes: that is your job, outside of class. This means correct notes and correct rhythms from the very first time you sing your part in class. A right note at the wrong time is a wrong note. If rhythm is your weak link, start by speaking the text in rhythm, then adding pitches, under tempo at first. DO NOT RUSH the process: unlearning mistakes is much harder and time-consuming that simply learning things slowly and correctly in the first place. 
  • It is expected that any mistakes we correct in rehearsal stay corrected. Retention is a large part of your grade. Making sure that you integrate any corrections, breath marks, diction directions, at the like is part of this. Your practice time outside of class is meant to be spent doing this.
  • It is expected that you have a pencil at all times so you can mark any directions in your score. Otherwise, you won't remember them when you leave class! As I was always told as a student: a singer without a pencil is a singer without a job.
  • It is expected that you arrive on time, ready to work, with a great attitude. This has not been a problem in any way this semester, but it never hurts to have this as a reminder of basic professionalism. Being supportive of each other is vital. Not talking while others are working is crucial. Talk during breaks, and never talk while the director or conductor is working with anyone, whether it's you or someone else.
We only rehearse twice a week, which is a very light rehearsal schedule. That means the responsibility is on you to do the work outside of class. Most shows rehearse 5-6 nights per week: I am respecting your many commitments by not insisting upon more time.

It is also worth noting that in the real world, it is expected that professionals arrive at the first opera rehearsal with music not only learned perfectly, but also memorized. Realize that this is a very forgiving process in an academic environment. If you are falling short of my very easy expectations here, you will never perform for long. Meet or exceed my expectations, and you'll have a shot.

The grading scale from the syllabus is below. I look forward to your fabulous work!

Class participation          50% (Music / blocking learned completely, correctly, and on time)
Performance             40% (Retention of what we polished and addressed in rehearsal)
Reflections                       10% (Critical observations of your performance and/or others’)

Thursday, September 15, 2016

AMAHL rehearsals

Tuesday, September 20
2-3:15 We will be playing theatre games during Chamber Singers. Attendance is not required, but if you can and would like to come, it might help relax some of the folks who seemed nervous!
3:30-4:30 Mother and Amahls: pp. 14-19
4:30-5 Kaspar: revisit aria pp. 25-26

Thursday, September 22
3:30-4:30 Mothers and Amahls: pp. 61-63, p. 27
4:30-5 Kings and Pages: pp. 52-53

Tuesday, September 27
3:30-4:30 Amahls pp. 48, 53-55
4:30-5 Mothers and Kings: start Quartet pp. 28-33

Thursday, September 29
3:30-4:30 Mothers, Amahls, and Kings: pp. 56-62, 48-49
4:30-5 Kings pp. 38-40, p. 47

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Tiny Changes #20: support yourself

This may seem contradictory, considering how many times we've told you to reach out if you need help. I'm not saying that you shouldn't avail yourself of the doctor if you're sick, the counseling center if you need help with managing stress, or your teacher if you're having trouble in class. Do those things when you need: they are there for a reason.

I'm referring to the constant cheerleading some of us seem to need to simply do our work.

How many of you go from practice room to practice room, asking someone to listen to your work (and listening to theirs, thereby postponing work for BOTH of you), so that you can feel good enough to continue? How many of you seek counsel from each other, often repeatedly, regarding something to which you already know the answer? Often, this is an avoidance technique, when what you really need to do is just get to work.

Steven Pressfield, in my favorite book (The War of Art) puts it this way:

Seeking support from friends and family is like having people gathered around your deathbed. It's nice, but when the ship sails, all they can do is stand on the dock and wave goodbye.

Any support we get from persons of flesh and blood is like Monopoly money; it's not legal tender in that sphere where we have to do our work. In fact, the more energy we spend stoking up on support from colleagues and loved ones, the weaker we become and the less capable of handling our business.

Get to work. Don't talk about it, plan it, or fantasize with others. Leave the neuroticism at the door, and get practicing.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Tiny Changes #19: don't apologize

Too often, I hear the words "I'm sorry" in response to taking a chance in the voice studio. I liken this to apologizing in the chemistry lab when an experiment yields something interesting.

The studio is your lab: so is the practice room. There is no reason to apologize when you're experimenting. The whole point is to experiment. And when you get it right, keep at it until you can replicate the results at will.

The other thing about apologizing is that it wastes mental energy as well as valuable time. The energy you spend feeling embarrassed or apologetic, the energy I spend trying to get you to feel better so we can work, then finally getting back on task is wasted. There's no need to be wasteful in this manner.

So stop saying you're sorry when you make an unexpected sound: there is no reason to apologize! Unless you're unprepared...in which case, no amount of apologizing will help you.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Tiny Changes #18: pick a hero

We all have heros. They can be great motivators.

For Joseph Schooling, it was Michael Phelps. He met him in 2008 when he was 13, and just beat him in Rio. You can read about the entire story here.

Who is your hero? Is it a soprano with an international career? A music teacher from your high school whom you revere? An athlete who overcame incredible odds? Choose one.

Now learn about them. How did they get where they are? What did they do in the practice room, in school, what auditions did they win, etc.? Learn from their successes and failures, and realize that you can learn similarly, too.

Now become your own hero. Someone may well be nipping at your heels, and you don't even know it yet. Let that motivate your work.

Voice Health References

Thanks for your interest in Dr. Gaskill's presentation today in Convocation. Below are the reference materials he promised. If you have any questions, feel free to post here or email me, and I can put you in touch with him. 

Vocal Health References & Resources

Dr. Chris Gaskill

Vocal Myth Articles from Journal of Singing:

Michael, D. (2011). Dispelling Vocal Myths. Part 2:" Sing It off the Chords!". Journal of Singing, 67(4), 417.

Michael, D. (2012). Dispelling Vocal Myths. Part 3:“Sing OVER Your Cold!”. Journal of Singing, 68(4), 419-425.

Michael, D. (2012). Dispelling Vocal Myths. Part 4:“Talk Higher!”. Journal of Singing, 69(2), 167-172.

Various Vocal Hygiene References:

Akhtar, S., Wood, G., Rubin, J. S., O'Flynn, P. E., & Ratcliffe, P. (1999). Effect of caffeine on the vocal folds: a pilot study. Journal of laryngology and otology, 113(4), 341-345.

Cazden, J. (2015). Vocalists’ Guide to Throat Lozenges. http://www.joannacazden.com/a-vocalists-guide-to-throat-lozenges/

Erickson-Levendoski, E., & Sivasankar, M. (2011). Investigating the effects of caffeine on phonation. Journal of Voice, 25(5), e215-e219.

Heinz Valtin (2002). ‘Drink at least eight glasses of water a day.’ Really? Is there scientific evidence for “8 x 8?  Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol, 283, R993–R1004.

Knickerbocker, K. (2015).  6 Vocal Myths: Practical Therapy Applications. The ASHA Leader Blog. http://blog.asha.org/2015/01/22/six-vocal-myths-practical-therapy-applications/

Wüthrich, B., Schmid, A., Walther, B., & Sieber, R. (2005). Milk consumption does not lead to mucus production or occurrence of asthma. Journal of the American college of nutrition, 24(sup6), 547S-555S.

Voice Science Website:

My Article (along with an MD and Voice Teacher) About Steroids:

Gaskill, C. S., Williams, M. B., & McHugh, R. K. (2015). Singers and steroids: A multi-disciplinary discussion. SIG 3 Perspectives on Voice and Voice Disorders, 25(1), 16-24.

My Articles about Vocal Dose in Singers:

Gaskill, C.S., Cowgill, J.G., &  Many, S.G. (2013). “Comparing the Vocal Dose of University Students from Vocal Performance, Music Education and Musical Theater.” Journal of Singing. 70(1), 11-19.

Gaskill, C.S., Cowgill, J. G. & Tinter, S.R. (2013). “Vocal Dosimetry: A Graduate Level Vocal Pedagogy Course Experience.” Journal of Singing. 69(5), 543-555.

How to Check for Vocal Fold Swelling (text and training video):

Straw Phonation videos:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FStqHThEY9M (Tom Burke—speech pathologist who works with elite musical theater performers in NYC)

Resources from the NCVS (National Center for Voice and Speech):

Warm-ups for singers:

List of common medications and potential voice/speech side-effects:

Basic Vocal Hygiene Tips (page with four bookmark-sized lists to reproduce)

More detailed Vocal Hygiene guidelines:

“The World Within Your Voice”: Video about how the human voice works:

Monday, September 5, 2016

Upcoming AMAHL rehearsals

Thursday, September 8
3:30-3:50 character work: all principals called
3:50-4:10 Melchior: "Oh, woman..."
4:10-5 Kaspars: "This is my box"

Tuesday, September 13
3:30-5 Mothers and Amahl, pp. 2-11

Thursday, September 15
3:30-4:10 Amahls and Kings pp. 23-24
4:15-5 Kings pp. 12-14