Sunday, April 13, 2014

Opera assignment: last week thoughts

Folks, my apologies for having such a tough time converting the video files! Dropbox was not an option this time, and my first attempt at sharing them didn't work. At long last, they are on a private YouTube account. The URLs have been sent to you via email. I've checked them and they all appear to be working: check them from your computers today and let me know right away if there's a problem. Do not share these videos: they are rough rehearsals for our use only. A professional video of the performance will be available for you.

This assignment is due by MIDNIGHT this Thursday, April 17. Same rule applies as last time: 500 words, and it must be sent to my email account, and the date/time stamp is crucial. 11:59 Thursday means it's on time; 12:01 Friday means it's late and you lose the points. Clarification: it's 500 words total, not 500 words for each scene you are in. Just reflect on each scene within your essay if you are in more than one.

Some of you are teetering near a B or a C because you either didn't complete the last assignment and/or you were not as prepared as you could have been in early rehearsals. Don't let a simple assignment kick you down a letter grade. I, too, don't like the fact that we do not have the option of giving plusses or minuses in our grading at UAB, but it's what we've got. The only one it affects is you.

Friendly reminder about grading this final week: it is about retention, folks. There should be no wrong notes or incorrect rhythms at this point. If you've been given a repeated note about fixing these rudimentary musical things, FIX THEM. Retention also means retaining your blocking. We spent weeks on this: it's your responsibility to be where you're supposed to be when you're supposed to be, and the points you earn after blocking are earned by doing that convincingly, every time. Your job was to write what we did in the score, especially if we tweaked it. Then your job is to review it and practice it, outside of rehearsal if needed. Rehearsal is about making it muscle memory and ever more believable.

Remember to bring requested costume pieces on excuses. If you don't bring something I've asked you to bring, you lose points for that day. If you don't have it, that's fine: I won't penalize you for not owning something...but you need to let me know in advance so I can get it for you. If something you bring doesn't work, that's perfectly fine: that's why I need to see it TUESDAY so we can remedy it Thursday if necessary. If you are unsure about anything, are missing something you thought you owned, or have a creative idea, please email and ask me. Here are some specifics:

Valencia, I need you to arrange a time with me to choose a dress from our costumes. Let's aim for Monday if possible but Tuesday (perhaps during your lesson time) is also fine. If we don't find one we like, we need to know that now.

Robert: if you have dark pants that don't look terribly dressy, those would be best. A long-sleeved shirt, maybe plaid if you have it, would also be good. If you have overalls, bring them: I'd like to see them on you. For Toby, something simple like jeans and a button-down shirt would work. Plain shoes that aren't sneakers would be great.

John: bring several pairs of pants and shirts, and at least one blazer. I know I said no suit, but bring one just in case we don't like the other combinations. I don't think I want a tie, but it wouldn't hurt to bring one just in case. Bring dress shoes and another pair of dark casual shoes.

Nole: a dark suit with a lighter shirt (cream is better than white if you have it, or even yellow), with a few different ties. No bow ties. Bring dress shoes you'd wear with a suit.

Ella and Leah: the dowdiest collection of clothes you can come up with, even if they're not matching. Be ready for hair changes as we discussed. Leah, bring a few different pairs of shoes so we can see what works as you changes from your Wellies into shoes. Both of you bring something short and sexy for Baby Doe, and don't forget purses and compacts, lipsticks, etc. If you need help being dowdy, just ask me...I'm good at that. ;-)

MK, bring a simple dress or two for Monica, and if we don't like it, we'll choose another from our costumes. Bring something slightly dressier for Baby Doe: again, we can go through costumes if we need. For Laetitia, bring a black skirt and white shirt, and black shoes. I'm getting an apron, etc.

Also: it's official: there is no doorbell. I checked with Theatre (they don't have one). Plan accordingly!

Lastly, get in the recital hall and get your bodies and minds warmed up before rehearsal. All of you appear to be vocally warmed up since you've just come from choir, but if you are not, tend to that as well. Stretch, vocalize, and get into character. It is not my job to arrange the stage for you: it is your job. Come in early, set up, and be ready to start at 3:30 promptly.

Energy and focus are my main concerns right now. I can't provide it for you: you have to find it in yourselves. Sitting around right before rehearsal is NOT working for any of you. Do what you need to do, even if it means stretching backstage. This week, we run the show with everyone set backstage or wherever you're pre-set.

Thanks, folks. This is a lot of information, but we're in the final stretch. 5 days till your performance...and the last day of classes!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Remember to eat well

Folks, it's that time of the year when we think we're too busy to take care of ourselves...or that it's too expensive. An email arrived this morning to remind me that neither is true: you can cook well (and cheaply), which usually makes you feel better, too. Click here for inexpensive, healthy recipes!

Friday, April 4, 2014


We're going into the busy period in the semester, and I'm seeing the stress on a few of my students. Here are a few things you can do that might help. (But realize you have to DO them; you can't just think about them!)

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Opera assignment

Folks, since we have missed 8 hours of opera rehearsal (yes, 8!) due to snow days, I have devised another assignment to make up the points you have missed by missing those days. I have added an hour here or there to the rehearsal schedule, but do not want to try to add 8 more hours to your lives. Nor do I think you need it! The rehearsals are going well enough that I don't feel compelled to call you in on Fridays.

As we have discussed in class, I will not be present during next week's opera rehearsals. Dr. Steele will be running those rehearsals. Though he cannot stage direct from the keyboard, he may be correcting any wrong notes or rhythms that may have creeped in during the staging rehearsals.

Next week, each of you must observe a rehearsal of another scene. You will then write a 500-word essay which is due by MIDNIGHT on Friday, March 21. It must be submitted to my email address ( so that I have your time stamp. 11:59 pm Friday = on time; 12:01am Saturday = late, and you lose the points. I would highly suggest not procrastinating until Friday night to write it: if you have computer issues, that does NOT grant you an extension. Plan ahead.

The paper can be on anything you observe and/or what you learned by observing that you plan to apply to your own scene. Staging considerations, acting choices, body use, connection of facial expressions to text, how the action heightens the music...or not. These are private and will only be seen by me, so don't think that everything you say has to be in praise of your classmates. It does, however, have to be observant and honest.

I won't grade according to your writing ability, but please use complete sentences and spell check. These are basics of writing that every high school graduate must grasp. I'm sorry that I have to mention it, but do remember that academic writing, however "unofficial," is not the same as texting or even emailing. Thanks!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

UAB NATS winners

Congratulations to Johnathan Lyons, first place winner in the adult men division (and the only one forwarded onto finals), and Jake Hemminger, second place in fourth year college men (classical) and first place in fourth year college men (musical theatre). You not only did us proud by winning, you sang your best...which is far more important. On top of it, you were gracious and kind. I feel fortunate to work with you both!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Arlene Shrut coachings and master classes

The schedule as of now:

MONDAY (today, in my studio)
5-5:30 John
5:30-6 Jake
6-6:30 Courtney
6:30-7 OPEN
7-7:30 OPEN
7:30-8 OPEN

TUESDAY (my studio)
10-11 EmKay (lesson first half, coaching second half)
11:30-12 OPEN

2-2:30 OPEN (place TBA)
2:30-3 OPEN (place TBA)

Brown Bag on Entrepreneurship in Music (my office OR conference room)
Bring your lunch, and come and go as you need. Dr. Shrut will talk about how to make opportunities as a musician. She is a wizard at this: come and learn from a master!

Master Class on Auditioning
3:30-5:30 in Hulsey Recital Hall
Dr. Shrut will present a talk on successful auditioning, then work with three students.

Singers for the master class:
Nole Jones ("Warm as the autumn light")
Valencia Callens ("Chi il bel sogno di Doretta")
Reginald Melton (Bob's aria)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014