What type of clinician would you like SNATS to provide in Spring 2018?

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Spring repertoire assignments

Happy new year, folks! Following are your repertoire assignments for the spring semester. I've chosen repertoire with an eye to planning your recitals or half recitals, even though for some of you that might be years away. As always, if you don't like something, please say so and Dr. Yang Temko will help you find something else. Have one song prepared well enough for you to work for your first lesson with her. 

I've left copies of some music on my door to get you started: everything else is in my office or in the library, which you can copy as needed. Please remember to sign out any music you borrow, and return it promptly. This is your opportunity to exercise your research skills: get to know the library, online sources, etc. Look on this blog for links to helpful music sites and translation sites.

I'll miss you, but will be in and out of town and only an email away. Sabbatical dosn't mean I've completely disappeared. Have a wonderful semester and know that I love y'all madly!

Purcell's "Fairest Isle," "Tu lo sai" (in your Italian book) or "Sento nel core" (a copy for you is on my door), Handel's "Verdi prati," Dowland's "Now, O now" or "Behold a wonder here" (on my door), Schubert's "Liebhaber in allen Gestalten."


Anything else from Quatre Chansons de Jeunesse, Handel's "Tornami," Strauss: "Kling!", "Breit über mein Haupt," Doll Song from Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Rodrigo: last two songs from Cuatro Madrigales Amatorios.


Any of the remaining Songs of Travel, finish off "Avant de quitter," Fauré's "Au bord de l'eau" and "Automne," Brahms's "Sonntag," "Wie Melodien" and/or "Dein blaues Auge." If you plan to do NATS, check online for their repertoire requirements and prepare your choices accordingly. Feel free to use a few we've done this past semester.


"Gia il sole dal Gange" "Pieta Signore" "Danza, danza" or "Che fiero costume" (all in your Italian book: choose two), "An Schwager Kronos" (two copies are on my door for you).


Lotti's "Pur dicesti" (on my door for you) and "Intorno all'idol mio," Handel's "Va godendo" or "Non lo diro col labbro," Schubert's "Lachen und Weinen," Duke's "Little Elegy" or "I can't be talkin' of love."


Dowland's "If my complaints" (by request!), Debussy's "Nuits d'étoiles" and "Mandoline" (if time), Bellini's "Dolente immagine" "Labbandono" "Vaga luna" or "Per pieta" (pick two or more), Mozart's "Vedrai carino" from DON GIOVANNI.


Purcell's "If music be the food of love" (copy on my door for you), Paisiello's "Nel cor piu non mi sento," Schumann's "Widmung" (copy on my door), Handel's "O sleep, why dost thou leave me," Bononcini's "Non posso disperar."


No new rep, as we've designed your recital: start with anything we haven't done yet. By mid-January, you'll want to choose NATS rep and start running groups (or at least 2-3 songs) per lesson.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Jury forms available

Dear students, congratulations on your juries yesterday. I was proud of each and every one of you. Your jury forms are available. I will be happy to meet with any of you December 11-12 or on Tuesday, December 16. Just email me and let me know when you'd like to stop by, and we'll go through your forms together. After this week, I am on sabbatical and my availability will be very limited.

Thanks, folks!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Tiny Change #12: make a plan

Many of us go from emergency to emergency, rather than taking the time to plan what we really want to do or how we're going to do it. This week's exercise is to plan one little (or big) thing in your life, then execute that plan.

Let's say it's planning to study for your biology final next week. Think through exactly what material you need to cover and how much time it will take to really assimilate it. Then schedule that time into your calendar and stick to it. Does this feel different than pulling just cramming the night before the exam?

You can (and should) also do this with your big goals. What do you want to be doing five years from now? What do you need to be doing three years from now to know you're on the right track? One year from now? Then what do you need to do this month to get there? This week? Today? This could be a great New Year's Resolution exercise.

Write it down. There's real power in committing on paper. Even better: write it down, then share it with someone you trust to hold you accountable. That will be your contract with yourself.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Tiny Change #11: Food Journal

Ahhh...Thanksgiving. A day (or a weekend) of gorging and relaxing. It's over now. Or is it? As a dear friend said over this past weekend, it's not what you eat on Thanksgiving or Christmas that packs on the pounds: it's what you eat in between those holidays.

But this isn't so much about weight. It's about how you feel going into the last week of classes. So this week's task is to keep a food journal. You can write it into your calendar, use an online journal like this one, or you can use my favorite fitness and food app, My Fitness Pal. The nice thing about the last one is that it calculates the calorie count (and other nutritional information) of everything you eat, including restaurant food.

The key here is to note just how much you're taking in, and how you feel at key points in the day. Do certain foods make you feel especially clear-headed? Gassy? Fuzzy? Tired? Congested? You may have never thought about it before. Now take a week to take note how you feel after a meal, a snack, at the end of the day. You'll probably start to notice a pattern.

You might realize that you're dragging in the middle of the day because you tend to eat cereal or simple carbs in the morning. Then you might realize that by 3pm, you haven't had any protein. If you'll be taking a three hour test at noon, you don't want to go into that test riding a sugar high. You'll never make it through that test with a clear head.

Realize, too, that you need to enter everything you drink, too. Water, sweet tea, Coke, pumpkin latte, beer. Every little bit: drinks count, too. You might be surprised just how many [empty] calories you're drinking each day, and they can add up before you know it.

Your body is YOUR machine. What are you putting into your engine? That's the question this week.

We'll check in later and see how you're doing.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Tiny Change #10: pick a hobby

It may seem ridiculous to suggest that you have time for anything other than upcoming finals, performances, juries, work, homework, and some semblance of a life, but you do.

Even if it's just 10 minutes a day, do something that gives you pleasure. Choose something that has nothing to do with your major, your work, your everyday life...just choose something you enjoy. Lose yourself in it. Notice how you feel afterward, and notice how your return to your work with a greater sense of purpose.

My hobby is calligraphy. I'm not as good as I used to be, but I've found coming back to it great fun. You could try painting, drawing, calligraphy, reading something not for school, or any number of things. Consider picking something you haven't done since you were a kid: you might find a special kind of joy in revisiting something that ignites your inner child. The point is to enjoy, not work at it.

Have fun!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


 UAB Opera and UAB Chamber Singers present a co-production of Donizetti's delightful opera, THE ELIXIR OF LOVE, sung in English. Performances are November 20-21 at 7:30pm in the Alys Stephens Center. For tickets, call 975-ARTS. Student and group rates available!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Tiny Change #9: give yourself a break

Many of us rest only when we think we're done for the day. But have you consider making rest a constructive part of your day? Jim Brody walked many of us through this during his visit last week. Here's a short description of it from the AT web site:

At least once or twice a day, take 2-5 minutes (but no more than 20 minutes) to practice “Constructive Rest.” It will help to restore balance and ease throughout your body and also help you to recognize and prevent interference with that ease throughout the day. Constructive Rest is especially helpful when practiced when waking up in the morning, before going to bed, and at some point during the day, particularly when you’re busy and stressed. 

Here's what it looks like:
Notice the book under his head. Depending on how you feel, you might need one or you might need three, and it may change from day to day. Bending the knees is crucial for taking stress off the low back. I like doing this midway through a practice session, or immediately proceeding one.

I've adopted this evaluative question during my constructive rest: "Is there anything I am doing, consciously or unconsciously, that is unneeded or unwanted?" Then listen for the answer.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Jim Brody returns for Alexander Technique classes

All at UAB--students, faculty, staff--are welcome to join this introduction to the Alexander Technique by Jim Brody, director of the Musicians' Wellness Program at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Professor Brody joins us as a Jemison Scholar and will be in residence November 4-5. His sessions are always lively and entertaining, as well as educational! Spread the word: while "AT" is especially useful for performing musicians, everyone can benefit. His Convocation in Hulsey Recital Hall on Wednesday at 12:20 is open to the public.

For more information on the Alexander Technique, visit this site.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Eric Agee returns to SNATS this Friday

Exercise for Singers again this week right after performance class! Come at 1:15 in the dance studio (3rd floor Hulsey) for protein bars, helpful tips, and an exercise session with my guru. Come dressed to sweat, and yes, it's okay if you dress for your upcoming exercise in performance class! Eric will be available until 3pm for a Q & A session.

Sponsored by SNATS and USGA.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Tiny Change #8: commit

We all know how it feels when a friend or significant other can't commit. They make promises they don't keep, plan for lunch dates that are always canceled, don't follow through when they say they will. After a few (or a few dozen) times, most of us get tired of that and stop asking, stop trusting, stop believing. The friendship or love affair cools, and we move on.

But how about the promises you make to yourself? 

Most of us make promises to ourselves that we don't keep. It erodes our self-esteem, our very sense of self, our belief that we'll ever be trustworthy even to ourselves.

This week, make a promise to yourself that you will keep, no matter what. Even better, do something small each day. See how differently you feel about your own trustworthiness.

It can be tiny. It can be something as seemingly unimportant as deciding what time you're going to go to bed, and doing it. Or refraining from eating something naughty, just for today. Or (God forbid) practicing 10 minutes longer today than you did yesterday. Or not responding to that nasty roommate when normally you would. Or not speeding on the way to school. You get the idea.

See how you feel after a week of keeping your word to the most important person in your life: YOU.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Two great journal examples

Two great journal examples this week follow. They are very different, but I think everyone in the studio can learn from them and model theirs after either Beau's or Kristin's. I'd like to note that both of these journals are written by FRESHMEN...upperclassmen, you can ALL learn from their thoroughness!

Kristin's journal is very task-oriented and useful. Her lesson reflected all of the things she worked on throughout the week.

  • still working on releasing the control enough to add some of the vibrancy to the notes and trying not to position the notes so far back in the throat, remembering the sound id for others not me
  • trying to keep myself from showing the pulse with my body whether its hand or knees or whatever part want to keep time
  • recitative got a lot easier when I stopped worrying so much about the timing of the phrases and got the tricky notes
  • feeling much better slowly and will definitely be using this next lesson as a stress relief because i have so much stress this week that I just need a break
  • working on the rhythm of the “then shall the lame man” phrase and remembering sing starts on the same note as the shall
  • trying to make the consonants sound ridiculous
  • still difficult to do everything at once but its getting easier
  • working on the breath at the very end to not feel like a break but still give me time to get enough air to finish out the phrase
  • again the recording shows how weak some of the consonants are when I’m not overly trying to do them
  • worked on breaths being longer in some spaces, still trying to not do the catch breaths in some cases

Beau's is more narrative. I also appreciate his awareness of how alignment not only improves his singing, but his state of mind in everyday life.

Thanks to some dedication and repetition, I’m able to project and enunciate more on All Through The Night. This cold/allergy business certainly has not helped matters (I’m still a bit stuffy and congested), but my condition has definitely improved since last week, thanks to rest and allergy medicine. The only real problem I’ve had with the piece is the fact that I keep forgetting the second verse, though the trusted ‘walking and talking’ technique seems to have corrected that. As for adjusting my posture to a more ‘purposeful’ one, in choir and everyday life, I have noticed some apparent changes. In choir, I’m able to produce a better tone, as well as take in a significantly greater amount of air and use it more efficiently. Outside of music, it has subconsciously benefitted my confidence, as well as making me feel ‘taller’ and ‘bigger’ in general. I definitely think of it as a more purposeful posture, similar to a stance one might assume when playing a sport. As for the third installment in my repertory trilogy, I have admittedly had some difficulty deciding on an Italian piece; I may need some guidance with the search/decision process.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Self-talk, continued

You can psyche yourself up, or you can tear yourself down. It's a simple choice.

First, let's be honest: if you haven't done the work, there's no point in saying to yourself, "You'll be great! You're so awesome, you really didn't need to practice," because you'd just be lying to yourself. In your heart of hearts, you'll know it's not true.

On the flip side, if you've practiced, if you've really taken the time to prepare, you know you're ready. So why waste your energy telling yourself you won't do well? Here's where tearing yourself down or comparing yourself to someone else or predicting (usually falsely) what someone else will think is a huge waste of your spirit.

So if you're ready, and you have something coming up (a recital, a biology exam, a marathon), remind yourself of that readiness. Repeat to yourself in a calming voice, "I've done the work. I'm ready. I've worked hard to prepare. Now is just the time to reveal my hard work."

It's really that simple. It may not be easy, but it's simple. So get out of your own way!

Julie Simson comes to UAB

SNATS at UAB and USGA sponsors guest clinician Julie Simson for a master class and voice lessons on Friday, October 24. The master class will be held in Hulsey Recital Hall 12:20-1:10. Learn more about Julie's distinguished singing and teaching career here.

While the singers will be chosen from UAB music majors currently enrolled in voice, all UAB students and faculty are welcome to attend. Spread the word!

Sponsored by SNATS at UAB and USGA.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Tiny Change #7: self-talk

How do you talk to yourself?

Be honest. We all talk to ourselves, whether it's aloud or just inside our heads.

What does your inner voice say? Is it some version of the following?

"I hope I don't mess up."
"My singing really sucks."
"Why bother? S/he is a better singer anyway."
"I'm not an expressive singer at all."
"I get really nervous about performing."
"I don't feel like practicing today. It doesn't make any difference anyway."

Or is it more like these examples?

"I'm looking forward to singing a solid performance today."
"I have some work to do, but I still have something to offer RIGHT NOW."
"S/he inspires me to get into the practice room. What a role model!"
"I'm learning to take more expressive risks when I sing."
"Feeling butterflies is normal: I need some adrenaline to do my best."
"Showing up every day, no matter how I feel, is how I make progress over the long haul."

Thinking is habitual. Many of us believe our thoughts are out of our control, but they are actually completely within our sphere of influence. We can improve our thought patterns with practice. Just like anything else, being constructive with our thinking takes awareness and work.

This week, each time you have a negative thought about your artistry or progress, pause that thought and replace it with something more constructive...even if you don't quite believe it yet. You'll improve each time you do it.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

THIS FRIDAY: Exercise with Eric

At long last: an exercise class for singers (or any musician who breathes!) with my guru, Eric Agee, sponsored by USGA and SNATS at UAB. Wear your workout wear and sneakers to performance class if you like: this week is a freebie for performance dress. I'll have protein bars on hand to get you through the class if you don't have time to eat. We'll meet at 1:15 in the dance room, Hulsey 3rd floor. Everyone is welcome.

Get ready...he's awesome!

Staying well

Our tiny change this week is just to stay well. Seems like the creeping crud is going around. Here are some basics for remaining healthy:

Get enough sleep. I know I harp on it, but really...you need to sleep to keep your immune system in fighting form. Take a nap if you're feeling exhausted.

Eat well. Try to stay away from simple carbs and sugars when you're stressed. Yes, I know that's what we all crave when we're feeling under the gun, but the blood sugar spike and crash they induce only makes things worse.

Wash your hands often, or carry hand sanitizer with you and use it. Always wash after using the restroom, blowing your nose, or handling a menu at a restaurant (this is where hand sanitizer comes in handy).

If you're right handed, open doors with your left hand. You'll be less likely to touch your face with your non-dominant hand, which picks up germs from things like door handles. Silly, but effective!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Best journal this week

Beau knocks it out of the park again this week. His journal is not only very observant and reflects a great deal of self-reflection both in the practice room as well as in choir, he delves into the text of his song. Bravo, Beau!

-Lip trill legato-ness continues to improve in choir rehearsals. One thing I don’t like (that I’ve seen from the video recording) is that I seem to subconsciously nod my head when I go up and down the intervals. I’m working on eliminating that habit as well. I feel like this may relate directly to the consistent ‘level’ of tone that we’ve discussed. I’ve caught and corrected myself breathing up as opposed to out in choir a few times, but I didn’t notice any problems with that today, so identifying and correcting the problem multiple times seems to have solved it in the long term (if it’s not too early to say ‘long term’) The ‘fo-yas’ continue to present a bit of a challenge with consistency. I have noticed improvement in tonal quality and consistency when taking the exercise a bit slower; I suppose that will be a matter of identification and repetition as well. I’ve also noticed a bit of an increase in my vocal confidence, especially in choir, which, I feel, has come from ‘adapting’ to my surroundings. Trumpet lips definitely help as a whole. As for the Quilter text, I interpret it as a symbolic number with the subject of coping with loss, perhaps death. In the first verse, the poet addresses an unnamed listener, presumed to be in mourning. I interpret the ‘sad fountains’ in question to be symbolic of tear-filled eyes, or the bearer of such. The speaker then brings in another image of flowing water, in this case melting snow (‘Look how the snowy mountains Heav’n’s sun doth gently waste”). This introduces the continuing element of natural things throughout the text. The sun, “gently wastes” the snow from the mountaintops, signifying the passage of time and seasons, “gently” because nature offers no contest to the melting of the snow, because it is a part of the continuing natural cycle. The frequent use of the word “sleep” is most likely a metaphor for death. The poet beseeches the presumably bereaved listener (“while she lies sleeping”) to accept the view of death not as something to be feared, but “a reconciling; a rest that peace begets.” The speaker has a positive, yet realistic outlook, utilizing these words and the natural metaphors to convince the listener that death is not the end of life and to be feared, but a part of life to be accepted with all of the rest.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

12 Tiny Changes #6: Take a break

That's right: take a break. To be precise, take a ten minute break in the middle of an hour of practice. Here's how:

You can place a book underneath your head if needed, or lay flat on the floor. I tend to have several think books on hand, because some days I need two or three and some days I need only one. Bending your knees, though, is really helpful as it takes the pressure off the low back.

Resting for a few minutes in the middle of practicing makes your hour of work MORE productive. It's not wasting time...it's improving your USE of time.

More on this later!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Schedule change for opera

Folks, I re-thought the schedule for tomorrow, thanks to John. Please check the schedule! This especially affects John, Nole, and Shane. My mistake...do the best you can. Thanks.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Excellent journal

Let's hear it for Beau: best journal of the week!

My voice was not at its most confident for this lesson. I’ve made a conscious effort (during choir as well) to make lip-trill vocalises sound more “melismatic” (sliding between pitches and making them more legato, rather than making them sound isolated). I’ve also focused on breathing out rather than up, which has helped a good bit; I’ve noticed it helps to produce a more consistent tone. Keeping all of the tones on the same level vocally has presented a bit of a challenge, but I feel that I have improved with that. I did have a bit of a difficulty with tone consistency, but that’s getting better; I’m working on not making such a dramatic shift from bright to dark tone as I go down the scale. It sounds silly, but I feel that my tendency to sing mezzo-piano and call it ‘forte’ may be a confidence thing. Stomach contraction is improving slowly but surely (especially with the ‘tee teh tah’ exercise. Good tone production is like a good golf swing; a lot of different things to think about at once (though I cannot take a good golf swing to save my life). On the positive side, ‘yawning’ into the ‘I love’ exercise is coming a lot more naturally, and I’ve noticed in choir that my problems with rocking and not bending my knees have are almost nonexistent.

Helpful Apps for Choice Week

There are a ton of Apps you can get for your phone that help you make better choices. I like My Fitness Pal for many reasons. You can track your calorie intake, it remembers the things you eat often, and you can search for calorie information on homemade or restaurant foods. (For example, did you know that the mozzarella sticks appetizer at Applebee's is 930 calories?! Made me choose something else, that's for sure. Yikes.) It also calculates how many calories you burn during various activities: I burned 38 calories during my 10 minute walk around the quad yesterday.

I'm just figuring it out, my the new iOS has a Health App, too. Nike has a running app, and Tactio has a very comprehensive looking app. There are tons of them, and they're a great way for tech nerds like me to stay honest.

Give it a try!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Twelve Tiny Changes #5

This week, you have a choice.

Actually, every week, every day, every moment you have a choice. And that's the point here.

This week, choose to do one thing better each day. It doesn't matter what it is, and there are lots of options. Here are some possibilities:

If you normally drink 3 sodas a day, drink 2.
If you normally start your day with a latte at Starbucks, go for nonfat instead of full fat milk.
If you're about to buy a Pumpkin latte, get a small instead of a large.
Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
Walk around the quad for 10 minutes instead of chilling in the hall. It's beautiful outside!
If you're ordering pizza, get thin crust instead of deep dish.
If you sleep only 6 hours per night, sleep 7.
If you're drinking more carbonated or caffeinated drinks than water, substitute one more water.

You get the idea. Go to it!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Journaling example

Folks, part of your lesson grade each week is assessment of your work in the studio. Some of you have been asked to summarize your lesson; others have been asked to journal on what's happening in the practice room.

Kristin has given me permission to share her journal, since I thought it was very thorough and included many astute observations. It was also long enough to be worthwhile. Here it is:

- during the tongue exercises I am nodding my head as the notes go as well as releasing much more air than I need to so that by the end i seem to be running out of air and almost pushing too hard by the end of the phrase
- i need to watch myself in the mirror more because I can see the neck tensing when doing most warm-ups
- the hand on my neck during the lip trill took away some of the tensing and also kept my posture up a bit more so the whole exercise looked easier for me
- lifting my eyebrows in the zu-i exercise makes it look a bit more strained and like I’m trying and stretching much more than I should be for the high notes
- the breathing seems to stay pretty supported as long as i keep my hand there so that i stay aware of retaining the breath
- after using the sighs the sound focused a bit more and I seemed to not look so strained as i try for the high notes. my face also starts to relax a bit more and now look so tensed
- I’m still struggling with letting go and letting the pitches ring and be looser
-palpating by tapping on my neck seems to help me let and the entire phrase changed and become much more evenly vibrant
- the higher i went i still had a tendency to add  some h’s in between the pitch’s during the “i love to sing” exercise
(Not on video, but notes from my music for “Il mio bel foco”)
- I need to work on singing through the l’s and m’s more on the quella fiamma parts
- watch the double consonants on mac-cende and other words
- work on the pronunciation of “piace tanto all’alma mia” and make sure all the l’s are present and the tan is correct
- watch for the 16th notes where I hadn’t been 100% on some of the pitches
- 14x through “no vo-le-er giam-mai po-tra” making sure to get the rhythm right
- 14x through the “se-stin-gue-ra” with all the 16th notes

For those of you who are not journaling, you are only hurting yourself. For those who are doing a lot less than Kristin, it's time to step it up! She has set the bar.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Twelve Tiny Changes #4: HYDRATE

Most of us don't drink enough water. For singers, this can be debilitating, since the vocal folds are mucus membranes and must be hydrated to function optimally. If you're like me, you get annoyed running to the restroom all day, so it's easy to "overlook" drinking enough water.

Luckily, there's an app for that. Here's what I use:

Water Minder (free app for iPhone) calculates the amount of water you should drink based on your weight. It beeps at you periodically to remind you to tank up. Give it a try this week!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Tiny Change #3 addendum: NAPS

OK, so you're having trouble getting your 8 hours of sleep. While I still encourage you to do it however you can, here's a way to supplement your sleep if needed:


I know, that seems so...kindergarten. I assure you, it's not. Here are a few articles to give you some guidance on the best way to make naps work for you:

The Boston Globe (short intro)
Seven  Rules for Napping (who knew there were rules?)
This site is really cool, with lots of information. Some of it has been debunked, but if it works for you, use it!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Can't sleep?

Sleep is our Twelve Tiny Changes topic for the week. If you're having trouble falling or staying asleep, here are some tips to break that cycle.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Why sleep is so important

This article may blow your mind. If being short ONE HOUR of sleep affects a sixth grader like this, imagine what being sleep deprived on a regular basis does to you?

Eight hours a night, people. That's a tiny change that's worth making!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Twelve Tiny Changes #3

The third in our series of tiny changes:

Get 8 hours of sleep a night.

OK, at least 7. But aim for 8.

There are tons of reasons for getting enough shuteye, which I've included in links to several sources here, including improvement in memory. Having a sharp memory is kind of important when you're learning voice lesson repertoire, an opera role, or the material for that biology exam. It also reduces the likelihood of various diseases.

More on this later this week. But for now, just try to get your eight hours of sleep, every night!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Twelve Tiny Changes: Change #2

Walk 20 minutes today. Walk 20 minutes every day!

Don't feel like you have 20 spare minutes? Yes, you do.

Give up 20 minutes of Facebook and go walk. You can even call your Mom while you walk. Put in your earbuds and give her a call while you log your 20 minutes.

Students, I know it's a million degrees outside. It's nasty. It's humid. It's September, and it should be illegal to be this hot.

But guess what? Your student fees pay for a world-class rec center with a rubberized track upstairs. In air-conditioned bliss. And you don't have to worry about car exhaust, crossing the street, or collapsing in heat stroke. You can walk inside.

Here's why you should walk: it makes you happier! And who doesn't want to be happy? Your mama wants you to be happy. Go walk.

And still eat your breakfast every day.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Apps Gone Free

On Friday I was telling the folks in my voice studio about Apps Gone Free, an i-App. It makes available at no charge Apps that normally cost something (anywhere from $.99-9.99)...but for one day only. Today, one of the Apps Gone Free is Study Habits--Helping Students. Looks like it might help you organize your academic life! Here's the catch, though: the apps usually change around 11am, so if you want this one, you probably have to jump on it this morning. Sometimes they stick around for 2 days, but that's unusual.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Accompanist policies

Folks, though we have not assigned pianists yet, the following policy is for those who will work with Dr. Steele. His policy serves as a good model for anyone you would work with, though I recommend always checking with your pianist regarding his/her policy. Remember to treat your pianist well: you cannot do anything without him or her. Thanks!

Accompanist Policies

Dr. Chris Steele HC 242 steelec@uab.edu

As soon as you are assigned a piece with piano accompaniment, please do the following:
1) Provide me with the score in one of the following formats: 
Original score
Double-sided copies (no hole-punches or tape) 
Emailed PDF
2) Email me the following information: 
Your name and instrument
Your instructor’s name and your lesson day/time 
Title of your piece and which movement(s) you will be preparing 
If known, when you want to begin rehearsing and any planned performance dates

The above should be done with the following deadlines in mind:
1) Lessons/rehearsals: 2) Individual recitals:
3) Student Recital #1: 4) Voice Studio Rec: 5) Student Recital #2: 6) Student Recital #3: 7) Juries:
due 1 week before due 3 weeks before
due Sept.17 due Oct.3 due Oct.15 due Nov.5 due Nov.14

* You are welcome to make requests for which the deadline has passed. I will make every effort to accommodate the request, but cannot make any guarantees.

* Please do not forget to tell me if something has been cancelled, or if your repertoire has changed.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

ELIXIR cast list

Adina: MK Whatley
Nemorino: Shane Bloemetjie
Dulcamara: John Lyons
Belcore: Nole Jones

Auditions for Giannetta will be held after Chamber Singers rehearsal, probably the week after next. If you are interested in the part, please start learning her part on pp. 36-47.

Again, if you know of any tenors who might be interested in singing in the chorus, please tell them to come to our pizza party and improv day tomorrow (Friday) at 3:30!

Thanks, folks.

ELIXIR auditions TODAY!

Auditions for principal roles in the fall production of THE ELIXIR OF LOVE are today at 3:30 in the choir room (Hulsey 308). Please bring an aria from the opera (listed below on this blog): a pianist will be provided. If you are interested in auditioning but do not have an aria, please come anyway! Bring whatever music you have, and let's talk! The deadline to register is not until Tuesday. Please also being your schedules for the semester, with any commitments you have already made, particularly in November.

Thanks, and break a leg!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

"Elixir of Love" auditions

Auditions will take place Thursday, August 28 in Hulsey 308 (the choral room) from 3:30-5:30. See below for requirements to audition for a leading role. An accompanist will be provided. If you would like to rehearse with the pianist and/or do a "dry run" of your audition aria, with or without an audience, come to class on Tuesday, August 26 at 3:30 in Hulsey 308. I'm happy to work with anyone who would like guidance during that time. We can work privately or with an audience, depending on your preference.

Scroll down to read more information on the opera!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

When in doubt, ask!

Dear students, new and otherwise: it's that time. I don't know about you, but it doesn't seem possible that school starts next week. Here we go!

Just a friendly reminder that we--all of the UAB faculty with whom you work--are here to help. If you are confused about anything, please ask. We're here for you.

Looking forward to seeing your shining faces and hearing your gorgeous voices soon.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Your "personal brand"

This is an important article from a great web site. How you represent yourself can make or break you! Good thoughts as we enter a new school year and audition season.

Monday, August 4, 2014

How to choose audition repertoire

This is a GREAT article for aspiring and experienced singers! Lots of information here.

Twelve Tiny Changes

Hi folks,

Several of you asked for bodywork classes for SNATS, as well as a mezzo-soprano guest clinician. You asked, and shall receive! Coming this fall:

Jim Brody, Alexander Technique, director of CU's Musicians' Wellness Center: November 4-5
Julie Simson, mezzo-soprano (Rice University): October 24
Eric Agee, personal trainer: our guru in residence! Here he is:

Now, don't be afraid...Eric may be a fitness god, but he won't hurt you. He and I have been talking about how to structure our offerings, and are thinking that TWELVE TINY CHANGES is the way to go. (Why 12, you ask? Well, there are 14 weeks in the semester, and we're likely to miss a week or two.) We'll keep them simple, because you can't change the world overnight. But little things, integrated slowly over time, can make a big difference in your life.

The first change to start thinking about is breakfast. Yes, breakfast. Do you eat it every day? Many people don't like to eat breakfast. Changing this little habit can affect your blood sugar, cravings, and calorie intake throughout the day. At this point in the game there are not even guidelines on what to eat. Just eat something!

Sound doable? Make that your goal between now and the beginning of classes. Eat something within one hour of waking. And if you can't bring yourself to eat, drink a protein shake!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Fall opera auditions

The fall opera this year is Donizetti's delightful THE ELIXIR OF LOVE, sung in English. Performances are November 20-21 (with a possible daytime performance/dress rehearsal on the 19th, TBA). Our conductor will be the wonderful Dr. Paul Dease, as our beloved Les Filler will be playing oboe this time! I know you'll enjoy working with this fine conductor, as many of you have had the joy of working with him in recent choral projects.

Auditions will take place Thursday, August 28 in Hulsey 308 (the choral room) from 3:30-5:30. See below for requirements to audition for a leading role. An accompanist will be provided. If you would like to rehearse with the pianist and/or do a "dry run" of your audition aria, with or without an audience, come to class on Tuesday, August 26 in Hulsey 308. I'm happy to work with anyone who would like guidance during that time.

This year, we are doing a co-production between Opera Workshop and Chamber Singers: if you are in the chorus, you only need to register for one of the classes, not both. Rehearsals will be Tuesday and Thursday 3:30-6:30 for principals, and the chorus will rehearse during Chamber Singers time on Mondays and Wednesdays. We'll negotiate how best to use everyone's time once we're in the theatre starting in late October, but the idea is to keep everything reasonable so no one feels overburdened!

Principal roles and the arias to prepare to audition (in English, please) are as follows. I can email you music if you need it, but you can also find it on IMSLP, here.
Nemorino, a simple peasant, in love with Adinatenor"Una furtiva lagrima" (A furtive tear)
Adina, a wealthy landownersoprano"Prendi, per me..." (Take it, I have freed you)
Belcore, a sergeantbaritone"Come Paride..." (Just as the charming Paris)
Dr. Dulcamara, an itinerant medicine manbass"Udite, udite..." (Listen, listen...)
Giannetta, Adina's friendsopranoanything in English
We may choose to audition Gianetta separately during Chamber Singers time.

Following is the synopsis. Please note we are updating this show: the action will take place in a hotel.

Act I
Italy, 1836. While peasants rest from work, Nemorino, a young villager, watches the beautiful farm owner Adina read a book. He loves her but wonders if she is now beyond his reach. The peasants ask Adina what her book is about, and she tells them the story of how Tristan won the heart of Isolde by drinking a magic love potion. A drum roll announces the arrival of Sergeant Belcore and his men. He promptly introduces himself to Adina and asks her to marry him. Adina declares that she is in no hurry to make up her mind but promises to think over the offer. Left alone with Nemorino, Adina tells him that his time would be better spent in town, looking after his sick uncle, than hoping to win her love. Or he should do as she does: change her affections every single day. Nemorino reminds her that one can never forget one’s first love.

Dulcamara, a traveling purveyor of patent medicines, arrives in the village, advertising a potion capable of curing anything. When the doctor has finished his routine, Nemorino shyly asks if he sells the elixir of love described in Adina’s book. Dulcamara claims he does and pulls out a bottle of Bordeaux. Though it costs him his last ducat, Nemorino buys it and immediately drinks it; Dulcamara explains that he has to wait until the next day for results (by which time Dulcamara will be gone). When Adina appears, Nemorino begins to feel the effect of the “potion.” Certain he will be irresistible to her the next day, he feigns cheerful indifference. To punish him, Adina flirts with Belcore. The order arrives for the sergeant to return immediately to his garrison, and Adina agrees to marry him at once. Shocked, Nemorino begs her to wait one more day, but she ignores him and invites the entire village to her wedding. Nemorino desperately calls for the doctor’s help.

Act II
At the pre-wedding feast Adina and Dulcamara entertain the guests with a barcarole. Adina wonders why Nemorino is not present. She doesn’t want to sign the marriage contract until he appears. Meanwhile, Nemorino asks Dulcamara for another bottle of the elixir. Since he doesn’t have any money with him, the doctor agrees to wait at the inn for an hour so Nemorino can borrow the cash from someone. Belcore is bewildered that Adina has postponed the wedding. When Nemorino tells him that he needs money right away, the sergeant persuades him to join the army and receive a volunteer bonus of 20 scudi. Having bought more of the elixir, Nemorino returns to find himself besieged by a group of girls. Unaware of the news that his uncle has died and left him a fortune, he believes the elixir is finally taking effect. Adina enters, feeling responsible for Nemorino’s enlistment, but when she sees him with the other girls, she reacts jealously. Nemorino and the girls leave, and Dulcamara boasts to Adina about the power of his elixir, offering to sell her some as well. She replies that she will win Nemorino in her own fashion.

Nemorino, having noticed a tear on Adina’s cheek when she saw him with the girls, feels sure that she cares for him. When she returns to tell him that she has bought back his enlistment papers, he again feigns indifference. Finally, she confesses she loves him. Belcore appears to find the two arm in arm and takes his leave, declaring that thousands of women await him elsewhere. Dulcamara reveals to the crowd the news of Nemorino’s inheritance and brags about how his miraculous potion can make people fall in love and even turn poor peasants into millionaires.

Plan your auditions wisely!

Folks, this planner is a great way to keep you on track. Now go out there and get 'em!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

If you want to sing opera...

...learn German. Click here for the NEWSWEEK article.


I've just finished reading a fabulous book by Steve Pressfield called THE WAR OF ART. We'll be exploring it this coming semester, hopefully during performance class. Go ahead and start it if you wish. A quote to whet your whistle: 

The working artist will not tolerate trouble in her life because she knows trouble will keep her from doing her work...the truly free individual is free only to the extent of his own self-mastery. While those who will not govern themselves are condemned to find masters to govern over them.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Review: fabulous new CD of Dring songs

"Songs of Madeline Dring," released in 2013 by Cambria, features mezzo-soprano Wanda Brister, tenor Stanford Olsen, and Timothy Hoekman, piano. Dring, a British composer who studied composition with Vaughan Williams and Herbert Howells and orchestration with Gordon Jacob, only published four songs during her short lifetime. Her husband Roger Lord, principal oboist of the London Symphony Orchestra for over 30 years, championed her work, even transcribing some pieces by hand. Slowly, they have become part of the standard repertoire, and are well worth the wait. 

This two-CD set compiles all of Dring's songs and presents them largely in the order in which they were composed. Interestingly enough, the poetry is largely from the 15th and 16th centuries, ranging from well-known Shakespeare texts to Herrick. The notable exception are the Five Betjeman Songs and Four Night Songs, set to text by John Betjaman and Michael Armstrong, respectively.

Brister's mezzo-soprano is both clear and warm, with a lovely lyrical quality all too often missing in lower voices. Limpid tones are the hallmark of her middle voice, and bright, easy top notes are a welcome surprise, particularly in "I feed a flame." The cabaret song "Snowman" was actually written for Dring herself, and is charmingly composed and sung. "Song of a Nightclub Proprietress" from Five Betjeman Songs has hints of her cabaret style as well.

One of the standard-bearers of the lyric tenor repertory, Olsen's singing is a delight in every way. Perfectly balanced and with an uncanny immediacy of text, his affinity for the music of Britten and English poetry serves this repertoire well. His "Melisande" is particularly haunting, and "To Phillis" is brilliantly engaging.

Hoekman's collaborative work at the piano is outstanding. Here is true partnership between singer and pianist. A seemingly endless variety of colors and dynamics are at his disposal, and there is an admirable synergy between him and both singers.

The liner notes, written by Brister, reveal her scholarship and depth of research on Dring. Having corresponded with many from Dring's past and having been given access to a great deal of her letters and diaries, she is a primary source on the composer.

This CD is unique and replete with gorgeous singing and top notch pianistic work. It is a treasure for those in search of English art song that is far from being overdone. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Summer Reading List

Worthwhile reading, dear students!
  • Year of the King, an actor’s diary and sketchbook – Anthony Sher (A wonderfully authentic account of the experience of creating a performance.)
  • Audition Success – Don Greene, PH.D. (Gives musicians a concrete set of skills to achieve the concentrated focus needed in these critical moments.)
  • The Best of You, Winning auditions your way – Craig Wallace (Craig’s no-nonsense approach and love for actors shines through every page of this practical and concise guide to auditioning.)
  • The Obstacle is the Way - Ryan Holiday (The timeless art of turning trials into triumph.)
  • The Open Door – Peter Brook (Thoughts on acting and theatre.)
  • Reading for the Plot – Peter Brook (design and intention in narrative.)
  • Acting for Singers – David Ostwald (Creating believable singing characters.)
  • A Good Talk – Daniel Menaker (The story and skill of conversation.)
  • You Are Enough – David J. Walker (Self explanatory and a great read.)
  • Performing in the Zone – Jon Gorrie (Unleash your true performing potential.)
  • The Empty Voice – Leon Major with Michael Laing (The means to examine characters, plot and the conflicts in any scene in depth.)
  • Aria Ready, The Business of Singing – Carol Kirkpatrick (Gain the personal and business skills and tools needed to build and sustain a singing career.)
  • The Talent Code – Daniel Coyle (The book that explains how talent grows in the brain, and how you can grow more of it.)
I have several of these in my personal library. If you'd like to borrow, let me know.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Jump-start your creativity

Here is a great TED Talk on the subject. In talk 2 of 5, he talks about guided mastery, which is used to help people overcome phobias. How could we use this in terms of our own fears, even those related to creativity and performance?

I also was moved by this talk (number 5 of 5). Embracing our limitations can actually expand how we make art...in any medium. How liberating!

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 khw@uab.edu, 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 TUESDAY...no 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 (khw@uab.edu) 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

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Practice and graciousness

Tonight's Olympic thought is two-fold: practice and graciousness. Shaun White, snowboarder extraordinaire, placed fourth in the halfpipe. Known as the best in the world, he was widely expected to win, and it was a major upset for him to be off the podium entirely. Conditions on the pipe were problematic at best, and he was unable to practice for three days. He cited that as a major issue when he graciously said, "it just wasn't my night." Which brings me to graciousness: he was fabulous to the gold medalist, who was clinging to his hero in a prolonged hug. Grace under the cloud of disappointment is part of the game too...even when you're a superstar.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Skiing on ice

Olympics...and what we as performers can learn by watching them

Tonight's thought: skiing on ice. The female skiers today are skiing on very icy conditions. The scratching sound as these athletes raced 80 mph down the hill made my heart pound (I hate ice). The conditions are making the ride a little bumpy for some, and they're thrown a little wide on the turns. But even when the conditions throw us as performers a little off balance, we have to do the same as these superstar skiers: DON'T PANIC. Lean into it, trust your technique, and keep your skis pointed downhill.

Final performance class

We will all meet together in HRH today. If Mr. Byrd or Dr. Mosteller is playing for you in lieu of Dr. Steele, be sure they have your music!...