by Jenni Miller
Meryl Streep is no slouch when it comes to transformative performances, but the latest legend she’s set to play will make Anna Wintour look like a pushover. Streep has signed on to star as Maria Callas in an HBO adaptation of “Master Class,” an award-winning Broadway play by Terrence McNally that takes place in 1971 at Julliard. In the story, the unforgettable diva is teaching a class while contemplating her astonishing career and dramatic life, which includes a torrid affair with Aristotle Onassis that ends when he leaves her for none other than Jackie O.
“Master Class” will reunite Streep with Mike Nichols, who worked with her on “Angels in America,” “Postcards From the Edge,” “Heartburn,” and “Silkwood.” The movie will start filming in January after Streep finishes an entirely different sort of musical performance in Jonathan Demme’s “Ricky and the Flash.” Streep, who stars as an aging rocker, has even been getting some guitar-picking tips from Neil Young for the role. No word yet on whether or not she’ll be attempting Callas’ famous bel canto.
Callas, who starred in Pier Paolo Pasolini’s “Medea” in 1969, is the subject of a number of projects in the works. Faye Dunaway, who starred as Callas in “Master Class” in 1997, directed and stars in a biopic about the singer that has been in limbo for years. In 2013, she told The Independent “about three quarters of the film has been shot, we are going to film the rest of it soon.” Meanwhile, Niki Caro (“Whale Rider”) announced at Cannes that she will begin production on a biopic about Callas this fall. Meanwhile, the opera singer did take a stab at acting onscreen herself; she starred as Medea in Pier Paolo Pasolini’s take on the Euripides play.
The following video is a wonderful overview of the types of soprano that exist in the world of opera. They come in all shapes and sizes, with varying timbres from bright to dark. They cover a vast vocal range and are used in operas from the 1600’s to present day. It explores what is needed to become a great soprano; demonstrating the need for the singer to be well versed in languages, stage deportment, and have a solid and flexible technique. Being a great soprano doesn’t happen over night. It takes years of schooling and waiting for the right opportunity to come your way. It has been said that “luck” is where preparation and opportunity meet.
The issue of fitness and strength are discussed quite a bit in this video. It is true, the singer is like an athlete. The muscles of the diaphragm and core are used at all times. The legs and feet must be strong enough to withstand the various sets and raked floors for hours at a time. The lungs, or “powerhouse” for the singer need to be strong, flexible, being able to expand in as little as a single second to accommodate the air needed to sing long, dramatic phrases. While it is true that singers should ovoid being overweight, the same is true for being underweight. As an adjudicator of numerous competitions and auditions, and as a private voice teacher, I have noticed a trend for the young female singer to be extremely thin. I find this quite dangerous. One is not capable of supporting the tone when one lacks strength and stamina in the body. The body is not free and flexible enough to engage the muscle system and take in the proper amount of air. I try an urge all my students to focus on strength of body, to exercise and eat properly. One doesn’t need to be model thin to be successful, however one does need to be strong and body “aware”.
The title of this video is “What makes a great soprano”? I believe the advice is wonderful for any voice type. Whether you sing opera, jazz, musical theater, country or rock, these principles will apply. Singing is extremely difficult and requires a life commitment. With proper training, dedication and of course, a beautiful and exciting voice, one should be able to enjoy many years of great singing.
By Amy Ellis Nutt: The Washington Post
Parents who have patiently sat through countless music recitals and questioned their sanity at encouraging all those trumpet or violin lessons need do so no longer. Even ear-splitting dissonance has an upside.
Music training not only helps children develop fine motor skills, but aids emotional and behavioral maturation as well, according to a new study, one of the largest to investigate the effects of playing an instrument on brain development.
Using a database produced by the National Institutes of Health Magnetic Resonance (MRI) Study of Normal Brain Development, researchers at the University of Vermont College of Medicine analyzed the brain scans of 232 healthy children ages six to 18 specifically looking at brain development in children who play a musical instrument. (The original study did not indicate specific instruments.)
“What we found was the more a child trained on an instrument,” said James Hudziak, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Vermont and director of the Vermont Center for Children, Youth and Families, “it accelerated cortical organization in attention skill, anxiety management and emotional control.”
The cortex, or outer layer of brain, changes in thickness as a child grows and develops. Previously, Hudziak and colleagues Matthew Albaugh and Eileen Crehan found relationships between cortical thickening and thinning in various areas of the brain responsible for depression, aggression and attention problems. This research, announced last month in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, was different.
“I wanted to look at positive things, what we believe benefits child development,” Hudziak said. “What I was surprised by was the emotional regulatory regions. Everyone in our culture knows if I lift 5-pound, 10-pound, 15-pound weights, my biceps will get bigger. The same is true for the brain. We shouldn’t be surprised we can train the brain.”
Because the study’s participants were all mentally healthy children, Hudziak thinks the positive effect of music training on those who are not could be significant.
“A kid may still have ADHD,” he said. “It’s the storm around it that improves.”
Inspired by his own research, and having never learned to play an instrument, the 56-year-old Hudziak decided to take viola lessons last year.
“I had this passion for health promotion in children, it seemed silly not to do it myself,” he said.
Though music isn’t his only health-related extracurricular activity — Hudziak also engages in regular exercise and meditation — he believes the viola lessons contribute to his overall wellness. They have not, however, contributed much to his overall playing ability — at least not yet. The sanguine psychiatrist had just one word for his viola skills:
By SINDYA N. BHANOO
NEW YORK TIMES
Published: November 11, 2013
Childhood music lessons can sometimes leave painful memories, but they seem to carry benefits into adulthood. A new study reports that older adults who took lessons at a young age can process the sounds of speech faster than those who did not.
“It didn’t matter what instrument you played, it just mattered that you played,” said Nina Kraus, a neuroscientist at Northwestern University and an author of the study, which appears in The Journal of Neuroscience.
She and her collaborators looked at 44 healthy adults ages 55 to 76, measuring electrical activity in a region of the brain that processes sound.
They found that participants who had four to 14 years of musical training had faster responses to speech sounds than participants without any training — even though no one in the first group had played an instrument for about 40 years.
Dr. Kraus said the study underscored the need for a good musical education. “Our general thinking about education is that it is for our children,” she said. “But in fact we are setting up our children for healthy aging based on what we are able to provide them with now.”
Other studies have suggested that lifelong musical training also has a positive effect on the brain, she added. Dr. Kraus herself plays the electric guitar, the piano and the drums — “not well but with great enthusiasm,” she said.
BY David Harding
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Singing show tunes helps fight off dementia, Alzheimer’s disease: study
A recent research study found that those suffering from moderate to severe dementia did particularly well singing show tunes from movies and musicals such as ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ ‘The Sound of Music’ and ‘Oklahoma!’ in group settings and had a marked improvement in their remembering skills versus those who simply listened during the sing-alongs.
The hills are alive with the sound of music, which could help people with Alzheimer’s stave off the effects of the debilitating disease.
A study by U.S. scientists has shown that the brain function of those suffering from dementia can be improved if they belt out their favorite show tunes.
Researchers working with elderly residents at an East Coast care home found in a four-month long study found that people who sang their favorite songs showed a marked improvement compared to those who just listened.
Among the songs sung during 50-minute sessions were hits from “The Wizard of Oz,” “Oklahoma!” and “The Sound of Music.”
The most improvement was among those sufferers with moderate to severe dementia.
Jane Flinn, one of the scientists involved in the study who works at George Mason University in Virginia, concluded singing was beneficial.
“Even when people are in the fairly advanced stages of dementia, when it is so advanced they are in a secure ward, singing sessions were still helpful,” she said.
“The message is: don’t give up on these people. You need to be doing things that engage them, and singing is cheap, easy and engaging.”
This is the official ADA reply to AGT’s email:
Dear AGT Producer,
Thank you for message. I have discussed it with my colleagues (fellow opera agents) and I understand that at least 3 of them have received the very same email you sent below.
I will be honest when I say that I do not believe we have the kind of talent you are looking for. AGT seems bent on finding raw, untrained talent with the potential to appeal to a mass audience that does not choose to understand the musical significance and connection that trained singers offer. It is not my intention to respond out of snobbery or disrespect, but instead from the standpoint of someone who is acutely aware of the kind of instruction, preparation and training our clients endure in order to make a living as professional opera singers. Being a professional, working opera singer requires the same kind of practice, polish, skill and dedication to the craft that an Olympian must dedicate to his or her sport.
We manage the careers of singers with the mindset of aiding them in building a LONG-term career. It is our goal that our singers perform worldwide and realize careers marked by longevity, the experience of being involved in new and innovative productions and the appreciation of both stalwart opera enthusiasts as well as the burgeoning new opera crowd. A true operatic career requires not only years of vocal training, but the in-depth study of languages, musical styles spanning over 400 years, acting, dance, and even stage combat. The people we have seen AGT put forward as “opera singers” wouldn’t be hired in the most humble of opera houses in the real world.
I understand you are doing your job and that the focus of that job is to uncover exciting acts that will then be “discovered” on national television.
I am quite happy to announce that our fine artists have already been discovered.
Best of luck in your search,
Ana De Archuleta and the team at ADA Artists
Original AGT Email:
My name is XXXX and I’m a Casting Producer for America’s Got Talent. I am currently looking for the latest and greatest acts, of all ages and group size. After browsing your website, I believe that the members of your talented network would be ideal candidates for our upcoming season and I would love for you to share my casting information with everyone amongst your database of TALENT! Also, I’d love to speak with you directly and ideally get your stars on board to audition for our 9th Season of America’s Got Talent! If you think your TALENTED CLIENTS and ARTISTS have what it takes to be on America’s Got Talent, then please contact me today!
If you, or any of your colleagues have any incredible referrals or recommendations, please email me directly at XXXX with:
NAME, AGE, DESIRED AUDITION CITY, BRIEF DESCRIPTION of their TALENT, GROUP SIZE, CONTACT INFO and any VIDEOS or WEBSITES they have to showcase their act! **The more the videos can showcase their INCREDIBLE TALENT, INTENSE PERSONALITY and ENTERTAINMENT VALUE, the easier it will be to move forward with our casting process.
PLEASE SUBJECT THE EMAIL WITH – DESIRED AUDITION CITY/NAME OF ACT. This is very important!
Example: ATLANTA AUDITIONS- Taiko Warriors
Example: NEW YORK AUDITIONS – Dance Dance Romance
You can also find more information on our website.
I hope to hear from you soon!
Have a wonderful day.
By Lindsey Bever February 13 at 5:12 AM, THE WASHINGTON POST
The world’s best boys’ choirs have been losing their sweetest sopranos earlier and earlier to puberty. Every choir director knows that the crack, croak or squeak from a young singer means the boy will soon have a different sound. Many boys never stick with it through this voice change to see where it takes them.
That’s why the Cincinnati Boychoir is partnering with researchers from the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center to study the science behind boys’ changing voices and learn better ways to help them transition as singers.
“Many choral directors and voice teachers believe that the voice change is a primary reason for boys quitting singing as they enter puberty,” Christopher Eanes, Cincinnati Boychoir’s artistic director and co-author of the upcoming study, told The Washington Post in an e-mail. “Who can blame a boy who, when singing, becomes uncomfortable for a time, follows his friends to the football team, never to look back at his musical career.”
“When one thinks about the fact that boys’ voices in the 18th century changed at 17 or 18 years old, and now they change around 12 or 13 years old, one can only conclude that boychoirs are heading for extinction,” he added.
Later this month, researchers will begin to study the physiological, aerodynamic and acoustic changes that happen when boy singers hit puberty. Some 20 Cincinnati Boychoir members from ages 5 to 11 will participate in the study, which is expected to last about two years. The boys will speak and sing in a sound booth, and researchers will examine their larynxes and voice boxes to see how they change during certain tasks, co-author Alessandro de Alarcon, an ear, nose and throat doctor at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, told The Post.
Over time, the researchers said, they hope the study will shed more light on how the male voice changes during puberty, particularly in vocalists, so voice teachers will know how to intervene to help them move into their adult voices.
“My personal hope is that we can, on some level, anticipate voice change stages in order to assign the appropriate voice part for a boy, or to design appropriate vocal exercises to strengthen certain aspects of the singing voice,” Eanes said. “Overall, anything we can do to make the voice transition more comfortable for boys will help us as teachers and conductors.”