7 Guaranteed Ways to Fail in the Arts

cropped-tkv3.jpgBy:By Suzana Stankovic

Are you tired of success? Do you feel like you’ve had enough? Are mediocrity and failure what you’re after now? Or, do you simply want to stall your career and keep success at bay for a while? Well, you’re in luck! I sat around thinking about that, and came up with seven tips that are sure to set you on the path toward failure. Together, they offer the perfect formula for existential and artistic death. Here’s what you can do starting today, if you absolutely want to fail in the arts:

1. Sit around and wait for approval, permission, and authorization to be what you dream of being and do what you want to do. It doesn’t matter that the greatest artists of all time were daring, fearless visionaries who boldly took matters into their own hands with whatever resources they had. Don’t you do the same!

2. Follow the rules and follow the crowd. Play it safe! Don’t think outside of the box, don’t be different, audacious, or brave ever, unless you’ve been given permission or approval as stated above. Disregard the fact that humanity needs the artist to dream big, take risks, and bust through conventions. It must not be you who does this. Wait for someone else to do it first.

3. Care deeply about what people think. If someone doesn’t like your performance or your headshot or your play or whatever, go home and cry, and seriously question your talent.

4. Actively seek out the opinions of others, especially those who have never taken any risks on behalf of a dream or created any art of their own, and then change your work according to their advice, which they are usually happy to share at length.

5. Do some more waiting around for permission and approval. It’s the best use of your time, so get comfy and cozy. Do not, by any means, create your own circumstances, opportunities, and marketing materials with the free tools available to you such as the Internet, social media, YouTube, and Vimeo.

6. At all times, try to please everyone and be sure to live with a paralyzing fear of rejection. This will keep you on your toes and far from any artistic risk-taking and growth.

7. Allow others to define you, industry professionals and laypeople alike. It’s important that you really know who you are, so always allow them to determine your worth and whether or not you’ve got a future in the arts. Do not follow your heart. Do not look within and trust your own inner guidance.

I hope you’ll find these tips helpful on your journey. Remember to practice them daily if you want to give away your personal power, feel insecure, uninspired, and ruled by fear. Failure is right around the corner!

5 Types of Songs You Should Have in Your Audition Book

As you build up a repertoire of audition songs for yourself, it’s a good idea to look at the kind of pieces you have in your book. While it is important to have tunes from different genres and time periods, I also find it useful to consider some other elements as well. Here are five categories of songs that are worth looking for in your audition package:

1. A song that shows range. You will often see some variation of this phrase in audition breakdowns. The main mistake that actors make when readingthis term is assuming it means “sing as high and/or low as you can.” Yes, there are some roles where singing well at the extremes of the range are essential, but just as often, that is not necessary. So, if you have a killer high C, by all means, show it off. But if that is not where your vocal strength lies, there are many other ways to show range. Some options include: dynamics (loud/soft), spoken vs. sung sounds, vocal textures and colors, physicality, and emotional arc. A song will feel rangy if these types of elements are employed thoughtfully.

2. A “teeny-tiny song.” This is a term that Victoria Clark taught me many years ago, and it’s always stayed with me. To me, a teeny-tiny song is one where the melody and musical shape is simple enough to allow us to see you as an actor without a lot of bells and whistles. This kind of piece makes a great second song when you’ve done your big personality number first. It also is a chance to showcase your ability to be still and poised. Some favorites in this category include: “What’ll I Do?” by Irving Berlin, “What Makes Me Love Him?” from “The Apple Tree,” and “County Fair” from “Das Barbecü.”

3. A song of hope, joy, or optimism. In a day of auditions, it can be a real breath of fresh air when someone expresses a genuinely joyful feeling. Remembering that auditions are job interviews, songs like this can help me think of you as someone whom I will enjoy working with. Examples include: “Nothing Can Stop Me Now” from “The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd,” “The Usher from the Mezzanine” from “Fade Out – Fade In,” and “It’s Amazing the Things That Float” from “The Flood.”

4. A song that has an emotional connection. I think it is important to find a song that you feel in your guts. In other words, don’t just sing something because a teacher, coach, casting director, or friend told you it would be great for you. Only you know what will get your dramatic juices flowing, so do your research to find a piece that you feel passionately about. Other than going on YouTube, I recommend checking out www.newmusicaltheatre.com and www.contemporarymusicaltheatre.com as places to start your search.

5. A song for your dream role. Most of us have a role that we long to play, and I am a believer in the power of having a song in your book that you will use to audition for that role. It may or may not be a song from the show, but it should be a piece that feels right for that character. Practice the song as if you will be playing that part soon; you never know what might happen!

By: Andrew Byrne backstage.com

Meryl Streep To Play Opera Legend Maria Callas In HBO Film

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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.GrabberRaster 0245

What makes a great soprano????

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.

Music lessons spur emotional and behavioral growth in children, new study says!

By Amy Ellis Nutt: The Washington Post

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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:

“Horrible.”

Long-Term Benefits of Music Lessons

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. 

Singing show tunes helps fight off dementia, Alzheimer’s disease: study

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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.”