Working in the Theatre: Vocal Coach

[COACHING] Yeah, let the vibrations move. [VOCALIZING]
And then G. You got it. [NARRATING] I think you can be trained and
you can improve your ear, and then you can learn some technique. But I think the voice itself, whether it’s
beautiful instrument, and how unique it is, is something that your for it. What’s a great singer? That’s a subjective question. What’s beautiful to one person may not be
beautiful to someone else. I very often hear some and I think “Oh god,
that’s a really wonderful instrument and I wish I could play with that instrument and
develop it to its fill potential. [COACHING] Okay, so now bend your knees, put
your hands up on your ribs. The external intercostal contract, right,
and you start to exhale, you feel the obliques, you feel the internal intercostal… [NARRATING] A singer is a vocal athlete. There’s so many technical things to work
on and they have to each one of these things safely. [COACHING] Anchor by putting your shoulder
blades back in. [NARRATING] What the body is doing has a direct
effect on the voice. [COACHING] Just notice the movement. There’s movement in the front, the back
blades is moving towards the floor and yet they are widening against the floor. So, on the next breath, if you think of your
body as a clock you start at 12 o’clock then you go all the way down to, say, 3 o’clock. [NARRATING] If it is not aligned properly,
if there is tension in the body, all of this will interfere with the respiratory process. [COACHING] You’re just going to whisper,
“Lalalalala.” [WHISPERING] Lalalalala. [COACHING] Good. Now whisper, “One, two, three, four, five.” [WHISPERING] One, two, three, four, five. [COACHING] And again. [WHISPERING] One, two, three, four, five. [COACHING, SPEAKING] Good. One, two, three, four, five. [SPEAKING] One, two, three, four, five. [COACHING] Very Good. [NARRATING] Singers are very stressed and
they’re one 24/7 and it’s very interesting because their emotions show up in their voice. [COACHING] So, sometimes, throwing yourself
on the floor like this is a good idea. It’s good for me, I think. Yeah. Because I’m so tense. I’m such a type-A personality. [NARRATING] My studio, you know it’s a small
room, they don’t feel they have to project, they’re not on mike. Everything is very personal. [LAUGHS] [NARRATING] It’s good for them to be able
to unload. Whether it’s fear or doing too much, it’s
in a very safe environment. When I was doing Rocky Horror, I was just
going by the seat of my pants. I knew I could do that and I could sing 8
shows a week. [COACHING] And I actually saw you- I saw you
do that. We didn’t know each other, then. You and I started working together when I
did Company. Yep. I was backing into musicals because they wanted
me for my acting but I was learning how to sing each role on the spot. So with Rocky I noticed I could scream like
“WOAH!” but I couldn’t sing a ballad if you paid me. So, is that healthy? Probably not. Nope. [LAUGHS] That’s why we do all this cross-training. Right. That’s why I make you sing legit things- And we do Rocky… And it’s really important… [SINGING] inside the breeze, will there be
trees? Is there light? Does it hover on the ground? Does it come from all around? Or just from you? Is it endless and empty and you wander on
your own? Slowly forget about the folks… The singer is the instrument and yet they
play the instrument. It’s a three part system. There’s the respiratory, which has to do
with inhalation and exhalation. The source is where the sound is made. The filter is the vocal tract and if the body
is not working optimally, you’re not going to be able to produce sound safely. [COACHING] Inhale. Just hold your breath. Remove your hand. Hold your breath, hold your breath. Let it go. What’s it feel like? I feel open. [NARRATING] I think it’s really individual
process. You try things; you’re always looking for
the window to open, and then you think, “Okay. That’s how I’ll start.” [VOCALIZING] One of the plans might be to address their
jaw, their tongue, their neck. I might notice that their airflow is limited. Sometimes, it’s too increase range. There’s so many technical things to work
on and the most challenging part is to encourage while teaching very specific things because
some people say, “I just don’t feel it anymore. I’m so worried.” Well, that’s my job: to make sure they still
feel the same joy. [SINGING] If I happen to stagger and fall
behind, will you help me to fight, love? Will you help me to walk? Will you ease my mind? Will you bring me to light? I know you will try to help me find my way,
love. I won’t wonder why. When nights are long. If you’ll hold me ‘til it’s light. Wasn’t that interesting? Yes, it was immediately in my breath. In your breath- you don’t have to breathe
there. No! I didn’t have to breathe. It breathes for you. So, how can I do that all the time? You just move your legs like that. It makes a huge difference. That was really great. Yeah. It was really good. Yeah. My voice feels like it’s coming back. I think your voice sounds great. Yeah, it’s coming. [NARRATING] So, I have a long term goal for
them and then I have short term goals and so I have to see if I can stretch them in
some ways and affect some sort of change. Very often I’m called into performances
to see if I think they are producing sound correctly… We have some shows that are just impossible. School of Rock is one of those shows, where
they are literally screaming, jumping, playing instruments, singing at the very top of their
register. The most typical is when someone is doing
8 shows a week and they’re afraid- they want to make sure that they’re not going
to lose their voice by the end of the week. Okay, here we go! Okay, so we haven’t sung in a while. Okay. [VOCALIZING] [COACHING] That’s it. Really good. [NARRATING] I was always very musical but
I just never though I was a singer with the instrument that other people had. But I enjoyed it. I played piano, I played a few other instruments
and I just was always interested in the theater. I did a lot of theater jobs. I did lots of voiceovers. I think I was afraid of not working, and then
I realized that’s not really what I was interested in and I started to really study
techniques and that’s when I went back to graduate school in speech pathology. At the time, I was working in an office with
another speech pathologist and whenever there was a singer that was in trouble he said “Well,
you see them because you sing,” and so they were sent to me and that’s how it was, by
word of mouth, that’s truly how I got started. [COACHING] Say you were hissing like a cat. See how you stop there. Like out or in? In. So you stop the breath. It’s like a fight or flight thing, you’re
going “Hey!” Hey! That’s it. So, it’s a full retraction off the breath,
“Hey!” Hey! Yes. It’s like cheering at a football game. Yeah. But a very different sound. So if you sang that, “Ay-ay-ay.” Ay-ay-ay. Not very hard, though, is it? [NARRATING] I don’t know if there is a real
approach, so I sort of was going step-by-step, making this up. [VOCALIZING] One more. [VOCALIZING] Do it in chair pose for me. Okay, here we go. [VOCALIZING] I’ve studied Pilates, I’ve done yoga,
I’ve studied Alexander technique- you have to feel your feet rooted in the ground. You have to feel where your pelvis is lined
up. And then you have to feel each vertebrae so
that your head is basically floating off your spine, your ears are over your shoulders,
your jaw is relaxed and heavy. [VOCALIZING]
Did you hear it? The difference? How are your kids? They’re amazing. And I get asked all the time, actually, when
can children start singing. And what I always say is “They sing as much
as they want, as long as no one is manipulating their tone until they’re older.” It’s true, you know I just got a call about—you
know it depends. When you get a kid that’s been thrown in
a show and they’re seven or eight years old- Yeah. You don’t want them to get hurt. That’s right. That’s teaching them what they’re already
going to do and protect them. I’ve trained many singers who start at a
very young age and I see that they are going to develop into a great singer. You have to teach someone to use their voice
in a healthy manner but it may vary from one type of singing to another. In other words, a Broadway Belter is very
different from training an opera singer. It takes a long time, and some of them have
a drastic change. They’ll explain- Hi! Who’s there? You guys are matching! I know! We did this on purpose! Why did you- you wore the wrong color. I know! What am I doing? What are you doing? [NARRATING] I’ll tell you, one of the most
rewarding shows that I worked on was Billy Elliot. Here I had these young boys, whose voices
were changing so rapidly, and they were ballet dancers. Just to watch them grow up and see what they
could do was I think one of the most exciting time. Hm. His. His. Hide. Hide. Holy. Holy. Humanitarian. Humanitarian. How are you? How are you? How are you? How are you? Good. You know, most of us come to you… you are
almost a master at diagnosing where we’ve kind of gone off the rails or gone off the
tracks. I had just played Glinda for quite an extensive
period and I was like talking like this. I basically was talking like Glinda. I was sort of not just vocally but in my life
kind of wearing a costume and we took the costume away. That was dramatic! That was very very dramatic! Why would you want to not support your voice
for speaking the same way you would for singing? Amen. [SCRATCHY] If I talked to you like this it’s
very- it’s vocal folds that are coming together but they’re very floppy. I would say every college kid I have talks
to me like this, so that’s what we really work on. Take a straw. Straw time. Let’s blow some bubbles. Beautiful. Let’s see how long you can do it for. Feel that opening. So what you’re going to feel are anchoring
in the neck, anchoring in the torso. This is how I did after I had the baby. Remember? It was like a week of this. I like people to develop their musicality
and not feel like things are so rigid that they stop exploring. Seeing someone get onstage, feel confident,
just watching the final product. It’s an adventure and I get to follow them. [VOCALIZING]


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