Backing up my blog post regarding vocal health… vocal endurance and longevity is another topic entirely. Now, how do you build up endurance and longevity? Sing! You have to work your muscles. Obviously, don’t over sing… but you need to continue to strengthen your vocal cords. The only way to build up endurance is to strengthen them: Sing for longer periods of time, pace yourself as you increase the time of vocal use, and always remember to stop when you feel like you’re getting vocally tired. That’s when you’ve reached your max.
I have found “amazing light bulb moments” in my vocal technique and endurance by doing shows. Being in a long run of a show, whether it be a 9 week run, 12 week run, 6 months, or 1 year… you have to learn to pace yourself. And you learn what you need to do to be able to maintain a show vocally 8 shows a week. How? Body awareness. Every show is unique and requires something different of you physically. The best way I can explain this is through an example:
A year ago this week, I was in rehearsals for Newsies at The Fireside Theatre in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin. Not only is Newsies an extremely demanding show physically… but it is also very demanding vocally. As a tenor, I am usually always on the tenor 1 line when I’m in a show. Learning to navigate the score of Newsies vocally, on top of dancing, was definitely a challenge. But it taught me a lot. I learned how to pace myself during the week, and show by show, so that I could continue to sing high As and Bs and always hit that high C at the end of “Once and For All” without fail every performance. What did I do? The following: A lot of sleep, vocal rest when I wasn’t performing, eating healthy, a lot of water, setting up two humidifiers in my room (my hotel room was a rainforest y’all… no joke), and making sure I warmed up smartly before every show. The wonderful thing about this process was that by the end of the run… I felt like my voice was stronger and I was able to find a great placement for singing up in the stratosphere that made singing high As, Bs, and Cs, so much easier. They were effortless and just escaped my body with ease and strength. After the run, I later went to my voice teacher and she immediately noticed the new placement and loved it. She gave me a few more tips to help with the new discovery and vocal strength… but she was so proud of where my voice was at.
That’s improvement. Training and studying, going and doing a show, and coming back to your training and having your teacher immediately notice the difference in your voice… that’s improvement, that’s achievement. What if you don’t have a voice teacher? Well, I would recommend getting one. But for now, record yourself on your phone… listen to what you’re hearing (Does your voice sound nasal and stuck in your nose? Does your voice sound like it’s in the back of your throat? Does your voice feel or sound closed off? Are you using your air? Are you feeling tension anywhere? If you’re singing in front of a mirror… are you turning red? Do you see tension in your neck? Are you breathing from you ribs/diaphragm and not your shoulders? etc.) What you should be hearing and feeling is: resonance in your mask, airflow, no tension in the neck or shoulders, no tickles in your throat, a present sound vs. nasal sound, relaxed/natural vibrato, pure tone, expansive ribs… feeling your lungs fill up like 2 footballs, and abdominal activation.
However, I cannot stress enough how important it is to have a voice teacher. It’s the only way you are going to improve. And take from many different people over time. I always recommend changing your voice teacher every 5-6 years. Or whenever you feel like you’ve hit a plateau. It’s natural and happens all the time. Never feel bad about switching to a different voice teacher. (If you need help finding a voice teacher in your area, or want to know what makes a good voice teacher, DM me.)
Vocal and body awareness is so important. And from my 18 years of vocal training, I am able to map out exactly how I am going to sing every song in my book, every song in a show that I’m in, and/or every song asked of me. Keeping up with your vocal technique is so important. I cannot stress it enough. It’s an investment you will never, ever, regret.
Lastly, understand that everyone’s voice is different (tone, range, texture, where you feel resonance, etc). Where you feel resonance or what visual helps you with your technique might be completely different from someone else. And that’s ok. Our bodies are uniquely made. So play around. See what feels comfortable. However, if something hurts or feels uncomfortable… stop. You should never feel uncomfortable or feel pain when you sing. But learning from your mistakes and your failures… (with the help of your trusty vocal coach) will only make you a better singer. Continue to play, build strength, strive for endurance, and listen to other singers. Keep those vocal cords strong and keep singing.
I’ve noticed that this topic has come up more often the past few months. And as a dancer I felt it was important for me to address it.
Before I say anything more, I want to preface that I did not start dancing until I was 13 years old. And I always wish and kick myself for not starting sooner. But there are so many incredible dancers who started dancing when they were eighteen, twenty two, or even twenty three years old. So it is never too late to start. Remember that.
Now, how to ace the dance call: 1. TAKE CLASS. It’s the only way. The only way to get better at dance calls is by honing your technique and strengthening your body and mind; and the only way to do that is by taking class. Take class. Take class. Take class. In dance class (whether it be ballet, jazz, modern, tap, etc.), not only do you work on your technique, but you also exercise the muscle of learning to pick up choreography quickly. This is a muscle/a part of your brain that you HAVE to train. Understanding sequencing and putting choreography into muscle memory very quickly is incredibly hard. And the only way to get better at it is by practicing it. And the only way to practice it is by taking class. The dance calls that I have felt awful about were not the ones where I felt like I didn’t know the steps, but the auditions where I could not quickly understand the sequencing. If you can’t remember the sequencing and how to make the steps live in your body, you are not going to succeed. But you can succeed with practice. Practice DOES make perfect.
4 Quick tips for Remembering Choreography and Sequencing
So, if you are a beginning dancer with little to no training… my advice to you is to get a friend to go to dance class with you and take a basic or beginning level class. I always enjoy class so much more if I have friends taking it with me (esp. if it’s my first time taking a brand new class). This friend can also be your accountability partner. You can keep each other accountable for going to at least one dance class a week. And do not feel bad about going to a basic or beginner level class. I take basic/beginner classes (on top of advanced classes) all the time. I love going back to the basics. In basic level classes I can really focus on my technique (the minute movements and what muscles need to activate). I truly believe going back to beginner classes helps your technique tremendously.
(Disclaimer: For my beginning dancers… be careful about taking a professional beginner dance class. Even though the class says beginner level… the fact that it is a professional level class means there is a knowledge and technique already involved in taking that class. So if you are beginner-beginner dancer (just starting out/have never danced in your life), take a basic level dance class).
To my musical theatre performers: musical theatre is going in so many directions these days: from pop to rap to folk to rock & roll to everything in between; and so is the choreography. Recently new Broadway musicals have been featuring choreography that ranges from hip-hop to tap dance to contemporary and modern. Many of the newest Broadway shows are exhibiting choreography that is in the hip-hop, tap, and contemporary realm.
So the second way to ace the dance call is: 2.TAKE DIFFERENT CLASSES THAT EXPLORE DIFFERENT STYLES OF DANCE. Take hip-hop, take tap, take ballet, take jazz, and take contemporary. Take it all! An excellent dancer is a well versed dancer.
Well what would you recommend taking Collin? (Especially on a budget). I’m so glad you asked. Well, I recommend taking one ballet class, one tap class and one jazz class a week. If financially that is difficult. Just take ballet. Ballet is the foundation for all forms of dance and it will build up your body’s strength and technique like no other form of dance will. For me personally I will find one jazz dance class and one tap class that I love and will make it a priority for myself to go to that one class every week. Then if I can financially afford it… I will expand from there.
Which leads me to my third peace of advice. 3. FIND TEACHERS YOU LOVE! Over the past three years, I have discovered that the dance classes that I make a priority to go to every week are the classes where I LOVE the teacher. Seeing those teachers and building a relationship with them is one of the greatest parts of my day or week. I simply love being in their class! I have a blast!
How do you find teachers that you love and connect with? First, by trying out different classes and seeing which teachers you connect with. Connection is key. Second is by asking yourself questions:
And second, talk to friends and ask them what their favorite classes are. That way you know you are taking a good class. Getting referrals from friends will ease the narrowing down process of which classes you love and don’t. The other benefit of getting a referral from a friend is they can join you for class. Why is this a benefit? Because said friend can initiate the introduction to the teacher. Networking!!!! It’s so important to say hi to the teacher before or after the class (especially in New York). A simple thank you for class is enough. MAKE the connection.
My last piece of advice to those seeking to ace the dance call is: 4. TAKE CLASS CONSISTENTLY. I have a lot of colleagues and friends who will only take class (and a lot of it) right before audition season, or a few days before an audition for a dance heavy show. Taking a ton of class right before an audition is not going to help you in a dance call. But taking class consistently over a long period of time, will. Technique takes time to build and engrain itself in your body. It’s just like working out. You are not going to see immediate results within the first week of a rigorous workout plan. But you will see results after three months, six months, a year, and two years of the plan. The same goes with dance. You won’t refine your technique in a week. But a year of consistent dance training and you will be in awe of the progress you’ve made. I promise you.
Finally, I’ll close with this: since I first started my dance journey at the age of thirteen, I knew I wanted to be a true triple threat. So I took class all the time in high school and college. And even two years ago, I never thought I would have the technique and the capability to be in the ensemble of NEWSIES. But I had a longing to be a better dancer each and every day. So over the next two years I took class consistently (esp. ballet) and my technique grew and improved. Two years later, I was cast in NEWSIES at The Fireside Theatre performing the original Broadway Choreography.
Never say that you CAN’T dance. Because you CAN! With the right mindset and attitude you can accomplish anything you set your mind to. BELIEVE in yourself. Do not let one botched danced call determine your worth as a dancer. Trust me, I’ve botched many dance calls over the past three years. And that’s okay. Believe in yourself and your talent. And you too will be able to be in the ensemble of NEWSIES two years from now.
It’s Audition Season!!!! And we all know what that means… sometimes 3 -4 auditions in a day. When do you have time to eat? Well, if you are vegan and gluten-free like me, it can be hard to keep your calorie intake up during a long day of auditioning and taking class (while not being able to go home to make food). I always have food on me (whether I have a backpack or a satchel with me). Quick snacks that are high calorie are my go-to. And higher calorie foods help me meet my caloric needs. And let’s face it… eating out all the time is expensive!!!! So having food with you is not only healthy for you, but it also helps your wallet. So here are my Top 12 Healthy Snacks for a Full Day of Auditions in NYC.
Many people ask for vocal health tips. Here are some things that have helped me over the past few years.
Vocal Wellness When You are Sick:
Vocal Wellness During a Show:
And there you go! Vocal health tips 101. These tools help me. There are plenty of other elixirs and methods that my friends and other professionals use. But this is what works for me. If you have any questions, please feel free to send me a message on my contact page or DM me on Instagram.
Take care of your voice. You’ll be thankful you did.
If you love banana bread like I do… you’ll love these banana bread energy balls.
It tastes just like real thing!!!
Place all ingredients into a food processor. Leave some of the walnuts for later. Form into balls. Chop the walnuts you set aside and place in a bowl. Roll the balls in the walnuts. Serve immediately, or wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for later. Energy balls will last 3 months in the freezer.
Satisfy your Peanut Butter cravings with this Peanut Butter Energy Bar.
Process everything in a blender. Then form into balls. And Enjoy!
I just got back from a 2 week “business trip” in New York City. I went to audition, take class, explore the city, and visit friends. And boy, did I learn a lot:
If you are an actor and you have never been to New York. Go! Coming from someone who was scared of New York for the longest time and felt safe and comfortable in Chicago. I’m telling you to go! Taking this two week trip, truly opened my eyes to the opportunity there. For someone who loves Chicago and loves my Chicago theatre family, it’s weird for me to say… but I’m so excited, nervous, and eager to move to New York in the spring.
Recently, I’ve been doing a lot of regional work and living out of hotels on contracts. As some of you may know, there’s only so much you can do with a refrigerator and a microwave to create a delicious vegan meal. I recently completed a contract up at The Fireside Theater doing “The Little Mermaid.” While I don’t like to eat a large meal before a show, I would usually have a macro bar before an hour before our half hour call, I would have a larger meal after my show. My go-to/post show meal was simple veggie burger tacos.
This is a very simple recipe… but it’s great on a budget and living in a hotel room. Quick & Easy.
1 cup cooked brown rice
1 cup steamed broccoli
1 cup steamed eggplant
1 cup steamed asparagus
1 cup caramelized onion
1/2 package of BBQ Jackfruit (I get the one from Whole Foods)
If you haven’t had the joy of attending a BYU Vocal Point, you need to go. Their concerts are amazing. I had a chance to catch them in concert back home in California a few months back. There were doing a concert and featuring The All American Boys Chorus. I am an alumni of the chorus. I graduated in 2006. Since I graduated and over the past couple of years, The All American Boys Chorus has been able collaborate with some incredible people such as, Josh Groan, BYU Vocal Point and David Benoit. Check out some of the music videos the chorus has done with BYU Vocal Point.