Reflection on Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Here is my assessment of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade 2017. There were some incredible bands, cute floats as always, but of course the acts I notice the most are the musical theater numbers and the singers. Spongebob was was well-done, yet, in my opinion, silly. Once on this Island was O.K.., and Dear Evan Hansen had lovely, well-performed music but visually not impressive. However this show lends itself more to the acting than the spectacle, so that is to be expected. My favorite musical theater piece of the entire parade was the medley from Anastasia.

                              

They performed the viennese waltz number “Once Upon a December”, a lovely piece. I have a preference toward period shows, maybe because I love the costumes, the elegance and, maybe because I come from the ballroom world, the familiarity of the dancing hits a high note for me. The waltzing was the fast viennese style of waltz and they performed it side to side like hesitations, yet with out the hesitation. Normally the foot pattern is front back except for hesitations. They may have done this on purpose, but I thought it a little unusual. With that technicality aside, the floor patterns, levels (including the lifts, circular dancing, the “bridge” and differing heights of characters), costuming and vocals were impressive. The performance accomplished its task; I now want to go to New York and SEE this show! I loved how they had the young version of Anya circling around as she recounts her childhood memories. Of course Anastasia and Dmitry looked just like you would imagine, and the singing was engaging and beautiful. I think they pre-record those outdoor performances which is to be noted.

Now for my comments on the singers. Notable personalities were Andy Grammer, Andra Day, 98 Degrees, and many more, however, I plan on focusing on my favorite and one that disappointed me the most.

Once again, I think some performances are “enhanced’ with recorded music, but still the most excellent performance in my opinion was little Angelica Hale. Her version of “Girl on Fire” was incredible. This is not an easy song to sing either (like many of the “performances” I saw).

She starts the song on the lower range, which she was able to handle thanks to good microphone technique. Then, with perfect placement, she nails the chorus. You notice, she puts the sound right there at her teeth, lifting her upper lip which mixes both the strength of her chest voice with the beauty and relaxed sound of the head voice. Then on the sustained note “Fire”, she relaxes the sound at the very end of the note, leaving with a nice warm moment of vibrato at the release. She does this again later on the higher note “woah”.

                                                            

When I hear young people attempt this song, they don’t mix chest and head voice, they just try to yell it out in chest voice and it is not pretty! They also do not lift their upper lip and face, so they are often ½ step flat. Bravo Angelica!

Now for the disappointment of the day. I don’t say this because I think she is not talented. On the contrary, I have seen some of her previous performances, and though she is certainly not my favorite vocalist, she makes entertaining music videos. She has a nasal, not very resonant voice, even in her earlier songs (which in my opinion are far better than this performance), but the single most bad habit that made me want to turn off the T.V. was SLIDING her pitch constantly! I couldn’t even tell what pitches she was supposed to be singing, and the song was “White Christmas”, one I am very familiar with!. Listen to just the first 2 lines (0 to about 40 seconds), She slides up to the pitch on: ”I’m”, “dreaming”, “white” and “Christmas” (and never quite got to the pitch on “…mas”). She also did some weird yodel thing at the end of “dreaming”! But as always, she looked amazing and is quite charming, selling it all the way.

                           

I know this is merely opinion on my part. I would love to hear what YOU have to say. Feel free to comment and respond. Agree or not, I hope you learned something from the performances, I surely did!  Go to my website if you would like to order my voice series which will help you improve your skills…who knows? Maybe YOU might be performing in Macy’s parade someday!

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AMERICAN IDOL AUDITION INSIGHT

I have been wanting to write about a very interesting experience I had just recently at Disney Springs, Fl. with American Idol Auditions.  As a local prominent vocal coach, I was contacted by their producers to recommend students to audition.  I rounded up some of my very qualified students who were at least 16 years of age and got them to the audition.  It was very different than the auditions I had seen on the early Idol auditions in various towns across the U.S.   Usually auditions are at an air conditioned hotel ballroom, but here in Orlando, they were outside in tents at Disney Springs.  I would LOVE to know the answer to that question…Wow–was it HOT!! 

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Another thing I noticed was the CROWDS!  It was HOT and yet there were thousands of people there vying for the few spots that were going to Hollywood. 

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It was amazing that they could possibly sing after spending so much time waiting in line!  I don’t know exactly what they are looking for.  I wish there was a “rubric” so I could know what they wanted because I sent them some VERY capable, versatile, amazing talent and they took only a FEW people out of the thousands of people they heard that day.  Some came with instruments and most came just to sing, but (from too far away), I heard a lot of amazing singers.

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Getting insight from my students, I noticed some interesting things: 1. One of the students I sent told me that a guy from her group got a ticket to Hollywood.  He had already been on the show “Boy Band”.  I guess success breeds success, or they needed young looking boys  2. There were some “bad sports” with really bad attitudes who, having been”rejected”, were putting on a show of their own, which was probably largely the reason they were rejected to begin with (not to mention they lacked quality training, voice quality, etc.).  3. Best of all, NONE of my students regretted a MINUTE of the experience of auditioning.  They all said it was a great experience and they met many very interesting people.  I don’t regret the experience either! 

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Here is a link to my Audition Workshop, which I hope helps you prepare for the next AMAZING opportunity!  BREAK A LEG!

Audition Workshop: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WnjVLikg1HI

To prepare for your next audition, check out my Voice Lesson Series: relaxedsinging.com

 

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How To Audition Workshop Video

Here are some excerpts from my recent workshop on ‘How To Audition.’ I hope you enjoy it, and if you would like a copy of the workshop notes, contact me by e mail – Ann@palmcoastsummercamp.com 

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Audition tips

annpicsummercamp 

 WOW what an amazing few months it has been! We had another VERY successful musical theater camp season, enjoying the opportunity to work with a very talented and enthusiastic cast for our LEGALLY BLONDE JR. production! As the school year came to a close and in working with my private students who range from age 9 to professional adults, here are some insights I would like to share.

 #1 AUDITION PREPARATION:

*Choice of song-There were some cast members who did NOT show what they could really do at the audition. They chose a song that did not show off what they could do vocally at all. I could tell they were songs that were “hip” and popular, but showed us (the production team) NOTHING! Their songs had a range of about 3 pitches, they sang it with terrible “stylization”, with no volume, clarity, or focus. Some were very nasal, which we later found out was not their real voice at all.

*Not prepared with accompaniment. We were in a setting where the internet was “iffy” at best. When you are going to an audition, BRING YOUR OWN CD, sound file, and small speaker just in case. We had a few people who did this, and the CD had not been checked, and did not work on our Cd player. Most of those auditioning wanted to use youtube, brought a phone that was dead, etc. It was very frustrating. I DEMAND to hear auditioners sing WITH accompaniment because I want to make sure they can match pitches with the accompaniment. I will NOT cast a lead who cannot show me that they can sing on pitch with the accompaniment, in the KEY it is written for. It is complicated enough to put on a show without having to change the key of a song because I have a lead who does not have the range for the part. I will just cast someone else.

*Not prepared for dance audition. I actually had a couple of people wear FLIP FLOPS to their audition! I realize this is Florida and we are near the beach, but you cannot safely dance in flip flops! Not only that, dress comfortably and look your best! After all, in an audition, you are selling the entire package, and that includes YOU! We are looking for people who really WANT to be in the show, your appearance tells us that.

*LATE!! Be on time for an audition and be prepared to stay for a while, if you want a lead role, anyway. Usually the guidelines are set out in the audition information. But sometimes, as in our case, a LOT more people show up than planned, so we went later than planed. We also had the lack of music preparation problem stated above which added at least 1 hour to the audition time, fiddling around with the internet. We had a lot of people show up late, and several who “could not” stay for line reading.

 #2 AFTER CASTING MISTAKES:

*TAKE WHATEVER ROLE YOUR GET WITH A GREAT ATTITUDE!!

Story of auditioner “Ellen”. I am changing her name, but we lucked out. We only had one “casualty”. Actually I don’t think it was the cast member, but probably was this person’s parent who caused her to be dropped from the cast list. I received an email within 1 hour of posting the cast list, where this cast member who had danced well, had an average voice (good enough for ensemble), so received an ensemble role with a small speaking part. Keep in mind this was a “Junior” show which is shorter than regular show, has mostly music numbers and less lines than a full sized production. Anyway, the parent wrote that her child had “better things” to do and that it would be easy to recast her “1 line” to someone else. Guess, what? It WAS! I immediately dropped this cast member from the show, no explanation, no questions asked. I feel badly for the potential first-time cast member because this person really missed out! Our ensemble members were EXTREMELY busy the entire show, and played at least 5 different characters throughout the show. She would have had many featured dances, probably even more lines added, etc.

Do you think this person will be cast in other shows? Not mine, and if she doesn’t learn from this, not any others either. Directors usually do not cast leads unless they know the auditioner, his/her teacher or voice coach, or have had good experiences with him/her in the past. You work your way to the “top”.

 #3 YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR:

What is my advice to anyone who wants to get into a QUALITY production? GET TRAINING from a QUALIFIED teacher/coach! Often they will not be the “best deal in town”, but you get what you pay for. Look at their background and follow the success of their past students. Are their students versatile and are they out there performing, getting scholarships to colleges, leads in plays and musicals, winning singing contests, etc?

I conduct an AUDITION WORKSHOPS, my last one was Aug. 12, just before the American Idol Auditions which are coming up in Orlando that same week. The beginning of the school year is a good time to brush up on your skills, since school and the theater season brings many occasions for auditions. You need to be PREPARED! I also have a voice book/DVD series available for purchase as well. See links below

Article In The Newspaper About Our Show Legally Blonde, Jr.

Summer Camp Website

Facebook page 

 Contact me if interested in a workshop near you Click Here To e Mail Ann

Ann’s Online Singing Course

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BEWARE WHEN SHOPPING FOR A VOICE TEACHER!

Lately my heart has been burdened by the plethora of people who are mounting the “Professional Voice Teacher” sign on their business door. Would you expect a person who is not and never has been a Medical Dr. to put up a Doctor’s sign and start practicing!

Here is a funny video on this subject–the girl is hilarious, but NOT a voice teacher, giving the Pentatonix  “voice lesson”!

 

 Unfortunately in my state, there is no criteria set as to who can pose as a music teacher. Some singers who have had little to no training TEACHING singing techniques, consider themselves “professional teachers”. And how are parents to know? They obviously don’t. I have seen some students still taking lessons for 6 years now from some voice “teachers” who are still singing with incorrect placement shout-singing with no beauty to their voices. This is unacceptable! If you are a voice teacher, I apologize and pray that you will help to be part of the solution, not the problem. Here are a few steps to take as a consumer when looking for a voice teacher.

 First of all, DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Go to performances of several voice teachers’ students. You will get a taste of the quality of and style of vocal quality that these instructors produce in their performers. If they all sound alike, or sing with bad technique, WATCH OUT!!! Every singer should be developing his or her own “sound”, with good consistent vocal technique. Ask yourself, “Is this singer in control of his/her voice? Is he/she confident? Is he/she breathing with full relaxed breaths from the diaphragm. Or is he/she breathy, nasal, off pitch, etc?

Carefully LOOK AT THE TEACHER’S BIO. If they do not have any education in Vocal Music, watch out! It is not enough just to be a good singer themselves. From experience, I know that at a music university we were taught not only quality vocal production as singers ourselves, but how to teach the concepts to others. Obviously, years of experience DOES count in this business. Would you hire a lawyer who has never tried a case? Or a first year intern to do surgery on you?

 OBSERVE CAREFULLY THE PROGRESS OF THEIR STUDENTS. If they are not improving at a reasonable rate, then stay away. If your throat is hurting when you finish your lessons, DO NOT CONTINUE! Your throat should NEVER hurt after a lesson. This is a warning that tension is causing stress on your voice and it is NEVER O.K.

 CHEAPER IS USUALLY NOT BETTER! You get what you pay for. I know I am not the cheapest in my town, but people get results quicker, so in the long run, it is cheaper because you get greater results with the money you do pay out.

 In conclusion, I had a young student a few years ago who had paid thousands of dollars to be in pageants (registration fees, costumes, etc.). She had NEVER learned HOW to sing though. And of course because of this she could never place at pageants or get an agent to take her on. She actually SAVED money taking lessons from me, and learned HOW to sing. She was soon on a touring group to Europe within months because she learned how to sing! You get what you pay for…IF you shop around and take this advice. You shop for the best value at the grocery store, why not do it when looking for training for your child in the performing arts!

There are music students who post “lessons” on youtube for class projects. Some are pretty interesting, but these should never take the place of a quality, experienced professional to teach you voice lessons on an ongoing basis. 

 

 

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