QUOTES: Emerson on Performance

"There is no strong performance without a little fanaticism in the performer. It is the men [and women] who are never contented who carry their point."

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson, in his lecture on "Boston", 1861

photo by Kay Pere 10/26/2010

SONGS OF SUBSTANCE: "Move On" by Stephen Sondheim

Move On
from the musical “Sunday in the Park With George”
Music and Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

Stop worrying where you're going—move on
If you can know where you're going, you've gone
Just keep moving on.

I chose, and my world was shaken—so what?

The choice may have been mistaken, the choosing was not.

You have to move on.

Look at what you want,

not at where you are,
not at what you'll be.

Look at all the things you've done for me:

opened up my eyes,
 taught me how to see,

notice every tree,

understand the light,

concentrate on now.

I want to explore the light.
I want to find how to get through,

through to something new,

Something of my own—move on.

Move on.

Stop worrying if your vision is new.

Let others make that decision—they usually do.
You keep moving on.

Look at what you've done
, then at what you want,
not at where you are,
 what you'll be.
Look at all the things you've done for me.
Let me give to you something in return.
See what’s in my eyes
And the color of my hair
And the way it catches light
And the care
And the feeling

And the life moving on!

We've always belonged together.

We will always belong together.
Just keep moving on.

Anything you do, let it come from you.
Then it will be new.
Give us more to see…


I first encountered this song back in 1995 on a VHS tape of the musical, Sunday in the Park With George, borrowed from a public library in Manchester, CT. It was highly providential at the time. I was going through a huge life transition. As I watched and listened--sitting alone in the living room of my apartment, living by myself for the first time in my life--I felt as if it had been written just for me. It was one of life's pivotal moments.

The life I'd known before had crumbled and been swept away in the past, swift six months. Having no idea how to move forward, I had made a start. I wondered what shape my new life would take. The music within had begun to awaken after more than a decade of silence.

This song was a voice reaching across the void to give instruction. It was the lifeline I needed create the new life, one that reflected the person and vision I'd held inside all those silent years.

Another decade and a half have past since I first heard "Move On". It had slipped from memory, though over that time I've come to live and work full-time as a musician and artist.

The song surfaced again a few weeks ago as I looked though my studio library for suitably challenging material for one of my more advanced voice students--a high school senior who has studied voice with me since she was 10 years old. Next fall she'll be a voice major on scholarship at Temple University in Philadelphia. For her, this is a time of endings and beginnings, the last two months of her senior year, bittersweet and exciting. I was searching for a song that would capture this moment and hint at all that lies ahead. I opened "All Sondheim, Volume IV" and there it was, page 185.

"Move On" is a song of deep meaning for anyone in transition.

In the arts, aren't we always in transition from what we've just created to what we are about to create? If we have the courage to move on and get it done.

Isn't life a perpetual transition, meaning in motion? Worth singing about.

©2010 Kay Pere ~ Effusive Muse Publishing

A Professional Service

I just got off the phone with the parent of a prospective student who questioned why I charge for the hour I'll spend this coming week evaluating & teaching her teenage child about his/her singing voice in a first lesson.

"Because it's a professional service and an hour of my time." I said as pleasantly and as evenly as I could.

"It's an hour of our time, too!" she replied, "and we're just coming to find out whether we want to do this or not."

I'm still shaking my head.

It's the same thing as asking a restaurant to give you your first meal for free so you can decide whether you like the service and the food well enough to eat there again.

Or going to see a doctor, lawyer, or accountant for advice and expecting not to be billed.

During a lesson I give much more of myself than just the knowledge acquired during 13 years offering private vocal instruction. (Plus 20 years of training, a university degree, a teaching credential, and ongoing performing, directing, studio experience, and professional development.)

In each lesson, I constantly work to be alert to the needs and development of each student. I want the lesson experience to meet the individual's musical needs, and build their skills and confidence as a performer, while making the lesson time an enjoyable experience.

This is a delicate dance to. An skilled teacher is able to reinforce what the student is doing well, at the same time she carefully directs the student's attention toward details to be adjusted. At the same time we pass along the tools and motivation needed to work on those adjustments during the student's independent practice time during the coming week.

Teaching voice and piano is something I love to do. Making music is something we, the student and I, do for the joy of it.

And it is also a professional service.

Fortunately this sort of misunderstanding is extremely rare and easily resolved.

(c)2009 Kay Pere ~ Effusive Muse Publishing

DICTION: "I caaaan' staaan' 'im"

An everyday occurrence in the life of a voice teacher.
The challenge of correcting substitutions and omissions, nasality.

THEORY: We Got the Beat

Scientific research with infants into our unique human ability to perceive the beat in music, called "beat induction."

Read more HERE.

FREE Manuscript Paper from MusicNotes.com

Manuscript paper, also called staff* paper, is the paper with all the lines that songwriters, composers, and arrangers use when writing out music by hand.

You can print out 14 different formats of manuscript paper for FREE at Musicnotes.com's Free Music Page (scroll all the way to the bottom of the page). Or click on the links I've included below.

The most frequently used formats for PIANO and VOICE (or solo instrument) are:
Generally useful manuscript paper:  (largest to smallest line spacing)
*DEFINITION - staff or stave: (music) the system of five horizontal lines on which the musical notes are written

Song Wishlist: Getting Started

I encourage my students to keep a running, ever growing, wishlist of songs they love and want to learn to sing. This is a list we can call upon when it's time to choose new songs to work on in lessons.

A song wishlist can be a fun tool for anyone who loves to sing, whether you're taking lessons or not.

It can be as simple as a scrap piece of paper where you might scribble down a title of a song or a singer you like, or as complicated as a prioritized database on your computer. Keep a pen and paper handy, or maybe a small notebook, and you're on your way.

The most important thing is to choose songs that are meaningful to you and fit well with your voice.

You might start by going through your collection of CDs, LPs or skimming through your iPod. Look for the songs that feel neither too high nor too low for your voice, songs you can sing without straining. You're looking for material that sparks your internal motivation.

This is a starting point. From there, just be willing to follow your curiosity.

I have a number of loose systems for keeping my own personal song wishlists.

I tend to write down ideas on what ever piece of paper is handy at the time--a title, a songwriter or artist's name I happen upon, a recording or music book I want to get. Sometimes I'll print out a webpage with ideas I might come upon in my wide the internet ramblings.

At the same time, I'm also collecting ideas for songs of my own I might want to write, but that's another thread.

All these eventually get sorted into several file folders I've made for different kinds of projects I'm working on. I also have more general folders labeled: CD wishlist, music book wishlist, etc.

Or I may happen upon a music book or recording I want on the internet. I keep an amazon.com wishlist for a time when the budget permits a purchase or someone asks me what they might get as a gift.

Some of the song wishlist ideas are things I want to learn myself, others are for building my studio music collection, things I can share with my students. Every so often I go through the material I've collected to remind myself of a new song I might like to learn, a new challenge to take on.

In addition to all this, I have a huge list of music I would like to listen to just for my own enjoyment and curiosity, things I might never sing myself but would love to hear.

The key to making any kind of wishlist is not to limit your imagination by worrying about how you'll fullfill those wishes. Finding the money to purchase recordings or printed music to help you learn the songs need not be a limiting factor. There are many ways to access these things for your own educational use and enjoyment, if you're resourceful.

As with so many creative things in the idea generation phase, when you're collecting ideas for songs to learn, simply cast a wide net and see what rises to the top.

(c)2008 ~ Effusive Muse Publishing

INTERVIEW: Eric Maisel - Ten Zen Seconds

I recently had the opportunity to interview author and creativity coach Eric Maisel, Ph.D., about his new book, Ten Zen Seconds. Here he tells us how singers can use two of the the incantations (phrases, similar to affirmations, that do a particular kind of inner work) from his book in preparation for practice and performance.

KP: I often tell the singers I teach that awareness of breathing is foundational to building a healthy, powerful, flexible voice. How might a busy singer, with limited time to prepare, incorporate Ten Zen Seconds techniques into a regular practice routine, which already includes stretches, breathing and vocal exercises, plus preparation of repertoire?

EM: The first step is always to go through the twelve incantations, slowly and mindfully, and find the one or two that feel most useful and resonant. It is very difficult, verging on impossible, to incorporate all twelve in a regular way into your life, but it isn’t hard at all to incorporate one, two, or even three.

For a singer—for all performers—incantation 6, "I embrace this moment," is a very important and powerful one, because many performers are, because of performance anxiety, actually "wanting to be elsewhere" and wishing they were elsewhere, and incantation 6 helps remind them to surrender to the fact that they are where that they are and that they might even experience the moment as joyful!—especially if they add on incantation 9, "I am open to joy," to remind themselves of that possibility.

To read the complete interview focusing on Ten Zen Seconds for creative people with busy lives CLICK HERE.

To read an extended interview giving an thorough overview of Ten Zen Seconds CLICK HERE.

©2007 Kay Pere ~ Effusive Muse Publishing

Adult Beginners: Ellen Burstyn

In her memoir, "Lessons in Becoming Myself," Oscar-winning actress, Ellen Burstyn, writes about learning to sing again as an adult for her starring role as Alice in the movie Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore.

"One of the tasks of adulthood, in my view, is to look at what has been laid down in our brains early on and decide whether we want to keep that as a part of our worldview. Certainly anything that got programmed as a limitation of our possibilities needs to be examined and consciously kept or ejected.

"For instance, I was in the glee club as a schoolgirl and was often asked to sing solos. When I was around 12, I decided I'd like to take lessons and perhaps pursue singing as a career. I told this to my mother, who said, 'Let me hear you sing.' I went to the piano in the dining room and opened the sheet music for 'If I Loved You' [from the musical, Carousel]. I played the opening chords and sang the first line. From the kitchen came my mother's voice: 'Awful!' "

"That was it. I couldn't carry a tune after that. My ear went dead."

"One of the things I wanted to accomplish in Alice was to reawaken my ability to sing. I didn't have to be great. Alice wasn't a great singer. I just wanted to be able to stay on key and deliver the song as best I could. I worked on it for months. The final recordings were a patch job of different takes of my own singing and piano playing. I did it with a lot of help and augmentation. But I did it."

Stage Presence: Renee Fleming

"Opera is famous for grand entrances made by dazzling sopranos in glorious costumes. After playing roles like Manon and Violetta, I've learned to radiate a sense of adventure and the joy of being in the moment. That's the magnetic calling card. Be yourself, comfortable in your clothes, in your skin. And be gracious . . . Be direct and give your full attention to the person you're talking to. The more interested you are in other people, the more interesting you will be to them."

~ Renee Fleming, soprano