Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Making Music

I’m not sure there’s any torture greater than listening to your child practice the piano.  Well, maybe violin.  I’ll admit that listening to a child practice violin could be worse.  I mean, at least our piano is in tune.  (Mostly.)  My daughter is eight years old and she has been studying the piano for four years.  She’s getting there.  This year she played her first Bach minuet, and she’s learning her scales and cadences.  I don’t have any idea whether or not she will be interested in pursuing music in her adult life, but I’m a big believer in the idea that learning music teaches you how to think.  Given that her dad and I are both professional musicians, we figured it was important to make music a part of our kids’ lives from the very beginning.  (Our younger daughter is four and will start lessons in January.  Oh God.)
My husband and I came to music in very different ways.  READ MORE….

The Sound Of Music

You may be surprised to learn that in addition to writing for the musical theater, I have had a bit of success as a choral music composer, too. For me, ensemble singing (and writing and conducting) taps into the part of me that really does prefer to be making music with other people as opposed to sitting alone in a room with a piano, a notepad, and a computer loaded with Finale.  I love using music to tell stories, as musical theater folks do, but I also really like using music just to make music, and I start to feel atrophy when I get too far away from it.  I was a classical musician before I was a part of the Broadway community, and sometimes I forget how much I depend on the fuel that classical music provides.  Little me was the girl at the piano after school, practicing Bach and Rachmaninoff and Tcherepnin over and over again until her fingers were vibrating with the kind of energy and exhaustion you feel after a hard workout.  The changing of the seasons was marked by marching band, holiday concerts, wind ensemble, Easter music, spring piano recitals and summer music camp.  READ MORE…

Friday, September 27, 2013


The good folks at newmusicaltheater.com have started a blog!  So now, in addition to buying the original sheet music, legally and efficiently, for the contemporary songs you want to learn, you can also go there to read the thoughts and insights of your favorite contemporary musical theater writers.  (I'm hoping I'm on that list.  If I'm not, why on earth are you reading my blog?)

Here's my first entry.  Enjoy.

by Georgia Stitt

I’ve got this duality to my career that has provided me with some pretty helpful insight.  I spend a big part of my professional time writing music and lyrics for songs and shows, but I also spend a big part of that time music directing, teaching, and coaching singers.  One of the most important things I’ve discovered as a vocal coach has deeply influenced the way I write, and I wanted to share it with you guys — writers and performers alike.

A lot of us composer and lyricist types became writers because we felt like we had so much to say and so much to express, and we loved putting words and music together to make great songs.  Don’t get me wrong; I believe there’s a place for anything that’s inside you that you need to express.  But not every great thought is a great piece of musical theater.  If a song waxes poetic about an emotion for three and a half minutes, and it requires the singer to belt really high and it has some really awesome chords and a great groove — it might be a blast to sing but I’m gonna have a really hard time coaching it.  Actors need something to DO, not just something to FEEL.  We contemporary writers are the worst about writing songs that just feel really good to sing and aren’t actually sustainable.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Second LA master class added on Tuesday nights

Hi, friends!

Last week I posted about the very last LA musical theater master class I'll be able to offer before moving back to New York.  (See post below.)  Twelve hours after I announced the class, it had sold out.  The next day there was enough demand for the class to justify adding a section, so I've decided to do just that.  In addition to the Wednesday night class outlined below, I'm now also offering a Tuesday night class -- same location, same pianist, same format, same time of day.  

Here are the dates:  Tuesday nights, 6:45-9:45 on April 16, 23, 30, and May 7, 14 (skip 21) and 28.

If you're interested, send an email. As of right now I have three more spots available in the Tuesday night class. Hope to see you there!


Friday, March 08, 2013

The Last Georgia Stitt LA Musical Theater Class (for a while...)

Well, here it is.  I'm announcing the LAST private 6-week musical theater class I'll be able to offer in Los Angeles in the near future.  (My family and I are relocating to NYC this summer.)  If you've been meaning to come in for private coaching, you've got a few months left for that, too.  Hope to see you soon!  (And thanks for helping me to spread the word about these classes.)

Thanks so much.

SPRING 2013 MUSICAL THEATER CLASS (Pasadena location)
with Georgia Stitt
and Ross Kalling at the piano

Wednesday nights, 6:45 - 9:45 pm (maximum 8 participants)
Six weeks: April 17, 24 and May 1, 8, 15 (skip 22; I'm out of town) and 29

Choose a music theater or pop song from any genre and either shape it into a useful audition selection or discover why it's problematic.  Topics include: audition cuts, choosing material, personalizing songs, connecting, letting the music work for you, knowing your type, and making strong choices.  Identify the structure of your song and use it to strengthen your storytelling.  By looking at phrase length, rhyme, contrast, musical gesture, and surprise, you can uncover clues from the composer that can fuel your acting choices.  Maximum eight participants.  Each singer/actor will work for 20 minutes each week.

Pasadena Presbyterian Church (Choir Room, downstairs)
585 East Colorado Boulevard
Pasadena, CA  91101

TO REGISTER FOR THIS CLASS, send an email directly to georgiastitt@mac.com.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Drama Is Drama: Women's Voices in Theater

A few weeks ago I was contacted by Erin Guinup, a musician/teacher in the Seattle area who was preparing a lecture and paper on female musical theatre composers and wanted to include my work alongside the music of Kay Swift, Mary Rodgers, and Jeanine Tesori.  In addition to showcasing some of my songs, she asked me to respond to the following quote by Rachel Crothers in 1912.

“Drama is drama…what difference does it make whether women or men are working on it?”

I thought about it for days.  Initially, I thought maybe I actually agreed with the statement.  If we're talking about equality in the workplace, isn't the goal to be gender-blind?  But no, we can't be gender-blind when it comes to the creative arts.  Nor can we be colorblind or age blind or nationality blind. A person's voice is a reflection of who he/she is, and we are not all the same. 

I was reminded of the work playwright Julia Jordan has been doing to bring light to what she calls a gender bias in the theater.  I reread the 2009 New York Times article about Julia's research, identifying some of the surprising sources of gender bias and watched again her keynote speech from the 2011 Dramatists Guild conference (which I attended). I re-read Marsha Norman's fiery essay "Not There Yet" and  was reminded how powerful we women writers are as a community, as a network.  Marsha's words challenge me out of potentially depressing thoughts about my own place in the industry, the reception of my work, the success of my shows. She makes me want to write more and write better.

Here is what I wrote to Erin.

The point is that women make up about half of the world's population, and to have a culture of theater that does not represent the voices of those women is to overlook the stories that they alone can tell and the perspectives through which they see the world.  Saying "drama is drama" is like saying "people are people."  We say it, but it doesn't actually mean anything.  People are these completely individual, unique creatures who are defined by where we live, how we live, what we know and what we believe.  We look for similarities among people but we also revel in our differences.  Drama springs forth in unique ways from unique people.  It reflects the point of view of its author, and those authors come from vastly different places, cultures, religions, races and, yes, genders. Our stories are not the same because we are not the same; we are different, and our work is us.

That's all very idealistic, though. The practicality of the situation is that even if the women are telling the stories, they are not being produced nearly as often. The New York Times in 2009 suggested that women are not writing as many plays as their male counterpoints. That's probably true. We're not conducting as many orchestras, either, or holding as many political offices because we're catching up. My 90-year old grandmother told me that as a young woman in the 1930s she thought that she might like to be a Presbyterian minister, but she was told that that was not an appropriate job for a woman. My mother, twenty-five years later, told her father that she wanted to be a doctor.  He said, "You mean a nurse. Doctors are men."  It was only my generation, the children of the 60s and 70s, that started to offer up female role models in greater supply.  Of course there have been female writers and composers since the beginning of time. It's not that they didn't exist. But you can't argue that they were mainstream.

Finally, an anecdote. I have a student in a musical theater class at USC (where I teach). I gave her a song to learn and she was struggling with it.  She said, "I usually just play the prostitute or the girlfriend or the maid -- unless I'm in the chorus, where I'm tap dancing in a bikini."

If we want our daughters to have female role models, first we have to be them, and then we have to write them.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Summer 2012 Musical Theater Classes in LA

Hi, friends!

I'm teaching TWO different musical theater classes for singing actors this summer.  One in Pasadena (Wednesdays) and one in North Hollywood (Tuesdays).  Read carefully below and let me know if you're interested in participating in either of them.  I'd love it if you'd pass this info along to your fellow musical theater actors in the LA area, too.  Thanks for the support, and maybe I'll see you in one of the classes.



with Georgia Stitt

Wednesday nights, 7-10 pm (maximum 8 participants)
Six weeks: June 20 and 27, (two weeks off) July 18, 25 and August 1 and 8 ($450)

Choose a music theater or pop song from any genre and either shape it into a useful audition selection or discover why it's problematic.  Topics include: audition cuts, choosing material, personalizing songs, connecting, letting the music work for you, knowing your type, and making strong choices.  Identify the structure of your song and use it to strengthen your storytelling.  By looking at phrase length, rhyme, contrast, musical gesture, and surprise, you can uncover clues from the composer that can fuel your acting choices.  Maximum eight participants.  Each singer/actor will work for 20 minutes each week.

Pasadena Presbyterian Church (Choir Room)
585 East Colorado Boulevard
Pasadena, CA  91101

TO REGISTER FOR THIS CLASS, send an email directly to georgiastitt@mac.com.


with Georgia Stitt

Tuesday nights, 7-10 pm (maximum 8 participants)
4 weeks, July 17, 24, 31 and August 7  ($325 or $300 early bird rate if you register before June 15th)

These four three-hour workshops are designed for professional singers and actors looking for a new understanding of the musical theater songs they perform.  Goals of past participants have included freshening up old audition material, trying out new songs, making bigger choices (in a safe environment), and widening their understanding of the musical theater canon and their specific place in it.  Participants are required to sign up for ALL FOUR SESSIONS and will be asked to prepare four different songs.  Class is limited to eight performers so each person is guaranteed one-on-one time each week.  Auditors are welcome with the permission of ANMT.

Week 1: Classic Musical Theater
Week 2: Contemporary Theater Song
Week 3: Pop/Rock
Week 4: Georgia Stitt Originals

The Academy for New Musical Theater
5628 Vineland Avenue
North Hollywood, CA 91601

TO REGISTER FOR THIS CLASS, click here: http://www.anmt.org/BootCamp.asp

For both classes:
Payment is due at the beginning of the session.  If you sign up for a class and then develop a conflict, you can sell your class ($75) to a fellow actor so you're not out of money and I don't have an empty spot in the class.  You are welcome to audit a class with my advance approval. ($25/class)

I am also available for private coachings throughout the summer.  Send an email to request an appointment.

“Georgia Stitt has been teaching master classes for my performing arts students for over a decade. She's absolutely THE BEST! Her knowledge of repertoire and performance practices, combined with her brilliant musical skills and engaging teaching style, create an invaluable educational experience for our young artists. She knows how to focus on the details that matter, and the results are truly remarkable.” -- Frank Timmerman, Director, Cobb County Center for Excellence in the Performing Arts

“If there was a priority booking line for Georgia's masterclasses in the UK it would be engaged as soon as she announced her trip... all with schools who want a return visit from Ms. Stitt! MT standards that you thought you knew are blown apart by Georgia to allow for student discoveries that are as exciting for the audience as they are for the performer!  Repeat bookings are made almost as soon as the last class finishes.” -- Alastair Lindsay-Renton, UK theatrical agent, Grantham-Hazeldine

“Georgia Stitt is an exemplary songwriter and an invaluable teacher. Her genuine enthusiasm and dedication to her art was motivating for the students, whom she both supported and challenged throughout the master class. Anyone who has the opportunity to take one of her classes should sign up to do so immediately!” -- Sarah Rebell, lyricist, Vassar College

“Georgia Stitt is the whole package.  What makes her especially gifted is her understanding and expertise with ACTING.  She knows what good acting is and has the language and skill to communicate it in a tangible and result-oriented way.  Her taste is impeccable and her spirit and teaching style create an environment that let her students thrive.  You will be hard pressed to find an artist with the range of skill and talent that she brings to the table.” --John Ruocco, Director, Teacher, Founder of John Ruocco Studios, NYC

Thursday, March 15, 2012

BIG RED SUN update

From the newsletter of the National Alliance for Musical Theater. Interview with Branden Huldeen, New Works Director.

An interview with Georgia Stitt, composer of Big Red Sun (written with John Jiler), about the many changes to the show since being in the Festival in 2010.

A New Synopsis: BIG RED SUN is the story of a family of musicians. Eddie and Helen Daimler were great swing musicians in the 1940s, but now in the early 1960s their teenage son Harry, a budding songwriter himself, lives alone with his mother and writes songs about his great war-hero father. In an effort to write more truthfully, Harry unearths a dark family secret. World War II carved a silent divide between those who fought and those who waited - a truth unshared. In a few short years, the simple melodies of Kern and Berlin were replaced by the dizzying energy of jazz and the beginnings of rock and roll. This is the story of a family that changed as much as their music did.

What kind of feedback did you get after the Festival reading of the show?

There was a lot of respect for the work we had done, lots of compliments, but we did not get many offers to continue its development. John Jiler (book/lyrics) and I talked quite a bit about how it seemed like we had written a show that people admired intellectually but perhaps were not moved by. One producer we met mentioned the concept of the "skin-jump," the idea that there's a point in the show that's so compelling that you want to jump out of your own skin to be in the world of the show. We wanted BIG RED SUN to do that, but we realized maybe we hadn't yet written it.

The show has been undergoing rewrites lately. What are some of the adjustments you are making to the show?

There's been so much! We've consolidated some of the smaller characters and streamlined the cast. There are now only six actors required -- 4 men and 2 women. We've activated the son (Harry), making him a songwriter, a young Bob Dylan-type. In the last few months we've also really fleshed out the character of the mother (Helen), giving her a big new second act song. We've expanded the relationship between Harry and James, a former band mate of Eddie (the father). We've tried to be very clear and consistent in how we use the flashbacks. And specifically in the music, we've cut down much of the pastiche stuff, the diegetic songs, to make sure that the "style" music is always being used to tell the story. Making Harry a songwriter was a great discovery, because in a way, his voice could be my voice and I wasn't limited to the vocabularies of the 1940s and the 1960s, though that music is still very present in the show.

You just finished a workshop/reading at the University of Nebraska (Lincoln) this weekend. How did that reading come about?

The head of the musical theater program at UNL is Alisa Belflower, and she and I have been email acquaintances since about 2006. Last August, Alisa wrote me to say that her school had just received some funding to produce a developmental reading for a new musical, preferably a book musical, and she wondered if I might have something to submit. BIG RED SUN was the piece of mine that best fit her parameters, and John Jiler and I were in need of a deadline to undertake the rewrite we had been thinking about since NAMT 2010. Since I live in LA and John lives in NYC, we are always thrilled to have a chance to work in the same room. We did more work on the show in the three weeks leading up to the reading than we had done in the six months prior.

What did you learn from student voices on the work?

Musical theater students are about as passionate as they get. UNL had some of the most fantastic voices we've ever heard, but their strengths tend more toward legit singing than pop. I learned that not all of the references we use in the show (Bob Dylan, The Andrews Sisters, klezmer music, the can-can, be-bop) are as well-known as I thought they were. I'm putting more information into the score, more hints about how musically to accomplish the various styles. And of course, the questions the students ask are revealing, too. If they've been staring at the script and they don't understand how they got from point A to point B, then you can be sure an audience won't understand it either.

What are your next steps for the show in the writing process?

We came home from Nebraska with a to-do list, several things that we're hoping to fix in the next week or two. We have to consolidate our notes from this reading (which was only yesterday!) and process which fixes we want to do immediately and which fixes should wait until we're actually working with a cast and a director. We'll have to re-demo a few of the songs, and I often learn about the music by orchestrating and recording it.

Elevator pitch—What do you guys need next?

We have now done developmental work at the New York ASCAP Workshop (where we won the Harold Arlen Award), TheatreWorks Palo Alto, Oklahoma City University, the NAMT festival and the University of Nebraska. We finally have a script and score that reflect the story we want to tell. Next, we really want a rehearsal process and a run. Much of this show requires visual storytelling -- a physical concept (lights, costumes, space) of how we move from present tense to past. We need age-appropriate actors and an actual audience. A chance to see the show more than once. It's a small show -- six actors, probably five musicians (piano, acoustic/electric bass, acoustic/electric guitar, drums, and a reed doubler). John and I figure if we get to sit in an audience and watch it thirty times we can make it magical.

If you want more information about Big Red Sun, contact Bruce Miller at Washington Square Arts, (212) 253-0333 x36 or bmiller@washingtonsquarearts.com.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Album Essays

After "My Lifelong Love" came out (about six weeks ago), I realized that the only people who were actually getting to see the fantastic digital booklet that Derek Bishop and I made were the people who downloaded the thing from iTunes. And we spent a lot of time on it! I'm going to upload it to my website next week, but in the meantime, here are the two essays that friends of mine wrote for the record. I love them. The friends, I mean. (But also the essays.) Enjoy.

from composer ERIC WHITACRE:

Georgia and I have been friends for nearly twenty years, ever since she and I spent a glorious summer together working summer stock theatre at Cape Cod’s ageless College Light Opera Company. She was an accompanist, I was an assistant conductor. We spent our days rehearsing singers and our nights playing raucous four-hand piano at parties. Georgia was always the brilliant one, able to play anything; I was always the assistant, which, if memory serves, meant that I spent most of the time getting both of us fresh drinks.

Even back then it was obvious that Georgia had ‘the gift’; music just flooded out of her, effortlessly. Soon she began composing her own music, and the songs she wrote were a perfect reflection of who she is: warm, passionate, funny, effervescent, and wicked smart. To know her music is to know her, every intimate emotional secret right there on the surface. Delicate, precious gems given with an open heart.

As a fellow composer - seriously, you should hear the two of us geek out about composing - I’m always most impressed with her strong sense of musical architecture. She somehow manages to blend a musical theater composer’s natural storytelling prowess with sophisticated ‘classical’ forms, a powerful hybrid that allows her pieces to blossom on multiple levels. She makes my favorite kind of music, seductive on the surface and infinitely richer as you peel away the layers, the kind of music that rewards you for digging deep. I find I can listen to the songs over and over again and always find something new, something surprising.

It has been one of my life’s great joys to know Georgia; I consider her not only a colleague and an inspiration but one of my best friends. As long as we are both around she can rest assured that I’ll be right beside her, fresh drinks in hand, glowing with love.

from Broadway star SUSAN EGAN:

Experts say we encounter an astronomical number of people in our daily lives – that because we now move so fast, the sheer numbers are astounding. I’m not impressed. Who cares how many jump in and out of our worlds? I am amazed by who stays – and moreover, who becomes a treasured traveling companion.

Georgia and I met in 2000, when I was still working on Broadway. I was researching material to record for my album, “Coffee House,” and hers was one of many demo CDs I had been given by Michael Kerker of ASCAP. I listened to hours and hours of new music that never seemed new, and then I popped in Georgia’s CD. Her song, “This Ordinary Thursday,” struck me on so many levels: the melody caught me right off, the structure was great, and the unfolding of the story captivated me – it still does. In the song, the singer has been viewing other people’s lives through the fishbowl-like windows of NYC, and now, because she is loved, her life is finally worth displaying, too.

I loved it. Georgia’s experiences as a single girl living in NY mirrored mine, so immediately I could relate, but Georgia’s point of view was distinctive. How, with the millions of love songs in existence, did she write one so completely unique? Michael set up a meeting, and Georgia spent an afternoon playing me her music. I ended up recording “Sing Me A Happy Song” on that album. [Shoshana’s version on this CD is spectacular!]

Once I understood who the “Jason” was in “This Ordinary Thursday” (no, I didn’t know), I thought she should keep that one for her album; lucky me that I got to sing it on that debut CD! About a year later, fate somehow brought us both to Los Angeles then played her part again when Georgia (really, a profes- sional acquaintance at the time) called me up one August, during her eighth month of pregnancy, to see if she might float in my swimming pool for an hour or two. She did. And that was that.

I am not really certain how or when we became such dear friends. I can look back at the incremental steps, but the whole of our friendship is so much greater than the profes- sional meetings, the moves out West, the friendly coffees, the synchronistic pregnancies (2nd time around), the mommy world, the concerts, the travel, the glamour and the goop. Georgia and I have not just shared a road on our individual journeys these last few years, we have literally at times linked arms, leapt over potholes, penned the traveling music, and more than once, gotten behind the other and pushed. Somewhere along the way, I actually think we influenced each other’s paths....

From my vantage point, I have seen Georgia in her many roles: mom, wife, blogger, busi- ness woman, producer, chef, and of course, composer. I am proud to know her – for- tunate to have borne witness to the creation of so much of the music you hear on this collection and even to recognize where some kernels of those song ideas sprouted from in her mind. I have heard first drafts through final mixes. I know her well, and still, the mu- sic surprises me, lifts me and takes me on unexpected journeys. Her singular and inspired point of view, I now know, is simply how Georgia sees the world. How lucky for us that she has the ability to articulate it so eloquently in music and lyrics. It’s everywhere here; enjoy it. Her Lifelong Love is now yours.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Why Are You A Writer?

I got asked to write a little blurb for The Dramatist Magazine. The Dramatists Guild is one of my very favorite organizations because they exist to support writers. Many of the people I respect most in this business are the people who are on the DG Council, the great playwrights and composers and lyricists of our time. Getting to write for the magazine felt very much to me like finally getting to sit at the grown-ups table.

The assignment was to choose one of these three questions and answer it.

1) Was there a play/theatrical experience that changed your life?
2) Why are you a writer?
3) Who would you choose to write the dramatization/musicalization of your life?

I chose number 2. Here ya go.

By Georgia Stitt

My high school yearbook says that I’m going to go to Northwestern and major in Economics. (I did neither.) I guess when I was asked about my plans for the future, the question came during the period of about four weeks in my senior year when I was trying to avoid the inevitable.

At age seven I asked my mother if I could take piano lessons. In middle school I signed up to learn the clarinet, and over the course of the next few years I taught myself every instrument in the marching band. People always knew about me that I was going to be a musician. I remember my parents saying, “It’s so easy for you. You don’t have to decide what you want to be when you grow up.”

They thought I was going to be a band director, and for a while, I did too, because that’s what musical kids in Tennessee grew up to be. At music camp one summer (yes, I went to music camp), a teacher suggested that since I knew how to play so many instruments, maybe I’d enjoy studying composition. His class was the first time I remember getting excited about a musical idea that came from me. I was fifteen years old, and I spent the summer writing a duet for my violist roommate and me to play on our recital. We performed it; the audience clapped. It was my first composition, my biggest hit.

Back in my hometown I became the music girl. I had a gift; I could do something nobody else did. And while that distinction was admired by adults, it also distanced me from other kids. So I read a lot of books. I practiced a lot of piano, especially Bach, which soothed my anguish. I wrote in my journal about how much I was growing to hate this small Tennessee town where nobody understood me.

The teenage years played themselves out. The scholarship (for music, not economics) arrived (to Vanderbilt, not Northwestern). While in college, I figured out that the poems I wrote in my journal and the music I wrote at my piano were all trying to express the same ideas. I became a songwriter. I played my songs for people and felt like I had found a way to be known. New York followed, then Los Angeles, where I now sit, once again trying to put words together on a page in an effort to make you understand me.

Now a writer of musical theater, I tell my stories through the points of views of other characters, but I’m still always hoping that by connecting to them, you’ll be connecting to me. When I am moved by a piece of theater, or a piece of music, or a great novel or an exquisite photograph, I feel like I understand something deeper about how the world works. I come back to my desk inspired to create something of my own. I write to be understood.