Monday, November 19, 2007

Giving Thanks

I'm heading out tomorrow to start the Thanksgiving holiday week and as always, the last day before you go on a trip becomes a nightmare of organizing and trying not to forget anything important. I'm nursing a cold, too, which didn't help the singing issue I talked about last week, but hey -- the concert went well and I got a little bit closer to overcoming stage fright. Just before I went onstage in Santa Monica this week, one of the volunteers said to me, "Do you get nervous before these things?" I thought, "Well, I was doing a pretty good job at avoiding it this time, but now that you've brought it up...." Hmmph.

Broadway's dark. The writers in LA are on strike. I suppose Thanksgiving week is the time to say outloud that I'm grateful I'm working on a reality TV show. Who knew? I'll tell you more about CLASH OF THE CHOIRS as soon as they'll let me, but if you're in New Haven, Philly, Cincy, Houston, or Oklahoma City, you've probably already heard about it. And by this time next month, you will definitely have heard about it. Especially since there will be nothing else to watch on TV.

Here's a photo from the concert I did at the Madison Theater at Santa Monica College this week. That's Tim Christensen (bass) and Shannon Ford (drums) flanking me in the back, and Susan Egan and Kevin Earley sitting in front. If you put a little bubble over my head it would be saying, "Hurry up and take the pictures because I have to figure out what I'm going to talk about in fifteen minutes when the concert starts." But, as always, I'm glad someone was there taking photos to document the event, even though I might have been a little bit cranky as it was happening.

Since we're doing photos, here are two from the master class I taught at the Orange County High School of the Arts. In the first photo, that's Hannah Solow, Lamont O'Neil, Robert Anderson and Nina Herzog. And the second photo is everyone who was in the room while I was working with the first four people. That's an amazing program they've got there, and if it weren't an hour and a half from my house I'd be trying to get my two-year-old daughter on the wait list right now.I've been so lucky to get to see inside lots of fantastic musical theater training programs this year -- both in the US and the UK -- and I'm excited about the interest there is from young people in the future of Broadway musicals. Now, if we could just get the lights back on in the theaters. I know I sound flip, but it's really a problem. In case you haven't been following it, the Broadway stagehands union has been on strike for a week, and even though talks resumed this weekend, they didn't solve the issues at hand. Now it looks like the theaters will be dark over Thanksgiving week -- which means all those people in for the Macy's parade... well, I can't even think about it. Fingers crossed.

I'm gonna keep this one short because I've got to pack, but as this very special holiday approaches I want to thank all of you for reading my blog and supporting my music. This has been a big year, and I've got even bigger things in store for next year, but none of it would be possible if no one cared about the music. So, hey -- Happy Thanksgiving. I'm thankful for you.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Don't Worry That It's Not Good Enough For Anyone Else To Hear... Just Sing

I'm off this evening to play and sing a few songs in Susan Egan's "Broadway at Pomona" concert at Cal Poly. Those of you who know me personally know that I can play for anyone else without even a quickening of my pulse, but the minute I'm asked to sing in public I get so nervous I feel like I might pass out before I make it to the stage. It wasn't always this way. It used to be worse.

One year in college, I got so freaked out during my piano juries (which are like final exams for musicians) that I lost track of where I was in the middle of a Bach fugue. It's exactly a performer's worst nightmare -- forgetting your lyrics, forgetting the next chord, forgetting where you are in the music. You might as well be naked on stage. So, I did what any composition major would do. I made something up. I just improvised in the style of Bach until I got myself back to some place I recognized, and then I played out the piece to its end. My piano teacher's jaw hit the floor, I'm sure. Everyone in the room EXCEPT ME knew how it was supposed to go. The comments I got on my jury sheets (which ultimately constitute your grade for a semester of piano lessons) said things like "very creative" and "who knew?" Ugh. If I had been considering a career as a concert pianist, it went out the window that afternoon.

When I'm coaching singers on their audition material, I tell them what I believe: that if you're truly acting your text, if you're talking to the right person and your objective is clear and you've done your homework in terms of vocal technique, then you won't be nervous. Or, at least, your nerves will be manageable. I think it's part of why actors say they're never nervous when they're actually doing the show -- only when they're auditioning to be in the show. It's all about where you are inside your head, and if you're fully connected as your character and you're trying to accomplish something, you don't have room for the self-criticism that might otherwise fill your brain. Trouble is, when I'm singing my own songs, my character is usually me and my objective is to sing my songs well enough that someone might be interested in buying my album after the show. You can see why I prefer to leave it to the professionals.

That said, every time I sing in public people tell me that there's nothing like hearing a composer sing her own work, and having seen other composers do the same thing, I know it to be true. I had one very very very famous musical theater composer (not my husband) tell me that he takes drugs before he has to sing in front of an audience -- and then he told me where I could order the ... we'll call it an herbal downer ... online. And I know there are other songwriters who simply won't do it -- though they confess to be just as nervous sitting in the audience knowing that people are listening to their songs and judging them accordingly. Oh, it's so hard to be a performer. Why on earth do we do it?

If you're in LA and you want to come witness me torturing myself in public, I'm performing with Susan Egan and Kevin Earley in Santa Monica on Saturday, November 17th at 7 pm. I know I've mentioned it before, but the details I can give you now are that this is only a 99-seat house and the only way to make a reservation is to call and put your name on a list. If this thing sells out (and since it's FREE it won't really sell out, but you know what I mean), hopefully it will lead to me having a kind of residency at this theater -- a standing gig maybe once a month where I bring in special guests to sing my music and other fun theater tunes. So, let's overwhelm them with calls so they know that there's an interest in LA for contemporary musical theater. Especially mine. Call 310-434-3414 and tell them how many seats you want. The address is The Stage at Santa Monica/Second Space, Santa Monica Blvd and 11th Street, Santa Monica, CA 90401.

All right. I'm off to warm up. And drink some tea. And figure out what to wear. And completely freak myself out. Here we go again.