Finding the confidence to express yourself as a creative is not always easy. As counter-intuitive as it may sound, SINGING allows you to break through your fear.
Julia Amisano is a voice, piano and acting teacher who believes that everybody can sing. She helps her students, whether 5 years old or 87 years old and everyone in between, connect and share energies by using their voice.
Julia demonstrates some easy techniques for learning how to sing- it starts with proper breathing, as our voice is a wind instrument. She gives us great tips on how you can find your perfect vocal range, and always kill it in karaoke. Julia and I also discuss using your voice for introverts, and overcoming stage fright.
Support my TV comedy series
12 Month Social Media Calendar
Find your Voice with Julia Amisano
Today’s guest on the LoudaVision Podcast is Julia Amisano. She teaches voice, piano and acting at her studio in Brooklyn, New York. You can check her out at GraceMusicStudioNY.com. Thank you, Julia, for coming on the podcast.
Thank you. I'm excited to be here.
Today’s topic is finding your voice, but before we get to that I want to learn about your background. I’ve seen your bio, you sang at Carnegie Hall and you performed in a lot operas, musicals and plays. Tell me about that.
It’s a very, very funny story. I’ve been performing since I was little. If you asked me at six years old, what do you want to be, in fact, people did ask me. I’d be like, “I want to be a singer.” They’d be like, “What else do you want to be?”
What do you really want to be?
I want to be a singer. That’s my first answer and I'm sticking to it.
I was so confused by that. I was like, “I want to be an astronaut.” Then they just stopped talking and walked away. I wanted to be a singer anyway. That’s my first answer and I'm sticking to it. I’ve been singing since I was young, very little. The story about Carnegie Hall is a fun story. I had been singing with an opera company for a while. I met the people that ran the opera company during my master’s degree at Brooklyn College. I had been asking my higher power, I felt like I wanted to do some community outreach work, but my schedule in grad school and my teaching schedule, because I was teaching singing and acting and piano while I went to grad school, so my schedule was so intense. I was like, “I’m crazy. What am I wanting to do volunteer work for?” My heart just really wanted to do it.
I was in my upper theater class and in walks this woman, short, very cute woman. She’s like, “I have an opera company and we are singing for kids in hospitals and we have an audition.” I was like, “Oh, yes!” It’s the answer to my prayers. I go and I sing for them. I did an aria. An aria is like an opera piece, except I did like a kick line and shook my shoulders and stuff. I really hammed it up. I made it really kind of crazy. They loved it. They asked me to be in that show and consequently they asked me to be in a whole bunch of their shows where they paid me to sing for a long time. I had long standing relationship with this opera company.
Volunteer work turned into paid work.
I really think that it’s a heart driven thing. When your heart is calling for you to do something, you have no idea why. Even if it seems crazy, I always think, “Why not?” Instead of thinking why, why not. I was on the train, going to visit my sister who lived at that time in Long Island. On the train was the music director and composer that wrote all the operas for this opera company. He’s there with his now wife, they were dating at that time. He’s name is Christian McLeer. I was like, “Oh my God, Christian. How are you?” He’s like, “Are you going to do this thing with us, this opera, at Carnegie Hall? “ I’m like, “What?” He’s like, “Didn’t Monica call you?” I’m like, “No.” He’s like, “Julia, I wrote this opera for you. You have to do it.” I was like, “Yes, please.” Who’s going to say no to that? It was really fun.
It was called Kindergarten. It’s this frazzled music kindergarten teacher. It was a ten minute opera. It was a series of ten minute operas. The ten minute operas were one after the other in this program at Carnegie Hall. Did you ever see Bride of Frankenstein with the crazy hair and the big white stripe? That was my vision of this kindergarten teacher. She is like crazy, frazzled and all the kids were so bad that it was funny. At the very end of the opera, Christian said to me, they all of a sudden starts singing in harmony after being like, “No, I’m not going to sing that.” One little singer is like, “I am a pamper today. Roar!” It was really funny and cute.
At the end of the opera, he’s like, “I just want you to look amazed and stunned that all of a sudden for no reason at all they just start singing in six part harmony.” I decided, as an actress, just to faint. The way that they then staged was all the little kids, to end the opera, just stepped over my … You couldn’t tell whether I was dead or whether I just fainted. That was the first time that I sang at Carnegie Hall. We did that program five times. It was a different opera every time. The first time was just that one that Christian wrote for me.
Did you start out as a singer or an actress, or did you start out doing something else?
I did. That’s where my training was. I was the kid that was in every musical. I was a complete theater geek when it wasn’t cool. When I was a kid, it was not cool to be a theater geek.
Now, it seems like being a geek is cool because it’s having something that you’re passionate about, even from a young age, even a few years ago was considered being a geek or a nerd. Now it’s cool.
That’s all the 40 something’s revenge. For real, because we’re all like, “Hey, we are people and we are doing our passion in the world and now we have a say about stuff. Being a geek rules!” I was that kid in high school that just was a geek. I went to school for music and for theater. I didn’t know at the time that I would have to also dance, which I’m not good at all.
Being in a play, you have to do everything. You have to compete.
Being in a play, you have to do everything.
Everything. You have to compete. You have to be able to move. I can move on stage but I am not a ballerina. I’m just not. My ballet teacher, every time we would go across the floor, her response to me, she didn’t use words. She’d just go, “Ugh.” I’m sorry, I’m not a ballerina. I can sing and I can act. I just have to take this class to get my degree. Please pass me.
Please let me pass.
After college, I decided to go on and get a Master’s Degree in Acting in London, because I had spent a semester abroad, in London. I just loved it there. I loved Shakespeare plays. I followed my heart and went to LAMDA, which is London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. It was really hard to get in but they accepted me. I did their master’s program, which in England is only a year long. It’s called the Postgraduate Degree. I almost stayed in London. But everybody was trying to get in to the United States and at that time you had to give up your American citizenship. It’s like, “Yeah … No.”
That’s hard. That’s a big commitment.
My family is here in the States. I was like, “No, I’m going to go home and make a life for myself at home.”
Great. Now you’re here.
I started touring and temping. Now, I’m teaching. I do still sing. I am still hired to sing mostly for operatic stuff and mostly for things actually that people write for me that they want to record, like new opera if you could call it that. That’s always very flattering.
What is new opera?
New opera is opera that’s being written now.
It’s not opera set to rap music?
No. Although, that’s kind of cool.
I invented something. How did you become a teacher?
Let’s call teaching helping for the purpose of today. I’ve been helping since I was really young. Every show I’ve ever been in, somebody has called me aside and said, “Can you help me with my song? Can you help me with my monologue?” I was always like, “Yes. Yes, of course, I can.” Because I like to help. Teachers in general, if you don’t like to help, you should not become a teacher. That would be my advice.
I met my meditation teacher, my spiritual teacher, who lives in India. Before I went to India I had been doing national tours and then I’d come back to New York City and temp. I actually temped for a bunch of investment banks. That sounds kind of boring but the one thing that they really taught me … I worked a lot for Goldman Sachs. Now we know that they did all kinds of terrible things.
This was before then?
Yes, this was before then. At night, because I was only in the city for a couple of months at a time then I'd go out on the road and then I come back, I would work as much as I could. They’d give you free dinner and a free car ride home if you stayed late. The perks of investment banking, I saw it firsthand. Every place I worked, people wanted to hire me because I’m a person who gets bored doing nothing. I always said, “No.” They’re like, “Why not?” I was like, “I’m an artist, I’m a singer, I’m an actress.” I’ll never forget, I rode a car home with somebody from Goldman Sachs one night. The guy in the car was talking all about how he makes this six figure income and his family and his wife and the pressures, but what he really wanted to do was be a high school math teacher.
I will not settle. I’m an artist, I’m a singer, I’m an actress.
That’s a lot less money.
He couldn’t wait to retire from investment banking and have a second career. He had been in investment banking for 30 years. At that moment, I said to myself, “You’re going to have to work hard at anything you want to do. You might as well work hard at something you love.” Right there was the moment that I was like, “I will not settle. I am not going to live a life of accepting these job offers that people want to give me.” I work for American Express Global in the advertising department and the same thing happen again. My boss went everywhere via helicopter. I was always giving him grief about that. I was like, “Dude, really?”
Wait. What if they wanted a snack or a drink from the store? What if they wanted to go to Dunkin Donuts?
I was just like, “Is it really necessary? Really? You have a limo.” He’s like, “Julia, you don’t understand. Traffic.” I'm like, “Wow, dude.”
He seems like a villain.
He’s a nice guy, but he just did what all people that corporate high-ups do. He offered me a job. This was back in 1996. “We want to give you $50,000 a year to be my secretary.” I said no. He said, “Julia, it’s $50,000 a year. You want more money than that?” I was like, “It has nothing to do with money.” He said, “What do you mean?” I said, “I’m an actress. I’m a singer.” He’s like, “Do you have a job, acting and singing?” I’m like, “I do. I have a summer stop job.” He’s like, “Ugh, Julia, how much are they paying you?” I was like, “I’m not telling you.” He’s like, “Just tell me.” I’m like, “No, I won't tell you.” He’s like, “Just tell me.” “Okay, fine. They’re paying me $200 a week.” He’s like, “Oh!” Even in that moment, I was like, “Yeah, they’re paying me $200 a week and I am excited about it.” Because I would have been chained to that desk for my whole life.
Some people enjoy that and some people, that’s their personality. But it’s not for everybody. I’ve spoken to Alex from The Variety Seeker Tribe and we spoke about a very similar thing. Some people aren’t meant to sit at the desk, some people aren’t meant to have one job. A lot of creative people have that problem where they don’t want to be chained to a desk all the time. It’s hard because we have to pay our bills, we have to survive. It’s so easy to just give in to that tempting easy thing of sit at the desk and collect your money.
You’re right. I don’t necessarily think that anybody who makes that choice is a bad person or even a sellout. I just knew for myself, if I made that choice, that I would get very, very comfortable with a lot of money very quickly and my life would be all about that. All about being this guy’s assistant, being there at 7:00 in the morning and leaving at 7:00 at night. It just felt like slavery to me. That’s not how I want to spend my life. I’m really glad because I definitely wouldn’t have gotten the chance to sing at Carnegie Hall if I stayed working at AmEx.
As creative people, we have to make sacrifices sometimes and not go the easy route or something that might not be as difficult to get into. But you got to take a risk too, as a creative person, as someone who’s an artist, someone who loves doing something. It’s not always easy to get there. Let’s talk about the topic of the day. We’re talking about finding your voice.
I actually started teaching because I believe that everybody can sing.
I actually started teaching because I believe that everybody can sing.
Everybody. Some people are like, “I’m tone deaf.” My response to that is, “There are actually tone deaf people but they would speak in a monotone.” Really, that’s what tone deaf is. They would speak on one pitch. If the voice is varied at all, like if you’re inflecting and your voice goes up and it goes down, then you can sing. I found, as I was working in the industry, in the business, there were a lot of people that I would meet, just in general in my life, that would say, “I can’t do that. I’m not part of music. I can’t sing.” Of course, the helper in me was like, “Yes, you can. I’m going to show you how exactly. This is what you do.” That’s how I started teaching.
I decided instead of doing, instead of temping and having that temptation of whatever it was, $50,000 a year job, looming over my head every time I went to work somewhere. I was like, “Instead of doing that to make money, why don’t I start teaching?” Then I can be at home. This is what I am trained to do. I have two master’s degrees in it. At that time, I only had one when I started. I can help people. I can help people sing. Everybody should be able to do this. Nobody should feel like they’re outside of music where they don’t get to sing. I think that’s terrible.
What are some tips for people who think they can’t sing? Even just basic karaoke, like we just want to be better at basic karaoke. What are some tips that you might have?
The very first thing that you learn about singing is how to breathe. The voice itself is a wind instrument. Meaning, the air passes through the vocal folds in a way that makes the voice box vibrate and then it resonates, it vibrates up out into your face and out into room. The control of the breath, the use of the breath is the most important thing when you’re singing. The very first thing to do when you are wanting to sing well is breath. I don’t mean breath up in your shoulders. I mean breath in your belly.
On my website there’s a two minute mini voice lesson. I give you an exercise. It’s totally free. I give you an exercise on how to breathe. I start with that exercise because that’s the foundation. That’s the first thing to learn when you are singing, is how to breathe correctly. It’s not hard, it just takes practice, that’s the thing. The thing is anybody can learn to do it. It’s just a matter of practicing it. It doesn’t have to be this horrible, “Oh my God. I’m never going to make any progress for years and years and years.” That’s not true. You will. You will make progress. You just have to jump in and have fun and let yourself explore. Because the body is so intelligent.
The first benefit of singing is just that you feel like you’re expressing yourself.
It remembers. Just like riding a bike, I’m sure you could remember how to sing if you actually knew how to sing. What are some benefits of singing?
There’s so many benefits of singing. Of course the first benefit of singing is just that you feel like you’re expressing yourself. You feel like you’re not stifled. These days, especially in the political climate where people feel like they have to say stuff and they can’t say stuff, and it’s all very stressful. Everybody is stressed out. If I say this then I align myself with this. If I say that then I align myself with that. When you’re singing, it’s nice to just be like, “I’m happy, clap along if you feel.” It’s just like, “I’m just happy.” I’m just letting my hair down. I can feel free to relax and sing. Who cares what it sounds like at first? It’s been scientifically proven that singing produces oxytocin in the brain, which is for women it’s the feel good drug, and it’s also the feeling connected drug.
That would be good to connect with people. Say we’re arguing with someone and it could be about politics or anything that we might not agree with them, singing would be something to bring someone together.
Exactly. It builds community. My students, there’s a community of my students and they perform together every recital. We have a group number, a group piece that everybody sings together. We’re talking little kids, five years old, to my 87-year old student who just wrote her first song. Everybody sings together because it’s a community. That feeling of community definitely, in my experience, people are craving that feeling of community.
We are because we’re so isolated being on our phones all the time. Even if we’re on the train, we’re really not connecting with anyone. We’re on our phone, we’re in our own world, we have our headphones on. Singing together with different age groups and different people, it’s something where you have to pay attention to what other people are doing. You have to keep up with them, you have to harmonize with them. I can see the benefit of it.
Yeah, it’s really cool. There’s so many benefits to singing. Singing teachers, in general, if you have a really good singing teacher who wants to help and wants to help you develop your instrument to its full potential. Say you’re a person who just wants to sing for fun, that you’re not really interested in singing on Broadway or at Carnegie Hall. You just want to sing for fun. What I’ve seen and what my students have told me is that singing is so personal and it connects you so much with your higher self, your soul that it helps to transform your mind, especially if you thought that you couldn’t sing. Once you start singing, you’re like, “Oh, I actually can sing.” Then there are all these other things in your life that you look at and you think, “Oh, I didn’t think I could get that job promotion. But I can sing, so maybe I can get that job promotion.”
I had one student say to me, “I marched in and I got that promotion at my job because after singing in a recital on stage in front of a hundred people, nothing could be as scary as that.” It was easy just to go in and say to my boss, “Listen, I would like a raise. I would like more money.” The boss was like, “Okay.” After it happened, the student was like, “It was so easy. All I had to do is ask for it. But if I hadn’t asked for it, they would have kept me at that pay rate indefinitely.” It was such a good life lesson for me too.
Just like you said, as a creative person you have to take risks. Most people feel that, “Oh, I’m not really a person who takes risk. That’s for brave people, or that’s for courageous people, or that’s for artists or whatever.” The truth is, all of us are scared. Singing helps us break through a really deep fear of expressing ourselves. Once you break through that, it’s like anything can happen.
As a creative person, you have to take risks.
My job is awesome, it’s true.
I think sometimes, people tend to label themselves maybe an introvert, a lot of artists because a lot of their work tends to be one person doing it. A lot of their work tends to be solo. We work on our computer and we’re quiet all the time and it’s hard sometimes to break out of that introvert type of shell and have the confidence and the courage to use our voice, even just to speak and to ask for something or to communicate with other people.
I definitely don’t believe introvert and extrovert is an excuse for anything. I think it’s more of a scale and where people fall on the scale. Because I don’t find myself to be an introvert completely or an extrovert completely. I definitely have my times when I might be editing something, for example, that is completely engulfed in computer and my whole world is in the computer. Sometimes I have to step out of it and say, “Oh, wow. There’s people around. I can talk to people. I can go have a conversation with my friend or go sing or my favorite thing, taking a bath and singing.” That just releases all of the shyness that comes with these computer based tasks. For me, I feel like that.
That is a great example. That is a great example of what singing does for you. It releases you from that intense feeling of working on your art, working on your craft. You pour your heart and soul into these things and then you need release. Singing is a release. That’s a great word for it. I agree with you about the introvert and extrovert thing. That’s not the only reason, but that’s one of the reasons why I made the DVD on how to sing. Some people should be able to learn how to sing and maybe they just want to learn in their living room by themselves. Maybe they’re so shy that they don’t even want to come to a lesson with a teacher.
If you think you’re a terrible singer, I know I wouldn’t want to go to a teacher and have them judge me.
It’s all about technique, and technique is learned.
Exactly. The good news is I would never put someone down. It would always be about content and allowing the person to find the way. I’m showing them the way, specifically how to correct pitch, correct whether it’s loud or soft, it’s all about technique. Technique is learned. Yes, there are some people who are just very, very talented and born singers. What they’re doing is they’re doing the technique with or without knowing they’re doing it.
I sometimes have students come in who’ve been singing their whole lives. They’re very, very talented. My job with them is to teach them what it is they are doing naturally. So in case anything goes wrong, they know how to fix it. Also, once they start to consciously know what they’re doing then they can take it even farther. They can really develop their full potential because they’re now on board consciously. They’re now on board working on their craft, developing their voice. One of my best friends is an introvert. She definitely describes herself that way. She’s also a musician.
See, she’s not completely an introvert. I don’t believe that anyone is completely an introvert. Because she goes on stage. If you're completely an introvert, you would never leave your house.
You're right. It’s a spectrum. I remember years ago, I was asked to start a group to sing for my meditation teacher who comes to New York City every summer. Amma is her name, and she’s called the Hugging Saint in the media. A bunch of the groups that would get together to meditate, they are called satasangs, had like a group of singers that would sing these meditative call and response, they’re called bhajans. They’re sacred songs but it’s call and response. The point is to bring you deeper into connection with the divine or meditation. Some yoga studios have what’s called kirtan. That’s the same thing.
I was asked to form a group of singers from Brooklyn to go and sing for Amma at her program in the summer time. This friend of mine said that she wanted to be part of the group. I was like, “Great. This is what we’re going to sing.” She’s like, “Oh, no, no, no. I don’t sing. No, no. I’m an instrumentalist. I’ll bring my instrument.” I’m like, “Okay, but everybody in our group has to sing.” “No, no, no. I’m going to play.” “If you want to be on the group, you’re going to sing.” She was like, “Okay.”
The cool thing about that is today, she started singing in the Amma group and we’ve done it for nine years, eight years, something like that. She started to get more and more brave and then she started to want to lead, lead a song, do the call part of the song. Of course I said, “That would be awesome and I’ll help you with that.” Long story short, she now runs her own kirtan group, where she sings lead most of the time, where she lives in Massachusetts. She also does still play her instrument. Once you start expressing and, like you said releasing, you just want more of it. You’re like, “This is so fun. I really like this.”
Once you start expressing and releasing, you just want more of it.
It makes you feel more goofy and silly.
Exactly. Wow, do we need to be goofy and silly these days.
Where can people find out about the kirtan meditation?
Lots of yoga studios have kirtan. Devadas is an old friend of mine and he play kirtan a lot in the city. Just look up kirtan. You can look up Devadas, you can look up Amma.org. She’s the person that we do kirtan for. She’s like a world figure, like a female Dalai Lama. She has a whole bunch of charities.
Awesome. I’ll put those links in the description so that people can take a look at that. While we’re talking about technique in singing, you’re a soprano. Not the mobsters on HBO or anything. As a soprano, how did you know that that was your range and how would other people know what their vocal range is?
I'm going to just be really general with it. In general, the lowest male voice is called the bass. The middle male voice is called the baritone. The high male voice is called a tenor, if you sing high.
Like Josh Groban?
That’s who we think of immediately.
Pavarotti was a tenor. The lowest female voice is called an alto. After alto is mezzo soprano, which means medium soprano, which means not as high as soprano. Then soprano. After soprano is coloratura soprano. Coloratura soprano is really high and squeaky, like Handel Operas, like really high and tweety. That’s called the coloratura soprano. Coloratura in Italian means fast. When you’re singing really tweety high stuff, the term for it is called fioratura, which means flowery. It’s fast, lots of runs and trails and things like that. The way that you would know, the first thing you want to do is identify, do I sing low or do I sing high? If you sing low, you’re an alto. If you sing high, you’re a soprano.
How low, like Toni Braxton low?
Isn’t that wonderful? These are huge overarching labels. They’re huge. It’s like, are you a female or are you a male? That’s how big these labels are. Really big. The beauty of the instrument of the voice is that an alto can sing soprano stuff but probably they won’t feel as comfortable singing the soprano stuff. The way that you know if you’re an alto is if your voice feels rocking, it feels, “Yeah, I really dig that low stuff and that’s where my voice feels the best.” You probably some have friends who are sopranos. Ariana Grande, she’s a soprano. Sara Bareilles, the one that sings Brave, “I want to see you be brave.” She’s an alto.
What about Kelly Clarkson?
Kelly Clarkson is a soprano. Katy Perry she’s a mezzo soprano, soprano. Most of these people, what they are being paid a lot of money for is to sing high in what’s called belt voice.
Healthy yelling. To learn how to do that well without hurting yourself is what I teach people to do. It pays if you do it well, it pays very, very well. But it’s not an easy thing to do, which is not an easy thing to do which is why it’s paid so well. For example, Adele has just a wonderfully natural voice. If you talk to her, her voice doesn’t sound low and it doesn’t really sound high. It kind of sounds in the middle. Right there, you would say that’s a mezzo soprano voice. She does a lot of high belting and a lot of low stuff. What you want to base what you are on is where your voice feels like it takes off. It’s like you get in the car and you step on the gas, when the car just goes by itself, that’s what you are. If it goes by itself on the bottom, you’re like, “That’s the most fun for me.”
Yes. If it goes by itself on the top, you're a soprano.
We should all try Don’t Stop Believing and see which part sounds more natural. We all struggle with that high note.
When you study singing, there are so many ways that you can express with your voice.
It’s so cool because the voice has so many colors. When you study singing, there are so many things that you can do, so many ways that you can express with your voice that you never thought possible. It’s really exciting. It’s like if you’re a visual artist and you had a teacher who could give you a new color. That’s what I do every day, all day long. “Check out this color, man. Isn’t that fuchsia awesome?” They’re like, “Yeah, I love that color in my voice, that really hot, as oppose to the beautiful blue.” It’s different. It’s just different. It’s like having a big box of crayons.
Give us a color we can practice.
One of my favorite colors is green. I feel like green is a really healthy, fun, happy color. If you just go, “Yeehaa.” Do it with me. Ready?
“Yeehaa.” See, isn’t that funny? Isn’t that fun?
Now every time you see green, you’re going to think, “Yeehaa.”
I am. I'm going to think of you every time. I like green a little more now.
My classical album is called Green actually. All these beautiful art songs from the late 1800s, I just feel like they’re so lush and beautiful and dense like a forest, a forest of musical color. That’s also on my website, it’s on CD Baby and on iTunes.
My next question is, do you have any tips for overcoming stage fright? My tip is to sing before you get on stage or to speak before you get on stage. When I’ve given any kind of talk or lecture or lesson, I try to sing in my car or wherever I can or speak loudly just so that I am used to using my voice and you’re not feeling like you have that frog in your throat. What about you? Do you have any tips for overcoming stage fright, whether you’re an artist, a singer, presenter?
Absolutely. That’s a great one. Whenever we do a recital, I always warn my students up for exactly that reason. They have to be in the flow of using the voice. The main thing that I tell people when they are performing, this is the thing that helps me the most, is that the people who are sitting in the audience, they don’t actually know what you’re going to say, what you’re going to sing. They don’t know the song. They don’t know the speech. They have no idea. They’re probably, in their sits, more concerned about themselves.
There’s nothing to be afraid of because your song or your speech or your presentation is actually a gift that you’re giving to them by connecting with them. They can receive it or not receive it. They’re not going to judge the gift. They’re just going to be like, “Yeah, that’s that song.” If you’re really a master performer, they’ll come away feeling, “Wow, I was moved in some way. I’m different in some way because of the energy that that person shared with me.” Performing on stage is really about sharing, sharing energy specifically. That’s the thing I tell students. They don’t know how it’s supposed to go. They have no idea. The only person who could give it away is you. If you make a mistake, you just keep going. “Yeah, I meant to do that.” They don’t know what the words are. They don’t have the words in front of them.
The other thing that I tell people is don’t look at people when you’re singing. Look above their heads. Focus on a point. Sometimes there’s an exit signs, sometimes there’s a picture, a painting at the back of the hall. If you’re on stage in a big theater, in a Broadway theater, it’s much, much easier because the lights are so much in your face that you can’t see the audience anyway. That’s much easier.
Your song or your speech or your presentation is actually a gift that you’re giving to them by connecting with them.
Just little blurs.
You aim above their heads so they can watch you. Where you’re aiming you’re song, or you’re aiming speech or your presentation, you’re aiming it to somebody that’s, in your mind’s eye, somebody that’s receiving it well.
We’re doing visualization.
Exactly. There are performers that get really, really, really good. I would say, if you’ve performed a song for a thousand times or more, I’m not making up that number, it’s about a thousand times, that’s about when you can start engaging with the audience and looking at them. But most of my students get up and they sing in our recital, they don’t usually repeat that song. They’re not on tour. They don’t build up that thousand times. For the first thousand times, you definitely don’t want to look at people.
Allow them to look at you. You’re sharing your energy, but you’re not looking at them. Because when you look at someone, that immediately starts conversation. You look at somebody and you’re like, “Oh, they're looking at me. Am I supposed to say something?”
“They want me to react.”
Exactly. “What am I supposed to do? Oh no.” All of that messes up what you to be thinking about, which is if you’re singing a song, who you’re singing to, why you’re singing it and sharing the gift of the song, the experience of the song. You’re busy. You’re being your character. You’re singing your song. You’re giving your gift. Anything that’s going to disturb you should be looked over, literally looked over it. Look above people’s heads.
You’re working on a really TV project about Grace Music Studio. I need to know about this. I’m a video filmmaker I need to know about your TV show.
I’m excited about it. A dear friend of mine works in a reality TV as a director. The idea that everybody can sing is the catalyst for it. I was saying to him, “I wish somebody could be in the room with me, watching all these people transform. Not just transform their voices but transform their lives. Because it’s so cool.” I get a front row seat to watching all these cool transformation. Our show is about how that transformation happens in students, what they’re goals are, specifically what their short term goals are that is exciting for an audience to see.
If somebody is really motivated to do something big, that transformation can happen very quickly.
If somebody comes in and they say, “I want to do this in three weeks. I want to this in two months. I want to do that in,” whatever it is. In general, studying singing and overcoming the obstacles, mostly the mind tells us we can’t do something. That process takes a long time. But if somebody is really motivated to do something big, that transformation can happen very quickly. That is one of my specialties, helping people overcome whatever they need to overcome to meet their goal, whatever that goal is.
Where can people take a look at your realty show?
It’s not on air yet. We’re in the process of filming what’s called a sizzle reel.
I know very well what that is.
I did not. I had no idea what that is. Right now, we’ve done a couple of sizzles. I'm in a class at School of Visual Arts, SVA. The class is called How To Pitch Your Reality Show To TV Networks. I did the last the class. Andrew and I, I’m not an editor, he’s not an editor, we were like, “Whatever. We’re just going to do our best and put it together, from the footage that we have, something that we think is a good sizzle.” We did two sizzles. The class gave us feedback about it. The sizzle isn’t punchy enough yet. It’s not exciting enough. It’s not promo enough yet. I’m taking the class again. I enlisted somebody who was in the class with me last time. She got up and showed her sizzle and everybody was like, “See, now that’s a sizzle.” I was like, “Okay.”
“I've got to work with this person.”
She had mentioned to me twice in class that she really wanted to sing, take singing lessons. I am teaching her singing and she’s helping me with the sizzle. That’s kind of where we’re at. My goal for the reality show is to get a good enough sizzle to attract the right production company to help me then flush out the idea. Either they’ll like the sizzle enough and they’ll promote that to their contacts and networks, or they’ll create another sizzle. I’m just wanting to get somebody who does this, like a production company who has contacts with networks and digital distribution, on board with my project. That’s where I’m in it right now. It’s totally new and, wow, is it scary.
I just have to keep telling myself, “It’s okay. You can have the fear and do it anyway.”
I recently read a book called The Confidence Gap. It talks about that fear. It says that people who are confident, they don’t wait to feel confident to do confident things. You have to do the acts of a confident person, whatever those are, which might be pitching your idea to someone or singing in front of people. You just have to make those acts, and then the feeling of confidence will come after. It’s not to wait for this magical confidence to come into you, because some people aren’t used to being that way.
I perform and sing all the time and I’m still not that way. I never have been. I’m not a ‘look at me’ kind of person. It’s more like I have this need and want to express myself. It’s not really about, “Look at me and clap for me.” It’s more about the active expression. I can’t help myself get on stage and sing. It erupts out of me. I am actually more shy than a lot of performers. I really understand that.
I can’t help myself get on stage and sing. It erupts out of me.
Did you ever see Talladega Nights?
I love that movie. I saw it last night.
I’m a huge Will Ferrell fan.
I just love when his loser step dad or whatever comes back in his life and he say, “Okay, you got to face the fear.” He puts a cougar in the car and he makes him drive with the cougar. He’s like “He’ll smell your fear.” Will Ferrell is like, “Okay, I can do it.” That’s what I feel like, creating this reality TV show. I feel like every time we shoot, every time I make a contract for a camera person or a sound person or anytime we rewrite the sizzle or anytime somebody says, “How about you do this?” Every single time, I feel like, “Okay, I can do this.” I feel like I’m outside the car and the cougar is in the car and I have to get in. It’s scary.
You have to just keep driving because you can’t stop. That’s the thing when we’re working on this creative projects, if we stop working on it, no one’s going to notice that we stopped but nothing’s ever going to progress. Nothing is going to happen.
Julia has an instructional DVD on how to sing called The Three Pillars of Singing. You can find it at her website GraceMusicStudioNY.com, you can reach out to her for private lessons in singing, acting or piano. She’s also on social media. Thanks for being on the podcast.
Thank you, Laura.
Thanks for helping us find our voice today. As for me, I'm filmmaker, artist and your host, Laura Meoli. You can connect with me, getting creative tips and inspirations on social media. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram: @LoudaVision. You can listen to more of these podcasts, read my blog, watch my videos and contact me. Just go to Loudavision.com. If you like what you’ve heard, please rate and review this podcast on iTunes or SoundCloud. Thanks for listening. Bye.