I am so honoured to be nominated for Best Music Instructor in Guelph by the Guelph Mercury Tribune! As a Guelph singing teacher with a fairly new business, it is so wonderful to be included among all these amazing teachers.
If you have a moment, please head over to their page to nominate me. Nominations close tomorrow, Sunday July 26. And as always, if you are looking for singing lessons in Guelph or from anywhere in the world, I am available for online video lessons.
As Ontario enters Phase 2 of reopening, and restrictions are starting to ease, I know that we all are eager to return to a sense of normality. Of course, every business owner is asking themselves not only how they can reopen now, but when they will be able to regain full capacity. It seems to me that for singers, singing teachers, and choir directors, at this point a return to business as usual is unlikely until we have a vaccine.
It’s very important to me to prioritize my students’ safety and make sure I’m continuing to offer my services responsibly. In the age of COVID-19, singing is considered a high risk activity. Although more research is needed, evidence suggests that singing projects respiratory droplets further than other activities like talking or breathing. The tragic case of the Washington choir group who rehearsed together shortly before the virus was declared a global pandemic, resulting in two deaths, is foremost in every singer’s mind. Despite some choirs’ attempts to rehearse responsibly with physical distancing measures, the virus has continued to spread in these environments.
I can certainly see the risks of returning to lessons in an indoor studio. Vocal warm-up exercises such as panting, lip rolls, and other breathing techniques absolutely come with a bit of a spit zone. Furthermore, it is hard to imagine being able to effectively coach a singer who is wearing a mask. Vowel placement and vocal strain are often indicated on the face of the singer.
Going forward, all my lessons will remain online for the foreseeable future. My Self-Isolation Special rates allow folks to continue to improve their voices very affordably. I am still seeing lots of success from my students doing online lessons, and there are some great advantages, too. Sharing screens for music and videos, recording lessons, and zero commute time have all created a unique experience.
That being said, I am hosting an outdoor Laneway Open Mic on Tues Aug 18. My students will have the opportunity to perform for my neighbours in an outdoor setting. If you’re interested in coming or performing, ask me how!
In the meantime, here are some tips for safe singing in the age of coronavirus.
Sing by yourself. Practice, practice, practice.
Perform for friends and audiences online. Take advantage of live-streaming on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and more. Record your performance on your cell phone and upload it to your account or a group. Host or participate in Zoom Open Mics to sing for others.
Conduct all group singing activities outside, at least 10 feet apart. Enjoy the summer weather. Host a bonfire or a songwriting circle in a park or backyard. If your choir must rehearse, let it be outside.
Explore home recording. Now is the time to put together that nifty home recording studio you’ve always wanted and make your own music at home. Check out my post for building a basic home recording studio.
Get into video editing. Amazing video performances like this were created from editing together pre-recorded performances. You can make one in iMovie with your friends or family!
Use your own microphone. If you do participate in a performance, I recommend not sharing mics. If you happen to have disinfectant wipes—you lucky minx—wipe it down before using it.
Stay safe! How do you feel about online singing lessons vs. in person? Let me know in the comments.
Summer is here! As folks are craving to meet up outside and enjoy the weather, I’m sure that campfires and singalong circles will become the hottest party in town.
I’m lucky to have grown up in a musical family with regular campfires and year-round hootenannies. But for the uninitiated, here are some standard rules of etiquette to follow so that everyone has a good time.
It’s ok to be a wallflower. It’s important to know that there is really no pressure. You don’t have to sing, you don’t have to play an instrument, and you really don’t have to prepare anything. You can just sit back, drink your beer, roast your marshmallows, and enjoy the tunes. On the flip side, don’t pressure anyone else to sing/play/perform if they don’t want to. And as a general rule, avoid making a lot of random song requests. Folks have to play music they know, so if you’re not prepared to lead a song, don’t expect anyone else to do it for you.
If you do want to play, come prepared. Have a loose plan of what you’re going to play. It’s always good to have a “fake book” on hand–a binder or book of chord/lyric sheets or lead sheets–full of songs that you already know, and can play or sing along to. Also, feel free to look up every song imaginable on ultimateguitar.com if you bring your cell phone or tablet. Avoid making people wait around in mosquito-ville while you look for songs or noodle endlessly.
Share the spotlight. Remember that this is a singalong, not a private concert. Yes, it’s ok to perform a couple of solo songs if the crowd is into it. (N.B. Read the crowd!) But generally speaking you should pick songs that are simple enough that most people could sing and/or play along with you. Be sure to start by showing other players what the chords of the song are before you begin. Let other players take the lead, and enjoy your breaks with sweet coolers!
Be as musical as possible. Obviously you will see all experience levels at a campfire, and that’s fine. But there is a point when music is played so badly that no one else can even follow along. Take the time to tune your guitar, and make sure all the instruments being played are in tune with each other. If you struggle with playing on beat or singing in tune, let a more experienced player take the lead and try to follow along. I learned AN INVALUABLE AMOUNT from trying to keep up at campfires as a kid when I could barely play guitar at all. Consider it the best free music lesson you could ever have.
The best campfire song of all time is… Asshole by Dennis Leary. You’re welcome.
What are your tips and tricks for great campfires? What are your favourite campfire songs to play? Let me know in the comments!
Someone asked me this week to share with them what equipment I use at home for making demos and recordings. I’ll be honest, I’m not a producer or engineer, so my set-up is pretty basic. My purposes are purely to be able to record decent voice tracks for auditions, interviews, and demos. But for many of you looking to get into home recording, this would be a great place to start.
Roland Duo-Capture EX
This console is what turns the sound from your instruments/mics into something your computer sound editing program can read. This is a very basic console with two inputs, so you could record vocals and an instrument at the same time if you wanted, say if you’re making a video.
Sure SRH440 Headphones
When recording vocals or instruments, you’ll want to listen to your background music or the click track to make sure everything you record lines up. I like these because they had the least sound bleed into the mic of any I tried.
Great studio speakers for listening back to what you’ve recorded in high quality audio.
Ultra Mic Stand
This is a standard boom mic stand, which is always the ideal. Boom stands bend and allow you to position the mic with the stand away from your body, if let’s say you are wearing a guitar or want to put a music stand in between you and the mic stand. Be careful not to wrench the joints while they’re tightened, as this will break the stand. Always loosen the joints and retighten to reposition the mic stand.
Audio-technica Condenser Mic
Condenser mics are standard for recording, because they are more sensitive and get a crisper sound from a wider range of space. For this reason they are not used much for live performances, where they can cause a lot of feedback. Make sure you are singing into the “logo” side where the sound is actually being picked up.
Shock Mount for Condenser Mic
You’ll want one of these to hold your condenser mic while recording, so that any minor movements or adjustments don’t mess with your mic and your sound. Traditional mic stands do not come with the attachments to hold condenser mics, so you’ll need to get something.
This pop filter screws on to the mic stand and is totally adjustable. Pop filters help to reduce sibilance and other noise from your plosive vowels that is hard to edit out in post. You know, the hissing s’s and the popping p’s! It seems like a small thing but it makes a big difference when using such a sensitive mic.
What do you have in your home recording studio? Let me know in the comments!
Just because you’re stuck at home doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the pleasure of singing for or with others. Especially if you are practicing something, it’s important to have opportunities to perform and stay motivated. Watching others can also inspire you to try new things! Here are some online events to help you keep singing.
Guelph OPEN MIC Nights is a Facebook group curated by local singer-songwriter and open mic mainstay Dan McLean. In a pre-COVID world, this was a group devoted to listing up-to-date information about local open mics and jams. Nowadays, folks have been posting self-taped videos of their performances here, including covers and originals. It’s a very supportive group!
Watch that Facebook group for future info about Matt Zaddy’s #TogetherAtHome Open Mic nights, where Matt hosts a zoom call for folks to perform live for each other. Sadly I just missed the last one, but you can email him to sign up for the next one.
In looking for online karaoke, I was intrigued to find this event being hosted by the Delaware LGBTQ Social Group tomorrow night. Queer karaoke sounds like the best.
And for those looking to watch some incredible local talent perform, check out Silence’s Digitally Curated Concert Series. By tuning in, you can help support artists whose live shows have been cancelled.
If you know of any other great opportunities to sing online, please leave them in the comments!
“I’ve become a Pilates fanatic. Pilates is especially beneficial for performers, because it’s strength and flexibility training. I enjoy it.” – Renee Fleming
Many of us are adapting to life at home and finding new ways to get in our exercise. If you’re a singer or aspiring one, I highly recommend Pilates as a way to strengthen those “down there” core muscles that help us support our sound.
A big part of the study of singing is discovering how to use a whole bunch of muscles you may never have been consciously aware of before. That’s why singing teachers use a lot of visual metaphors like “imagine the sound as a waterfall rushing over your head,” or “send the sound into a cone in front of your face,” or my personal favourite, “poop out those high notes.”
Whereas crunches will get you that six pack, Pilates—with all its planks and pelvic rocking—is perfect for developing the inner abdominal muscles and pelvic floor. These are the main muscles involved in supporting the singing voice. It also strengthens the spinal erectors and intercostal muscles between the ribs that help us keep an open chest for proper suspension, or appoggio technique.
There are many online Pilates videos you can follow. I am a particular fan of the Element Pilates DVDs. If you have any favourite online Pilates resources, please leave them in the comments! I will leave you with my attempt.
There’s never been a better time to finally learn how to sing! I know you and your kids are at home looking for things to do, and maybe money is tight. That’s why I’m giving away lots of free lessons, including the #1minutemusiclessons on my instagram and Facebook page.
I’m also starting a new email newsletter full of tips and tricks for the aspiring singer. Sign up for my email list and you’ll receive a free vocal warm up video, where I take you through the full warm-up that I do with all of my students. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up!
And for a limited time, I’m also offering the Self-Isolation Special to make music lessons more affordable for you over Skype. Sign up before this pandemic is over!
With all the summer festivals being cancelled due to COVID-19, it’s sad to think that my original musical CLITORIA: A Sex-Positive Superhero! will not get to play this August at the Guelph Fringe Festival as planned. I’m hopeful that the festival will be rescheduled, and that the Vixen of Kink will rule the night once again, after a wonderful run at the Toronto Fringe Festival last summer. I was very excited to bring home this campy, wild ride; I also know that some people have been surprised by my portrayal of a sex-positive superhero.
From Kiwanis to Clitoria
As a singing teacher starting up my own business with many young students, I knew it was a bit risky to be producing a musical about sex. Despite my 7 years of teaching experience and advanced certification from the Royal Conservatory in classical singing, would parents want to send their kids to singing lessons with Clitoria?
The truth is that my young students are who I wrote the show for.
Not that the show is meant for young kids to watch; it’s not. The goal of the show is to entertain and educate adults (and young adults) about the value of accepting people for who they are, so that these children can grow up in a world with less shame.
Sex in the Age of DoFo
In 2018, the dynastic conservative Doug Ford was elected Premier of Ontario with only one campaign promise: to scrap the 2015 Sex Education Curriculum. Updated from 1998, this curriculum was drafted by teachers, parents, child psychologists, and experts to include instruction on sexual identity, gender identity, and sex outside of heterosexual reproduction. Apparently, 40% of Ontarians thought this was a controversial idea, and that parents should be the ones educating their children about sex.
“What did you learn about in school day?” I overheard a father asking his pre-teen daughter one day in a coffee shop.
“We learned about STIs.”
“Sexually transmitted infec—”
“I don’t want to talk about that.”
As a kid, this is pretty much how this conversation would have gone down in my house as well. Unlike math, history, or English, it would seem that sex is not a school subject you can talk about freely with your parents.
Fringe by Fire
In November 2018, I was accepted into the 2019 Toronto Fringe Festival by lottery draw. I had no show—no script, no characters, no cast or crew—nothing. The application was $29, and I figured if I got in I’d have to get my butt in gear and write something. I realized quickly that I would have to write about whatever was going on in my life. There was no time to make anything up.
Late 2018 into early 2019 was a strange brew. As I came to know myself better sexually, my marriage became strained at a time when we had planned on starting a family. Doug Ford scrapped the sex ed curriculum precisely as I was experiencing a kind of sexual renaissance, underpinned by tremendous guilt and shame. My teen and pre-teen students—many of whom are queer—were staging rallies, walk-outs, and protests to defend their right to an inclusive sex education that validates their identities.
My students were so fearless and inspiring. They were shouting out loud the things that I still struggled to admit to myself. And yet, they were all too young to vote. Despite many of them being tax-payers through part-time jobs, they had no legitimate voice in the political process.
I realized that it was up to us, the adults in the situation, to do something. In the face of such incredible strength shown by these children, there was no longer any excuse for my fear to speak out. Quite frankly, it was embarrassing.
I also thought about the advantage that I had growing up in a white, middle-class, conservative family. I realized that I was in a unique position to be able to speak to these folks because I know them. The more I thought about it, the more I felt it was my responsibility.
Sex-Positivity for Dummies
I set about writing a show about a straight, monogamous couple buckling under the constraints of a traditional, vanilla relationship. I threw in a dash of everything that would make me excited to see a show: superheroes, weird science, sexy costumes, dumb songs, big characters, dirty improv, and as much camp as I could cram in.
In other words, I tried to write the worst show possible and just see what came out.
Thankfully, due to the contributions of stage manager Justine Cargo, director Christopher Wilson, sound designer Tim Lindsay, the Toronto Fringe tech staff, and a dream cast—Matthew Bradley, Jada Rifkin, and Ursula K. Manifred—my first musical came to life on stage in a way that was so much more than I had ever envisioned.
Critical and Commercial Success
In July 2019, CLITORIA played to wonderfully receptive audiences at the Toronto Fringe Festival in one of their biggest venues, the Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace. It won the Patron’s Pick Award for highest audience attendance in the venue, and received rave reviews.
In August 2019, the Ontario Conservatives reinstated the updated sex education curriculum with minimal changes.
CLITORIA is my love letter to my young singing students and their bravery to stand up for themselves and who they are. They inspired me to do the same.
It’s amazing how much can change in a month! Please be assured that for the past four weeks, I have ceased seeing students in person and have been conducting all lessons from home via Skype.
As a both a teacher and lifelong student of music, the time at home has led me to reflect deeply on why I do what I do. As we all adjust to a life of new restrictions and struggle with self-isolation, my mission to help others experience the joy of learning music and strengthening their voices seems now to take on new meaning, and be more important than ever. Whether you are picking up the ukulele for fun, or singing songs with your children to keep them entertained, or making professional sales pitches over Zoom, I want you to know that you can still count on me to help.
Here are some of the new initiatives I am offering to help folks keep learning from home.
Skype Lessons I am happy to continue to offer reliable and effective lessons via Skype so that my students can continue making progress with me from home. You can record lessons to watch later, and feel more relaxed in the comfort of your own home.
The Self-Isolation Special For a limited time, I am offering discounted prices and 30 minute lesson options for singers and speakers. Sign up today for lessons in singing, speech coaching, ukulele, guitar, songwriting, and music theory. All ages are welcome.
AFREE Vocal Warm Up Lesson As a gift to you, I’m giving access to the same warm up I give my own students. Whether you’re an aspiring singer or public speaker, you can professionally prime your voice today.
#1minutemusiclessons Check out my instagram or Facebook page to follow along with my new series of FREE #1minutemusiclessons. Each week I’ll be posting a series of quick videos to help you get started on a new instrument, song, or musical concept.
Today the World Health Organization declared human coronavirus (COVID-19) a global pandemic. Many international events have been cancelled, and Italy has even declared a national quarantine. COVID-19 is a new strain of the flu with a higher death rate than the seasonal flu, for which no treatment exists and is potentially deadly to the elderly, and those with underlying health conditions. These vulnerable populations rely on herd immunity to avoid risk, of which we have none. Because of this, many organizations are taking aggressive measures to help prevent further spread of the virus.
As a singer and voice coach, I have always made respiratory health and hygiene a priority at my studio. However, in light of COVID-19, I am kicking it up a notch. Here are my latest policy updates for the duration of this pandemic.
Students must stay home if they are sick. Any cancellations due to illness will qualify for make-up lessons no matter what.
Anyone who shows up to my studio showing cold & flu symptoms WILL be turned away and the lesson will be forfeit.
Lessons are available via video call for anyone who prefers to stay home.
Those who come to lessons may be asked to wash their hands, use hand sanitizer, keep a safe distance, or take other precautions as a matter of course.
If you have recently travelled to an affected country and are showing any cold & flu symptoms, please get checked out.
Please note that, while there are 36 cases confirmed in Ontario, so far there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Guelph. For the most up-to-date information, please check out the Government of Ontario website: