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:
Happy New Year, y’all! It’s been a good long while since I updated the old website, so I thought I’d just recap all the exciting changes that have come along for Laura Bailey Music now that we’re in 2020!
New Referral Discount
I very much want to reward the students who have signed up with me and who help me grow my business through word of mouth. Whenever you refer a new student to me, both of you will get a $60 discount on your next 10 Lesson Package. That’s the equivalent of one free lesson!
New Downtown Studio
I am now very happy to be offering lessons out of the bright, beautiful office space of Art Not Shame in downtown Guelph. My students have been enjoying the space too, complete with a kitchen and lots of tea options! Shoes off at the door, we’re fancy like that. 🙂 I am here coaching students on Tues/Wed/Thurs evenings and Saturdays.
New Studio Policies
As I’m now in paid rental space, I needed to revise some of my studio policies for 2020. Some of these include: giving myself a raise, eliminating the monthly plan in favour of the 10 lesson package and single lesson, and revising the cancellation policy. I will be sending this out to my student contacts soon, as well as any new potentials.
New Student Open Mics
I have partnered with the Cornerstone Open Mic to offer my students performance opportunities in the community. Our first showcase happened this past December, and it was a whole lot of fun! The Cornerstone offers an incredibly supportive audience of many fellow singers of all levels, as well as the option of a kick ass drummer! We’re aiming to do the next one in March.
Hopefully we will keep the good news coming in 2020!
I am VERY EXCITED to debut my first ever original musical Clitoria: A Sex-Positive Superhero! at the 2019 Toronto Fringe Festival! Rehearsals are underway, and I could not be more thrilled with the level of talent and sheer gusto I am seeing from the cast and crew. It is really inspiring!
Clitoria is the story of a sexually repressed high school science teacher who accidentally turns herself into the Vixen of Kink through a science experiment gone wrong. Chaos ensues as her newfound sexual liberation wreaks havoc on her square life with her square fiancé.
As often happens with the Fringe, the people involved end up working very hard and wearing many hats for little more than the sheer love of the game. The director Chris Wilson is also doing all the choreography, arranging, and musical directing, as well as producing. The stage manager Justine Cargo is handling everything from props, costumes, and set design to photoshop and fundraisers. The cast is bringing so much life to this script, I CAN’T EVEN. Thank you Matthew Bradley, Jada Rifkin, and Ursula Manifred.
GUELPH/K-W FOLK: On July 13—the last Saturday of the Fringe—the Guelph Arts Council is running a Toronto Fringe Adventure Bus taking folks to and from the festival for $60, which includes a drink at the Fringe tent. My show is at 10:15 pm that night, and you can take a bus home after. For more info on how to book your spot, check out the facebook event.
We are playing in the Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace, and we have 185 seats to fill, people!! Tell your friends!
I always love the first lesson with a new student. Young and old, new singing students are so full of excitement to come to study what they naturally love to do, and their energy is infectious! But how do you go about finding and choosing the singing mentor who is right for you? Here are a few things to consider.
1. Voice Teachers vs. Vocal Coaches
I say “singing mentor” because there are different types of professionals to choose from depending on what your goals are. Generally speaking, a Voice Teacher is someone who has a post-secondary education not only in performance singing, but also in vocal pedagogy—the study of teaching voice. A Voice Teacher helps someone to improve their vocal instrument, tone quality, technique, etc. using an advanced knowledge of vocal anatomy and sound. A Vocal Coach, on the other hand, is usually an experienced musician who helps a singer prepare for a specific challenge—like an audition, recording, or live show—and is almost always a deft piano accompanist. A Vocal Coach will help a singer to maximize a performance. Of course there is lots of crossover, and both Voice Teachers and Vocal Coaches will be able to guide singers through warm-ups, exercises, repertoire, and sometimes even psychological barriers. Both can help beginner voice students, and almost all of them will work with beginners.
2. Teaching Experience
A singing mentor may or may not have a university or college music degree, and that’s ok. A six-year-old beginner does not need to see someone with a master’s degree in Vocal Pedagogy. But they probably should see someone who has experience teaching six-year-olds. The most important thing here is teachingexperience. Just because someone knows how to do something really well doesn’t mean they know how to teach it. A good mentor will have a well-rounded musical career, but they don’t need to be a Broadway veteran to help you reach your goals. A combination of education, years of teaching experience, and the age range of their students will give you an idea of what their background is and what their strengths will be as a mentor.
Most singing mentors work primarily in one genre of singing: classical, musical theatre, jazz, or pop. Some can help with more than one; Vocal Coaches are more likely to be generalists, and Voice Teachers are more likely to be specialists. Voice Teachers are also more likely to be classically trained. Keep in mind that most of the post-secondary music education available for voice is in classical or jazz programs, so a university- or college-educated mentor will likely be trained in one of these two genres. There are a few specialized colleges that teach musical theatre, like the Randolph Academy, but post-secondary programs that graduate pop singers are few and far between (here’s one). When seeking a mentor, keep in mind what genre you are looking to study. Personally, I believe that all singers can benefit from classical training, and it’s a fine place for a beginner to start.
As it stands, there is no legal regulation of private music teachers in Ontario. Anyone can hang their sign and say they teach voice. While I do believe that qualifications can come from a variety of different places, things to look out for would be a post-secondary music degree or diploma, years of teaching experience, and/or membership in professional associations like ORMTA or NATS. Teachers at private music schools have also been vetted by the school in the hiring process, and often have had a criminal background check done in order to teach children.
5. Price Point
Singing mentors in particular seem to come in a wide variety of price points. I have seen everything from $50 to $300 per hour, and that’s just in Toronto. The amount a teacher charges is based on many factors, including the market they are in, their name recognition, and their target demographic. As a general rule, the more professional your goals are, the more you are going to pay for the right mentor. The ones who charge more than $100/hour generally have name recognition in the music industry, but there truly are no rules. For beginners and hobbyists though, student teachers are a good quality, less expensive alternative to get you started.
As I toil through seemingly endless exercises in preparation for the Royal Conservatory of Music’s Advanced Harmony exam, I often find myself asking WHY?!!?!? Music theory students are famously disgruntled. The rules, the complexity, the mind-numbing repetition… No matter how much someone may say they like studying music theory, everyone has a breaking point. A three-hour theory exam is enough to turn any bright young musical mind to mush. AND YET, I remind myself how incredibly valuable this skill set is and has been to me so far.
Many beginner singing students with no previous musical experience come to me having learned to pick out a tune from a favourite song by ear. They are often in search of improving their voice and working towards getting on stage. Approximately zero of them ever come to the first lesson saying, “I want to learn about music theory.” Here’s why learning music theory is important.
For amateurs, music is required reading. Sheet music allows us to notate music in a way that a musician can pull from the page, even if she has never heard it before. The ability to read sheet music and even sight-sing is not just an expectation for the professional session singer or Broadway star. From church choirs to community musical theatre productions, singers are almost always given sheet music as the sole source material. Some generous directors might provide practice tracks, but in my experience they often don’t. A singer with ambitions beyond the shower or karaoke bar will eventually have to learn how to read music, which is the first part of any music theory studies.
If you rely on other musicians, you must speak their language. While many singers I work with can accompany themselves on an instrument, often we singers rely on outside accompaniment, i.e. someone playing the music while you sing along. If you are being accompanied by a musician—or dare I say a band of them—you will need to know how to speak to them about what you want musically, and also understand what they are saying to you. If you can’t answer the question, “What key do you sing this in?” then you need music theory. And by they way, singers have an unfair but not entirely unearned reputation among other musicians for not knowing anything about how music works. Be the change you want to see in the world.
It will get you out of the ditch. The reason why it’s easy to learn most pop songs by ear is because, well, they’re easy. But let’s say you landed a part singing in the chorus of your local musical theatre production and now the lines you have to sing sound a little weird. The notes sound atypical, the time signature changes back and forth. Even if you do have a version of the song you can listen to over and over again, it’s still tough to really anticipate those entrances. Never fear, music theory is here to help you count your way into the rhythms and wiggle your way into those accidentals (notes outside the key). When intuition fails, music theory is a logical system you can use to solve problems.
You can learn other instruments faster. Have you ever met one of those people who seems to be able to play every instrument she picks up? It’s because she’s not really starting from zero with each new axe. She knows music theory! Knowing the scales, the names of the notes, the construction of chords etc. will help you find your way around virtually any instrument a whole lot faster. Why do I need to learn an instrument, you ask? Because being able to accompany yourself gives you the freedom and flexibility to perform whenever you want, without having to schedule or pay anyone else, in the key that actually suits your voice.
Understanding music increases appreciation. I have always been the type of person who could be intensely elated or utterly gutted by a dramatic chord change. Now I am learning about the chords that do those things, and it honestly feels like a spiritual awakening. The♭III chord GIVES ME LIFE! The I-IV-iv progression is INTROSPECTIVE TEARS! These Neopolitan 6 chords add a little bit of OOH LA LA. The tierce de Picardie is a real eye-roller. There is so much life in these chords, and understanding the complexity of what the composer was doing really transforms the experience of listening to music. And a singer’s job is to FEEL THOSE CHORDS!!
These are five reasons why I think every singer should learn about music theory, but the big motivation I keep coming back to is songwriting. Deepening my understanding of harmony and harmonic progressions only makes me a better songwriter. I love using the new moves I’m learning about as I go.