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You know that stress dream that everyone has at one time or another? The one where you’re standing up in front of a giant group of people and something goes horribly wrong? You forget your speech, your voice cracks, you’re not wearing pants. Well that dream became a recurring reality for me my senior year of college (not the pants part thankfully). Mine was the singer’s nightmare. The one where you open your mouth to sing and the voice that comes out is not your own.
As a child and an adolescent I loved to perform. Singing wasn’t something I thought about; it was something I just did and as a result I was totally fearless. When I got to college the concept of thinking about singing as a science was entirely new to me. My teachers taught me to release my jaw and tongue, to inhale into my back and belly, to use muscular antagonism of the inspiratory and expiratory muscles, to keep my larynx low and stable, to lift my palate, and many other mechanics of singing. At first this new focus on technique was interesting, but eventually all of the technical language resulted in confusion. Every time I opened my mouth to sing I was afraid I would do something wrong. The result was a voice that was only a shadow of the one I used to call my own.
What happens when we’re afraid? In his article “The Anatomy of Fear,” John A. Call discusses the body’s reaction to fear: the heart-rate speeds up, our muscles tense, and the breath becomes fast and shallow.
The implications of this for a singer are huge. In singing the first rule of the inhale is release low. When a singer releases and expands through the lower body (belly, low back, and intercostals), it allows these muscles to work in tandem on the exhale. This gives the singer the ability to manage the air much more efficiently than if he/she had begun by expanding through the chest and clavicles. If a person is experiencing fear, the ability to take a low and relaxed or released breath becomes quite difficult.
Certainly singers need to learn proper singing technique, but sometimes I wonder, what is all of this focus on the physical costing us as artists? There was a time in my life when I operated solely on musical intuition. But as I learned more and more about the mechanics of singing I began attempting to operate on facts and science instead of artistic impulse. I don’t mean to suggest that I didn’t need to learn the mechanics—I had plenty of technical issues. But perhaps there is a more holistic approach to teaching singing that could facilitate proper technique without the loss of instinct.
After I graduated from college I took some time off from singing. When I decided to return to it I knew I needed a different approach. I had been practicing yoga as a form of exercise for a few years, but I felt confident that with the right guidance it could really help me as a singer. So I sought out a voice/yoga teacher.
Yoga session at sunrise in Joshua Tree National Park – Warrior I pose. Photo by Jarek Tuszynski. Creative Commons License via Wikimedia Commons
My new teacher, Mark Moliterno, taught me that yoga recognizes that tension in the body is often a result of physical or psychological blockages to the breath. The practice of yoga seeks to release tension and free the breath. When properly implemented in the voice studio, yoga can be a pathway to efficient vocal technique and artistic freedom.
Mark pointed out that all of the confusion and fear that had built up during my college studies had caused me to physically disengage from the lower half of my body. So we set to work using yoga to reconnect me with my lower body and help me feel more secure in my singing.
We used postures like Tādāsana or Mountain Pose and Vìrabhadrāsana One or Warrior One to release tension in the body and connect me with the ground. Feeling my leg muscles engaged and my feet planted firmly on the floor helped me to feel more secure. We used pranayama or breath exercises to release tension within the muscles of the respiratory system. We used hip openers to release the tension in my jaw, and shoulder openers to release the tension in my tongue.
We did yoga and made music. Not once in this entire process did I think about any of the mechanics of singing. My technique improved because my body was open and the breath could function naturally and efficiently. Yoga was like this miracle that freed my voice and allowed me to trust myself again. But it isn’t a miracle, it’s a science that takes into account all parts of the person, and not just the anatomical.
Carrie -Yoga shoot #002. Photo by Joel Nilsson. Creative Commons License via Wikimedia Commons
When singers start trying to function as anatomical machines, seeking after flawless technique, we can lose the ability to sing authentically. Yoga helped me to learn to sing with good technique without focusing on it, and dissolved the fear that kept me from trusting my musical instincts. It released the tension in my body and mind, unleashing the breath, and offering me a pathway to artistic freedom.
Mezzo-soprano, Laura Davis, is a singer, conductor, and voice teacher. She holds a Master of Music degree in Voice Pedagogy and Performance from the Catholic University of America and a Bachelor of Music degree in Sacred Music from Westminster Choir College. Recent performances include Suzuki in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, Dina in Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti, and Third Lady in Mozart’s The Magic Flute. After spending 10 years on the east coast conducting, performing, and teaching, Ms. Davis has returned to her home state of Colorado where she is in the process of opening a voice studio based on a holistic approach to singing.
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5 Stars Silly Frilly Grandma Tillie Laurie A, Jacobs Anne Jewett Flashlight Press 32 Pages Ages: 5 and up Inside Jacket: Sophie and Chloe are lucky that their Grandma Tillie knows how to be royally silly. To their delight, whenever Grandma Tillie babysits she seems to disappear, only to be replaced by a parade of [...]
From inside jacket: Little Crow loves to sing, and Papa Crow loves his song. But when Little Crow shares his crow songs with the other birds at the big old tree, they laugh and scatter. Maybe the Amazing Mockingbird can teach him to sing songs with the finches, flycatchers, and cardinals—and help him make some friends. But Little Crow should be careful what he wishes for . . .
Using Mockingbird’s tip, Little Crow becomes the most popular bird on the block. But, in a moment of danger, he learns that singing someone else’s song can have terrible consequences and that his own voice—and his father’s love—is of the greatest value.
Little Crow so desperately wants a friend he will do most anything to get one, even if that means fitting in to the point of losing his own identity. When he begins to sing like the other birds, he is welcomed, becomes part of the group. What Little Crow does not realize is the cost one incurs when making a major change to fit in with the crowd.
For Little Crow, singing the other bird’s songs to fit in and have friends could cost him his life when a hawk appears overhead. Little Crow is in danger and sings out, Papa Crow does not understand it is his son singing out—he no longer recognizes Little Crow’s singing.
Little Crow said, “Per-CHIC-o-ree!”—Heelllllp!
“Poor Finch,” said Papa Crow.
Little Crow sings out, “Fee-beeee!”—Help me!
“Poor Phoebe Flycatcher!” said Papa Crow.
Like Little Crow, kids do not like being different, they want to fit in with the crowd and be accepted. Those that do not dress as the others dress, speak as the others speak, or act as the other act are often shunned and ridiculed by those that do meld into one. But the group looks, speech, and actions often do not have room for individuality, originality, or creativity. That can be hard for a kid to understand when all they want to do is fit in, have friends, and not be teased.
Little Crow had lost his identity. His Papa no longer connected Little Crow’s singing to Little Crow. In a time of need, Papa Crow could not reach out. As a social worker, I love these types of books. Kids need to know it is okay to be themselves; to act, speak, dress like themselves and not anyone else. Fitting in with the crowd is not always the best idea. I have seen smart kids trade their intelligence to fit in and lose much more than they ever gained. Kids who are different for any reason will lose what may be the best part of themselves simply to fit in.
I like Song for Papa Crow because it can open up a dialogue between parent and kids. The story can help kids understand that fitting in may not always be the best thing to do.
The illustrations, also created by the author, are beautiful collages. There are many birds, depicted in their wonderfully layered shades of color, on every page. On Papa Crow’s head, the feathers are short and look soft. The feathers making up his tail are long and smooth. You can see the strength in the hawk and the sudden fear in Little Crow.
In addition to a good story about preserving one’s identity, there is a short primer on North American birds. I really like this book. Song for Papa Crow is a beautiful book, with thick pages for the younger kids, interesting bird facts, and a good story that can teach kids to stay true to themselves.
Teachers, school social workers, and others who regularly work with kids will find this book immensely helpful. Parents can use the story to open a dialogue about fitting in and being true to one’s self. Kids will like the illustrations of the birds and can use the book as a guide to the birds in their neighborhood.
Song for Papa Crow is a good story for any time or reason. For collectors, the illustrations are beautiful and this is the first complete book by now author and illustrator Marit Menzin.
The Illustration Friday prompt this week, vocal, and the CBIG prompt for this month, friends, worked well with an old color sketch I did of a moose and girl. I made a few changes and polished up the art, and here it is.
The girl and her moose friend love to sing and dance!
This video was made in the Antwerp, Belgium Central Train Station on March 23, 2009. With no warning to the passengers passing through the station, at 8:00 AM., a recording of Julie Andrews singing 'Do, Re, Mi' begins to play on the public address system. As the bemused passengers watch in amazement, some 200 dancers begin to appear from the crowd and station entrances. They created this amazing stunt with just two rehearsals! Turn up the volume & Enjoy!
The internet is an amazing tool. It brings the world to your finger tips and it affords you the opportunity to met people you would never have met.
Recently, an enterprising young woman namedAmy Robbins-Wilson contacted me. She has a Google alert for the word lullaby. Since my bedtime picture book is titled Day's End Lullaby, Amy found my site.
Here is a short description of Lullaby Link:
Lullabylink.com is dedicated to serving parents who would like to incorporate music into their lives with their children. At Lullabylink.com we believe in the power of music to link generations. We further believe that lullabies and baby music are crucial in the development of the arts in our culture. If our children learn that music comes only from “professionals” or from the t.v or radio box then they will learn to be consumers. If they learn that it comes from all people, they will learn to be creators.
Lullabylink.com provides parents with lyrics and melodies to over 40 lullabies and ideas as to how to use music with their infant, their toddler and even with babies in the neonatal intensive care unit. Studies report that there is a decrease in the number of parents singing to their children. We hope to be a part of reversing that trend by encouraging parents and giving them the tools they need to interact with their children musically.
We invite you to Lullaby Link. Come get your free lullaby lyrics songbook and mp3’s! If you have any comments or suggestions for our site we would love to hear from you.
What a wonderful and unique idea.
I'm not going to give everything away now though, Amy will be our guest soon and we'll learn a lot more about her and Lullaby Link. Be sure to come back!
Sully’s Topsy Tale is a wonderful rhyming story about a solo singing snake with laryngitis. Children will be thrilled as Sully’s friends all try to help him with his problem. In the end Sully recovers and discovers in the process that it is good to have friends as they make beautiful music together..
Donna J. Shepherd’s rhymes are delightful and have a wonderful message about friendship. Kevin Collier’s illustrations are colorful and humorous, and will definitely make children giggle. Donna and Kevin are a winning partnership.
This is the third book in the Topsy Tales series. This book is suitable for children ages 3 to 7. The back cover includes definitions of musical terms used in the book. The book is endorsed by a licensed and certified speech-language pathologist for use in articulation therapy for the letter “s”.
I’ve recently read a few new books that aim to teach our children Spanish the old-fashioned way: with songs and nursery rhymes. There are a plethora of computer programs that can be used to learn foreign languages but many language teachers will tell you that vocabulary and practice are the only real ways to learn a foreign language. What better way to learn new words and practice them over and over again, but by learning catchy songs and nursery rhymes?
Following are some recently published books that caught my eye:
by Heide “Pina” Madera (Author), Christina Spangler (Illustrator)
Reading level: Ages 0-3
Paperback: 14 pages
Publisher: Sing-A-Lingo (2009)
Source of book: Publisher
Buenas Noches, Amigos by Heide “Pina” Madera is a “singable” book that can be incorporated into a child’s bedtime routine easily since it follows a little boy, his cat, and a mouse on their journey from bath to bed to sleep. The book comes with printed music and words for two songs and–in a more modern twist–these can be downloaded from the publisher’s website to accompany the bedtime routine.
by Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy (Authors), Rosalma Zubizarreta (English versions) and Vivi Escriva (Illustrator)
Reading level: Ages 2-7
Hardcover: 48 pages
Publisher: HarperCollins (2010)
Source of book: Publisher
Muu, Muu! Animal Nursery Rhymes by Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy is a collection of traditional Spanish nursery rhymes and their English translations. The book is full of beautiful Latin American-inspired illustrations with lots of colorful images.
Just got this note: "Congratulations! Your ebook has been declared a finalist in Dan Poynter's Global eBook Awards."
This is my favorite of the Topsy Tales. I'm so glad Sully's Topsy Tale received this recognition!
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Video courtesy of MacmillanChildrens: “Watch this book trailer video and see The Babies on the Bus sing la la la! The Babies on the Bus is a picture book for children by best-selling author and illustrator Karen Katz. Follow along as this adorable children’s picture book comes alive in this video!”
Platform: iOS 4.0 or later, Also available in the Android Market.
Launched on January 12th of this year, SoundCloud is not the first sound recording app, but I would argue that it is certainly the most polished. SoundCloud gives users the ability to record sounds, with the choice to then share them publically with friends and followers or keep them private. When you first employ the app, you will be prompted to create a free account by designating yourself a username and password along with the option of adding a photo to your profile. The next step is to choose sounds or people to follow. By searching for people, you can find your favorite music artists and the new sound bites they record. Just like with Twitter, real bands have the “Official” seal of approval on their account so users know that it is, in fact, the actual artist or band behind the account. This is a great way to hear new music that hasn’t even been released yet. Fans can get a sneak peak of what is coming down the pike and musicians have the ability to get their music out before the album is released.
Not only does this app have excellent features for music fans, but it’s also, ideal for aspiring musicians. SoundCloud is the perfect way for budding teen artists to record their sounds and share them with the world. The sharing featuring links to Facebook to help the user locate friends who also use the app as well as to post sound recordings, for others to hear. Within the app there is a tab called “stream,” where you can look at recent activity within your follower community. From there, you can also listen to new sounds complete with timestamps noting when they were originally posted
The app is not even a month old, but I can foresee this being a very useful tool for teens who are into GarageBand, YouTube, and many of the other music-inclined apps available for mobile devices. The social networking angle will be most appealing for teens who wish to get “discovered”. For tweens and teens who may not have a Facebook account, the option to keep your sounds private is most appealing. Recording your sounds and keeping them private is like a new spin on journal writing for teens. Instead of writing down lyrics or poetry in a diary, they can now be recorded with or without instruments. Youth librarians may find this app inspiring in creating a variety of programs with children and teens. I’m personally anxious to find out if and how teens are using SoundCloud.
Someone sent me a link yesterday in my email and I opened it but didn't take the time to watch the video because I was tired or busy--doesn't matter. What does matter is that while my life would have been enriched last night, it wasn't until this afternoon that I felt the rush of excitement and empathy during the watching of this video. All I could think was: Never judge a book by its cover or a person by their appearance. OMG! What a gem the world has finally uncovered. Continue reading →
Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens… Primula taught me this song today, all about favourite things, as sung by Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music. And it got me thinking about my favourite things. So, I thought I’d share them.
1. Primula (of course) as it was her that taught me to sing. 2. Singing. Almost any song will do, but I specially like happy ones. 3. Hugs. I’m a hugging kind of a guy. The world would be a better place if more people would hug more often. 4. Poetry. Both writing it and reading it. Again, especially happy ones. 5. Blogging. I love being a blogging bear. 6. Friends. There are lots of them here in the toy room. 7. Laughter. I love hearing other people laugh. It never fails to make me happy, too.
Primula taught me this song this morning, and the other toys had fun joining in, even though most of them aren't bears. Primula said it didn't matter - she said people love this song, too.
So, after a little singing session was over I started wondering about other songs about bears and I went cruising the Internet. I think google was created just for curious bears such as myself, to satisfy our whimsical curiosities.
Anyway,I found a whole lot of songs about bears, here. I've heard Teddy bear's Picnic before (I think I've even blogged about that one), and of course Primula has been teaching me Teddy bear, teddy bear, but I was surprised just how many there were. My favourite was You are my teddy bear sung to the tune of You are my sunshine. I wonder if I can get Primula to sing it to me?
But some of the songs I didn't like, because they suggested bears are scary and should be hunted or run away from. One even mentioned a gun! I think I might have nightmares tonight.
No I won't - because Primula is here with me, safe in the toyroom. She's a wonderful friend, is Primula.
This Upcoming Tuesday - June 10th - - 8PM ET– Mary Jo Huff speaks about early literacy begins with rhythm rhyme & story time on the Art of Storytelling with Children.
Mary Jo writes…
Language is critical for literacy development and storytelling creates an interactive bridge. Music, repeated phrases, and actions provide connections and invite participation by children when they become part of the storytelling event.
Working in schools demands that the storyteller is tuned into the state literacy standards. Storytelling connects many types of standards but I am only concentrating on the literacy connection. A good story challenges a child’s auditory, visual, and kinesthetic skills along with a phonemic awareness.
Performing in schools as a storyteller gives a teller the opportunity to address some reading readiness components such as repetition, retelling, rhyming and sequencing. When teachers are aware of what the stories have to offer they are amazed at the children’s reaction. Children develop their oral language skills by learning to tell and retell stories. They learn about their world, other cultures, visual imagery, moral and social issues and they increase listening skills.
Literacy standards connections to look for when telling stories for children:
• Phonological Awareness
• Understanding Stories
• Book Awareness
• Word Awareness
• Story Enjoyment
Mountains of information are available for review and it can be mind boggling. Check out these organizations for documentation of literacy standards and review for connections to your type of storytelling.
• International Reading Association
• National Council of Teachers of English
• National Association for the Education of Young Children
Play with the sounds of language using songs, rhymes, chants and stories. Get excited about what you do. This life of mine is a passion and I work at it everyday in one way or another. Over the years I have been successful because I spent 35 years in the trenches with young children and also attended numerous conferences and developed a love for my life. I rely on my experiences to connect my storytelling to the world I live in and to share my experiences with anyone who will listen!
More about Mary Jo
I have 35 years as an Early Childhood Educator and 20 years as a storyteller. I believe in my heart that children who listen to stories develop a great vocabulary and understanding of their world. I used storytelling in the classroom and began visiting schools, libraries and doing workshops for teachers and librarians. In this period of time I have been in all but 7 states and visited with thousands of children and adults. Children need excitement, music, props and I like puppets with my storytelling. I am not a puppeteer I just play with puppets and I play with story.
Today I work as an author, storyteller, consultant, teaching artist and granny-on-the-go! I am a good traveler and my fluff goes with me wherever I go to tell stories. Children are hungry to hear a good told story and they connect especially when there is a little rhythm and rhyme. I have 7 books published and working on a couple at this moment along with 3 CDs and my favorite a new DVD called “Fairy Tales, Fantasy, and Storytellin’ Fun!.
Batman's eyebrows expert Carrie Harris has tagged me. Careful I don't tag you (evil laugh, which isn't really that evil at all).
Four goals I have in the next five years:
1. Sign with an agent. 2. Buy agent lots of pressies. 3. Make agent very rich. 4. Perfect evil laugh.
Four places I will visit someday:
1. New York 2. San Francisco - probably around the time the earthquake hits. 3. Pompeii 4. Hawaii
Four of my favourite foods:
1. Chocolate 2. Tuna Salad 3. Scouse 4. Pancakes with heaps of sugar and lemon juice. YUM!
Four jobs I've had:
1. Croupier - until the wee ball flew off the roulette wheel and travelled down a 'not-very-happy' man's arm. 2. Encouraged people to gamble in a betting shop - until a knife incident. 3. Scraped food off plates in a restaurant - never ate in that restaurant again. 4. Filed HIV reports.
Two places I've lived:
1. Morden Street :) Where I grew up 2. Radnor Place :) Where there were ghosts
Two places I'd like to live:
1. The unadventurous answer - Southport 2. The slightly more adventurous answer - San Francisco
Four things I'd do with my spare time, if I had any:
1. Learn to fly a plane (a small one not a jumbo jet). Though I can't drive a car!!! 2. Watch DVDs, read books, veg out. 3. Spend more time with my nephews and niece. 4. Learn to sing!!! (okay, why did the room just empty)
So who do I tag, EVERYONE!!! Only kidding - do it if you want to and don't if you don't.