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BUILDING YOUR SKILLS With Richard Sparks: “When rehearsing, even early in the process, particularly if you’re drilling a phrase or section of the music, start varying what you do (tempo, ritardando, dynamics) and show changes with your gesture, expecting the singers to follow. This gives you many more reps in learning how to control what the singers do with gesture alone. Don’t wait until the dress rehearsal to experiment!

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RICHARD SPARKS — My Most Meaningful Mentor. “It’s hard to separate out all aspects of Eric as mentor, but so many opportunities have come from my work with him. There’s so much repertoire I’ve learned due to him. Approaches to sound (even though few of us have the level of voices of the Radio or Chamber choirs), and intonation have also come from him. And incredibly important is his work ethic and dedication. Eric lived for music and this showed in his every approach to music, music-making, and his choirs.

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PAUL CAREY has more information on Project Encore, a website and movement dedicated to getting works that have already been premiered a second hearing. I heard about this project a few years ago and think it’s great. Even when a work is favorably received, sometimes it doesn’t easily get performed again.

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RENEE FLEMING is Thinking About Retiring In Several Years: “I’m really happy with my opera life – 54 roles was a lot to learn and perform and so I think I may leave well enough alone. I have another three years of various new productions and so I’m not stopping yet – let’s not put the cart before the horse, but I’m thinking down the road.

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IMPROVING SKILLS, PART 5: “One of the areas I’ve learned you have to be very careful is in working with intonation (you can find my Intonation series through ChoralBlog or my own blog). Allowing your ensemble to sing (even for a surprisingly short period of time) under pitch can build that in so it’s very difficult to overcome.” I have found it important to have students focus on phrasing and articulation even when in sectionals–it pays off later down the road.

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SCOTT DORSEY HAS THOUGHTS On Music Education: “If we continue to argue that music is best for supporting learning in other subject areas, we sell ourselves short, and we will never take our rightful place in the center of the curriculum, with the other ‘core’ subjects.  If the only thing the public hears from us are words that put our subject in a subordinate position, then that’s what they’ll believe at budget time.  No one would dare try to cut math, or science; ask yourself why that is.  You’ll never hear a math teacher argue that her subject supports learning in another area.  It’s time we started talking about our discipline in terms that illustrate its true importance.” I think of it this way–every culture has had music, even before they had bridges and computers. We have always valued it above everything else save for food, water, and shelter.