last words…for today!

I also HAVE to mention Renee Fleming’s autobiography. It’s honest, captivating and such an interesting and useful guide for us aspiring opera singers! I was so inspired after reading The Inner Voice. It’s easy to forget that every singer has had their own struggles, let downs and they certainly weren’t perfect from DAY ONE. I think I read The Inner Voice at least once a month…if anyone has any other great reads about opera singers- let me know!!


My final end of year recital is this Thursday (THREE SLEEPS!!!). 

I feel extremely prepared; I’ve had all my music memorised for over six months and I’ve had quite a few practises performing in the room that I’ll be assessed in. The reason I am so nervous is because the stakes are SO high! If I don’t obtain a SIX (distinction) I won’t continue as a performance major…now this isn’t the end of the world but it’s extremely inconvenient- it means I’ve had to audition for other universities (just in case) and it adds so much unnecessary stress to the performance. I want to obtain a six so that I maintain a high standard but if I don’t- does it mean I’m a bad singer? Why should ONE performance (yes ONE) decided how the rest of my tertiary education is going to play out? If I was good enough to get into the course (yes, 300 people auditioned and only 40 students got in- that’s out of every instrument as well) why don’t I deserve to continue?

The best thing that I can do is to make sure that I perform! When I wake up on Thursday morning, no-one will be able to see my nerves or any doubts because I won’t have any! I’ve done the best I can, I’ve worked hard and I know that I can do! My nerves are subsiding as I have made plans and plans and PLANS so that I can still get to where I want even if it’s not the easiest option. 

VOCAL HEALTH: I feel good today, I’ve slept for at least 10 hours each night and I’ve tried to remain as relaxed as possible. I sang for about 2 hours today and I only stopped because everyone came home! I’m happy!

I listen to archival and historic recordings. I love watching singers. I learned a lot from watching videos.
Renee Fleming

Practice, practice, practice!

They say it takes about 10,000 hours to perfect and hone a skill. Instrumentalists have the luxury of practising their instrument for hours on end…singers, don’t. Including diction, actual singing practise and technical work I practice approximately 2-3 hours a day. Out of those 3 hours, I sing for 1-2 hours and that depends on how I feel. Some days I can sing for three hours without stopping but other times I can only sit in a practise room for 30 minutes and then I’m out the door! To me, it’s not about the quantity but it’s more about QUALITY. I’d much rather have 30 minutes of quality practice rather than 2 hours of me procrastinating and doing anything other than actual SINGING. This can also depend on how I’m feeling (if I’m tired I know I’m not going to have a good practise so I aim for 30 minutes and see how I feel afterwards) or how much singing I’m doing in one day (2 hours chorale + 2 hours stagecraft= no practise today!). 

On the days that I don’t sing I focus on diction. Diction is especially hard for me as I don’t speak a second language. My goal is sound as realistic as possible and to ensure that a native speaker would understand me! I also focus on making sure I know what each word means, the overall purpose of the piece and what words I should be accenting. I also like to make time to listen to other artist interpretations (only AFTER I have learnt the piece), research the composers, librettist and general information about the song and period that it was from. 

I struggle with expression and musicality of pieces, especially when I am performing so I also allocate a time approximately once a week to seriously consider how I will use my body, face and hands to express the music. 

I know this all sounds quite intense- and sometimes it is. But once broken down these tasks are quite easy to achieve and I believe they are necessary if I want to succeed as a singer. 

P.S I include watching and listening performances as practice! Practising is not just about singing it’s about everything that accompanies singing!

Day One

I thought I’d begin a blog to share my development and attempts at becoming a classical trained singer. I’m 19 years old, and am about to complete my second year of University studies. 

I’ve been having voice lesson since I was 15 years and began taking singing “seriously” (i.e. practising every day, reading, listening to classical music) when I was 17 years old- basically after I had auditioned and been accepted to Uni.

I come from an extremely unmusical family and wasn’t introduced to classical music until I was 13 years old; My school participated in a collaboration of choirs from all over the state. I can’t remember what we sang apart from; Ave Verum Corpus- Mozart. It was a 300+ choir with an accompanying orchestra and I had never been so excited in my life! The full sound of the tenor and basses was something I had never heard before. I remember going home after our one performance together and staying up all night on the computer googling “classical music”. 

This passion subsided for a while and it was until I was 15 years old that this passion for “classical music” was reignited. I was extremely lucky to see Opera Queensland’s version of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. By the end of the opera I was sobbing my eyes out and had tears streaming down my face throughout the applause. Although I had been moved so much by this production, I had a smile across my face the entire time. I enjoyed the opera so much; but was yet to consider that I could be Madama Butterfly singing Con onor muore.

When I first began voice lessons I had what I like to call a little girl voice; breathy, small, light with little “substance” and NO vibrato. It took me over 12 months to get rid of the breathy quality this was succeeded through “twang”, breath support and little but of Alexander technique. By the end of school (two years of vocal training), my voice was bright (more twangy than anything), I had a little bit of vibrato AND my breath support was quite strong. My voice was gradually beginning to have a warmer quality but in comparison to other voices it was still quite thin. 

With a change of teachers at the beginning of 2010- due to me being at university it was like starting new. My teacher new about my old habits, what I had been learning and focusing on but had a fresher outlook on what I could become. I’m not saying my previous teacher was “lacking” she is extremely talented and I would be lost without her guidance but it’s always great to have a new teacher and I know I will feel the same when I change teachers again, again and again!

Throughout 2010 I focused on a warmer tone quality and more forward, energetic and resonant sound. I struggled throughout 2010 as I had moved 1 hour and 1/2 away from my parents (and yes, I was still 17!), graduated from high school, lost some friends, was trying to make new friends, working and most important STUDYING. I improved but it was nothing too drastic and to be honest I was concerned, I never expected to succeed straight away especially as I am still quite new to the “opera world”. My end of year recital came and I was prepared, I sang my best and walked away feeling calm and happy with my achievements of my first year of uni. 

At the beginning of this year I began second year. Now, a little catch to second year is that you MUST get a distinction (6) or more to continue as a major in Musical Performance. I was extremely lucky this year. Everything seemed to CLICK! From week one, every week my voice changed it became bigger, forward, resonant and rang on every note. Now, I’m not saying that I finally reached “perfection” I still have so much to learn but I achieved goals that I have been working towards for the past two years. It was a major rush every week walking out from practising or my lesson and knowing that I was getting…better. 

I would currently describe my voice as; forward, resonant and energetic. My voice has grown but it still quite small ( I may never sing Puccini BUT that means I can sing more Mozart, Grieg, Flotow!). My tone is fairly consistent but it’s obvious that I am still young. (Our voices don’t completely develop until we’re approx. 25 years old and an opera singer’s peak is until around 30-35 years old) So I still have a VERY long way to go. 

I’m still unsure if I want to or will be successful in becoming a WORKING opera singer, but only time will tell and for now I’m going to be working as hard as I can. 

My goal for this blog is to share my struggles, accomplishments and everyday progress and setbacks that I will come across. 

My first post was EXTREMELY long and I promise this is a one off 5 billion word post (:P) Some posts will be long, others will be extremely small but I hope this will be useful/interesting for whoever comes across this blog!