Gina, 23, had been a big fish in a small pond; then she came out to sea!
Gina had spent her childhood and teen years at stage school, excelling in everything she did and usually playing starring roles.
But she relied on a one-dimensional approach to her singing – latching onto a single emotion (which wasn’t her heart) rather than giving truly moving interpretations.
Two Separate Worlds
Gina made a decision to train professionally and was soon being questioned at every singing class about her “stage-school” approach to work.
This is where a singer may rely on a very superficial, “up energy” presentation that lacks detail or any real character connection to the material.
While this “Saturday afternoon style” had sufficed in an amateur environment, it bore no relation to the depth of process that happens in a professional setting.
The more she was challenged, the more she clung to what she knew.
By the time she came to see me, Gina’s confidence was beginning to suffer and her sense of self to disappear; she was scoring low in assessments and had even become a little resistant to instruction – a polar opposite to her
joyful times in lead roles.
It was time for some radical measures.
The Right Song is Key
I sent Gina the score for Dusty Springfield’s hit “Son of a Preacher Man” and asked her to prepare it for the next session.
I felt it was almost as if Gina needed to re-live growing up inside the lyrics of a song in order to relate to the real issue at hand; it was the perfect scenario.
Her initial delivery was as expected, sweet, girly and loud!
So we discussed the real situation set out in the song and I asked her to think of her first kiss and remember the boy (or girl!)
Gina then slowly explored memories as she sang through the song but an additional ingredient was the real challenge for her.
It was time to unveil the ‘childlike’ world she had been stuck inside, and do a little growing up.
As she sang through the song I asked her to explore her face, lips, tongue, her upper body, shoulders, arms, heart-area.
I asked her to feel memories of the heat of a night in summer, perhaps the smell of a field or cut grass and scent of evening flowers … it was still and quiet work – at first!
Then she explored rolling over on the floor and adopting poses that allowed her to stretch and recall.
At first she struggled with the demands on her breath but once she got into the actions she began to relax and play.
The whole process took about an hour but by the end of it Gina had laughed a lot, cried, whispered, shouted and even roared … in short, she had released REAL feelings!
Let the Song Do Its Work…
The song did its work on many levels and the chorus was so apt! Gina and I have enjoyed that many times since.
Gina still visits me and always with new and evocative material to explore and she is consistently ready to explore her real self.
I have advised her to look for lyrics that will unveil real truths for her … this is what casting directors look for … a real connection between the performer and the material.
Meanwhile Gina’s grades have improved and she is now in her graduate year with a lot of promise.
As performers we have a responsibility to engage our audience in sophisticated communication that involves body language and timbrel quality in song to reflect the depth of experience we encounter in the real adult world.