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Student Spotlight: Brooke Boyce

Student Spotlight: Brooke B.

Brooke has been a pleasure to watch mature. Though only 7-years-old, she’s extremely accomplished, performing the National Anthem in front of thousands of people, participating in our Pop Star Camp,  singing for Talent for Epilepsy, and attending most of our studio recitals. One of the kindest, most humble, and supportive kids you could meet, she’s beloved by her teacher Anne and the whole staff at Molly’s Music.

MM: What are some of your favorite hobbies, outside of music? Favorite school subjects, books, movies, shows, sports?

BB: Some of my favorite hobbies are soccer, art, guitar, and track.  My favorite school subject is reading, favorite book is Diary of a Wimpy Kid and The Well, I love the whole series.  My favorite movie is Parent Trap.

MM: How did you get started with music, and how long have you been singing?

BB: I got started in music because of my papa, Jerry.  He put me in the classes at Molly Music with Miss Anne.  I have been singing for about two and a half years or so.

MM: What have been some of your favorite performances, and why? How do you share your music with others, beyond recitals?

BB: One of my favorite performances was at the Pop Star Camp last summer.  I sang Katy Perry’s “Firework.” I liked dressing up for the final performance and watching all the kids learn how to sing their song throughout the whole week.  Another favorite performance was singing the National Anthem before a baseball game.

MM: What makes you keep up your practice, and what are your goals?

BB: Miss Anne is a really good teacher and I love seeing her.  My number one goal is to have fun. Another goal is to sing the National Anthem at the Angels game.

MM: Who are a few bands/artists that have inspired you, and why?

BB: Katy Perry, P!nk, and Luke Bryan.  They inspire me because they have good voices.  I think Katy Perry and P!nk are great performers.

MM: What are some of your favorite songs, and why?

BB: Some of my favorite songs are “Firework,” “The Greatest Show,” and “Try.”  I like these songs because they make my happy.

MM: Can you share about a technique, skill, or song you struggled with, and how you are overcoming or have overcome it?

BB: Right now, I’m working on “The Greatest Show.” It’s a little bit difficult.  I’m going to overcome it by continuing practicing and trying until I get it right.

MM: I know you’ve done a lot of national anthem performances. Do you have a favorite one? Is it nerve wracking singing in front of all those people, or do you feel pretty calm?

BB: My favorite one was my very first one for the San Bernardino 66ers.  I feel pretty calm.  I don’t get nervous at all.

MM: It was so great having you at Pop Star Camp last year! What was your experience like? Do you have a favorite memory or a favorite part of it?

BB: I had so much fun that I want to do it again this year. My experience was a positive one.  I really liked watching all of the kids kind of struggle with their songs in the beginning of the week and see how far they come with the song by the end.  I had such a great time.

MM: What advice do you wish you had at the beginning? What advice would you give to other students just starting out?

BB: I’m not sure what advice I wish I had at the beginning, but I would tell students that are starting out to always try your best and believe in yourself.




Audition for San Diego Opera

My Audition for San Diego Opera

The following was written by our voice teacher and resident opera singer, Anne after her audition for San Diego Opera, one of the top opera companies in the country.

Friday night, I stood outside a building in San Diego at 9:10pm. I double checked the email again, and punched in the number code written, slowly and deliberately, as the email had mentioned I should. I waited a second, the door clicked open. I was in. Marble floors accentuated the click of my heels as I caught my reflection in the ornate mirrors to either side of me. The building had a 1920’s feel to it, and it felt way too classy for me to be in. What the heck am I doing here, I thought. I was nervous.

Two weeks previous to this night a good friend had texted me to let me know that San Diego Opera would be having auditions for their chorus for the upcoming season. Now, San Diego is one of the top opera houses in the United States. Principal work there would require management and years of experience. But chorus work, now that was something I was fully qualified for. I had tried to audition for them years ago, before my resume was built up, and had been rejected without them ever hearing me (which is not uncommon). But now I had a resume. And also, apparently, all you had to do this time was pick a time. I went online, filled everything in, and chose April 20th at 9:51pm. So there I was, dressed up, with my binder stocked with audition rep, nervously shifting as I waited for the elevator to descend.

Of course, there really wasn’t a blank between those two weeks. Between those times was a lot of preparation. Some of the work had already been done. What makes opera auditions different from musical theater auditions is that they the way we choose our songs varies. I am not worried if the song is overdone (trust me, one of the songs was Mozart. It is, without a doubt, overdone). When they say they want two of contrasting style, it is more a contrasting time period than a ballad and uptempo song. Both my arias were uptempo. One was written in 1789, the other in 1946. Believe me, they were contrasting. And these aren’t 36-bar cuts. They are the full thing. I memorized them, sang through them, worked out the characters on them, had actually already performed one of the roles, and sang through them multiple times. I had all of the information that was emailed to me and I was ready to go. And I was back in my car, having gotten to the parking lot at 8:00pm, if not earlier, waiting for 9:30, the time I told myself I would go in. It was 9:10. I was nervous. I knew looking at my music would make it worse, so I decided it was time to go in.

I walked to the building, a sign on the door letting me know that I was in the right place. Deep breath. This was the big time. Punch the code in, walk inside. Deep breath. We were here in the first paragraph, I hit the elevator button. Deep breath. Walk into the elevator, hearing the empty click of my heels. Deep breath. Enter the code into the keypad, choose the floor they tell me to go to. The elevator lurches up. I remember to breath. I get off the elevator and turn down the hall.

A woman is sitting at the desk in the room at the end. A sign tells me that this is the San Diego Opera Corporate Offices. “Are you Anne?” I am taken a back. I’m not late, am I? There is no way I could be late! “I thought I was early…” I respond. “You are. But so was everyone else, and there was a long break before you. Are you ready, or do you want some time?” I tell her that I just need to get a drink of water, if she can point me to a water fountain or bathroom. She does. My mouth is incredibly dry. I drink water out of the tap in the bathroom and look at myself in the mirror. Here I go.

I walk back into the room and tell her I’m ready. Why sit around and wait anymore. She types
to them and tells them that I am ready. Then she waits. We make small talk, which has never been one of my strong suits. Just breathe, I tell myself. You found that space today, you can find it again. You know what you are doing. The good thing is that there is no one ahead of me. There is no one for me to judge myself against, or pressure myself to sound like. I have a light voice, operatically speaking, and nothing gives me an inferiority complex like some woman singing Violetta’s death aria with long, silky, legato lines when I know I’m going up there next with a song that is literally laughing into a telephone. The laugh requires a high D, I keep telling myself. Time passes, they don’t respond. I find myself staring at a poster. I have no idea what the heck opera that is supposed to be. The woman gets up, she is going to tell them that I am here and ready to go. She doesn’t think they saw her note. I am amazed that anyone can walk into an audition room with such nonchalance. I long for that.

“They’re ready for you,” she tells me. I go in. The room is small, there is a woman at the piano, and two men sitting at a table. I am taken aback. This is the same situation as every other audition I have ever done. A person at a piano. Two unimpressed looking people sitting at a fold-out table. I’ve done this before, I tell myself. I’ve done this a hundred times. I hand the accompanist my music. I stand in front of the two men. “Hi, my name is Anne LaBella, and I will be singing “Una donna quindici anni.” I forget to tell them it is from Cosi Fan Tutti by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. To be fair, I’m pretty sure they knew that.

Let me break in my narrative quickly to inform you that for the last four months I have been doing an intensive through a vocal studio in Los Angeles. This intensive is for singers who, like me, know what they are doing. When I work with a student, I can hear what needs to be changed and I know how to fix it. But humans have an amazing way of getting in our own way, and artists of all sorts seem especially prone to this. In auditions, I would find myself locking up. That freedom and ease I feel on stage was replaced with the single thought, “They are judging me. I want them to like me!” I had made breakthroughs with this intensive. I noticed areas of tension dropping away, my mindset changing to more healthy ways to view my singing, and an ability to make the necessary adjustments in the audition that I need to make. This audition was the culmination of a lot of that work.

There is no introduction to the Mozart. The pianist plays a “D,” and then I take it from there. The placement of the voice felt good. It was hard to tell, the room was dead and I did what a singer should do; I relied on what my body was telling me and not what my ears were telling me. My ears would tell me to push, that I needed to be louder. But my support knew better. It knew what to do, and I let it. I placed the voice where it should be, and proceeded to inform the auditioners that once a woman hits 15, she really should know how to keep the attention of all men and never actually give them anything for it, and I, Despina, know what this is all about. I distinctly remembered to “drink in the sound” (inalare la voce, if I were to use bel canto
terms) at the end of the aria. Okay, that was the one I was worried about. I messed up some words, but I kept going. Did they know, yes, probably. But it’s okay. It is done.

“Thank you,” one of the men says. Okay, this is it. It is over. They are going to send me out. I’m not going to do any of the sight reading. They didn’t like me. “Can you sing a bit of the Menotti for us?” “Of course,” I say.

Now, here is where I make a mistake. I forget to tell the pianist my tempo. I didn’t for the Mozart, but remember, this is an opera audition. We all know Mozart. He is bread and butter. As a classical singer, if I could only ever sing one composer for the rest of my life, it would be Mozart. If I could only ever sing two composers for the rest of my life, it would be Mozart and also Mozart. You get the idea. But the Menotti, while accepted within the general circle as proper canon (I mean, the song is in the Schirmer book of soprano solos after all) is a little less well known. I don’t give her a tempo. She plays it slowly. I don’t blame her. There are a lot of notes on that page, and about 30% of them make little sense.

I proceed to then ignore the auditioners while I talk to Margaret on the phone. Margaret talks a lot. To be fair, so do I. I also laugh a lot. There is a video on YouTube of a white fox laughing. That is what my laugh sounds like. I keep waiting for them to stop me. We are 2/3s done by the time they tell me to stop. I messed up the runs. I don’t actually know if they know that. I kept singing, and ended with the pianist, so there was that. I also laugh really well, if you are interested in casting someone who can play a fox. They should have let me finish though. The ending of the song is part of the joke.

“Okay, thank you.” I’m ready to leave again. “Please go over there and take a look at measure 45.” I look at measure 45. It is marked Soprano I. How did they know? “You can sing on solfegge or any other syllable of your choosing. This is the tempo.” He beats the tempo. I sing. I sight read a lot. I do it for my job. I’m pretty good at it. But you know when you are pretty good at something and then you get nervous and suddenly you are terrible? That isn’t quite what happened. I did pretty well. The ending got a little weird. I breathed after I was done.

“Okay, can you look at the top paragraph. There is a translation underneath if you want to read that first.” It is a joke in Italian. I look at the translation. I look at the Italian. I can do a quick, basic translation in my head, so I am able to line up the important words. I tell the joke as if it were a joke. I stumble on a word. I keep going. I very much want to cry.

“Okay, thank you very much,” they say. I can’t tell if being there for that long is a good thing. I say thank you to them and to the pianist. I say thank you to the woman sitting at the desk. I go down the elevator, which doesn’t need a code if you are just going to the first floor. I walk out of the fancy, bright lobby into the dark San Diego streets. I walk to my car that is in the parking lot across the street. I get in, turn the key, and breathe. That was the most important audition of my life, and also the one where I felt the most in control and the most competent. Success.

Student Spotlight: Tessa A.

Student Spotlight: Tessa A.

Meet Tessa, Anne’s talented voice and guitar student. Tessa is extremely versatile, singing and accompanying herself on everything from pop to musical theatre. Recently, she made it through three rounds of America’s Got Talent, getting chosen to sing in front of the executive producers. We’re excited to hear whether she gets called for the next round, but regardless of the outcome, we’re so proud of her and know she’ll go far with her music.

MM: How did you get started with music, and how long have you been singing and playing guitar? Why guitar?

TA: I always liked singing but started to formally take lessons when I was 6 (~three years ago). I’ve been playing guitar for just one year and wanted to learn an instrument that I can use to accompany my singing.

MM: Do you share your musical skills with family, friends, or your community? How?

TA: I pretty much sing at every family gathering and I also try to do open mics and recitals every chance I get.

MM: What makes you keep up your practice, and what are your goals?

TA: I have a really fun time practicing and my goals are to start writing my own songs by the time I’m twelve.

MM: Who are a few bands/artists that have inspired you, and why?

TA: I love Coldplay because Chris Martin has great vocals. I also LOVE Sam Smith cause his voice delivers so much emotion.

MM: Can you share about a technique, skill, or song you struggled with, and how you are overcoming or have overcome it?

TA: When I was working on “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” I worked really hard on my breath support so I can hit the high notes. Miss Anne helped me improve so much.

MM: What advice do you wish you had at the beginning? What advice would you give to other students just starting out?

TA: To always remember to connect with  the emotion of a song I’m singing. The most important part of singing is making the audience feel a new emotion, and if you don’t connect with the song then the audience wont feel it either.

MM: I heard you had a great AGT audition! Tell us about it! What did you do for your audition?

TA: The AGT auditions were really fun. Lots of crazy acts and talented artists. It was a great experience, and even if I don’t get in it was a great feeling to get to sing five songs for the executive producers.

MM: How did you feel going in? Nervous? Excited?

TA: I was just very excited and a little nervous.

MM: What was the most memorable thing about the experience?

TA: The most exciting part of the experience was when I got to sing for the show’s executive producers.

MM: How are you preparing for the next rounds of the process?

TA: Not sure I will make it to the next round. For now I just practice like always and if I get in I will sing from my heart.

How to Prepare a Song for an Audition

How to Prepare a Song for an Audition or Performance

The following is written by Anne, one of our top voice teachers.

How to Prepare a Song for an Audition or Performance

With the audition season for school musicals, community theater musicals, OCSA, SOSCA, college auditions, or recitals and performance opportunities around the corner, let’s talk a bit about song preparation. For the sake of this blog post, we are assuming that you have already chosen your song (and if you haven’t, then be sure to check out Molly’s great blog posts about that, or ask your teacher for help!). Whether you need one song or five arias, let’s break down the steps to figuring out how to learn a song. As an added bonus, you can use some of these steps to learn a monologue as well! And remember, your teacher is more than happy to help you with any of these steps, but don’t forget that working at home is important as well.

1. Listen to the Song

First thing is first. You have to know what a song sounds like in order to sing it. Once you find your song, find the sheet music or the lyrics (if you read music, sheet music is definitely the way to go!) This next step is important even if you sort of know the song. Listen to it. Find a good clean recording that you like, and listen to the song while following along with the music. At this step of the game, don’t try to sing. Just follow along, and mouth the words as you go along.

2. Sing the Song

Second thing is second. Now you have to try to sing it. This step is best done first with your teacher to catch anything that you might have missed, or been confused about when you were listening, or even heard people do different ways. I do want to make a note that if you’ve been listening to the song (which I know you have because this is step two, and therefore you’ve already done step one), don’t try to sing it exactly like the singer you heard. If they speak lines that have notes, sing the notes. Just sing the notes and words that are on the page. We’ll go back later and get those extra things that help our performances pop.

If you are learning an aria in a foreign language, or even English, there are a lot more steps involved in one and two. They include speaking the language out loud and then in rhythm. Sometimes you want to take the words out and only sing the melody on a syllable. Your teacher will definitely be able to guide you on this.

3. Understand the Song

Okay, so. We have now learned our song. We have the pitches down, the rhythm down, and we know where the words should go. We’ve sung it through a few times with accompaniment (either live or a back track). So we are done, right? The song is prepared. Nope. Is this because we need to memorize it? Also no.

The third step is to understand what you are singing. No one writes a song because they just want people to sing random sounds, even if they seem random. If your song is from a musical or an opera, figure out where it comes in the story. Who is the character? What has happened to them before to make them sing this song? What is the song about? If the piece is commercial, you still aren’t off the hook. Look up when the artist wrote the song. What were they going through at the time they wrote this? Get some emotion behind what you are singing.
Foreign language singers, this is the time to translate those words, if you haven’t done so already.

4. Incorporate Movement

The final step is to decide if you are going to add any physical movements. Do you want to move your hand here for emphasis? Step forward? Move your head away? Turn (but make sure not while you are singing!)? These are all decisions that you can make to help to enhance your performance. Remember that you can talk these out with your teacher in your lessons as well. They might have ideas on what would be effective as well.

5. That’s All, Folks!

But wait! you say. Hold up. Nothing in there talked about memorizing the song. The thing is, if you have gone through all of these steps, and “lived” with the song, you might not need to memorize the song at all. By the time you are ready to give it some good run throughs at your next lesson, you probably already know it. However, if you have gone through all of these steps and still haven’t memorized it (and I know this has happened to me), then memorization is your absolute final step. Before performing, of course.

Student Spotlight: Eli K.

Student Spotlight: Eli K.

Meet Eli, one of the vocal students Anne most looks forward to working with. Anne praises Eli’s beautiful voice and is excited about the considerable amount of progress he’s made vocally–smoothing out his registers and gaining more openness in his upper range. Anne also appreciates a student who knows which songs he wants to work on and who’s always ready. It shows a high level of commitment. Eli might be nervous about public performances, but we all hope he’ll be willing to do one of our Teen-Adult Recitals one day so that we can get a chance to hear him.

MM: How did you get started with music, and how long have you been singing?

EK: I have been singing since I was four or five, when I would sing along to Korean children’s music in the car, or our national songs when it was not appropriate during my trip in Korea at 5 (embarrassing for my mom, lol). I would sometimes sing in front of the church that my aunt attended when I was little. I started playing the violin in the 4th grade, but got busy with college life and stopped entirely during the first year of college. I have also played the French horn since the 8th grade, and was in the marching band and orchestra all four years of high school.

MM: Do you share your musical skills with family, friends, or your community? How?

EK: I sing for my family and friends all the time, but singing in front of a community is another story. I always feel anxious whenever I must do some kind of presentation or performance (violin recitals) so I tend to avoid singing in front of people, whether it is a small or large audience.

MM: What makes you keep up your practice, and what are your goals?

EK: I am always singing along to my favorite Korean/American music in the car, my room, in the shower, or anywhere where people are not present (he he)! I’m always incorporating techniques that I have gained through my singing lessons. My personal goals are to continue extending my vocal range, taking baby steps towards performing in the community. Unrelated to music, I want to own a successful private practice as a Play Therapist.

MM: Who are a few bands/artists that have inspired you, and why?

EK: SoHyang and YounHa are my favorite Korean solo artists. SoHyang is like the Korean version of Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, and Celine Dion combined, and I love her ability to sustain high notes, and her head voice is very angelic and heavenly. Some people say she is not human. I also grew up listening to Disney music, and I continue enjoying singing along my childhood Disney songs.

MM: Can you share about a technique, skill, or song you struggled with, and how you are overcoming or have overcome it?

EK: I am always aspiring to sing like SoHyang. I want to expand my vocal range, but when I get up to the higher notes, I struggle. It is still a work in progress. I need to relax more, and apply all the different techniques in getting to my upper register.

MM: What advice would you give to other students just starting out?

EK: Have an open communication with your vocal teacher about your goals, pick songs you enjoy, be patient, and record your lessons so that you can practice the warm ups throughout the week to keep your throat healthy!

Pop Star Camp

Pop Star Camp 2017

The following is written by our Program Manager/Pop Star Camp Lead Teacher, Anne.

Pop Star Camp 2017

I wrote last year about how much I wish I had gone to a camp like our Pop Star Camp when I was younger, and I am happy to announce that, while my days of going to summer camp are long gone, we will be presenting our 2017 Pop Star Camp!

In many ways, the camp will keep the trusted format we’ve been using for the last two years. Campers will be choosing a song that they would like to sing, and will be working that week to get it prepared for a final performance at the end of the camp. There will be microphone technique, working on stage presence and performing, as well as tackling one of the toughest issues for a lot of performers: stage fright. And we’ll go out with a bang as campers perform for their friends and family backed by a live band.

But we have some different aspects of the camp this year as well. One of those is that the camp will be in a new performance space. It will be our own venue that will have a more “pop star” feel and that we will have the freedom to use in a way that best fits our performers. It will feel like a sold-out concert when they get the chance to get up and sing at the end of the week. Along with expanding the one-on-one time with vocal coaches, we will be exploring more ways to take performances up to the next level, and will be incorporating more media aspects into the camp. We also will be adding a second performance on a Sunday, where campers will share the stage with our Studio M performers.

This is a great opportunity for anyone who was in our ASP classes during the school year to keep singing over the summer, and a great way for our Studio M members to get some more one on one and solo experience. And if you’re already studying privately with one of our great teachers, here is a chance to get a song learned and ready and performed in a week, which can help you learn a lot about yourself as a singer.

We hope to see you at our Pop Star Camp over the summer! If you would like more information, you are welcome to email me at programs@mollysmusic.org. You can also call or text me at 714-747-6966. I’d love to talk to you more about our camp, and help you get signed up!

Songs as Monologues

Songs as Monologues: Expressing the Character While Singing

The following was written by our Program Manager and voice teacher, Anne. She discusses how songs should be performed, much the same way as an actor would perform a monologue.

Songs as Monologues: Expressing the Character While Singing

The voice is a unique instrument. First, it is an instrument that is, quite literally, us. The shape of our heads and necks, our very genetics, add to that specific sound that is ours. Second, because we are able to speak, voice is the only instrument that also uses words, and this fact alone opens up many avenues for expression that aren’t always open to other musicians. But even with this incredible ability to tell our audience what we are feeling, we so many times take it for granted, and the words, while we may have them memorized, might fall a little flat.

Let’s go back to the world of an actor. Actors have two basic sorts of things to read. They have dialogues (conversations between two or more people), and they have monologues (a long speech by one actor). Dialogues are what move the plot forward. They basically tell us what is happening. The monologue is when a single character is discussing how he or she feels. It isn’t moving the story along, but it is giving more depth to the character.

Now let’s take a step closer to music. Opera is a play that someone put to music. There is no qualifier here; that is actually all it is. Dialogues are now called “recitatives,” and monologues are now called “arias.” If we move out of the world of opera and into the world of musical theatre, the monologues are replaced with songs, and the dialogue stays as the spoken parts that move the story along. In other styles of music, such as jazz, pop, and rock, we have gotten rid of the dialogue. All we have left are albums filled with monologues. Does that mean that we abandon the story? Oh no. Sorry, we don’t get out of it that easily.

We as singers have the ability to use words, but a lot of the time we forget them. Many composers are very good at setting words, and, to be fair, many songs are more about the music than they are the words. But we can’t leave out this important aspect of the song. We get to use words, and that means that we should do so thoughtfully.

When I am working with a student on a song in preparation for an audition or a recital, I like to discuss with them what the song is about. What do they think it means to the singer? What does it mean them? What is it that they are trying to tell the audience? You can use this concept to help you with your musicianship as well. What is the shape of the song? Does it make more sense to be loud or soft here? Are we giving too much in the beginning? Does it make more sense to be airy here, and do we want to go into a full belt on this refrain, or save it for the last one?

An exercise that you can try by yourself is to look at the lyrics and ask yourself what the important words are. Which ones are we headed toward in the melody? Go ahead and underline those words. Now, when you are singing, try making those your “landing points.” Don’t treat every single word exactly the same, but instead create a phrase where that underlined word is the one you focus on. What does that do to the song, and how does it change your interpretation of it?

Words have a lot of power. Don’t let that power go to waste.