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teen-adult recital

Why You Should do our Teen-Adult Recital

The following was written by our Program Manager, Anne.

Okay. So let’s pretend that you’re an adult. I don’t have to pretend, unfortunately. Now pretend that you really love music. Again, I am not pretending. I really love music. Third thing, pretend that you have decided to take lessons, and your teacher mentions that the Molly’s Music Teen/Adult Recital is on November 5th and they would like you to perform. That teacher might be me. And now you feel concerned because performing can be terrifying. So here are my top 5 reasons why you should perform at the Teen/Adult Recital:

1. Everyone is in the Same Boat as You

You don’t need to worry about going up to perform after someone whose performance would make Beyonce jealous. While everyone is at varying levels of ability, everyone is a student. They are all learning, and growing as musicians. They are all making mistakes and having victories in their lessons, just like you. Everyone else is nervous to perform. But most importantly, everyone there wants you to do well. Your teacher, the other teachers, me (I’ll be there because I coordinate the recitals. You can look at me. I get scared performing, too), the other performers, your friends and family, their friends and family, everyone wants you do to well.

2. You’ll Never Be Perfect

If you feel like you need to reach a certain level, or get to a certain point in order to perform at a recital, you don’t. There’s nothing precious about performing. You can’t break it. And most importantly, you won’t feel more comfortable with it and get better at it until you do it. However, I don’t want you to confuse perfection with preparation. You definitely want to know your song!

3. You Are Better Than You Think You Are

You’ve already improved. If you’ve been going to your lessons, listening to your teachers, working hard on making those changes that they’re asking you for, then you’ve already improved. You’re better than where you started. You’ve worked hard, and you can show off all of that hard work to your friends and family.

4. You Never Have to Do It Again

If you’ve never performed before, it’s possible that you’ll really like it. Performing is my favorite thing to do (my second favorite is visiting National Parks, and my third favorite is reminding my cat that I have thumbs and she doesn’t). It is also possible that you won’t like it. And if you don’t , you don’t have to do it again. But what if you like it, and you never get a chance to try? This is a laid-back setting that’s friendly and supportive, and a great place to find out.

5. It Is a Goal

If you’re really nervous to do it, then use the recital as a goal. Bring that one song that you really want to sing, work on it with your teacher, and then get up there and sing it. And no matter what happens, you’ve done it.

For more information on our next Teen-Adult Recital, or to RSVP, please contact me at programs@mollysmusic.org!

Student Spotlight: Lily W.

Student Spotlight: Lily W.

This month we had the pleasure of interviewing a wonderful student I’ve had for many years, Lily, for our Student Spotlight. In fact, she’s been coming to lessons for so long that the last time we wrote about her was when she got cast as the lead in her junior high musical, Once on this Island, and now we’re writing about her again in her senior year of high school. Anyone who’s heard Lily at one of our recitals knows what a fantastic voice she has, but what most people don’t know is how intelligent, mature, and thoughtful she is. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that I’m working with a teenager, and I’ll talk to her as if she’s one of my adult friends. Full disclosure: her voice has gotten so good that I’ll occasionally sit back and accompany her during lessons with a lollipop in my mouth knowing full well that she’ll make it through the song without needing any corrections. For anyone who hasn’t gotten to hear her yet, here’s a clip of her singing “Rise Up,” by Andra Day at our last recital.

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

LW: I don’t even remember how I really got started with music, it was just something my mom threw me into when I was little. My first “production” (I guess you could call it that) was Beauty and the Beast when I was 4, and there were about 10 Belles because we all of course wanted to be the princess. After that I spent a few years in camps and productions at a local theater doing children’s musicals, until finally I came to Molly in sixth grade! All together, I think I’ve been singing and playing piano since I was 3 or 4!!

MM: Which do you like better, and why?

LW: I definitely like singing better, but I am so grateful for my knowledge with the piano because I can play and sing along with any song on my own whenever I need to. I enjoy singing more because I feel like it gives me more options and opportunity for my own expression through voice. It is so amazing to me that I could sing a popular song just as it was originally written, and I sound completely different from the artist. Vocal music gives me so much more range and room for improvement and interpretation, and building my own sound is something that I’ve striven for in my years of singing.

MM: Who are a few bands/artists who have inspired you, and why?  Desert island album?

LW: An artist that has inspired me since a young age is most definitely Kelly Clarkson. My mom and I would blast her album and belt our hearts out, and that’s where my passion for belting came from. In fact, the first song Molly and I ever did was “Breakaway” by Kelly Clarkson, and I think we’ve done every single other Kelly Clarkson song since. Singing her songs, and failing at the high belts, gave me a goal and a real idea of what I wanted to sound like, and I now can proudly say that Molly has finally gotten me to a point where I can actually hit the belt notes! That was a proud moment for me after going to about 10 Kelly Clarkson concerts and never being able to make it through the whole song!!!

MM: So I know you maintain a busy profile on SoundCloud. How long have you been recording for that, and what made you decide to start? How often do you try to post a new song, and any new ones people could look forward to, if you’d share the link?

LW: I started posting on SoundCloud about 2 years ago now because it’s a place where I can share my music and the best versions of it, because I can record as many times as I need to get the song perfect. In the beginning, I posted almost weekly, and now I don’t record or post as often as I would like to, but I’m trying to get back to the microphone in the next few weeks. I try to cover songs that everyone knows and would really want to listen to, and usually I find those by getting suggestions from my friends or even trying softer piano covers of electro pop songs. My next songs I’m planning to try and record are “Rise Up” by Andra Day, “America’s Sweetheart” by Elle King, and “Lost Boy” by Ruth B. The link is https://soundcloud.com/lilyawoodall!

MM: How else do you like to share your music? We’ve seen you at plenty of our recitals – any favorite performances there or outside of us? What song was it, and why was it special? Do you still get nerves, and if so how have you learned to handle them? Any juicy stories about forgotten lyrics or sweaty hands?

LW: I would say my favorite performance to date is my first teen adult recital last year where I sang “If I Ain’t Got You” by Alicia Keys and “Hometown Glory” by Adele. It was such a great venue and a really nice crowd, and I don’t think I have ever felt so comfortable in a performance before or since then. Still now, “Hometown Glory” is one of Molly and I’s favorite songs for my voice. This performance in particular was pretty special because I had just gotten my wisdom teeth out a week before, and I couldn’t even open my mouth all the way yet!! Nerves have never been a major problem for me, but I totally still get a little shake in my leg and shortness of breath right before I go on stage, but I feel like I always find my comfort in the first few lines of a song.

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

LW: I get so so frustrated whenever I struggle with a high belt note or a run I can’t quite master, and Molly knows best the absolute determination that takes over for me to get it. I would say that I overcome these struggles just by pushing through and not letting myself get discouraged, because just because I can’t get a note on a certain day doesn’t mean it will never happen. Whenever I can’t get a belt that I know I’ve done before, I complain that “my belt has left me” but I know that it always comes back. I think the greatest we’ve ever struggled with a song was a few years back when I was trying to master “Girl On Fire” by Alicia Keys for a recital, but I kept getting tired and distorted after a few belt notes. I look back on that and see how frustrated and angry I was at myself and it’s funny because now I can sing that song effortlessly.

MM: What would you like to be doing with your music in the next five to ten years?

LW: I’m not planning on studying music in college, but it’s not something I would ever abandon. I’m really set on keeping my interest in music alive and continuing to sing whenever I can. A major thing I looked for in my college process was an all-access rule for non music major students to be able to use the music facilities at any time. I don’t know if I’ll still be doing music but it’s a passion that I never want to lose.

MM: I know college applications are coming up for you. Any thoughts on schools that interest you, or majors you’d like to study?

LW: I’m planning on studying political science and international affairs, and most of the schools that I have applied/am applying to are in the south. College is something I’ve been looking forward to for a long time, but I am 100% ready to get the stressful process over with and hear back from all my schools!

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

LW: Stick with it. I know the feeling when it seems like you just don’t have any time for that hour singing lesson, but I found singing to be a break and a sense of calmness for myself over the years of stress and schoolwork in high school. There’s always time for the things you care about, and singing lessons was something I chose to make time for and it’s been such a source of joy for me even now!!

Student Spotlight: Leesel T.

Anyone who was at one of our last two teen-adult recitals will remember this month’s Student Spotlight, Leesel. Amidst the many talented teen alt-rock singers, Leesel was the dynamic Broadway singer belting out Sondheim and Kander and Ebb with the magnetic stage presence. A triple threat (that is, a singer, dancer, and actress), Leesel performs throughout Southern California.

MM: Introduce yourself to the readers! How long have you been singing – how did you get started, where do you want to go with it?

LT: When I was little I was terribly shy. My mother didn’t know what to do with me so she put me in a summer musical theatre workshop hoping to cure it. Well, it backfired because I never left. I sang in choirs and shows growing up and started taking voice lessons on and off when I was 13. Honestly, I think the shyness stuck around more than I thought because I never felt confident in my voice. I always considered myself an actor, then a dancer then lastly a singer. BUT I always loved it. I studied Musical Theatre in college at The Univ. of Mississippi and moved west to LA after graduation to pursue a career in acting. With that move I really kind of put away my dance shoes and voice and focused more on straight acting for film. After a few years I realized, even though I was working I wasn’t really artistically fulfilled. I wound up spending a lot of my days walking in to commercial auditions, saying one line and walking out. Not a whole lot of character development there. I found my way back to the stage in SoCal but still focused only on straight acting. I think I was nervous to step back into musicals where, though I loved them, didn’t feel the most confident. About 4 years ago I decided to step away from acting as a career but found myself back on stage a year later. This time solely for the love of it and it has been wonderful. I started working with Molly about a year ago and I was very surprised by how quickly all of my vocal studies came back to me. What I was most surprised by though, was the confidence I had found in my voice. Apparently singing along to the car radio can be good training. I’ve realized that singing is something I love to do. I may not be the very best at it but my voice is my unique instrument and I have the privilege to share it with others and tell stories through song.

MM: Molly said you’ve been in Choc Follies. Tell me about your experience  and how you got started doing that.

LT: Follies is a really amazing organization that puts on an original musical every year with all proceeds benefiting the Child Life Department of CHOC. To date CHOC Follies has raised over $7 million for the hospital. The cast consists of about 100 Community and Civic leaders from throughout Orange County. My husband introduced me to the organization and encouraged me to audition. This was my first step back into theatre after stepping away professionally so I was apprehensive. But it was for an amazing cause and decided to go for it. CHOC follies really helped me rediscover my love for theatre and specifically musicals.

MM: How do you share your music with family, friends, or your community now, and in the past?

LT: Sharing music with my family and friends is in some ways new to me. With my increased vocal confidence I have found myself participating in Molly’s recitals and sharing those performances with my friends. I’m always singing around the house and have an amazing support group of friends that always attend my performances. I’m excited to step into the community a little more and pursue some theatre endeavors here in Orange County. 

MM: Do you have a favorite musical theatre actress who inspires you or whom you feel you can relate to?

LT: I absolutely adore Sutton Foster. I love the quirky characters she chooses to play and the way she tells a great story through her songs. She doesn’t just sing, she is talking through the song and sharing a great story with the audience. She has an amazing voice and is a true triple threat. I actually had the privilege of seeing her perform in Violet on Broadway and was blown away by the subtlety and depth of her performance. It was really neat to see someone who is known for her big showstopping numbers take on a dramatic role outside her wheelhouse.

MM: What’s your favorite musical? What’s your dream role?

LT: Favorite musical is The Sound of Music (my mom named be after it so I feel like it was meant to be). My dream role would be Millie in Thoroughly Modern Millie.

MM: What’s your favorite song to sing right now?

LT: My favorite song right now is one that I just performed at the recital called “I Think That He Likes Me.” It’s a really cute and funny song that tells the story of a girl realizing her best guy friend likes her. It’s quirky and really fun to perform.

What It Means To Be an Artist Development School: A Photo Recap of our Teen-Adult Recital

Last Sunday, we had our teen-adult recital at AoSA Coffee House, and we couldn’t have been happier with it. Our students performed everything from Elton John classics, to modern pop and alternative rock, to Broadway show tunes. Many accompanied themselves on keyboards, guitars, and ukuleles, and every one of them was exciting to watch. The wonderful evening got me re-thinking about what it means that we call ourselves an artist development school.


Lily W. accompanying herself on “Skinny Love.”

No Pre-Packaged Program

First, it means that we don’t have a pre-packaged music program that we ram down students’ throats. The reason we had so much diversity up there and such a wide range of vocal styles is because our goal is to develop students in a direction they have some interest in. If they don’t have any interest in being classical musicians, we don’t create a program where they have to sing or play classical music and then get to do contemporary styles for “dessert.” I’ve always hated that metaphor. Singing and playing music of any style should be the main course and dessert all rolled into one. Whether you’re singing Katy Perry, Sondheim, or Mozart, it should be a lot of hard work, along with a lot of fun.


Mia S. accompanying herself on “Riptide.”

Encouraging Vocal Students to Learn Accompaniment Instruments

Many of our music students have previously taken instruments and given up on them. It’s easy to understand why: Learning an instrument is a massive time commitment, and many teenagers don’t want to spend the next year trying to learn how to sight-read “London Bridge.” But you can learn a chordal approach to accompaniment fairly quickly—no time-intensive sight-reading required. Don’t get me wrong. Learning to read music as an incredibly rewarding skill, but it isn’t necessary if all you’re looking to do is accompany yourself on contemporary music. Learning to accompany yourself is liberating, because it means that you don’t have to rely on other people or on pre-recorded karaoke tracks every time you want to try out or perform a song. It greatly lowers the bar for getting music gigs, and even makes learning to write songs much more intuitive.

Liam W. practicing "Upward Over the Mountain," by Iron and Wine.

Liam W. practicing “Upward Over the Mountain,” by Iron and Wine before the performance.

Teaching Students to Interpret a Song

There’s more to teaching a song than making sure the singer is hitting all the high notes and isn’t straining. Singers should use their strengths to put their own unique spin on a song. Our teachers have taught the songs “Ain’t No Sunshine,” “Hallelujah,” and “Feeling Good” to a countless number of students, and each one brings something new to the table.

La Nee M. getting ready to sing "Ain't No Sunshine."

La Nee M. getting ready to sing “Ain’t No Sunshine.”

Flexibility in What Each Lesson Looks Like

Once a student is advanced enough and doesn’t need to work on the basics at every single lesson, we try to be flexible in our instruction. One day a student may need help learning chords to a song for her next performance, while the next week, it makes the most sense to spend the lesson giving her a vocal exercise regiment she can use before performances. Of course, some students thrive on just having a consistent lesson routine that covers a little of everything at each lesson.

Bridgette B. about to sing "The Show" with her ukulele.

Bridgette B. about to sing “The Show” with her ukulele.

Giving Students Real-World Performance Experience

If you’re looking into getting into doing commercial music performance, chances are you’ll start by playing local venues, like coffee shops, bars, and restaurants. For our teen-adult performances, we like to find places like this so that our students get some practice performing at the types of places they’re likely to encounter while trying to “make it” in music.

Daisy D. getting ready to sing "No Myth" with her uklulele.

Daisy D. getting ready to sing “No Myth” with her uklulele.