It's March 21, and the trees are starting to blossom around Nashville.
Today, we had a vocal lesson with Emily Speck.
This is an experience that WannaBeatle David has been advocating enthusiastically for several months. He keeps telling us we could be better.
David is certainly the best singer in the group, and has a teacher's natural ability to explain - although he knows that a more experienced vocal coach like Emily would be able to explain it better to the rest of us.
David says if we only put in the time to learn a few basics and apply them, it would make a huge difference. So today's rehearsal was the time to move ahead with that goal, with an hour with Emily.
Emily Speck is an experienced and respected vocal teacher. She's just finished a two week run as vocal teacher for Les Miserables, the ground-breaking and impressive production at Belmont. (Ground-breaking in that Les Miz, despite being on Broadway many years, and now a successful movie, has never been performed at a college or school before.)
Emily is married to Jake Speck, the managing director of Studio Tenn, (www.studiotenn.com) the new local theater company that is making quite a noise.
WannaBeatle Nathan has been very involved with Studio Tenn, having played on many of their productions. He played for, and even wrote original music for their original staging of "A Christmas Carol," which ran two weeks at the Franklin Theater in December.
As an indication of how the company is growing, that show is moving to TPAC for this year.
Emily showed up with a water bottle with the sleek Studio Tenn logo on it. She showed us a photo of their 2 year old twin boys. And after some brief catching up on how good the Belmont students are in Les Miz, we got down to work.
Emily gave us a CD with about 20 exercises on it. David is making copies so we each can have one, and can warm up with it in our cars, every day, but especially as we drive to gigs.
She ran us through some exercises, and gave us essential tips on protecting the voice. Caffeine is not good for the voice. Cough drops with menthol are not good - the menthol dries out the vocal muscles. Water is good.
She gave us the fundamentals of breathing, how the diaphragm supports the breath, and how the ribs should expand as we inhale.
Emily Speck, at Dennis's studio, giving us vocal pointers.
On one of the exercises, Emily spoke about the pharynx, which is located above the larynx. She spoke of the sensation right before a yawn, or the way your face feels when you open the freezer door and get a blast of cold air. This was her way to show us what the pharynx does.
And I got it. I could feel that space - for the first time. And I could see (actually feel, and hear) how that space affects notes I sing - making higher notes more clear and full and easy. David was hearing it too, and glad to hear the difference. We had one of several fist bumps of the day.
We tried certain songs that have presented problems for us. "Yes It Is" was one. Emily made suggestions about Dennis's vowel sounds, and immediately we could all hear a difference.
We sang a bit of "Michelle," where David, Nathan and I do the sweet background parts, as Dennis sings lead. Emily helped us find a warmer "ooo" sound, and even though Dennis already sounds good on the song, he found a new level of confidence and warmth that came out on the bridge.
We are fans of Emily!
And when we get to work on the exercises she's given us, we'll probably become bigger fans of the WannaBeatles, and hope others will join us.
Bloggin' Bryan 21March13