I Want to Sing!

What to Expect at SongShop sessions

This is a class of discovery and process. Each participant gets an average of 20 minutes dedicated to the development of his/her chosen song. The workshop is conducted in a democratic space, led by Claudia. Participants are encouraged to give thoughtful feedback throughout the workshop. This group technique combines the benefits of one-on-one coaching, rehearsal, and performance.

  • For each song, we ask the performer to explore the sense of place, character, poetry; to examine the specific moments and changes within the song, and in the process make the song their own.
  • At live sessions, SongShop is joined by a pianist/coach. Singers are welcome to be accompanied by fellow musicians (on piano, guitar, accordion, etc.). In online sessions, we explore more closely the text, context and subtext of your song.
  • Auditors are actively engaged in the process and play an important role. We are each others’ audience.
  • While not a vocal technique class, we attend to healthy vocal production. And refocusing the work on our interpretative intentions, on our need to communicate, can immensely improve diction and physical problems.

How to choose? Whether it’s Broadway, pop, jazz, folk, aria or art song, choose from your heart.

  • Each singer should bring one or two songs to the session. They can be of any genre: American Songbook, folk song, jazz standard, musical theatre, opera aria, art song, pop and contemporary, as long as there’s a story to tell. (Do the lyrics stand on their own? Could you say these words to someone who needs to hear them?)
  • During each session, we’ll work on one of your songs. The second song is on hand in case, a) the first song is so spectacular there’s nothing to add, b) it’s so uninteresting there’s no way to save it as a piece of theatre or c) we have enough time to work with both songs.
  • Your song can be well known or unknown; it’s the mark of creativity to make a popular song distinctly our own or to uncover new songs. Your song can be in any language as long as you can explain it word by word.
  • While participants may use a session to prepare for an audition of some sort, songs for this workshop need not be “suitable to your type” nor will they be coached to match a particular performance style.
  • We are usually drawn to a song by the way it “speaks” to us emotionally. Often times it is the melody that draws us in at first. Let’s make sure the words are equally attractive. For that reason, please forgo songs whose main purpose is to get people up and dancing. That’s a whole other story.

Preparing for each session

Learn the music and lyrics before bringing a song to class. It need not be memorized. In fact, you’ll find that songs are easier to memorize as a result of our explorations.

Hand-write the lyrics of your song before the session. Include for the record (and because it’s always good to give credit where it is due) the name of composer/lyricist, publication date if known and its source if movie, musical, opera, song cycle. This seemingly simple piece of homework helps start the process of identifying the song as your own and getting to the meat of the matter.

If possible, bring 3 copies of the sheet music. One for yourself, one for the pianist and one for Claudia. The pianist will thank you for having the songs in a 3-ring binder or pages taped in series. Bring a notebook to write, remember and reflect on the process. We encourage you to audio record your own work.

As with an actor creating the backstory for their character, ask yourself in advance: What is the set-up for the story in this song? Where am I; to whom am I speaking; what happened before this moment to cause my response in song? What is my next action? How do I feel at the beginning; what changes?

We use a variety of theatre tools to draw out specific choices, including John Barton’s text work from “Playing Shakespeare”, Sanford Meisner’s “in the moment” emotional work, Michael Shurtleff’s Audition guideposts for character work.

For more details about our toolkit, see the ten-page Syllabus. When you’re ready, fill out its last page of “Elements and Expectations”.

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A performing arts collaboration