Claudia’s approach to singing begins with story and character, using the vocabulary of theatre training to build personal connections to song, singer and audience.
Wherever and whenever Claudia is touring, her SongShop masterclasses are available to schools and communities.
We work with singers at various levels of performance experience, from ages 12 and up. Here’s an opportunity for theatre and music students to strengthen their interpretative abilities in song, for professionals to get a fresh look at their work, and for amateurs to experience working with one of the country’s most exciting vocal performance pedagogues.
This is a workshop that uses the concept of intimate “cabaret” work (i.e., communicating “up close and personal”) to enhance ANY solo and small ensemble singing.
We create an environment of respect, a place to nurture confidence and risk-taking.
Choosing the performers
Do not limit the selection of performers to those with the “best voices”. Strength of conviction and communication along with basic musicality is for our purposes just as important as quality or range of voice. There have been many singers (Mabel Mercer, Lotte Lenya, Martha Schlamme, Julie Wilson come to mind) whose voices when beyond their prime still enraptured their audiences. How did they do that?
Selecting the songs We work with songs from any genre as long as there is a story to tell: opera, folk, art song, rock, jazz, musical theatre.
The essence of most singing is story-telling. Not all songs are narrative, as in “I was lonely, we met, we fought, we loved, happy ending” and not all songs “move the plot along”, but we will discover that most songs are about changes from beginning to end; an emotional discovery; or a music-and-word-painting of a scene or character in which a story is implied.
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, we’ll forego songs whose main purpose is to get people up and dancing. That’s a whole other story.
The chosen song can be well known; it’s the mark of creativity to make a popular song distinctly our own or to uncover new songs. We’ll be looking for the humanity and humor in every song, even serious ones.
The songs can be in any language as long as the singer can explain it word by word.
Singers may be accompanied by fellow musicians (on piano, guitar, accordion, etc.). In fact, we encourage it. The accompanists will be fair game as well. They can learn a lot about how to hold their end of the story and how to breathe and enunciate with the singer.
The auditors play an important role as well. Every performer needs an audience. An audience of one’s peers can be the toughest crowd to win over. The audience should come with as open a mind as possible: embrace the effort, applaud the new discoveries, be on the lookout for the process and not just the end result. Auditors who are also singers will get a lot out of the exercise if they keep their own songs in mind as they listen to the comments. Finally, auditors are often used as “foils” and asked to be on stage to serve as the object of affection or derision, the sympathetic ear, the person to whom the singer is talking.
All in the timing
For the master class, please allot 15 minutes for each singer (90 minutes would allow us a maximum of six performers). Where we have the luxury of time, we can work over extended periods up to three hours.
Four or more sessions in sequence offer us the opportunity to fine-tune, deepen and address more aspects to the performance process. They allow us to return to a song over time, to recognize and challenge the “easy” patterns we fall into, and to bring to our work more awareness of the changing times, from inside and outside the classroom. Some SongShops conclude with public performance opportunities. The proof of progress is in the sustained ovations!