Watts Happening!

Watts Happening!

Everyone has a story. Sounds obvious and maybe even a little cliche, but it’s rare to see someone really tap into their story when singing, selecting material, or even putting a show together. I often ask people that I am working with, either in a class or on a show, why they chose a particular song. Nine times out of ten, the answer is “Because I like it”. Well I would hope so! Who wants to see a show called “Sixteen Songs I Hate, and I Hope you Do Too!!”.
Make a list of songs that you sing and look at the commonality. What story is being told for you in each song? Is it an obvious story, or do you need to dig deeper? What is the innermost layer of the song? Could a traditional love song really be about your relationship with a family member? When I sang “Something Wonderful” from The King and I, it was about my father. I did that in a show over a decade ago, but people still come up to me and tell me they remember that interpretation.
When we sing we want to make a lasting impact, we don’t want to just fade into the background. A great voice would be amazing to have, but that gets old quick. What really moves people is the singer’s connection to the song, and their story that is being told through that song. Don’t just settle for your first choice. Dig a little and find the right song for you, then allow it to tell your story. Walt Whitman said “I celebrate myself, and I sing myself”. When it gets down to it, that’s all you can do as a singer. Know who you are, celebrate it, and sing it!
April 26, 2019 — Lennie Watts
A Message From The President of The Board

A Message From The President of The Board

Dear Singnasium Friends,

In Musical Theatre, it is said when a character’s emotions become too intense, it is time to sing.  Well here at Singnasium….it is always time to sing! And right now, I want to sing the praises of all who are part of our beautiful Singnasium world.

Let me start off by saying how very pleased and honored I am to be Singnasium’s new Board President and to be greeting you all in this, our inaugural newsletter!  Several years ago, when Lennie, John Koprowski and I began to talk about Lennie’s vision for a school, I had no idea that I would one day be asked to preside over the board.  Those early meetings, which happened around my kitchen table, led to where we are today. Our original mission to keep vocal arts alive in NYC is the same today, and today we are thriving.  Lennie Watts and his incredible creativity and vision lead us. Our fabulous board of directors are diverse in their talents and all very passionate about Singnasium. They have done the hard work of getting Singnasium on the map.  Our Singnasium faculty is the best in the business! They bring their knowledge, skills, experience and love of singing to every class and workshop they teach. We are graced by their presence and dedication to us. And none of this works without students.  We value the support of our fun, loyal, talented and sometimes-crazy students. We cannot exist without them. We cannot exist without you!

How will we keep this momentum going, you ask?  How will we continue to thrive? To sing aloud for years to come?  The answer is to get you all to take more classes and/or donate to the cause.  We hope you do both. Singnasium depends on donations big and small. This includes donations of people’s time as well as money.  When you think of your annual giving, we hope you will think of Singnasium. If you need a reason, think of singing as feeding our souls.  When we sing, we lift our spirits and the spirits of those around us. We take joy out into the world. We bring happiness. Plus singing just feels good!  Did you know that singing is a natural antidepressant and that it strengthens the immune system? This is a medical fact. Singing a song is more than just learning the tune and lyrics.  It can transcend languages and culture. It can reverberate into the world and effect change. Music connects us to all of humanity and does as much as feeding starvation or curing disease.

We hope you continue to help Vocal Arts Thrive in New York City.  We encourage you to spread the word about us. Tell your friends and neighbors how great it feels to sing and connect to people through a song. We give special thanks to John Koprowski, whose generosity and support is being used to pursue our mission.  We miss you John!   Finally, I want to say thanks to all of you who have given your talent, your time, your money and your moxie to our cause.  Keep singing and we’ll save the world while we’re at it!

April 26, 2019 — Kim Grogg
Teaching Artist Spotlight - Gabrielle Stravelli

Teaching Artist Spotlight - Gabrielle Stravelli

When asked what teaching artist Gabrielle Stravelli wants her students to leave her class, Swingtime, with, she exuberantly answered, “confidence!”  And Gabrielle certainly knows how to instill that in her students. A trained actor with a BFA from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Gabrielle is an award-winning jazz singer who began singing at the age of 15 as a soloist with the Orchestra of St. Peter by the Sea in New Jersey.  And she never looked back, singing on stages from New York to Amsterdam, and most recently touring Southeast Asia, Pakistan and Azerbaijan as a United States Department of State “Jazz Ambassador”.  In 2017 Gabrielle was invited to be a master teacher for YoungArts (a national organization that organizes week-long intensives for artists 14-18 years old and connects them with professionals currently working in their chosen field) and has taught extensively for the Kaufman Center's Lucy Moses Special Music School.

Gabrielle explains that studying jazz is like learning a language, and she gives her students the tools to go home and practice - she empowers them to sing this amazing artform.  Gabrielle admits that, “people get intimidated by jazz because they feel it’s intellectual, and it is, and it takes a lot of work. But jazz started as dance music. It’s joyful, fun and complex - these things don’t have to be mutually exclusive.”  

In the classroom, Gabrielle demonstrates techniques, shares exercises and has students listen to various versions of the same song to hear the possibilities.  This past winter, she and her students explored how to develop a swing feel, they practiced singing different rhythm patterns, and how to improvise. They also learned how to adjust their singing style - for example if a certain section of a song needs to sound more like a horn - how to do that vocally.  One student, Wendy Russell, commented “I thought I knew a little bit about jazz and she opened up my eyes and ears to so much more!”

In her classroom, her teaching style alternates between checking in with students and letting them inform her, while also pushing them out of their comfort zones. But the confidence piece is important to her.  She shared that when she was at the conservatory the practice was to break students down and build them back up, but she doesn’t want that for the people who study with her. They can gain that confidence without the damage.

It’s clear that Gabrielle wants her students to have fun, first and foremost.  For her, singing is her happy place, and she shares that feeling with her classes. “It’s always exciting for me to be in a room with people who have fun singing and are interested in learning more.”

And the learning is not one-sided.  For Gabrielle, teaching what she does to others, having to articulate what she is doing, reinforces her own singing and performing.  Gabrielle is looking forward to teaching Swingtime again in Fall 2019.

Gabrielle currently has a new album, Picking Up The Pieces, Gabrielle Stravelli Sings Willie Nelson, which you can purchase digitally on iTunes or Amazon or get a hard copy at CD Baby. To learn more about Gabrielle, watch videos of her latest performances, and find out where she is singing next, please visit her website http://www.gabriellestravelli.com

 

April 26, 2019 — Rachel Hanser
Student Spotlight - Laurel Lockhart

Student Spotlight - Laurel Lockhart

Singnasium student, Laurel Lockhart, has been an actor all her life, working in summer stock, dinner theatre, Off Broadway and National Tours. Being cast in La Cage Aux Folles, and going to Los Angeles with the company, starring Gene Barry, was a definite highlight. And repeating her performance as Madame Dindon with Larry Kert (original Tony in West Side Story) at the Long Beach Civic Light Opera was like a dream come true.

Television, film and Actor’s Alley Theatre Company made Los Angeles a busy place. But after one too many earthquakes, and her mother suffering a stroke, she moved back to her hometown, Pittsburgh. After her mother passed she wondered, “What to do? Move back to L.A., or back to NYC?”  She ended up going to Ireland, and then decided that New York would be home.

But when she arrived, she found the New York she knew was greatly changed. She turned her shock into art, and was inspired to write Times Square Tourist, a solo show that she took to the Edinburgh Fringe in Scotland.

Laurel came to Singnasium through our Artistic Director/CEO, Lennie Watts.  A couple of friends of Laurel’s were MAC (Manhattan Association of Cabarets) members and they encouraged her to join and go to MAC To School, a weekend of singing and performing workshops, where she met Lennie and learned about his classes. Laurel has taken The Arrangement Experience and most recently Sing Your Story, which she feels is a great class in which to improve your craft, learn new material and meet a supportive group of people.

Laurel shared, “there is nothing better than being with creative, energetic, inspirational performers and sharing the joy of music together.”  Here at Singnasium, we couldn’t agree more!

April 26, 2019 — Rachel Hanser