Beyond taking our classes and connecting with the broader Singnasium community, our students often floor us with their talents. Ann Talman is one of those students.
Ann is currently taking Swing Time 1 and 2 and loving it! But before enrolling in Singnasium, Ann put together an amazing one-woman show that was made into an equally amazing, award winning short film about her brother who courageously battled cerebral palsy.
The synopsis of the film captures it perfectly: "Family legend is that Ann was 'ordered up' in 1957 by Woody, eight and severely cerebral palsied. He did not want to be alone in the world if anything happened to mom and dad. Being non-verbal was no obstacle. He’d touch mother’s stomach and dad’s lap and wave his hands like wands. She was nicknamed Woody’s Order! Her destiny: 'To be thy brother’s keeper just in case.' In childhood she embraced it. Woody was a real live doll to care for. But she had another destiny. At twenty-two she debuted on Broadway as Elizabeth Taylor’s daughter. She wrote a hit solo play which opened in her hometown, Pittsburgh. This short film, which premiered at Tribeca, captures Ann performing portions of the solo play for Woody on a New York stage. Interwoven are stunning home movies that capture their lifelong bond."
We feel very privileged to share this beautiful tribute with all of you, but ask that you do not share more broadly (e.g., please do not post to social media, etc.)
Watch Woody's Order (16:15 min).
"If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?"
--Percy Bysshe Shelley
The days are short, the nights are cold but if you listen closely, you can hear music in the air. Singnasium is in full swing with more classes than ever. Computer screens all over the country are lighting up the faces of people who refuse to let the winter blahs, and an almost year long quarantine keep them from lifting their voices, staying connected, and fulfilling their need for music in their lives. The Singnasium family is growing and we couldn’t be happier to be building this very special community of artists.
If you haven’t experienced the Singnasium community, now is the time! Check out one of our classes, or join us at our free, monthly open mic, SINGapalooza.
Stay safe, keep warm, and keep singing!
One of the newer Teaching Artists on the Singnasium roster, Jerry Phelps, teaches the very popular, Piano for Singers. Students flex their muscles by learning how to accompany themselves while they sing. We recently reached out to Jerry to get a peak into his world.
Tell us a little about your musical background.
If you could do a duet with anyone, living or dead, who would it be, why, and what song?
What an impossible question to ask a singer! There are so many voices I love, but I'd probably say Cece Winans or Brandy. I spent much of my adolescence trying to learn every single thing they did vocally. They both have that rare combination of insanely versatile and flexible voices and a genuine sing-from-their-toes sort of tone.
How did you get into teaching?
I don't ever remember not teaching. When I played school with my sisters and cousins as a child, I was the principal. I've always felt like a teacher and knew that much of my life would be teaching others.
What have learned over the last year during the pandemic?
I've learned to love and hate Zoom. I love how much it can keep us connected, but I miss making music in real life. I've been joking, but I'm pretty serious when I say: I CANNOT WAIT TO PAY $8.50 FOR A FLAT DIET COKE AND A RUDE WAITRESS IN A CABARET ROOM!
What are the first three things you are going to do when all of this is over?
Hug the people I love for a very long time. Go out dancing. Sing on a stage!
We are thrilled to announce the fall 2020 lineup of online classes and workshops! In addition to the popular Singnasium classes you love, like Arrangement Experience, Sing Your Story, SwingTime, and The Training Room, Grammy Award winner, Julie Gold, returns with Write, Write, Write, Right? Right! and Broadway and Cabaret Diva, Karen Mason will return with The Song Is YOU. If up till now, your musical training has been limited to the shower, car, or with a hairbrush, join Jennie Litt for So You Want to Sing. Learn the basics of accompanying yourself in Piano for Singers with Jerry Phelps. Feeling Fancy? Join Carmen Cancél for Classical Songs and Artistry.
Musical Theater WILL come back! Will YOU be ready? Broadway Funny Lady, Kristine Zbornik will help you Own Your Audition, and Joshua Zecher-Ross will Get Your Book Together. We are thrilled to have Tony Award winner Nikki M. James joining us with Breaking the Mold. Also joining the Singnasium family are Broadway, Television, and Recording Artist Mykal Kilgore teaching Modern Musical Theater Styles, and Broadway Veteran (last seen in Hades Town), Afra Hines, helping you to Get Out of Your Head and Into Your Body.
Not enough for you? Come join us for our popular Open Mic, SINGAPALOOZA. We’ll be coming back to you monthly on Fridays: 9/25, 10/23, and 11/20.
And finally, our fall line up includes Tony Award nominee, Sharon McNight, who will be offering a one-day Comedy Song Workshop on Saturday, September 12.
But wait! Mark your calendars for our annual Fall Fun(d) Raiser on Thursday, October 15th at 7:30pm. This year’s event will be virtual (of course!) and the theme will be: Paint the Town (Whatever Town You’re In!) I can’t wait for you to join us!
Singnasium recently reached out to Teaching Artist, Michael Holland, to check in on how he is weathering the last few months, when he knew he wanted to become a musician and which songs he wishes he’d written.
What keeps you creative during these crazy times?
Deadlines, deadlines, deadlines! I took on a bunch of smaller projects as soon as they materialized, so my schedule is pretty jam-packed. When everything first shut down, quite a bit of work dried up, including the world premiere of one of my musicals. So, with a suddenly empty calendar, I decided to write a few non-theatrical songs (for the first time in years!), and put out a couple of videos - basically just to have something to do - plus about four or five songs for a new show that's been on a back burner for a while. We even did a Zoom reading of it, for my collaborator and me to see if we were actually onto something or not. Turns out we are, so we'll keep that moving.
But then doing music for a living picked up again, so July has been all about arranging/recording for a couple of virtual concert events (including The Arrangement Experience!). In August, I'm prepping one of my incidental scores for publication/licensing, as well as finishing a few demo projects of other people's material.
My favorite thing to do is write, but I needed to diversify my skill set in order to continue living indoors. As a result, sometimes the recording/engineering, orchestration, or even (God forbid) copy work delays my being able to get at my first love. But when I actually do get the time, it makes me that much more productive. I've had some pretty great teachers along the way (though not so much in my actual field; I come with a staggering lack of training), who showed me that the secret of life is to never stop learning. If you don't become complacent, inspiration seems to perpetuate itself. Besides, as a friend/mentor once told me, "There's no such thing as writer's block. Because if you get it, somebody else won't."
When did you realize you wanted to be a songwriter/arranger?
I knew from a very early age that I wanted to do something in the arts. So did my parents once it became clear that I was simply not about to catch that baseball. But I didn't know if I would be a singer, an actor, a painter, etc. When I was twelve, my family were all in the car, and something decidedly different came on the radio. "What's that?" I asked. My mom reached over to turn up the volume. "Oh, I heard this earlier in the week; I think you're gonna like it," she said. "They're called Queen." The next five minutes-and-change absolutely ruined me for life. I remember saying, "I didn't know you were allowed to do this!" (Turns out you're not, and they weren't, but they did it anyway.) I needed to figure out how four people could make so much noise, and so many different kinds of noises. Still working on that one. But my fate as a songwriter and vocal arranger was sealed.
The instrumental arranging came later - when I finally learned to say yes when the phone rang, and just try new things. That was how I accidentally learned that I could do a lot of different things, and actually enjoyed doing them.What song do you wish you had written, and why?
Only one? There are so many ingenious ones... I'm gonna go with the first one that popped into my head, and say "MacArthur Park." And not that Donna Summer sacrilege either, I'm talking about the real one. The Richard Harris (!!!) extravaganza. I don't care that it doesn't make a lick of sense: it's brash and fearless and bombastic and preposterous. It's everything! And the orchestration, also by Jimmy Webb, is a complete time capsule. (Back to Queen: Brian May says, "If something's worth doing, then surely it's worth overdoing.") And it feels like it's always been here somehow.
I firmly believe songs should feel inevitable rather than concocted or forced into being. This is not to say that I listen to nothing but overblown nonsense - I love my Joni and Sondheim and Gershwin and Billy Joel, and unfairly less-celebrated masters like Nik Kershaw or Andy Partridge. But the stuff that really has no business existing and yet there it is being glorious? That's what got me into this mess in the first place. Songs that I can listen to all these years later and say, no matter how much knowledge, experience, or courage I may accumulate, I would never have come up with that. And I'm so glad somebody did.
Born and raised in the Catskills, Jessica Rucker, Singnasium student, grew up singing with her father who bred and trained standardbred horses on their farm in Sullivan County. He introduced her to greats like Glenn Miller and Frank Sinatra and had the radio station permanently set to AM WNEW (“Eleven three oh, New York!”). “I’d be up at the crack of dawn to help my father in the barn, and I’d serenade the horses while I worked.” She enjoyed performing in school and community theater musicals and gained some professional experience after college as a soloist for churches and local choral societies in the Tri-State area. Shortly after performing the role of Carmen for Delaware Valley Opera, her father was diagnosed with terminal cancer and she reprioritized her life to be available as a caregiver for him which included relocating to Florida. After his death, it became almost impossible for her to sing without crying and so she abandoned performing for years.
Over time, she slowly reconnected with her love of singing by getting involved in local choral societies and church choirs. In 2017, Jessica joined the Master Chorale of South Florida and went on to sing with them onstage with Kol Esperanza, Rocktopia, and Maestro Andrea Bocelli! With the encouragement of her husband and friends, Jessica began signing up for local jazz jams with professional musicians in late 2019, and was singing weekly by the time March, 2020 rolled around. “I was just starting to feel like I could build some momentum as a performer again when the pandemic hit and then everything came to a screeching halt. I felt so heartbroken and lost."
Currently, Jessica works as a Medical Speech-Language Pathologist providing voice and swallowing function rehabilitation to patients in hospitals recovering from critical illnesses, including COVID-19. While quarantined at home, she noticed a post on Facebook about Singapalooza hosted by Lennie Watts, and decided to sign up for the open mic. That experience motivated her to register for Singnasium classes: “Discovering Singasium was like finding an oasis in a desert! It provides invaluable intellectual stimulation, musical training, performance pointers, and social interaction with like-minded people. My therapy work is very mentally and emotionally demanding, so I feel blessed to have this extraordinary opportunity to be a part of the Singnasium family even though I’m 1200 miles away from New York City!”
Lennie Watts, founder of Singnasium, was interviewed by Sue Matsuki, of Cabaret Hotspot. Click the link below to read the article!
Lennie Watts, singer, producer, teacher, director, long-time MAC President and the Artistic Director of Singnasium and now the host of a new open mic called Singapalooza talks about life and offering places to work on your craft during these crazy times!
“It’s a medical fact that singing is a natural anti-depressant which strengthens the immune system. Now more than ever, we need to use our voice and our breathing to be creative and rebuild all around good feelings,” says Lennie Watts, who founded the non-profit singing collective, Singnasium. That’s why you should relax, grab a beverage and join scores of cabaret, country and Broadway singers of all ages and levels for Singnasium’s summer open mic night Thursday, August 20, 6:30-8:30pm.
Sing to tracks, or accompany yourself.
Email Singapalooza@singnasium.org by 3pm on the day of to register and to receive a zoom link. Free to join.
Summer is (almost) here and for Singnasium this means an all new line up of classes and workshops! From cabaret to country, the most popular musical genres and styles are all on our roster featuring a top-notch, award-winning line-up of highly accomplished New York teaching artists. And we’re very excited to announce that all are available on-line!
We’ve moved all of our summer curriculum completely online to offer a diverse selection of virtual classes covering musical theater, cabaret, country, jazz, and rock, as well as musicianship, vocal training, arranging, and self taping— a true one-stop musical shopping experience. A full list of classes, which begin June 15, and teaching artists’ bios may be found here.
We are taking this opportunity to expand our footprint from New York City to the whole country and even internationally. And we’ve reached out to provide some of the best teaching artists in NYC and beyond. Now more than ever, being creative, and more specifically, singing is important! It helps with stress and breathing, and all around good feelings.
Some of the teaching artists will be familiar to you and some are new to the mix and represent some of the best in their respective fields. Grammy Award-winning songwriterJulie Gold (From a Distance); Tony Award nominee Sharon McNight (Starmites); and multi award-winning Broadway, recording and cabaret star Karen Mason (Sunset Boulevard, Mama Mia, And The World Goes ‘Round) offer new classes, joining current Singnasium teaching artists Gabrielle Stravelli, Kristine Zbornik, Brad Simmons, Michael Holland, Carmen Cancél, Ted Stafford and Lennie Watts. Also joining with new offerings this summer are Joshua Zecher-Ross, Lisa Asher, and Ashton Michael Corey. Check out the complete listing on www.singnasium.org.
I’m also excited to announce a new monthly online open mic, “Singapalooza”!
Join us Thursday June 11, July 16 and August 20 from 6:30 - 8:30pm.
Hosted by yours truly - Get a track, make a drink and SING!
Email firstname.lastname@example.org by 3pm on the day to register. You will be sent a zoom link.