Having grown up as an actor and worked in a lot of professional companies, I learned at an early age how important it is to “listen” and “respond.” I wanted, more than anything, to be a music director. I knew that I could help actors find a way to use their own natural voice and that you could put meaning to words on pitches instead of making pitches colorless and bland.

I give my students duets and trios that have confrontations in them and quartettes and sixtettes that contain plot so they can continue the music as dialogue. They are not used to thinking as actors when the words are on pitches. They want to listen to themselves. You can’t really know yourself, but you can respond to someone else who is saying something (on notes) to you. I dwell heavily on subtext and putting your mind there stops you from “terror” and “fright” and gets your mind on something that is “out there” that you want.

Making music can be as much fun as talking to someone and in the long run is more emotional. You can then say something that words are not enough to communicate with. But music and time with words is, or can be, an ultimate!


Singing is sustained speech. In order to sustain, the vowels have to have space in the mouth, and the jaw, tongue, chin have to be relaxed position. Any tension in those last three areas is crippling to the sound. When one holds a note for a long period of time, one must think on the word that is being held into the next word. The sound will then live. If one stops and listens to oneself, that same note will become dead.

One has to be in what one sings in order to make that music one’s own. To believe what you are saying makes us (audience) accept your communication.

You cannot be Oscar Hammerstein, Stephen Sondheim, Alan J. Lerner. Music is not attached to you; it must come out of you as if it’s your own.

If the music is attached, then there is a wall between you and us. If it comes through you then we can make contact with you and feel that the song is an expression of a personal joy or feeling that you are experiencing. Everything has to be honest or it doesn’t travel to us. We are past the days of making word pictures and explaining ourselves. To BE is the thing.