Happy Birthday, Kim!!!!!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, KIM!!!!

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KIM STERN IS…

 

Kim Stern is…

Invested,

Supportive,

Observant,

Attentive,

Resourceful,

Patient,

So, so smart,

An incredible communicator,

A human encyclopedia of musical theory, technique and songs,

Generous of mind, heart and spirit,

So much fun,

The cutest thing ever (she gets so excited when you “get” something!),

and

On your side!

And it’s her birthday today!!!  Thank You, God, for putting her on the planet.  She was such a great idea!

(She had nothing to do with the writing of this post.)

~ Kimberly Y.

 

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KSVS Summer Intensive Blog: #20

EFFORT VERSUS ENERGY (part deux)

Today I admitted something to Kim.  When I watch singers sometimes I secretly think their physicality is over the top.  But I’m starting to learn that’s not true.  As Kim pointed out, you see an opera singer sweating bullets while standing perfectly still.  It’s not an affectation or over acting – it just takes THAT much energy to produce that kind of sound.

Here’s an example of Audra McDonald singing on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.  She’s singing the silliest stuff  while completely relaxed and totally energized.  And she’s pretty funny too.

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7b6AAXBTKe4

~ Kimberly Y.

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KSVS Summer Intensive Blog: #19

EFFORT VERSUS ENERGY (part 1)

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Kim talks to me a lot about using more energy and less effort.  This week I came back from family vacation with still more family in tow.  There has been lots of running around New York City and very little sleeping.  I have to admit that I’ve stumbled into my voice lessons a tad more than exhausted.  I can feel that I’m under-energized so the temptation is to push.  But the truth-police-performer in me runs away from pushing like it’s a fatal disease and an actual crime rolled into one.  This dilemma prompted more conversation about the difference between energy and effort.  Sometimes when I try to let go of muscling it, I just get casual.  When I try to get the air and energy moving, I sometimes end up tense.  Since I’m primarily a classical actress, Kim suggested I pull out some Shakespeare and see how that feels in my body and try to create that same sensation in my singing.

Richard Easton is the best actor I know at being simultaneously relaxed and over the top alive!  He calls it “pointy, spitty” acting.  I know that sounds dreadful, but he’s always believable and often spitting.  That night we saw Shakespeare in the Park and the actor playing Troilus, Andrew Burnap , was so very relaxed and then it happened – I saw tons of saliva flying from his mouth.  I find myself doing the same thing in any play with heightened language.  Why is that kind of athleticism ok in classical theatre yet it’s hard to bring into my singing?  I think it’s because the world of a classical play is so large.  The language is elevated so you find yourself rising to the occasion.  Well, as Kim points out, isn’t the world of a song just as big?  It’s poetry.  It’s set to music for goodness sake!  Singers can allow their energy to be giant because the medium calls for that.

~ Kimberly Y.

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KSVS Summer Intensive Blog: #18

SINGING IS ATHLETIC

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Transcript from today’s lesson:

KS:  ”What kind of exercise do you do?”

KY:  ”You mean like working out?”

KS:  ”Yeah.”

Kim then asked me to sing a belty song while doing push ups against the wall and at the top of the push up to actually push away from the wall.  Eureka!!!!  THAT’S what it feels like to really use my whole body to sing.  It’s the best trick ever.  And when I stopped doing the push ups, my body remembered how to use that much energy (without needless effort).

Try it!

~ Kimberly Y.

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KSVS Summer Intensive Blog: #17

FINDING THE JOY

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Kim teaches practical technique, but she also encourages something deeper.  She’s about the business of mining free communicative expression using the human voice.  That’s much trickier than just saying, “lift your soft palette”.  But this week, everything she’s been teaching me clicked in.

I’m still at the beach – which is my favorite place on the planet.  And Kim suggested I look at a song from The Sound of Music.  The last time I thought about that show I was playing Liesl and boy it was fun.  Plus I got my equity card on that show.

Yesterday I was in the ocean just before dark.  All other swimmers had presumably gone in for dinner and I started humming, then full on singing the title number from The Sound of Music.  I sang the verses in no particular order with no particular obligation to the storytelling or even the exact melody.  I sang it just for the joy of it.  I sang because I was in my favorite ocean at my favorite time of day.  I sang remembering a full and exciting time in my life.  And I found my sound.  Or should I say, I remembered it.  It was easy and full and expressive.  It was the sound Kim is expertly working to uncover.

On a totally irrelevant note, here’s an amusing conversation that happened between my nieces.

Madeleine: Berly (that’s what they call me), can you do a british accent?

Morgan (older, bossy sister):  Of course she can Madeleine.  She was in The Sound of Musical.

Chloe (third, brainy sister):  There is so much wrong with that sentence.

~ Kimberly Y.

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KSVS Summer Intensive Blog: #16

NO PRIVACY

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I live in a NYC apartment which means I have many neighbors and paper thin walls.  I’m actively aware of this anytime I’m singing (or trying to sleep).  In the back of my mind, I’m thinking, “ug, I hope this warmup isn’t bothering anyone.”  But in the front of my mind, I’m thinking, “ug, I hope no one is judging me.”  This isn’t the best way to release a free sound and I’ve often wished that for a nanosecond I could forget about the other people who might be hearing me.

Cut to the beach house with my family.  It is the opposite of sound proof.  And there are people EVERYWHERE!  And I have a lot of vocal work to do.  So I not only have to sing while knowing people are going to overhear me – I’m related to those people which is so much worse than the upstairs neighbor, Nevin, who I occasionally run into while he’s walking his dog.

BREAKTHROUGH:  This week I’m working on a song that is especially challenging and that I especially LOVE.  And I’ve accepted the fact that my musician brothers will hear me AND that they will hear me sucking (I’m taking Lesly Kahn‘s advice – “dare to suck”).  I actually find myself not caring about sounding bad and not thinking about the other people that can hear me through the floor boards.  I’m only concentrating on the work.  It’s so much more fun that way!

~ Kimberly Y.

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KSVS Summer Intensive Blog: #15

OLD HABITS

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My family is from Houston, Texas (hurray, H-Town!).  And every summer I vacation with them on the beach.  This summer this has affected my singing in two ways.  A)  I drop right  back into that Houston accent (which I find endearing, but must admit there are some funky vowels and a lot of really flat nasal sounds going on).  B) I adopt my family’s way of communicating – with a lot of spirit and verve and interruptions and VOLUME.  (We have no excuse –  we’re not even Jewish OR Italian).

I steal away for an hour every day to meet with Kim for a vocal lesson over Skype (nope, you don’t have to be in New York to coach with Kim).  Although I’m often still in a swim suit and covered with sand, I’m ready to work.  We usually get interrupted at least twice in spite of my announcement, “OK, guys I need the upstairs bedroom at the end of the hall from 1-2pm.”

Kim is so very patient and also so observant.  ”You have a lot of extra jaw tension today.  Let’s work on letting go of that.”  ”You can open your mouth more.”  ”You can keep the sound closer to yourself.”  This is the great advantage of studying with someone all the time – they can catch your issues before they become set-in-stone habits.

~ Kimberly Y.

 

 

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KSVS Summer Intensive Blog: #14

INSPIRATION

Watch Kristin Chenoweth warm up.  ”Challenge me”, she says.

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~ Kimberly Y.

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KSVS Summer Intensive Blog: #13

 TRUST THE PROCESS

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There are so many things to think about.  “Is my breath low, is my breath stacked, am I breathing at all, are my shoulders relaxed, how about my knees, is my jaw dropped, what’s happening with my diaphragm, how about my diphthongs, and my “r’s”, what’s the melody again, should the sound be forward here, am I invested in the acting of this song?

Sometimes it seems that it will never come together.  But I just try to do the work.  And I try to do it every day.  Then I have a lesson like today where everything seems off.  And yet there is progress.  Sounds are fuller and richer and easier and I can’t even trace how exactly.  My instrument is changing.  It’s growing.  That’s the principle of sowing and reaping.  It’s not all work, there is a harvest and it’s delicious!

~ Kimberly Y.

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KSVS Summer Intensive Blog: #12

CHANGE

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Change takes change.  This may sound obvious to you, but it’s new news to me.  Kim asks me to do new things and then I wonder why if feels different, or why it feels uncomfortable or why it’s difficult.  If I want my voice to change, I can’t keep doing things the same way.  There is a shifting that must take place.  And sometimes it feels like learning to walk again.  Let’s say I’ve been walking with a limp for years, but at least I’ve been getting places on time.  Learning how to walk without the limp slows me down and is frustrating and sometimes I just want to go back to my comfortable, reliable limp.  But for so long, I’ve dreamt of walking down the street straight and tall with an even gate.  So why the resistance?

I’ve driven the walking analogy into the ground, so let’s talk about singing.  I have resistance to letting go of controlling the sound.  Kim gently points it out and I notice it too.  Acknowledgment is the fist step.  Volition alone can’t always solve a problem.  I don’t want to resist, but I do.  So we start by acknowledging it, then I try to surrender in baby steps.  It takes patience and grace and discipline.  A supportive coach doesn’t hurt either!

~ Kimberly Y.

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