Seagle Date Is Set

Announcements, Seminars

Directly after my trip back through the Voice Program at the Chautauqua Institution, I am excited to announce that I will give seminars at the Seagle Music Colony Young Artists Program in the Adirondacks in upstate New York.

The program selects 32 highly-talented young artists to sing in six fully-staged productions. They will be very busy to be sure, but the leaderships is committed to giving their singers a well-rounded experience featuring many masterclasses and workshops. I am excited to be a part of it.

I will announced more news about my East coast swing shortly!

A Hike And A Seminar


We started the day today as these fine singers start most of their days in this beautiful setting — with a little exercise. This is a supremely gorgeous location up at 9,400 feet. The surrounding peaks rise up to 13,000 feet, creating a cozy valley. It was inspiring to see a group of singers wipe the sleep from their eyes while we gathered early in the morning, and then be transformed into a vibrant cohesive group as we reached our destination.

I brought my GPS running watch along on the hike and have these fun charts to show for it. I suppose a GPS watch is not too different than Velvet Singer. The watch doesn’t run for you, it just makes running more fun and then shows you some cool data afterward. I like wearing it on a long run because it feels like I have an audience — maybe not a live audience, but I know I’ll at least show my wife my stats when I get home. It is a small thing, but that feeling of having an audience can sometimes help me make that extra push to go farther faster.

Co-founders Linda Poetschke and Mary Jane Johnson have created a real gem in the Taos Opera Institute. They welcomed me with a warm smile and have a great setup for our session this afternoon. Dana Brown and Matthew Chellis from Roosevelt University led the hike this morning (and are now co-teaching a very talented young tenor in the next room).

This program does a fantastic job at helping young singers “bridge the gap between academia and apprenticeships” focusing on body, mind, and spirit. The singers I met this morning are jazzed up and feeling ready for tonight’s final dress rehearsal / feedback session.


DePaul Breakthrough


This latest seminar at DePaul was complete breakthrough. I don’t know exactly why, perhaps it was the compressed time frame or the opera rehearsal to follow or the pressures of the academic season, but each of these students brought such an earnest and heart-felt contribution to this discussion. I have to call it a breakthrough!

I was very glad to have Rob Krueger, the Associate Dean for Administration stop by the seminar. I had met Rob originally while I was a student at DePaul a few years ago. Then I was able to reconnect with him at the NETMCDO Conference in NYC last month. He and his team provide a very supportive environment for students. Their goal is similar to mine — to help students take that ever-challenging jump into a fulfilling, stable and lucrative professional life.

We followed a compressed version of the organizational seminar, and began introducing elements from the new electronic workbook. I learned a bit more about how to facilitate a computer-focused discussion.

For one thing, I believe my future seminar attendees should download and install the e-workbook before the seminar. This can save us a lot of time. I typically like to customize and tweak the workbook right up until the seminar, so I will have to get more disciplined about making changes, but I think this is the direction to pursue in the future.

It could be that singers will even complete a section or two of the workbook on their own before the seminar, then we can begin the discussion by focusing on the results, rather than the process. It could be that I develop a two-part e-workbook in the future — part one is due to be submitted before the seminar starts, it is a pre-requisite. Then we will take part-two as a group, which will help us analyze, process and synthesize. I’m liking it.

Thank you Jane Bunnell, thank you Rob, and thank you to the dedicated and sincere students at my alma mater, DePaul University. Go Blue Demons!

LA Classical Singer Convention 2011


It was a total thrill to come straight from a service trip in Mexico up the coast to the beautiful City of Angels and the Classical Singer Convention 2011. The impressive CS team of Alex, Jo and Dane had everything all ready for me to hit the ground running and begin making genuine and interesting connections with so many singers.

Coming swiftly on the heels of Classical Singer Magazine‘s excellent Article on Velvet Singer, the singers all knew who I was (flattering) and had started to digest some of the principles of my Business Plan seminar. And they had begun to talk things up at their custom page on Facebook.

These things were so important in terms of setting up a fruitful dialogue: singers had read the article, become familiar with my software and shared their resumes with me! That is such a service to singers, to set the tone appropriately and make sure that they got as much out of their convention experience as possible.

I was privileged to present several awards as part of the Classical Singer Competitions. As part of presenting this award, a talented young woman from Richmond, VA named Victoria Williams joined me on the platform. She was only one of seven National Finalists in the undergraduate competition, and she absolutely slayed the audience as she described why Velvet Singer is so cool. Thank you Victoria!

The highlight for me was the ability to teach my Business Plan Seminar for the Professional Track. These topics are not the most exciting, fun topics to present — especially compared to a masterclass with the likes of Jane Eaglin. And so I was absolutely blown away with the amount of people that enthusiastically attended my session. This is a testament to the convention overall and the type of singers this draws — hungry, earnest and passionate young professionals.

After the seminar, I ran many one-on-one meetings where we were able to dig deeper into artistic Business Plans and Resume Feedback. This is something I am going to start doing much more of. It seems that this is a very effective way to connect with people. Following a group seminar, these one-on-one sessions allow singers to digest and come with their individual questions and thoughts. It is quite demanding work (requires tons of energy), yet is equally fulfilling and rewarding.

Naturally I also had a booth on the floor, where I was charmed by countless young singers. I truly enjoy absorbing some of their energy and ambitions! What a blast. It was also an opportunity to show people Velvet Singer — and it is always a delight to watch people light up when they realize all of the things this solution can do for them. I suppose that is not dissimilar from performance!

CoOPERAtive Makes a Statement


I had the pleasure of revisiting The CoOPERAtive Program this past week, but a few things were different this time — 1) I was able to hear all of the CoOperative Fellows (ages 23-30) sing before we worked together, 2) I had worked with many of the seminar attendees previously and 3) CoOPERAtive is now offering a Young Artist level (ages 21-23).

1) Listening First

I was completely blown away by this performance. Laura Brooks Rice and Dr. Christopher Arneson continue to expand what this program offers and the quality is empirically impressive.

First off, there actually was an audience! It is quite often that I will pop into weekly recitals or operas at summer programs that I visit to find talented singers performing for very small audiences. Somehow Ms. Rice and Dr. Arneson are able to rally the community to support these singers, and it makes all the difference. And that very evening, one of the community members, unprompted by any direct appeal, approached Ms. Rice with a significant check in support of the mission. That is superb.

Second, the singers really have what it takes. I have heard many a master class teacher refer to “the whole package” — does the singer have the vocal product, look good, move well, interpersonal, some extra charisma or compelling back story? In the case of the CoOPERAtive Fellows 2011, yes all around in many cases. I think of the young tenor that closed the evening with such a compelling full-lyric sound singing an aria from L’arlesiana, and of the very young mezzo who presented Cherubino as if she were skipping rope. She doesn’t even quite know, I don’t think, how few of “her” there are out there. Brava.

Lastly, I looked through the program to find that the coach / accompanists are all professional musicians with significant accomplishments under their belt. Check out the bio on these guys: Thomas Bagwell and Anthony Manoli. Whoa, that’ll dress up a concert!

2) Second Time’s a Charm

It was very neat to start the seminar the morning after the concert with names memorized and insight into what types of performers I was working with. And it was also nice to have many repeat seminar attendees, so we were able to dig deeper into the topics and build on our previous work.

We carved out an entire day to work together on our business plans. It was a fairly hefty undertaking because these topics can be quite exhausting mentally and emotionally — what are your strengths and weaknesses, what kind of support do you have, what type of lifestyle are you looking to / willing to lead? That can be a lot to digest. I was impressed with how this group stayed with it, and I think that is a testament to the tone than is set at the program.

3) CoOPERAtive is Growing

It was also lovely to work with the Young Artist level (ages 21-23) singers and to see how CoOPERAtive is expanding what they have to offer. Adding younger singers into the program seems like an excellent move — these select group of singers have so much to gain just by being around and watching the older group, and likewise the older group is spurred on by the younger group’s energy, passion and zest. Certainly that was how things played out in my seminar, and I was delighted to have been a part of it!

Residency at BASOTI


Last week I took up residency in one of the most beautiful places in the world: San Francisco. I had spent a formative summer in San Fran during the internet boom, working with a web page design firm called Adjacency. The three founders ended up selling ADJ for $67 million in stock to Sapient. The stock proceeded to triple in value allowing these entrepreneurs to buy a few fancy cars then start other businesses.

And so I felt quite the buzz to fly into SFO and take the BART up to Mission Street and get set up for a three day residency with Sylvia Anderson’s stellar program: BASOTI. In addition to being deeply appreciative of the work they prepared for me, they gave me a great shout-out on their newly redesigned website. It is maybe not quite as slick as the Range Rover or Tag Heuer websites I worked on in the 90′s, but it will give you a great taste of just how cool this program is.

During my stay, I provided my business plan seminar to several different groups, and did countless one-on-one meetings in the stunning San Francisco Conservatory of Music. We worked a lot on resumes and out of that work I was able to develop my resume tips and templates. Interestingly, that resume-tips page seems to have caught some eyes. Every day, more and more singers keep finding and clicking that link, according to my Google Analytics web traffic reports. How fun is that?

I also had the opportunity to hear some musical rehearsals and watch staging. They were in the final throws of putting together an ambitious production of Clemenza di Tito, a work I performed with Chicago Opera Theater. The mezzo who took Sesto by the proverbial operatic horns brought such power, grace and intensity to her work. And the soprano that undertook Vitellia’s demanding role had such range and color to her performance. I was thoroughly impressed.

“If you’re going to San Francisco / You’re gonna meet some gentle people there”

Teaching Generation Net


I am learning all of the time to stay up on “my game.” This NPR feature provides excellent insights into how this current generation of college students may absorb information in a radically different way than their grandparents, their parents or even me!

“‘This new generation comes home and they turn on their computer and they’re in three different windows and they’ve got three magazines open and they’re listening to iTunes and they’re texting with their friends,’ [Author Don Tapscott] says, ‘and they’re doing their homework.’”

This is a great encouragement to the methods we have been employing in our seminars. In asking the singers to begin constructing their business plans on their free time, before the seminars, I hope to inspire them that this ‘assignment’ should become a personalize thing. You don’t need to take long on it, you can do it while you are on Facebook and it just might help set the foundation for your career.

OperaWorks — Own It


I was privileged to travel to Los Angeles to stay on the beautiful campus of California State University Northridge with the OperaWorks faculty and students for a few days this summer. Ann Baltz made great use of our time together, setting up a morning seminar preceding group Yoga. After lunch we divided into group break-out sessions.

Yoga was a fantastic way to break up what can be fairly heavy topics. (While discussing how to create and maintain an artistic business plan, I often find that some of the attendees are busy contemplating even larger life questions: who am I, what am I doing with my life, where do I want to be in ten years?)

The seminar was the last seminar in a solid string, and so I felt very comfortable in directing a good discussion. The topics seemed to flow very naturally and I was impressed with a few attendees in particular, who brought a diversity of opinion and an outstanding intelligence to the dialogue. They really seemed to “own” the session and genuinely wrestle with the implications. Overall, all of the singers brought an earnest desire to dig into these questions and to arrive at their own conclusions. It was a delight to not have to spend any time trying to get the group psyched up and connected — they were ready to learn.

They brought that same energy to our group break-out sessions. We went around the room digging into each singer’s unique path in a little more depth. Each singer brought such candor and self-knowledge, and it was a delight for me to get to offer my perspective on opera companies, resumes, websites, branding and marketing. Some singers were very new to the scene, some were quite seasoned veterans looking to chart a new course. Some came from California schools and some came from the school of life. Several shared stories of great entrepreneurial spirit including very creative fundraisers to help them pay for their time at OperaWorks. They “owned it” start to finish.

In talking with the singers and with Ann, I discovered that “owning it” is more than just a coincidence among this group, it is core to what the OperaWorks method is all about. The students buzzed about the final touches they were putting on their show:

Non-Boring Original Opera :: “Zombie Apoco-Lips: The Opera”

Each year at OperaWorks, the singers create an original production, from a mashup of arias and scenes that are relevant to each performer and fach-appropriate. To the traditionalist, this might sound non-boring, but it makes total sense when you break it down:

  • Polish relevant, fach-appropriate arias / roles / scenes
  • Create an intense sense of ownership and pride over the production
  • Flesh out the sub-text and back-story, grounding your audition rep into a real situation

I bet many programs of this type struggle to fit all of the students into an opera, trying to balance the talents with the requirements of the show, often having to ask several singers to sing things that are not quite appropriate. And there is the question of gender balance in shows too. What to do with all of the women? Carmelites again?

Also, how much better do you sing when you actually care what you are singing about rather than feeling like a cog in a giant wheel?

I know I have experienced both sides of this “ownership” thing myself. I recall countless auditions feeling like I needed to get “Dies Bildnis” to sound just like Fritz Wunderlich, or I had failed. And so I ended up pursing some more obscure literature to present in auditions such as Gluck or Berlioz. Then I could feel like I was doing MY version of that aria, owning it start to finish. But that doesn’t quite work either, because most audition panelists prefer to hear things in the standard rep (and most humans enjoy hearing things they already know).

If I had only attended OperaWorks years ago I would have set Tamino in outer space and owned that aria start to finish, perhaps vividly connected to my lovely Pamina floating off to Mars in a space pod.

If you believe in the power of owning it, why not consider a few weeks in LA? Check out OperaWorks 2012 auditions.

Northwestern Summer Session Revisited


I love getting invited back! This was my second seminar at Northwestern’s stand-out summer session, which helps prepare some very talented young singers for their college careers.

MUSIC 330-0, A Vocal Career Seminar
1 week. M Tu W Th F 6:30 – 10pm

In these classes you will learn to audition for an agent, an opera company in the US and Europe, and a musical theater company. We will find three pieces for you that will make you the most marketable and help you to perfect them. Also discussed: How to present yourself most effectively by clothes and grooming; creating a useable resume and bio; advice on the proper picture for your voice type; tax issues. Guest speakers include a New York agent for opera and musical theater, a tax specialist, photographer, stage directors. Class is limited to 12 singers and 30 auditors.

Pamela Hinchman

Is there anything better than that in the performance world, too? When you perform a gig and get invited back, you know that you have earned the respect of your employer. That is the free market moving and working and voicing (pun intended) its opinion.

It was nice to see a few familiar faces and offer them something new on the second time around. We were able to dig a little deeper and help this group think critically about what it is they want and how to accomplish it.

And we had some fun too. That is part of Pamela‘s brilliance as a teacher: people learn more when they enjoy it!

Wesminster 2011: Breaking New Ground


This fall we broke ground once again at Westminster!

Of all the places that I give seminars, it seems that Westminster Choir College of Rider University is consistently pushing me to break new ground. I know that the same is true for their faculty and students alike. It is just in the water over there. They consistently roll out new and effective initiatives such as their online offerings (including music theory, pedagogy and webinars) and they are pushing ahead on a successful capital campaign (see article on recent $3 million gift) for a new performance venue. That will make a huge difference to this growing school.

Saturday Seminar — Continuing Ed & Cross-Discipline

The office of continuing education, enthusiastically spearheaded by Executive Director, Scott Hoerl teamed up with Joyce Tyler of career services to bring me to town. They were excited to bring these new offerings to enrich the Westminster community!

For the first time, Westminster brought me in for a Saturday seminar marketed to a continuing education audience of cross-discipline artists. The result was a tremendously successful dialog among a highly diverse group of musicians: a classical guitar player with heaps of talent and exposure, a folk/classical singer with an entrepreneurial spirit, a singer who performed with City Opera for over thirty years, a medical doctor with a budding new product.

I offered some straight presentation, we broke up into small groups and attendees shared feedback and creative new ideas. It was a fantastically collaborative day, so much so that the students requested that I put together a class contact list so they can all stay in touch.

And I was able to continue the dialogue with several musicians even after the session. I helped one young lady refine her marketing strategy on her website. She offers several “products” and I was delighted to help her think through how to position herself as a multi-threat, without being a jack-of-all-trades master-of-none.

Hats off to Westminster. Drawing continuing education students back into the university setting is no small feat, and Westminster does it better than most, offering graduate credits for a certain number of Saturday Seminars. In these economic times, developing new revenue streams for a university is a particular challenge.

New Seminar: Engineering Art — How Applying Science Can Propel Your Artistic Pursuits

I developed a new seminar for my session with Laura Brooks Rice‘s Graduate Audition’s Class that I affectionately call “Cool things I learned in Engineering School.”

In preparing for my seminar with Westminster’s graduate level Audition class, and in looking through the roster, I realized that many of these students will have previously attended both my organizational seminar and my business plan seminar. Many of these singers were present in 2010 when I presented to a large portion of the Westminster vocal department, and many of these singers attended The CoOPERAtive Program this past summer. So this was an opportunity to develop new material.

I began developing this new material a few months ago, by asking the question: how did I arrive at my current perspective, and how can I take a group of people down a similar journey? How can I show (ie. “show don’t tell”) them some of the principles I learned in engineering school and in the consulting world? How do I boil down my life experiences into two hours?

Certainly I would want to take them through some cool case studies and show them some powerful technologies. But I don’t want to overwhelm them or distort the bottom line message in a cloud of whiz-bang…

It could not have gone better! This group was engaged in the discussion and shared some very interesting insights into several very complex demos and fun games.

Students laugh playing a game I made up called “Card Chicken” modeled after the famous Prisoner’s Dilemmahypothetical, to demonstrate probability and uncertainty.

Being late in the semester, and having worked with so many of these singers before, I wanted the discussion to be part “Bill Nye the Science Guy” and part motivational speaker. Above all, I wanted it to be fun and encouraging. In fact, the second slide of my presentation was simply two words: Get Psyched. Why? Because you have the power to use your brain and understand where it is you are and where you want to go, as my not-so-beloved high school chemistry teacher used to say.

With that framework, I had a total blast picking some of the most compelling and interesting demos and case studies from my background that supported what I called my nine principles from engineering. Things such as:

  • Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research
  • Organizing / Sorting / Queries
  • Specialization
  • Decision Theory
  • Optimization
  • Synthesis and Reporting

We took a look at the NASA Challenge tragedy and the famous case study that Harvard Business School developed, as a way to show the power of displaying data in meaningful ways. And we also spent a good amount of time tinkering, exploring and unpacking the immensely compelling data loaded into Hans Roesling’s (If you haven’t killed two hours here, be sure you block out some time because it is going to blow your mind.)

The bottom line was to help these singers “get psyched” about their future. You absolutely can think your way into a career in the arts. There is no limit to what we can do when we have the proper framework, a deep understanding of the truth about where we are and tools to make it happen!