Posts Tagged ‘Laura Brooks Rice’

CoOPERAtive Makes a Statement

Saturday, July 9th, 2011

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).

CoOPERAtive 2011 Mission Statements

At the culmination of our day-long seminars at CoOPEAtive, several singers volunteered to share their new mission statements with the world.


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!

Westminster Courseware – Analysis for Success

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

Masters students at Westminster Choir College are at a great advantage. Among many other fantastic course offerings which help prepare singers to quickly transition into professional realms, one course at Westminster focuses on the traditional gateway into operatic performance: The Audition.

Laura Brooks Rice’s graduate-level course “Opera Auditions: Preparation and Techniques” offers Voice Pedagogy and Performance majors the opportunity to refine this core element of our craft. Singers explore new repertoire and work to polish their audition presentation.

Ms. Rice brings in top-tier guest artists on a weekly basis to provide feedback. After leaving graduate school, feedback of this type and quality is so difficult (and expensive) to generate.

The course also focuses on process. Few students will leave the class with a flawless package of five arias ready to win The Met Competition. In addition to solving specific issues and making dramatic improvements, the purpose of the course is to teach a process for refinement, so that the singers are properly equipped for the journey ahead.

That is where Velvet Singer Software steps in. Ms. Rice delivers homework assignments that students can accomplish by the use of Velvet Singer. In this way, she leverages their efforts so that they not only learn about the here and now, but they also develop a process for the future.

Rather than creating a list of past auditions and current repertoire, with Velvet Singer the students develop a powerful method and skill set for tracking their auditions and repertoire far into the future.

What power? What is the key benefit?

A large part of the benefit to students occurs during the data entry process. Simply taking the time to make sure all of the boxes are checked makes a giant impact. Being deliberate about journaling what you performed and how you felt is certainly over half the battle. By the time it comes to look back on your journey and plan out where you want to go, you will have a simplified and clearer vision for the future.

Reporting and analysis illuminates what intuition and feedback cannot. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. You have to create a clean, objective look into where you have been before you can plan where you are going.

What is your most effective aria?

This report gives students tangible insight in which aria or song has worked the best in the past. “Win” or “Loss” is determined by the status of the audition record. If your audition status is set to “Contract Offered” or “Contract Accepted”, then that audition was a win. In an academic setting, a contract may be to sing a solo with your school choir (at Westminster, that solo may be at Carnegie Hall!) or to perform a role in the opera.

Are your auditions improving?

This report show how many auditions you have been singing over each audition season and whether your outcomes are improving. Auditions take time and energy, so it is not enough for a singer to solely focus on whether or not they have projects to work on. If you are getting work, how much effort did it take for you to generate that work.

Who are you singing for?

There are several ways to analyze who you are singing for and what success you are seeing. This report breaks down your auditions by company budget level. This can be very helpful for those that are starting to target opera young artist programs.

Westminster Gathers A Crowd

Monday, October 25th, 2010

Earlier this month, we kicked off our east coast seminar tour at Westminster Choir College. Everyone got involved to make sure that this seminar was a huge success. It was amazing to see the voice faculty (represented by Laura Brooks Rice), career services (represented by Joanne Lisa) and the office of the dean take such a large interest in what we were doing. They gathered quite a crowd of undergrads, masters students, alumni and faculty.

Velvet Singer SeminarMore important than the size of the session was the buzz that attendees felt going in. The atmosphere determines so much of what singers get out of the seminar, and Velvet Singer presenters only have so much control. When the singers arrive early to find school photographers snapping pictures and a flawless multimedia setup, the singers put on their thinking caps and get ready to be challenged.

Students at Westminster Choir College seem to possess a healthy sense of idealism and optimism. They generally feel fairly well-equipped for the real world and confident about their abilities to contribute. Their perspective also helped make this seminar unique. We stepped through our usual exercises to help brainstorm singing opportunities and they were very quick to offer creative possibilities.

What are you going to do differently?

These singers also seemed to have a very good sense of their priorities and goals. From Dissonance To Harmony challenges each participant to not only identify their top career priorities, but also to boil those down into a set of goals. Priority categories include:

  • Product Refinement
  • Differentiation
  • Innovation
  • Customer Relations
  • Sales & Advertising
  • Marketing & Growth Strategy
  • Stakeholder Communication
  • Reporting & Analysis
  • Planning & Forecasting
  • Risk Management
  • Operations
  • Financial Planning & Development
  • Cost Management

This group’s action items were some of the best of any seminar I have ever given. Singers really understood the value of moving 1) from priorities 2) to goals and then 3) to action items. It is not enough to stop working at a list of goals. What are the simple, tangible, concrete things you are going to differently as a result of this seminar?

Certified Instructor Program Launched

This seminar also represented a major milestone for Velvet Singer, LLC. This was our first seminar to incorporate the help of a Velvet Singer Certified Instructor, Mezzo Soprano Danielle Wright. Danielle introduced the concept of action items and prepared the singers that their proclamations should be:

  1. Succinct
  2. Measurable
  3. Specific
  4. Actionable

Maybe Danielle is also part of the reason that this seminar’s action items were among the best!

Webinar This Summer

Westminster College of the Arts’ Executive Director Scott Hoerl also shared some of his day with us. He has been instrumental in developing a series of Webinars for students and alumni and Velvet Singer is thrilled to become a part of this series starting in the summer of 2011 through The CoOPERAtive Program.

Thank you Laura Brooks Rice, Margaret Cusack, Joanne Lisa, Joyce Tyler, Scott Hoerl, Dean Robert Annis, Danielle Wright and all of the talented and intelligent singers of Westminster!

CoOPERAtive Program Sets High Water Mark

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

This program is amazing. If you are a young singer looking to turn the corner from hitting the cattle calls into earning paying contracts, The CoOPERAtive Program at Westminster is for you.

The CoOPERAtive Program is a very supportive and collaborative environment, featuring the country’s top talent. Not only do Laura Brooks Rice and Dr. Christopher Arneson bring in some of the most seasoned and passionate faculty, but they also make sure you spend ample time with each. Check out this faculty list including coaches, teachers, and conductors from the Lyric Opera of Chicago, Houston Grand Opera, Washington National Opera, New York City Opera, The Juilliard School and The Curtis Institute of Music.

The list includes such names as Susan Shiplett Ashbaker, Thomas Bagwell, Daniel Beckwith, Sandra Bernhard, Deborah Birnbaum, William Hobbs, Chuck Hudson, Gina Lapinski, Anthony Manoli, Mark Moliterno, Buck Ross, Debra Scurto-Davis, Ted Taylor, Marc Verzatt, Mark Moliterno, Nova Thomas, Lydia Brown, William Burden, Steven Crawford, Kathleen Kelly, Yelena Kurdina and and Brian Zeger.

How much value do you get? Well, they have taken the time to measure it so you can be sure you are getting your money’s worth. Singers typically receive over twenty six (26) coachings over the three weeks of the program. Yep, that’s more than one a day. One singer told me that she had nine (9) coachings the week before my seminar. And that is just coachings! That doesn’t include seminars, yoga, concerts, workshops and masterclasses. Read more about a Typical Day at the CoOPERAtive Program.

The Seminar and Individual Sessions

This seminar was certainly one of the best. We had a perfect room and the group was energized and well-prepared. Several of the singers had already printed the workbook sample and taken the questionnaire online. That is the kind of proactive skill that pays off huge in our entrepreneurial business.

We had a great discussion and the singers were very willing to share and contribute their creative ideas. I was flattered to read their comments (below).

The directors of the program also made sure to block out time for individual follow-up sessions with many of the singers. We met in fifteen-minute time slots throughout the afternoon discussing web sites, resumes, headshots and brainstorming marketing and product positioning.

We were able to make some major leaps forward with many resumes. In many cases, we condensed and refined the content. In many others we found small errors and discussed some basic graphic design formatting principles: less is more, readable should be the highest priority, white space is golden.

Please Email Us your resume if you would like some free feedback! We are happy to help in any way we can.

We chatted about the trade-offs of creating your own website from scratch using a WordPress blog engine, hiring a website designer such as Vox Page1, using a Flash based template such as Dynamod Web Portals, or building/hosting your website through Classical Singer or YAP Tracker.

I was also able to help singers refine their product positioning and strategize their market development. Most specifically, several singers had interest in creating a recital series. We helped them move from having a unique idea toward putting it into action: picking some deadlines on the calendar, deciding on a name for the series, targeting the right market, creating a fee structure and budgeting for print materials.

This was a fantastic session and I look forward to revisiting Westminster in the fall!

The CoOperative Program

Monday, April 12th, 2010

Laura Brooks Rice and Dr. Christopher Arneson have invited me to join their stellar training program, The CoOperative Program at the Westminster College of the Arts. I have known several excellent singers who have benefited greatly from this program and I am thrilled to contribute.

The CoOperative Program is unique in that it is geared toward helping singers take that next step into an advanced Young Artist Program. The faculty have truly “been there / done that” and that is the key to this program’s success. Bringing a real world experience to young singers is also huge aspect of the Velvet Singer seminar and I suspect this will be a great seminar as a result!