Tips for Singing Your Best

By: Voice Instructor, Gina Latimerlo of The Latimerlo Studio

Everyone wants to “knock ‘em dead” at a singing audition or performance. However, if you haven’t had the benefit of voice lessons or other vocal technique training, it can be a little nerveracking. Here are some tips pulled from Sing Anything – Mastering Vocal Styles, my book with co-author, Lisa Popeil.

This is an easy one to pratice. In the mirror, stand tall with your shoulders pulled down from your ears. Make the back of your neck long so that your chin is even to the floor (or tiltled down just the slightest bit.) Place your feet hip-width apart for good balance and a strong sound. Lift your chest up – like it is hoisted on a hook.

Where and how you breathe is unbelievably important to singing with power and stamina. Again, watch yourself in a mirror. Breathe in so that your belly drops OUT. Imagine your belly is a balloon and you are filling it with air.
That said, only your belly should move when you breathe. To have the best sound, you have to keep your chest and shoulders completely still while your belly moves with your breath. (Remember your chest should be up and your shoulders down.) Resist the urge to over-breath. It’s not how much air you have, it’s how you control it. And, how you control it is…

Supporting your voice is really crucial to singing. So, here’s how you do it: When you breathe in, your belly will come out (as you’ve just learned). When you start to sing, tense the top part of your belly (the part between the bottom of your chest and the top of your belly button). Now, when you tense it, I want you to tense it OUT – like the opposite of a sit-up.
In other words, when you have good support, you will feel your belly firming out the entire time that you are singing a phrase. Fair warning: that belly will want to come in as you sing, but don’t you let it! Because if it collapses, so does your sound. Be sure you are firming that top belly OUT for every note that you sing.

For musical theatre, you really want to imagine sending the sound through your nose. Put your fingers on your whole nose and humm. Feel the vibrations? Now when you are singing, imagine the sound going straight through the area that you felt vibrating. That will begin to give you a good belting sound. You can also add the feel of the very beginning of a yawn (where your soft palate lifts a little bit) if you want to add a little more flavor to your voice.

There’s so much more to singing – and I’d love for you to learn it by reading our book, Sing Anything – Mastering Vocal Styles. Check it out (and the free Q&A section and listening guide) at! My studio, in addition to private lessons at the main studio, also offers voice lessons at Park and Recreation Centers throughout the Bay Area, so you can always duck in for a month if you want some quick tips and guidance.

You were born with a unique voice and the world can’t wait to hear it, so get up there and SING!

2012 South Bay Fall Season Preview

While the heat may still be on outside, the first days of school are upon us. Time to get back into classes, AP classes, carpools, marching band, pep rallies, homecoming, and of course, high school theatre! It is time to check in around the South Bay (and a little beyond) for some previews of what is coming up at a high school near you.

Pioneer High School - 1290 Blossom Hill Road, San Jose
Director Steve Dini is going to be a busy man this coming year by the looks of things. Pioneer will be mounting a touring production of Mary Poppins, and evening of David Ives one-acts, and a duo of musicals in The Fantasticks (winter) and Hello Dolly! (spring). Steve is also the man with the plan for Willow Glen High School (2001 Cottle Avenue, San Jose) for their spring musical Anything Goes! Some real heavy hitters for sure.

Valley Christian in Scotland
Valley Christian High School - 100 Skyway Drive, San Jose
From the mouth of Matt DeMeritt himself:

“As I mentioned, 21 of our students and three faculty members attended the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland from July31-August 13.  They performed an original, musical adaptation of Shakespeare's 12th Night, call Twelfth Night: Serenade.  Our performance was part of the American High School Theatre Festivals presence at the Fringe.  The AHSTF selects approximately 40 schools from around the country to represent the US at the Fringe.  We had an amazing time seeing world class theatre from around the globe and got to perform for some amazing audiences.  
Our Season this year is as follows:
Fall Musical – You'e a Good Man Charlie Brown – October 18-20, 25, 27
Winter Play – It's a Wonderful Life -  December 12-15
Spring Musical – Guys and Dolls – March 7-9, 14-16, 21-23
Student Directed Production – Experiments in Comedy and Tragedy – May 9-11
Summer Theatre Production – Disney's The Little Mermaid – July 10-13

It's a busy year, but we look forward to seeing you and you're team at our shows!  All the best!”

Congrats on a successful trip to Scotland!

Westmont's '12-'13 Drama Dept. Officers
Westmont High School - 4805 Westmont Avenue, Campbell
Jeff Bengford and his students really have a lot of hard work ahead of them (as usual) with a pack season of shows and events. There is their yearly Haunted House, a production of The Man Who Came To Dinner (Kaufman and Hart), several events with the California Educational Theatre Association, and a production of 9 to 5, The Musical. A full season of great stuff. Can’t wait to see it all when it hits the stage.

Lincoln's Walter Zarnowitz as the Beast.
Lincoln High School - 555 Dana Avenue San Jose
Over in the Rose Garden area of San Jose, Lincoln High School under the direction of Charles Manthe is taking on another ambitious season as the performing arts magnet of San Jose Unified. Their season includes Avenue Q, 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, The Brothers Grimm Spectaculathon and Tartuffe. From puppets to Moliere is quite impressive indeed. Break legs to you all, and special kudos to your venerable theatre guild for all their help!

Saratoga's ComedySportz
Saratoga High School - 20300 Herriman Avenue, Saratoga
While the full season has not been announced, I see that ‘Toga will have a ComedySportz Improv team performing as part of their season, as well as several student productions. Great to see the students taking the lead on their own projects. Bravo!

TriSchool Productions - 451 West 20th Avenue San Mateo
For those who are not familiar, TriSchool is a cooperative company made up of Mercy, Norte Dame (Belmont) and Serra High Schools. Their season packs a punch, starting with the Commedia del Arte classic, A Servant of Two Masters and finishing up with The Drowsy Chaperone. They always do great work, and have the passion to make it even better than great.

M-A's Once Upon A Mattress
Menlo Atherton High School - 555 Middlefield Road, Atherton
Straight from the mouth of Ms. Z (D.J. Zwicker-Sobrepena):
"We are kicking off the school year with Shakespeare's The Tempest. I love all the themes: magic, love, revenge, forgivness. I am hosting a Shakespeare Bootcamp on campus to jumpstart the understanding of verse and how to physicalize Shakespeare in performance. We open the show on October 26. We will also have an Arts Cabaret Night on November 16 (and probably the 17th) in collaboration with the Choir and Guitar classe showcasing their musical talents and two duets, a one-act, and four monologues that we will be taking to the Bob Smart Theatre Festival in February 2013 (a.k.a. Lenaea High School Theatre Festival)."

Amen to connecting the show to curriculum. It is bizarre that I have seen many shows mounted by schools where they don't address the challenges of that particular show. Thankfully, there are still those that prep kids for Shakespeare instead of just jumping in, and teach kids tap before even getting into choreo for 42nd Street (thank you Steve Dini) and so on.

Presentation High School - 2281 Plummer Avenue, San Jose
Another busy year is coming up at the San Jose all-girls school with the ever-popular Legally Blonde in the fall, followed by Bertolt Brecht's Good Woman of Setzuan as the spring play. Ambitious as always, and Jim Houle and his staff do good stuff. Private school funding is hard to beat, but it is a real example of how far a school can go with good funding. Public schools/districts should take note.

Leigh High School
Bryan Ringstead and his students have a big year ahead of them with some challening plays, the district DramaFest, one-acts, and a few TBD's on the calendar. Here is the schedule directly from the director.

Haunted House "A Little Bit Grim"October 24, 25, 26, 27, 29, 30th from 7-9:30 pm
Fall Play "Bury the Dead" and "Actor's Nightmare"December 7, 8, 12, 14, 15 at 7 pm; 8 and 14 at 3 pm
Advanced Drama One Act ShowcaseJanuary 11th and 12th at 7:00 pm
CUHSD DramaFestJanuary 16th @ Prospect High School. 7 p.m.
Spring Musical TBDMarch 28th-April 6th
Musical Theater Class Show TBDMay 2, 3, 4 at 7 p.m.
Spring Showcase children's showsMay 16, 17 @ 7 p.m.
Senior Showcase Awards ShowMay 22 @ 7 pm.


Big seasons ahead for everyone! I can’t wait to see what else is revealed as schools come back from summer break. On that note, I hope it was a good one for all of you. Here is to a great 2012-2013 theatre season!

The Theatre Bill of Rights

All theatrical artists shall be entitled to:
-Accurate scheduling/time management by staff so that time is not wasted.
No one should be subjected to hours upon hours on a call with nothing to do. While “holes” sometimes happen, they shouldn’t be a frequent thing. Having an someone be done early on a regular basis is also cause for concern since it results in wasted time at the end of a rehearsal. Plan ahead by knowing the approximate pace your artists work at and the difficulty of what you are working. The logistics of scheduling can make or break the strength of a show. Imagine having all that wasted time given back to you in tech week when you need it most. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Well, don’t waste it in the first place.

-A safe and usable place to rehearse/work.
In theatre, we have to adapt to our resources. But when it comes to rehearsal spaces, artists deserve a place where they can really work. Is it too hot? Too cold? Bright? Dim? Drafty? Moldy? Other things to consider… Concrete floors causing shinsplints for dancers/stage combatants, small rooms becoming over-crowded for rehearsals, having usable pianos for musical rehearsals or lifts/ladders/scaffolds for technicians, keys for access to other rooms, usable sound equipment etc. Bottom line: Can this room do the job for the artists so that they can do their job for the show?

-Clear and collaborative direction from creative staff given in a pleasant manner.
Artists are fascinating creatures. At any given moment, their emotional/impulsive compass can point in one direction with such strength that they throw themselves forward without thought. Often, it leads to a great discovery. Sometimes, it doesn’t. When the latter happens, it is the responsibility of the creative staff to guide the artist, not close them in or spoon-feed them. Creative personnel deserve to make choices, albeit intelligent ones under the direction of the people in charge. They should expect firmness and decisiveness, but they are also entitled to kindness and compassion.

-Respect for their skills.
When an actor/director/designer is chosen for a place on a creative project, they were chosen for a reason. Therefore, it is not anyone’s place (other than the person in charge) to discuss or debate that person’s input. Keep petty things under wraps, and do the work you have been designated to do.

-A “drama” free zone.
Again, theatrical artists are potent vessels of emotions. Get enough of them churned up and watch the show go down in flames. Therefore, whatever crossed your path during the day, whatever is gnawing at you, whoever is getting under your skin, check it at the door and come in ready to work. Everyone is expecting that of you, so do not waste their time by being distracted (or worse) by transferring that negativity onto others.

These are simple and basic categories, but they encompass a tremendous swath of things that everyone in theatre deserves to have. There are probably things that have been missed, but that is up for you to decide. Have anything to add? Comment below or discuss on our Facebook page.

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