Category Archives: Blog

Wonderful Concert at Shenley Academy on 24 January 2016

IMAG1797I hope to write something longer about this, hopefully with some videos embedded but for now I want to say how wonderfully all of my singers did in the Vocalist Concert on 24 January 2016 at Shenley Academy.

It was a really varied programme, ranging from Musical Hall, The Seekers, Adele and Schubert with all sorts in between.

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The venue at Shenley Academy was beautiful. Their technician had set up the lighting beautifully, with cold, neutral and warm lighting states.

There was a lovely grand piano that Iain Jackson, our brilliant pianist enjoyed playing, a Roland electric piano and all mod cons.    I look forward to sharing some photos and videos with you very soon.

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Audio Sorted

I am so happy that I have sorted out my audio on here that I wanted to do a little blog.  I am so chuffed.  It has taken hours and hours of time but thanks to a lovely bloke called Greg at A Small Orange, who host this site, I have sorted out the problem.

So Choirs now have a page where they can listen to my recordings that I do to help them and sheet music.  I’m so, so glad.  And now I can go to sleep.  Then maybe tomorrow I will get around to watching the video of my show to start sorting out a promo for getting more gigs with that.

Sleep well all.

If you think you can or you think you can’t you’re right

I’m listening to The Life Scientific on Radio 4.  They are talking to a Genetic Psychologist who has concluded that intelligence is at least half, if not two thirds inherited.  The nurture section is a very, very small part of how intelligence develops.

It got me thinking.  It’s true everybody finds certain things easier. It’s double edged sword.  Yes some things are easier for some people but also if you believe you can do a thing then you approach it with an attitude of play.  If you think you can’t then you approach it with fear.

I had better relate this to singing, because I could really go on.

I have seen naturally phenomenal singers who can’t be bothered to practice, or simply have no interest in being better.  They just don’t practice.  They will not put themselves out there to perform and don’t do their homework exercises, the targeting practice I have set for them.

On the other hand I have seen singers who really struggle, with free tone or being in tune but who believe in the process and  trust me.  They learn so well and make brilliant and incredibly fast progress.

One student very much followed the principle of my previous blog, put in the work and the body will learn.  This student was very musical but he couldn’t sing high at all.  He worked out that he needed to get stronger in his body so he could belt higher.  He worked up to a G and then a B.  He just kept trying things and being positive. I remember when I told him to try to whine and he was very dubious.  However he emailed me a day or so after the lesson to tell me I was right and that it did indeed work.

Inspirational.  To learn and keep learning.  To be positive.

If you have a natural aptitude things are easier.  The steps are easier and each stage is so much more impressive.  But if you just treat every step as a part of the process to get where you want to go, even if the genetics are not in your favour then you will get there.

Is it different academically?  Maybe you are either good or not?  But maybe it’s not.  Maybe we just hold up academia as something that is special.  But isn’t it just another set of skills?  Eventually in academia you usually specialise to one particular field.  If you can get that concept then you can do it.

 

You can work the muscle, follow the process.  Can we be good at anything we set our minds to?

Let Your Body Do It and Get the Mind Out of the Way.

After my run this morning I was inspired to write a blog.  I didn’t have any time to type it up so I dictated it.  I was feeling inspired so I have typed it out as I said it into my phone, between panting and being out of breath.

When I say, “I’m really not a runner” other new runners often say they’re also new to running.  They  say they’ve not run since school and I say “I have never exercised in my life.  I’ve never, ever done that. I’ve never, ever believed I could exercise.”  They really don’t get it.

It made me think about people who think they can’t sing. It made me think about the mindset and how you can really, really believe you can’t do something and how the body learns.  The body learns because the body is actually more conclusive than the mind.  I don’t know if it’s stronger but it’s more conclusive.  So the body proves you can.

I just ran 30 minutes.  It was slow.  I wouldn’t be bragging about it if I was considering myself a runner.  But I don’t consider myself a runner, I consider myself a total non-exerciser.  So I’m very proud of myself because I just did 30 minutes of running.  That’s absolutely phenomenal.

The first time somebody who has had maybe 20, 30, 50 years believing they can’t sing, or, possibly even more debilitating, believing they used to be able to sing and now they are too old and it’s too late for them to start or whatever. It’s the same thing.  It’s the same thing.

I suppose when somebody turns up for a singing lesson they’ve taken that step, that they might be able to do it.  But they have to change their mindset a bit.  I still don’t believe I can run.  I still believe it’s a miracle every time I get out of the door. But I do it.  You have to do it.

You can pass a lot of responsibility to the teacher  but if you don’t do the work it won’t make any difference what you do in lessons for an hour, or half an hour a week, it won’t work.  You’ve got to do the practice in between.  It’s the muscle memory work. It’s the training and that’s why I’m making myself go out running.

That made me think about the whole role of the teacher. The role of the teacher being to understand which steps are the right steps to do and keep it just beyond manageable.  And to give motivation that it is worth taking those steps.

So I had to run 15 minutes, walk one minute and run another 15 today.  It was really, really difficult.  It was really difficult. But I did it because I knew that if I didn’t do it I would be absolutely stuffed when they do whatever they do with us on Sunday.  Apparently on Sunday we are going to cover 5k without stopping.  Which I find quite unbelievable if I’m honest.  Completely unbelievable.  However I will do what they tell me, I will do the best I can.  I may not be perfect but I will do the best I can and I will manage it.  I may be exhausted for the rest of the day but I will do it.

Because it’s about your body learning what it can do and your mind getting out of the way.

New Show coming on up

I am doing a new show in Autumn and thought you might be interested in knowing more about it.   This is the official blurb…

Rebecca Schwarz, singerThese Women’s Words

In her new show Rebecca Schwarz explores some of the issues that affect women, taken from women she chats with on the school run and at the pub to world famous leaders like Victoria Wood and Josie Lawrence. An eclectic mix of songs, including her debut of original material, and moving or funny stories make up a night that will be sure to entertain.

Comments on Rebecca’s previous shows include:-

“Marvellous. The most entertaining show I’ve been to in years, and I’m not even a new mother! The lyrics & delivery were as good as Victoria Wood at her best”

“I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry

“Any woman who can keep my husband amused and entertained all evening must be good!!”

There is a show at the Artrix Studio in Bromsgrove on Saturday 26 September, tickets are £10 from me and £12 from the venue.

However as lots of people said they wanted to see the show but they can’t make that date/venue.  So I’m doing a Kickstarter campaign to pre-sell tickets to a show in Kings Heath on Thursday 8 October.   If 44 people buy tickets at £10 each then the show will happen and if not no-one’s money is taken.

So if you would like me to do These Women’s Words at the Hare and Hounds in Kings Heath on a Thursday night in October (specifically 8 October 2015) then you have till 9pm on Friday 22 May to get your tickets.
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/73925013/rebecca-schwarz-these-womens-words

I hope to see you there.

Concerts, charity fundraising and masterclasses and weddings

I’m just home from my latest vocalist concert and I am just so proud of all of my students.  We were in the large room at the Hare and Hounds in Kings Heath, which has a wonderful sound, is very atmospheric and has a history of loads of amazing performers being on the stage but the performers couldn’t see the audience at all.  Maybe they liked it but I find it a real struggle.

I’m far too tired to write much and I’m sort of beyond words to say how proud I am of all of “my” vocalists.  I could list something from everyone that made me proud so I won’t risk it for fear I miss out someone.  So I’ll just write that I am looking forward to seeing the videos and maybe sharing a few of them.  And we made loads of money for the charity Ethan’s gift, who fundraise the the Cardiac unit at Birmingham Children’s Hospital and the British Heart Foundation.  We made £208 after paying (very kindly, heavily discounted amounts) to the pianist and sound engineer.

So I’ll just finish by saying if you want to know about any forthcoming Masterclasses let me know and I will add you to the mailing list, (the next series is full up).  The choirs are going from strength to strength but we are always more than happy to have new singers join us.  Again get in touch if you want to know more.  My email is rebecca@rebeccaschwarz.co.uk or rebeccasingingteacher@gmail.com if you prefer email addresses you can remember.

Lastly tickets are currently available for my Kings Heath show in October on Kickstarter.  They are available on Kickstarter for another 26 days at this link https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/73925013/rebecca-schwarz-these-womens-words.  We need to sell 44 tickets to cover costs.  So if you want to see the show happen in Kings Heath on 8 October then get your tickets there.

(And if you want to see the new show in Bromsgrove there are only 8 tickets left for this show. )

over and out to go and off to sit in a darkened corner.

Just Turn Up and Trust – How my 5 year old son confirmed my mantra

Apparently I am a fan of “Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway”. Not that I’ve read it, I own it but I’ve not read it, but I am clearly a follower. I seem to have sold 44 tickets, on Kickstarter, to a show that I am going to perform in September and I have no idea what it is about. I dare to write this because I now, a week after selling the tickets, think I have a concept that it will work.

My approach to being creative is based on my experiences from working with Julia Cameron’s book “The Artist’s Way”, (which I have actually read but often don’t own due to lending it to people).

I first read the book, (which is actually a course in the form of a book), in 2004 and it lead to me completely changing all aspect of my life. So since attaining the Kickstarter support to do my next show I have gone back to “The Artists Way” (or TAW as I like to call it).

The first thing that strikes me from re-reading is that she tells the reader that the art is there, it is not our job to be a creator but merely to let the art come through. You turn up at the page and let the work arrive (or is that arise?).

I do have some ideas for this show. I want to tell the stories of some of the brilliant, inspirational people I know. I will talk about women because I am a woman and I know more than enough interesting women to fill many shows. Nothing against the men I know but for some reason I find it easier to play women. Many years ago I partook in a workshop at The Actor’s Centre, London with a great teacher/director called Simon Cox. We all told stories, which we then wrote them down. Then we swapped and told each others’ stories. I want to recreate this in my next show. I read the Vagina Monologues as it seems to be a similar concept. I can’t say who had the idea first, Eve Ensler or Simon Cox, perhaps it was like the serendipity that meant the Beatles took to the Magical Mystery Bus at the same time as Ken Kesey took his prankers on their Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.   Regardless, I’m inspired.

But that’s as far as I’ve got thus far. I am terrified. I feel the fear utterly. I am trying to follow Julia’s basic tools, when it doubt write your morning papers, (which is freehand writing of your thoughts for 3 pages every morning). Today they could have been named, morning afternoon and nightime papers. Re-reading this I wonder if I could call these musings morning papers. Ideas are emerging, I am finding inspiration.

I am checking out Vicki Stone again. (Note to anyone who has seen my shows she is the writer to “Beauty and Her Yeast”. I love her.) I have found a fabulous new songwriter Katie Thompson and at least one new song for the show. I have interviewed fabulous women and they have given me 3 lovely little monologues, one is funny, one moving and the last is hilarious and I hope to be doing a parody of Carole King’s The Reason using her exact words. I am going to be brave and put one original song into the show (oh no I’ll have to do it now that I’ve written it on here), I know that my show is out there and that it will be great. But there is something utterly terrifying about the blank page.

Which brings me back to the reasons why I wanted to write this blog, what I meant to write about. The other day I was talking with a member of my choir about what I should use to market myself. What my USP is and she told me that I constantly say “just do it. Don’t think, just do it.”

I had no idea but now I realise I say it all of the time. I believe that in singing, as when learning anything, people respond in one of two ways. If you’re lucky your brain will either tell you to go for it, but if you’re like about three quarters of my students your brain will tell you that you can’t do “it” whatever “it” may be. There’s that quote from Henry Ford “If you think you can or you think you can’t your right.” Well I see that proven true over and over.

Thinking doesn’t help. Perfectionism doesn’t help. All negative, fearful thinking, does, it block you up and make you tense. Your brain doesn’t know if you can do something unless you let your body give it a go. I know that if my body asked my brain if it could manage childbirth it would have laughed on the floor and my body would have never known what amazing things it can do.

When I see students inhaling earlier than is appropriate in a song because they think they are going to run out of breath I tell them to see what happens if they don’t breathe yet. Wait a little longer, push it a little bit. See what happens. The worst that could happen is that you faint and/or die. I say this with the knowledge that the body always holds onto a large amount of air and that when the singer needs to their body will breathe in. The issue is that the brain tells them to breathe in much earlier than they actually need to. (I must point out that I do check first if students have asthma or any other reason why they need to be careful when working on their breath). Invariably the student manages to sing a much longer phrase when they override the message that their brain is telling them. You don’t know what you can achieve until you actually try it out.

My elder son is in Reception at school. He is doing really well at school and thriving academically. His Dad is a clever sod who knows it and my family are all academics so the classroom is a safe place. Whilst I’m proud of his success it’s not a biggie because it’s easy for him. We expect it. On the other hand…

He has been going to gymnastics since September as well. In October all of the other kids passed their first badge but my son couldn’t get his badge. He can’t do his tuck and roll. The class is full of what I call “scary girls” in leotards. Just watching takes me back to being the fat girl at drama school in a dance class.  At the term end he insisted he wanted to continue with gymnastics.

Then in January, he realised he’s not a natural at gymnastics. He wanted to quit. He wanted to go to netball because his friends were going to netball. I was full of fear for him failing. He’s really short and I am pretty sure netball won’t be any easier for him than gymnastics. I laid down the law and said he has to continue. I had no faith that he would ever get tuck and roll and ever get his next badge. I hope he didn’t realise my total lack of faith.

Last week he got his badge. He hasn’t got his tuck and roll but he can do pike and roll which, according to his teacher, is much harder. I am so glad I pretended to have faith in him and I let him keep on trying, even though I found it painful watching him struggle. I am so much prouder of him for getting his gymnastics badge than I am of him for his maths. According to his teacher he struggles with being a perfectionist and can be a “Mr I Can’t” when anything is a challenge.   She says we need to keep telling him he is “Mr I Can” and not a “Mr I Can’t”. I think he may well prove to be my most challenging student yet.

I believe that you need to try things to see what you can manage. I’m not suggesting you invest massive amounts of time and energy in something that is miles beyond your reach. I suggesting you celebrate the small steps. Set goals that are slightly outside your safe place. I am pushing my students like mad to sing a solo in my next student concert. Some of them are terrified and other think that they won’t be ready. I just keep saying “Give it a go.” I hear myself saying my mantra over and over but I can’t stop myself.

Most of us think we are so much less than we actually are.   You never know unless you try.

Years ago, again at The Actor’s Centre, a teacher called Catherine Arton, inspired me with this quote. It is often attributed to Nelson Mandella but is in fact by Marinne Williamson. If you don’t believe in God swap in something you do believe in.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone and as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

 

New Show 26 September 2015, if you want it

Hi

Following the roaring success of The Jukebox Show I contacted the Artrix in Bromsgrove and asked them for a Saturday night in their studio to put on a new show.  I figured that all of the people who couldn’t come because Jukebox was on a weekday night would be ok with that, and all of the people who came to The Jukebox Show would come to the next one because it will be a new show.

So I’m asking anyone who says they want to see my show to put their money where their mouths are and buy tickets.  I know September seems a long way away but when you are looking after two kids and running a business (which involves two choirs, lots of private students and their concerts too), then I need a few months.  And also I need to give the Artrix enough notice to get into their glossy brochure.

For those of you who couldn’t make it to the Jukebox show here is a description given by audience members:

“taking you from melancholy moments to cheeky skits, Rebecca uses her beautiful voice  and life experiences  with hilarious and brilliantly entertaining results.”

“was literally brilliant! Your comic timing and voice are truly captivating”

“I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry”

You only have 2 more weeks to buy your tickets to make this next show happen.  You can get your tickets at

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/73925013/rebecca-schwarz-new-show-no-title-as-yet

If we don’t sell another 7 tickets then the show won’t happen.

Tickets available for The Jukebox Show – 15 January 2015

Rebecca Schwarz is performing a one off show  where the pre-booked audience got to choose the songs.  The song choices are great, lots of humour and lots of emotionally intense songs.

“Rebecca Schwarz has a face for comedy and the voice of a star”

Cabaret Singer

Cabaret Singer

15 January 2015, 7.30pm

Upstairs at the Hare and Hounds, Kings Heath, Birmingham.

Tickets are £10  3/4 are already sold.

For tickets email rebecca on rebeccasingingteacher@gmail.com

There were too many people to fit in the small room at the Hare and Hounds so we are now in the big room.

Singing Masterclasses Jan – March 2015

Following the success of October’s masterclass I have decided to run a  series   of     masterclasses.  They will be along the same format, with singers doing individual work with me in front of the group, with a group warm up and group participation as and when the exercises allow.  Because it is a series of workshops I may do work focussing on specific issues that singers want to look at together and there will be a degree of flexibility to ensure maximum learning for everyone.

If singers are interested there will be an opportunity to perform a solo song at a concert on 23 March, as part of Cantare Choir and Cantare Daychoir’s concert.  (This is only for those who want to do this and not a  requirement of participating).

Whether you are an experienced singer or just starting out, the class will be a safe and friendly place to try out something new, get you on your feet or move your singing to the next level.

Some comments from the participants of October’s masterclass are:-

“Thoroughly enjoyed the workshop.  My confidence is definitely better now. Don’t think I will be too nervous next time – can’t wait!  So much fun.  Thank you.”

“never thought I’d have the confidence to sing out… but I did”

“the things you did showed immediate results with each singer.”

“loved it.  Time flew by”.

The dates are all on Thursday nights 7-10pm and are as follows:

8 January, 22 January, 3 February, 12 February, 26 February, 12 March and 19 March 2015.

Upstairs at the Bull’s Head, Kings Norton Green, Birmingham.
On the last class we will be joined by a pianist who will accompany you on your songs.  This is something I’m sure everyone will enjoy, regardless of whether they plan to sing a solo in the concert.

Another comment from October’s masterclass participants

“It was a lovely mix of people, different ages, different types of voice, different styles of music etc.  Beck’s you were really quick to pick up on what each of us needed and you have a wealth of strategies, exercises and helpful advise to offer and you dont’ seem at all scary.”

Bring sheet music or a backing track for a song you want to work on.  (If you bring an mp3 player, tablet or anything with a small earphone jack I can plug it into my speaker).  I’m happy to help if you have trouble finding sheet music/backing tracks (although you must give me plenty of time if you want help).

The cost to attend the course is £120

To reserve your place you must pay a deposit of £40 and the remainder of the fees must be received by myself by 23 December. The deposit is non-refundable and any other payments are non-refundable after 23 December.

Only 10 places available, 5 places already provisionally taken as of 13 November 2014.   Book asap to reserve your place.

Contact Rebecca to find out more

T: 07803 900154

E: rebeccasingingteacher@gmail.com