Philly Creative Guide

Guest Columnist

Laura Hull

Yours for a Song
by Laura Hull, 1 May 2008

Laura Hull is a vocalist and independent music consultant serving the tri-state area. Visit her on the web:

A Day in the Life...

I'm pleased to be offering this column dedicated to singers – those who reside and appear in and around the garden state. I've come to be a part of a large network of singers here in NJ and the tri-state area. Many of us play at the same venues; work with the same musicians; recommend one another to teachers, coaches, booking agents; share ideas on acting classes and stylists; and support each other's work. I am one such singer. I really enjoy going out to hear other singers when I'm not working, and generally I will go out of my way to hear someone I know. There is nothing more flattering for a singer than to have another singer or musician stop in to listen and say hello.

Many singers I know are also educators: Nancy Marano, Pam Purvis, Lauren Hooker, and Roseanna Vitro, to name a few. Each of them offers something unique to enrich the jazz community – some write and produce – but they all delight in giving back by teaching. I have had the pleasure of studying with Nancy, who has a robust practice coaching and educating singers. As director of vocal jazz studies at NJ City University, I marvel at Roseanna's work in directing her young singers and the work she does in her vocal clinics. Lauren delivers her arts in education programs in different settings to children K-6; and Pam directs the NJJS Generation of Jazz program offered in a variety of settings around New Jersey. I, too, offer coaching and seminars on the business of singing, because it is, after all, a business!

Singers are working at their craft all the time, and in a way, the singing is the easy part. Certainly, it is the most joyful. But, there are so many factors involved: Researching composers and selecting songs; finding the sheet music, whether at the library, in a songbook, online, direct from the composer, even visiting the Library of Congress. I once called a composer to ask for the sheet music to a song and he told me it would soon be published in a songbook, and that I'd have to wait! Wait? Hey buddy, I wanted to sing YOUR song NOW – but he wouldn't budge, so I won't ever sing his song, and I won't be recording it either. No royalties for him, thank you very much!

Then there's seeking places to sing, the part that requires lots of energy. I've dealt with venues that I literally have to chase, placing call after call, message after message, sending CD after CD, dropping in to say hello, all to schedule a date. Then we market ourselves to our audience with emails, flyers, advertisements, websites and MySpaces, and links to YouTube. Of course we need musicians to play the music we sing, so we contract them for a gig. We hire arrangers to write charts, others to rehearse new songs. Oh wait! We need a CD, requiring more musicians and arrangements. Then the rehearsals, studio time, CD design, distribution and sales, marketing, posters, website, ads, postcards – it's endless! I had a friend who once told me that singing will take as much time and money as you're willing to give. You can do a little or a lot, but there's always more to do.

Singers, me included, live with melodies rolling around between their ears all day long and into the night, memorizing tunes while trying to fall asleep. Then the brain chatter kicks in. How can I make the song different, slow it down, do it up, perhaps as a bossa, how about in 5/4 time, maybe more instrumentation, how about guitar, how about that fabulous bassist I love to work with, oh wait, I wanted to work with tenor and alto sax next gig. I must remember to call that new venue that opened! Then, the emotional chatter begins. Am I good enough? Did I sound good on that tune? Was I too dramatic? I have to do a better job on memorizing the lyric. Those lights really highlight my wrinkles. I've got to get some new wardrobe. Was that agent in the room? Do I feel pretty?

I make us sound like a pretty neurotic group, don't I? Nah, we just want to sing! We want to feel the music, be the character and tell the story, feel the rhythm and bask in its glow. Most important of all, we want to please the audience.

So the next time you go out to hear a vocalist, don't forget to applaud!

Print Article Brought to you by: Laura Hull | Vocalist, Independent Music Consultant

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