Musicians Acquiring Muscles – Week 1!!!

This week, our brave two and a half musicians (Candace, Eva, and Megan) went out into the world in search of muscles and found them! They had to battle heavy rehearsal schedules, dodge around the forest of learning great amounts of music, and conquer the obstacle of tight purse strings, but, in the end, they returned triumphant. Candace found whiffle ball, Eva used her yoga mat, and Megan returned to good friends Steps on Broadway. Here are their adventures in their own words!

CANDACE

This was supposed to be the week of nothings. I just finished my master’s degree recital, and for me, a post-performance week is a week that should be of bizarre emptiness. One tends to wander around aimlessly wondering “But what do I do now?”

This was hardly the case, both musically and physically. In practicing, I’ve discovered how much focused my sound is with better hand position. I’ve also discovered how to make a beautiful, thick Brahms sound. I know it doesn’t sound like it has a lot to do with ‘exercise’, but it is always exciting for me to discover how I use my body in relation to practicing, even though it is always in retrospect.

However, I am dying of soreness today. I mean, honest to goodness, dying. My butt muscles hurt, my right shoulder hurts, I had to stumble and wince to take off my shoes because I had to bend down. Who would have thought that wiffle ball would be the cause of all of this? Yesterday, we hosted “Baseball for Idiots” for our friends who are conservatory students. (If you don’t know, conservatory students are a lazy and paranoid breed – we don’t do anything for fear of injury!) I can’t hit for shit, but will swing like hell, and have discovered that my boyfriend’s lessons in teaching me how to throw has paid off. Throwing a plastic ball really hard requires me to do so much following through so I’m definitely not use to that. Nor am I used to athletic position, and having flexible bent knees. The pain feels good, although I hardly consider playing and running around with plastic bats and balls as exercise. My soreness reminds me that something seemingly frivolous counts too!

***Muscles for Musicians note  – even if you don’t have a conservatory team – you can check out various wiffle ball groups in NYC for yourself.  Here is one that I found by using the powers of google!  ZogSports Wiffle Ball

EVA

This week was a bit crazy, as I had a rehearsal every night Monday-Friday after I got out of work, which is from 10am-6pm. (Of course this is going to continue through the end of May.) So my main goal was to not stress eat and make terrible choices- I think I mostly succeeded in this. I managed to pack my lunch a few days this week and find healthier on-the-go dinners like wraps and salads. Also trying to snack on fruits or trail mix during the day rather than those baked goods. As far as fitness, I did a lot of running around and was active in blocking rehearsals- so I added things on like taking the stairs every time I had the chance, and actually pulled my yoga mat out a couple mornings to stretch and do crunches/lunges. I think morning is the best time for me to do anything like this when I’m so busy, as I really have to make an effort to get to bed as early as possible at night. So this week it was all just little stuff that I tried to add to my routine, and I hope I can tack on a bit more this week!

 

MEGAN

This week began with Robin Powell’s pilates class at Steps on Broadway, because I felt the extreme need to strengthen my core.  The previous week I was relatively sedentary, and I always feel like a good pilates class is what I need to get myself centered and back into an active lifestyle!  I also adore Robin’s class as she is endlessly supportive and gives the appropriate modifications to make the exercises appropriately challenging for all levels taking her class.  Tuesday, between an audition and the “managing your cash flow” class I’m taking, I squeezed in my new favorite jazz class in the world, Lisa Gajda at Steps on Broadway.  (I’m hoping to do a special entry JUST ON THIS CLASS.  If you can make it – GO!  All levels!  Broadway and beginner!  It’s 2:30-4:00, Tuesdays and Thursday, at Steps on Broadway.  It’s simply the best.)    I thought I was off to an awesome start with TWO CLASSES in two days, but alas, that is where the physical activity classes ended for me last week.  However, I did attend two dance auditions, which counts, right?  One was disco themed (which made me really want to try a disco dance class!) and one was very “Jack Cole/Fosse.”   I also went on a New York Walking Tour via  Ghosts of New York.  I would say 90 minutes of walking counts as exercise, AND I got to learn a lot about New York history as an added bonus!  I would definitely recommend checking out various walking tours around the city for light physical activity and educational fun!

Musicians Acquiring Muscles!!!

I’ve decided it’s time for this blog to go back to its roots and focus on MUSICIANS.  Up to this point, I’m been very fortunate in getting my dancer friends to share their dance and audition secrets, and I would like to say thank you one more time to all of them!  I hope you found their insight helpful.

NOW I would like focus on three musicians trying to get into shape and expand their physical horizons!  Well, two and a half musicians that is.  Candace Chien, Eva Parr,  and myself!  (I’m the half!)  Eva is a trained opera singers with a gorgeous voice.  Candace Chien is a classical pianist studying at Manhattan School of Music.  I’m a dancer and musical theatre actress who at times dabbles in the classical music world.  For the next two months, I would like to chronicle our adventures as we attempt to get into shape while navigating the treacherous seas of day jobs, rehearsals, budgetary woes, old injuries, and ennui with the elliptical at the gym.  Hopefully our adventures will inspire you to up your own physical activity and give you fun creative ideas of how to do so while staying within your own boundaries, whatever they may be.

So, for this entry, I would simply like to introduce you to Candace, Eva, Hannah, and myself (who I’ve actually spoken fairly little about I believe.)

 

CANDACE

 

 

Musical “profession”:

I am a classical pianist, and a soon-to-be graduate from Manhattan School of Music’s masters degree. I also teach, both group and private piano lessons and am preparing for international chamber music competitions with my duo partner-violinist.

Proudest Music Moment to Date:

I think one of my crowning moments in my musical career thus far was my most recent participation in our school’s Eisenberg-Fried concerto competition. I had practiced for accuracy, and integrated good technique to a new level, in order to give a creative and musically compelling performance. It was a definitive moment of barrier breaking – almost as if the rest of my life and career started from then on.  (To see a video of Candace playing in this competition – click here! )

Why do you want to incorporate more physical activity into your routine?

I am extremely unaware of my body. If one asked me to move certain muscle groups, I would look at you in obvious confusion. One of the troubles that many musicians have is tension. If I am aware of what’s going on in my body more, I am better equipped to identify tension that may be causing technical issues in my playing. I certainly also don’t mind a healthier lifestyle (and setting an example for a significant other who is a bum) and toning up over all.

Fitness goal:

Not sure, really. I think if I can get to do something regularly, not wimp out, or trip, fall and injure myself, that’s a win.

Biggest challenge in achieving said goal:

Doing it, and not wimping out or out-prioritizing it with practicing, cooking, eating, cuddling, TV or Facebook or something.

Maximum you would like to spend on fitness per week:

Again, not going to get ahead of myself here. I’d like to set a low goal like, 2 hours of organized practice (like a class), and maybe another 2 spread out in my own personal practice chunks.

Favorite exercise you have to tried to date:

Yoga was nice when I was going more often, if only because it was great for quieting the mind. This is also tried with wiffle ball, but the reason I like wiffle ball is because I like yelling at people, but that’s a whole other story.

Exercise you most eager to try in the future:

More dance! I think it lessens my general inhibitions with my body.

 

EVA

 

 

Musical “profession”: 

Operatic mezzo-soprano

Proudest Music Moment to Date:  

Performing the role of Cherubino in Amore Opera’s “Le nozze di Figaro”

Why do you want to incorporate more physical activity into your routine? 


Being reasonably physically fit does a lot for my self esteem, and like anyone in the performing arts, I have confidence issues that can come between me and my performance.  The more confident I am in my own skin, the more likely I am to give a better performance and then be able to challenge myself to that next level.  It also goes without saying that in this industry, appearance does factor in with talent and hard work.  I want to present myself as a well-rounded package- as well as fit into those pants-role pants.

Fitness goal: 

I mostly want to tone up overall, and I’d be happy losing 3-5 pounds.  Being able to WEAR and feel comfortable in all of my clothes at any time is essential!

Biggest challenge in achieving said goal:


My crazy schedule and my tendency to snack on baked goods.  When I’m rehearsing for a show (or two), most days are 13 hour days and I can only dream about the fun fitness classes I’d like to go to.  So I cry into my blueberry muffin.

Maximum you would like to spend on fitness per week:

$40

Favorite exercise you have to tried to date:


Salsa dancing!  I’m also a fan of Zumba, pilates and yoga.

Exercise you most eager to try in the future:


Other/all types of ballroom dancing!  I’m also curious about kickboxing.

 

 

 

MEGAN

 

 

Musical “profession”:

Musical Theatre Actress

 

Proudest Music Moment to Date:

Learning and performing the soprano chorus to Bizet’s Carmen with Amore Opera.

 

Why do you want to incorporate more physical activity into your routine?

In musical theatre, dance is incredibly important, as is how you look in a leotard.  I would like to expand the genres of dance and movement that I feel comfortable in and look better in a leotard.

 

Fitness goal:

First off, I would like to say that I do not weigh myself.  I used to obsess about every singe pound and feel chained to my scale.  It was a horrible feeling for me, and I feel like I did not enjoy life, nor was I at my most svelte figure to date.  My fitness goal is slim down slightly, build up my core strength, and explore new movement styles.  In the past, I’ve been very dedicated to ballet, contemporary, and “theatre dance.”  I would love to try some latin, ballroom, swing, aeriel silks, and surprise myself with what my body can do!

 

Biggest challenge in achieving said goal:

Money.  I wish I had $89 to put down for a ballroom dancing class, but alas, I do not.

 

Maximum you would like to spend on fitness per week:

ABSOLUTE tops is $72, but am aiming to strive for $54.

 

Favorite exercise you have to tried to date:

Ballet!  I also love Zumba with Danielle Pierce!

 

Exercise you most eager to try in the future:

Aerial Silks!

 

Sonic Yoga

Today, I tried Yoga. It’s not technically my first time trying yoga. I’ve taken some classes at gyms and one class at Yoga to the People (where admission is donation based – making it super affordable for the financially challenged.)   I’ve always found it boring, but recently  a lot of my friends have been raving about their yoga experiences so I decided to give it a second try.

In an attempt to avoid the crowds and stinky mats provided by Yoga to the People, and in hopes of finding a much more attentive instructor than those at the gyms I tried, I decided to dish out $18 + $1 mat at Sonic Yoga  I took their Vinyasa Flow 1 course.    I was inspired to try Sonic mainly because of this incredible video they posted!

First off, I should say, I can totally see the appeal of yoga, especially for people living in the crazy brutal jungle that is NYC.  For an hour an 15 minutes, a group of us sat in an “energy free” room (there was no air conditioning or heat, the lights were off, everything was illuminated via candles, and there was an exceptionally talented guitarist/singer providing the perfect music to accompany us.  We massaged our hearts, exhaled our negative energy, meditated on how we could give back to the universe, and moved very slowly and calmly as we stretched our muscles and moved our bodies in low impact movements and poses.  Some people around me seemed to expunging all of their stress through their strong exhales, and really digging the meditations and praying to the Hindu gods.  Some people were working up a tremendous sweat, and one girl was pushed so far to her limit that she fainted!  (We all then prayed she would be o.k.)  That was a scary moment.

I, however, was hoping for a more rigorous workout.  Perhaps it would have been better if I had tried a harder level.  I found that after the class I felt slightly more stretched that normal, but not as though I had made myself a stronger or more svelte being.

My experience was that I arrived 11 minutes before class started.  I walked up to the desk to sign in, but I had to fill out paperwork, which they needed to process before I entered.  They told me to go away and come back.  By the time the class started, my paperwork STILL had not been entered into the computer.  So, after the class started I was handed what had to be the SMELLIEST yoga mat I have ever seen, and walked in to the most CROWDED yoga studio I’ve ever been in.  It was more crowded than the one Yoga to the People class I had taken, so I was a bit miffed I had paid $18 for the exact experience I was trying to avoid – smelly mats and crowded studios.  I was squeezed between two girls who were already on their backs in their first meditating position, and there really wasn’t enough room, so our knees kept banging one another.  As I am not a fan of superfluous touching, this made it very hard to find my inner peace.  Also, most of the class was spent face down, so my face was in constant contact with this extremely pungent mat.  (I seriously question whether to not these mats are ever cleaned.  If you go – BRING YOUR OWN MAT!  It appeared that they had cubbies where you could leave your mat instead of carting it back and forth in the city.)  This smell of the mat, and my constant questioning of it’s hygienic qualities, greatly diminished my experience.  Our teacher, was on a personal mission to make us leave a smaller footprint on the earth, and kept having us meditate on how we could use less plastic (NEVER BUY WATER BOTTLES!  I guiltily stared at my plastic Starbucks water bottle.), paper towels, shopping bags, etc…  I wasn’t really digging this either, because it made me have a guilt complex instead of relaxing into the moment.  It felt a bit preachy, even though I doubt it was meant to be.  I’m fairly certain my “footprint” is way larger than it should be!

However, it did feel nice to actually massage my heart, some of the positions provided a really refreshing prolongated stretch, which I never seem to have time to do, but desperately need.  The teacher provided wonderful modifications to make the moves and poses more or less challenging to meet each individuals needs.  There was also an extra “spotter” in the room, who would walk around and make sure everyone was o.k.  At one point, a few people went into some extremely impressive handstands, and the teachers all offered to provide “spotters” for anyone who needed/wanted it.  Despite the crowd and smelly mat, the class did not seem like an hour and fifteen minutes.  Because the class truly did have a great flow, time flew by.  If I was looking for a meditation session, and brought my own mat, I would highly recommend this class.  However, I love building my core strength, and at least pretending I’m getting my body “bikini ready,” so I’m still a pilates girl!  Can’t wait until my schedule clears up enough to take another class!

Brittany Bohn’s Audition Advice

It is so wonderful to be able to share with you the audition advice of Brittany Bohn, who is currently tearing it up at the Goodspeed Opera House as a swing in their production of MAME!  I met Brittany doing MY FAIR LADY at the Westchester Broadway Theatre.    She was always such a breath of fresh air to be around – up for anything with the most positive sparkling attitude one could imagine.  She was a dressing room cheerleader who easily endeared herself to all!  In addition to being one of the most beautiful dancers I’ve ever had the pleasure to worth with and/or watch, she has a gorgeous voice!  Gorgeous enough to score her the Eliza Doolittle understudy position!  It was such a joy to watch her work on that role during rehearsals, and I hope one day audiences will be treated to her Eliza Doolittle!  Without further ado – here is Brittany Bohn’s audition advice!

 

 

 

Can you share a little bit of your dance background?

I first began performing in my living room to The Lawrence Welk Show and other oldies with my neighbor who we called Grandma Lorie. After we moved when I was 5, I didn’t start studying dance with a studio until I was in the 4th grade and that started a 9 year run with a dance studio in Atlanta called the Vista Grove Dance Centre. I studied ballet, pointe, jazz, tap, hip hop, lyrical, theatre dance, etc… In 8th grade I decided to go to a performing arts high school where I was exposed to modern dance among the other styles I already studied and the world of theatre and other art forms. From there I went to Point Park University for a BFA in dance with a Jazz emphasis and a minor in musical theatre. I performed in the concert dance shows but focused mainly in the musicals. My favorite experience in college was performing as Louise in our production of Carousel. I’ve performed with the Pittsburgh CLO, Westchester Broadway Theatre, The Little Theatre on the Square, Atlanta Lyric Theatre and will be seen at The Goodspeed Opera House in April.

Where do you like to stand during auditions and why?

A dance audition to me is a place that I feel the most comfortable with my abilities. I make sure I get to the front because that’s where I focus and work the best. Everyone is different, you have to figure out where you have to be for yourself. When I’m in the front I can see what I’m doing compared to what the choreographer is doing and I have room to do it. In saying that you should always be respectful of the other people around you, even though it seems like we’re fighting for our lives sometimes. It’s never ok to get there after someone and stand right in front, just try in a respectful way to get out on the dance floor as quick as you can. If the back is where you like it, sometimes it can be roomier than right in the middle. Whatever you do, don’t hide in the back because your afraid.

What do you wear to auditions?

I personally wear tan tights, tan Laducas, and a hot pink strappy leo. You should wear what you feel hot in and what shows off your lines. You shouldn’t be thinking about if your hair is gonna fall down or adjusting your leotard. Everyone has their own style they feel comfortable with, so show your charisma.

Do you have any advice on picking up choreography quickly at an audition?

Don’t psych yourself out, breathe and tell yourself you know what you’re doing. Then if you’re struggling: pick up the style and feel of the choreography first then concentrate on the big picture and last focus on the details. They say it’s “ok” to have little mess ups but if they don’t see you understand the style of movement they don’t have anything to go off of. Ex: Charleston doesn’t mean lyric ballet…

 

 

Would you suggest asking the choreographer questions if you are having trouble in an audition? If so which kind?

I’d wait until they ask if anybody has questions and then limit yourself. They will probably go over everything they’re looking for so pay attention. There are good questions and opportunities however to show them that you’re thinking of details or acting. It’s fine to ask them to show a small part again but speak up and be specific on what you’re talking about. Also pay attention to other people’s questions- DO NOT ask the same question someone else has. APPLY THE CORRECTIONS THEY GAVE YOU FROM YOUR QUESTION!!!

If you were to recommend one style of dance for a singer who moves to study – which would it be and why?

BALLET or MODERN fundamentals. And don’t just take class that you’re comfortable with. But then again, go boost your confidence with a style that you love when you’re feeling down.