Daily Archives: March 11, 2011

How to wow an adjudicator

He who sings scares away his woes.


Every time I adjudicate, I come home thinking about what I wish the contestants knew.  As I continue to reflect on the singing I heard last week whilst adjudicating in Illinois, I think it’s time to put some ideas out there for others to see.

We adjudicators joke that we should bring a checklist of ten things we always say, and just mark which of these statements apply to that particular singer.  Perhaps that’s what I’m doing here.

Given that some of the students I hear at a contest are 15 to 18 years old, and given that many do not sing in public regularly, and a large number do not take private lessons, here are some general thoughts to share with teenagers (and adults!) who are singing in public for any reason —

  1. Just breathe.
  2. Sell the song.  We want to be wowed.  We want to believe you.  And we want to see and hear you succeed.
  3. All other things being equal, open your mouth taller rather than wider.  Let us hear uninhibited resonance that rings proud and true.
  4. Know the meaning of every word you sing.
  5. When singing in foreign language, prepare yourself better by hitting YouTube and finding video of people who natively speak/sing that language.  Go for idiomatic pronunciation.
  6. Just breathe.
  7. Stand proudly.  And get your hair out of your face so that you can communicate with the fullest visage possible.
  8. Think about what you wearing.  The party dress or the tight vest is probably not the best choice. (See this posting for more on this topic.)
  9. Smile at the adjudicator as you provide music.
  10. If you receive applause, bow.  And then acknowledge your accompanist.
  11. Just breathe.
  12. Don’t try to lower the adjudicator’s expectations.  Stand proudly and present what you have to give.  No apologies or excuses are necessary.
  13. If in doubt, take the song faster rather than slower.  Plan your breathing so it coincides with punctuation marks and rests in the music.  And then breathe earlier than the last eighth-note rest!
  14. Review my Radical Rules for Righteous Singing.  I wrote these over 20 years ago.  They are still true and honest.
  15. Remember that the words came first.  Honor them.  Interpret them.  Start and end with the text.
  16. Singing is a visual act, as well as aural/verbal.  Show the song in the face.  We watch you as well as listen to you.
  17. Just breathe.

Diary of a day

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6 a.m.
Wide awake and listening in bed to NPR report on the earthquake in Japan.  Samson sleeps.

7 a.m.
Out of bed.  Work on teeth.  The morning sun pours through the east windows on the front of my house. Samson sleeps.

8 a.m.
At dentist office for semi-annual cleaning and polishing.  Samson, having breakfasted and roamed the back yard, sleeps.

9 a.m.
Samson is in the car with me.  We drive south on Kingshighway, then across Arsenal and a few blocks further south to A Walk in the Park, where Samson is bathed, refreshed, expressed, and trimmed.  All for $20.  Meanwhile, I walk a few blocks to Hartford Coffee Company and have a Sammie (breakfast sandwich) and two bath-basin-sized cups of coffee.  And read the New York Times.  And play peek-a-boo with the three-year-old at the next table.

10.30 a.m.
Back home.  Armor-All the interior of Ingrid the Volvo.  Cut down the tiger grass out front.  (This shoudl have happened in January.)  Check on the progress of various green things in the yard.  Open a case of wine that arrived by mail recently. Samson, now worn out, sleeps.

The mums are starting to grow.  Daffodils continue to make their way upward.  I’m determined this year to plant more perennials, and prep the ground for bulbs in autumn.  I also intend to have a little herb garden this year.

11.20 a.m.
Bring the beans to a boil, in preparation for U.S. Senate Bean Soup.  Start one more load of laundry.  Think about polishing shoes, but go to the computer instead.  Samson barks once at some passing fancy, then sleeps.

1.30 p.m.
Now showered and rested, and having dealt with the continuous deluge of email and paid bills, I’m thinking of lunch.  Samson sleeps.

2.05 p.m.
Lunch is over.  Quiche and some berries were yummy.  The bean soup is nearing readiness.  I’ll have soup for a week now.  Samson begs.

3.30 p.m.
After puttering around for nearly 90 minutes, I have CDs put up, items rearranged, recycling deposited, and more laundry finished.  I’m now awaiting one of my students for some voice work.  Samson sleeps.

4.45 p.m.
En route to a movie.  Samson has been fed and walked, and wonders why I’m not paying attention to him.

5.16 p.m.
The Adjustment Bureau at Hi-Pointe cinema.

8 p.m.
Dinner at Pi in the Loop.

11 p.m.
Shake my head in wonder at the lumens put out by the new security light on the west side of my house.  After two recent break-in attempts, both when I am not home and both through the rather unlit back yard, I am through being nice.  This light is enough to keep neighbors awake at night, so I suppose I’m fortunate that my neighbor who faces this light is a high school.  No one is coming into my yard without being blinded by this light.  Samson wishes I’d just settle down so he can sleep on my lap.