As an opera singing mom, this is a question I hear all the time. “Can your kids sing?” Actually, my two kids hear it all the time. For me, it makes no difference. I want them to experience many things in life and find their passion. After a 10 year break from performing, the kids are wathcing me find my passion through every project I take on!
This week I have been lucky enough to combine work along with my kids’ summer play. I have been working with the extraordinary Lynn Stevens of the Sacramento Children’s Chorus for several months on how we could work together on a summer camp program for not only SCC, but students on the outside looking for some exposure to music. Last year, I was fortunate enough to work with two incredibly talented casts of her SCC students on the children’s opera BRUNDIBAR. This opera was performed in the Terezin concentration camp by children there. The SCC singers sang the roles with great enthusiasm, beauty and understanding of the gravity of the times in which it was performed. From this stage experience, the kids of SCC wanted more stage work. Lynn and I, enthusiastically and crazily, thought…”We should put on a show!”
Umm…really? What are we thinking? We will only have 4 days with the kids. Will we have enough time? Lynn wants to hit home with vocal health and healthy production of tone, regardless of the style being sung. I want to help the kids learn about audition expectations, techniques, acting, stage relationships as many of them want to try out for musicals at school or in community theaters. Yikes! We are biting off a big chunk, but that’s what the two of us do together. The energy and enthusiasm for the education of young people and challenging them for the nearly impossible seems to be our M.O.
The stress and strain of organizing music, arranging and time lines are over. Thankfully, we have on our team the unbelievable David Lee who can improvise transitions in any key necessary on the spot. The medley is coming together. The theme, “The Wizard of Oz”. We wanted to show the kids the original movie music and incorporate music from “The Wiz” and “Wicked”. the kids not only got voice lessons, acting lessons and audition techniques, but also how to study history of works they are performing and the scores as well. With all this planned, how on earth would the “show” come together. They were even making their own costumes and props during these Four Short Days at camp.
The days were jam packed from 9am – 4pm with 45 students, sometimes full on and sometimes in two groups. In the 45 students, were my two kids ages 9 and 11. I hoped that they would be able to experience summer day camp, and not have to worry about me being the singer mom. Both even decided to audition for solos/duets/groups on the first day of camp. I was proud of them just for going for it!
The days were filled with learning music and ALL the other things. At some point we needed to “stage” this show and help the kids figure out stage direction, dealing with props, dealing with each other on stage, watching the conductor…oh yes, and remember all the wonderful singing! Oh my goodness!
By the end of camp, not only had the kids done a FANTASTIC job on the show, but they had told their parents throughout the week what they had learned. Even the quietest of the bunch had been completely engaged in what we were teaching. What a TREAT to hear that one of the smallest girls watched the T.V. show The Voice with her mom and was watched the singers’ diaphragms to see if they were breathing correctly! WOW! As an opera singer, that makes me happy, but as a mom, that is thrilling to hear what they are sharing with their parents after camp.
Even my kids were blowing me away with what they learned, but most of all, the fact that they continued to be themselves throughout the camp. They never asked for special treatment, they constantly participated, and they worked hard but did their own thing. Yes, yes whether or not my kids can carry a tune, they sure can sing!