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BWW Blog: Bob Marks - Your Performance Goals in the Context of Your Lifestyle

Professional singing is a very competitive industry, and it takes a great deal of self-discipline to maintain a career.

The vocal mechanism is extremely delicate and can be easily injured. Frequent yelling or shouting, poor singing or speaking habits, constant throat clearing, and many other behaviors can lead to voice problems. Trying to speak over loud music at clubs or general crowd noise in the course of working a bar or restaurant job can also hurt the voice. Most vocal injuries are from overuse, which can involve any kind of excessive vocalizing, whether that be speaking or singing.

Voice problems are not, however, always due to abuse. Illness can also lead to hoarseness or loss of voice, and can greatly exacerbate the effects of even small amounts of overuse. To avoid complications, singers have to deal with allergies, digestive, respiratory, and dental problems as soon as they emerge. Your instrument involves quite a bit of upkeep, and you have to factor these items in to your budget and lifestyle. A couple of ignored dental appointments or failure to follow your doctor's GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) diet, for example, can easily escalate to conditions that will leave your voice out of commission for weeks or months.

Unfortunately, your voice can also experience wear and tear when you are at play; any activity that consistently leaves you hoarse and unable to recover by the next day needs to be reconsidered. This applies to everything you do, from children's sleepovers to Friday night corporate mixers; if your voice shows signs of wear the next day, you regrettably can't afford to do that thing on a regular basis.

I think the average person would be surprised at how much time and effort working singers invest in their vocal health. In order for Broadway singers to handle eight shows a week, they must practice daily (while spending most of their non-performing hours on vocal rest), sleep adequately, be constantly hydrated, develop immune systems of steel, and stay in immaculate physical shape. Many actors find that they have to sacrifice a great deal of ordinary social life in order to meet these demands.

The good news is that the things that are great for your voice are also extremely beneficial for your general health. Very few lives suffer at the end of the day from good nutrition, adequate rest, and clean living, and regardless of whether you want to sing in the church choir or on a national tour, your voice and body will return bountifully on your health investment. However, for a working singer, it's not a choice!

Noted vocal coach Bob Marks specializes in helping singers showcase their talents to their best possible advantage. He is in the process of writing a new book (with Elizabeth Gerbi) about auditioning for musical theatre. Until the book is published, is pleased to offer weekly bits of audition advice. Please feel free to submit any specific questions you'd like to have answered in these blogs.

Bob Marks maintains a busy vocal studio in New York City, working with performers of all ages and levels of experience. He also teaches performance workshops throughout the US and Europe. He was a pianist with the original Broadway production of Annie, and spent two seasons as the Associate Conductor of the St. Louis Muny Opera. For several years, he was the host and musical director of the acclaimed Youngstars performances of professional children in New York City. His well-known clients have included cast members of almost every current musical on Broadway, and stars such as Ariana Grande, Lea Michele, Natalie Portman, Laura Bell Bundy, Constantine Maroules, Britney Spears, Ashley Tisdale, Debbie Gibson, and Sarah Jessica Parker. He holds a degree in speech pathology, and has taught at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, the Professional Development Program for the New York Singing Teachers' Association, and at Nashville's Belmont University as a special guest artist. As a vocal coach, his clientele ranges from beginners to Broadway cast members, as well as singers of cabaret and pop music. He is an expert in helping performers present themselves to their best advantage in auditions and onstage.

Elizabeth Gerbi, currently a Visiting Lecturer of Music Theater at American University in Washington D.C., is well known across the Northeast as a singing teacher, voice coach, choral conductor, and music director/pianist (150+ productions). As a singer-actor, she has appeared in regional productions ranging from Annie Get Your Gun to I Pagliacci to The Kenny Rogers Christmas Tour. Recent projects include musical directing The Chris Betz Show at Rose's Turn and The Sage Theatre in NYC, Side Show and Tommy at Westchester Broadway Theatre, The Sound of Music at the Wagon Wheel Theatre of Warsaw, Indiana, conducting Dreamgirls and Seussical at Debaun Auditorium in Hoboken, NJ, adapting Starmites 2000 with Broadway composer Barry Keating, and accompanying master classes for Broadway veterans Ken Jennings, Lindsay Mendez, and Lisa Howard. She is also a former consultant for the Rodgers and Hammerstein Music Library, and currently serves as a both New York State School Music Association Solo Adjudicator and a respondent for the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. She attended Ithaca College (Bachelor's of Music in Voice Performance and Music Education) is a Level-III graduate in Somatic Voicework: The LoVetri Methodâ„¢, and completed a Master's in Music Education from Boston University.

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