How do you know Maya/Tehya?
I met Maya and her awesome family while we both traveled the country with the 25th Anniversary National Tour of Les Misérables.
What’s the difference between mix and headvoice?
Remember that “easy, natural voice” I was talking about earlier? Try saying “Hi, my name is ____”, and then pick an easy middle range pitch and SING “Hi, my name is _______” just like you spoke it. This is what I call “clean mix”. It’s basically your speaking voice on pitch. Think the beginning of most Disney princess songs: “Look at this stuff – isn’t it neat?” or “I’ve been staring at the edge of the water”.
Head voice starts for most people around a Bb above middle C – it’s a lighter, sweeter, sometimes breathier sound. A lot of people have trouble transitioning from chest voice (that lower, more powerful sound that we associate with belting) into their higher register because they push the chest voice up too high until they do a little yodel or crack and have to sing in head voice. Ideally, we want a seamless connection. That comes from allowing the sound to come out on a supported breath from a body in alignment (don’t reach for high notes with your chin!), instead of using tension to create volume.
There are a lot of not so good voice teachers who will encourage kids, especially pro kids, to belt way too much and way too high. Kid vocal cords can be pretty invincible – up to a point. But I see a lot of kids working WAY too hard to create that “TOOOOMORROW! TOMORROW!” sound, and it can lead to vocal fatigue or bad habits that they carry into adulthood or even vocal injury . . . again, this is the mantra: singing should feel easy!
What advice can you give to beginning singers?
Find your natural voice: the easiest, simplest iteration of your sound. A lot of beginning singers want to imitate people with super specific sounds (lots of riffing, lots of heaviness or grit, lots of belting). We all learn by imitating! But make sure that you are trying a lot of different styles and sounds. Singing should feel easy – if it doesn’t, something is off. Once you find that easy, natural sound, you can add all the bells and whistles.
What is Vital Voice Training?
Back in 2012, I picked up a book called Half The Sky, about the five major issues facing women in developing countries. It made me SO angry – these enormous, heartbreaking, thorny problems that are harming and even killing millions of women – and my first thought was “what can I do? I majored in singing and dancing!” The answer was to use the skills that I had as a theater person to help other people amplify their voices, particularly women and marginalized people. We need their voices and their ideas...I wanted to help people "show up" as the best version of their unique selves.
Since we founded the company in 2014, my cofounder Julie and I have been able to work with the most AMAZING people with world changing ideas. I knew nothing about starting a business – I just trusted that I had a good idea and asked for help when I needed it, and used Google a lot, making a lot of mistakes along the way. I’m so proud of what we’ve built.
When did you become a singing teacher and why?
I’d been teaching singing one way or another since just after I graduated college, but doing a lot more of it since about 2008. I don’t have a degree in vocal pedagogy and I always acknowledge that there are people with way more knowledge about vocal technique than I do, and I’ll send students to them if that’s what they need! What I love about teaching is doing a little bit of everything for my students. I love helping pick songs and figure out creative, effective audition cuts. I love coaching the acting and performance of those cuts. I love working on freeing and supporting the voice, and showing students how versatile their instruments are. And I love working on the mental and emotional aspects of being an artist, whether you are a pro or an amateur. Seeing my students have these lightbulb moments when they do something they never thought they could do – that’s one of my favorite things on the planet. They say the best way to really learn something is to teach it to someone else. I learn from my students all the time.
What inspires you to sing?
First of all – and this may seem weird, but it shouldn’t – I’m good at it. It feels good to do things that we’re good at! It’s ok to own when you have natural talent that you’ve worked hard to develop – you can do that WHILE staying humble, being a lifelong learner, not taking that gift for granted or shoving it in people’s faces or being a jerk. Particularly among my adult business women clients, I see so many people who are so deeply self critical and afraid to own what they’re good at, and it’s really paralyzing for them. We can take pride in our accomplishments and talents without taking anything away from anyone else. It’s all about balance.
I did an Instagram project this year called #100days100phrases to challenge myself to get over my nerves about posting videos of me singing (yes, I too am intensely judgey of myself and a total perfectionist – something I work on every day!). I had to think of a new short phrase from a song every day, and it was great practice in noticing the world around me, noticing how I was feeling at the time, and then choosing a song that matched that or illuminated that or made a joke about that.
What was your first show you were in?
My first experiences performing were with my family singing in church – I did my first solo at age 4 and did a lot of Christmas musicals where I played a toy that came to life to tell the story of Christmas . . . an ornament that came to life to tell the story of Christmas . . . you get the picture! I loved doing theater in high school – probably my favorite experience there was playing Annie in Annie Get Your Gun. I still miss my red cowboy boots.
What show do you think deserves more recognition?
I don’t know if it’s necessarily ONE show, but I think we all (including me) tend to fall into ruts with what kind of shows we like and neglect to learn about different shows. Do you love modern musical theater from the last five years like Be More Chill and Dear Evan Hanson? Challenge yourself to research musicals written before 1960! Youtube is an insane tool – I call it going down the research rabbit hole. Find a video of someone singing something you like, then look at the suggested videos around it. You never know what you’ll find!
What are you currently working on?
SO MUCH! After getting back from tour, I started working on building what I’ve been calling my “career multiverse" - in addition to performing, I am teaching singing and audition technique to students of all ages and experience levels (from Broadway pros like Maya to total beginners), as well as building a company called Vital Voice Training. I also love to write, I perform with the Broadway Inspirational Voices choir, and run a group called “The Valkyrie Collective," which is all about connecting and empowering women from all industries.
I’m my father’s daughter in that I am chronically early – I’m definitely a “get there at least an hour before it starts” type. I always have a few special items that live at my dressing room station – little mementos from shows, pictures, etc. If it’s a vocally taxing role, I definitely build in a warmup routine with vocal exercises – and sometimes I have a song that puts me right in the correct vocal placement spot for that show. (When I played Maria in Sound of Music, it was Princess from Man of No Importance.)
The best way is through my website. You can also like my Casey Erin Clark Studio Facebook Page and follow me on Twitter or Instagram.