100 Days of Marchesi

by Beth Stewart in

It’s been ten years since I graduated from Towson University and began the real dirty work of becoming an opera singer. I was still unsure about my major until the last year of college, but I ultimately made the choice to do my graduate degree at music conservatory instead of continuing studies in psychology and writing. Whether I knew it then or not, I streamlined my focus and committed to moving forward on a long and hilly path. 

Making that choice was the tip of the iceberg. I spent another six years studying, soaking up every bit of knowledge I could about singers, singing, “the business”, acting, art, history, fashion, mindfulness, successful people…even my interest in health and wellness came from wanting to be my strongest self onstage! In other words, I was obsessed. I’m still obsessed, albeit in a more rounded way. As it turns out, following obsession and endless curiosity lead you to the pot of gold: your purpose.

If intensity and passion illuminated my purpose, it’s the boring, mundane, tough, mechanical, but necessary work that has contributed most to my realized potential. My coach Laurent Philippe, teacher Diana Soviero, and best friend/expert set of ears Jason Ferrante all preached the magic power of the boring stuff, but only now do I realize how right they were. Laurent called the daily discipline of showing up Serving the Muse. Sometimes Serving the Muse means giving a gut-wrenching performance for an appreciative audience, and sometimes it’s waking up at 7 am to be properly vocalized and prepared for a 10 am coaching. Sometimes it’s getting that extra hour of sleep to be focused in rehearsal the next day, and other days we live life fully and rack up juicy experiences to enrich our portrayals. Serving the Muse is where it’s at- it transcends Egos, colleagues, teachers, bosses, critics, and applause. If the Muse is fed, creativity and gratitude will flow, and success and fulfillment (however you define that) will follow.

My Art, now my career, is still my obsession, but it hasn’t saved me from the unrelenting grind of work. I miss the way I felt in school when I’d camp out in the practice room for hours, delighting the sheer joy of making noise. I’d get up early, vocalize through tons of phlegm and negative self-talk and insecurity, and stumble upon a life-changing discovery. I miss uncovering every nuance of my Art, my voice, my movement, my characters…everything…with wide-eyed curiosity. I refuse to let “the business” make me too jaded to Serve the Muse. 

For the next 100 days, beginning today, the first day of autumn, I will Serve my Muse by recommitting to the boring stuff. Diana Soviero spent her whole youth studying the Garcia singing technique through the exercises of his pupil, Mathilde Marchesi. I’ve worked on these vocalises sporadically, but never methodically. Diana is the most consummate technician and artist I know, and that’s proof enough for me to get started! 

For you fellow singers who follow The Artisan Traveler or my social media pages, I encourage you to join me in this challenge. As our industry becomes more focused on politics and image, our audiences crave world-class artistry. We’re hungry to be world-class artists! Let’s start a revolution and get back to great singing. Check out #100daysofmarchesi on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / social-media-of-choice and join in. Don’t fret if you miss day one. Better late than never! Join in when you can and commit to as little as five minutes per day of disciplined study. It’s not about how long or hard you vocalize; it’s about showing up daily and creating momentum. You can find a great compilation of Marchesi exercises here or google “Marchesi vocal exercises” for a list of free ones to start.

For my followers in other discliplines, how can you Serve your Muse through recommitting to a daily practice? As Jason Ferrante says, a basketball player doesn’t score winning three-point shots all day. He does sprints. He trains his mind and his muscles to perform when he’s tired, sick, stressed, nervous, or bored. Anyone can do well when he or she is at 100% strength, but how often can we honestly rely on that? How can we go on stage and make authentic Art when we haven’t mastered the minutia? Whether you’re a singer, a fireman, or work in an office, the devil is in the details. Show up every day with a fresh attitude and growth is inevitable. 

I wish you energy and joy for the next 100 days as you delve into the boring work. Feel free to reach out on social media or contact me through the blog for encouragement and inspiration!