Music Lives!

“Music lives!” These were the closing words of the speech given by Barbara Reed-Honn on the occasion of her retirement from The University of Cincinnati-College Conservatory of Music.  What perfect and beautiful words to cap off an illustrious career teaching at that great institution that created so many amazing musicians and people.  Of course we, her students, were touched in the moment, many of us with tears in our eyes when she said it and, of course, later we had to tease her about it.  Barbara is an amazing teacher in so many ways and even in those famous words she was leaving us all (her many students in attendance) with a lesson that would ring in our hearts years later.

Music does live.  I believe that and I do experience the independent life that music possesses.  I experience that magical moment when the music takes over, for me it is a feeling of letting go while being totally present and responsible for my part.  Sometimes it happens in the practice room, more often in a rehearsal, and almost always in performance.  To dive into the music is, for me, like diving underwater.  The rules are all different, and I cease to exist as an individual and merge into the vast ocean of sound.  This is extremely tangible for me when singing with orchestra but I also feel it when I merge with my accompanist and the piano or instrumental sounds that enter me and to which I offer my own sounds and spirit.  Yes, it is a spiritual thing, an intimate thing.

In my experience, working at the university I can go days without hearing the living breath and line of the art song or aria being attempted by my students.  In my efforts as a teacher of vocal technique, its possible that I, inadvertently, inhibit the allowing necessary in making music; the space for grace.  The grace of the music is tangible and only helps the singing.  Still, one has to get over a technical hump before that magic can happen.  I feel it is true for me and for my students, especially with difficult music.  It’s hard to feel the magic, the living, breathing music until one has attained a level of ease with the music both technically (in the body) and on the page.  So when does that music actually come alive?  How can we, as teachers, encourage it to come alive sooner and more often?

I am dedicated to making music come alive every time I sing.  The living music has special powers in the world.  Living music can inspire and heal.  It can uplift and connect people.  It is the highest discourse we can offer, our best of our best.  No small amount of discipline is required to become a magical singer who breathes life into music.  May I find that discipline deep within myself every day and the courage to make music as a way of elevating the level of discourse in the world.  May I inspire my students to be all that they can be and attain mastery over themselves and their techniques so that they, too, can make the music come alive.

Music lives in me in large part because of my teachers who encouraged the discipline and courage required to get to the magic.  I am filled with gratitude for all these musical angels in my life, not the least of which is my dear friend, teacher, and mentor:  Barbara Reed-Honn.  Thanks, Barbara!

Music Lives!

Barbara Reed-Honn (teacher, mentor, friend)

29 Gifts

The inspiring book by Cami Walker, 29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life, 29 Giftshas got me thinking about the plight of classical singers these days. I hear so many singers, indeed, musicians in general, complain about the lack of gainful employment out there. And they are right! It’s pretty bleak! So, what are your options? Well, certainly complaining won’t get you a gig. But giving just might. In Cami Walker’s case, she was in deep crisis–physical, financial, career, relationship– and she was able to turn it around almost miraculously by giving.

It was a prescription: Give 29 gifts in 29 days. Her story is inspiring and remarkably ordinary. I encourage you to read it and try to apply it to your own situation. If you think about your music as a gift and thoughtfully, mindfully give it to someone who might simply enjoy it, who knows what miraculous changes might happen in your own life or career.

I, myself, have yet to take the 29 Gifts Musical Challenge. I’m looking forward to taking the leap soon. Will you take it with me? It may just be the remedy we’ve all been needing! Let me know if you are with me (comment below) and we can decide in a start date.

The 21st Century Singer: Skills for Success

The following is the handout for my masterclass at the Classical Singer Convention in Boston on May 26, 2013 at 1:00 in the Hancock Room of the Boston Westin Waterfront.  Enjoy!


You have to know how to sing/perform really well.

Vocal technique (life long pursuit)

Performance ability (acting, movement, combat)

Musical fluency (reading, learning, understanding music)

Foreign language Diction/IPA skills

Foreign languages

Creativity and artistry to interpret text and music

Opportunities to perform

You have to have rocking business skills.

Recording & computer skills to make great audition materials – electronic, excellent quality, interesting (Web site, Classical Singer Page, Blog, Professional Facebook page, YouTube Channel, Other on-line presence)

Professional communicate skills (email, text, chat, in person)

Budgeting income and expenses (lessons, coachings, auditions, scores)

Social networking both in person and on-line (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn)

Ability to do crowd sourcing to develop a relationship with your own fan base

Ability to stay up to date on current trends and job openings for singers

Ability to create a professional team around you to support your singing and career.

Entrepreneurial skills (making a pitch, self-promotion, creative packaging of your product, ability to take risks)

You have to have great personal care skills.

Health management (exercise, nutrition, sleep, meditation, therapy)

Social support system (friends and family)

Personal appearance (clothes, hair, make up) in your own style

A good balance of family, friends, career, spiritual enrichment, learning, and fun.


Traditional Artist

Hired by:   Opera Companies. Oratorio Societies, Symphonies, Chamber Ensembles

To:  Perform specific roles or parts on their Main Stage for their Season

Path:  Bachelor of Music, Masters of Music or Artist Diploma

Young Artist Program, Competitions

Management, Auditions

Pay:   Short term contracts

Teaching Artist

Hired by:  Educational Outreach Division of Opera Companies, Symphonies, …

To:            Perform in schools, libraries, community centers

(opera companies do this to build their audiences and fulfill granting requirements)

Path:        Bachelor of Music, Masters of Music or Artist Diploma

Auditions for local company

Pay:          Hourly


Hired by:   Colleges and Universities

To:             Teach voice, foreign language diction, song literature, opera & perform

Path:           BM, MM, DMA or significant performing career

Pay:             Long term contracts with benefits

Independent Artist (Entrepreneur)

Hired by:     Venues (concert halls, supper clubs, Performing Arts Centers, On line)

To:                Perform your own recital, cabaret, opera program

Path:             Gain skill anywhere you can (BM, MM)

Management/Booking Manager or self-managed or crowd sourcing

Audition materials and/or pitch to venue

Pay:     Varied (Percentage of the door, fee plus travel, donations from fans, grants)

Specialized Artist

Hired by:            Specialized Community or Organization

To:                       Perform for special functions

Path:                     Research, Audition and make your pitch

Pay:                       Varied (Long term contracts with benefits to hourly)


Hired by:  Church, synagogue

To:  Perform solos/choir for weekly worship

Pay:  weekly


Hired by:  US Government

To:  Sing in Sea Chanters, Singing Soldiers

Pay: long-term contract


Hired by:  US Government

To:  Sing as Cultural Ambassador

Pay:  grant


Hired by:  Mayor’s Office

To:  Sing as Cultural Ambassador

Pay:  grant or fee


Hired by:  Cruse Ships

To:  Perform for guests

Pay:  short-term


Hired by:  Hospitals/Hospice

To:  Perform for patients as pain management

Pay:  varied


Hired by:  Corporations

To:  Perform for clients as advertising

Pay:  varied


Hired by:  Recording Companies

To:  Lay down vocal tracks for video/film

Pay:  union contract


Hired by:  Professional Chorus

To:  Sing in a choral section

Pay:  union contract


Hired by:  Opera Chorus

To:  Sing on stage in chorus

Pay:  union contract


The War of Art

I practiced today!  Well, I have a gig coming up so, of course, I had to practice that music.  But I also practiced other music, music that I wanted to sing.  I felt the urge to pull out “Azulao” by Ovalle and the Rachmaninoff Vocalise.  Why?  Because, even though there was no one listening, I felt the need to offer it up to the gods and goddesses of music as a kind of oblation.  These pieces are pure deep love.  To sing them is devotion not only to the gods but also to me, my voice, my spirit.  I felt the need to obliterate Resistance today and just sing, damn it!  I did it with this attitude because I read Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art this week.

Oh Steven Pressfield, how do you know me so well?  Someone gave me this book to read some months ago and I finally picked it up and read it this week.  This little book is a great kick in the pants, for sure, but it is much more than that.  Pressfield’s thesis is that if we all had the courage and fortitude to follow our dreams, the world would be free of all sorts of evils like war.  In short, if we fight the war against our inner Resistance, then we won’t have to fight the wars, both imagined and real, in the outer world.

So, I just wanted to say:  THANK YOU!  Thank you to the gods and goddesses who inspire me to sing every day.  Thank you to my job that demands that I sing every day.  Thank you to my family and neighbors who have to listen to me screech away some days to perfect a particularly difficult passage.  Thank you to all my comrades in arms.  Thank you to all the poets and composers who freely give me my canvases.  Thank you to whomever made this body of mine that can sing.  Thank you to all my teachers and mentors who continue to encourage me to perfect my craft. Thank you to whomever gave me this book (sorry I can’t remember). Thank you most of all, today, to Steven Pressfield, a fellow warrior. I feel less alone in the world because of you!

Music to Your Ears

Singing matters.  Really, all music matters.  The eternal question is:  why?  In a brilliant and insightful article on the mysteries of music, I highly recommend Adam Gopnik’s article in the most recent New Yorker Magazine (January 28, 2013) entitled:  “Music to Your Ears, The quest for 3-D recording and other mysteries of sound”.

Several points in the article resonated with me:  one is the all-consuming pull of music that leads an individual to dedicate an entire lifetime to its study.  I don’t just mean musicians, but also those who study the why of music, those who study the acoustics of music, those who study how the brain processes music and those who write about it in The New Yorker.

Here are some of the ideas in the article that either inspired or confronted me:

* Listening and wanting to hear something are “intricately entangled”.  We can measure the physics of listening but not the desire of the listener.

*McGill University has some amazing researchers that have proven things like the pain relieving power of music. The researcher, Daniel Levitin’s studies are small but definitive.  “We’re only taking these little thimblefulls of knowledge from the great sea of music,” he said. “But what we know now we really know. We’re not guessing, or just assuming, or just asserting things about the way these expressive dimensions work, or how universal they can be shown to be.  We really know.”  How exciting!  What amazing implications for musicians and humanity alike!

*No matter how perfect and sublime the technology can reproduce music, it is in the human touch complete with its imperfections that we find meaning.  “The two expressive dimensions who force in music Levitin had measured and made mechanical were defections from precision.  Vibrato is a way of not quite landing on the note; rubato is not quite keeping perfectly to the beat.  Expressiveness is error.”  … “Levitin could show that what really moves us in music is the vital sign of human hand, in all its unsteady and broken grace.  (Too much imperfection and it sounds like a madman playing; too little, and it sounds like a robot.) Ella singing Gershwin matters because Ella knows when to make the words warble, and Ellis Larkins knows when to make the keyboard sign.  The art is the perfect imperfection.”  Oh Adam, your writing makes my heart flutter!

* A point is made about how we listen to music.  Sound studies professor at McGill, Jonathan Sterne, the author of “MP#: The Meaning of a Forman” says, “I don’t see the grand synthesis of one truth of hearing….Human ears aren’t natural reflectors of sound in the world.  They are themselves these transducers that make reality—the perception of sound is not a mirror of nature.  Therefore, perception in a way makes sounds, and it makes sounds differently from a microphone and a computer detecting vibrations out in the world.”  So, a strong argument for live, non-amplified music.  This article at several times brushes the topic of how electronic, poorly recorded or two-dimensional sound actually causes stress in the listener.  Live music is still more powerful and effective than reproduced music.

*Something sad and to be addressed is this: “…in all but a handful of aberrant cases nobody sits down to listen to music.”

Please read this article and let me know what strikes you!

12-12-12 Duel Duet at Gardenia

Tonight at The Gardenia 7066 Santa Monica Blvd, Hollywood 9 pm

Both Kristof Van Grysperre and Susan Kane hold doctorates in music from from distinguinshed conservatories:  Kristof from USC, and Kane from the Cincinnati Convervatory of Music.  This show, directed by Belgian film director, Lieven Debrauwer, has been presented at the Tinnenpot Theatre in Ghent, and made its Los Angeles premiere at The Gardenia in October, where it stunned those in attendance through the sheer musical command of these two performers.  

Scripted as farce, its storyline serves as a clever vehicle to present such divergent yet juicy fare as material from Sondheim’s Company along with selections from Piaf and Puccini to Betty Boop to the piloerecting Flower Duet from Lakmé—perhaps even more affecting heard in the intimacy of The Gardenia than at The Walt Disney Concert Hall.  

Less “Ricky and Lucy go to the opera,” and more “Victor Borge and Anna Russell come to The Gardenia,” their show has an appeal that extends not only to regular Gardeniaphiles but also to any of the town’s classical music enthusiasts who appreciate a healthy dose of sophisticated musical humor.  (Tom Rolla, proprietor of Gardenia)

Gardenia 323-467-7444             Dinner from 7pm & Showtime 9pm

TICKETS:              $15 (door), $12 (reservations)

$9 (students/seniors)/Min 2 drinks


Classical Cabaret?

Please join my partner, Kristof, and I at the MBar in Hollywood.  One night only!  Kristof & Kane will perform their classical cabaret show:  Duel Duet, directed by famed Belgian film director Lieven Debrauwer.  Lots of fun and superb music all in one show!  7:00 pm dinner, 8:00 pm show.  Please call 323-856-0036 for reservations.

Bridging the Gap: A Workshop for the 21st Century Classical Singer

Calling all classical singers who need a little guidance after graduation.

Classical singers are facing significant changes in the workplace.  There are more opportunities to perform than ever before.  There are also more resources to help singers than ever before.  The trick is to find your place in the world as a singer.

The process of taking inventory of your self as an artist and human being is essential before you begin to market yourself to potential employers and/or audiences.  Unfortunately, most universities do not help singers through the process before graduation and afterwords they are on their own.

This workshop is here to bridge a few gaps:  the information gap, the gap of years between graduation and performance, and the experience gap.  Bridging the Gap Between the University and the Stage is not only a workshop but also an e-Book soon available at an affordable price for emerging artists in the classical singing world at:  Contact me for more information:  

May this workshop and e-Book be a help and inspiration to you.  ~Susan Mohini Kane

Susan Mohini Kane


Endless Possibilities

Endless Possibilities

The classical singer has more possibilities than ever before to develop a product and deliver it straight to an audience.  If you are trained in classical singing you know that your possible repertoire is endless.  From Dowland with lute in the garden to your stellar Star Spangled Banner sung a cappella, your choices are endless.  Your best friend from the conservatory can collaborate with you to play coffee houses or jazz clubs — yes, even with classical repertoire.  Check out Le Poisson Rouge to see that they book classical talent along side indie rock, jazz, poetry, etc.  Here on the west coast you can find many venues willing to book classical acts.  Here’s the question…do you have a classical act?  Well, it might be time to try to get your act together and take it on the road.  Check out a few other inspirational links such as Fractured Atlas and Arts Journal, especially Amanda Ameer’s blog called Life’s a Pitch. 

The empty chair is such a cool image.  I saw it outside my dentist’s office and thought it looked like a great stage.  I wanted to stand up there in front of an audience and sing something.  I hope it inspires you to get yourself out there and sing like it matters, because it does!