The Making Of Hamilton

IT took  six years  for Lin-Manuel Miranda . to write ‘HAMILTON’

Originally, it was to become a Mixed Tape,,,,However, Fate intervened..

MIRANDA  was reading Ron Chernov’s biography of Hamilton. while on vacation.in  St. Croix

Before he left  for his vacation he bought the book on the Life of Hamilton, and the Death of him.,, later saying,’ IT COULD HAVE BEEN TRUMAN‘  luckily , for theater and history buffs everywhere it wasn’t.  We are very glad he picked up that BOOK>

Hamilton  starts writing a poem about the hurricane that destroys ST CROIX, where he  is living.

He writes about the carnage, and this poem gets him off the island. This is how MIRANDA understood the circumstances that made it  hip hop and music. It had to be rapped and sung. The subject was so dark, its had to be spoken and sung,,,he had no doubt about that.   He had written only one song in one year, when PRESIDENT OBAMA in 2009, asked him to perform at the White House.

PRESIDENT OBAMA told him, after hearing the song, ‘ALEXANDER HAMILTON ‘ the theme song, ‘ I won’t forget to remind you that at  the White House,,,,’THIS IS WHERE IT ALL BEGAN!’

After the WHITE HOUSE PERFORMANCE , it took him another year to write the second song. He walked and walked , rode the subway, that is how he came up with the the lyrics..He wrote one song at a party,, another while riding the subway.

It started as a mix tape and not a musical.  MIRANDA has to be ambulatory to write lyrics. On the move,, on trains, and walking through the New York streets. He began within thinking it would be a concept album, it was easier to think of honoring his favorite hip hop artists. He thought of them when writing.

MIRANDA  then performed from the MIXTAPE at LINCOLN CENTERS AMERICAN SONGBOOK , it started to come together.. He picked up the THE  HEARTBREAK OF AARON BURR, also ‘AFFAIRS OF HONOR, to nail the dueling rules.

In 2014 the  show began at the PUBLIC THEATRE.  MIRANDA AND DIRECTOR THOMAS KAIL went to WEEHAWKEN New Jersey, the grounds where BURR SHOT HAMILTON.  The actual grounds are covered with train tracks now, but there is a small memorial.

MIRANDA really studied other musicals, such as Jesus Christ SUPERSTAR  and  LES MISERABLE.  This taught him where and when to re-introduce a theme. MIRANDA. knew the best way to this was to stick  to the facts as much as possible.  That is why  CHERNOV,  whose novel inspired this  project became historian of the show.

CHERNOV looked at every draft and every song for accuracy.

 

MIRANDA stole a line from. the musical South Pacific, ‘I’M WITH YOU BUT THE SITUATION IS FRAUGHT, YOU’VE GOT TO BE CAREFULLY TAUGHT’.  in the song ‘MY SHOT’

MIRANDA  cast the show very diverse to make it look like AMERICA looks… Real and mixed.

After this huge success of the show, MIRANDA is actually making his MIXTAPE, This tape will be available this year. It includes a new song not in the Broadway show.

On a personal chapter now, I was working for a short time here in Las Vegas, at the PALAZZO   HOTEL in 2016 to help the OUT OF STATE   singers deal with the dryness and stamina of singing and running and  dancing,  to get the show ‘ BAZ ‘ up and going , which is a Fantastic Mash Up of Baz Lurhmans movie themes of the classics, when it was taking a long  time in rehearsal.   It  was volunteer only, as it was an EQUITY show, you can’t force singers to take time out of thier personal time to work…. it seemed only the real PROS were signing up. The lead singer playing , DAISY, WAS THE BRILLIANT JOANNA  ALEXIS JONES. YOU COULD HEAR A PIN DROP WHEN SHE SANG.  Here was the best singer I had heard to sign up to meet me??   I had to just tell her she was spot on, and would not have any problems, doing anything , anywhere!

This showed me, that real serious singers , from BERKLEE AND BOSTON CONSERVATORY are the real troupers who even as great as they were, are willing to learn something new.  Sadly, this was before I was taking lessons myself on VOCAL HEALTH  by a LARYNOLOGIST and SPEECH PATHOLOGIST, who I still work with , ERIK LANDRY, DR. JONATHAN SALINAS.  This new information I know know, would be quite beneficial to anyone singing, dancing ,and running while singing!!!

I have learned so much I wish I had known then,.,,, I cannot learn enough and my hunger for this knowledge is never fulfilled,,,, More More More!!!!  So, How does this tie in with HAMILTON. ,JOANNA ALEXIS JONES,,,IS PLAYING    PEGGY AND MARIA,   which requires a MEZZO SOPRANO.  She looks absolutely gorgeous which she is, she is sweet, down to earth and the nicest person.    When she went back to L A she was cast   in the tv production of HAIRSPRAY, and not long after was packing to re locate to New York, for this historic show.

I find it very similar to myself, when I got into a Broadway show six months after it opened,, I was cast in the rock musical HAIR when I was 17.   I found it so life changing..  The similarity was , that after going in after the original cast, you  miss out on the original cast recording,,the pictures of the exciting opening night, and all the T V appearances.. It is like being Prom queen but missing the Prom…. But the excitement of coming and going into the backstage, where fans want you autograph and they want to just touch you, and be next to you, because the life you are living, is their dream too.  WE are living the DREAM… I follow JOANNA on INSTAGRAM  watch her videos, of that amazing voice!

The moral of this story, is, audition for everything you can. You never know if it will be a huge historic hit!  HAMILTON AND HAIR are two the most historical musicals ever.  HAIR being the very first Rock musical with a political message and nude scene. Hamilton   a Rap and sung musical, also Politically charged. With my years  in HAIR I got to have lifelong friends who I still am close to. It is an experience only those who were with the shows can know.

I’m so excited for JOANNA’S career. She has prepared with great trining, and many performances where she got great reviews. .  Be prepared , Study, Be a triple threat, when you audition let them know you are Ready!   They can tell, they know what they are looking for.   Good Luck if you are on this journey, I am still remembered for Being in HAIR, and that will never change.  Musicals come and go,,, they are infamous, but only a few make history, so these are important shows everyone should be interested in.

LALA LAND was a good musical,, but the cast were  actors and so so singers,,,, most musical do not require huge talent in voice,,, a good actor can put a message across… I truly feel Gosling  and Stone did a great job,,, passable dancing  but the art great acting made me love them.         

I believe HAMILTON will be around a very long time,, and I also Believe JOANNA ALEXIS JONES WILL BE AROUND AS WELL, good Luck JOANNA,  and to all future Broadway actors!

 

Preparing to be Prepared

Preparing: It is that time of year.  You will get calls to send your Pics, Videos,  PDF’s, and other info for many projects for new TV shows coming up next year. 

You cannot wait until you need it. You must be ready and updated!

It is the difference between your getting a chance or not!.

If you do not have a working Email, then have a friend you can use who can do it all for you. But these casting agents and producers, do not want calls, they want to have everything at their fingertips.

Preparing Your Toolkit

preparing

Click on image for enlargement

You need 4 or 5 songs  60-90-seconds long, a video introduction of you being full of personality talking about why YOU should be working on their show. Your full bio, and any TV you have done in the past. 

This is too important, do not be the one who calls your coach last minute with a big ‘Help’. Help yourself and get ready!

Jessica Marciel

Long-Term Singing Success Requires Smart Short-Term Priorities

Never confuse talent with the applause of intoxicated people at a Karaoke bar It takes guidance, practice, determination, and dedication to really develop natural talent.

I have great singers who come every week, after long days and hard jobs. They know the more they learn, the better they will become. I have single mothers who have scraped for money to fund lessons for a child’s aspirations because they knew it was important.

And other students are now recording, and ready to be signed by a label. They still come every week or twice-weekly because they know they need to build stamina and refine their technique. If they make it to the next level, success at performances and concerts won’t just happen automatically. It will need continual coaching an ongoing honest evaluation

A Mother Is Not A Coach

west-side-story-coverOne mother insisted her daughter learn a difficult song from West Side Storyfor an audition. The girl could not even grasp the concept of the lyric or the degree of difficulty of the music.

I firmly recommended another song be chosen. The mother insisted; we parted ways.

A vocal coach needs to be included in the choice of an audition song. It is that ability, among others, you are paying for.

Singing Lessons Aren’t A Trip To Disneyland

If you have a large family, and the younger ones have to wait a year for their turn, in order for you to supply the gifted one with every tool possible, you must set the priorities to give the older child the proper training, or it will wither from neglect.

There is rarely measurable improvement, when a student takes lessons every other month or every two weeks. It takes study as if one  were learning an instrument. No piano or guitar teacher would take someone twice a month, because there would likely be no real progress.

time of day mattersTime of day matters

Bring a child to an 8pm lesson and they are certain to be tired,..exhausted. How can they absorb and retain the lesson content? Saturday? That’s usually play-day, and it’s difficult to focus on lessons. Well, if Saturday is play-day, parents may be sending mixed-signals to their aspiring child. If weekdays ARE the only time, then make sure the child naps and does not eat before a lesson. It’s important to be alert.

My Saturdays, growing up, were, jazz, tap, and ballet. My entire childhood was lessons. I could play on Sunday, ride my bike, go to the park.

Lesson Frequency and Persistent Practice Matter

If a student has any true professional aspirations, a good teacher, won’t be comfortable with being seen, twice a month (except in rare situations).  The really good coach is hard to find. I know, because I have students who have been to many before me, and moved on from frustration.

That type of teacher doesn’t offer the foundation skill and nurturing a student needs to progress. One can vocalize at home, but you cannot be your own coach or director. It requires a neutral observer and coach to move you along, point out poor phrasing and breathing mistakes. Read my post on “What you should expect from a vocal coach.”

No YouTube is better than Bad YouTube

I have coached some singers who take a couple of lessons, disappear, then post YouTube videos, and tout me as their coach.

I discourage anyone from posting YouTube videos, unless they are original, studio recorded songs.

I would like these people to take my name off the videos, but I can only ask. I can’t compel them.

Occasionally I get it wrong. I have taken on a few students twice a month and should not have. They did not get the progress my other students got.

I no longer accept hobbyist singers as students

If singing is a hobby, I will not take on that person as a student. If one is serious (as an adult or parent, for a child)  you will find a way… cut out a dinner out, whatever it takes, taking voice is a serious pursuit, and potentially life-changing experience.

Taking the stage on Karaoke night is fool’s gold. The applause of friends, family, and patrons is temporarily good for the ego. Don’t confuse that with reality.

A person with sincere aspirations and drive needs quality coaching and the truth about what it takes.

Aspiring students are always welcome. Reality checks occasionally given… This post would be a reality check 🙂

Jessica Marciel
Las Vegas Vocal Training

Breaking away from bands to Opening for Gallagher at the Marina Hotel

Jessica with Gallagher

Jessica with Gallagher

I had been in so many bands, and was yet to lead a band of my own . That would come a year later with Jessica and Fantasy.

The year was 1976, and Commonwealth was breaking up. I don’t remember why we broke up, perhaps we were just exhausted from the road.

When a nice producer had faith in me to book me in to Shipwreck Kelly’s showroom at the Marina HotelI got the chance to go out on my own, working with the fruit-smashing Gallagher.

I was quite nervous, Jorge was writing the charts for my show; we chose Minnie Riperton‘s Lovin’ You, for my opener.

Jorge thought I should start on-stage with the soprano hook, and then walk up the stairs going into the song. It was quite effective.

I sang the Joni Mitchell classic, Twisted, and  Maybe this Time, from Cabaret. I would wear Joseph Magnin gowns and was now getting excited about my solo debut.

I consulted Billy Kaye, a well-known comedian for advice on my banter. His advice: “Be yourself!” I have been myself on stage ever since.

Marina Hotel, Las Vegas

Marina Hotel, Las Vegas

Jorge and I were drifting apart. He wanted to head back to Miami to get his music degree. I felt like my career was just taking off. The pressure was intense. We loved each other, but he moved out.

We still saw each other. It was like an addiction, but we couldn’t live together. He had a temper, it had flared up years before, and I always forgave. Now I felt independent and let him go.

Gallagher and I became friends, and we hung out on our nights off.  I felt he was a volcano, and if he didn’t become famous, quickly, he would blow explode! He had a real need for attention and success that drove him.

Gallagher started surprising me on stage. When I was right in the middle of a torch ballad, he would roller-skate around me and try to crack me up. I never broke. The audience roared. We were held over, repeatedly, for months.

My dad was my biggest fan. He came in, often, and brought friends like drummer, Louis Bellsonand Leonard Feather

Feather reviewed me for Variety Magazine. A very nice review might I add. He started the piece by saying, “She came out in a gown like second skin.” Pretty good for the ego.

Twenty years later, Gallagher called me up and said, “let’s do it again”. I worked the Sahara Hotel with him twice in the 90’s. We picked up where we left off, I’d be singing and he would come out with a hose and spray the audience.

Gallagher

Gallagher

My daughter, Lexi, then in high school now, brought her friends, and insisted on sitting right in front where you get food thrown at you. This time, Gallagher wanted me in a bathing suit to hand him the food he was going to smash. I insisted on a raincoat, and got filthy every show. Then, I’d dash up to the shower and tried not to vomit. I would get food in my eyes, it was hell.

I went grocery shopping a few times with him, and found him very moody.  We decided not to finish the engagement, He paid us and we went our separate ways.

My Commonwealth bandmates scattered. Jorge was in MiamiMaurice went to Chicago. I am one lucky lady, with an angel on my shoulder. Which is so much better than the sauerkraut that Gallagher threw on me night after night!

Jessica - Gallagher

Jessica – Gallagher

UPDATE = September 23, 2013

Amazingly, Gallagher is still touring. Early in 2013, returned to Las Vegas and is performing regularly at The Tropicana,, smashing fruit at every opportunity.

I’m not opening for him, this time around. No need for a raincoat. After all these years, it’s been great to reconnect with him and know that he’s living it up on-stage.

Jessica Marciel
Las Vegas Vocal Training

Jessica Marciel on the Radio

skip-jess-T-150

My First Show, with Skip Weisser

In July, I was a guest on the radio show “On the Slide With Skip”  Skip Weisser is a hero of mine. he was with Elvis, Chase, and Wayne Cochran and the CC Riders, as a trombonist. Loretta St. John bless her heart was my connection for Skip to have me on a segment “Woman in jazz” with Sandy Kastel and Loretta and myself as guests.

His producer Joe McGough called and asked me to be a fixture on the show. They added a new music calendar segment for me to report and to chat with the guests and Skip and Joe,  on air.

With my many years of performing and my personal friendship with many of Skip’s musician friends, he thought I was a good fit! I am thrilled.

It is my 4th show this Wednesday night 6pm  on the radio 1230 am on your dial. If you miss any shows, you can go to KLAV.com and listen to archived past shows.

For recaps and music news around town and blogs, visit my new website, Live Music Las Vegas.  

See you when the curtain goes up,

Jessica

My Favorite Singer: Dusty Springfield

Dusty Springfield

Dusty Springfield

I never thought I would answer this question. There are so many great singers and all different.

I was watching a cable film with James Caan and Sally Field, “Kiss Me Goodbye”, and at the credits, there she was, I recognized her right away, Dusty Springfield, a song written by the late Peter Allen.

We lost Dusty to cancer way too soon, just so unfair. I searched YouTube and watched her with Tom Jones, Andy Williams, a lot of great singers. She had that velvety, smokey, yet soulful, cream cheese sound. She could be breathy and take your breath away., Her interpretation of a lyric was heartfelt.When she sang Randy Newman‘s, “Think it’s gonna Rain Today” you knew she really got it. When she sang, tin can at my feet, think I”ll kick it down the street, you knew she really got the way to express the cynical lyrics.

Dusty was a British, soulful, young gay beautiful blonde. In the 60,s we didn’t see that a lot. Everyone white was “White”, she sang with Tom Jones and it was magical.

She lives on, in films, like “My Best Friend’s Wedding”, where they all break into her songs through the film.

So, after thinking about, Eva Cassidy, Whitney, Barbra, Celine, I just keep going back to Dusty. She was the one, when I hear her sing, I go to another place. A serene, beautiful place. I hope she is at peace, and I hope she knew before she died, the legacy she would leave.

Sleep well beautiful girl.

Love , Peace and Soul

Jessica Marciel
Las Vegas Vocal Training

X-Factor Semi-Finals Contestant Melts Down – Unwatchable TV

x-factor-meltdown-rachel-crowI tuned in for the X-Factor semi-finals. I wasn’t knocked out by the performances, but thought that 13-year-old Rachel Crow deserved to be in the finals. She was up against a young man, perhaps 18, Marcus Canty. His performance was weak and out of tune. When the judges gave their save votes, Simon and Paula choose Rachel to stay. Wow, nice surprise. However the other judges, L.A. Reid voted for a male singer and Nicole gave up her vote because she couldn’t cut Rachel. Nicole was crying over it.

Then the Host read the ‘viewers vote’ and as he announced Rachel was leaving, she crumpled to the floor as though fainting. Her mic still on, she was hysterical. Her mother, Simon and Paula all came up and tried to soothe her, but she was out of control. Then saying to her mother “You promised!” …

Excuse me, but promised what!!?? You led your 13-year-old daughter to believe she would win this show? I was very upset, remembering my daughter in pre-school losing a costume contest and her tears welling up on stage, and swore to never put my daughter in that situation again.

The idea of removing age minimums or limits may have seemed like a good idea; however, watching this young girl come apart, before my eyes, was way too much in the name of entertainment.

The X-Factor last night, for me, was not entertainment. It was excruciating pain.

Jessica Marciel
Las Vegas Vocal Training

The Value of a Great Vocal Coach

When I was a child, I had already been singing since I could speak. My mother had been a professional singer and dad a drummer. They decided not to get me a coach, they didn’t feel I needed it.

“Now, being a coach, I realize, I would have been a better singer than I am if I had a good coach.”

~ Jessica Marciel

It is better to have no coach than a bad one. I have had many students come to me after four or five vocal coaches, and I hear the same thing. “They never taught me how to breathe.”

We all know how to breathe, we do it all day long. The difference in singing is the need for more air than you need, just to speak, and understanding when to breathe, within the context of the lyrics. I have students who will struggle with a high note. I say, bend down over and make an L-shape and sing to the floor. The note comes out easily. When you do breathing exercises it helps you hold and control notes.

Again, when my students go in the studio, my producer Tom Marolda insists I be there, because he is unable to work the engineer board, and explain what he needs from the singer. A phrase like “How Does it Feel” becomes fell, as we soften the ‘E’. The emotion has to come through. A singer isn’t seen on a CD so one must make the listener feel what the vocalist is feeling.

The texture and colors of a song are important. You cannot sing a song the same way all through it, or it becomes monotone. My student, Marine Goujon, is recording an album project, and we are concentrating on her dynamics, because this is an important project. I wanted her to almost whisper a part and then bam, when the band comes back in, it explodes and really is quite effective.

Tom wanted her voice to sound a little raspy. This is not the way she sings , so I took an hour with her and wore her out. I put her through the hardest exercises I could think of, and trashed her voice. Tom came back in and we proceeded with the song and it was more funky and a little more sexy, with a few words that had a rasp.
This isn’t something I suggest be done often, because it is hard on the vocal chords. Afterwards, we gave her warm water and honey and I had her hum gently, which soothes the throat.

Another student, Dayna, just recorded a fantastic song for an up coming film. We had to make sure she had the right timber in her voice, the right tone. Tom believes a lot of people make mistakes not including coaches during recording sessions. Vocal coaches can explain things that producers and writers can’t.

A good coach is hard to find. I will be the first to say, I was not that good, I was just learning to be able to explain how to get the voice moving and the right way to warm up. I know that Brett Manning helped me a lot. He has a great method that works for pop, R&B and country, blues, rock, metal, you name it. I have my own methods that adds some emotional connection to the music. I can help by telling a singer, where to take a breath, where to sing softly, where to punch it, etc.

Our throats are our instruments, we have no piano case, no guitar case, nothing!, we need to be, well, Diva’s! Only because to protect our throats, we need rest, water, warm up’, and special attention to our health.

I believe if you find a coach you can connect to, one that will really help you find your voice, you are lucky. It is nearly impossible to get signed now by a label. With so many independent labels and producers making you pay for your own albums before they will shop you.

There is no point in spending a lot of money unless you have the right material, producer, and connections to shop the product. It is a different time than when I recorded. They paid for everything. Now, you make your own album and then if you are lucky, you can get someone to shop you to labels. They wont listen to anything unsolicited. So, don’t waste your money unless you think YouTube will help you get discovered. It does happen, but not very often.

When and if you decide on a coach, make sure every moment of your money is well spent. I mean, they really work you, like a personal trainer would. I also believe in homework. Get a CD to take home and practice with, everyday. You don’t use your voice, you lose it.

Good luck, and hopefully this information helped

Jessica Marciel
Las Vegas Vocal Training

 

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