Author Archives: Colleen

3 Tips to Improve Your Singing - The Renaissance Performing Arts3 Tips to Improve Your Singing - The Renaissance Performing Arts

3 Tips to Improve Your Singing

by Colleen Cook

How many times have you heard, or maybe you have said yourself, “I can’t sing.” These words are anguish to me, because in my life singing alone and with others has been the source of some of my greatest joy. To think that so many people miss out on that joy because someone told them they weren’t good at it, or they perceived they weren’t is too sad.

Before working for the Renaissance, I had the privilege to teach vocal music in the public schools and privately and was able to study under some of our generation’s greatest voice scientists and voice pedagogues at Shenandoah Conservatory during my graduate study. Through all of that, one thing was completely evident: nearly everyone can sing. (I only qualify that statement because there are few individuals with vocal injuries or disabilities that do prevent them from singing. But, that is not representative of 99% of people who claim they cannot sing).

Learning to sing is like any other physical skill. As an athlete trains their brain and their body as they prepare for their first 5K or their hundredth marathon, so a singer trains their body to perform what their brain desires. A successful singer engages their entire body in singing, not just their larynx and mouth.

The first day you put on a pair of running shoes, you don’t expect your body to run like an elite runner, but for some reason most people expect their natural untrained voice to sound like a professional singer. And, when it doesn’t, many feel enough shame about their untrained voice that they give up for life. Having personally helped dozens upon dozens of people develop their singing voice from not being able to carry a tune or even match a pitch to successfully singing with performance groups and even pursuing singing as a career, I’m here to say that the idea that “you can’t sing,” is just not true.

If you’re a beginning singer who wants to get better, here are three tips for getting started:

  1. Train your ear to coordinate with your voice
    Sit down at a piano, keyboard, or pull up this handy online pitch pipe and play one pitch. Then, try to sing that same note on the syllable “la.” Does the note you’re producing sound like it’s higher, lower, or the same as the note you are trying to match? If your note is higher, try sliding down until it sounds the same. If it’s lower, try sliding up until it sounds the same. If it sounded the same, then try another until you’re consistently matching pitch.
  2. Get a handle on your registration
    One common pitfall for beginning singers is matching the appropriate registration. The female voice uses “chest” registration, “head” registration, and a “mix” registration.  The male voice uses a “chest” registration, “mix” registration, and “falsetto,” registration. Simply put, each registration coordinates different muscle dominance in your larynx to create a heavier/fuller or lighter/clearer sound. Your “chest” voice is likely similar to the voice you speak with – it’s a full, robust sound that we sometimes associate with lower pitches. Your “head voice” or “falsetto” is a headier, maybe initially airy, lighter quality of registration. Your “mix” is a mix of the two, very commonly used in contemporary singing styles.

    Here are 3 videos that will help you to identify your vocal registers:

     

  3. Start Simple
    Your first race wouldn’t be an ultra-marathon, so don’t start with a pro-level song as you’re learning to sing. Choose a simple melody that you like with a limited range (that is, the distance between the highest and lowest notes); I recommend starting with a lullaby, hymn, or children’s folk song. Practice singing every note on pitch first, then make some choices about vocal registration. Once you have a handle on those things, consider where you might make some dynamic choices, that is, how loud or soft you’ll sing. Then, practice, practice, practice!

    Remember that vocal technique is only part of great singing; at its essence, great singing is also great storytelling. Think about how your face and body will subtly communicate the emotion of the song you are singing, and what vocal choices you can make to better tell that story.

Be encouraged that as you practice these three skills, your voice will improve! And, if you’d like some further help, seek out a voice teacher for a few lessons to help guide your growth. Happy singing!

SeasonPreview_Slides(90thAnniversary)

Announcing our 2017-2018 Season!

by Colleen Cook

We have SUCH an incredible 2017-2018 Season Lineup! We’ve been literally bursting to tell you about it, and last night, we had the opportunity to spill the beans on the season!

It’s a big year for the Renaissance Theatre, in fact, it’s our 90th Anniversary year. This January will mark 90 years since the historic Ohio Theatre opened in a blizzard to a sold out house on January 18, 1928. We are remarkably grateful to be here 90 years later, fully-restored and fully-operational, and still selling out on the regular to Mansfield’s incredible audiences.

We have FORTY shows in our 17-18 season, truly something for everyone. So, here’s the rundown:

Renaissance 17-18 season

For way more details, ticket information, and more check out our Events page here!

Renaissance Theatre Season Preview Party 2016 photo by Jeff Sprang

5 Really Good Reasons to Attend the #RenSeason Preview Party

by Colleen Cook

If you’ve never been to our Season Preview Party before, you might be wondering what all the hype is about. After all, we’ll be publishing the season online right after the party, but there are some PRETTY good reasons to make plans to be there.

  1. Prizes and Giveaways

    Every guest at our Season Preview receives a goody bag chock-full of goodness, and this year’s are better than ever. Plus, we giveaway some pretty big deal items, and your odds of winning are higher than ever this year… but only if you’re there!

  2. Exclusive Performances and BIG Announcements

    The Season Preview is your first glimpse of our entire season. You’ll get to hear music from our upcoming musicals, see and hear things you’ve never seen or heard before, and we’ll be making some pretty exciting announcements you won’t want to miss.

  3. It’s FREE!

    The Season Preview is our chance to say THANKS to our audience and we are probably crazy for doing this, but it’s totally free!  That said, you do need to get a ticket for this event (which you can do so right here: https://seasonpreviewparty.eventbrite.com/)

  4. Delicious Desserts

    After the big season announcement, we have an awesome dessert reception in our lobby! Who doesn’t love awesome desserts?

  5. First access to tickets

    Tired of someone else getting the best seats before you? Subscriptions for our members go on sale that very night! If you’re not yet a member, you can take care of that at the party too.

Haven’t claimed your ticket to the Season Preview yet? You can do that right here.

paper bag puppets

3 Free Performing Arts Activities for Summer Break

by Colleen Cook

Summer break is just about here, and if you’re like most parents, you’re looking for fun activities that will challenge (and occupy) your children during their break – particularly on those rainy days. Here are three fun performing arts activities you can easily execute with minimal effort!

Make sandwich bag puppets and put on a puppet show

Once your children have created their characters, help them to create a story with a beginning, middle, and an end. Encourage them to choose a main character, a problem that character has, and a friend or family member who helps them to find a solution. Then, help them write their script.

Finally put on a performance of their show on a makeshift puppet stage – this could be a table turned on its side, a tension rod with a curtain across a doorway, or something your kids can get creative with.

Create percussion instruments and create a rhythm pattern

(U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Ericka Engblom)

(U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Ericka Engblom)

Turn your leftover oatmeal tubs, aluminum cans, and water bottles (and more!) into percussion instruments. This project allows a ton of creativity and you can use things you would otherwise throw away. Add lentils or beans to a container and seal to make a shaker, turn a hollow container to make a drum, or tie together noisy objects (like soda or tin cans) and make a tambourine. You can leave these items as-is, or take them to the next level and decorate with glitter, paint, construction paper, markers, sequins or any other supplies you have hanging around the house.

Once you’ve created your instruments, pick a steady rhythm for each performer – these can be all the same, or each unique. We recommend picking something simple that can be tied to a word pattern. Some of our ideas include (Assuming a 4-beat pattern): “Ham-burger Ham-burger” or “Pepperoni Pepperoni Pepperoni Piz-za” or “Jelly Beans Jelly Beans.” You can use those to get started or write your own.

Creative expressive movement

Create a playlist on your favorite music app (Spotify, iTunes, Apple Radio, whatever) using a wide variety of styles. We recommend including pieces by John Williams, Camille Saint-Saens, and Eric Whitacre.

Then, collect some bouncy balls, scarves, old pantyhose or knee-highs (or anything stretchy!), ribbons, or neckties from your closets. Put on the playlist and encourage your children to move freely through the space with the only rule being to make the objects they choose look like the music they’re hearing. They can move together, or individually, to express the sounds they’re hearing.

If your space isn’t conducive to movement, you can translate this activity to have your student draw or paint what they hear or imagine from the way the music sounds, using watercolors or markers and paper.

Web_Renaissance-Theatre-photo-by-Jeff-Sprang

A First-Timer’s Guide to Going to the Theatre

by Colleen Cook

You’ve got your tickets, your date is set and that squirmy feeling sets in – you know, the “I’m-about-to-do-something-new-and-don’t-want-to-feel-out-of-place” feeling. Leave the antacids in the medicine cabinet, we’ve got your back. After all, we all go to the theatre for the first time once! While we do our best to be a welcoming place for everyone, there are a few customs you might want to be aware of and a few tips for being a pro-audience member that can be helpful in making you feel comfortable enough to enjoy the show at your leisure.

Before we get into our tips & tricks, here are a few terms we’ll be using that you may want to be familiar with:

GLOSSARY

Orchestra – The ground level of seating.
Balcony – The higher tier of seating.
House – The part of the theatre where audiences sit.
Intermission – Theatre’s version of halftime. Most shows have a ten to 15-minute intermission.
Box Office – The part of our theatre where you purchase tickets. Ours is located at the front of our building.
Will Call – The part of the Box Office you visit to pick up your pre-purchased tickets. Our Will Call window is located inside the theatre lobby walkthrough between the new and historic lobbies.

Before You Get to the Theatre

  1. Plan to arrive about 20-30 minutes before a showtime. This allows adequate time to park your vehicle, enter the building, purchase concessions, and pickup or purchase tickets, and use the restroom. For shows that are sold out or close to selling out, you may want to plan another 10-15 minutes more.
  2. Dress in layers. In the summer when the air conditioning is on, the theatre may feel a little cool to you, and may feel too warm to you in the winter when the heat is running. Our building is very large and it’s impossible to please everyone with a thermostat setting, so plan accordingly.
  3. Speaking of dress, we don’t have a dress code! We regularly see a wide range of casual clothes (jeans and t-shirts) to formalwear (tuxedos and ballgowns). If you want to make a statement with your clothes, a night at the theatre is a great time to do that! If you prefer to blend in with the crowd, a good general rule is to wear what you might wear for a nice dinner out. For country and rock concerts and comedy shows, our audience tends to dress even more casually.
  4. Order your tickets in advance. For many of our shows, we have tickets available at the door, but that’s not always the case. There are three ways to do this: visit our Box Office (open Tuesday through Friday from 12-5), call during those same hours (419) 522-2726, or purchase online anytime at MansfieldTickets.com. (There’s a small fee for online sales from our ticketing company, which we don’t charge via phone or in person).

When You Get to the Theatre

  1. Entrance doors are at the front of the theatre on Park Avenue and at the rear from the parking lot on Third Street. We have a coat check inside the theatre if you’re coming on a cold night.
  2. Choose the right line. If you’ve already purchased your tickets but don’t have them in hand, you don’t need to visit our box office at the front of the theatre, and can instead simply visit our Will Call window, where you’ll be asked for the name the tickets were purchased under. Pro-tip: have your order confirmation number handy in case there’s any issue with picking up your tickets.
  3.  Visit the restroom. We have men’s and women’s restrooms located adjacent to our lobby area, and family restrooms located in the back corner of the lobby across from coat check. It’s recommended that you visit before the show begins so you don’t need to miss a moment of the performance! Pro-tip: Our family restrooms have a changing table available and the toilets manually flush.
  4. Look for the volunteers in red vests. Once you begin to enter the house for seating, our volunteer ushers and ticket takers will guide you to your seat. Each member of our Encore League volunteer corps wears a red vest so you can find them quickly.

Once You’re Seated

  1. Your program is your guide to the show. Think of it like a roadmap to what you’ll be experiencing. The program will probably include a letter from the director, a listing of songs or scenes, information about the performers, and acknowledgments to the individuals who made the show possible (staff, volunteers, donors, sponsors, creators, and local businesses). Don’t miss your opportunity to read through it while the lights are up, because it will add to your experience.
  2. Silence your phone. There’s nothing more distracting than notifications and ringtones interrupting a show. Don’t be “that guy.”
  3. No photos or videos. There are a few exceptions to this rule, and we’ll let you know in our curtain speech before the show begins if this show is one of them. Even if people around you are taking photos, it’s best to refrain. Besides – your photos won’t be nearly as good as the real experience. Engage and enjoy (not through a screen).

During and After the Show

  1. Sit back and enjoy! This is what you’ve been waiting for – soak it all in! For most shows, it’s best to sit back in your seat so everyone has a clear sight-line to the stage. (The exception is on occasion, some of our live concerts encourage the audience to stand. When in doubt, sit back and relax).
  2. When should I applaud? It’s customary to applaud after a musical number and at the end of an act. At a concert, the audience will also applaud when the performer comes on stage. There are a few other applause cues for a symphony concert which you can read about here.
  3. Stay quiet through the performance. Aside from a ringing cell phone, talking during a performance is the most distracting offense of theatre etiquette. If you’re attending with a young child, it’s a good idea to arrive early and explain the story to your little one before the show starts. Challenge them to the quiet game: While the lights are off, we can’t make any sound! If you’re attending a show with music you know and love, that’s great! But, save the sing-a-long for the car ride or your next karaoke night. (Sometimes at a concert, the performer will encourage the audience to sing along, and that’s the exception to this rule).
  4. While you’re in the theatre, keep your feedback on the performance neutral or positive.  Everyone is entitled to their opinion, however our audience is probably filled with people who have worked hard to make this performance happen or have a loved one who is a part of the show. If, however, you have a concern or problem, find a staff member or volunteer and they will be thrilled to help you find a solution.

We’re so glad to have you as a part of our audience, thank you for choosing us. We hope this visit is the first of many to come! And, if we didn’t answer some of our questions, feel free to call our Box Office at (419) 522-2726 or message us on Facebook.

Local and Creative Mother's Day Gifts

Five Local & Creative Mother’s Day Gifts

by Colleen Cook

Each May, many of us have the opportunity to tell our moms how much they mean to us. For one day, a (mostly) thankless job is recognized in a small way… so let’s try this year to think a little creatively and make this a moment she’ll remember on those hard days.

1. Gourmet Chocolate

Mother’s Day is in that sweet spot (pun fully intended) between Easter and Halloween when all the chocolate in the house is MIA. I literally was emptying my pantry just last night searching for a morsel of dark chocolate and… nada. So, don’t skimp – get the good stuff.
We recommend: Squirrel’s Den Chocolatier

2. A Night Out

She’s your cruise director, chauffeur, and project manager – maybe, for once, make the plans and let her just go along with it! Pick up gift certificates to the theatre, dinner, and drinks after the show and let her have a worry-free night off!
We recommend: Gift Certificates to City Grille, Phoenix, and The Renaissance

3. Spa Treatment

Mom always comes last (how many times has she eaten a cold dinner of her own making?), so treat her to some pampering and help those shoulders to relax a bit! At the very least, she’ll be grateful for the hour or two of peace and quiet and the time to get her head centered.
We recommend: Studio 19 Salon & Spa

4. Jewelry

There’s something particularly special about a beautiful piece of jewelry – it’s a sparkling reminder of how loved you are, it’s a marker for a particularly special moment, and it’s an heirloom for generations to come testifying to the love someone had in their life.
We recommend: Miller’s Diamond Jewelry

5. Photographs

As a mom, I’ve been personally responsible for coordinating family photographs every time we’ve had them and it’s easily the most stressful day ever. Getting everyone polished, dressed, and smiling is seriously almost not worth it… until I see the glorious products a skilled photographer can turn out. Save mom the headache this year and give some awesome photos of her children without the stress.
We recommend: Tog Loft

Douglas Droste Thumbnail

Meet Douglas Droste

by Colleen Cook with DRM Productions

As you probably already know, we’re near the end of a year-long search for our next Mansfield Symphony conductor. With over a hundred applicants from across the globe, we were able to narrow it to three finalists, each of whom have programmed and have conducted/will conduct a concert on our 2017-2018 OhioHealth Symphony Series. The third and final candidate is Douglas Droste, of Muncie, Indiana. We interviewed him to talk about his Ohio roots, his family, his very strong Buckeye-fandom and his philosophies on symphony orchestras. Here’s the full interview:

See Maestro Droste conduct on the Masterworks: Take Me to Your Leader concert on May 13, 2017!

Photos by Jeff Sprang Photography

My Journey with the Helper’s High

by Jessica Dulle

When approached by our marketing department to write about the Renaissance membership program, I was delighted to have an opportunity to share content about what makes this program so special. To be honest, my mind couldn’t quite pinpoint exactly what areas of the program I should highlight due to the expansive nature of the program and all the good work that transpires from the donations the Renaissance receives from our members. “Where should I start”, I began to wonder.

First, I thought, “should I discuss that the historic Renaissance Theatre (once the Ohio Theatre) will soon be celebrating its 90th Anniversary and our members made that rare accomplishment a reality?” It’s true. Accounts of opening night on January 19, 1928 report that despite “blizzard-like” conditions, thousands flocked to the theatre to see Clara Bow in “Get Your Man”. When built, the theatre was billed as “a temple of amusement for the benefit of the people of Mansfield” and that legacy continues today. Our base of over 350 members (and growing) provide revenue to maintain historic preservation and facility operations to the majestic theatre.

Then I began thinking “should I write about the amazing performances their membership supports?” It’s hard to believe that the Renaissance is home to over 50 performances annually and over 40,000 (including 15,000 children) attend performances ranging from Broadway Musicals to comedy shows, and country music concerts to youth theatre shows. Our members make all these great productions happen.

Next, I thought, “should I discuss the economic impact that the Renaissance Theatre provides our community?” Below are a few statistics that prove that arts organizations like the Renaissance are economic drivers.

  • According to the last U.S. Census, arts and cultural production make up 4.2% of our country’s GDP and supports nearly 231,000 jobs in the state of Ohio.
  • Arts organizations like the Renaissance infuse more than $3.4 billion dollars into annual tax revenues in Ohio alone
  • The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis reports that the arts and culture sector is a $704 billion-dollar industry, which represents 4.2 percent of the nation’s GDP – a larger share of the economy than transportation and agriculture.
  • Arts strengthen the economy. The nonprofit arts industry alone generates $135 billion in economic activity annually (spending by organizations and their audiences) that supports 4.1 million jobs and generates $22.3 billion in government revenue. – American for the Arts
  • Arts are good for local merchants. Attendees at nonprofit art events spend $24.60 per person, per event, beyond the cost of admission on items such as meals, parking, and babysitters. Attendees who live outside the county which the arts event takes place spend twice as much as their local counterparts ($39.96 vs. $17.42) – valuable revenue for local businesses and the community. – American for the Arts

Later, my thoughts went to the community outreach the organization provides to children, veterans, and adults recovering from illness. Our education department visits schools to assist students with creative writing development; provides free sensory-friendly performances to children on the autism-spectrum line; smaller ensembles of our symphony musicians perform intimate concerts for patients at hospitals who are too sick to attend our concerts; and invites our country’s veterans to free art therapy programs with trained professionals. Again, our membership makes these things happen.

These thoughts endow wonderful insight into what Renaissance Memberships support, but it didn’t provide me the answer to what motivates someone to support our organization. Finally, I thought “Jessica, why are you a member of the Renaissance?” It didn’t take me long and my former high school teacher’s lecture on philanthropy popped in my mind. It feels good to give!

Being an adult carries so much responsibility and at times it can be over-whelming. Even on my toughest days, I still feel good when I give. Being a member of a group of like-minded individuals who wish to improve the quality of life in Mansfield makes me happy.

Why is that? Is there any science to prove that giving is good for your health?

Yes, there are plenty of science-backed studies that provide evidence that giving is also good for the giver. This sensation is referred to by psychologist as the ‘helper’s high’. It’s based on the theory that engaging in charitable giving produces endorphins in the brain that places many givers in the state of euphoria. According to Dr. Scott Bea of the Cleveland Clinic, there are several physical and mental health benefits to giving:

  • Greater happiness
  • Longer life
  • Increased self-esteem
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Less depression
  • Lower stress levels

In the next few weeks, I’ll be renewing my annual membership to the Renaissance Performing Arts Association. There are so many amazing performances scheduled for our 2017-2018 Season, several community outreach programs transpiring, expansion of our education department boosting economic development in Mansfield, and a 90th Anniversary Celebration for our theatre! It’s humbling to know my membership will make all those great ambitions a reality. I hope you will join me.

To learn more about the Renaissance’s membership program, please contact me at jessica@mansfieldtickets.com or call (419) 522-2726 Ext: 203.

Larry Griffin, Photo by Jeff Sprang Photography

Why I Sing: An Interview with Larry Griffin

by Colleen Cook

Forty years ago, locally-renown choral conductor Richard Wink had an idea: the Mansfield Symphony should have a chorus. So many great symphonic works require a chorus, and Mansfield is chock-full of great singers. And so, the Mansfield Symphony Chorus was born.

Members of the chorus have had the opportunity to benefit from the leadership of many great choral conductors through the years, and our current conductor Larry Griffin is no exception. Larry’s exuberance and expertise are truly one-of-a-kind, and his leadership this season has injected a new life into our chorus.

Under his leadership, the Mansfield Symphony Chorus will perform a spring choral concert on April 30th fully loaded with incredible choral repertoire (such as Haydn’s mass in B flat and some absolutely gorgeous short choral works including my all-time favorite, Joseph Martin’s “The Awakening.”) So, we wanted to take a little time to get to know Larry Griffin a little better:

Colleen Cook: When did you start singing? 

Larry Griffin: I don’t remember when wasn’t singing.  In church and school I use to get into trouble because of being high strung.  But once my teachers found out that I could sing it got me out of many situations.

CC: What was your journey to becoming director of the Mansfield Symphony Chorus?

LG: My journey to Mansfield started with Robert Franz inviting my Columbus group, Capriccio, to sing the Beethoven’s 9th in 2007 with the Symphony Chorus. They performed again with the Theresienmesse, and another time with Candide. This was my introduction to this fine orchestra and chorus.  I knew then that it was my desire to have the opportunity to direct the chorus.

CC: What do you love about choral singing?

LG: I love directing choirs more than anything!  Having the ability to mold individual voices and making beautiful music together is such a joy!

CC: What is your favorite choral piece, and why?

LG:  One of my favorite choral works is the Puccini Mass. It’s my favorite because it introduced me to my first major choral work, it gave me my first solo, and introduced me to my late wife, Jane.

CC: What can our audience look forward to on the Sing into Spring concert?

LG: The audience can expect a diverse program featuring the music from Haydn, Mozart, Negro Spirituals and other memorable choral pieces.  The choir will be accompanied by a small orchestral ensemble from members of the MSO and they will get to hear four wonderful soloist: soprano, alto, tenor and bass from the Columbus area. I’m very excited to have Director Emeritus Richard Wink directing and singing as a member of the chorus, as well.