You are a very busy voice teacher in Long Island; can you tell us about your private studio and your work at LIU CW Post?
(photographed below: Amanda Chmela performing in The Marriage of Figaro)
I’ll start with my work at LIU C.W. Post, where I am employed as an adjunct professor of voice within the theatre department. Our voice faculty is completely separate from that of the music department, and I have the opportunity to work exclusively with actors and dancers.
My private studio is extremely rewarding, as I have the opportunity to teach students of all ages interested in a variety of musical styles with wide ranging musical and performance goals. Some of my students sing only for their own personal fulfillment, others participate in the local theatre scene, many are interested in majoring in music once they reach college, and I am lucky to work with a few emerging professional artists. Currently, my student population consists mostly of musical theatre performers, though I do work with a few singer/songwriters and CCM artists.
As a seasoned performer and voice teacher who spends a lot of time in New York City, what do you think the important keys to success emerging artists must consider before embarking on a career?
(photographed below: Amanda Chmela performing in L’incoronazione di Poppea)
First, it is worth saying, though I hope young artists have heard this before, you must be your own manager and promoter. Put yourself out there for everything, keep your website up to date, have a short video reel on YouTube, and make sure that any material on your website is a true representation of your current ability.
Keep a positive mindset and be interested first in the process, not the end results – there is nothing better than the work you are currently creating. You should know that there is no such thing as a finished product; you and your work will continue to evolve as you continue to experience life.
Stay open to opportunities for growth as a professional artist. Enroll in classes, take lessons and attend workshops. Take every opportunity that comes your way, but also know when to say no. It would be a shame to overextend yourself and have your work suffer the consequence.
Be true to yourself and present yourself as someone with whom others want to work and create art. And remember that networking, kindness, humility, and preparation are key factors for rebooking gigs. I have been asked to do several productions from having worked previously with a member of the production team.
You’ve also sung professionally in both CCM and Opera settings; do you find it challenging to keep your voice flexible to sing the demands of both CCM and operatic literature?
(photographed below: Amanda Chmela performing in Hansel and Gretel)
The trick to singing in multiple genres, especially ones with vastly different vocal demands such as opera and belty CCM, is balance and recalibration. It was more difficult when I was younger and still learning how to navigate my instrument, but as I have found a more neutral default, switching between styles is pretty easy. I was often told as an MT undergraduate that my voice was “too” classical and then told as an opera performance graduate student that my voice was “too” musical theatre.
Now, I embrace that middle of the road default, as it allows me to easily visit other “vocal neighborhoods” (term credited to Dr. Sims). The only issue, (if you can even call it that), is that depending on where my voice is currently living, my stamina in an opposite style may be a bit out of shape. That being said, the mechanism is receptive to almost any sound I desire to create and a bit of recalibration and registration work will quickly get me the stamina back.
Balance in registration is essential as is playful exploration of resonance. I have always just loved to sing and, while partial to musical theatre, I genuinely wanted to sing everything and didn’t want to be put in a box and labeled as an “XYZ” or “ABC” singer. That mindset sustained me through the times where I had some vocal identity confusion and trouble keeping all the genre hats separate.
How did you meet Jeanie LoVetri and what has Somatic Voicework™ done for you as both a singer and a voice teacher?
(photographed below: Amanda Chmela performing in L’incoronazione di Poppea)
I was first introduced to Somatic Voicework™ in 2008 by a colleague, friend, and mentor. I mentioned to him that I wished I knew how to belt, and he helped me discover that part of my voice in one lesson. From there, our friendship grew and we spent quite a few late nights geeking out and discussing vocal anatomy and function.
When he was offered a great teaching job that required him to move, he offered me his voice studio with two caveats. First, I had to observe all of his lessons for the month leading up to his move. Second, I would need to take Jeanie’s courses in Somatic Voicework™. Observing 30 hours of teaching a week with a Somatic Voicework™ teacher prior to attending the LoVetri Institute in the summer of 2010 primed my brain and my heart for the science behind Jeanie’s work as well as the loving, open spirit with which it is to be utilized in the studio.
As a young teacher just starting out, I had the benefit of very little preconceived notions about voice training other than what I had experienced as a student and that which I observed from my colleague. Due to this, I felt I was able to immediately start applying the information gained from Jeanie’s coursework and I started my teaching career with vocal function at the forefront, clear intentions and the ability to be present and active in each moment of instruction. Somatic Voicework™ has helped me to continue to refine my ears so that I can interpret the function behind the sounds I hear and create a plan to elicit free, authentic sounds that serve the music and allow for emotional freedom.
You have been a faculty member of Somatic Voicework™ trainings for a long time, what keeps bringing you back to the work? What are you most excited about for the future of the Somatic Voicework™ community?
(photographed below: Amanda Chmela performing with The Savoy Swing Band)
Somatic Voicework™ is not just another method that I have learned to incorporate into my teaching, but is the basis for my teaching. Its principles embody everything I am and everything I continue to strive for as an artist and as a teacher.
Attending the course work each summer, attending teacher support groups, and teacher training days allow me to continue fine tuning my work as a teacher so that I can be of service to my students and fulfill my potential as their vocal guide and teacher. They are all opportunities for learning, creating, and networking with other like-minded individuals that become part of your extended musical family.
I am excited about the growth of our Somatic Voicework™ teacher community, as we are helping to shape the future of other vocal professionals towards new and important goals. We are a community with a thirst for learning, a lack of egos and open minds. Each year I look forward to the guest artist and lectures Jeanie arranges to compliment the coursework. These guest lectures have inspired me to learn more about body work and to take courses in related fields such as speech language pathology.
What is next for you?
With this new interest, I have been taking pre-requisite classes towards a master’s program in Speech Language Pathology. This semester I am enrolled in a Linguistics and Language Acquisition course at LIU CW Post. Other courses I have taken were online through Northwestern University’s Pre-Speech Pathology Program.
Upcoming performances include a standing monthly gig with the Savoy Swing Band, for which I am the female vocalist (just passed the 5 year mark with the band) and a few auditions I am waiting to hear back from, with performance dates early next year.
Please check out more from Amanda Chmela:
Studio Website: https://www.longislandvoicelessons.com
Performer Website: https://www.amandachmela.com
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/Chmela686
YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC32GnaSV6tZLzkJmDz0bRpg?view_as=subscriber