Close Your Singer Rings

When Apple released its smart watch in 2015, the company also introduced its Activity app, the fitness arm of the watch that tracks three major goals each day: Move, Stand, and Exercise. Each goal is represented with a different colored ring that fills throughout the day to denote your progress.

My husband gave me an Apple Watch for Christmas in 2016, and in the year-plus since wearing the watch daily, I have been amazed at how motivating those three little rings can be! I feel so accomplished when I can get two of three rings closed by the time I’m done exercising in the morning. I hate it when the day is almost done and any of my three rings aren’t closed. In fact, I have been known to take a walk or jump on the elliptical at 10 p.m. just for the satisfaction of closing all three rings that day.

One morning while running, I started thinking about other areas of life where we could use a little motivation, including our work as singers. What if we had something on our arm that gave us constant, minute-by-minute reminders and updates on our daily progress at our singing efforts? And if we did, what three areas or “rings” would we need to focus on every day to become real experts at our craft?

Here are three of my own ideas, with some support from articles in this issue. You can find more advice on all three of these areas in our online archives—now fully and freely available at Peruse every issue all the way back to 1998!

First, build your voice. Closing this ring involves daily practice with purpose to build a solid and healthy vocal technique. Bass-baritone Cody Quattlebaum, featured in this month’s cover story (p. 12), made daily, consistent practice a top priority during his undergraduate years. Now that he is on the road and lessons are far less frequent, he relies daily on that solid technical foundation.

Second, build your artistry. Closing this ring includes doing all of the things above and beyond the technically good singing that makes you an artist. For Quattlebaum that meant attending countless recitals, spending hours in the library reading biographies of composers, and sometimes pulling all-nighters in the practice room to prepare for a big theory test the next morning.

For a handful of other singers, performing in restaurants is helping them hone their artistry (p. 20). They tell Rachel Antman how polishing their repertoire in a sometimes less than ideal environment can pay off big time. As one singer shares, “If you can float that high B-flat and embrace your colleague while a plate of gnocchi is rushing by you, you know you’ve got that music down pat!”

Third, build your business. This means managing the logistical aspects of a singing career—updating résumés, getting fabulous headshots, recording CDs, filling out applications, networking, connecting with colleagues, keeping up social media accounts, answering e-mails, budgeting—the list goes on. Brian Manternach adds a few more things to the list (p. 38)—contracts, negotiations, legal aid, and more. If all that legalese has you quaking in your boots, Manternach’s interview with David R. Williams about his new book will help you feel more confident with the legal language of our profession.

Ultimately you will have to decide what things you need to do every day to get better at your craft. And, as of yet, there’s no Singer Ring app to help you monitor your progress. Nevertheless, you can set goals and work each day to check those things off your list. Those consistent, daily small-but-important things will lead you to be the best singer you can be.


Sara Thomas

Sara Thomas is editor of Classical Singer magazine. She welcomes your comments.