CCM Student Blog #10 – Week 5, Winter 2017 Quarter
The Practice Rooms Give Me Life
by Sylvia Bosco
As the academic quarter makes its way into the fifth week, I certainly start feeling the pressure from a dense courseload. My schedule becomes more and more impacted from studying for midterms, memorizing harmonies, and completing homework assignments. My life outside of CCM coincidentally becomes more hectic too; with work, family obligations, and not to mention the unpredictable surprises like getting a flat tire on the 134 freeway. In times of stress, I try to take a moment from the chaos and just be grateful for the existence of music. Music is an escape route for me; it provides an emergency exit during a fire.
When I’m feeling like I need a moment to myself, I just go to one of the many private practice rooms at CCM where I can tune everyone out. Each room is soundproofed with soft padding on all four walls so that the student can practice without any distractions. All the rooms have music stands, amplifiers for guitars, keyboards (in two of the rooms), and artist posters for inspiration.
I try to carve out as much time as I can in the practice rooms throughout the week to allow myself to zone off into my own world. I can’t even zone out when I’m at home in my room due to all the disturbances around the house! I use the practice rooms as a study space where I review what I’m learning in class, such as blues chord progressions and sight-reading. I also spend time in the practice rooms doing vocal warmups and writing songs. The CCM practice rooms are truly a gem for musicians who need a quiet space for a wide array of academic and personal needs.
Although the workload and subject matter has been more intense this second quarter, CCM sets up their students for success with their excellent facilities, such as the practice rooms. Rooms are always available — as a matter of fact, I’m on my way over there to practice right now.
CCM Student Blog #9 – Week 3, Winter 2017 Quarter
“Ensembling” Part II: Learn By Watching and Listening
by Sylvia Bosco
The Live Room at California College of Music is where the magic of music-making happens, and by magic, I mean four long, sweaty, challenging hours per week of ensembling. (If you’re unsure of what the CCM Contemporary Ensemble is, refer my earlier blog Ensembling I from last quarter, where I introduce it.) In every two hour session, the ensemble rehearses 2 to 3 songs from our 10 song setlist. This may seem like only a small number of songs to practice given the amount of time, but as every musician knows, with every song comes layers of work. Although it might seem intense, there is a payoff, and it comes at the end of the quarter when the ensemble performs live at public venues such as The Rose Theatre and T Boyle’s Tavern.
Each student must come to the Live Room prepared by having worked on their respective part. However there is only so much the singer, bassist, or pianist can practice on their own without having the rest of the band members there. Fast forward to rehearsal, where our instructor and bandleader Uros Raskovski works with each student individually to make corrections until everyone is ready to play together. While Uros works separately with each student fine-tuning their part, there is downtime. This downtime is valuable and can be used to watch and learn rather than go on social media or run off to do something else.
More often than not, there will be downtime during rehearsals or studio sessions and it is important to stay focused and present. Some musicians and other industry professionals might find it rude or offensive if you are not paying attention to what’s going on. You can get yourself fired from a gig, and may never have the opportunity to work in that project again. Build good habits that people will remember you by! Being a musician is fun and exciting, but it is also a job.
Here is a behind the scenes clip of the CCM Contemporary Ensemble working up our rendition of Dancing in the Dark by Bruce Springsteen:
CCM Student Blog #6 – Week 10, Fall 2016 Quarter
Confidence Breeds Success: Vocal Technique Class
by Sylvia Bosco
Vocalists often face the highest amount of pressure when it comes to live performances. As far as technical aspects go, the lead singer must know how to correctly sing into a microphone. This is a skill which can take months to master, but once the singer knows the spatial relationship between their mouth and the mic intuitively, the performance is much, much better. Another aspect of performance technique is body language, the gesticulations and physical expressions that a singer uses on stage. The body language is critical during a performance because it sets a tone and creates the mood for the night. Often the focal point of the show, the singer absolutely must know how to heighten and direct the energy in the room, so it’s important that the singer appears completely confident and well-prepared. In addition to the performance, the singer has to tastefully interpret the melody, groove in perfect sync with the rhythm, and accurately hit every note in perfect tuning, all while emotionally connecting to the lyrics, and carefully breathing enough air (at all the right moments) in order to sustain entire phrases.
Let’s just say vocalists have a lot to think about when they sing! Which is why it is important for the singer to prepare for success by practicing every day and attending weekly vocal classes. Carol de Leon, M.M., my Vocal Technique instructor at California College of Music, is one of the best of her kind, and always makes sure her students are on the right track. She instills a sense of discipline her students, but also makes everyone feel comfortable. Vocal Technique I is taught for one hour, once a week, and goes over everything that the singer needs to know. Each class begins with relaxation and ample vocal warm-up exercises which includes vowel work, breathing techniques, and posture placement. Each warm-up is followed by a thorough explanation of how it works, and why it is good to practice the technique a certain way. After warming up, we sing a song selection which implements all the techniques we learned.
Becoming more familiar with your body by learning the foundations of singing is critical for maintaining good vocal health. In order to achieve great results and a sweet vocal quality, singers must practice for at least an hour a day! Through daily training, a singer will be thoroughly ready for performance.
CCM Student Blog #5 – Week 9, Fall 2016 Quarter
Being a Creative Being
by Sylvia Bosco
One thing I know for sure is that I am a creative being. Anything and everything that could possibly be implied by the word “create,” – I want to do it, and I have been doing it, all my life. When it comes to creating, I can confidently say I’ve had my fair share of artistic endeavors. From acting on stage and in front of the camera, to writing music and playing guitar, to choreographing hip-hop dance routines; I love creating. There’s an all-encompassing warm fuzzy feeling when a project is seen through to its full fruition.
Although I know I have this unstoppable creative ability, sometimes I feel like it is useless or unrealistic. Lately I’ve been struggling with a feeling all artists at one point or another face: doubt. Throughout most of this year, I’ve swayed back and forth on dozens of various occupations that will both utilize my creativity and generate income. I haven’t found the one thing I want to do for the rest of my life yet because the entertainment industry is such a big ocean to dive into, there are so many options it’s difficult to find a niche. I had to pause, check in and ask myself, “Where should I focus my creativity? Is music something I really want?” Pursuing a career in the arts is not the conventional idea of a solid, reliable source of income.
I really needed some guidance on what to do next with my career. Fortunately, CCM has a faculty that is incomparable to a lot of other music institutions, because each of the faculty members has tons of experience working as a musician in the popular music industry. I reached out to Daniel Brummel, the Director of Education at CCM, and told him what my concerns were and how I was feeling. I’m so glad that I did, because he immediately dropped what he was doing and spent the next thirty minutes counseling me. He asked questions that helped narrow down my skill sets and matched them up with existing jobs in the music industry. He gave me multiple examples of what other musicians do for work as well. It is possible to be continuing forward with my passion and continuing to be creative while also finding success in other types of work. It’s okay to ask for help because the answer is out there!
CCM Student Blog #4 – Week 8, Fall 2016 Quarter
Fight or Flight?
by Sylvia Bosco
With only three weeks remaining in the Fall Quarter and only two weeks left until the Ensemble show at T-Boyle’s Tavern, the vibe on campus at California College of music is feeling a little more angsty than usual. The tension is rising due to the results of test scores, the increasing amount of class assignments, and finally the pressure to execute each song perfectly in the CCM Contemporary Ensemble’s final performance. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed at a time where projects are coming to a close and more expectations are being placed on us by teachers.
However, this pressure is what professional musicians must face on an everyday basis. In the modern music industry, musicians have deadlines to meet, emails to respond to, recording contracts to revise with lawyers, and upcoming gigs that need rehearsal spaces. In order to be successful, it’s essential to learn how to properly balance the stress of an intense workload with the creative aspects of being a musician, especially while still in school. When the going gets tough, the comfortable thing to do is take flight and walk away, which I’m guilty of because I’ve done it before! But when someone is absent from a class or misses a band rehearsal without notice, the road gets bumpy and it throws off all the progress that’s been made up until that point. After one absence, another one will come, and another… and another one bites the dust. It’s a bad habit to be absent and especially not admired by the music community. People are relying on you to show up, be present, and contribute to the group process and effort.
Don’t let us down. Fight! Stay strong! Even if you’re tired, starving, and don’t feel like doing anything, just show up and be there in the practice room. So much goodness is waiting on the other side.
Do you fight or flee in times of distress? No matter how much craziness and pressure there is, a musician must keep calm and carry on!
CCM Student Blog #3 – Week 6, Fall 2016 Quarter
Studio Session Recording
by Sylvia Bosco
Recording music in a professional recording studio is a scary endeavor for musicians at the beginning level. It is nothing like performing live or jamming in a band. Recording music requires skill, as it is truly an art form in itself. These days, being familiar with recording is as essential as playing an instrument. If an artist can record their music, than he or she can upload it to online services and make money. For me, I can say confidently that recording is like walking into a deep, dark, mysterious cave. Just like in a cave, you find weird, bizarre things in a recording studio. “What is this?” and “What should I do?” are the first things that run through my mind as I enter a studio. There are buttons of different colors and sizes, audio interfaces, microphones, headphones, and seemingly TONS of [neatly bound] cables. There is so much to think about and so much to take in, that the process of recording easily becomes daunting and tedious.
However there is good news for novice musicians! CCM has a class in their professional recording studio in which students can practice writing, recording and gaining confidence in a studio setting. The studio room is divided into two parts, a vocal sound booth and digital audio workstation (DAW). The DAW is the room where the class convenes for two hours, once a week and works on the various aspects of arranging a song. Each student is given a task such as singing lead vocals or back-up harmonies, playing a solo guitar riff, or creating a neat synth refrain. Just like a real recording session, the class comes together and forms ideas about what our vision is for the song. The instructor, Daniel Gonzalez, doubles as the producer and shows us exactly how each instrument is recorded into the computer.
A big part of the process is creating an environment that flows with positivity. If the energy is negative and there are people unwilling to collaborate on an idea, nothing will get done. As a singer-songwriter, I’m usually the one in charge of all ideas, but I have been challenged in this class to explore new possibilities. We’ve learned to accept all ideas and creatively find a way to implement everyone’s input. When something doesn’t work we work together to understand why and then move on.
Today we’re putting the finishing touches on a song and I can’t wait to hear the results!
CCM Student Blog #2 – Week 5, Fall 2016 Quarter
“Ensembling,” Part I
by Sylvia Bosco
As a singer songwriter, I have grown accustomed to only using two instruments to play music: my acoustic guitar and my voice. This is because I truly believed I would only need two instruments in order to perform and write music. However, while creating or performing music is always possible with just voice and guitar, I now know that it was wrong of me to think so rigidly. Ultimately, I feel that I have limited myself creatively by not playing and practicing with other talented musicians. At this point, only 5 weeks into my first quarter at California College of Music, I have learned so much just by rehearsing regularly with an ensemble.
Incase you’re unfamiliar, CCM’s flagship Contemporary Ensemble class has been performing since the formation of the College in 1999. It’s a super fun laboratory in which nearly all the students on campus have the opportunity to rehearse, arrange, grow, and perform, with a six- to twelve-piece modern band, twice a week. Instructed and led by music industry veteran Uros Raskovski, who is an absolute virtuoso on electric guitar, the Contemporary Ensemble consists of multiple musicians in specific roles. The lead vocalist changes from song to song, rotating with three to four backup singers. A keyboardist, an electric bassist, a drummer, a percussionist, a lead guitarist and a rhythm guitarist comprise the rest of the ensemble. This combination of musicians is what would typically be found in a modern-day band that would accompany professional any singer. I am literally learning how to play with a band, all the while having fun and jamming.
I soon realized that this was exactly what I needed to become a more dynamic singer and songwriter. I have greatly improved my rhythm and confidence while performing on stage. This live band experience CCM provides as part of all its programs has become my favorite part of the curriculum. It may just prove to be one the most vital lesson of all!
Today, I’m ensembling.
CCM Student Blog #1 – Week 4, Fall 2016 Quarter
by Sylvia Bosco
Music has always been a big part of my life, from singing in the shower, to writing original songs, to performing live at places like Hollywood’s Room 5 Lounge. But since the first day of my Artist Development program here at California College of Music, music has consumed me in new ways I didn’t even know were possible. Being surrounded by great music and diverse musical thinkers has not only made me a more skilled musician as far as intonation, rhythm, and expression go, but I have become a sharper intellectual. I pay closer attention to detail, I listen more carefully, and I am more honest with myself.
One great example of how California College of Music has enriched my life thus far as a musician and human being is through their Songwriting class. Each week our instructor Chris Kapica (a master’s degree holder from Juilliard!) selects a few famous songs, and analyzes the structure, melody, and lyrics with the students. He explains why songs move the listener emotionally, and deeply affect them in certain ways. After we evaluate the songs for about an hour, Chris continues the class by focusing on one area of a song, such as rhythm. Sometimes, the verse will have a broken-down, laid-back rhythm and the chorus will pick up a bit in both tempo and complexity to achieve a catchy, danceable groove. “This is pure ear candy!” Chris often enthuses. He then assigns us all to write a song over the week, based on the day’s lesson, so that we can all try out the new compositional techniques we’ve learned.
I have written many songs in the past, but never have I written a song that requires me to make so many conscious, premeditated decisions about important structural aspects such as where and how to place a borrowed chord correctly, or finding the perfect moment to modulate into a new key, keeping the listener stimulated and fully engaged. Thanks for keeping me inspired, Chris — I can’t wait to present my next song!