offensively easy singing

Author: dancallaway (Page 1 of 23)

Your Hidden Superpower — Found mine at Dunkies. 🍩 (A 3-year-old showed me.)

Jude (Nugget #2) and I had an epic Friday morning.

We took Noah to farm school (that’s what we call his barnyard preschool.) Here he is petting a chicken.



The world would be a better place if we all went to farm school.

Then Jude and I headed to his favorite place: Dunkin’.

The other day Jude told Melissa and me that he wished Dunkies was his home.

We’ve gone all in on our New Englander identity. 🍩

There’s a crew of retired folks who congregate at our local Dunk’s, and Jude’s cultivated a deep friendship with one couple in particular, George and Ann.

After a breakfast sammie and half a strawberry sprinkle donut…

  

…we headed off to the Market Basket.

Normally, I brace myself for Market Basket. It gives me Costco intensity in a more concentrated environment with pallets-full of to-be-stocked marinara making aisle negotiation super high-stakes. 

I regularly want to yell, “Calm down everybody!” 

But, Friday with my 3-year-old personality bomb sidekick sporting a Deadpool/Hulk cape, I might as well have entered the store with a talking Golden Retriever and Dunkies’ gift cards for EVERYBODY.

Jude and I changed the atmosphere wherever he shoved the carriage. (He pushes, I steer and try to keep my heels out of trajectory.)

I mean, look:



But I did find something out. My biased Southern self who judged these New Englanders as too brusk realized that most people enjoy a friendly hello and some commiseration. 

Jude and I were like the dynamic duo of friendliness up in that store.

We picked up the coconut milk for the woman whose Goya eyes were bigger than her arms. We worked out Jude’s superhero identity with a gent by the English muffins. And we said hola to Virgilio stocking the marinara. 

I left the store proud of Jude and how he helped. Also thought about my Papa Basil Jessup (Jude’s so much like him) who possessed the same powers of atmosphere shift; he could walk into a depressive, suffocating space and dispel the darkness with a simple, “Well, hello here!” 

This Dunkies/grocery trip also reminded me of our privilege as singing storytellers.

There’s no better opportunity to shift the atmosphere than the chance to sing a song and tell a story. 

When you prepare with excellence and show up with skill and warmth, the chance to elevate the room is huge. 

I want you to remember this wherever you find yourself — in an audition, in a meeting, in rehearsal, in your own practice, in a class, in line at the grocery store. The environment of your soul affects the air around you. 

If you’re cultivating love, seeking the most generous interpretation, and holding a quiet vigil of kindness toward yourself, folks feel it. You brighten a day and lighten a load.

A lot of times, you won’t know, and that’s terrific. Warmth and generosity are their own reward.

But remember your superpowers when you start to believe you’re at the mercy of something — a grocery store environment, a toxic work situation, or an entire societal construct — you have influence in your immediate sphere.

And the person next to you will be grateful for the reminder about their own influence.

So, use it!

Whose day could you make more beautiful with a kind word or hello? (I mean, be smart and use your Spidey senses 🕸️ — some folks you wanna love from a distance, it’s true.)

But I’m here to remind you that you have more agency than you realize.

Walk in like you’re partnered up with the world’s most charismatic, strong-willed 3-year old in a Deadpool/Hulk cape and say to the world, “Well, hello here!”

After all, there’s only one you, and folks need to hear the story only you you can sing. 

Love much,

Dan

PS Keep an eye out for me on the InstagramFacebook, and YouTubes this week — I’m gonna lay out some straightforward videos about how to prepare audition packets.

If you missed last week, I talked about choosing songs for auditions. And oh, make sure you hop over to my YouTube channel and subscribe — I’m gonna be talking about more theatre singing tools than you or I will even know what to do with.

I’ve also been cooking up a pedagogical alter-ego who may be making a debut appearance in the coming weeks. 

PPS Please tell me you’re on the Ted Lasso train. The good news is that the last episode of the latest season airs tomorrow evening, so if you’re late to the party, you won’t have to wait for the weekly drip. I may go back and watch from the beginning myself.

PPPS Do you know about Brunch with Babs on IG? I love her! I’m making her BLT Potato salad for the Memorial Day cookout we’re going to today. (High of 69 here in Mass, and I am HERE for it. This mild New England spring has fulfilled my New England dreams.) 

This Still Stumps Me — Introducing my New York Diner Menu Strategy

I have a New York Diner menu strategy.

Before I enter the establishment, I hold a brief meeting with myself. 

I say (in a voice not unlike Ted Lasso), “Self, you’re about to look at a whole mess of choices in this laminated culinary novella.

“There’ll be cherry blintzes, Denver omelets, a chef’s salad, and all kinds of things to sling between your choice of toast.

“Now, before you succumb to a decision stupor, I want you to focus. Focus on that one thing that you’re going to want to chew for the next brief chapter of your life, and with laser precision, you’re gonna communicate that choice to the kind human charged with conveying the gastronomic goods to your gullet. 

“You won’t even need to look at the menu. It’s a New York Diner! They’ve got everything stuffed into that Mary Poppins bag of a kitchen.

“Now go!”

And before I walk into the diner, the decision’s clear:

Some kind of cheeseburger, fries, and a fizzy water.

Speaking of daunting choices, one of the most paralyzing sentences a singing actor can hear is, “Just sing something that shows us who you are.”

It ranks up there with, “Ok, now be funny.”

Um, so you want me to select a song from the standard musical theatre canon that displays the depth and breadth of my multifaceted humanity?

No prob. Here’s that timeless chestnut from Guys and Dolls, “Take Back Your Mink.”

Auditioning is full of opportunities for second guessing, self doubt, and what I call the brain beehive.

They’re casting Carousel, but I’m kinda right for Beautiful, too. And there’s that track in The Prom, but what if I target Godspell? I know. I’ll sing “I Feel the Earth Move” as Carrie Pipperidge in the style of “Magic to Do.” It’ll make all the sense in the world! 🤯

Telling someone to sing something that shows who they are is like telling a freelancer to “charge their value.”

You can’t charge your value. You’re invaluable.

And when it comes to showing table people who you are, Walt Whitman already said it: “You contain multitudes.”

So, what do you do?

Here’s a list of questions you can ask yourself to make song selection straightforward. (Also works for monologues, one-person shows, and purchases at Target.)

1. Do you love the song? 

Even if you’re a little tired of it, do you have an enduring appreciation and commitment to this tune?

Do you love the text, the story, the melody, the orchestration, its structure, and what you know about its history? This has to be a hell yes before you proceed.

2. Do you love how you sing the song?

Does the song fit you? Are you confident you can sing it with skill and warmth on any reasonably healthy day? Does it highlight the sparkly special features of your voice? Yes? Keep going.

3. Is the song a good choice for the thing your auditioning for? 

If you’re going in for a general meeting, the first two questions will go a long way in helping you choose material that’ll lead to a satisfying experience for everybody in the room.

If you’re going in for a specific show or role, ask yourself —

Is this in the same stylistic world as the show?

Does this solve a specific casting problem? (i.e. I’m singing “The Man That Got Away” with Sally Bowles in mind.)

Is this song familiar enough? You want the table people to pay attention to you singing the song, not the song itself. 

4. If you’re asked to sing a cut, and you’re almost always asked to sing a cut, keep these things in mind:

Structure your cut with a logical beginning, middle, and end.

Craft your beginning so that it establishes you in the world of the song (short intro or starting pitch).

No matter your character’s arc in the cut, remember it’s a loving act to share this story.

Make sure the ending is satisfying and clear.

If you choose material you love, that you sing well, and you’re solving a casting problem, you’re on your way.

If you fill your singing with specificity and open your heart, the only thing that can happen is that you share the fullness of who you are. It feels a lot like nothing, so that’s why it’s so tricky.

If you’ve answered the above questions well, your song choice itself isn’t going to make or break an audition. If you realize a tune doesn’t work the way you predicted, there are thousands more songs. You can make a new choice. 

If it’s you showing up in the song, if you’ve done your work, and you open the door of your heart, the depth and breadth of you will glimmer like the multifaceted jewel you are. 

Because it’s objectively and scientifically true:

There’s only one you, and folks need to hear the story only you can sing.

Love much,

Dan

PS Speaking of audition help, you’re not going to find a more clarifying, actionable, empowering, and useful resource than Audition Psych 101. Led by seasoned actor, author, and one-time world’s worst auditoner Michael Kostroff, there’s now an online course version of it. Also a book.

I took his workshop in LA probably 15 years ago when it was Micheal with a stack of index cards in a little theater in Hollywood. I carry so many things I learned from that workshop with me and share them with students now. 

Get in his universe and turn auditioning into an exciting and joyful experience. It’s completely possible.

PPS You need help with anything? How about how to pick a song? 🙂 …

…or solving that breathing thing or that vibrato thing or that belting thing or that fatigue thing or that what the hell am I even doing with my artistic life thing? I’m here for you. Book a free session with me. Yep. Free. For a lil while, anyway. Summer’s here and I want to help you out. 

Just go to my public calendar and sign up for a time. Whether you’ve worked with me before or not, take advantage of this. I’ll help you out. 

Seriously, a free half hour where you can tell me your singing troubles, I’ll give you some things to do and probably mention your pharynx, and you’ll have tools, and that thing will get better. Do it! It’s a no brainer. 

Sign up here, or bookmark my calendar URL: https://fons.app/@dancallawaystudio/book

And look! the NY Diner Menu explained:

It’s Better if You Hug It + a hot take on “overdone”

I was going to post today about whether or not you should sing overdone songs at auditions.

That’s a very short email, I realized.

The answer? 

Yes, go ahead.

If you sing it great, and it’s right for the thing you’re going in for, by all means sang it. 

There’ve been folks who’ve changed my mind about songs because they dared to sing something they loved that was on the apparent do-not-sing list.

(I started re-liking the song “No One Else” from Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 after I heard current Elon student Sara LiBrandi sing it from her heart at her program audition.)

So, please, if you sing it great, just go ahead and sing it. Things are overdone for a reason. 

Now that THAT sigh of relief has left your body, one thing from my heart to yours + a couple of videos.

From my 💙 ==> your 💙: It works out better when you hug the version of you that’s reading this right now. 

You might have a new-and-improved avatar of you working on your vision board, and that’s terrific. We love a good goal.

What I’ve found to increase the peace, relief, and ease factor when it comes to getting from A to B, though, is meeting the now-you with love.

Anything you want to change has a story, and it’s much more likely to cooperate with you when you meet it with understanding.

This shows up all the time in the studio — 

“Ah! If I could just get my _______ to RELAX!”

I want you to ask yourself the last time someone shouted at you to RELAX! Did it relax you?

Your jaw muscles might like to hold because when you were 9, your body figured out some kinds of expression weren’t safe, so your brilliant brain instructed your chewing muscles to do double duty and keep all that crying the big people called “excessive” at bay.

Now you can’t quite figure out why those muscles won’t just release like your voice teacher tells you to. Meanwhile, those cells are like, “Whadaya mean let go? We been holding on for dear life since third grade!”

Every pattern we adopt has a story.

If you want to change a pattern, take the time to meet the current one with compassion. It might have some useful insight for you.

I’m telling you so I can tell me. We’re in this together.

And in case you missed these this week,

Here’s a video of me walking around beautiful springtime Boston talking about a good way to slow your brilliant brain down when it’s trying to win the Boston Marathon and get some peace and clarity talking again.

And I put this up on the IG and FB this week, but here’s James May and me making music together at my BoCo studio recital. James is a world class musical director, and I had the privilege of working with him a lot in Los Angeles. This is “A Bit of Earth” from The Secret Garden.

And here’s Jude and me repotting a couple of plants on the deck today.

And always remember — there’s only one you, and folks need to hear the story only you can sing.

Love much,

Dan

Standing Out and Other Mistakes — How college musical theatre parties and Ford Broncos teach you about life navigation

By the time I got to college, many folks had told me how gregarious, extraverted, outgoing, and, ahem, charismatic, I was. 

I mean, I had provided my Anglo Saxon pentecostal meets Topol impression lens to the role of Tevye in Mt. Airy High School’s production of Fiddler on the Roof, and there were those speech/essay contest blue ribbons I kept pulling down.

The magnetism evidence piled up everywhere.

When I rolled into Elon College’s musical theater program in 1996, I figured I’d keep winning the charisma wars like I had in Surry County. 

However, my Dale Carnegie assessment score plummeted at my first musical theatre party.

Who were these people with their signed Playbills, multiple pictures with Bernadette Peters, and cast album CD collections?

And how were they so… so resonant? How could they talk over ALL the other people? And how were they making EVERYONE laugh?

(And why was there smoking? There was so much smoking.)

I didn’t even enter the party attention arena. 

In this character shoe cage match, I was a back-row ensemble member still faking time steps. A BYO-Jane Austen novel attendee pretending to enjoy my tepid can of Icehouse in the corner.

Standing out in this environment meant you had to be louder, faster, funnier, and I was outa my league from the get.

We actors get the message early on: You have to stand out!

So, like any logical human, we set out to compete like we’re at a gathering where it’s normal to shout, “a 5-6-7-8” and three quarters of the room bursts into the opening sequence of A Chorus Line.

Once you start to compete, though, that’s the moment you get lost.

And I mean this in two ways.

ONE. You get lost in a crowd.

In college, after I learned what a jazz shoe was, I started to pick up a thing or two about dancing.

One thing I never really conquered, though, was trusting myself to pick up choreography. 

I always watched the better dancers to double check that I had it right.

And that put me a half-count behind.

It also meant that my attention was on the dancer I’d decided was better than me and not on my own work.

If you’re busy looking around you to compare and follow, there’s no way you can get down into your own work and find out what your own point of view is.

Don’t get me wrong. Look around. Notice who you admire. Take in their influence.

But your work is about sharing what rings authentically in you, not scanning outside trying to crack a code.

TWO. You lose your actual way.

If you always look around, assess what you think everybody is doing and how you can do that better, there’s no room for you to check in with you.

You could spend several years trying to fill-in-the-blank better than someone only to find when you check in with you, your heart was longing to go a different direction.

It’s like you’re driving to New York City. You see a cool new sky blue Ford Bronco in front of you, and you’re all like, that’s a lot cooler than this serviceable Accord with more than 200K miles on it. 

Before you know it, you just decide to follow that Bronco. Then, three hours later, you’re like, “How did I end up in Allentown, PA?” 

Just because you’re on the same highway as someone else doesn’t mean you have the same destination. 

When you navigate based on what everyone else is doing, you’re going to end up at some unintended Wawas. (Though that is a good opportunity to pick up a sammie and some Tastykakes.)

Bottom Line: standing out (big air quotes there) is an exercise in futility. 

Here’s what do do instead:

👷🏽‍♀️ Build your skill every day (this is confidence and competence.)

💙 Check your heart. How can you walk through the world as open and loving as possible today? 

💃🏽 Then, put your body in the place and do the thing.

After a while, your people at the party will recognize you, ask if you want some of the good stuff they hid in the back of the fridge, and you’ll talk about Stephen Sondheim.

That’s it: Build your skill. Hug and shine your heart. And put your body in the place and do the thing. 

Because you know what I’m gonna say. There’s only one you. Folks need to hear the story only you can sing.

Love much,

Dan

Phantom Confessions — finally coming clean about this

I’m going to tell you some of the ways I shenanigized and monkeyed around during my tenure with The Phantom of the Opera Music Box Company.

It all started my first night on at the Fabulous Fox in St. Louis.

I’d layered on all my costumes, shown old Raoul the music box in the auction, and entered successfully into the opera rehearsal scene as the Lion Man.

(Maria Bjornson’s rendering )

Then the ballet drop fell. Ballerinas screamed and spun, and Meg sang, “He’s here! The Phaaantom of the Operaaaa!”

🎵”He is with us, it’s the ghost!” we echoed.

A member of the ensemble crossed directly to me just as her blocking dictated, reached out, and whispered, “Who you gonna call?”

Not seven minutes into my phirst Phantom, I had to turn upstage.

Then there was the issue of the gun.

I played the guy in the orchestra pit who shoots at (and misses) the Phantom in Act 2.

The stage manager showed me how to cock and shoot the gun in rehearsals. I grew up around guns being the country boy I was, and the method for this old prop wasn’t intuitive, but I did my best. (I was also a rule follower and a good grade getter.)

My first week on was not a success.

Five shows went by when I couldn’t fire the gun. Poor Raoul had to change lines.

There was even a matinee when I managed to drop both blanks ONTO the floor of the orchestra pit.

CLINK. CLINK.

In the middle of the only talky scene.

Glen the conductor hated that gun (and me that week).

Charlene the stage manager offered me a bottle of Veuve Clicquot if I could get through a whole week of successful cock-n-fires.

She also called me Stinky because the gun smelled of sulphur.

Finally, I just asked the prop master Dean who handed me the gun every night to show me how he’d do it.

He was a Carolina boy like me. He grabbed the handle, pulled back the hammer with his thumb, released it and handed it back.

My redneck instincts: validated.

I never missed a shot after that. (Except the matinee in Peoria when I made a premature costume change and missed my entrance for the other gun-fire scene. Sorry again, Raoul.)

Other naughties included but weren’t limited to:

A fellow fop in the opera scene assigning me characters for every show. I clandestinely peppered in John Wayne, Tarzan, and Stevie Wonder into my interpretations.

This practice ended when one of my choices made them laugh too much to sing their first line, and we narrowly avoided the stage manager’s ire.

I was also introduced to three games by a particularly seasoned ensemble member:

Anticipation; Delayed Reaction; and Spin like a Ballerina When You’re Scared.

You can do the math on the outcomes of this Meisner/Stanislavsky hybrid work.

Truth is this: Being a committed and excellent ensemble member is hard.

And when I got up to shenanigans, it diminished the show for the audience and for me.

Sure, I look back on some of that, and it’s funny. I laugh.

But a lot of it? Yeah, I don’t feel proud and satisfied.

This is the thing that’s hard to remember as a member of a long-running show:

Just because it’s old news to you doesn’t mean it’s not mind-blowing to someone else.

That ringing 8-part harmony may be played out for you, but it could be the most beautiful thing the high school kid who plopped down his savings from double shifts at Panera ever heard.

The place where we get tripped up is this —

We think we have to re-create that experience of offer ourselves every time when we deliver these familiar songs, lessons, or lines.

We don’t.

We just have to remember that for the one we’re communicating with, this could be life-changing.

The other takeaway from my failings in professionalism:

If it’s worth saying, it’s worth repeating.

If you’re writing something, teaching something, singing something — if it’s good and worthy, it’s worth repeating.

I’ll guarantee you everybody wasn’t listening first time.

In fact, you probably weren’t, either.

I can’t tell you how many times I will teach a song in lessons, and I’ll say, “Hey wait a minute!” after years of hearing a certain lyric. This happens all the time.

The repeated and the ordinary things in life hold treasures.

So, I want to encourage you to walk a familiar path today and look with new eyeballs.

Take a sec to smell your coffee. If your body feels ok when you get out of bed, take a moment to think what a miracle it is to have a working body.

And if you’re singing a song in your audition book that feels tired to you but always works, take some time to re-listen. You may hear a lyric for the very first time.

A good question that helps me:

What’s the most satisfying way I can work on this?

That’s what I hope for you — that your work will be satisfying and fill you up like a delicious plate of creamy risotto.

You’re worth that satisfaction.

And always remember, there’s only one you, and folks need to hear the story only you can sing.

Love much,

Dan

PS The MFA Pedagogy Students and I went on a See-Your-Boston-With-New-Eyes scavenger hunt last week. (It was too beautiful to sit inside.)

PPS In case you missed it last week, remember I made this free video series for you:

7 Mistakes Smart Theatre Singers Make — and the Easy Ways to Fix Them

Get instant access to this free video series to get your voice unstuck and flow the truth outa your face with freedom, confidence, and joy. Click here.

It’s Still Good! — you got love-gold lying around that you just stopped seeing. Here, look! 

To you it may look like refrigerator shelf of languishing rigatoni, forgotten mushrooms, and past-their-prime scallions.

To me, I’ve just become a Food Network “Chopped” Champion.

Except the countdown clock is Noah and Jude’s dinner tummies (and I prolly forgot the afternoon snack.) 

⏰ The race is on!

🎙️ What WILL Dan DO with a cup and a half of leftover brown rice, a suspect red pepper, and rotisserie chicken? Oh! He’s got the sour cream! 

Now he’s got the Sriracha. What’s he planning to do with… No, he’s putting AWAY the Sriracha. Wise choice.

Taking meh-sad looking fridge food, throwing it in a pan with some stock and chopped garlic and whatever half-a-bag of veg we’ve got hiding in the freezer satisfies me.

I rescued the food from an orange Town of Ashland trash bag and made a surprise—

Something delicious came together from disconnected, unsexy ingredients.

There’s also something deep in me that says: 

“Come on. Give me the least advantageous scenario. WATCH what I do.”

Give me the bottom-of-the-list resources and see what I make! 

Give me the singer who heard they “should just pursue acting,” and listen to the beautiful sounds this artist is gonna set free. 

That one really fires me up.

There’s something about people being forgotten, dismissed, or things being tossed aside that grabs my guts.

I remember a dream I had over 20 years ago —

💭🎵💭🎵💭 (harp sequence) 

I was in an artist’s grotto. There was soft green grass — like those impossibly carpety lawns you see in English gardens. And there was an open-air white wooden shed.

Inside were mosaic frames made from shattered glass, sculptures crafted from scrap metal, and furniture reformed from discarded tables and chairs. 

All these things that someone threw away, a kind and loving artist rescued, brought together, and made beautiful.

That’s what we get to do in musical theatre. 

We’re the island of misfit toys, and we find a place where everyone says: 

“Yes! Of course we should dress up like other people, pretend to BE them, and stop the narrative action for 3 minutes to process our inmost emotions accompanied by motivic orchestrations.”

Terrific art bringsTOGETHER things that human brains consign to separate cubbies.

And that’s the surprise of love’s truth — seemingly disparate things DO indeed go together. They are connected whether or not we see it.

That’s why folks can’t get enough of those unlikely animal friends videos. I mean, I can’t. 

You’ve got ingredients in your life that you’ve forgotten about or decided to ignore. 

You’ve got stories and truths sitting in your cupboard waiting to be stirred into the most delicious risotto. 

What may look old and used up, even borderline expired (an ongoing debate in our home :)) —

with a little “I wonder, what if, let’s try,” you’ve got a love-seasoned meal that’s a surprise and a delight — AND something you can share.

I invite you to sit here at my table and say to yourself the following:

You’ve got ingredients no one else has, and if you don’t share them, folks won’t get the nourishment that can only come from your kitchen and your heart.”

Can you remember a meal that not only tasted yummy but also healed you a little? A meal when you could taste the love? 

We always ask the boys when we cook together — what’s the most important ingredient?

Jude always says, “WUV!”

(I’m gonna be so sad when he starts saying [L]s.) 

They stretch their hands toward the pan and say loooove looooove looooove!)

Let that be you. Stretch your hands toward your work and the world and to YOU, take a deep breath, and say “WUV!”

Because seriously, there is only ONE YOU, and folks need to hear the story only you can sing. 

Wuv much,

Dan

B-Ball Shame — this one always makes me shaky

Nothing prepared me for the cussin’ bullies, spit wad projectiles, or knuckle thumping contests (why?) that awaited in 7th grade homeroom.

Every morning my stomach churned and my hackles raised like a cornered rescue dog.

One especially stinky rite of passage was gym class. And I mean basketball.

Volleyball, fine. Square dancing — a blast. The Electric Slide? Amazing.

I even excelled at bowling.

But basketball?

I’d never recovered from the peewee league shame debacle when I
🏀 grabbed a rare rebound,
⛹️‍♂️ double dribbled like lil hillbilly Larry Bird to the other end of the court, and
🗑️ attempted 3 underhand shots (all unsuccessful)

into the other team’s hoop.

I realized the error when the opposing team kids filed by, pointed and laughed — a bizarro version of the “good game” hand slap line.

I never made friends with basketball after that. And my classmates knew it.

So, they always picked me last.

👟👟👟 (sneaker time lapse ⏱️)

When I was grown up (and nobody was making me play basketball,) I hosted an industry biz event in LA. I invited a successful actor/author to speak. 

This person had wrestled actor success from the jaws of hardship —

(moved to NYC later in life, pounded the commercial pavement, landed series regulars, and became a go-to guide for actors navigating the industry.)

The panel talked about creating opportunities — My jaw almost hit the concrete floor when I heard this seasoned pro say, “No. I want to be PICKED. I want someone to point to me and say, ‘You. I choose you.'”

There they sat — clearly with enough IMDB evidence to tell them they’d been picked a lot. And still —

We all wanna be picked. It’s a real need.

I also find that when I go ahead and pick myself, 3 things happen:

☝️ it shakes things loose and gets things moving
✌️ creates a combo creator energy: solid with a side of shaky
and
🤟 ironically, more folks wanna pick you for things after you go ahead and pick yourself

You notice things showing up to help you–

an eager collaborator, a space to perform your show, a guy who knows a gal who’s got a room where you can rehearse.

Sometimes it’s the right teacher, the right class, the right community.

And still, when we get the chance to choose ourselves — to invest and fill our cup, we balk.

I mean, dang. Yesterday, I tried counting to 30 for each quadrant when I was brushing my teeth, and even that was uncomfortable.

It’s hard to leap into good things for ourselves. 

But you get that nudge.

The quiet, kind voice that says, “It’s time.”

Your fire to do the thing uses fear like fuel; your clarity’s like sunshine clearing the fog.

Most of all, I want you to step your brave, superb, unrepeatable self forward and feel the energy you generate as you say, yep, I’m choosing me for the team!

You’ll be excited AND scared, and we’ll say THANK YOU for being courageous (meaning full of HEART) enough to SHARE the one and only you.

Because remember, there IS only one you. Folks need to hear the story only you can sing.

Love much,
Dan

The One Thing that Changes Everything — Jack’s superpower 🦸🏻 (yours too) + the celeb who could change your acting forever

Jack was in the hospital when he found out he’d won a place in Boston Conservatory’s Musical Theatre Program. 

He’d also gotten some news he wasn’t expecting: a Type 1 Diabetes diagnosis.

This Disney-devoted Marvel memorizer had to navigate huge life changes and adjust to a rigorous training program in a new city that definitely wasn’t Big-D-Little-A-Double-L-A-S.

After the BoCo Sorting Hat placed Jack in my studio (Ravenpuff), a mentor of his emailed to say — “Hey! Dan Callaway teaches there. You should try to study with him.” 

That mentor was Jim May who’d music directed me in LA (and hosted the best singing soirees at his house in Granada Hills.)

He’s flying to Boston for our studio recital this April! 💙🎵

Love synchronicity hugs like that. 

Back to Jack —

Jack’s shown up to lessons dizzy, exhausted, fighting to get his eyes to focus, and battling an often tricky Dexcom sensor. 

(I have a terrible habit of clapping Jack on the shoulder where it’s injected 🙁 Sorry, Jack.)

He’s sung exercises leaning against the piano to stabilize himself, worked through lessons in a chair, and done about every other thing he can to get his body into the studio at his lesson times.

Some days, I’ve asked if he wanted to take a break or go grab an egg sammie. He always wants to work.

There’ve also been days when he’s texted me from an Über on the way to the Joslin Diabetes Center because his levels were going nuts. 

I have no idea what managing diabetes feels like–

what it’s like to monitor your glucose all day, callous your fingertips from constant pricking, navigate sudden dizziness, or worry about your vision going haywire while the best docs tell you they’re not sure why.

I looked at Jack this week as he juggled the 17 directives I was twanging across the piano at him, and my heart filled up with admiration. 

I stopped and said, “Jack, you know how courageous you are? The things you overcome just to show up in the room are huge, and I think you’re a big deal.”

I wiped a tear, and we went back to sticking out our tongues and making Elmo sounds.

But Jack makes me stop and say thank you that my body’s healthy. 

It’s a miracle to hear music, walk the 5 flights from the basement to my studio, and play wrong notes and cuss.

My Grandma Frances always said, “If you have your health, you have everything.”

I remember her words when I look at Jack with his eyes on what he loves to do more than anything — make folks laugh and feel better. 

He could be the one feeling like crap, and he makes sure you’re okay.

Jack reminds me that showing up is seriously it. 

Nothing else happens if you don’t.


Just put your body in the place, and do the thing. 

After a while, folks’ll notice and trust you. Most importantly, though, you’ll notice and trust yourself. You’re the one who shows up.

Lately I’ve been getting quiet and listening into my guts about what the next stage of my life’s supposed to be about. I’ll pray, “What do I need to know?”

I’m getting this answer: Share.

Okay. Yes.

And sharing means showing up. That’s why I’m rolling into your inbox on a Monday.

Here’s another truth — lots of times, I’m scared to share. 

I make videos I delete. I write posts and leave them in the drafts folder. I want to hide. 

You got that too? Times you want to hide?

Good — we have something we can both practice: show up and share.

Just get your body in the room. 

You’ve picked up things over the years that’ll help folks. What if you don’t bring those to the table? 

And remember, feeling afraid is required for courage.

I bet if you go back and think about the folks who’ve made a difference to you — how much of that was just because they showed up? What would happen, do you think, if you did that for you? And in turn for us?

Because you know what I’m fixing to say — there there’s only one you, and folks need to hear the story only you can sing.

love much,
dan

ps Are you as excited as I am about Ted Lasso’s Season 3 starting up??

If you’re having a hard time waiting for the week-to-week episode drip-drip, may I recommend Shrinking? 30-minute episodes packed with heart, humor, humanity, and any other H-word that brings you joy.

And if you’ve never hopped on the Luther train, get to the station. It’s so good.

(There’s a new Netflix film, and if you haven’t watched the show, I recommend you mark some time in your binge calendar to get up to speed.)

Melissa and I re-watched the first episode the other day and due to parenting exhaustion and amnesia, it was like a whole new experience!

(And whenever a student needs an imaginary scene partner for their love/heartbreak song, I regularly recommend Idris Elba. I’m not wrong.)

the real reason I went to ballet class 🩰 — and the offensively simple secret to being shiny and stand-outy

I used to go to ballet class. 

Several times a week, I yanked on black tights, a v-neck T, and my dirty white shoes, and I’d sweat it out with all the other dance pilgrims in Anna du Boisson’s 1pm class at Daahnce-works on Balderton Street. 🩰

I found her class in an undergrad semester in London; I was working hard to get my 200+ lb frame to do all the dancey things that all the triple threat BroadWAY philosophy told me I needed if I was gonna get discovered by a West End producer and stay in London for a long career doing show after show at the National Theatre. 

So, there I Tubed 🚇 most weekdays tryina get those pirouettes (and I don’t mean the lovely Pepperidge Farm dunkable biscuit.)

I worked my ass off – Anna even suggested I bring an extra T to change into for center floor (prolly so I wouldn’t sling sweat on my classmates while hurling my skeleton in precarious circles. Sorry errybody.)

There’d be moments holding a balance to Brahms, my leg in some trembling contortion, and my inner voice would scream, “This can’t be this hard, can it? Can it??! Get me ice cream!”

I even captured this moment in a little watercolor a couple years ago:

There may’ve been a part of me that imagined myself song-and-dance-manning across the stage, but the real reasons I kept going to ballet class were –

💙 Anna du Boisson was a generous and loving teacher, and somehow I could remember choreography when she explained it.

🎹 The music was beautiful – dancing with live piano collaboration filled me up. (I still jig around the studio during lessons.)

🤲🏽 And class filled up with kind and loving folk all Tetris’d into the limited barre space in that big studio with the fogged up mirrors.

I wanted to be a better dancer, yes, but there was a reason I made my life work around 1pm Ballet and not 4pm Jazz. 

It also turned out that Anna hired me to come back to London to do a musical version of Little Women that she directed. 

She set me up with a place to live (the Wake family’s attic spare room in their daughter Katie’s retired pink race car bed), somewhere on McFarlane Road –

She welcomed me to stay at her house for the rest of the summer, and treated me to more Pizza Express, bangers and mash at the wine bar, and Sunday roasts courtesy of Marks and Spencer grocery runs than I can count. 

Her ballet school and foundation is now in the former Shepherd’s Bush Village Hall where we had rehearsals (AND where I was once apprehended by a harried BBC employee for a test run of The Weakest Link – I got voted off the island real quick. I think I was also wearing overalls.)



I’ll also never forget what she said to me one day as we rode the 94 Bus around the Marble Arch. It’s made me a better teacher: 

“Often, good teaching is about what you don’t say.”

She was also the first Londoner to share the concept: “Dan, sometimes you’ve got to put your pain in your pocket and carry on.” 

To my 22-year-old mind, that was not at ALL what Julia Cameron said to do in The Artist’s Way, but I’ve learned that, often, your brilliant body just puts your hurt in that lil compartment on the front of your corduroys and says “We’ll deal with that later.”

So, she was right. And thanks, body.

That 1pm ballet class changed my life; the people you put yourself around always do.

Before this explodes into a multi-chapter memoir of my London days entitled Trying to Hug Brits, let me tell you what I was thinking –

While I did love ballet class, and I’m glad I did for the professional and soul benefits – no directors were calling me back for my glissade jeté.

My dance skills were enough to get me through singers-who-move calls.. 

I also experienced a lot of first-round cuts.

(One painfully embarrassing one at the self-same Danceworks when I couldn’t understand the audition monitor’s West Yorkshire dialect. I thought I had indeed been invited back into the room. Nope. Joops.)

But what I want to say to you is this: If you love going to ballet class, go. Enjoy and love it like I did.

But if you’re on a get-all-my-skills-to-the-same-level-so-I’m-marketable-and-can-do-all-the-things train, I’m gonna suggest you alight at the next station and get yourself a cup of tea and a chocky bicky.

Thing is, if you’re focused on getting your leg higher than, turning more times than, screaming higher frequencies than, being choice-ier than …. You’re competing on comparables, and many of them quite subjective.

I want you to think about a theatre artist you truly admire.

Got em?

Ok, now I want you to think about their skill set. What do they do well?

Do they tick all those quintuple threat boxes the college prep folks told you you needed if you wanted to go to Michigan?

I’m gonna bet the answer is no. 

Did they get a broad range of diverse training that informs everything they do? Probably.

When you try to compete on skills like you’re an athlete playing a game with objective rules, you disappear yourself.

When you celebrate and lean into the things that make you light up, you light up. 

The work that’s meant for you finds you, or you have the clarity to create it, and you stop obscuring your light trying to be and do all the things.

Take a moment to ask yourself, “What truly gives me energy? What’s a cup filler, and what’s a drainer?”

Focus on your fillers.

And remember there’s only one you, and folks need to hear the story only you can sing.

Love much,

Dan

ps a lil walk-n-talk about your strengths from the IG this week

And if you’re not already step-touching at the Calla-gram party, touch that Follow button and join us!

pps and while you’re on the IG, do you follow Tabitha Brown? She always rolls in with that word you need when you need it– 🔥💙🙏

You Have the Poweeeerrr ⚡️ — the Care Bears knew 🌈 (your secret super sauce) oh, and sing flexible and strong

When I was a wee child, my version of “You’re not the boss of me” was “You’re not the teacher!”.

You see, my mom could sit in front of a classroom of 30 massive sixth graders – near adults! – and with one eyebrow shift, Tommy Bowman (who terrified the other kids) would zhoop down into a yes ma’am ball like a rolly polly.

This was clearly the apex of power – public school teacher..



I also had a biological need to share data. Add to this a compulsion to correct folks making egregious life errors like grammar or open mouth chewing. 

I had one intense season sharing the gospel of how to spell Czechoslovakia. (That geopolitical nugget aged well.) I even enjoyed bedtime snuggles with the dictionary. 

That’s why it’s crazy to see our lil Noah bear vibrate with informational glee when he learns a new thing or spots an error in my parenting logic. 

He’s top notch at poking plot holes in improvisational bedtime stories or picking up dropped narrative threads – But Daddy, what about the ice cream scooper person at the beginning?

(…when the Callaway Transformers fight to defeat the Mickey Mouse Roller Coaster that turned into a theme-park destroying centipede robot at Disney World. These are the bedtime yarns.)

He’s on the teacher track himself as you can see from this photo from the lecture hall:

(He moonlights as The Mandalorian.)

And here he’s grading homework while pursuing an engineering side hustle – disrupting the computer space with magnet tile laptops.



Though I didn’t take the path of power to the public school classroom, thankfully, life pinballed, nudged, bodychecked, and shunted me right smack dab into teacher work. 

I’m actually required to go full Hermione Granger on the full-set World Book Encyclopedia of voice.

And my job is to help folks remember words – I even teach CLOSED MOUTH chewing exercises.

But the secret power I didn’t notice when I was wide-eyed at Mama’s classroom management magic was basic and powerful:

She cared.

That’s why she always got stopped and hugged at the grocery store. 

When the grad students show up for their 4th semester teaching seminar, they’re absorbing a flood of new info. And you know when you know more stuff, you learn how much you don’t know. 

Some of them tell themselves terrifying imposter stories, and they wonder: How’m I gonna get EVERYTHING locked down before I get those official letters that mean I know everything???

So, I tell them what I learned from my Mama – 

Your students just want to know that you give a shit.

If you care about your students, and you’re working with a baseline of healthy principles, you’re gonna help them. 

You’ll share what you know, and in the meantime, you’ll comb the library, your colleagues’ brains, and the google machine to find answers. 

And if you can’t help, you’ll find someone who can.

When I tell them this, shoulders melt. We remember to become learners again.

But it’s risky to care.

That’s why so many of us stop. We care, and we get hurt. 

But, if you wanna sing sounds that are butter magic, heal your soul, and vibrate like only you vibrate, you gotta keep on caring.

No other way.

Care for your singular point of view, your love of that song, your need to tell a story, the joy that singing gives you, the freedom to share your hurts through oscillating CO2 that was just around your heart. 

And if you care about these things, you’re automatically caring about the person who hears you. 

If you’re willing to live a story and all its feels in front of folks who spend their waking hours avoiding, squashing, and sublimating such sensations, that’s love.

I’m remembering the Broadway production of Ragtime in 1998: 

Audra MacDonald wept and rocked her baby while she sang “Your Daddy’s Son”; Brian Stokes Mitchell howled with grief and rage when they murdered his love; Peter Friedman opened the tender vulnerability of being a Jewish immigrant fighting to protect his daughter; Marin Mazzie invited you into how unseen women felt (and still do) at the turn of the 20th Century.

If you care for this gift of expression – this chance to make beautiful noises that heal you and those who are in earshot, it’ll change everything you do. 

Your singing becomes a way to heal your world. Not a hoop to jump through to show table people you’re as good as…. 

Yes, master your skills. Know your things. And do all that because you know why you care about it. You know your own reason and your own path into real-deal.

When you know this, and you put your body in the places and do the thing, you heal, and folks around you can, too.

You are the teacher. Notice what you care about, what you’d get up at 4am for, and let that invigorate every story you tell. 

And the lesson for every week – there’s only one you, and folks need to hear the story only you can sing.

Love much,

dan

ps Here’s a series for flexibility and versatility and acoustic power through gentleness. Some simple, effective ways to work on this.

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