Independence as a Singer, Public Speaker, Actor, Music Student, Instrumentalist or American Citizen

One of the most incredible founding principles of America is the achievement of the Independence of the individual. As Vocalists or Instrumentalists, we must also become independent through proper music education and use of the latest technology to improve our musicianship.

This month I want to put some “Practical Feet” on an issue that I feel very strongly about. One of the most incredible founding principles of America is the achievement of the Independence of the individual. Have you ever heard of The Declaration of Independence? Unfortunately, there are many young people today that do not know what this document is, let alone what it means. Further, schools are becoming more and more a place to indoctrinate children about the latest Social Engineering Experiment and not teach them those important skills that will ultimately help them to become independent and productive members of society that will have the skills and confidence to visualize and solve the future challenges the world delivers.

The truth about America, especially in our past, is that this freedom has created a country that has been in existence for only a little over 300 years that has become the leader of the free world. May I remind all of us where the greatest inventions were created in the last 150 years have come from? The Telephone, Radio, Television, Film, Electronics, Computers, Aircraft, Appliances, Recording Equipment, Cars, Trains, Water Dams, Space Travel, Construction, Defense, Medicine, etc. The list goes on and on.

Why is this? It is because people have the freedom to visualize their dreams and are aware that once they do, they will have the freedom to improve society and profit by them. In contrast, lets compare the failed political philosophy of Communism. When the State owns you, controls you and tries to play “Daddy”, the human spirit has little incentive to grow and dream. That is why, in my opinion, we should always be wary of political social agendas that want to “provide all the needs of everyone.” This type of thinking only benefits the egos of those who want to implement such destructive political agendas. They do not benefit the individual because once you indoctrinate people that “the Government will always take care of them,” they will begin to lose their incentive to become an individual success. This thinking unchecked and not defeated will eventually destroy the principles of freedom that have made America great. It is good to remember that Socialism is nothing more than Communism Light!

We see this happening in the social structures of our families. Because parents want to be “their children’s friend” or ignore them altogether and have the “nanny” raise them, children enter the real world with little or no skills to be Independent. No wonder they end up wanting to live at home, homeless, on drugs, etc. This is because many parents have completely ignored their duties as parents. A parent’s job from a child’s birth is to make that child fully functional and independent by the time they are legal adults. Trust me, the goal cannot be reached by being a weak parent and only becoming a child’s “friend.” As any “real” parent knows, children will fight boundaries but will thank you in the long run when they grow up and see that you have prepared them to function in the real world.

At this point you are probably wondering about the “Practical Feet” for musicians that I promised in my opening sentence. One of my major goals as a Music Educator for 26 years has been to teach all my students to become independent musicians. For instance, when I teach voice, I avoid clich├ęs like, “Sing in your High Voice,” of “Sing in your Chest Voice,” and not give anyone the practical connection to those statements. I still continue to be amazed at the Vocal Students I inherit from other teachers or Music Programs that have heard the word Diaphragm but have very little or no understanding “what” it is. They are told to “sing from their Diaphragm” without any practical explanation about what that means. One of the first things I teach all my students is the parts of the body that make the voice work. I believe, when I teach them not just “what” works but “how” it works, they will not only perform independently once they leave me but they will also be able to teach another these important principles.

Further, I sell very inexpensive recording studios at my web site. Why? Because an important part of becoming an independent vocalist or instrumentalist is being able to “hear” yourself perform. How else can you obtain an honest rendition of your efforts? Does this not make sense? Of course it does. And, when you can, you have become Independent. And when can depend on nobody else to achieve your goals, your ability to improve will be empowered. This should be a primary goal of any musician.

The truth is, when brave men and women were founding this country, they did not look to a government program to assist them or ease their pain, they had to figure out a way to survive and improve their life. Through this effort, many incredible inventions came forth. These are the efforts that built America. As musicians, we must embrace the information and technology that has been given to us through the diligent efforts of others and use them to become Independence Musicians that can teach ourselves and another. There are few greater services to mankind than to make the decision to pass along important skills to others with a giving spirit.

Now, let me share with you a few resources that you can find Free Information or Musical Tools.

Here is a site where I get almost all my MP3’s and it is Free in its basic service plan. For a cheap upgrade, you can get better service. Since it is a music sharing service, there aren’t any Copyright problems. I have found numerous tracks of obscure music here. Further, you can find many Karaoke Tracks, as well as Video, Documents, Images and Programs.

A Car Is A Necessity For Aspiring Actors

Many individuals move to Hollywood every day with big dreams of hitting it big in the movie and television business. As an actor you will need to get around to numerous acting classes (which are located all around town), auditions and possibly even a regular job. Here are a few car tips for anyone who wants to become an actor.

It is unrealistic to rely on public transportation if you are serious about the business because you will constantly need to go from one place to another. If you have five auditions in a day you don’t want to waste time walking to the bus stop waiting for the bus to arrive so you need to have your own vehicle.

Expect to get lost a lot if you have plenty of auditions; L.A can be a big maze and confusing for newcomers to navigate. One must have item is a navigation system. Many auto makers like Honda offer navigation systems as an option. If you don’t have one just buy a portable one like a Garmin. It is so handy; it can pin point your exact location and it is very easy to use. Do not leave it mounted in your car; it’s better to carry it with you at all times because it’s a very popular item with thieves and you don’t want your car broken into!

Some actors like to carry a few different outfits in the trunk just in case. Your agent may call you for a last minute audition and you may not have time go home and change in time. Make sure you have different type of outfits in the trunk; casual and upscale. You can simply hop into the nearest Starbucks restaurant and change there.

Our cars are our lifeline so make sure to get frequent maintenance; make sure to have your oil replaced as recommended by the manufacturer and replace fluids regularly. Make sure your tires are in good condition; you do not want to have your tire blow up when you’re on the way to an important casting call or meeting.

Honda Civic’s, Accords or affordable Mazda are all great choices if you are looking for something affordable. It takes a lot of money to build a career in this town; you need cold reading classes, improv classes, scene study and auditioning training. Use your money to invest in your future and your career, not in an expensive vehicle. The last thing you want to worry about is your car.

Australian Actor Paul Ashton on His New Film, “Serial Buddies” and His Move to Hollywood

Australian actor Paul Ashton recently wrapped shooting the feature film “Serial Buddies,” an indie comedy labeled as “the first serial killer-buddy film of all time,” produced by Maria Menounos and directed by Keven Undergaro. In it he plays one of the two starring roles, and performed opposite the likes of Christopher Lloyd, Christopher McDonald and David Proval. It was an experience and opportunity that seems a far cry from Wagga Wagga, the small town in Australia where Paul grew up.

Ashton started acting at the young age of seven performing with Louise Blackett’s Theatre Workshop. It was simply a natural inclination at the time, and he had no idea of the huge role acting would play in his life in the future.

He hails from a creative lot – though his parents are both in medicine (one orthodox, one alternative – a lively combination he assures me) his three siblings are all artists too. One of his sisters, Alexa Ashton, is also a successful actor. She starred in ‘Home and Away’ and like Paul has worked for the prestigious Bell Shakespeare Company .

In asking him about his family’s thoughts on his career choice, Ashton was quick to state: “My family is extremely supportive. I think my Dad would’ve preferred it if I’d finished my law degree before heading to drama school, but never once have my parents tried to stop me from doing what I love to do. They’ve been there supporting and providing 100% and are proud of the paths we’ve all chosen.”

After his family moved to Canberra when he was 12 years old, Ashton saw a school production of ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead’ by Tom Stoppard. It galvanized his love for performing on stage, and shortly after he saw the first ever Bell Shakespeare Company production – it was ‘Hamlet’ – and he knew this was what he was destined to do.

EARLY INFLUENCES

In speaking of early influences, Paul notes Rob Sitch, the Australian actor/director who was part of “The Late Show” and who with his colleagues, went on to produce some of Australia’s best-loved films, most notably “The Castle.”

Other early influences included Baz Lurhmann, Kenneth Branagh, Anthony Hopkins, John Cleese, Mike Myers, Jim Carrey, Michael Winterbottom, Ben Kingsley and Kate Winslet. He trained at VCA Drama School in Melbourne, where teachers such as Lindy Davies, Tanya Gerstle and Leisa Shelton, and directors Peter Evans and Brian Lipson also had a big impact on him during those formative years.

But he sites John Bell – who created the renowned Bell Shakespeare Company – as making a particularly large impression on him. Paul recalls: “Watching their productions every year in Canberra, and meeting him and some of the other actors as a teenager was really inspiring for me. I was a drama nerd in its purest form – I used to get their autographs. It was a dream of mine to work for them.”

In a true career defining moment, John Bell came and watched Ashton play Orlando in As You Like It in his final year of drama school (Paul had written a letter inviting him to come along, and was shocked when he received a call from Bell’s assistant confirming the dates). He worked for Bell’s company a year later – a dream come true.

Earlier that same year, Paul had been cast as the role of Ben on the award winning Australian show “The Secret Life of Us.”

It would be four years of living and working in Sydney before Hollywood called. During this time, Ashton also was the frontman for popular local indie rock act, Minder.

He reflects back to that time, “I made the move to Los Angeles, like so many other of my compatriots because it is the centre of the global entertainment industry and provides the most diverse range of opportunities possible. That diversity appeals to me, and I think is a better fit for me as an actor.”

In a sit-down interview at The Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, Ashton shared his thoughts with me about his new life in the mecca of the entertainment business.

SIT DOWN:

Bobbi -Q: Paul, what is one of the main differences between being an actor in Los Angeles versus Australia?

Paul -A: Undoubtedly the first thing you discover when you arrive is the scale of it. The sheer size of the city itself is a good indicator, there are just so many people and it’s so competitive. It can be hard to know where to start. You go from knowing most people in the industry and most people knowing you, to knowing no one and in a way, starting again.

But there’s a real sense of possibility and that anyone’s got a shot. There’s a ‘yes’ attitude that underpins much of the American psyche, and I really respond to that.

Bobbi- Q: How did you get the role in “Serial Buddies?”

Paul- A: I got the role by auditioning. Casting Director Jen Cooper had seen some of my work last year and she called me in to read for the role. At first they didn’t think I was right for Gregory, but fortunately I won them over.

Bobbi -Q: Was the character easy to play for you?

Paul -A: There were certain parts of Gregory I had to work very hard on – he has a very dark past and was damaged from years of abuse and neglect.

But his flamboyance and physicality were a huge amount of fun to take on, and in that sense, came more easily. But he was demanding at all times and I had to stretch as an actor to get there.

Bobbi-Q: What acting technique do you use? Are there elements that are essential to success?

Paul-A: I don’t work with any specific technique. Certainly my training had a big influence on how I approach my work, and over the years I have adapted the principles I learned into more of my own thing.

Elements that I think are essential? Nothing new – research and script analysis, using the imagination and understanding the point of view of your character. And then, most importantly playing the moment.

Bobbi-Q: What was it like working with the cast of “Serial Buddies?”

Paul-A: I felt extremely privileged to work with a long list of well established and very talented actors.

We had core group of guys that were a joy to spend time with on set. The other 3 guys all have comedy and improv backgrounds, so there were always plenty of laughs, with lots of innovation and creativity when the cameras were rolling.

To work with an iconic actor like Christopher Lloyd. Playing my dad! It was wild, and a career highlight for sure. He was a gentleman and a joy to work with. And Chris McDonald too? No way. Comic genius right there. We had a lot of fun doing our scene together.

And to top it off – to have Hal Rudnick as Gary, to my Gregory-perfect.

Bobbi-Q: What characters or roles do you want to see yourself playing?

Paul-A: I love both comedy and drama, and never want to restrict myself to just one genre or form.

Bobbi-Q: What are you currently doing?

Paul-A: I’m currently in post-production with a short film I made before I shot “Serial Buddies.” It’s called “Champion” and I’m planning on entering it into Tropfest in Australia early next year. It was a script I wrote, directed and produced.

Other than that, auditioning and entertaining lots of friends from Australia!

Bobbi-Q: What is your goal for this upcoming year?

Paul-A: To continue to challenge myself to be better. Of course, I’d love to see ” Serial Buddies” make the submission deadline for Sundance and then of course get in – though that’s now out of my hands. That would make it a good year straight up. And I want to start working on my next self-devised project. I’m just not sure what it’s going to be yet.

Bobbi-Q: How do you have fun and relax?

Paul-A: Spending time with friends, going to the movies, exercising, playing music, yoga, and when I can- skiing.

Bobbi -Q: Are you married, single, or dating?

Paul-A: Single, but open to meeting someone.

Bobbi -Q: What city did you live in before here?

Paul-A: I lived in Sydney before I moved here, but my family is based in Canberra, so that’s home really. Mum and Dad have a beautiful house there, big garden out the back, and the place is full of amazing organic and biodynamic food and life-affirming healthy things. My mum is an alternative medicine practitioner, and Dad’s a doctor, so it’s always interesting.

Bobbi -Q: Tell us about your music.

Paul-A: I played music since I was 5. I started on the piano, and then later also played the Viola and guitar. I played in my school orchestras and sang in my school choirs, Music’s just always been there as something I did. But it wasn’t till I taught myself the guitar at the age of 18 that I started writing and playing on my own a bit. Before moving to LA I actually was part of an indie rock band in Sydney. I’d written a bunch of songs over a few years and a mate suggested we start a band together so we did.

I’m actually playing my first gig in LA in a month’s time. Just some low key acoustic originals. Should be fun.

Bobbi -Q: What ‘original music’ are you providing for the film “Serial Buddies?”

Paul-A: There’s a song in the film that Gregory sings to his father. I was trying to come up with a tune for it – so I knew what I was doing when we shot it. It developed into a little more than what was on the page. I liked the sound of it, so recorded and sent it to Keven. He loved it and so we arranged and recorded it with genius musician, Giulio Carmassi. It should appear in the film now, which is great.

Bobbi-Q: Tell me about these YouTube video blogs you posted while filming “Serial Buddies”. That was original, why did you do it?

Paul-A: They were just a way to document/blog about the time on set so that there was a fun record of it, and so that anyone , including my friends and family, could have a peak behind the scenes. And to try and get the name of the film out there a bit. With indie films, every little bit helps.

Bobbi -Q: Do you have any special thanks to give anyone in your life?

Paul-A: Where do I start? First and foremost my parents. They’re the most generous and unconditionally supportive people I know. Even outside of looking after our family. And my siblings too – just wonderful people who’ve helped shape who I am. I also have an extraordinary group of friends stretching right back to my early days in Wagga Wagga. They know who they are, and we’re still in touch regularly, and they’ve always believed in me and that’s a rare feeling.

Marketers – 3 Vital Actor’s Ingredients to Boost Your Storytelling

Business marketers know that their trade presentations need to include a story to connect with their audience. However, the words alone will not necessarily transform into a sale or the results you want. It is the way you deliver those words that will make the difference. We can borrow from acting skills to enhance our stories to make them dynamic and memorable. From my experience working with a variety of professionals and actors, I’ve narrowed three top ingredients that will aid the storyteller to mesmerize their listeners.

1. Creating Believability:

Actors are trained to tap into emotions and truth so their characters or stories are believable. When the audience recognizes the hope, fear, joy, sadness, excitement, or any other emotion; they are moved emotionally themselves. They can make the connection and understand.

So, how do you do this without looking like you are “fake acting?”

One ingredient that actors learn is to paint the picture of the character or the situation for the audience, so they can see and feel the moment. Actors spend time re-visiting their own sensory awareness, (touch, taste, smell, sound, and sight) in their training to help them focus on creating each story to be very real to the actor. Often the actor remembers a time when a similar experience may have happened to him.

In telling your stories during presentation, try to concentrate on creating any of the sensory images for your listener, to let them see and feel your story. Put yourself into the story situation at the moment you are delivering it to your audience. In this way, the audience will connect with the story, whether it is humorous or serious. Leave them laughing, crying, or motivating them into action.

Actors are able to get right into their characters or story. Lawyers who take extra coaching in acting skills learn this technique in order to make their case for a client resonate with the judge or jury, so that they can understand what the person was thinking at the time. You want your business presentation to have that extra dimension to a story that will touch the listener emotionally.

2. Using Improvisation:

Have you ever had an unexpected guest arrive and suddenly need to adjust everything quickly to make things work? Or, have you ever been all set to do your presentation and some equipment piece does not work, or worse, you’ve left your entire notes on the plane?

So what do you do? Do you panic or do you improvise?

Definitely, our actor’s second ingredient, improvisational skills, will augur well for your presentation, and for your own peace of mind. Actors train in improvisation for various reasons, whether it is to allow them to be inventive at any moment or to warm-up their skills. In the popular television show, “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” we see the masters of ad lib and improvisation. In this show, hosted by Drew Carey, even the audience gets to throw in last-minute suggestions for the actors to portray.

A short class or workshop in improvisational skills will help you, the business presenter, loosen up and think outside the box. You will have the skill to cover for the unexpected. Improvisational training helps to improve your memory skills and your timing, as well as, to connect with your audience on a more human level.

Through improvisational training, one of the most important things that you learn is how to trust your imagination in any emergency situation.

Most of the actors and professionals that I have worked with, who have not had improvisational training, think that they have no imagination. This is often because they have not had an opportunity to practice using their imagination, or because they feel it might be silly or embarrassing. However, it does not take long for those participants to do improvisational games and apply them to their own lives. It builds confidence and assures them of their new skill which they can draw from at any moment, and to enjoy the experience.

3. Using a “Pause”:

The final actor’s ingredient that business storytellers need to include is their skill in adding a pause during their delivery. A pause can be effectively inserted before or after a certain critical word in your presentation which will make your audience not only think, but also, connect emotionally with the your image.

For example, try saying this line: “Is Harry home yet?” by putting a pause before the word, “Harry” and then after it. See what the results are.

a. Is [pause] Harry home yet?

b. Is Harry [pause] home yet?

Find the key points in your presentation and insert a pause just before or after what you consider are the essential words. This together with how you use the tone and inflection in your voice will make dramatic differences to your presentation.

Stories help people to remember and connect with their own lives and in turn, warm-up to the presenter and trust him. If you use the 3 dynamic ingredients borrowed from the actor’s training model you will be able to make your story believable, and keep it sounding new each time. Whether you are a lawyer, an insurance salesman, a trainer, or anyone using storytelling as part of your presentations, these techniques borrowed from the actor’s skills will give you the applause you deserve. Your listener will be motivated by your dramatically moving story to take action – a marketer’s dream!