Monday, January 5, 2015

New Year's Day with NPH

Neil Patrick Harris
Happy New Year!
If you want to read yet another blog about New Year's resolutions or predictions for what 2015 has in store for us, I apologize. This is not that blog. You are welcome to look at what I have written about resolutions in the past. I also have an astrologer friend who makes some interesting predictions based on what the sky tells us is happening now and in the coming months.

No, this first column of the New Year will highlight a wonderful episode of NPR's Fresh Air I heard on New Year's Day. The incomparable Terry Gross rebroadcast an interview with actor/singer/author Neil Patrick Harris from October 13,  2014. Somehow I missed its original air date but am glad I caught it this time around!

Harris is an incredibly wise and grounded (not to mention talented) performer, and he gave a warm and funny interview: I recommend it to you. In conversation with him, Gross covered many intriguing topics. NPH (as he is known to his fans) has had an interesting career as an actor, recently playing a trans-gendered German rock singer in Hedwig and the Angry Inch on Broadway. It was a challenging role, to say the least, and he won a Tony Award for it in 2014. Gross asked him about his approach, specifically about how he transformed physically and vocally into the female rock-singing persona. I was fascinated by what he said about his vocal routine, and his work with veteran New York voice coach Liz Caplan. She engaged him in detailed work on breathing and posture habits affecting his vocal production, just as I do with my clients. And, like most of the people I work with, NPH had a few things to learn: "As it turns out, the way I carry my personal body is a little neck strained... meaning that I don't stand perfectly tall, I jut my neck forward a little bit. And instead of using my diaphragm and my full breath, I tend to sort of clench my breath right around my throat and allow the sounds to come through... that compression is not so good on your cords because  ... [it] causes some kind of vocal problems later, like nodes or losing your voice". Caplan also gave him exercises for tongue tension, which can add to that vocal stress. Gross, apparently as fascinated by his technique as I was, asked NPH to demonstrate several exercises. They weren't exactly the ones I use, but I would guess any clients of mine who happened to catch the show recognized the similarities.

It was a rewarding episode for me to hear. To know that I teach a technique that works (even for such pros as NPH!), that I continue to share with others who can really be helped by it: what a wonderful way to start the New Year!

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