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The Performance Major's Survival Manual: Part 2 - Stress Management

Table of Contents


Part 1 - Time Management

1. Goal Planning

2. Time Management Tools

Part 2 - Stress Management

1. Stress and anxious 

2. Burn-out

3. Stage Fright and Audition Stress

4. Stresses in Personal Life

5. Finances

6. Extreme Stress

7. Help with Disabilities

8. Writing and Spelling Help

9. Transportation Issues

10. Housing Issues

11. Stresses at School

12. Being a Performance Major

Part 3 - Health Management

1. Eat right, sleep well

2. Affordable Doctors

3. Dentists

4. Eye Doctors

5. Colds and the Flu

6. Allergies

7. Sore Throats

8. Injuries

9. Marijuana

Printable Activity Sheets


*Photos and clip art in this guide have been used courtesy of*

Part 2: Stress Management

1.  Stressed and anxious all the time and don’t really know why

2.  Burn-out—I’m tired all the time

3.  Stage fright and audition stress

4.  Stresses in my personal life—at my job, with family, with relationships…

5.  Stressed about finances and/or I need a job

6.  When stresses get too extreme—I think I need help.  Mental health issues; issues with drug use and abuse           

7.  Need help with my syndrome, disorder, or disability (like ADD, ADHD, dyslexia, Aspergers, etc.)

8.  Help with my writing and spelling

9.  Transportation issues—my car isn’t reliable

10. Housing issues—I need somewhere to live

11. Stresses at schoolteachers, fitting in, keeping track of my stuff 

12. Should I even BE a performance major?  Where will it get me?!


1.  I’m anxious all the time, and don’t really know  why.   

I’m STRESSED and feel like I’m on the edge of burnout.

Yes, being a performance major—actor, dancer, vocalist, instrumentalist—IS stressful, and you’ve already marked the things weighing on you when you took that “State of My Union Stress Test” at the beginning of your Survival Manual.   Performance majors have many, many stressors.  Among these STRESSORS are:

~~overburdened schedules, what with rehearsals and practice times, on top of regular homework.  Plus credits earned are low for studio classes that demand many hours of outside rehearsal and prep.

~~the unpredictability of one’s schedule, if an audition, show, or gig comes up

~~stage fright and performance anxiety

~~competitive peers

~~feeling ‘judged’ on a daily basis because of always being in the limelight (looks and talent); risk of public humiliation and damaged self-esteem

~~lack of resources, such as practice space, or needing private coaching

~~finances, because the hope of making money at your passion seems slim

~~outside job stresses

~~health issues, mostly from being poor at time and stress management

~~all the family and relationship stresses that go along with the major

A Shmoop article on “Actor Stress” lists these other stressors:



Stressors:  see these sections by scrolling down the page.

Qualifications (feeling the pressure of all the training you’ll need)

Risk of physical danger

Odds of Getting In

Odds of Hanging On

Stress and Burnout

The graduate thesis on “Undergraduate Music Student Stress and Burnout” studied the stressors that we fall prey to as Fine Arts majors.  The link is below, but it is a long thesis, so here are the highlights of what Orzel suggests as ways to manage stress and burnout.



Helen Jane Orzel thesis, San Jose State University, 2010. 


“While there is little students can do about high expectations, they can learn to manage their burdens.  An overburdened schedule…is generally part of a college music student’s life.”  p. 47   In other words, accept that long, long days are part and parcel of being a Fine Arts major.  But students CAN take control of the environmental stressors.  Orzel suggests, “Perhaps practicing somewhere else besides the university or one’s home, choosing to spend time with peers who promote a supportive environment, or finding a way to deal constructively with authority figures may help to relieve symptoms of burnout.”  p. 47.

Helen offers some coping strategies for the stress that comes with performing, like relaxation techniques, mental imagery, and positive thought processes on p. 50-54.  “Realize the audience is on the performer’s side and that even a bad performance is only a temporary setback.”  “Be inspired by one’s own playing.  Getting wrapped up in one’s own playing distracts one from the audition.” 

Here’s another coping strategy so we don’t burn out.  She acknowledges that “quiet and solitude can balance out the intense contact with many people that performance brings.” p. 50.

Her best advice:  “…Revisiting your original passion—going back to what first inspired you to pursue music [or dance, or theatre]. p. 47

She encourages artists to have hobbies and extracurricular activities that don’t involve your major, suggesting that this “can promote student camaraderie which reduces the feeling of burnout and typical competitive environment in music departments.” p. 58.  And if these extracurricular activities involve exercise, non-competitive sports, yoga or meditation, then they are even more effective stress relievers.


Yes indeed, we performance majors feel the pressure of stress and imminent burnout.  However, being a professional performer is NOT listed among even the top ten most stressful jobs—probably because we get so much back, like applause and the satisfaction of doing what we love to do, with an encouraging and accessible amount of support from instructors, directors, peers, and fans. See:


Activity 2.1



What follows are several articles on stress-busting.  Some of these are designed by and written by trainers of dancers or actors or musicians.  This first one is aimed at college students in general, with very sound advice.  I’ve listed them, but do read the details.


***LINK:  "How to Reduce Stress While in College"

  1. Most importantly, don’t stress about being stressed.
  2. Get some sleep.
  3. Get some food.
  4. Get some exercise.  
  5. Get some quiet time.
  6. Get some social time.
  7. Get some fun.
  8. Get some distance.
  9. Get a little help.
  10. Get some perspective.

Stress-Busting Tips

Here’s a similar article.  It’s from a blog called “College Life:  10 Ways to Reduce Stress” by Jennifer Acosta Scott, 3/17/2010. 



The author adds these stress busters:                                                                                                 

~~Avoid unnatural energy boosters.                                                                                         

~~Get emotional support.                                                                                                           

~~Don’t give up your passions—do something every day that makes you happy (that’s healthy for you, of course)

~~Avoid relaxing with alcohol or drugs.                                                                               

~~Take a walk between classes to clear your head—and DON’T turn on your phone—instead, rest your mind and just see, hear, smell the air, and chat live with friends. 


Activity 2.2     


How to Stay Stressed

How to Stay Stressed!

And now for a little reverse psychology!   Here's some tips on "How to Stay Stressed:  A Tongue-in-Cheek Approach," by Stanford University Campus Health Center.  Check out the link for how these tips play out in our lives. 

"1. Stress helps you feel important.  I mean, you must be an important person if you're THAT busy.

2. It helps you maintain a personal distance to avoid intimacy.  You're too busy to spend any quality time with anyone.

3. It helps you avoid responsibilities. 

4. It helps you avoid success." p. 1


The article goes on to offer some more tongue-in-cheek "Advice for people who do not already have enough stress in their life." 

"1. Never exercise.

2. Eat and smoke all you want.

3. Take plenty of stimulants.

4. Get rid of your social support system." p. 2


Activity 2.3



These de-stressors are suggested by tenacious celebrities you can admire. 

De-stressors:    From “10 Celebrity Tips on Dealing with Stress”

~~ “Years later you come back around to what interested you as a boy. Now if I have something that I’m dealing with that’s causing me a lot of stress, my mind goes to architecture. I walk around the yard and start thinking about what I need to do to the house structurally. It’s similar to puzzles in that way, like a crossword puzzle or anything else I can put my mind into. It’s a relief for me”, he said to Parade.     BRAD PITT, ACTOR


Activity 2.4


~~In the book Control Your Blood Pressure by Rob Hicks, the Hollywood veteran quotes, “Training gives us an outlet for suppressed energies created by stress and thus tones the spirit just as exercise conditions the body.”       ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER, ACTOR-TURNED-POLITICIAN


Activity 2.5


~~The actress told Stylist magazine, “I find meditation in sitting on the floor with the kids coloring for an hour, or going on the trampoline. You do something you love, that makes you happy, and that gives you your meditation.”     ANGELINA JOLIE, ACTOR


Activity 2.6

~~"My way to de-stress is either listening to music or talking to my sister, Kourtney.”               KENDALL JENNER, MODEL

Activity 2.7

~~On the Redbook website, she quotes, “I put on music and dance with my dogs, which is quite embarrassing and I try not to get caught by anybody.”      CHRISTINA RICCI, ACTOR


Activity 2.8

More De-stressors

For more de-stressors, read:    “20 Scientifically Backed Ways to De-stress Right Now” by Meredith Melnick in Healthy Living section of Huffington Post, Sept. 9, 2015.  Although some of these are repeats of the above articles, I bet some of these you’ve never heard of, like the Naam Yoga Hand Trick, or eating a potato!



Activity 2.9

Scientific proof

For those of you who need PROOF these work:  Read “10 Scientifically Proven Ways to Reduce Your Stress” by Christina Desmarais,, this article gives the science behind the advice.




Activity 2.10

For Actors

For ACTORS:  An acting studio producer writes a blog for actors in Backstage Experts, called “10 Tips for Avoiding Stress.” by Mae Ross, Backstage Experts blog, March 10, 2014.




10 Tips to Overcome Stress for Graphic Designers

This Image shows “10 Tips to Overcome Stress for Graphic Designers.”



For Music Majors


The site   has many fabulous articles for music majors, such as:  “Guidance for Students Who Have Decided to Major in Music.”


Click on "Preparation and Planning" and then the pull-down menu on "Tips for Music Majors."  Scroll down the site and you’ll see all kinds of short articles:

“Majoring in Music and Sleep: a Paradox”    

“Performing with Less Stress”—a video       

“Reducing Music Performance Anxiety”


Burn Out


2.  Burn-out  

A long article but well worth going through with care.

“50 ways to take care of yourself in the arts” by Madeleine Dore, Nov. 1, 2015.



Dore opens with:  “As a sector, the arts is on the verge of burnout if not already teetering far beyond its edge. Lack of support, the precarious nature of freelance and contract work, the emotional and physical toll of creative and community arts work, frequent requests to work for free, and the undervaluing of work in Australia is confounding. Yet there is a silver lining in that these issues are finally being broached.”  p. 1.


Activity 2.11


Why We are Burning Out in the Arts

“Why we are burning out in the arts” in by Madeleine Dore.



Activity 2.12

Stage Fright

3.  Stage Fright

For Music Majors:

“Reducing Music Performance Anxiety” by Ruth Rootberg 

Article on coping with performance anxiety, with assurance that you don’t have to be anxious.



Click on "Preparation and Planning," then the pull-down menu on "Tips for Music Majors" and scroll down til you see the article "Reducing Music Performance Anxiety"

Six Tools for Managing Audition Anxiety

"Six Tools for Managing Audition Anxiety" from Majoring in Music site.


Click on "Preparation and Planning," then the pull-down menu click on "Tips for Music Majors," then scroll down til you see the "Six Tools..." article.


Are you worried about the way you’re presenting yourself at auditions?  Read this article I wrote on:

Ways to Wow Them When You Walk in 

     By Ginny Kopf, Voice, Speech and Dialect Trainer


            Your audition starts before you even open your mouth.  The way you walk in gives the casting director a wealth of clues about you as an actor.  These judges can read your confidence, energy, focus, your personal style, how directable you are, and even your potential—all in the first five seconds.  Directors “read” your body language to judge your ability, aptitude, and attitude.  They have to be skilled “mind readers” to find out what you’ll be like to work with, and how your personality will shine through a character you play.  Being “attractive” to a director is so much more than being pretty or handsome.  

            So what can you do to make sure you “WOW” them in that first five seconds?

1.  Lots of ‘face time’—Figure out a way to open the door and come in without turning your back to the director, camera or judge.  Lots of ‘screen time’ facing out will seem more confident and make them remember your face.  Don’t turn your back to go get a chair, or to get focused before your audition.  If you need a chair, set it first, then start.

Also, try to avoid backing up in auditions; especially don’t back up to start your piece, because it sends a message of, well…backing off.

2.  No humble-pie—Walk in knowing you got something special to share and that this is your moment to shine.  No need to be so sweetie-pie.  The director doesn’t know what to do with “shy.”  It was cute when you were seven, but it isn’t cute at an audition.  Just    BR-RING it!  The director doesn’t have time to deal with your lack of confidence.  He/she doesn’t have time to calm your nerves and pet you and tell you how good you are, to draw out your talent.   You gotta just br-ring it!

3:  Confident eye contact—Averting eyes look timid, of course.  Tension behind the eyes, boring your eyes into the director, seems pushy and scared (and scary!).  Also—something you may not have thought of—blinking a lot is aversion, and seems like you want to run away.  So use relaxed and sparkly eye contact—the way you’d shine them at someone you adored.  The judges are looking at you, into your eyes (not your knees!—unless you are bumping them).  Remember, they are reading your mind, and most of it is through your eyes.  

The eyes are “the window to the soul” as the old saying goes.  So open up and communicate out your eyes.  Keep a positive pep talk alive, because your eyes are going to tell on you.  (More on pep talks and audition attitude next article!)   Control the muscles behind the eyes to find the balance between relaxed AND energized.  Then you’ll be in both GIVE and RECEIVE mode: a wonderful, active flow of communication between you and the judges.

4.  Don’t “fix” yourself--you’re beautiful as you are.  No need to fix your clothes, touch your hair, adjust your glasses, fuss with your pocket.  It seems so insecure.  Free your hands, free your gestures.  Avoid putting your hands in your pockets or clutching them together in front or behind you.  Get some feedback from a coach about what gestures you make that are communicating something negative and unsure, like maybe clapping, rubbing, pushing your hair back, letting gestures fall to your thigh.

5.  Adjust your posture— Don’t be stiff, but don’t slouch like you don’t care.  It’s amazing how even half an inch of a lift of posture will enhance your stage presence (plus it improves your voice!).   Walk in there with dignity.  You know your stuff!  Dignity and poise are defined as inner and outer composure.  Poise will communicate these three things to them:  I LIKE ME, I LIKE YOU, I LIKE THIS.  That’s what it all boils down to. You’ll seem comfortable in your own skin, like you like yourself, you like the audience and judges, you like being right here, right now.

6.  Prepare!—Don’t wing it.  Be professional.  Read the audition notice carefully and follow directions.  It’s what being “professional” is all about.  They can tell when you are prepared, ready, and warmed up.

7.  “Just go in there and be yourself”—don’t you hate it when someone says that?  HOW do you “be yourself”?  How do you let your unique light shine, with naturalness and ease?  How do you get to that “I like me, I like you, I like this” state that seems so impossible in the pressure of an audition? 

            For one thing, warm up!   Warm up physically, vocally, mentally, emotionally, spiritually.  Do physical and vocal warm-ups:   with stretches, swings, rolls, shaking out the tension, all while breathing deeply, and then vocally exploring the range, articulation, and colors of your voice.  As for mental and emotional warm-ups and all the “attitude adjustments” we need to put ourselves naked and unafraid out there, I’ll share some of those next time when I write about “Audition Attitudes.” 

            These warm-ups will bring you to that wonderful, attractive state of being relaxed and energized.  I won’t lie to you: it takes practice, training, and experience to master this.  Take classes, get some coaching.  Winning at auditioning is more than just being talented.  You have to make a fabulous first (and lasting) impression.  You have to WOW them, and you have to do it in the first five seconds.

            The judges on “America’s Got Talent,” Piers, Sharon, and Howie are always looking for “the wow factor,” and talking about it on their show.  Simon Cowell calls it having the “it factor.”  Both Piers and Simon have written articles and books on how to wow the judges and the audience, so check those out. 

            Wow, now you have a few more specific tips on how to make them sit up and take notice of you at an audition!  Now you don’t have to come in wearing a bikini or a banana suit to get the judges’ attention! 

            If you’d like some coaching for your next audition, some coaching for the vocal or movement aspects, OR coaching on your personal self-talk, give me a call for private lessons or classes.


Auditioning: for Actors

Auditioning tips for ACTORS:  


YouTube Videos:  See link and click on Erica Arvold’s videos:

“How to sustain positivity in the audition”

“The do’s and don’t’s of auditioning”

“Managing disappointment as a performer”

“Accepting a ‘NO’ gracefully”

“Recovering from a mistake in the casting office.”


Auditions: For Musicians

Auditioning tips for MUSICIANS:

“5 Ways to Survive Music School Auditions” by Katherine Pukinskis


Click on "Preparation and Planning," then on the pull-down menu click "Tips for Music Majors," then scroll down to find the article "5 Ways to Survive..."


“Vocal Auditions and Beyond” by Wendy LeBorgne


Click on "Preparation and Planning," then on the pull-down menu click "Tips for Music Majors," then scroll down to find the article, "Vocal Auditions and Beyond." 


“The Audition—Takeaways for Student Musicians,” an article in Boston Magazine


Click on "Preparation and Planning," then on the pull-down menu click "Tips for Music Majors," then scroll down to find the article, "The Audition--Takeaways for Student Musicians." 


“The Audition,” an article about a classical musician’s experience auditioning for the Boston   Symphony Orchestra.


Click on "Preparation and Planning," then on the pull-down menu click "Tips for Music Majors," then scroll down to find the article

Develop a Positive Audition Attitude

This is an article I wrote for my actors AND public speakers.

Develop a Positive Audition Attitude
by Ginny Kopf



          To get through the stresses of an audition, you need an “attitude adjustment!”  Did you know that your thoughts are showing?  A director can “read” your mind.  They have to be good mind-readers, to know if you are competent and will be able to follow their directions with confidence.  What you are thinking is directly reflected in your body language and tone of voice.  It shows in your eyes, eye contact, gestures, posture, and every little move.  It shows in your tone of voice, volume, clarity and inflection. 

          But positive thinking—positive self-talk—is something that has to be practiced.  We so often allow negative self-talk to invade our brain.  Positive self-talk will drive out negative thoughts.  You can’t just slap yourself on the hand and say, “Stop thinking like that!  Don’t be shy!  Don’t mess up!” Our brains don’t work like that.  Nor can you, or should you, try to empty your mind.  We have to literally PUSH OUT those negative thoughts with a positive thought.

          Here are the thoughts that should be running through your mind.  These will to help you make the best impression, and build up your audition confidence.


I LIKE ME.  (balanced self image) I’m special.

I like me, I like you, I like this! 

I belong here! (authority) I have every right to be up here.

I’ve got something worth sharing with you that I’m positive you’ll enjoy.        

If you decide not to “buy” what I’m selling, that’s okay, because my DIGNITY is not affected by this. I’m going to walk away today with the same dignity I   walked in here with.

I know my strengths and how to use them.  I’m aware of my weaknesses but I’m not at all crippled by them. 

I’m ENJOYING myself immensely. 

I don’t want to be anywhere but here with you right now. 

I’m BALANCED, focused, (which is what “poise” is all about). 

I’m hard-working, committed, efficient.

I would be a plus to your company.  I can get the job done. 

I’m flexible, adaptable to changes, and work well with others. 

I can be a strong leader and I also know how to follow.

I maintain a positive attitude even under pressure situations like this.

I will project a completely positive professional image for your company.


          You need to pep talk yourself!  Pump yourself up!  These kind of positive affirmations will drive out the nagging little negatives that pop into your head.  Here are some phrases you can adopt for yourself—your own little pep rally.   

          “You can do it!

          You go, girl! [buddy!]                                 

          You’re the bomb!                                                           

          They’re gonna love ya!                                                   

          They’re gonna eat this up.  Everyone wants to hear what you have to say!         

          Doggone it, people like me!           

          This is gonna go just like I rehearsed—smooth as silk.

          You know your stuff!     

          You’re gonna knock it outta the park!                                    

          So, go out there and knock em dead, buddy!   

          You’re gonna charm their socks off with your winning personality! 

          Go kick bootie!!


Activity 2.13


          Keep the positives coming the entire time you walk in, up the steps, across the stage, AND also the entire time you say “thank you” and walk out of the audition.

          If stage fright or negativity is keeping you from doing your very best at an audition, practice reprogramming your mind with these suggestions.  Make your own personal pep talk.  Literally say it aloud to pump yourself up.  There is power in the spoken word.  Olympic athletes know about training the mind to be a winner, just as importantly as training physically. 

          Need some encouragement or guidance in your path to confidence?  Feel free to contact me.

Types of Auditions

When you feel PREPARED, when you know what to EXPECT, you calm down at auditions and do better.  Know what kind of audition it’s going to be.  This is aimed at actors.  If it is a juried performance or music audition or dance audition, DO research it.  Read the audition description VERY carefully.  Ask questions of others who’ve been on similar auditions.  Get advice from your teacher-mentor!  This is a page I give my students, so they know what to expect.  We try out each of these types of auditions.


Types of auditions

+Cattle call  (when they are weeding out hundreds or thousands; seeing a prepared piece (short monologue, 16 bars, possibly just a slate; usually in a large group; possibly up there in a line w/5 or more other hopefuls)

             +Open call (anyone can show up, could be in front of other auditioners)

+Closed audition/private audition (by appointment, you are alone in the room w/the director or panel; could be a prepared piece, or a reading)

+Cold reading (for film, TV, or commercial, when you can’t see the script ahead of time; you may have less than 30 minutes to see the script;  you may read a monologue or scene—“sides”; could be a closed or an open call)

             +Prepared reading (when you’ve had over 30 minutes to look over the script; you may read

               w/other auditioning actors, or w/ a “reader”)

             +Callback (they’ve seen you once and now need to see you read or sing for the specific show, usually for a

              specific character, maybe for 2 or more characters)

             +Interview (could be before or after the audition, or as a callback)

             +Screen test (on camera; may be a prepared reading, or an impromptu piece,        

               short or long interview)

             +Send in a video of whatever they asked for, or a demo reel of your work

Where to find auditions! and more Actor's Audition Resources

Actor’s Audition Resources  -- audition notices and career info

*Simply Google “Orlando auditions”



*  (for Extras work)

*United Arts, Orlando (get to know what this organization offers—events, opportunities, support for the arts)

*craig’ your region, click on “Film” or “Commercial” audition)

* (you can also post your own auditions here if you are a director)

*  (advice, tips, and the Florida Actor’s Handbook of mailing addresses of all the legitimate Central Florida industry people—producers, casting directors, photographers, workshops, make-up artists, etc. etc.)

*actor’s (all kinds of tips and advice, and a message board for auditions)

* (audition tips)

*  (get on email list)

*  (small fee, and submit a headshot)

* (IN Focus is an online magazine keeping you up on Florida’s Film,    Television and The Arts Industry)

*24/ (a talent registry where you pay monthly to have your photo, resume, video, audio of your   talent on-line)

*   (BUT avoid “Boom Casting” which is a scam)

            Note for models:   check, click on Florida


NOTE:   Be cautious of any web site that makes you PAY before you get paid.  Check the integrity of these sites and companies on

*  (advice on getting a web site)


Activity 2.14

Can Anyone Sing?

Are you stressed about singing?  Wondering if you have what it takes?

Can Anyone Sing?
by Ginny Kopf


I truly believe anyone who WANTS to sing can learn how to sing.  I also truly believe that if your soul wants to sing, you SHOULD and NEED be singing.  You probably aren’t “tone deaf,” though you may think you are (or a third grade choral teacher said, “Oooo, honey, you can’t sing,” and you believed the label all these years.)  The number of people who are “tone deaf” (can’t hit a note if they tried) is ridiculously low, like .1% of the population.  The few who are tone deaf (or “hopeless”) probably never aspire to sing or want to sing.  Where there’s a will, there’s a way….with some training.

            Through my 25+ years as a singing teacher, I’ve helped many, many people who thought they couldn’t sing (or were told they couldn’t sing), and showed them that indeed they can!  You are trainable.  Your “ear” to hear the right notes can be developed.

You can also be taught how to feel the vibrations going through your chest and neck and face and head and out your mouth.  And if you are a visual learner, using the hand to go up or down the scale, and other visualizations like tossing a baseball or going up stairs, will help you hit the right pitches.  

            “Singing” is just sustained talking, or what I show people as “calling,” like when you call out across a lake or field with a big open throat, “Heyyyyy!   We’re going to the beach…want to come????!”  First I get people to forget about “singing a note,” and just do some calling.  They aim a call to an imaginary someone who is out in a boat in the lake they see outside the sliding glass doors of my home studio, where I give lessons.  I have them call out “Heys” and hold out a soulful “No-o-o-o-o-o-o” or moan a long “Why-y-y-y-y-y” until they feel the vibrations in their throat and head.  We go up the “scale” by just making it more and more urgent and emotional.  They pump right from the gut (the diaphragm), making it IMPORTANT, like, “I just HAVE to tell you!!!”

This gets the whole body involved, like how any song has to really engage the singer and the listener.

            Developing the ear (to be on the right pitch) is a matter of concentration, and concentration can definitely be learned.  You can learn how to listen, and mimic what you hear. It may take weeks, maybe months, but I’m telling you, it IS possible in most cases.  So with patience, people can do this at home, using a training CD.  Now you can buy one of these “Ear Training” CDs and do it alone, without a vocal coach, but this would be almost impossible because in the beginning you won’t know exactly if you are on or off the right pitch—if you’re sharp or flat, way off, or close.   A good vocal coach will help you learn HOW to listen to yourself and how to become self-monitoring.  You’ll soon be recording yourself and listening back to judge whether you are right on the pitch.  A coach will show you how to practice daily, (and it does have to be daily) and will give you tips that will fit how you learn, and will also encourage you. 

            One of the important things to do while you are training, is to pick the right song.  Don’t start with songs from divas like Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, or even Kelly Clarkson.  Don’t reach for the moon right off.  Pick songs in a narrower range, like maybe “Mr. Cellophane” from Chicago, or an easy folk song.  And get some help in finding songs that are more character songs, like the funny villain, Fagan’s, “Pick a Pocket or Two” from Oliver.  Or the nasty Miss Hannigan’s “Little Girls” from Annie.  Then you can act the heck out of the song to sell it at the audition.  Really get into the character and sell the character.  Don’t try to do something like “Music of the Night” from Phantom of the Opera.  How about something from Shrek—I bet he doesn’t have to sound “pretty” in that musical.

            Being “a little pitchy, dog” is heard on “American Idol” all the time, and the earliest bad auditions are quickly slam-dunked by Simon Cowell, with “You’ll never be a singer—this isn’t for you” even when someone has vowed that everyone in their family “loves their voice.”  It’s easy to get a complex about our own talent, when some of those auditioners are so, so confident—and so, so bad!   But, take heart.  You are very trainable.  If you want to sing, you can learn.

Tips for public speaking and interviewing

Are you good when you’re performing, but your public speaking is not so polished?  Fearful about the interview part of an audition?  Here are some tips for you.


The 7 Vocal Habits of Highly Effective People

by Ginny Kopf

Here are seven vocal habits that will ensure that you SOUND as impressive as you LOOK. These tips apply whether speaking one-on-one, to small groups, or before larger, more formal audiences. The exercises are so practical that you will be able to incorporate them into your own work day.  Practice them at least fifteen minutes a day for a month and you will develop more confidence and thus more effectiveness as public speakers, motivators, and leaders.                      

1.  Breathe!  Seems obvious, but we don’t.  We tighten our belly, breathe too shallow, even hold our breath, especially when intimidated or nervous.  Let your bellybutton go, then the diaphragm can drop down, the ribs can expand, and the lungs can fill up.  Deep breaths will fuel your phrases so they flow out with fullness of tone, and will influence the listener, instead of fading out. 

Exercise:  Try holding in your belly and then count to 10 loudly.  You start breathing high in the chest, and shoulders and neck tighten.  The voice sounds strangled.  Now let go of your belly, let the ribs open up as you breathe down deep, and count to 10.  No more struggle.  Breath drops in, words flow out with richer tone, passing through a soft chest and neck and out a big mouth.

2. Open wide.  With a more open mouth, you’ll simply seem a more “open” person.  Your mouth drops open on the vowels (ay, ee, I, oh, oo, etc.), and closes ever so quickly on the consonants (b, d, k, t, etc.).  That’s articulation.  If your mouth is a small slit, you’ll seem closed off, intimidated, shy, or perhaps stubbornly unyielding. Open up to us!

            Opening wider will also eliminate annoying nasality or a swallowed tone.  Think of splashing the sound forward and out, twelve inches in front of your mouth to keep the tone from going up into your nose, or falling back down your throat for a garbled sound.  Put your palm in front of you and aim the sound there.  You have every right to splash your listener on their chest!

Exercise:  With a small mouth, recite “January” through “December.”  Hear how the tone quality and energy flattened?   Then try dropping your jaw and splashing the words in front of you.  Hear how much fuller and more open it sounded?  This technique has to be practiced, because your mouth wants to go back to its more closed “comfort zone.”  Read aloud, count, recite the alphabet or days of the week.


3.  Speak clearly.  Another advantage to speaking with a dropped jaw:  you’re more articulate.  Your tongue has room to move, to do all the “gymnastics” of fluent speech.  Slurred, sloppy articulation makes a poor impression, whereas crisp articulation communicates your mind is crisp.  You’ll come across smarter.

            Your tongue is a muscle and like the rest of your muscles, it would rather be a couch potato than a dancer! So you have to get your tongue in an aerobic class.  Move your mouth a bit more than you want to.  Open-close-open-close-open-close.  But there must be an EASE in your articulation, because over-pronunciation sounds stilted, like you’re working too hard at sounding intelligent. 

Exercise:  Do “tongue twisters” as you drive simply by reading road signs.  Repeat them five times with agility (“Walt Disney World, Walt Disney World, Walt Disney World…”).  Also read aloud.  It has to be aloud.  Ten minutes a day, read the newspaper, brochures, your emails, the Lean Cuisine box as you’re waiting at the microwave.  Reading aloud is a workout for your breath control and flow of speech too.

4.  Speak up.  Did you notice that by speaking with a more open mouth, your volume increases?  Simply by make your mouth more of a megaphone, you project better.  We know that a soft delivery sounds weak, and appropriate projection has more authority.

5.  Control the pitch.  Talking high pitched is perceived as sounding too young, even ditsy.  Too low a pitch can be intimidating or inappropriately sexy. For best authority and naturalness, use a medium to low pitch range. To lower your voice, you have to lay down your tongue hump so the tone can pass through your relaxed throat, over your tongue and out your big mouth.  It takes some practice, as the tongue wants doesn’t want to lay down. 

            Use range (“inflection,” ups and downs) for expression.  We know that monotone sounds boring, tired, uncaring.  Do go up on stress words, but don’t pop up too high in a sing-songy manner, or it may sound patronizing or “Announcery.”

Exercise:  Reading with more expression (yet not overdoing it) takes practice.  Read motivational books or stories with expression.  Literally underline and then stretch out the appropriate stress words.  As you get used to hearing yourself with more expression, eventually the more dynamic way of speaking will get into your conversational speech at work. 

6. Don’t talk too fast. Your tongue won’t be able to keep up, so you’ll slur and everything will run together. Fear and scattered focus makes us talk fast. How to slow down?  Stretch out the stress words. Breathe! Give yourself permission to slow down and emphasize your points. Trust me, you won’t sound dull, because with stress words you won’t go monotone.

7.  No fading out.  This is the most common trait that weakens speakers.  If you die out in volume energy at the ends of ideas, you sound wimpy, unsure, like you aren’t backing up what you say.  Every sentence should actually get a bit louder at the ends, never softer.  Follow through with your idea, like throwing a football or golfing. 

Exercise: Count 1 (quick breath), 1,2 (breath), 1,2,3 (breath), and so on up to about 12.  Each line spills forward, getting louder at the ends. Then try this crescendo on short quotes like “words of wisdom.”  Think of your speech as flowing from your center (from your “gut,” your diaphragm) like a beautiful river, out a big mouth, expanding out to sea.  Don’t let this “river” fall back down your throat.  Splash your listener!  Do not fade out.

                You CAN begin today to develop a more impressive, expressive voice.  But you must practice these exercises daily. In a month or two, you’ll feel more in control of your speech, confident that you are sending messages of professionalism and an ease in delivery that will win the confidence of your listeners.


Ginny Kopf is a speech and image coach in Orlando, offering private sessions, group workshops, on-site training, and college courses for over 25 years.  She has trained executives of numerous companies, such as Florida Hospital, GE, NASA, Florida Power, The Golf Academy, and AT&T, and has done extensive speech coaching for Walt Disney World and Universal Studios. She is the author of three textbooks with CDs.     Check or contact or phone 407-381-5275.

Stresses in my personal life

4.  Stresses in my personal life—at my job, with family, with relationships…

There is help for all your personal problems, right here on campus.  The first step is being brave enough to walk over there to the offices and talk to someone.  I urge you, don’t try to go it on your own.  The counselors over at Student Services are willing and very skilled to help you.  That’s what they are there for.  They WANT you to succeed and thrive and be happy.  Take advantage of all that BayCare has to offer.  You can get several free counselling appointments with a professional doctor off campus, which they will recommend. Again, be brave and go over there or call them.


About BayCare:  This is right from the site on Atlas.

            Valencia College is interested in making sure all our students have a rewarding and successful college experience.  To that purpose, Valencia students can get immediate help with issues dealing with stress, anxiety, depression, adjustment difficulties, substance abuse, time management as well as relationship problems dealing with school, home, or work.  BayCare Behavioral Health Student Assistance Program (SAP) services are free to all Valencia students and available 24 hours a day by calling (800)878-5470.  Free face-to-face counseling is also available. 

ALSO, take advantage of the many, many, many workshops that are offered on campus.  Follow your Atlas emails carefully and get in the loop.  Short hour-long workshops cover such topics as:

            Dealing with difficult people

            Test-taking anxiety    

            Handling your finances in college

            Single parenting

            Quitting smoking

            And on and on……..

Dealing with Difficult People

"Dealing with Difficult People," from Transitioning to College by Catherine L. Tully, p. 33.

“When faced with the adversities of working with many kinds of personalities, some of whom may intentionally make things difficult for you, always act professionally.

  • If you feel attacked, retaliation or holding a grudge will only make things worse.
  • If you feel judged, focus on yourself.  While others are busy looking for your failures, you’ll be improving you.
  • If you feel ridiculed or bullied, consider that your nemesis may be dealing with his/her own troubles or insecurities.  Don’t let someone else’s problem become your problem too.
  • Sometimes the best thing that you can do with difficult people is ignore their bad behavior and kill them with kindness.

As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, ‘No one can make you feel inferior without your permission.’ ”

Dealing with Difficult People

“7 Steps for Dealing with Difficult People” by Adam Brady, from The Chopra Center site.



Activity 2.15

Stressed about Finances

5. Stressed about finances and/or I need a job.

Go in and talk to the Financial Aid office.  There was a poster in our Fine Arts Department hallway that said in big print:  “Financial Aid will not give you any money…” and then in small print at the bottom:  “…unless you ask.”  Other posters say things like, “Apply for a scholarship.  SOMEBODY has to get that money.”   Don’t just assume these are not for you.  Go in and talk to someone about it.  If your family or school finances are stressing you out, then you can’t be doing your best work at school.  So Valencia wants to help you.  Also, look for the many wonderful workshops and NSE mini-courses on handling your personal finances. 

About getting a job…there are Job Fairs every year.  Check the Atlas Bridge to Success “Skillshops” workshop offerings.  There’s one that is called “Job Fair Prepare.”  And workshops on how to find jobs, how to interview, how to balance a job and school. 

Be sure to READ all those emails your Atlas webmail account sends you.  Be informed!

When Stress Gets Too Extreme

6. When stresses get too extreme—I think I need help.

                                        ~~Mental health issues; issues with drug use and abuse


This Survival Manual has already given you a lot of tips on dealing with stress.                                   

      But when your anxiety—or depression—seems to be unmanageable, when you don’t feel in control, and it persists all semester long, you have to be brave enough to seek help.  And there is help right here on campus, with BayCare.  Please don’t be so “independent” that you suffer alone and feel like you can handle it.  Sometimes things are so bad you just have to have a doctor’s care, and possibly medication.  You are not alone!  First talk to your mentor, a trusted teacher who knows you, whom you can confide in.  They will encourage you to check out what BayCare has to offer.

Watch this video by Dr. Alan Cohen, with the National Institute of Mental Health in England:  "Struggling with Stress," and read the article after it.


This article may help you understand why stress today is so high:  "Why Are College Students Reporting Record High Levels of Stress?" by Maia Szalavitz, 27 January 2011, posted in Healthland section of​


Activity 2.16


Need help with my disorder or disability

7. Need help with my disorder, or disability (like ADD, ADHD, dyslexia, Aspergers, etc.)

I’ll say it again, just in case you didn’t read #4.There is SO much help offered to you right oncampus.The first step is being brave enough to walk over there to the offices and talk to someone.I urge you, don’t try to go it on your own.The counselors in the Student Office of Disabilities are willing and very skilled to help you.They know so much about all kinds of disabilities and learning disorders and syndromes of all kinds that they can offer wonderful tips and tools for managing them.They’ll help you learn how to cope with them and grow and, most of all, SUCCEED as a college student.That’s what they are there for.


Take advantage of all that BayCare has to offer.


Help with my writing and spelling

8. Help with my writing and spelling.

The Writing Center on campus is ready and willing to help you.  Go over to the library and ask for help.  Don’t give yourself the excuse that, “I’m a performer—I won’t need to write well.”  You need to be good at writing and spelling to make it through your major.  You gotta be smart, not just talented.  Don’t label yourself, and limit yourself by saying, “I’m just a bad speller.  I always have been.”  Those are just excuses that hold you back.  I’m telling you, you CAN improve.  Take your essays and term papers over to the Writing Center and someone will sit down with you and help you.  They won’t just re-write it or edit the mistakes; they will help you get to the bottom of your trouble spots and give you techniques for improvement.  I offer the Writing Center’s services to my students many times a semester, but few, few, few take advantage of it, and it baffles me.  Reach out and take the gold that is offered you here at Valencia.  

Transportation issues--my car isn't reliable

9.  Transportation issues—my car isn’t reliable

            If your car breaks down, don’t throw in the towel.  Take the bus.  Get to class.  See  City Lynx bus services covers Orange and Osceola Counties and incorporates all Valencia Campuses in its routes.  Input your location (your FROM and TO) into the GPS on the website and it’ll give you the route and schedule.  Don’t be so fast to dismiss the bus, saying, “It probably won’t work in my location and my schedule.”  Check it out.    If you use the bus often, go to the website and click on MyTransitGuide App to install the app.

            Calling a taxi is more expensive but if you don’t think the bus schedule fits your schedule or can’t walk to a bus stop, call “Orlando Taxi Service” 407-801-0399.  They claim to be “fast and efficient.”  Available 24-hours a day, 7 days a week.

            Now there’s Uber!  Go to “”  The app traces your current location and you input a credit card number to pay for the ride.  Anyone with a car who checks out with the company can get a part-time job driving people around.  This might even be a good part-time job for you as a student, on your own schedule, with your own car.  I’m not certain how careful the company is in screening these drivers.  You may be hesitant to have a stranger pick you up in their own car…..but many people who need a ride fast are thrilled about this service.

Housing - I need somewhere to live

10.  Housing—I need somewhere to live

Valencia doesn’t offer student housing, however see:                                                            

for info on housing options close to campus.  Also advice about finding good roommates.

Stresses at School--getting along with teachers

11.  Stresses at school—with teachers, fitting in, keeping track of my stuff

~~ “I’m having trouble getting along with one of my teachers!”

Great article, intended for teens, but very good advice, “Getting Along with Your Teachers” on the Teens Health site.


Lost and Found

~~“I lost my cell phone/backpack/folder….!”

Is there a Lost and Found at Valencia?  One word:  YES.  It’s at the Security Office in Building 5.  You might try first checking with your professor to see if he/she may have picked it up when cleaning up after class.

I Don't Fit In

~~“I don’t fit in….”

You need to get involved.  Work backstage on the next show!  If you are working together on a project with other students (rather than in competition with your classmates), you’ll have a common goal and the camaraderie you seek. 

You may not have time to join one of the many, many wonderful clubs on campus, but don’t miss the day early in the school year when all the clubs have booths out in the quad area in front of the library.  Check your Atlas for lists of clubs.  Even start your own, of like-minded people. 

Should I even be a performance major?

12.  Should I even be a performance major?

Where will it get me??

from:  Handbook for Theatre Majors, pdf file by Pensacola State Theatre Dept., p. 11. 

Most people concentrate on the concept of becoming an actor when they think of studying theatre as a career. The "typical actor" will rapidly discover that though he feels he fits the role perfectly: "6 feet tall, average build, brown hair, blue eyes...etc.", he is amazed to discover that upon arriving at a casting office he'll open the door and find fifty or more people answering the same description. Thus in attempting to include advantages and disadvantages, it might be best to begin with the disadvantages.                    


1. The greatest disadvantage is the chronic and acute shortage of jobs for the growing number of actors.

2. Credit is difficult to establish due to job uncertainty.

3. Getting employment other than acting is viewed skeptically by potential employers who previously have been suddenly without workers because an acting job came up.

4. Income is varied and unpredictable when you are working as an actor.


1. There is always "a chance" that an actor will "make it" -- acting is one of the few opportunities you might have to make large sums of money with little capital investment at the start.

2. Acknowledgement in one accomplishment may bring several other job offerings.

3. An actor has the freedom from routine -- no 9:00 to 5:00 job every day -- some days many hours of work, some days short working hours.

4. Opportunities for travel

5. Opportunities for increasing your own skills and capabilities are exciting

6. You can gain a varied education through work and associates.

Should I even BE a Music Major?

And if you’re a music major and wondering “Should I even BE a music major?  Where will it get me?” see:

“Transferable Music Skills—You CAN take them with you” (if you decide not to pursue a career in music)



 Click on "Preparation and Planning," then "Tips for Music Majors, then scroll down to “Transferable Music Skills” article.



Having a performance career AND a parallel career


What if I decide I want to perform AND have another career?  Watch this podcast:



Video:  “Finding a Balance—Having a Performance Career and a Meaningful Parallel Career.”

Advantages to being a Performance Major

Great article by Louis E. Catron, that can be applied to any performance major:  “What Theatre Majors Learn:  The Advantages Theatre Majors Have for ALL Jobs or…What Can You ‘Do’ with a Theatre Major?  Plenty!”  The 25 highly valuable skills that make you valuable employees for any job—more advantages than almost any other liberal arts grad has.

Also look at “Transferable Music Skills—You CAN Take it With You.”




Activity 2.17