Archive for the ‘teaching’ Category

let your imperfections lead you

Saturday, September 11th, 2010

My good friend and writer Chris Kay Fraser (Firefly Creative Writing) gave me a card once that read:

If you hold on to the

handle, she said,

it’s easier to maintain

the illusion of control.

but it’s more fun

if you just let the wind carry you.

This card has sat on my piano for three years now because its message is the heart of my singing and teaching philosophy: let go the illusion of control and try to enjoy the ride.

Then recently, I was checking out family photographer Tara Whitney. (She did a session with my wonderful friend and her family that I wanted to check out.   A friend who, incidentally, is an incredible photographer in her own right, and is responsible for the main photo on my web site: Short and Sweet Photography).  I was struck by Tara’s “Perfectly Imperfect” philosophy. She’s not out to create the “flawless traditional portrait,” she says, because “life isn’t flawless. I am looking to capture your authentic connections…Be real. Be alive.”

That’s how I feel about singing.

Some of us are lucky enough to just open our mouths and sing, joyously and un-selfconsciously. Children are usually the best at this. Some adults, particularly in some cultures, sing this way. But most of us, beginners to professionals, think singing is about perfection, about control, about making only beautiful, perfect sounds.

What if at the heart of it all, singing is about being perfectly imperfect?

To embrace the perfect imperfection of the voice is to let go the illusion of control, letting your voice wander in the wilderness of your sensual and emotional self and see where it leads you.  It’s about following the flaws, the cracks, and the frays of the voice into the unknown. Strangely, following the imperfections more often than not leads to exquisite beauty in singing: tender yet unapologetic, vulnerable yet strong.

And how do we engage in this difficult and wonderful work? By being curious. By being brave.

This is what I’m learning from my own voice work with Fides.  This is what I’m learning from my students. It’s immensely terrifying. It’s immensely fulfilling.


the joy and agony of performance

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010
Jen and Deanna dancing

Deanna teaches Jen to two-step

We just finished our two-night run of the east-end edition of the Undone Cabaret. It was, literally, a full house both nights.  Without suggesting that our performance was awesome, I would like to state that, in general,  house concerts are a wonderful thing.  The set-up is cozy, personal, and full of sparkle. It makes everyday living extraordinary, turning intimate personal space into a public performance space.

And houses are weird performance spaces. When Jen and I first performed the cabaret at a house concert in the West End, we were confronted with a space that simply couldn’t be set up as a traditional musical concert space, with audience over here watching the performers over there.  Audience members had to sit all over the room, almost facing each other.  We needed help to figure out how to perform in this space. Under the gifted direction of Fides Krucker, Jen and I stopped thinking of the house as a challenge to overcome and more as an opportunity to be inventive with how we performed this show. And so we sang in the kitchen. We sang on the stairs. We stood on sofas, and held on to basement door handles. By really using the house as a performance space, our little musical cabaret became a full performance that straddles theatrical performance and music concert.

me singing In the Still of the Night

"In the Still of the Night"

And this weekend’s performance built on that work.  I feel proud of what I accomplished. My performance wasn’t flawless. Man, dealing with performance nerves and production anxieties meant that my challenges were cut out for me.  There were moments, though, in both nights, where I got to that sweet spot of just fully inhabiting the music in the space. Just a few moments. But they were there.  The other moments were filled with the constant running internal narration, wondering if people were enjoying themselves, wondering if I should have reviewed the words to my next song, wondering if I could chicken out and not lie across strangers’ laps while singing. Does this happen to you when you perform?  How do you move yourself out of that space to be more fully present in the performance? I found that a few check-ins with my body and voice structure sometimes helped.  Like trying to keep my palate lifted and my tongue soft. Chin down.  Soft knees.  Another useful approach was simply to listen to what was happening. Pull my attention outside of myself, and really listen to Jen as she was singing, to Tania on piano, and Chris on bass.  Truly listen and let the sound drop into my body, discover how it affected me. To be fully present in the here and now.

These weren’t fail-safe techniques, but they sure helped. I did have a fantastic time overall!

Thanks to everyone who came out to see us perform. Thanks to Chris and Tania: it’s such a blessing to perform with such accomplished musicians. Thanks to my family, including my mom who flew in from Edmonton and was affixing labels to CDs all day Friday, and my partner who took care of the food and the space and our boys AND me. And above all, thanks to Jen, my singing partner and friend.  I never would have done this show without her and I never would have discovered as much about singing and performing without sharing this journey.

Stay tuned for the next iterations of the Undone Cabaret!

Deanna and Chris

Chris and Deanna

By the way, the pics here were taken by Matthew Piers at our dress rehearsal. (Thanks, Matthew!)

If you’d like to see a few more, check out “undone cabaret” on facebook and look for our August photo album.


My STAR Interview!

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

I am blessed to know many incredible women. One of those women is Sarah Hopen,  Chief Administrator of STAR Company: the Society of Technicians for Administrative Removal. STAR Company is in the business of taking care of the book-keeping, filing, and organizing of creative people so that creative people can…well…create.

Thanks for that, Sarah.

And thanks for this: STAR Company profiles an artist in each newsletter, and this month, I got to be interviewed! With Sarah’s permission, I’m reposting the interview here, but if you want to see it in its original setting, go for it.

Oh, and STAR Company runs the Starry Nights house concert series, which raises funds for Toronto’s Art Starts–a really excellent organization promoting arts-based community development in Toronto.  Starry Nights premiered Jen’s and my Undone Cabaret in May, which has opened up a bunch of new, exciting opportunities for us.

So yeah. Thanks, STAR Company.

Deanna’s Interview

Share a little bit about your approach to voice work. How did you come to be where you are today?

[Deanna Yerichuk] It’s been a long road, and there’s no end in sight. Fortunately, I’ve learned that it really is all about the journey and not the destination. My first voice teacher was Alice Wright in Edmonton, and I started studying with her when I was 17. Alice was the first person to get me to see beauty in myself. She knocked down all sorts of arbitrary walls and defenses I’d set for myself and introduced me to a whole new level of risk-taking: I found out that doing things that scared me tended to open up really interesting possibilities. I took a diploma program in music theatre (from Grant MacEwan in Edmonton if anyone is curious). I still have a soft spot for music theatre, even though I haven’t acted in years. When I moved to Toronto, I was introduced to folk music (yes, replete with guitar), world musics, and choral singing, all of which suits my desire to collaborate and discover and explore sounds outside of my comfort range. I now study with Fides Krucker who is incredible. From Fides, I’ve learned not only that it’s ok to make un-beautiful sounds, but in fact these wild and unbeautiful sounds can be immensely satisfying for both performer and audience. She has also taught me that learning how to sing is all about engaging opposites: technical precision with body and emotional intuition; mental acuity with body knowledge; learning to control with learning to let go. I’m finding singing and performing more exciting, more satisfying as I approach it less with judgment and more with curiosity. So now I perform solo and with groups and choirs, and I teach singing out of my east end studio. Oh, I also have 2 boys, which is surprisingly excellent training in creativity, curiosity, and gaining/losing control.

You are not only a vocal performer and teacher but also a researcher. Where do these experiences overlap for you? What is your area of interest right now?

[Deanna Yerichuk] Whew, that’s a tough question. These areas all overlap in sticky, tangled, complicated ways. For me, what it all finally comes down to is the human voice and its capacity to express itself. I’ve been curious for years about adults singing and reclaiming their voices: how many adults don’t sing because someone somewhere along the line told them they couldn’t. Or shouldn’t. And how finding and reclaiming their singing voices becomes a transformative experience, often also leading to finding a spiritual voice, an emotional voice, a political voice, an embodied and connected voice. I’m particularly curious to find out how singing in community changes us personally and in our communities. How has Westernized perfection of singing colonized our voices and how can we decolonize and reclaim or find our songs, our sounds, our souls? And can I ask all of these questions without losing sight of the fact that singing often brings immense joy and pleasure?

What is your absolute greatest pleasure as a singer?

[Deanna Yerichuk] There’s this…I don’t know…I think of it as the sweet spot. The moment in performance when the technician in my brain stops nattering at me, and my ego falls away. The past falls away. The future falls away. There is only now. This moment. My body, my heart and my voice all line up in one conduit of musical experience between me and the audience. I’m no longer performing…I’m…singing. This is, hands down, the most gratifying moment. So far, they’ve only come in fits and starts, but I’d like to stretch them, like toffee, throughout my performance and my practice. The sweet spot is rather elusive. I can’t hunt for it. I just have to do my work as a singer, and sink in.

Do you have any upcoming performances or workshops?

[Deanna Yerichuk] I have both! I will be performing with Jen Cook in the Undone Cabaret on August 27 and 28 in east Toronto. It’s a semi-staged house concert with Tania Gill on piano and Chris Banks on bass. We did the show is the West End in May to wonderful response, so we’re looking forward to remounting the show in a different setting. I’m also teaching a couple of classes this summer: a class that focuses on foundations of singing (starting with breathwork) and a new class called “Solo Salon” in which participants work on a solo piece with me and an accompanist over 6 weeks, and the participants perform their solos in an evening salon at my east end studio. It should be fun! If anyone wants more info, they can check out my web site at or email me at

What is playing on your iPod right now?

[Deanna Yerichuk] my tastes have been largely influenced by CBC radio 2 and WFUV in New York lately: Meaghan Smith, Regina Specktor, K’Naan, the Decemberists, the Avett Brothers. Much to the surprise of my inner teenager I’m loving more country, especially Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton. Tom Waits often makes an appearance, along with Leonard Cohen.


Summer Voice Classes!

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

I’m thrilled to launch two summer classes!  A class in solo singing that includes performing a solo piece, and an introductory class in the foundations of singing. Excite you? Scare you? Then read on…

Summer Solo Salon
Always wanted to sing a solo?  Or want to sing solo from a different style, or from a new place within yourself? This is the class for you!  A 6-week group class for 6 – 8 people.  You will work on foundational singing technique and apply it to one or two solo songs of your choice. You will get the opportunity to work with the skilled and sensitive collaborative pianist Nadia Boucher. The class will finish with an evening solo salon performance for invited guests in my East End studio.

  • Tuesdays 3 pm to 5 pm, starting July 13, 2010 for 6 weeks
  • Final evening performance: Tuesday, August 17, 2010 at 7pm
  • Cost: $200
  • Register by email ( or phone (416-434-8464)

Foundations in Singing: Releasing into the Voice
Based on the singing techniques of Fides Krucker, this 4-week session introduces singers and actors to a deep and fully released breath as a foundation for singing and vocal work. Yes, we will sing, too! You will release physical tensions, learn how to stay open physically and mentally, and stay present and attuned to each living moment as you sing. Class will be limited to 6-8 people.  This class will include solo, partnered, and group work.

  • Thursdays from 9:30 am to 11:30 am
  • Starting August 5, 2010 for 4 weeks
  • Cost: $120
  • Register by email ( or phone (416-434-8464)