Every year singers and songwriters from around the world make the pilgrimage to a picturesque Santa Monica mountain retreat for 10 days of learning. They’re guests at VocalizeU Artist Intensive (VUAI), where the best vocal, performance and songwriting coaches in the business are on hand to share their knowledge and experience and provide inspiration and constructive feedback. FIONA CURRIE, who attended VUAI 2018 as an intern, explains what makes the event so special.
How did you land the VUAI internship?
I first heard about the VUAI in 2015 from my then lecturer Kaya Herstad-Carney, who had previously attended as an artist before returning as a mentor the following years. This year I finally had the means to apply, so I filled out the intern application form and hoped for the best!
What did your duties involve?
We did a lot of setting up and packing down of equipment and were on call throughout the course to carry out small tasks when needed, although we still attended most classes. I had the pleasure of working backstage every night at the “Spotlight” performances. These were a great way to meeting the artists and the band. I witnessed so many outstanding performances and found it interesting to see how each individual artist prepared for their performance.
What challenges did you face?
Lack of sleep! When you’re relying on your voice to deliver the goods all day every day for ten days, the tiredness takes its toll. Not to mention the jet lag. It was a challenge to be sensible and prioritise sleep. Screaming and cheering at Spotlight every night probably didn’t help but thankfully I had a wonderful vocal coach to keep me in check – thanks Meghan Kelly!
What classes did you enjoy most?
I loved Pure Performance with Denosh Bennett and Ayanna Sealey. It was so personal and helped me gain a deeper understanding of my own music and direction. I especially loved the focus on the mental side as this is something I’ve always naively neglected. The transformation in myself and my classmates was evident after only a couple of days. It’s given me a real confidence boost and will continue to help me in the future. I also had the opportunity for a stroboscopy of my vocal cords with Karin Titze-Cox which was incredible!
Who attended VUAI? What were their goals?
There were people of all ages – the youngest was nine – all at varying stages in their careers. Everyone is on their own path and diversity is celebrated. Some people do music simply for the love of it, and others consider it more seriously as a career. Each artist had their own individual goals, but on the whole I think people keep coming back to VUAI to surround themselves with likeminded creatives and live and breathe music for ten inspiring days.
What was the best thing about VUAI?
The unique, supportive and completely uncompetitive atmosphere. It’s rare in this industry to find such a nurturing, non-judgemental environment where we could be completely open and vulnerable. I’ve made some amazing friends.
What lessons will you take away with you from your experience?
I’ve had a huge shift in the way I think. I’ve been in the process of getting an EP together for quite a while and had begun to feel it was too big a task and not good enough. I’ve been given the direction and encouragement that I needed. Now I’m looking forward to seeing how it develops.
What’s next for you in terms of career development?
I’m working to increase my teaching hours so that I can drop the dreaded retail job and dedicate more time to original music. I’m excited to keep learning, writing and filling my days with as much music as I can. I’d like to thank Dave Stroud and all of the mentors at VU for their support and guidance.
All images by Jacob McCaslin.