I have been so lucky to have had some of the most amazing mentors in my singing career over these past 30 years. Here is some of the BEST advice I have ever gotten form them:

TRUDI MANN – Trudi and I go back over 30 years. We met and sang together at the original Village Gate. While Trudi never offered and verbal advice, by nature of how she performed the songs that chose and the way that she was always jazzy but still completely connect to her lyric, made a lasting impression on me that still influences how I approach, choose and deliver a song. She told the truth when she sang.

BETTY BUCKLEY – Betty probably gave me the single most important advice I have ever received. In her class she placed us face-to-face with another singer having us lower our jaws to our chests (making it impossible to sing pretty so that the exercise was about communicating only) and then she had us sing from a perspective of an invisible circular motions of: “I know that you know, that I know, that you know, that I know that you know…” She then moved us far apart and made us do the exercise with the same intimacy as we had when we were nose-to-nose.

JAN WALLMAN – The Godmother of Cabaret as she was affectionately called, Jan owned one of the “it” clubs in the city for years and years. I was lucky to have been booked there a week before she closed her doors. I sang two sets, one of show tunes and one of jazz standards. After the show, Jan came up to me and said, “Stick to the standards kiddo…it’s clearly your “heart” music!”

JULIE WILSON – Julie was so much more to me personally than the Diva we all knew. She personally chose me to be the very first Julie Wilson Award Winner and she told me that it was as much for who I was off-stage and for who I was on-stage. THIS mattered to me. She taught me that eyes were always on you whether you are on stage or in the audience and to always be gracious and kind and look like a star! She also said to enunciate, do your lyric connection work and make a song your own, to stand up straight and to wear a darker red lipstick!

RICHARD SKIPPER – It’s all about entertaining not about you or the day you may or may not have had. It’s all about the Audience! Always! If you perform and they had a good time. You have done your job! His catch phrase is: Do something nice for someone today without expecting anything back.

KAREN MASON – Again with Karen, it’s more about how Karen conducts herself on and off stage that were my lessons from her. I had a running joke that whenever I was upset and wanted to confront or felt angry or whatever…I would do the “Karen Mason Test”…what could Karen do, say or post (or not) in this circumstance? She probably doesn’t know this, but she’s probably prevented me from many a martini fueled, boo-boo kitty rant!

GREGORY TOROIAN – My Musical Director and friend for the past 24 years has prepared me to present like a professional across the board…from how to talk to a band, how to explain what I need politely, how to get out of a jam if I lose my place using visual cues to let the band know if we’re going back to the bridge or the top of the tune (See Cabaret U for that tutorial) and, by nature of how my charts and my demeaner present to a band, all that he’s taught me translates to my being a professional. It instills confidence.

MARILYN MAYE – I am currently working with the great Miss Maye on my next show. She has taught me SO much both on and off stage. With Marilyn, like with Richard, her view is that it is absolutely, always about the audience. She encourages your first 2-3 tunes to be to the audience in some way that welcomes them and the last 2 as tunes of thanks. She, by example, takes the stage like the star that she is and gives every ounce of her energy for the entire time she’s on stage. Her best advice to me personally was to stop “singing lazy”. To sing full out whenever and wherever I could – class, Open Mic, show, party…because you never know who is in the room and to not sing full out even when practicing sets a pattern where you mentally take it easy when rehearsing that may play out ultimately in how your end up performing.

Sue Matsuki

Dream it, Believe it, DO IT!

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