SFBACC Workshop #4: How to Learn Your Music

How to Learn Your Music

This workshop will be a discussion among singing professionals about how they learn their music and methods that they’ve seen work with other people. We’ve put together a diverse team to lead the discussion—an academic, a professional conductor, and three professional choristers—starting with a set of interesting questions and then opening the discussion up to answering questions from the attendees.

The Details

Time and date: October 10, 7-9 p.m. (PST)

Location: Zoom! Zoom link will be emailed the same weekend as the workshop.

Cost: $15

Payment methods: PayPal or personal check.

Some Starter Questions

  • How do you (personally) learn a new piece of music?
    • What do you look at first, second, third, etc.?
    • When and how do you look at text, the notes, gestures, things the conductor has said about interpretation, memorizing, etc.?
    • Have you tried other methods and how did you come to settle on the one that works for you?
  • How much time do you spend looking at music on your own (not at rehearsal)?
  • How do you learn music that’s in a language you don’t speak?
  • How important is memorization?
  • How do you memorize music in a language you don’t speak?
  • What place does the composer’s history/portfolio have in learning the music?
  • In a group that sight-reads well, how do we dive deeper as individuals?
  • What kind of markings do you make in your music specific to learning? Breath marks? Pronunciation? Tricky rhythms? What else?
  • How important is a personal connection to the poetry versus the conductor’s personal connection/interpretation?
  • Does a conductor’s interpretation (poetically or musically) ever differ from yours, and how do you deal with that? Does it affect your learning the music?
  • When do you know that you’ve learned a piece of music? Do you ever truly “own” it?


Monica Frame, Mezzo-Soprano

Monica Frame is a member of Volti, San Francisco’s new music vocal ensemble, and is a soloist and section leader for Saint Mary Magdalene Catholic Church in Berkeley. In addition to having sung with numerous Bay Area ensembles, Monica was a member of Rinat, the National Chamber Choir of Israel. Recordings include Terry Riley’s Sun Rings with the Kronos Quartet, and shriek-singing as a post-apocalyptic swamp witch for Valve, the video game company. This year, she is excited to participate in the inaugural season of V21, an all-gender treble choir.

Buddy James, Professor of Music at California State University, East Bay

Buddy James serves as Chair of the Department of Music at CSUEB, was Founding Director of the School of Arts and Media, and was the 2015-16 George and Miriam Phillips CSUEB Outstanding Professor. He also taught at Millersville University of Pennsylvania where he was named Professor of the Year in 2004. He was named the Outstanding Doctoral Graduate in Choral Music at the University of Southern California and was a Chancellor’s Fellow at the University of California Irvine. He has held leadership positions in ACDA, CCDA, NAfME, and IMC, and was a Founding Officer and Past-President of the National Collegiate Choral Organization. He is the Artistic Director for Schola Cantorum Silicon Valley and his teachers included William Dehning, Joseph Huszti, Edward Maclary, and Robert Page.

Blake Morgan, Tenor

An internationally acclaimed singer and composer from Michigan, USA, Blake Morgan enjoys a career that spans the worlds of early music, oratorio, opera, musical theater, jazz, and contemporary music. Composing and arranging “imaginatively and beautifully” (Seen And Heard), his pieces have received performances and commissions from ensembles ranging from high school and university choirs to full-time professional groups such as Cantus, VOCES8, The Singing Hoosiers, Manhattan Transfer, The King’s Singers, and the 14,000-member digital group The Stay at Home Choir. A lover of folk tunes, Blake also composes original music for his chamber-pop projects Goodnight Mr. Max and Esto. Blake is an accomplished ensemble singer and is the only musician to have been a member of both full-time choral ensembles in the United States, Cantus and Chanticleer. He currently sings and tours internationally with the chart-topping professional British chamber octet, VOCES8, and now resides in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Neal Rogers, Tenor

Neal Rogers has been performing in the greater Bay Area for more than 40 years. After graduating from San Francisco State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Performance, he auditioned and became a member of Chanticleer. As part of the first touring ensemble, Rogers traveled extensively throughout the United States and Europe, performing several thousand concerts and recording numerous albums in his 10-year career with the ensemble. After retiring from Chanticleer, Rogers turned to performing as a soloist and small ensemble singer with numerous Bay Area groups. He was a founding member of Magnificat Baroque, American Bach Soloists, Theatre of Voices, and others. Rogers is equally comfortable performing music from the Renaissance, Baroque, and Contemporary eras. Most recently, he has turned his energies to reigniting his love of music in the barbershop style, as a founding member of Fog City Singers in San Francisco.

Magen Solomon, DMA, Artistic Director

Active across the US and abroad as a clinician, teacher, and guest conductor, Magen Solomon has been Artistic Director of the San Francisco Choral Artists since 1995. Together, they have premiered over 300 works, received several awards, and released three CDs. Since 2014, she has served as Artistic Director of the 70-voice San Francisco Bach Choir, specializing in Baroque and Classical works. Dr. Solomon has taught at UC Berkeley, University of Southern California, Santa Clara University, UC Santa Cruz, and Smith and Mount Holyoke colleges, and at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has served as Artistic Director of the Oakland Symphony Chorus, the Stockton Chorale, and the SF Girls Chorus. Dr. Solomon has guest-conducted the California Bach Society, Pro Coro Canada, WomenSing, and other ensembles, and has collaborated with Michael Tilson Thomas, Nicolas McGegan, Helmuth Rilling, and Kent Nagano, among others. Her scholarly edition of Johannes Eccard’s Newe deutzsche Lieder (1578) is published by A-R Editions.


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