Tuesday, January 8, 2013



When I was in my teens and twenties (eons and eons ago), I prided myself on being a "perfectionist." I believed that making my life's goal to do everything with unending excellence was the way to go. But after horrific struggles in my personal life, forcing myself through endless singing auditions that led nowhere, suffering through a case of shingles (at the age of 26) following a knock-down-drag-out emotional fight with my voice teacher of five years (who insisted I was not a creative person -- God rest her soul, a TERRIBLE thing to say to a student, and whose voice instruction sounded to me like ancient Sanskrit) ... I began to rethink my course.

Try to Fail

In my late twenties, I had the good fortune to spend my first summer (the first of three) in the profoundly  beautiful mountains of Aspen, Colorado as an opera student at the Aspen Music Festival. My teacher that summer, Ms. Irene Gubrud, set me on a path that would change the way I thought about life and my singing. I will never forget when she told her students that our approach to singing should be: "Try to fail."

WHAT?! Me, Lisa Romero, someone who had spent her entire life devoted to being a straight-A student, a Pollyanish "kind" person, and who sought excellence in all that she did ... TRY TO FAIL??!! QUOI??!! MOI??!!

This sounded like sheer insanity, and yet, motivated by the incredible beauty of my surroundings (so different from the crazy city-life of Boston that I had experienced for the last few years), profound changes in my personal life, and a deep frustration with my dead-end singing path to that point, I had become open enough to try just about anything. I will never forget going to a dance class, and lining up with other students as we were instructed to twirl across the room ... it was at that moment when I decided to embrace the "Try to Fail" doctrine. I was amazed by the outcome. Normally, in situations where I was to demonstrate my non-existent talent in structured dance, I would feel locked up, self-critical, okay ... stupid and awkward. When I attempted the dance exercise by "trying to fail," it was a different experience. I felt freer, more fluid, less uptight, and my concentration seemed sharper and more focused. I don't know if I looked any better twirling across the room, but I definitely felt better. Instead of focusing on my awkwardness and my intense longing to do it right, I was able to just experience the action of the movement, my body, and more importantly, I actually enjoyed it!

The next several weeks, months, and I dare say years, using the "try to fail" doctrine began to reshape the way I thought of my singing and more importantly, my life. It set me on the path to understanding that trying to do things perfectly is antithetic to being an artist. It was at this point that I grew wary of and even began to despise what had once been so important to me: perfectionism. Anytime someone would say to me, "oh, that's perfect!" I would get the creepy crawlies. I began to see how my need to be perfect had been making me absolutely miserable (along, I'm sure, with the people who had to live with me). I also began to see that perfection doesn't even exist, and furthermore, if it did, it would make life incredibly boring. I began to notice how visual artists, although they certainly need to have a strong technique under their belt (true of musicians as well), are, nevertheless, very free with their hands as they worked. I noticed how I (who unfortunately is terrible with drawing, etc.) struggle even to comfortably sign my own name -- because I had always tried stiffly to do it perfectly.

As with everything, my struggle to avoid perfectionism will be a "work in progress" until the day I die. I sometimes still catch myself trying to do things "perfectly" and at those times I refer to myself as a "perfectionist in recovery."

I am so grateful for Ms. Gubrud's "try to fail" doctrine. It turned my life around. It made me a better singer. It made me a better teacher. At the same time, I am also grateful for my early need to be perfect, because that experience makes me more compassionate towards my students who struggle with the same thing.

I have altered Ms. Gubrud's saying a bit. Most of my students have encountered my version printed on the back of my "New Student Notebook." I pull it out whenever I see someone struggling (and getting in their own way) by trying to do everything "right."

In order to pass this course,
you must be willing to "fail,"
(and sometimes to look foolish)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Well, after a well-meaning and ambitious beginning, I am already one of those bloggers that is making excuses for not writing (I really hate that!) ... sigh. Such is life. Life is a bit complex and messy right now. I will get my stuff together, and hopefully soon will be back in the swing of things and will write (I will, I will).

In the meantime, if there are any lovely people who have checked me out on this site, thank you, and please have a bit of faith in me and try back in a couple of weeks. A short hiatus has been and is necessary. Here's to teacher finding her grounding at some point soon ... Cheers! ... and keep loving song!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


My goal in keeping this blog is to write every two to three days. I love to write. I always have. I tend to write  a lot (my second grade teacher told me long ago I was "too verbose"), so take that as a warning!! to those who may one day decide to follow me.

I've been thinking for a couple of days about what my second posting would be about. I definitely am trying to stay open to inspiration, and want mostly to stick to subjects that will be informative, perhaps controversial and will hopefully create a dialogue between me and other singers. But today, as chance would have it, I read that Marvin Hamlisch had died (quite young - only 68, and when you're 50 as I am, that seems young). I found a version of Lea Michele singing "What I Did for Love" (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OAxRCbRxuIo)  to post on my Facebook page in honor of his life and work. So, I'm sitting here listening to it, and looking at my Facebook page, and looking over those who have "liked" the page, and noticing how some of them are students who are long gone.

All of this (spurred on of course by the sentimentality of the song I'm listening to -- I'm a total sucker for that kind of thing), I am overcome with this warm nostalgic feeling for all of my students present and past. I am so grateful for what I do for a living. Like any "job" it has it's ups and of course it's downs. Frankly, there are days that I would rather stay in my jammie's and not shower and be ready to smile and do "ee oo ee oo ee" at precisely 9:15. But invariably, once I'm with a student, I am totally carried away and get excited and inspired by what I am doing.

I treasure all of the connections I have made over the years. I love how people come and go, and we touch  lives for months and years. Sometimes tears are shed and personal stories are shared. I love seeing how people's frustrations with their singing are overcome and they feel surprised and proud as they see how their voice can grow and change. I love watching children grow into teens and then young adults. I often say it is like having an extended family. It is hard and sad to say good-bye when students must go on to new cities or other past-times, but as my buddy the Buddha says: "all compounded things change and pass away."

So, to all of the students who have honored me by coming to me to share your lives and your love of music, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Thank you John R. and Amy H. and Alicia A. and Barbie B. and Melanie Q. and Madison W. and Nicole C. and Abby K. and Christopher C. and Jill B. and Gill L. and Alison B. and Kaitlyn D. and Chelsea P. and Zari W. and Niyama R. and Alexis L. and Margaret S. and Robin W. and Casey D. and Morgan L. and Casey R. and Malcolm S. and Robyn T. and Ashlee V. and Alex M. and Marjorie S. and Nirav P. and Quinan L. and Young-Sun P. and Jodi J. and Brittany H. and Heather K. and Lily K. and SO MANY OTHERS!

You all have touched my life in the most wonderful of ways. There are some days when I have my own personal sorrows, but once I am with you, I am carried away from all of that. You all teach me every bit as much (or more) as I teach you. THANK YOU!

Sunday, August 5, 2012


Well, here goes my initial post on my new and first Voice Studio Blog.

As my students (and family, much to their displeasure) well know, when it comes to talking about singing, I can go on and on and on... I always tell my students that my path to becoming happy with my own singing was a long and arduous one. Nevertheless, painful though it was, I am grateful for the extra years it took me. I know that the struggles along that path make me a better teacher today. Because of all that I have learned (and continue to learn), I find myself fascinated by the voice and how it works. I am fascinated by the physics of it (the way that respiration and vocal cord adduction and laryngeal positioning, etc. have so much to do with vacuum pressure for example), and the way our ears can hear certain sounds and our brains can then almost miraculously command our bodies to reproduce those sounds (or put more simply, our ability to mimic). It is all a beautiful, miraculous and scientific process.

I hope here, over the next months and years to explore the technical issues, and so many others (philosophical, emotional, etc.) that we singers engage in day to day. I welcome comments and questions. I would like to make this an interactive site for myself, my students and any interested lovers of singing.