Tag Archives: SAVI

Musings about singer-actor training from the SAVI Savant.

SAVI Weekend Intensive May 18-19 in Philadelphia

Calling all singing actors!

Learn the innovative technique described in these blog pages, one that’s helped hundreds of UArts graduates become more effective musical theater performers!

Take your singing-acting to new levels of clarity and expressiveness with these proven tools!

Experience twelve hours that will change how you think about singing acting forever.

May 18 and 19
11am – 6pm
Actors Michael Chekhov Studio
1831 Bainbridge St., Philadelphia


CHARLES GILBERT, Creator of the SAVI System of Singer-Actor Training, Professor of Theater Arts and founder of the Musical Theater Program at the University of the Arts. Writer, composer, director and music-director. 30+ years of musical theater training experience in the US and abroad. www.chasgilbert.com

D’ARCY WEBB, aka “The Speech Diva,” Adjunct Assistant Professor at the University of the Arts, singer, actress, cabaret and voice-over artist. Over 10 years of teaching experience in voice, speech, acting and musical theater. Her simple approach: “sing your truth!” www.darcywebb.com

Their former students have appeared on and off-Broadway, on London’s West End, in regional theaters and national tours, and in every Philadelphia theater.


The weekend intensive will include both technique and repertoire work. Exercises and etudes will give students the opportunity to experience the principal concepts of the SAVI system while working in a group. Every workshop participant is asked to bring a song to work on, including two copies of the sheet music – one for the accompanist and one that can be marked up. Individual work on these songs will provide an opportunity to demonstrate the application of SAVI techniques in repertoire preparation. This intensive will include invaluable handouts and worksheets.

SPACE IS LIMITED – Sign up now!
Interested in future workshops? “Like” us at www.facebook.com/getSAVI

Put over this lyric!

In October of 2010, my friend and colleague Forrest McClendon recounted some of his experiences in rehearsals for The Scottsboro Boys for a group of UArts students, and told this story about composer John Kander. “Above all,” admonished Kander, “put over this lyric!”

The phrase “put over [a] lyric” has a particular meaning in singer’s parlance; it means to sing, act and enunciate the text in a way that makes its meaning apparent for the listener. When the lyric has been successfully “put over,” it is sometimes said to have “landed,” in the way that rock landing on your head or a spaceship landing in your back yard is impossible not to notice. Conversely, a flaw in the song or the performance can cause a lyric “not to land,” that is, to remain hard to understand when delivered in performance. Getting every moment in a song to “land” requires a deft collaboration between writer, composer, director and performer.

Forrest McClendon as the lawyer Samuel Leibowitz in The Scottsboro Boys

Forrest McClendon as the lawyer Samuel Leibowitz in The Scottsboro Boys

To see Forrest “put over” the lyric of a song like “That’s Not The Way We Do Things” from The Scottsboro Boys (as West End audiences will soon have the privilege of doing) is to see a vivid demonstration of how strong stage technique makes a lyric “land.” It was part of the reason Tony voters recognized Forrest with a nomination for Best Supporting Actor in a Musical during its Broadway run. And as you might be able to tell from this video clip, when you attend a lecture or master class with Forrest, his ideas “land.”

God is in the details

CGandSSIn the introductory essay he wrote for the first volume of his collected lyrics, Finishing the Hat, Stephen Sondheim cites “three principles necessary for lyric writing” – “Content Dictates Form,” “Less Is More” and “God Is in the Details.” All these, he quickly notes, are “in the service of Clarity, without which nothing else matters.”

Can I get an Amen?

As a songwriter myself (and a “nearly famous” one, at that), I am keenly aware of the time that a lyricist and composer spend “sweating the small stuff.” To quote Big Steve once more, “Every minor detail is a major decision.” I have come to believe that my knowledge of the inner process of songwriting can be valuable to the singing-actor preparing a performance. For me, it is axiomatic that:

A song deserves to be performed with the same attention to detail that went into its creation.

The implications of this are far-reaching. For the savvy performer who embraces this axiom, thoughtful song analysis takes on a new level of importance, but that’s only the beginning. The performer must take an “authorial” role in the creation of his or her performance, and view it as a conscious creation. The crafting of that performance should be an iterative process that includes drafting, testing and revision; this means cultivating the ability to step back and examine the performance, using video and peer feedback as assessment tools. Too often I have seen performers embrace their “first draft” performances as a finished product, or resist the concept of conscious crafting in favor of an improvised approach to behavior that feels more spontaneous (and hence more “real”) but is usually haphazard, albeit occasionally exciting.

Jeremy Denk in the New Yorker

A recent piece in the April 8 (2013) New Yorker entitled Every Good Boy Does Fine is a captivating account by pianist and author Jeremy Denk of some of his experiences as a piano student. Denk has a magical way with both words and music; his blog has been in my RSS feed for months, and he doesn’t post nearly often enough to suit me. The New Yorker piece included several provocative quotes that got me to thinking about the development of the young artist and the teacher’s role in that development, something I frequently find myself musing on. Of his piano teacher, Gyorgy Sebok, he writes:

Sebok said many times that you don’t teach piano playing at lessons; you teach how to practice – the daily rite of discovery that is how learning really happens.

I’ve often thought that one of the most important things I can do in the classroom is send my students to the practice room with a sense of eagerness and purpose.

Elsewhere in the article, he describes a lesson with Sebok where his teacher tried to get him to think differently about a Mozart sonata Denk had presented:

Mozart is made up of two-, three-, four-, and eight-bar phrases, all in a row punctuated by cadences of various kinds. If you’re not careful, the row can resemble a string of sausages. The solution was to find more varied and more sensual ways of ending phrases – like drawing charcoal over paper, creating a curved or straight line.

For me, it is axiomatic that “every phrase is a new opportunity” and that the performer’s job is to make behavioral choices that create contrast and variety among the phrases. This is the antidote to dullness, to mediocrity. Denk expresses the wish that more “performers would stop producing sausage-string phrases and give us ones that know their surroundings.” In SAVI parlance, this is what differentiates “applesauce” and “shish-kebab.”

Check out Denk’s recordings on Amazon or emusic.