"Help! I Have Nothing to Wear!" (...Musings on Jury and Studio Recital Dress Codes)

Hello lovely readers! I know it’s been a while, but the spring seems to have gotten away from me with all of the concerts and lessons and competitions and performances. Now that we’re firmly into “jury” and “spring recital” season, I thought I’d take this opportunity to chat about a question that comes up every year around this time…dress codes.

No, I’m not talking about uniforms. I’m talking about what to wear for these juries and studio recitals. Oddly, it’s one of those things where I see participants too dressy or too casual when what we’re looking for is something in between – something that makes you look your best while not overwhelming you because, after all, we want to hear your voice and what you have to say through the music, not be distracted by what someone is wearing.

So to make this simple, here are some easy ideas to help you decide what to wear for a studio recital or jury:

1. Think to yourself – would I wear this to a church (or synagogue or mosque or to grandma’s house)?

If you wouldn’t wear it there, your outfit is probably not going to work for a jury or studio recital. Of course you can wear something stylish – always be yourself – but remember, we want to hear you and not be distracted by what you’re wearing. I don’t care if ladies are wearing pants and the gentlemen are in kilts as long as you look put-together.

2. Juries are not a time for high fashion or experimenting.

Be as fashionable as you want, but remember that your audience for juries or recitals is made up of your teachers (and parents), not your peers. We’re there to listen to you sing and communicate through music, so we don’t care if you’re wearing the latest style.

2. Check your skirt length.

Ladies, it should go without saying, however – if the front row can see up your skirt, it is too short. This means that if you are actually on a raised stage, the skirt appears shorter than it is. Most teachers will say dresses need to be knee-length (and that’s a good general rule), but anything shorter than mid-thigh starts to fall into that danger-category. Be careful.

3. Be comfortable (but not too comfortable).

This does not mean that you get to wear your yoga clothes to your jury. However, if you constantly have to adjust your hemline, waistline, collar, undergarments, or sleeves because they’re too tight or too long or too short...that is not a good choice. You always look more put-together and presentable when clothes fit properly.

4. Make sure you can walk in your shoes.

If you can’t walk without changing your stride or stand comfortably, the shoes are probably too high (or too tight).

5. Avoid dangling metal.

Ladies, this one is also for you – if your dress has dangling gold medallions that look awesome in the club, but make a lot of noise, this is not a good choice for a jury or recital because they make noise that distracts us from your performance. Some earrings fall into this category too, however they’d more likely affect your hearing rather than the audience…still not a great idea.

6. Things that are never acceptable.

·      Ripped t-shirts

·      Ripped jeans

·      Athletic clothes

·      See-through dresses or shirts

·      Tops or dresses with huge cut-outs (with nothing under them)

·      Micro-mini skirts

·      Flip-flops

There are more that can go into this list, but I think you get the idea.


Exceptions to the rules:

Dark denim – For gentlemen, in professional audition situations a nice dark denim jean with a button down shirt and jacket is perfectly acceptable. Just skip the pair with the rips. College juries are a bit more conservative and may not appreciate this look so ask around before committing to it. Again, as long as you look put-together, it’s probably ok.


Ball Gowns and Evening Wear – Ladies, NEVER wear ball gowns to studio recitals, juries, professional auditions, or auditions for young artist programs. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this and it looks ridiculous. Apparently there are some teachers that encourage this, but the reality of it is – their students are the only ones dressed this way. It’s an old-fashioned ideal and not in practice anymore.

Gowns should be only worn in final rounds of major competitions or for your graduation recital. An example would be the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions where even the NYC semi-final round on the stage is more dressy/cocktail rather than the gowns reserved for the finals. Some of the regional finals are in gowns, but again, it really depends so be sure to ask so you are not overdressed for the event. When in doubt, ask around or search for pictures of the previous year’s event to get a better idea of the dress code.


So basically, that’s it. We want you to succeed.

We want you to sing your best.

WE WANT YOU TO BE YOU and not to be distracted by something as innocuous as a pair of shoes.


Hope this helps narrow down your choices for your upcoming juries, studio recitals or future auditions.



It's that time of year...Ah-choo! (AKA, "The Crud")

Somehow, every year students come back form their holiday break and promptly fall into what I call "The Crud." I always hope it won't happen, but it always does, and the studio becomes a petri dish of viruses for several weeks.

For the uninitiated, "The Crud" consists of the following: runny nose, sneezing, fevers, aches, pains, sore throats, coughing and other cold/flu symptoms that are no fun. Of course, it's winter and it is only to be expected that colds will be upon us, but somehow it always seems that they get passed in the studio with more frequency - sometimes just bouncing back and forth between students in a seemingly endless stream of tissues and cough drops.

The average American adult will suffer from 2 viral upper respiratory infections (or URIs) every year. (*1) A sore throat, runny nose, aches, pains and fever can accompany these infections, however they usually will dissipate after 4-5 days without medical intervention. A bacterial URI typically lasts longer, and may require antibiotics to clear up the infection. Other causes for sore throats and hoarseness include allergies, acid reflux, dry air, mouth breathing (particularly at night), or abuse of the mechanism by yelling, screaming or over-singing.

Obviously, bacterial infections need to be addressed by a doctor and may require treatment with antibiotics or other prescription medications. For those unfortunate enough to have a garden-variety cold, before reaching for over the counter medications, there are numerous homeopathic remedies that can be used to help alleviate hoarseness and sore throats in cases that are not severe.  Here are just a few that you may want to try:

1.     Wash Your Hands and Disinfect Common Areas (doorknobs, keyboards, phones, etc)

2.     Keep Nasal Passages Clear – Two of the most common causes for sore-throat pain are postnasal drip and a dry throat that results from sleeping with your mouth open when your nasal passages are blocked. Decongestants, especially those containing pseudoephedrine, may be helpful in stopping the flow. Using saline nasal spray can help make breathing easier promptly though temporarily, and it's probably worth investing in a humidifier to run in your bedroom at night. Alternatively, you can run a hot shower and place wet towels over air vents to help disperse humidity into a dry hotel room.

3.     Physical Rest – this can give you more energy to fight the infection.

4.     Gargle  - there are lots of these variations:

a.      Gargle raspberry tea - Raspberry leaf tea can make a great gargle. (To make, pour 1 cup boiling water over 2 teaspoons dried leaves. Steep for 10 minutes, then strain. Allow to cool.) If you also have a fever, the gargle can be used as a fever-reducing drink as well.

b.     Gargle with sage - This curative herb is a great sore throat gargle. Mix 1 teaspoon in 1 cup boiling water. Steep for 10 minutes, then strain. Add 1 teaspoon each cider vinegar and honey, then gargle four times a day.

c.   Gargle with turmeric - Mix together 1 cup hot water, 1/2 teaspoon turmeric and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Gargle with the mixture twice a day. If you're not good with the gargle, mix 1/2 teaspoon turmeric in 1 cup hot milk and drink. However, it is important to note that turmeric stains clothing, so be careful when mixing and gargling.

d.      Gargle with warm saltwater - Make a saline solution by adding 1/2 teaspoon salt to 1/2 cup of very warm water and gargle every 3 to 4 hours. This will help cut phlegm and reduce inflammation.

e.      Gargle with Listerine - Another good gargling fluid is Listerine mouthwash. If you share the product with anyone else in your household, don't drink straight from the bottle; instead, pour a small amount into a cup (and don't share that, either).

f.    Gargle with Cider Vinegar - This sore throat cure is found in several different homeopathic remedies. Mix 1 tablespoon honey, 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar and 8 oz. of hot water. Gargle or drink as desired, but make sure it is still hot.

5.   Horseradish – This Russian sore throat cure mixes 1 tablespoon horseradish, 1 teaspoon honey, 1 teaspoon of ground cloves and warm water. Mixing the honey and horseradish with vodka as a shot is another Russian home remedy.

6.     Citrus – Lemon or lime juice mixed with a teaspoon of honey and warm water can act as a diuretic and temporarily take down swelling.  

7.     Pineapple – The enzyme Bromelin helps reduce swelling and can take the sting away from a sore throat and is found naturally in pineapples. Bromelin is available in pill form from health food stores, but you can drink fresh juice or eat the fruit for the same anti-inflammatory benefits.

8.     Drink Aloe – There are a number of different aloe beverages available on the market today. Aloe acts as a moisturizer for dry throats. If you have pasteurized aloe, mix with a fruit juice to make the flavor more palatable. Keep in mind that a little aloe goes a long way.

9.     Licorice – The Italians swear by licorice for sore throats and coughs and sell lozenges at the pharmacy containing licorice extract. The American version would be something similar to “Fisherman’s Friend.” It acts as a cough suppressant and helps soothe irritation.

10.  Drink Hot Liquids – This provides a benefit similar to placing a heat pack on an injury.

11.  Hydrate – Hydration helps thin the mucus and flush toxins. Water is best, but juice or other liquids work as well. Be sure to watch the acid levels if you suffer from reflux or GERD. Also note, it takes 30 minutes for a glass of water to begin to hydrate the vocal folds. (*2)

12.  Steam – One old-fashioned remedy for a cold or sore throat is a steam tent -- sitting with your face over a bowl of steaming hot water and your head covered with a towel to keep the steam in. Adding 1 to 2 drops eucalyptus oil can be soothing. Alternatively, hot showers provide the same benefits.

13.  Garlic - This Amish remedy can treat or prevent sore throats. Peel a fresh clove, slice it in half, and place 1 piece in each cheek. Suck on the garlic like a cough drop. Occasionally, crush your teeth against the garlic, not to bite it in half, but to release its allicin, a chemical that can kill the bacteria that causes strep. While effective, this is not ideal for singers who have to be in close contact with their colleagues.

These are just some of the homeopathic remedies for congestion and colds that are available to you. Try some and see if they help you feel better the next time “The Crud” has gotten to you!


(*1) Deirdre D.  Michael and George S. Goding, “Dispelling Vocal Myths, Part 3: ‘Sing Over Your Cold!’” Journal of Singing 68, No. 4 (2012): 424.

(*2) Jeffrey L. Webb, “Promoting Vocal Health in the Choral Rehearsal.” Music Educators Journal 93, no. 5 (May 2007): 27.





Welcome to the Studio!

Hello all you singers out there!

This is my first attempt to start a blog and believe me, I have a lot to say about singing, performing, and life in general.

I will try to update you once a week on the happenings in the studio, discuss repertoire, technique, professional expectations, performance practice and everything in between.

So welcome to my musings - glad to have you along for the ride!