I Teach. And one thing I have always wanted to do is my own “Favorite Things List” This is my first list and with it comes all the tools I use daily, or frequently, in order to live my best and most fierce life. Much like Oprah’s Favorite things list, many of these items range in price. So take a look at all of them and have fun checking it all out!
- Foam Rollers/Soft Ball Rollers: These two things SAVE. MY. LIFE. If not for rolling out, I doubt that I would have been able to make it through the past decade of my professional life. Especially during my pre and post surgery time this year, I spent a great deal of time rolling out b/c I couldn’t afford to get a massage or go to the chiropractor as much as I wanted. The soft balls - which are taped together with Duck Tape- (Shout Out to Sarah Nolan over at PhysioArts that introduced this to me when I was at Lion King) would immediately open up my lower body. Which would help me begin moving faster and with out putting an immense amount of intensity on myself before I needed to. To be absolutely 1000%, this is the most effective thing I’ve ever used for my lower body. It’s cheap and easy to assemble. The foam roller is ideal for the upper body, but can be used for the lower body as well. What I love most about the foam roller is that I can feel how open my back and neck are the moment I begin rolling. The intensity is the perfect amount for daily usage. When I can’t feel the openness and freedom in my back, then I know it’s time for massage/chiropractor/acupuncture etc.
- My water bottle! I found mine at TJ Maxx about 2 months after my voice surgery. When I got my hands on it there was NO GOING BACK! It holds 40 ounces of water, it’s a super cute color, and stays at the temperature I need from the time I fill it up to the last sip I take from it. It’s become my daily goal to drink at least 2 of these a day. In the summer I was drinking up to four of these a day and didn’t realize it. That let me know that it was super easy to stay hydrated while also being very functional.
- STRAWS!!!!!!!!! I was first introduced to using straws to help me not push as much when singing with one of my voice teachers, Mary Walkley. That idea TOOK OFF when I began to study with Amanda Flynn, Dr. Chandler Thompson, and Dr. Lucian Sulica. Now I have varying size straws in varying size water bottles and glasses. When I performed in Flashdance this summer I used them all the time. When I would use the large straws in my water bottles at the theaters, it was like foam rolling for my vocal cords. If I was tight or feeling sore, I’d pull out my smaller straw. When I was warming up - towards the beginning of the day mostly- I’d pull out my coffee straw (very small and thin) to help me not push when doing my scales.
- Humidifiers and Steamers: I use to be of the mind that Steamers were only needed when I was sick or trying to prevent sickness. I now see that they are daily tools for any and every artist, people that speak a great deal for work, or anyone who lives/travels in varying climates, and anyone that lives in a city like NYC where those damn radiators come on in the winter and dry ya ass out. I have two now. One for my bedroom and one for the dressing room. Now that winter is here, I’m steaming daily. The humidifiers keep the air moist and it’s saves my butt at night when sleeping. I wake up feeling the awesomeness of the moisture in the room. With this by my bedside, I am confidently combating this NYC winter.
- Lemon and Ginger Tea from Yogi: Simply said.... Ain’t nobody got time for phlegm. This product helps release any phlegm and upset stomach problems. I love drinking this at night before bed or when I have time to sit and enjoy it in the morning. Yogi also makes the amazing Sleepy Time Tea. It puts me down in what feels like seconds flat. As I write this, I am drinking the famous Throat Coat. This classic is timeless for a reason. Great licorice taste and I feel the coating from the first sip. Great tea to have on days off or early mornings. I wouldn’t recommend that you drink this tea right before an audition, speaking onstage, or sleep b/c its so thick that you may feel “phlegm-ie”. I truly love all the teas from this brand. Take a walk around the Yogi and see what you like best.
- Neck Massager: For Christmas last year, my wife got me a personal neck massager and I’ve been singing her praises ever since. I carry a lot of tension and stress in my body so this relieves it quickly. It’s great to use when watching TV, preparing for auditions, or warming/cooling down.
- Apple: I mean... C’mon! The speed, the versatility, the look. I no longer carry a sheet music book b/c I have my iPad that holds all the music I want to work on and sing in auditions. I also use it to make notes on scripts in real time, taking sleek videos and pics, editing pics and vids in iMovie, and of course stalking people on social media.
- FinalScore: What a genius app! I download the pdf’s sent to me and right at my fingers, or iPencil, I can make notes in real time. I was in an audition a few months back when I wowed the CD b/c I was writing down what she said as she was saying it. It looks like magic .
- Online Workout Streaming Services: I have finally embraced how much of an introvert I am this year. While doing that I realized I wasn’t leaving home much (that’s another blog) and needed to workout. So I used Beachbody On-Demand for fierce cardio workouts (DM for info) with Shaun T and Autmun Calabrese. I also began to love the treadmill app Studio. I first found this app last Christmas and loved it (Shout Out to VeeJay). I came back to it while I was doing Flashdance and it truly helped my stamina during and after the run of the show. The workouts vary in difficulty so its keeps you progressing. I haven’t used the outdoor running part of it, but if it is anything like the treadmill I know it’s stellar. Mother-Freaking AKT! Anna Kaiser is a truly in a league of her own when it comes to HIIT. I, briefly, worked the front desk at her NoMad location and was in love from the first SweatDream class I took. Even after leaving the job, I swear by her app to do her workouts at home before I teach or take class. The vids kick my ass every time. Keep in mind that I do not mark at anything and if I’m gonna workout, I wanna go hard! After an Anna Kaiser workout, I feel ready to have a KILLER day!
My Favorite Business
- Amanda Flynn Voice Studio: I’m not just saying this because she is my friend of 13yrs. I’m saying this because she is a highly accredited and certified, knowledgeable, honest, and informed of where music and the voices of Broadway/Musical Theater currently are and are going today. She also happens to be a loving and nurturing, patient, and down to earth woman. When I thought I may have been misdiagnosed on the severity of my injury I called Amanda. She led me to my forever ENT and voice therapist. She guided and encouraged me leading up to surgery and after. It is because of her exercises that I can sing healthily today. Think of Amanda like this... Imagine a younger Liz Caplan, from Texas, and who will have half the lesson breaking down the mechanics of the voice as much as she will talk to you about her favorite ‘Rap Snacks’ bag of chips.
- TheoryWorks: I began to learn how to read music this year. YEAH YEAH YEAH! How did I go this long without knowing how? Well my ear is mad good. But, this year was all about finding freedom and this well laid out online course helped me do just that. The owner and creator -Amy Marie Stewart- is kind, patient, understanding, and a lovely human being. Best investment of the year hands down.
- Weill Cornell Medical Center for the Voice: Dr. Lucian Sulica did my voice surgery. He has also worked with countless Broadway singers and actors to help them through injury and injury prevention. He has done workshops with Actors Equity Association, been on countless panels, and is an all stand up guy. When I met him I was terrified I’d never sing again. He, and my Voice Therapist Dr. Chandler Thompson, helped to bring me back to life. If not for the lessons and guidance his office gave me this year I am positive I would not be writing this blog now.
- Patrick Wellington Hair Salon: This man has been taking care of my hair since 2009 when he did a pampering day for the ladies of Memphis on Broadway. I always feel taken care of when in his salon. His stylists are caring and take their time on every strand on your head. If you’re investing in your hair, it should be with a professional. No matter what kind of hair you have, he and his staff will have you feeling like Beyoncé on her wedding day. Simply put y’all...He The One!
- Shetler Studios: They are the most affordable rental studios in Manhattan. They almost always have a space available, the staff is down to earth, and the prices are awesome. The studios have expanded now which gives you more opportunity to grab those deals and rehearse your next big project. Did I mention they have 2 black box theaters? Well they do. And they are extremely nice for performances, readings, and special gatherings.
Well friends, if this doesn’t give you ideas about what to ask for for Christmas I don’t know what will. Shoot me an email if you get anything, I’d Love to hear your thoughts. Be sure to drop my name at all these places and business 😊
Happy, Healthy, Merry Holidays!