Photo by Sean Nelson.
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12 – 18
Though rock and roll continues to evolve as both an artistic and cultural (to say nothing of commercial) phenomenon, the figure of the singer remains unarguably at the center of its power and allure. How to Sing in a Band (and How Not To) explores the role of vocalist from inside and out, surveying the history of the form, the wide range of musical/personal styles that have developed over the years, and, of course, the right and wrong way to hold a microphone. These lessons will be bolstered by readings, sound recordings, videos, and guest presentations from professional artists. There will be lots of singing, too. Every student will experience the chance to sing in a group, either as lead or harmony vocalist, and contribute to the arrangement of original compositions and/or meaningful cover songs, to learn the lingua franca of interband communication. Students will learn technical and professional skills, but the course’s overarching emphasis is philosophical. The singer is the most visible and most vulnerable of all a band’s components, because underneath all the technical and musical skill involved the instrument is a human being. This makes for a unique and complicated experience. This class seeks to leave its participants not merely with a set of skills, but with a set of questions and ideas that can enrich both a career and a lifetime. The class will culminate with two live performances: One by the instructor (and his friends) on Friday evening to set the stage, followed by the main event Saturday, at which students will perform in a friendly environment for classmates, parents, and friends.
Who Should Enroll?
Males and females between 12 and 18—though if there’s a case to be made on either side of that range, please make it. No experience necessary, though it’s certainly welcome. Singers with unconventional voices are encouraged to participate. If you also play an instrument, that’s great, but not a requirement. (I will add that if rap/hip-hop is your main area of interest, you may things here to interest you and you’re most welcome, but the class might not fully address the things you’re most excited about. Then again, it actually might. Just a proviso…)
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Sean Nelson has recorded and performed music with Harvey Danger, Death Cab for Cutie, The Decemberists, Robyn Hitchcock, Nada Surf, The Minus 5, The Long Winters, and many others. His debut solo album, Make Good Choices, was released to glowing reviews last year, and will be followed in the summer of 2014 by Nelson Sings Nilsson, an orchestral collection of songs by the late great American songwriter Harry Nilsson. Nelson’s film career began with the lead role in Lynn Shelton’s second feature, My Effortless Brilliance, which he co-wrote. Other acting roles include Katie Aselton’s The Freebie (alongside Dax Shepard and Bellamy Young), David Russo’s The Immaculate Conception of Little Dizzle, Stephen Gyllenhaal’s Grassroots, Megan Griffiths’s The Off-Hours, and several others. In 2011, he wrote and co-directed Treatment, which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival; his performance in the film earned him the Character Actor award at the Sidewalk Film Festival that same year. His journalism has appeared in/on The Los Angeles Times, Entertainment Weekly, MSN, Alternative Press, The Seattle Times, Seattle Weekly, Heeb Magazine, and The Stranger, where he was a staff editor and writer for 10 years. His book about Joni Mitchell’s Court and Spark was published by Continuum Books’ 33&1/3 series. His essays were chosen for Da Capo Press’s Best Music Writing anthologies in 2008 and 2010. He also hosted a radio show on KEXP for five years and taught the inaugural class in songwriting for the UW’s Continuing Education department. He lives in Seattle with his wife Shenandoah and their dog, Charlie, who is a girl.