10 Gifts to Give to a Singer

maria_dickons_born_poole_opera_singer

(This post originally appeared in The Bel Canto Chronicle)

Is there a singer in your life? A student or teacher of voice, maybe even a professional? When the holidays roll around, do you find yourself wanting to buy a gift that will tell them you care about them in their work, or maybe something that will help them along the way? Look no further! For here I have constructed a top ten countdown: 10 gifts to give to a singer. We begin with…

10. Accessories!

If you’re shopping on the cheap or just looking for stocking stuffers, there are loads of little things you can find that will make a singer’s day. Start with lozenges—singers love ‘em! Just be sure to avoid mentholated cough drops; most singers avoid these because of the numbing effect. Stick to non-mentholated drops like Halls Defense Vitamin C Supplement Drops.

Does your singer like a certain kind of tea? Do they need a new mug? Are they a big fan of Starbucks or other coffee shops that offer gift cards? Never underestimate a good water bottle—that will always be appreciated! And if you happen to knit, there is a truly magical object, a highly desirable accessory that belongs with every singer…. a scarf. If you want to step just a rung or so up the expenditure ladder, there’s always…

9. Costume…

Singers are expected to dress nicely, and if they’re trekking around the countryside doing auditions or giving recitals, they’re wearing out their clothes faster than they can buy them. A good necktie would never be remiss for a man. Neither would tasteful jewelry be for a woman. And both need to keep themselves in good supply of dress shoes (or character shoes)! But if wardrobe isn’t your cup of tea, you could keep an eye out for…

8. Recordings.

We live in a miraculous age. The push of a button brings the most amazing singers of the past century to life for our listening (and studying) pleasure! Singers, as a rule, listen to other singers. So find out what kind of format your singer prefers—CDs? Digital Media (an iTunes gift card can go a long way)? DVDs? Even LPs—and what singers, composers, directors, or shows they really like, and start hunting! A great thing about recordings is that you can find almost anything you might be looking for online, and have it delivered right to your doorstep—or to your singer’s. But if you aren’t sure which recordings to add to their library just now, you could instead pad their library with a few high quality…

7. Scores!

Singers NEED scores—no scores, no singing! But the key to buying the right score is to buy the right score. A cheap knockoff or a substandard edition Don Giovanni is not to the Ricordi Don Giovanni as a generic drug is to a more expensive brand with the same active ingredient. Cheap scores can be wildly different from legitimate scores in terms of organization, presentation, and even content—sometimes with outright mistakes! So if you mean to buy music for your singer, do both of you a favor and don’t skimp. Ricordi is a great publisher for opera scores, as is Bärenreiter—they are a sort of gold standard, leagues above publishers like G Schirmer or Dover.

Is your singer a Verdi nut? Look for Verdi scores. Puccini? Likewise Puccini. Just be sure to pick up the piano/vocal score, not a full score (unless your singer is looking for that specifically). Maybe your singer would be interested in a Schubert collection, or a book of Wolf Lieder. Do a little research with their other friends or colleagues, and you will probably find a plethora of options for useful, meaningful gifts. If music itself isn’t lacking in their life, you could supply them with other fresh material for…

6. Study.

Books, books, books. Even if your singer isn’t the academic type, chances are there is a biography of their favorite singer out there waiting to be found. But if they are a student or teacher in the institution, books are a goldmine for gift ideas. Is pedagogy their suit? Check and see if they are lacking any Richard Miller! Do they want to learn about acoustical physics, voice science, the history of opera? Is there a special composer or area of interest they want to study? Books abound. And if they are in school, help with acquiring those pesky textbooks is always appreciated. But if you want to give them a break from studying and something both useful and thoroughly enjoyable, why not look into…

5. Subscriptions!

Subscriptions and memberships cost money, and chances are good that your singer has fewer than they would like for lack of funds. Consider a year subscription to an industry magazine like Classical Singer or OperaNews—they can stay up to date on all the goings-on of the singing world, and get lots of useful information like audition dates and requirements for summer and young artist programs. If you want to go a little more academic, check and see if your singer is a voice teacher as well, and whether or not they hold a membership with NATS (National Association of Teachers of Singing)—which includes a subscription to the Journal of Singing. If you don’t mind spending a bit more money, you can really wow the tech-savvy singer with a Met Opera On Demand subscription—hours and hours of high quality operatic performances streaming to their laptop or digital device. Yowzaa. We’re moving up the ladder here, which brings us to…

4. Sprucing up the Studio…

Does your singer have an office where they teach, or some kind of studio space? A studio needs decorating! Are they a lamp and carpet kind of teacher? Paintings or posters? A voice studio can never have too many large mirrors. And if you want something a bit more daring, play to their individual taste or sense of humor with something like the Miranda Sings bobblehead—I know I want one! Even if you aren’t sure of their taste, a little investigative work can give you the names of décor shops they enjoy, and a gift card at a good shop is rarely a gift-horse looked in the mouth. BUT, if possessions are less and experience more your style, you really cannot go wrong with some good…

3. Tickets.

And here it comes down to your budget. Sending your singer off to Bayreuth or La Scala is probably not the norm (although it would be amazing!). Where are you located in the world? Find out about the opera companies of nearby cities and start pricing tickets! And whether you go big with a trip to the Met, the Lyric or San Francisco, or even just to see a regional production, it is a rare singer indeed who turns their nose up at free opera tickets. What a great gift! And if you aren’t in the funds or the area for a live show, have no fear. The Met has this fabulous program, the Met LiveBroadcasts, whereby Met shows are broadcast live in HD to movie theatres across the country, often even in small towns! Tickets run around $20—just cheap enough for a modest gift, just a little expensive for young singers (especially in college) to attend regularly. So send your singer off to a Met broadcast—happy birthday! It’s almost as good as…

2. Cash!

Ok, I know plain US American dollars are stigmatized as a gift without meaning, but honestly, people. Think this through. How many professional classical singers, voice teachers, or teachers of voice do you know who aren’t pulling in as much work on the side as they can to keep their boat afloat? We sing because we love the art, not because of the ginormous paychecks. Or job security. Ha… ha.

A little cash in the envelope goes a long way. Want to help financially but be just a tad more personal? Get them a couple of gas cards and say they are for those long drives to auditions! Or find out their favorite grocery store and pick up a gift card. Really, it isn’t stooping too low—especially if your singer is a student, I can vouch for it—your financial support is a meaningful sign of love. In fact I would say about the only gift for a singer that can top cold hard cash has to be…

1. Your Support.

Yep. Here it is. Numero Uno. Care enough about your friend, colleague, significant other, family member, to want to bless them with a gift? The biggest gift you can give a singer is your adoring fan-ship. That means coming to see them sing in shows and recitals, and really making an effort to engage the enjoyment of their craft, even if it isn’t on your everyday list of entertainment. If you can’t make it to performances, show them you care by sending flowers on opening night, good luck and congratulations cards, friendly facebook posts on the big day. It means the world to a singer when they have a good support network, and as much fun as all the goodies and gadgets are out there, none of them bring as much happiness to your singer as your smiling face when they take the stage.

Happy gifting!

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