Georgia Stitt and John Bucchino: Master Class

Hello, I’m Xanthe and it’s been a month since my last post. This is not because I have had nothing to say. I have, in fact, had a lot to say and I’ve said it via the social media channels or to people in actual conversations (remember those? You get more than 140 characters to explain what you mean) as well as within the pages of a little journal that Typo has pre-named for me, as per its pretty design: Pretty Birds. Now, don’t get me started on Typo. Or their Pretty Birds range. I will photograph and post the entire Pretty Birds range, which I actually do have, and by doing so, I will make my obsession real, and in acknowledging it, be on the road to recovery. Maybe. Or maybe it is a necessary obsession, feeding my soul and filling the well…

The real road to recovery this year is about the creative. And if, by mentioning the Morning Pages, you are prompted to smile or cringe or cry, then you are surely an artist and you know what I’ve been up to. I’ve been writing upon waking for about 30 mins every day, about whatever, in long-hand (YES! Using a PEN! On PAPER!) before The Editor in me wakes up, turns on and chips in about every little thing imaginable. And by every little thing, I mean YOU ARE NOT A WRITER. And all the rest of it, berating me for trying anything at all, including getting Poppy to school on time. You know that voice. Well, I’ve always known that it needs to say those things. It certainly needs an outlet. But I certainly don’t have to listen to it. I just have to let it go. In what Julia Cameron calls “blurts”. I invariably write about good stuff too. It’s just harder to come by, harder to recall. Isn’t it? See what’s happening? Rhetorical questions, stream of consciousness and because I’m allowing the flow, it might take a few additional thoughts to get to where we’re going. Brevity has never been my strong point. It’s okay, it’s all connected; John Bucchino even has his own version of the Morning Pages. It’s true! We’ll meander back to what I started out with in just a minute. Patience, Grasshopper.

The writing of the Morning Pages has been easy, committing the time to do them has not been; just like when I wrote all those journals right through high school. I would write pages and pages if I’d made the time to do them. I still have them somewhere. The English teachers had it right (Thank you, Jane Jensen, Rita Rainnie, et al)! But I’m so busy now! This intriguing, frustrating, liberating, creative daily task is an integral part of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, a journey of discovery and recovery of self, which my dear friend, a fabulous artist by the name of Denise Daffara (I’ve mentioned her before because when she’s painted you, you know you’ve made it), decided to embark upon. And upon which I decided to join her. I wasn’t feeling like I was doing anything else, despite how “busy” my life was…is! If you’re a creative type and you’re feeling like you’re not creating, I highly recommend it. Well, maybe not all of it; the God bit doesn’t do it for me and instead I think The Universe. Think whatever works.

The same applies to singing, songwriting, whatever. I’m starting at the end of the night. To finish up their incredible master class at the con last night (3 hours flew by), Georgia Stitt and John Bucchino welcomed questions from the floor and spoke about:


“We are SO rooting for you! We want you to be good! Then our job is done”


Casting directors want to see that you have the skills and the colour palette to play the role. “Just make a choice”


Every songwriter embraces a different process. Having been trained in classical music (she was going to be a concert pianist), Georgia’s approach is very mathematical and structured, literally; quite often starting with the actual structure of the song or, probably just as often, a lyrical idea and the music seems to come at the same time (and quite often, this will happen after 3 days of Facebook procrastination)! John, on the other hand, will take out a big sketch book and start to draw, write, scribble, doodle… anything! And, approaching a semblance of an idea in a round-a-bout way, invariably something takes form. His song structure is realised via the same, organic process; it just…kinda…happens. Such is the magic of musical theatre songwriting (and of the Morning Pages concept. Keep the Editor locked away so you can allow the work to happen).

Being a master class, the singers came prepared to work, not necessarily to perform. We knew we were present as observers as opposed to audience and as such, the notebooks and pens and iPhones were out, on laps, from the outset, none of us wanting to miss a tip or a trick!

Our local singers presented openly, earnestly and completely committed to the coaching process, which was gentle and direct. We heard even greater commitment – to each story, to the telling of each – after the first sing. Now, I love coaching but I also love watching great coaches do their thing, their way, in order to coax better, stronger, more focused and more authentic performances from singers and actors who are willing to take big, brave leaps and learn and apply as much as they can.

The process fascinates me.

We heard from:

Josh, who learned from John that it’s usually best to opt for doing less: “Less is really more. If you’re buying it, they’ll get it” It was important to John that Josh – and we, the listeners – know the more personal post script to this song’s sad story; that John had written it in 1992 while his brother was dying from AIDS. This new information informed the way Josh approached the song a second time, giving us less gesture and greater ownership and intent. (Not a Cloud in the Sky)

Emma, who discovered with Georgia the need to distinguish between the little girl and the grown up in the telling of the story. To remember how brave we are at 10 years of age and to realise that we might never be that bold again gave Emma a stronger, more personal connection to the lyric. (My Lifelong Love)

Naomi, who learned to look for the patterns, sing the arc of the song and to earn the belt. Start out at 3 so you’ve got somewhere to go before reaching 10. Know where 10 is (know the arrival). When you get there, “I don’t care if you belt it or you don’t belt it…but sometimes I do.” One well-known performer, when asked at an audition for a Broadway show, “Can you belt an F?” replied, “Have you got anything worth belting an F for?” Georgia says, “Earn the belt.” (I Lay My Armor Down)

Zac, who really started Taking the Wheel once he became specific about what he was singing. Because it’s repetitive, John asked, “How do you keep it interesting? Who are you singing it to?” Zac sang it to himself, about the different stages of his journey to get to where he is right now and it worked. “Doing less but feeling more resonates more.” (Taking the Wheel)

Henry, who worked out how to use the physicality of the song (breathe) to imbue meaning in Georgia’s song, Air (rather than do the “Jekyll and Hyde thing” with the duet, She); “The stakes have to be so high. Strip away the vague. Simplify. Clarify.” Specify. (Air)

Eloise, who also found the arc and the superb simplicity in John’s This Moment, which was cut from John’s Urban Myths because the director didn’t feel that a seventeen year old girl would sing such poetic, poignant words (John wrote another song in its place)! Again, for Eloise; simplify and strip away all of the gesture and just “Make the visceral connection. Show it in your eyes.” (This Moment)

Brad, who gleaned style and interpretation from Georgia: “What are you using the song to do?” Understand the style (does it have a groove)? Know the arrival. In good theatre writing, the music is speaking to the action. Brad had a lot of nervous energy and he didn’t mind jumping around a bit before and after he sang. Nor did we mind him jumping around; it was an endearing thing, keeping it real and reminding us at the end of the night that it is TERRIFYING singing and working on stuff with the people who wrote that stuff! Props to the singers and I hope we see them all again somewhere soon. Some of them were on Day 2 of the new Musical Theatre program so while they’re busy there, they might be a bit quiet outside of the walls but keep an eye out for this first class of graduates in a couple of years…

And to finish? “Know when to stop. Know when it’s good.” And keep doing it.

Tonight, more magic; with Georgia Stitt, John Bucchino and Friends, most of whom will be familiar faces for a Brisbane audience, as well as a special guest; the gorgeous Marika Aubrey. It’s for one night only, tonight at 7:30pm at The Con. Last minute tickets are still available.



Thanks to Your Management International and Harvest Rain Theatre Company, we can enjoy a little bit of Broadway, here, in Brisvegas.


NEXT WEEK: Jason Robert Brown comes to town!

Master Class and concert tickets still available. Don’t miss out!


1 Response to “Georgia Stitt and John Bucchino: Master Class”

  1. 1 Eloise
    March 2, 2011 at 3:05 pm

    Hi Xanthe!

    Thank you so much for posting this!!
    It sums up the all lessons learned last night perfectly.

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