Sue’s Views

A Blog by Sue Matsuki

What I have learned about Singing from Sailing!

by | Nov 9, 2018 | Sue's Views | 0 comments


I have sailed for over 20 years. It always makes me sad to dry dock the boat for the season but I realized that many lessons that I have learned from sailing actually apply to Cabaret.

While there is so much prep work before the actual trip, the more that I think about what I will need for this trip (food, ice, water, clothing) the more prepared I am for a successful sail.

Much like when I begin a new show, the more I research my material, study my lyrics, write and rewrite my script, practice with my Musical Director and heed the advice of my Director, the more successful my show will be.

There is always this optimism, joy, hope and lightness at the start of the trip that it is all going to go according to plan and that there will be good weather, great winds and smooth waters but, inevitably stuff happens.

Many times we had so many things not go according to plan like a tremendously scary lightning storm and winds when we were all alone out there anchored between ports (no help); our anchor wrapped itself around our keel and my husband had to dive down to unravel it; we got swept up in a very strong current when entering a marina and almost crashed into two huge yachts; our engine died and we had to unclog the cooling system and we literally got swarmed by a thousand flies! What did we do? We dealt with each and everything as we had to and moved forward. As in Cabaret, stuff happens, band members drop out at the last minute, you accidentally booked a show on a holiday weekend, you go over budget and don’t know how you are going to pay for the show, you have 12 people in the room and the club is upset, you hit a bad note, you forgot your lyrics or you get a bad review. What do YOU do? Like us on the boat, you deal with each and everything as it pops up and you more forward.

The greatest sound on a sailboat is the whoosh of the wind taking the sail and the quiet when you turn off the engine and are just one with nature but also when you are at nature’s mercy.

The greatest sound on stage is the roar of the applause after you sing when you allow your voice to soar to its greatest ability and then the energy of the crowd as you present a quiet ballad where you think you could almost hear a pin drop because they are listening with such intensity. In both moments you are also at nature’s mercy…your nature. Will you allow yourself to whoosh and soar and to then just “be” in the quiet and allow what you do to be enough? Or…do you fight the beauty of what will just be if you let go?

When cooking on a boat you very often must improvise.

First you must pack and think about what will go bad after a week and what will last. Then you must organize your ice box accordingly. If you are anchoring (no electric) you have to know what you can cook with the one gas burner that you have and, when you are next hooked up to electric in a marina, what you can pre-make there so that the next two days that you are anchored, you know what you will eat.

In cabaret, being able to improvise if stuff happens is an art but it is also something you can practice and prepare for. Have a tricky patter song that you get lost in? When studying this song, first look at it as a whole story so that you know the beginning, the middle and the end. Then try the word game where you see if there is any pattern or use of words starting with the same letter or what the rhyming pattern is so that you are better prepared when you are on stage. Write it down and punctuate it so that as you study it, you “see” it on paper in your mind’s eye. When you make a mistake, decide ahead of time how you could deal with it. Like on the boat, it’s all about your preparation and having a Plan B should anything go wrong. Trust your instincts!

When a storm hits, all you can do it batten down the hatches and ride it out. It is usually never as bad as it feels as you are getting hit with it and there is usually a beautiful calm right after it.

Bad review or hurtful comments after all your hard work? Again, what can you really do? I can guarantee you that not as many people read the review as you may think and those who love you and perhaps saw the show and had a different opinion, will have the class (or should have the class) NOT to mention the review to you. You cannot control what others write or say. You can only strive to do the best work that you can and hope for the best but as I always say, art is subjective. Some will like it, some won’t. Tough out the storm and wait for the calm after the storm and the sunny skies ahead.

It’s really hot in the sun!

There are, always have been and always will be cliques in Cabaret. When you are in the spotlight and “hot”, it feels great for a while but eventually it can become uncomfortable. You may start to feel the heat (pressure) to stay on top and guess what, there absolutely is an expectation by your audience and the press that you will continue to perform better each time you step on stage. This should be a given for us all, but it can become an extra burden. This time in the sun is usually cyclical so I say enjoy it while you are there and when it becomes uncomfortable, seek shelter and just step back into the shade and relax until you feel that you can do your best work again. No reason to get burned!

When the flies come, and they do, have a fly swatter handy!

Bottom line? Tune out the negative and follow your heart. Shoo away and keep away all the nay sayers and surround yourself with people who will help you grow, not dash your dreams. Anchors Away!



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Sue Matsuki

Sue Matsuki

Co-Editor & Instructor, Cabaret HotSpot and Cab U

Sue Matsuki is the co-author, along with David Sabella, of So You Want To Sing Cabaret (Rowman & Littlefield, June 2020). Sue is the Managing Partner, Co-Editor, Reviewer, Vloger and a Columnist (Sue’s Views) for an on-line entertainment magazine: www.Cabaret She taught Cabaret classes at: The Ridgefield Theater Barn and UCONN in CT, MAC-to-School and Cabaret Hotspot in NY and for the Canadian School of Performing Arts. She has served as Treasurer on the Board of Directors for MAC (Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs). She, along with Gregory Toroian, her long time Music Director, now host a monthly Jazz Brunch Open Mic at Pangea. Matsuki also produces benefits and corporate events and is the Producing Manager for Urban Stages’ Winter Rhythms series where she also hosts a Vlog called Urban Stages’ Artists Chat.

Matsuki’s most cherished awards come from winning the 2020 Bistro Award for Outstanding Collaboration celebrating her 25th year of working with Music Director, Gregory Toroian; getting her poster up on Don’t Tell Mama’s “Wall of Fame” for her show How’s That for Openers? celebrating the 33rd Anniversary of singing at the club and being selected personally by the late Julie Wilson as the very first 2004 Julie Wilson Award Recipient, given by the Mabel Mercer Foundation.

Matsuki is an 11-time MAC Award Nominee and a 3-time Winner (in seven different categories), mostly recently she was nominated for Major Female Vocalist. Her MAC history includes: 2002 MAC Award Winner for Female Jazz/Pop/R&B Vocalist; 2002 Nominee for Best Female Recording for her first Jazz CD, A New Take; 2004 Nominee for Duo/Group (with Marcus Simeone); 2006 MAC Award Winner for Special Productions for her sold out 7 week run of 10 Years in the Making with her Musical Director Gregory Toroian; 2007 & 2010 Nominee for Female Vocalist; 2008, 2011 & 2012 Nominee for Duo/Group (with Edd Clark); the 2008 MAC Award Winner for Specialty Song (“One Stop Shopping” by Page/Matsuki/Toroian); and the 2020 Nominee for Major Female Vocalist.

This Jazz/Cabaret/Comedy veteran has played every NYC Cabaret room including: Feinstein’s at the Regency, Feinstein’s 54 Below, The Metropolitan Room, Arci’s Place, Town Hall, Don’t Tell Mama, Pangea, The Algonquin, The Beach Café, The Laurie Beechman Theater, 88’s, and has even played Carnegie Hall along with several legendary Jazz Clubs including: The Village Gate, Birdland, The Iridium and Sweet Rhythm. She has performed in Alaska, Los Angeles, Connecticut, Florida, New Jersey, Nyack, Maine, Fire Island, Florida, Providence and Las Vegas!

Her jazz CD, A New Take, was nominated for the 2002 MAC Award for Best Recording and her Christmas CD, Sue & Edds FABULOUS Christmas both receive air play across the country and internationally. She is also featured on folk singing legend Christine Lavin’s original music Christmas compilation CD, Just One Angel with a song that she co-wrote with Paul Stephan called “Christmas Angel”.

Matsuki was a Super and “Diva Double” at the Metropolitan Opera where she has been featured in Moses und Aaron; Tristan und Isolde; Norma; and Il Travatore.

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