Family is the driving force that has helped to shape the dynamic potential for the Costabile sisters, Lauren and Nicky, of Hillsdale, New Jersey.
“You know, when you meet a family where everyone gets along so well, how you’re amazed and charmed at the same time,” said BMA vocal coach Deb “Zuke” Smith. “That’s the Costabile family. There’s nothing I could do to progress them more as individuals than what their family already does for them.”
Sonic Park Academy
Lauren, 20, is currently a sophomore at St. Thomas Aquinas College in Sparkill, New York. Nicky, 14, is a freshman at Pascack Valley High School in Hillsdale. They both share a love for singing, performing, and songwriting. They met Smith at Sonic Park Academy in Paramus, New Jersey.
“I work them together at most lessons,” Smith said. “Since they are in a band together, it’s important for them to learn each other’s idiosyncrasies, blend well and listen. When one does an exercise well, I have the other pay attention so they are learning to correct each other’s bad habits.”
Smith sees a common strength in the complete comfort both sisters share in being onstage.
“You feel like you’re sneaking up on two sisters having fun in their bedroom just singing their hearts out,” she said.
America’s Got Talent
The sisters recently auditioned for “America’s Got Talent” and feel they did a good job.
“We sang a medley of three songs including, About You Now, by Miranda Cosgrove, I Wanna Hold Your Hand, by the Beatles and ABC, by the Jackson 5,” Lauren said. “We had a lot of fun goofing around with each other while performing. The most important thing for us is that we had fun and did our best.”
They are anxiously awaiting the results that are expected in less than two weeks, but Lauren and Nicky are tough and welcome any challenges regardless of the outcome, as Deb Smith attest to.
“Both of the girls have the stereotypical tough Jersey Italian sound, so there is a rasp in their voices though Lauren’s pitch is a higher register,” Smith said. “Nicky was first to go to the doctor after my advise to get her cords checked out and sure enough, she had nodules. Lauren had hers diagnosed not too long ago. Now we continue to work on correct cord closure and good vocal habits so the nodes don’t return.”
Q + A
Lauren and Nicky took time out from their respectively hectic schedules to answer a few questions about their pursuit of singing success.
SSO: How did you get your start?
Lauren: Our dad has been involved with music his entire life so we kind of grew up around music. We would always sing and perform together at family parties or just around the house, but it wasn’t until 2004 that we started to record CD’s for Christmas. We would send them out to family and friends in place of a Christmas card. About two years ago we decided to take the band on the road and develop it as an act. Since then we have performed for crowds of over 200. Our goal for the band is to share our music with others and be able to really connect with the audience. We also dream of someday becoming professional recording artists.
SSO: How did you meet Deb?
Lauren: Our dad had worked with Deb’s husband, Kent Smith for many years and so he met Deb through him.
SSO: What do you remember about your first lessons with her?
Nicky: I started taking lessons with Deb first. I remember that when I first went to Deb I didn’t even know a single vocal warm-up or how to access my voice in the correct place. Deb taught me how to hit higher notes without any tension in my voice.
Lauren: After a couple of months I began taking lessons with Nicky and now we take lessons together every week. Looking back on my first lesson, I was skeptical because Deb had been my third voice teacher. My previous teachers tried to train me in a classical way and almost tried to change my voice, whereas Deb took my voice and showed me how to use it to the best of my ability. Deb was different from any teacher I had had in the past. She really showed me how to access different parts of my voice that I never knew how to use before!
SSO: Describe yourself before your first lesson in terms of fear and confidence, as well as the state or condition of your voice?
Lauren: Before my first lesson I wasn’t completely confident in myself and I definetely was a little fearful and intimidated. I think my voice was not in the best condition considering I hadn’t had a voice lesson in a while.
Nicky: Before my first lesson, I was having trouble singing without straining my voice.
SSO: Describe yourself now after your latest lesson in terms of fear and confidence, the state or condition of your voice, and any aspects of your life that working with Deb has impacted?
Lauren: I think now, I am much more confident in my ability to access my voice. My voice is most definitely in a much better condition than that first lesson because of how Deb has trained me. At times, I felt like giving up but Deb really pushed me to work it out and practice to achieve my singing goals. Deb has impacted my life because she not only showed me how to sing properly but she also helped me in terms of performing, and songwriting. She taught me how to play chords on the piano and how to write a song from scratch.
Nicky: My voice is now 100 percent better. I have now overcome the struggles I had had with my voice and feel much more confident when singing. Deb has impacted me in more ways than one. She has taught me not only voice skills but songwriting skills as well.
SSO: Do you use the Singing Success or Mastering Mix programs; and if so, how do they help?
Lauren: Yes, we use the Singing Success programs to help us warm-up before a show. It helps us to prepare a strong foundation for our voices before going on stage.
SSO: What have been you biggest challenges with working through the program, and did you ever have an experience where you thought you might give up? If so, what got you through it?
Lauren: Yes, at times we thought that we would never find the right place in our voice to sing, but after working on it with Deb she gave us a chance to explore the places in our voice we have never worked on before.
SSO: Do you remember a specific breakthrough that clearly began to fight through fear? Talk about that experience.
Lauren: At one point or another, we both had trouble with our voices in different ways, whether it be due to sickness or just not knowing how to access certain parts of our voice, but Deb truly worked with us through it all. She helped each of us recover our voices and reach our full potential as singers.
SSO: What is your favorite tip, exercise, or lesson learned?
Lauren: Our favorite tip that Deb has taught us is to never cause tension in the face because it ultimately leads to tension in the vocal chords. When singing, if it feels painful to you, it most likely translates like that to the audience. She told us how important it is to relax and the sound will come out naturally and it will feel much easier. Our favorite exercise is the Irish O because of how it opens up the vocal chords. We also like it because it allows us to access the belt part of our voice!
SSO: How do the skills you learn help you outside of singing?
Lauren: The skills we have learned helped us outside of singing because it taught us to never yell or raise our voice, and to refrain from whispering because it strains our voice.
SSO: What are your future career goals as a singer?
Lauren: We hope to be professional recording artists and performers. We want to be able to perform as much as possible because of our love for being on stage. We would like to thank Deb for everything she has done for us in helping to develop our voices and get us to reach our full potential not only with singing but with songwriting and performing as well. She has become such a major part of our lives in helping us grow as singers and performers!
Nicky: She’s the best!
Teacher Returns The Compliment
The compliment is returned as Smith recalls how Nicky and Lauren stir memories of growing up with her sister when they would break out in song and harmonize without reservation.
“They remind me how much fun it is to sing and write songs,” Smith said.
And facing their breakthroughs and challenges has made Smith feel even closer to this amazing family.
“Nicky used to twist her mouth sideways and do funny things that hampered her sound,” Smith said. “She is so aware of herself now she corrects things without me saying anything. I am working on songwriting with both of the girls, and Lauren took to the task so much her mother jokingly said, thanks a lot, our piano is in the middle of our living
space, and Lauren is banging away at it all day writing songs.”
Deb “Zuke” Smith is a renowned music copyist, piano teacher, songwriter, vocal coach, and self-proclaimed “East coast chick,” who credits Brett Manning’s Singing Success with not only saving her life but forever changing it for the very best it can be. In 2000 Zuke was diagnosed with breast cancer and braved the brutal battery of tests, surgeries, chemotherapy, post chemo drug regimen and physical therapy. She heads up Brett Manning Vocal Method : East Coast, U.S.A. Visit her website at www.myspace.com/zuketunes for more information.