Insights from “The SAVI National Anthem”
I’m a songwriter as well as a teacher, and I love it when I find ways to synergize my passions. A few years ago, I decided that setting Axiom One, the foundation of the SAVI System, to music would help my students remember it and embrace it:
When I sing, I will create behavior
That communicates the dramatic event
Phrase by Phrase!
Each time I raise my voice in song,
I’ll make a specific choice in song
And I’ll sing a song that’s SAVI
All of my days.
Students all over the world have sung this song, and when they do, I like to think they’re making a commitment. They’re embracing the fundamentally creative act of singing acting – to “create behavior” – and the responsibility to “communicate the dramatic event” that gives purpose and meaning to their creation.
The second half of this stanza elaborates on the “S” of SAVI, “specificity,” and there’s a verse for each letter in SAVI. (I’ll write about “A,” “V” and “I” in future posts.) Singing a song that’s SAVI involves more than just creating random behavior; the behavior you create must be specific to the dramatic circumstances, the specific moment (“what’s happening now?”) and to the verbal and musical details expressed in the phrase. Making a specific choice means answering Stanislavski’s Fundamental Questions – who is singing? to whom are you singing? When and where are you singing? And above all, why are you singing? What do you want and what are you doing to get what you want?
At its most fundamental level, choice-making is about being specific – I choose “this” and not “that.” Those specific choices extend to the behavior itself: I choose “mezzo-piano” and not “piano,” I move my gaze to the left, I clasp my hands together, I add vocal color to a particular syllable for emphasis, and so on. There are a million details to be considered, a million options available, but the successful singing-actor has made specific choices and committed fully to those choices. The act of choosing, of being specific, makes it possible for you to commit fully, which further enables you to unlock your performing power.
Songwriters often try to express something universal through song, a sentiment that is familiar and recognizable, but as a singing actor, you make the familiar and universal come to life by making it specific, building a foundation of personal truth and believable detail that will bring clarity and force to the phrases you sing.
The churchy vibe of my song was quite intentional. I think of it as a solemn vow, an oath; indeed, the sheet music is subtitled “The SAVI National Anthem!” Just as our Sabbath visits to church provide an opportunity to re-visit and re-consider our most fundamental values and re-new our commitment to those values, every visit to the practice room or the studio should offer a similar chance to re-connect with the basic principles that guide us. When you sing this song, you voice a promise, a pledge to put first things first and honor the most important of the values all singing actors share.