22 May, 2006

chow ciao

And with that (meaning much food, restaurants, dinners, etc) I bid adieu to two years of studying, singing, laughing, worrying, freezing, and any other -ing that I've experienced.

So even though I'll be back for coachings, friends, lessons, and there is of course an open invitation halfway across the country to anyone that wants to bear the 20 hour drive or even more freezing weather, it was a goodbye.

Now I'm relaxing for three days before a very deserved vacation with family and friends and beaches and 100 degrees and the best place in the world.


19 May, 2006

the end

The title of this post was only supposed to apply to the end of two years, the end of a program, the end of a degree, but unfortunately it has to soon apply to the end of a life. I suppose I am lucky that in my extended family I have never had to attend a funeral or mourn the loss of a close member of my family. My grandfather died when I was in fourth grade, but I was already in this country, so I didn't go back for the funeral, and I don't think my parents wanted to stress me or my brothers further after having to adapt to a new language, school, america, and everything else at that time.

I just found out yesterday that now my grandmother is doing very badly. And in just ONE week I'll be there to visit her! Along with my brothers- a family reunion with ALL of her grandchildren that she has not ever had since I was in my teens. She is old, nothing is really wrong except age. She is sharp as a tack. She understands everything. But this past week she had a fall, she now finds it hard to communicate even though she understands everything. She was never in full-time care, but did live in a nursing home where people could check in on her daily. Now she needs 24 hour care, and in my previous country of residence, that has to be approved by the government for the care to be provided for free. So in the interim, scrambling aunts uncles and cousins are trying to do the job of administrator, secretary, caregiver, and still take care of their daily workload and lives as well.

I don't want to wish that this doesn't happen while I'm visiting for three weeks, but I also don't want to wish that it does. I want her to see us all. I don't want it to be "one last time", but if it must, then I still want her to see us all together, laughing, understanding that we love her and never stopped thinking about her whether we were there every Friday night for dinner, or calling every Saturday halfway across the world.


16 May, 2006


The past four days have been...well, what they have been.
It's all over now. I just got home after a FOUR hour plane delay and then a two hour drive home, and it's the last week of EVERYTHING!

Next Monday I'll be Free! Free I tell you! What fool put a carpet on the wall?

Next Thursday I'll be in in another country!

And next next next next Friday I'll be hopefully ALLLL memorized before my lovely summer program begins and the schedule-monsters sneak up on me again.

More weekend-in-review to come, after I sleep, wake up, get through the next two days, and then sleep some more.


09 May, 2006

B.S. Part four (a)

(My orals and vocal lit. final went well- one more music history exam, three more concerts/graded performances, 6 more student juries, 25 more voice students grades to submit, 107 more TA final exams to grade and submit, one more flight to middle America to go.)

All of these musings can be found in some form on nfcs, but since I'm almost finished with this second degree, and have been auditioning for a number of years, I'll be so bold as to summarize my thoughts on the post-school, pre-professional stage.

Yes! You're a young artist! You are officially making money by temping, waiting tables, admin. asst., banks, travel agencies, anything that will pay the 9-5! You're also trying to fit in voice lessons with your teacher, who is now somehow really busy with all of her grad and undergrad students, and can only see you every third Saturday. The coaches you worked with for free in grad school now charge you for their time, and even your school library won't let you borrow scores and recordings now that you've exited their hallowed halls!

Now what?

1. Do you have it together?
Did you happen to be able to learn your 5 arias in undergrad/grad school, prepare them, coach yourself into them and out of them, be able to sing them standing on your head or after eating some bad sushi?
Well, congrats! You can now try to send your resume, headshot, thirty five bucks, demo cd, AND copy of your birth certificate to one of the many tiers of young artist summer and residency programs! Along with the 1,100 OTHER soprano applications that they will be receiving by the October 12th deadline, yours will be right there with pretty glossy pics and a sparkling resume (hopefully you have enough former engagements from grad school and community work and even concerts with orchestra, that they'll give your application a chance).

Yes, you'll spend all of August bookmarking the websites where the applications will be ready. Then you spent the first two weeks of September printing, reprinting, forgetting what rep. you put down that you would sing on December 18th, getting your RECOMMENDATION letters!!, photocopying and burning cds.

From this, hopefully between Nov.28th and December 20th you'll be invited to NYC or another major city near where you live and work to audition for anywhere between one and twenty-one summer and residency programs.

2. Why summer programs even if they pay only enough for you to get by for that week?
Contacts, Names, Resume building, chances to cover, chances to meet other singers your age and see what level they are, chances to work with new: coaches, teachers, directors, conductors ALL of whom will get a handy "contact sheet" at the end of the summer and whom YOU can stay in touch with through friendly email or letter, to let them know that you're still alive and you are still singing!

3. Why residency programs? Well, hmmm--- If I were being paid close to 30 thou a year to sing or cover, I'd go!!! Even to programs that don't pay as well as $32thou, as long as you're not "losing" money, I'd say- GO! You can get a part-time job, but now you get free coachings, lessons, and hey! You get to actually be around professionals, see how they work, cover, sing on a stage, work with a real opera company no matter what letter the career guide says their budget is.

4. If not residency programs, what city are you in? And are you making the best of it?
I used to think that this plan would be what I'd do (because I didn't think I'd get accepted to a residency)-- I would live and work in ---- (not NYC). There is a great music scene there. There are X number of opera houses that I could do chorus or comprimario roles with. There are X number of smaller regional/community houses where I could do leaving roles if I got my foot in the door. There are X number of orchestras looking for soloists. There are X number of schools where I could choose good teachers from. There are X number of singing I know there already who are doing well, and I could hook up with to start some sort of rotating performance concert or recital rep. performances with. There are ..you get the picture.
But you HAVE to do this! You can't just say you're moving to NYC and going to make it as a singer.
Too many people I know have done that, gotten a great solid job that pays all of the nyc bills, and are now working more than they are singing. And if they're ok with that, great.
If not, then maybe rethink that move, or a move to any city where EVEN though you want to be a singer, you will have to get a long hour, long day, good paying job that may end up taking more time than you want it to.

5. Back to life as an unpaid-trying-to-make-it singer. Keep track of every audition you do, whom it was for, where it was, what you sang. Duh. Do you really want to be offering the same starter piece 3 years in a row? If it's really your best and nothing else can comare, then I suppose yes. If not, try to rotate the rep. a little.
Oh yea, and thank you yaptracker.com for the new and easy way to do this, rather than having running tallys or Excel or Word and forgetting to fill them in half of the time.

6. Cover letters. Short. Sweet. I am this. This person asked that I get in touch with you. I sang this. I would be very interested in auditioning for you on This date. Thanks. Encl: Resume, Headshot, CD (and this is only for programs that ASK for a cover letter, not just a shot in the dark to some conductor or director).

So let's say you get the audition time and you can't make it. Uh oh! go to nfcs and ask if someone can switch. OR, call the admin. of the program asking if there are any cancellations or if you could switch your time. Don't call TOO much, try to do it on your own. If you still can't switch, then you either have to cancell, or show up on the day/time that you COULD sing and hope they'll hear you (if you're pleasant and not RUDE when you ask!)
But on the other hand, don't feel so lowly that when you get put on a waiting list or denied an audition for something you REAAAALLLY thought you were perfect for (if you know their season), that you don't call and ask if there are any cancellations, or if the company will be hearing people that come if there is extra time.

Yes, those arts admins are all overworked between September and November with singers calling them, and the rest of the year with trying to keep track of every one coming to the program that summer or the next year, but they WILL return your call or email (usually), and they will tell you whether there is a chance to be heard.

Just don't bug the head of the program and leave THEM voice messages about wanting feedback ten times after your audition. (Can't say I followed this advice so much during my FIRST year of auditioning).

I just put a 4 (a) in here, because I realized how late I am to get to my study session.
Today: Romantic and 20th Century.
Yesterday: Renaissance, Baroque and Classical.
Tomorrow: Remember them all PLUS be able to write an essay about each time period and identify way too much music from each time period.


08 May, 2006

worst day in a while

And here I thought I was almost home free- what with graduation less than 2 weeks away.

I spent all day dealing with people that don't know how to do their job, slammed my finger in my car door (no, not the soft rubbery part- where my window meets the top of the car), takeout Chinese food spilled in my car (and it wasn't even for ME!), I didn't know half of the songs I was studying with my group for a music history exit exam, had my exit exam this morning (that thankfully went extremely well), and still have to memorize Die Lotosblume for my diction final tomorrow and be able to recite it and sing it, in addition to my Strauss from my recital- which you'd think that I remember seeing as how my recital was just over 2 months ago, but I have no recollection of singing the Brentano lieder whatsoever. Add to that bad health news for a family member, itunes thinking that just because I have a new forwarding address my credit card won't work, ahhhhhhhh!
Enough with today.


06 May, 2006

the voce

Today I had a longer than usual lesson because I had a tougher than usual issue to deal with. Here are the things I understand about my voice and how it is working and how it has changed in the past two years.
I came here with a solid voice that was a lot of raw talent. I had energy, I had the smarts to put my pieces together, I had performance experience, I had a good audition package, I was a crazy high coloratura, I had evenness everywhere, but no power really- and that was not something that was ever mentioned. I never needed to think about breating because everything was just so easy, and I suppose, a little on the light side? Notes were perfectly in tune, center, just easy.
Easy to compete maybe with all "Olympia's", "Fire's", and some other crazy roles in French. But not easy to compete with soubrettes with a nice color in the middle, or lyric coloraturas with more weight throughout and still an amazing top.

And so slowly, new terms like support, breathing, no little girl voice, and others crept into lessons and I slowly imbibed them and worked on things. Worked on opening up a clenched throat (which is why singing was so seemingly effortless breathwise in the first place", worked on evening out and establishing a stronger middle, worked on making those high notes actually sound HIGH instead of just too easy for people to believe those were E's, F's, etc.

In that process there were times I took it too far, I know. There were times when it was too much leaning on the breath and darkening of the sound. Then I lightened that up back to the start. There were times when manipulations of my face/jaw seemed to me the answer to the questions of how to sing an "eeeee" vowel in the middle or the high or the passagio or the low. There were times when some magical voice came out of me, and I felt like I did absolutely NOTHING- and those were the times when my teacher always said that was perfect, what did you do? And I couldn't describe it.

There was then the realization that the "new voice/technique" was too far away from what my comfortable zone of singing was, and that I wouldn't be able to keep it up, because although it was the weight and color that I wanted, I was losing clarity of pitch/tone, and was not approaching things in their center. There was the realization that doing things with my face was distorting something and I just need to let everything go (not too much!) and SAY it. There was the realization that I was doing things right all along (2 years ago), I just had never really thought about releasing that sound or breathing just a bit more into it, because my energy was one of youth, inexperience, but extreme confidence in the fact that there was no "flat" or "sharp", there was just me learning the notes and words that I needed to learn and then putting a character or idea behind it.

So, now, then.
1. Communication. If it's not in my eyes, in my face, in my body, in my words, in my mouth, in my soul, it's not there anywhere (especially not in the vocal production).
2. Release with energized breathing. How not to make my larynx tense up while at the same time invigorating the breathing and tone and always going somewhere. Never sitting in something and settling. No tension on the small scale (ie specific body parts), but tension in terms of a large scale pull that is continuously enriching the tone, breath, sound, energy.
3. Doing this for me, not for them. I know that's a selfish one, and sometimes hard to think of when the whole point is to try and get noticed, get hired, get reviewed positively so you can get hired again, but it's ME. I love this. I love to work on these characters and sounds and melodies and ensembles. I love to walk out onstage and impress, move, wow, please, shock, do Something to people that are watching or listening. It's not to PROVE something, it's to "share", yes, I know that's cliche.....but it's true. Share this something that I have to say about something, that at that point of the night with that particular opera company, no one else is saying, because those people are there to see me, and not in some other town seeing some other production.

maybe more later. must sleep.

02 May, 2006


Why is it that whenever you have a show coming up everything just starts to move a little bit faster around you?
We open this weekend. My nights are filled with dress rehearsals, my days with classes that are winding down- only to herald the upcoming exit exams, students' juries...and there is still that small matter of packing up, moving out, finding ONE more pianist for ONE last concert here, and oh yea, learning and memorizing the music for the summer!

This weekend I threw out everything in my fridge--which wasn't much in the first place--and once again began, re-began, re-committed...whatever..decided to try and be a taaad more healthy about things.
So today- apples, salads, strawberries, hard boiled egg (needed some protein!), more fruit more salad with chicken...and even (gasp) some ballet and situps.
I'm not sure how long this will last but it SURE would be nice if it would help me tweak the bod into summer mode.
The thing about setting long term OR short term goals with me--well, food wins out. I do love me some grub. And it's not like I even eat pasta all the time- actually it's more like almost never. Healthy, less healthy, whatever..gimme! And it's also that horrid late night eating once I get home from rehearsal and have the most energy ever.
Last night I didn't even go to sleep until well past 2am.
I'll try for more like midnight this evening. That is if I can get offline from craigslist (new location of next year) and checking my email. Yes. Again.