Thursday, December 22, 2005


I was tagged for this meme by ACB, and as much as we bloggers all HATE to talk about ourselves, here goes.....

Four jobs you've had in your life: ballet accompanist, music camp teacher, receptionist, and for a very brief time, Disney Store "cast member."

Four movies you could watch over and over: "Love Actually," "You've Got Mail," "Sound of Music," and "Mary Poppins."

Four places you've lived: Stevens Point, WI, Victoria, BC, Bloomington, IN, Pullman, WA

Four TV shows you love to watch: Sex & the City, Sports Night, Friends, Boston Legal

Four places you've been on vacation: Greece, Scotland, Ireland, Boston

Four websites you visit daily: NFCS, Dooce, Set Daily Game, NY Times

Four of your favorite foods: Saag Paneer from Taste of India, Pad Thai, Spicy Tuna rolls, and Pizza from Wallingford Pizza House (the Garlic van Goat Dome with added kalamata olives..... yummmmmmm........)

Four places you'd rather be right now: Victoria, BC (where I'll be next week!), playing cards at D&K's house, Paris, my parents' cabin on Lake Quinault (on the Olympic Penninsula)

Ok, I'm passing this on to my non-music blog friends -- Gina, Beth, and Lane, you're it! :)

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

getting in to the spirit

I've had a hard time getting in to the Christmas spirit this year. Maybe it was coming back from New York and heading right back to work. Maybe it's the fact that I still have lots of shopping to do. In general, even though I spent last weekend singing my first Messiah, and am now in full-swing carolling mode, it just didn't feel like Christmas. Until yesterday.

My piano students are having their semi-annual recital on Sunday. For the first time in 6 years, I've had to worry about a place to hold it, and with my trip to New York, it got put off until the last minute. I was looking in to churches and small halls in the area, all of which are booked the Sunday afternoon before Christmas, of course. Then one of the parents had a brilliant idea, and even called and set it all up for me. I can't believe I never thought of this before. The recital is going to be at a retirement home. My kids are excited about performing for people other than their parents. The parents (and I) think it's a great gift to give people who don't have anywhere to go for the holidays, and the home is thrilled to have us. They are handling setting everything up, and providing lemonade and cookies for the kids afterward.

.... and suddenly, it feels like Christmas!

Friday, December 2, 2005

another day, another audition

Today’s audition was for the Cincinnati Opera young artist program. I wasn’t scheduled until 2:15, which gave me plenty of time to sleep in, have a leisurely shower, and a nice long warm up. Though I had planned to make Smanie implaccabili my starter this season, I have yet to start with it on this trip. Today, I decided right before I left the apartment to start with Nicklausse’s violin aria from Tales of Hoffmann. The company is doing it this summer, and I feel like it really shows my voice well. It’s not flashy, but it’s lovely, legato, and has a big high A at the end.

Cincinnati schedules their auditions 4 minutes apart, so in general, people only get to sing one aria. This was the case with everyone I heard while I was waiting. Nicklausse is about 4:30, so I figured that would be all I would sing, and they might even stop me before the end. But they didn’t. I was really happy with it, and the A at the end was great. A has traditionally been a troublesome note for me, even after my higher notes got under control, so it’s nice to finally feel like I can count on it to be there every time. I noticed that they perked up after I had sung the first few lines, and started looking over my rep list and other materials. At the end, they smiled and said “thank you,” and I assumed that was it, but then they asked for the beginning of the Rossini! I didn’t get through all 7 minutes of it, of course, but I did sing the entire first section, which has a nice balance of fireworks and legato line. Overall, another successful audition!

Now, I’m on the train to Philadelphia, where I will be staying with a friend tonight and then singing tomorrow for Lake George. I’ll let you know how it goes!

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

one down...

I had my first audition today, for a fellowship at the Tanglewood Music Center this summer. This was my third time auditioning for them, having received some very positive feedback last year. I love singing for them, for several reasons. First, the members of the audition committee (which included Dawn Upshaw today and last year), are extremely friendly, and the atmosphere in the audition is relaxed and welcoming. Secondly, the auditions are held in a recital hall which has a lovely acoustic for singing. Finally, the audition rep for Tanglewood is different than for most other programs, in that they only require one aria, and the rest of the selections are all art songs. I love singing art songs. The opportunity to delve in to the poetry and languages involved, and to interact with both pianist and audience on a more intimate level appeals to my love of the multi-faceted aspects of singing. I love that each art song is a little world, complete unto itself, while an aria is merely a moment in a larger dramatic work. I also feel that my extensive piano background gives me unique insights in to these worlds.

Another aspect of Tanglewood that I find appealing is its focus on new music. This year, the fellows will present 3 small, twentieth-century operas as part of the festival of contemporary music there, and we were asked to prepare a piece from one if we were interested in the role. I prepared a piece from Stravinsky’s Mavra, which I decided (at the last minute) to start with. When I walked in to the hall, they remembered me from last year, which is always a good sign, and asked for my first piece. They seemed surprised when I chose the Stravinsky, and the pianist took a minute to look it over, which told me that nobody so far (at least today) had chosen that piece – another good sign. It went well, and everyone was very enthusiastic at the end. Then they asked for the Ravel song I had listed. Perfect! It’s from my all-time favorite cycle by my all-time favorite vocal composer, a cycle which I have performed on numerous occasions and which fits me like a glove. The pianist was excellent and extremely sensitive, and I felt like it was a great performance. One person on the committee even clapped a little at the end, and everybody obviously liked it. After a little small talk we said goodbye.

I walked out feeling elated. Whether or not I get in (though it would be SO great to get in!), it was an extremely positive experience. What stands out most to me, in hindsight, is the feeling I had that I was totally in control of what was going on the whole time. I was totally present in the moment, and felt as though I was able to shape the performance in to whatever I wanted it to be. I was definitely “in the zone,” which we strive for every time, but doesn’t always happen, and certainly doesn’t always happen to the extent it did today. So it was a success. On to the next!

Monday, November 28, 2005

on my way!

(written at about 11:00 a.m. PST on Sunday)

I’m on my way to New York. Though it’s one of the busiest travel days of the year, I got through security in 15 minutes, and the only empty seat on the entire plane happens to be next to me. It’s the simple things….

I love flying, mostly because I love people-watching, and being in such close quarters with so many people allows for strange, small, random glimpses in to lives. There’s an extremely good-natured baby sitting two rows in front of me, whom I’ve flirted with on and off throughout the flight. The man directly in front of me, also traveling alone, happily plays peek-a-boo with her from behind his issue of “Opera News” whenever she looks back at him, which delights her to no end, and is somehow incredibly touching to me. The man next to me had a very sweet phone conversation with his two sleepy little boys this morning before we took off. (hmmm… notice a theme? Biological clock beginning to tick, perhaps? It’s true, I’ll admit, but I’m hitting the snooze button, for a little while longer, at least.) I watched “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” a movie I’ve been wanting to see for some time, and now I’m taking a break from my book, a new release from one of my favorite authors. As of page 32, I’ve cried 3 times, and while I was expecting it to be moving, I hadn’t quite expected this. I could easily devour the whole thing on the plane, and may do just that after finishing this post, though I was hoping it would last through at least part of my stay. Oh, well, I’m pretty sure I could find another book to read somewhere in NYC if need be….

Once we arrive at JFK (still about 2 hours away, I think), I will hopefully find my luggage, a cab, and my way to the apartment I’ll be subletting in Inwood (on the northern tip of Manhattan) for the next 9 days. I actually have directions from the owner to give the cabbie, which I’ve never had to do before, but it should be ok. Both other times I’ve been to NYC for audition trips, I’ve ended up staying at hotels, which has been fine, but I’m excited to be staying somewhere a little more homey, and with a friend from home as well. It will be nice (for my body and my budget) to be able to cook some meals and avoid eating out all the time. It will also be nice to be somewhere I can warm up and practice a little. There is no piano at the apartment, which gave me a good excuse to purchase one of these, which I’ve been wanting for a long time. It’s odd, as a pianist, to play on a keyboard where the black keys are not raised at all, but it rolls up and stores in a little black pouch that fits nicely in my suitcase, runs on 4 AA batteries, and it’s a great tool to have for learning notes and warming up in places with no pianos available. The keyboard is also big enough (4 full octaves) to plunk out most full accompaniments, which is an added bonus. Mostly, though, I have to admit, it’s just a fun toy.

My first audition isn’t until Wednesday, which gives me lots of time to adjust to the new climate, brush up the art songs that are required for this audition, and hopefully catch up with some friends in the city. Ok, back to my book – more from the big Apple!

update: I arrived safe and sound after a bumpy flight, the apartment is great, and the weather in NYC is beautiful and quite a bit warmer today than in Seattle, where apparently they're expecting 3 inches of snow tonight!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005


I had a great coaching this afternoon and am feeling good about my auditions. I printed out my packing list, not because I've started packing yet, but just as inspiration. I'm about to make a "to-do" list of things that need to happen before I leave. All in all, I'm feeling much more focused, and I'm ready to relax tomorrow and then get back to work on Friday.

... and, look what I made!

getting ready...

I'm leaving for 3 auditions in NYC on Sunday. Well, one of them is actually in Philadelphia, but it will just be a day trip. I'll be in New York for 10 days, which should give me plenty of time to get some coachings in, and even a little holiday shopping... :)

For some reason, I've found it difficult this year to get in to the audition mindset. Maybe it's because some programs took SO long getting back to people this year -- as of last week, I only had one audition on my schedule, which was a little disappointing. Maybe it's because Thanksgiving falls relatively early this year, and I feel, more than normal, as though the holiday season has been thrust upon me and I don't have time to think about anything else. I'm not making a full Thanksgiving dinner (which is probably good for the rest of my family, as I'm a vegetarian and somehow I think "Tofurkey" would not go over very well), but I am attempting my first pie crust today. Actually, it's my first pie. period. I mentioned to my mother-in-law that I had a new Kitchen-Aid mixer and wanted to try it out, so she suggested dessert and then mentioned that she was craving apple pie. No problem! We'll see about that.... Actually, as it turns out, I don't even need a mixer to make pie crust -- just a food processor. Who knew (other than anyone who's ever made a pie crust)? Oh, well. My sister-in-law, who is a much more experienced cook than I, will be making a well-tested pie recipe, as well, so I don't feel as much pressure as I might. I've consulted with Martha and Alton, so I should be ok.

See, I can't even think about singing long enough to write this post! The truth is, I am really excited about all my auditions, and I feel ready. I've been singing my arias, brushing up some art songs, and even learning a new aria for a program doing some 20th century operas this year (which is right up my alley!). But normally at this time of year, I'd be busily printing out resumes, audition lists, directions to auditions, confirmation letters, and generally thinking of nothing else but these upcoming auditions, and this year that's just not the case. Maybe it's a good thing. Maybe it's a sign that I'm getting used to these auditions and trips, or that I'm in a place vocally this year where I don't feel a need to obsess about them. I think these things are true, but I also need to focus my energies over the next few days. If nothing else, there's a pile of laundry to be done, copies to be made, a suitcase to pack, and general organizing that needs to happen, which should force me to in to audition mode. I also have a coaching scheduled today, which will hopefully give me some last-minute things to think about in my arias.

But then there's the pie....

Sunday, November 13, 2005

lessons learned in a weekend...

It has been a weekend of ups and downs. It's been a shock. After a period of what felt like inactivity (though, in hindsight, it was anything but inactive), I feel like I've been on a roller coaster over the past few days.

On Friday, a difficult and frustrating working relationship came to an end under uncomfortable and painful circumstances. In retrospect, I realize that this was the result I really wanted all along. I realize now that I should have ended the relationship long ago. I knew that the person involved was someone with whom I absolutely could not work. It's as though we speak completely different languages. I left every meeting frustrated, angry, and exhausted. It was supposed to be a temporary situation, and I was hoping to be able to stick it out, but honestly the outcome, painful though it was, was the best possible. It was a job I don't really need anymore, and though I will miss many aspects of it, the benefits (the time it has freed up in my schedule and my mental and emotional well-being) far outweigh the costs. Lesson learned: well, actually.... I had hoped to say I learned to keep my big mouth shut, but in actuality I'm not ashamed of anything I said, though I do admit my timing could have been better. However, if I had trusted my inner voice which was screaming at me that this was a situation destined for disaster, I could have avoided the whole thing.

Second lesson learned: sometimes it's worth the wait. I auditioned for a local company in June, for an opera coming up this spring that I was very interested in doing. After so many months of waiting, though I knew they hadn't finished making offers yet, I had more or less given up hope. However, on Friday I received an offer for a role. While it is not the lead role that I had originally hoped for, it is a significant and fun role in the opera and will be a great first experience in what I hope to be a long list of roles by this composer. I've been receiving lots of feedback that it's great rep for me to be singing, and I'm excited to start exploring it onstage.

Lesson #3: it never hurts to ask. I received a letter several days ago explaining that I had not been granted an audition for a particular young artists' program. I was disappointed: they are doing an opera next year that is right up my alley, and I had had a couple of coachings with someone on the staff of the program who had seemed to like my voice and enjoy working with me. I talked with my teacher about it she was surprised. "I know D, she said, would you be comfortable if I asked him about it?" Well, D approached me yesterday, and said that it had all been a mistake -- he had specifically remembered my name coming up while they were listening to tapes and had said he knew me and wanted to hear me!

Finally, I've learned that hard work really does pay off. I sang (for the final time, as I am at the age limit) at the Met auditions yesterday -- a nation-wide competition that hundreds of young singers participate in every year. I was not given a prize, however, I was happy with how I sang, and was looking forward to feedback from the judges. All three had constructive things to say, of course, and that's why I had asked them for feedback, but it was different this year than ever before. In the past, there have always been basic technical issues, mostly dealing with my high range, which I was aware of, that were a constant theme through all three judges. This year, I received the following comment: "You have a great, easy top. It's nice to hear a mezzo with a top that really works. I was impressed." YIPPPPPPPPEEEEEEEE!

Ok, in reading over this post, I realize that it was not a weekend of ups and downs after all. In fact, it was more a weekend of one down at the beginning and then lots of ups! There's still half a day left, of course, but enough excitement for 3 days! I'm ready now to relax, and maybe clean my neglected bathroom....

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Christmas carols

Ok, at the risk of sounding like a sell-out....

I just accepted a gig for the last 10 days or so before Christmas, singing in a Victorian carolling quartet. (Ok, so our costumes are actually more 1930's, but you get the idea) I will be strolling around a local mall for three hours every evening leading up to Christmas eve, not shopping (though I'm sure I'll do some of that before and after), but singing alto lines of carols....

....and I'm totally excited about it! Admittedly, it's not an opera role or an oratorio gig, or even a Messiah at a local church. But, I love singing Christmas carols! And, the money is really pretty great, considering how easy the work is. And, I didn't have any other gigs during that time, so why not, right? It actually feels a bit like coming home for me. The first "professional" (paid) singing I ever did, long before I ever thought about taking a voice lesson, was as part of a Victorian carolling group here as an undergraduate. I knew then that I loved to sing, and it gave me my first opportunities to start singing solos (something I had never done), and to really perform songs, and to dress up in fancy costumes, and to work with other professional musicians and actors, and I totally fell in love with every aspect of it. Mostly, I think I loved seeing people enjoy what we were doing, and feeling like I was part of creating a magical holiday atmosphere for them. (No, I was not working for Disney!) When I think back, I realize that it played a totally integral role in my deciding to enter this crazy singing world.

Besides, extra money means extra shopping!

Tuesday, November 8, 2005


I'm in much better spirits. Thank you all for your kind words. Unfortunately, once I let my guard down a little, the cold I've been trying so hard to fight off for the last 2 weeks finally hit me, accompanied by a migraine on Saturday as an added bonus. I'm determined to be healthy by the met auditions this weekend, so I've spent the last few days with my trusty facial steamer and neti pot, zicam, Emergen-C, throat tea, and I've even broken down and taken Nyquil at night, which I almost never do. I do seem to have been blessed with a light case, though, and it seems to be moving through pretty quickly. Today is the first (and hopefully the last) day I've had a sore throat, so I'll limit myself today to a few very gentle warm-ups and some mental rehearsal, and as little talking as possible. I'm also going to my favorite pho place for lunch with a good singer friend (the only one in Seattle I know of to offer 100% vegetarian pho), and nothing, in my opinion, is better for a cold than a hot, steamy bowl of pho. Yum!

Yesterday, I still felt well enough to go to a scheduled coaching, which went extremely well, and I'm feeling confident about this weekend. I'll let you know how it goes!

Friday, November 4, 2005


I’m having a bad week, for a variety of reasons. I knew, when I started studying voice, that there would be certain doors that would be closed to me because of my late start. Still, I really felt (feel) that singing is what I’m supposed to do, something that I need to do. Generally, I think my attitude about it is pretty good. I’ve had a lot of successes, and I’m grateful for those opportunities. However, there are those weeks, like this one, when the odds seem to be stacked so high all around me that I can’t see out to my next step. When programs do not grant me auditions, and I’m left to wonder what I did wrong (Did I audition for them before I was ready and make it on to some sort of black list, never to be heard again? Is my resume pathetically underdeveloped, in their eyes, for a singer my age? Is there some horrible, glaring error in my recording that I missed before sending it out?); when a local company doing an opera I’d really love to do is taking forever to make calls, and even though nobody else has heard anything, I can’t shake the feeling that if they really wanted to hire me I would have heard already; when all of this is set against a backdrop of incredibly positive feedback about my singing recently; and when I feel like I’ve made so much progress in the last year, I am left in a state of confusion, frustration, and disappointment. Such is the business of singing (and of many things), I know, but sometimes I have to ask myself, why? Why am I doing this to myself? And while I know in my heart that I know the answer to this question, some days something in me just won’t stop asking. There are few things more frustrating in life than not being given a chance. To know you can do something and not get a chance to prove yourself is one of those things that are just not fair.

Add this to a particularly frustrating editing job, 100 3- and 4-year-olds high on Halloween candy and coming off a week of vacation, and a new boss who is extremely difficult for me to work with musically and personally, and the result is a very cranky girl.

When I look over the last couple months, and the coming months, objectively, I know that things are not so bad. I just finished singing a lead role and two performances of one of my all-time favorite pieces. I have some fun gigs coming up and some exciting possibilities. I have been granted some auditions and I realize that the important thing is to focus on the opportunities that I do have and make the best of them. I’ve been blessed(?) with a stubbornly optimistic outlook (my mom calls it a disease), that never allows me to remain in these states of depression for long, and even as I write this I feel somewhat better, though I’m determined to wallow and pamper myself a little for the rest of the evening (no editing, no planning for tomorrow’s classes, just me and my book that I’ve been trying to finish for the last month, and maybe some leftover Halloween candy).

M-MV, one of my favorite blogs, seems also to be fighting a bad day, and had some advice that has helped me immensely this afternoon.

“I choose this. Again. And again. Every time.”

I know that this path is one that I’ve chosen, and one that I continue to choose with each passing moment. I don’t have control over everything that happens along the way, but I do, ultimately, have complete control over my outlook, my reactions, and my choices. I know that I could choose another path at any time. That’s not happening today. Probably not tomorrow either. I’ll let you know if I change my mind.

And, finally, thank you, M-MV, for reminding me:“Without the occasional bad day, I might fail to recognize just how damned good I have it. So, I embrace the bad days and their aftermath, too. May we all have a few if only to remind us how good the rest of the days are.”

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

one down...

I’m in the San Jose airport, waiting to fly home from my Merola audition. Overall, I was happy with how I sang, and I felt like the response from the adjudicators was fairly positive, but I did not make the finals, so I’m on an early flight home. I was a bit disappointed, because I feel like I’m bringing a lot more to the table in auditions this year than I have in the past – my voice is totally different than it was a year ago, and I feel like I’ve grown as an actress as well. My resume has grown, too, though I’m missing a major apprenticeship or young artist program. I feel like I’m in the position of needing to have experience to get experience, which is an interesting and somewhat frustrating dilemma. However, this was only the first of several auditions this year, and as I said, I was happy with how I sang, so I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing. There’s a lot that’s out of my control, so all I can do is control the things I can and hope that the rest eventually takes care of itself.

On a lighter note, it was a fun trip! I got lots of quality time with SL, my oldest friend (we’ve been friends for over 20 years!) and her lovely, lovely little boy Ty (who at 21 months knows that “Uncle Alec plays drum set” and that he loves his “Auntie Meliss” – how can that not melt your heart?). I also saw two colleagues at the audition. It’s a small world we singers live in!

Onward and upward!

Monday, October 17, 2005

my first meme!

I was tagged by Gia-Gina to write the 23rd and 5th meme, where I am to dig in to my archives and write about the 5th sentence of the 23rd post. So, here goes......
  • All this is to say that it is wonderful to see the kids at camp, all music geeks in their own ways, all getting along, making music together, and finding a network of support and friendship among people who share their passion for music.

Those who know me, or have been reading this blog for a while, know that I have been working at the same music camp every summer since I graduated from high school, and had been a camper there for a few years as a child, as well. It has been a constant in my life. Wherever I was going to school, as I was starting life as a professional musician, as I was transitioning from pianist to singer, camp has been part of my life through it all. Some of my oldest and dearest friends are ones I made working there. I met my husband there. It has helped me become who I am today, in many ways. It's a magical place, and I'm always touched by how accepting the kids are of each other, and how kids who just "don't fit in" in their regular lives can come to camp and totally come out of their shells. They come in shy and self-conscious and leave with confidence and a new circle of close friends who love them for who they are.

This was a particularly poignant summer for me, as I realized that camp is a chapter of my life that is coming to a close. I was able to fit it in to my schedule this summer, but while I was there, I felt like it was pulling me away from singing, and it didn't feel quite right. Hopefully, in future summers, I will have direct conflicts with apprentice programs, or roles, or concerts. But even if I don't, I can't take a month off of singing in the middle of the summer. It's not that I really felt like my voice suffered because of it, but I can't stand to be away from it for that long. As hard as I tried this summer, I realized that it is impossible to focus on learning a role or practicing without feeling like I was ripping myself in two. Camp is basically a 24-hour a day job, and the things I do there definitely do not relate to opera. People there do not know me as a singer, which is fine, but the more time I spend there, the less I feel like a singer, and I don't like that at all. So, as much as I love it, I think it's time to say goodbye. Some of my friends from camp will stay in my life in other capacities, and I will still get to visit (Alec still works there), but I'm fairly certain that this was my last summer of working there. Change is hard....

.... and now, acb, it's your turn!

you be the judge....

The performances of H&G this weekend went very well. Being a boy is fun! Here are the promised pictures of my hair, from the dress rehearsal. I actually got it a little straighter for the performances, but this will give you the basic idea....

So, what do y'all think?

Friday, October 14, 2005


I commited the cardinal sin of theater a couple days ago. I got my hair cut right before the opening of a show. I know, I shouldn't have done it, and believe me, I've learned my lesson. I checked it out with the director -- we mutually agreed that I would get my nearly shoulder-length hair cut in to a page-boy style, which would look much more Hansel-like. I went to my stylist on Wednesday, and the dress rehearsal was last night (Thursday). The director was the first person I saw in the theatre, and she loved it (as do I), and thought it was perfect for the show. I was relieved and thought that would be the end of it. Boy, was I wrong!!! EVERYBODY had a strong opinion about it, from the stage manager to the general director of the company, to the ladies in the chorus, to the little girls playing the gingerbread children. Some loved it, and some (while most of them tried, unsuccessfully, to be diplomatic about it) definitely did not like it. But, the one thing all of them had in common was an apparent need to share their strong opinions with me. None of them seemed to care that it had been an agreement with the director, or that there was no mention in my contract of what I should do with my hair, or that there is no hair person for this show to give me guidance, or that I really do look much more like a little German boy with my hair this way. Once my ego has recovered, perhaps I'll post a production photo and you can give me your opinions as well.

Once that element was added in to what was already destined to be a stressful rehearsal last night, I was grateful when I woke up this morning and remembered that my sister and I had a date to come here this morning to unwind and relax. It was just what the doctor ordered, and it's only 10 minutes away from my house! I'm currently sitting in their free internet lounge, drinking a melon-pineapple-mango juice from their juice bar, and basking in the residual warmth from the hot therapy rooms and whirlpools. Aaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh........

Thursday, October 13, 2005

the experiment, part deux

Goodness! Apparently this is a problem that is not just confined to the singing community! I had my second appointment this morning, and am feeling even better than after the first. So far, I'd say the clenching has been reduced by 75%. I've never had these kinds of results before -- with regular massage, stretching, night guards, you name it, I've tried it. It's definitely not comfortable while it's happening, but the results are amazing. We've set up weekly appointments for the next month, and I'm assured that by the end, there will be no clenching, even in my sleep, and the shiatsu won't even hurt anymore, at which point I can switch to a monthly check-in.

According to my sister, there are literally thousands of forms of shiatsu, variations stemming from several original masters and dating back thousands of years. This particular method is known only by Mike (my sister's Sensei), and his brother, who has a practice next door to Mike's in Seattle. Mike has chosen three students --his nephew, my sister, and one other woman -- to pass on his knowledge to and ensure that the tradition will continue. Pretty cool. All I can say is, if the Seattle area is accessible to you and you suffer from this problem, you should go see them!

Monday, October 10, 2005

an experiment

For years, I've had a problem with clenching my teeth. Mostly, I just do it while I'm sleeping, but I also catch myself doing it often when I'm stressed or worried. I know lots of singers with the same problem -- I'm not sure whether it's more common with us, or whether it's just a common problem in general. It's terrible for my teeth, and not so good for my singing or general well-being either, as it causes the muscles in my neck and shoulders to tense, and gives me headaches when it's at its worst. Last week I was particularly busy, and there were some fairly stressful H&G rehearsals, and I noticed my teeth were mashed together so tightly when I got up in the morning that I felt like I had to pry them apart.

My sister, who is an amazing massage therapist, is currently being trained by a shiatsu master. (I imagine it to be a Mr. Miagi/Karate Kid kind of relationship.) She has regular lessons with him, and since she's begun her training, her outlook on many things, particularly diet and medicine, has changed drastically. She was giving me a massage the other night, and briefly rubbed my jaw. I winced in pain and she asked if this was a normal occurence. Then, she said, "After your massage, I'll work on that a little. I can make it so that you won't clench your jaw anymore." I was extremely skeptical. Apparently, clenching my jaw is a manifestation of stress (big surprise), but the reason I clench my jaw as opposed to any other physical manifestation of stress is that my circulation (which seems to be at the center of the theories behind shiatsu) around that area of my body is not good, and I clench to try to move blood through. After my 80-minute, heavenly, relaxing massage, as I was ready to drift off in to blissful slumber for the night, she told me to sit up on the table, and rubbed my jaw in quick, half-moon motions. I tell you, it was perhaps the most excruciatingly painful experience of my life -- for about 5 seconds, and then the pain disappeared. We repeated this, her rubbing, me whimpering, in three different places on each side of my jaw, and then around the back of my head. OUCH! But, afterward, I did feel better. The muscles all the way down my neck had released, and my head moved freely from side to side in a way that felt slightly foreign to me.

She told me that it would take a few more sessions for me to stop clenching entirely, so I'm going to see her again on Thursday. Already, I've noticed that I've all but stopped clenching during the day, and I can tell by the way my jaw feels when I wake up that even the night-time clenching has been greatly reduced. If this works, it will be a miracle -- I've actually bitten through night guards! I'll let you know.

Thursday, October 6, 2005

the ideal bag!

Since beginning my editing job, which I can conceivably do anywhere in the world I happen to be for gigs, auditions, or other travel, I've been looking for the perfect bag -- something that would protect my laptop; leave room for music, i-pod, current novel, purse, and other essentials; and yet still be comfortable and not appear bulky. I was not having much luck, but then I received this belated birthday present from my parents over the weekend. At first I thought it would be too small -- it's only 14" tall, which is exactly the size of my laptop. However, I've currently filled it with my computer, H&G score, i-pod, binder of arias, book to read on the ferry, zicam and emergen-C (I'm fighting the cold that has knocked my poor husband on his a** this week), mini-disc recorder and microphone, purse, and datebook, and not only did it all fit, but it's compact, organized, and comfortable to carry, thanks to the padded, ergonomically-designed shoulder strap and well-padded back (so my hip doesn't get bruised from walking around with it banging against my body. It both zips across the top and buckles at the flap, and the strap is long enough to wear across my body, so I'll feel totally secure with it on the subway and streets of NYC or wherever I happen to be. It even converts in to a backpack! Hurray!

Tuesday, October 4, 2005

another Requiem down....

The Mozart concert this weekend went extremely well. I got to listen to the recording at the post-concert party at the conductor's house, and the choir and solo quartet both sounded great - there were some truly stunning moments. For a couple pictures and more info on the concert, visit the concert. I had a great time getting to know and singing with SH and RA, two friends of ACB's from Santa Fe.

In other news, I booked my flight today for my Merola audition later this month. I love booking flights -- there's something about the feeling of being at the beginning of a journey that appeals to me. It's so full of possibilities. Plus, on this trip, I will get to stay with Sandy, my closest friend from 4th grade, and spend some time with her and her family (including cutie baby Ty!). Hopefully, this will be the first of two audition trips to San Francisco this season, so I'll get to see them again soon.

I also got a call for a new gig this weekend -- a Messiah in December. It will be my first full Messiah (I've done all the arias in concert, but never in the context of the entire work), and there will be three performances, so I imagine I'll feel very comfortable with it by the end of the weekend. The timing worked out perfectly around my audition trip to NYC in December, and it will be the second of three (so far) concerts that ACB and I will get to sing togeteher this season. It's always nice to be able to work with good friends that I also highly respect as musicians and colleagues.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

a good kick in the #%&*@!

When I'm in a show or have a concert performance coming up (both are true at the moment), I tend to limit my practicing to those pieces. For the last couple weeks, I've mostly been practicing Hansel and Gretel and the Mozart Requiem. However, today I got my first confirmation of an audition time for this season, and it's coming right up! Better get those arias back out! Yikes! Back to practicing....

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


I'm sitting in a lovely coffee shop, taking a break from editing. I have to say, I love having one thing I do that's not music-related. When I finished my master's degree, I was very intent on being "a professional musician," and only took on music jobs. And I could make ends meet, and everything was fine. However, there were jobs I was doing that really didn't interest me all that much, even though they involved playing or singing. Now, I can be a little more picky about the music jobs I take, and fit in an hour or two of work between lessons and rehearsals, or between jobs, while at the same time enjoying a grande soy chai latte and a yummy piece of chocolate-almond loaf. :) And, I feel like I'm expanding my mind by thinking about something other than music for a change. It actually feels more like a break to me, and I love the fact that I could conceivably do this anywhere in the world my singing happens to take me. Of course, the fact that I'm being paid (very well) to take these "breaks" makes it even more enjoyable.

I'm just about to leave for the ferry terminal (I have to take about an hour's ferry ride to get to Hansel and Gretel rehearsals). Tonight is a run-through with piano, and we'll be wearing our costumes for the first time, as a representative from the local paper will be there taking photos. My costume is extremely comfortable -- I basically feel like I'm wearing sweats to perform. One of the benefits of playing a boy, I suppose!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

finding balance

On the middle finger of my right hand I wear three rings. The first is my engagement ring, which is not a traditional gold/diamond ring, but rather a silver band with celtic engravings and a small garnet, which is my husband's birthstone. The second is a ring I bought several years ago on a trip to an international choir competition in Ireland. It was on that trip that I had the final revelation that singing was what I wanted to do with my life, and the ring symbolizes that decision to me. The third is a simple silver band engraved with the word "balance." Feeling these three rings together on my finger reminds me of my desire to achieve and maintain balance between my personal and professional lives, and helps me to feel grounded and centered no matter what I'm doing.

This was the first week that my work schedule for the fall was in full swing. Almost all of my jobs follow the calendar of the school year, leaving my summers free. Last year, I only worked about 15 hours per week. I felt like I was at a crucial point vocally, and I needed time to adjust to my new teacher and all the changes that were happening in my voice. I was extremely blessed to be able to cut back significantly on the number of jobs I chose to take, and as a result I had lots of free time for practice, reflection, listening, and just relaxing..... almost too much, if I'm honest with myself. Having as much free time as I did sometimes made it difficult to stay motivated.

This year, I decided to take on more work. I wanted to have more expendable income, to contribute more to the household expenses, and believe it or not, I felt a need to be busier. I started taking on more jobs. Now, in addition to the new job editing from home, I'm also teaching 10 hours per week of music classes for 3-5 year olds (SO cute!). I've also taken on new responsibilities at the music academy where I teach -- I'm now running a new program for young singers, and currently teaching all the classes, including a theory/eartraining class, a history/literature class, and a performance class. This only adds one hour per week to my actual teaching time, but it adds considerably more to my planning time. All of these new activities are things that I really love, and I'm excited about all of them, and about the sheer variety of work. I'll certainly never be bored! However, when added to staging rehearsals for Hansel and Gretel, applications and demo recordings for upcoming auditions, lessons, coachings, practicing, and the fact that I'm just getting over a cold, it's made for one exhausted and slightly overwhelmed singer this week!

I think I'll be able to handle everything without stressing myself out or making myself sick. It certainly helps that I love everything I do. However, this will be a good exercise in time management. Alec starts playing his first show of the season next week, which will cut even further in to the little time we already have to spend with one another. It's been quite a while since we've had to resort to scheduling time together to make sure we see each other, but I think it might be time to get out our calendars! In the mean time, I have a class of three year olds to teach at 8:00 a.m., so I'd best be off to bed.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

home again, home again...

The concert went extremely well. I think we raised a good amount of money for two great causes, and everyone involved was deeply touched by the experience. Aside from the cold I caught while I was down there, I'm doing well and happy to be home. It was a lovely trip. I got to spend some quality time with our good friends G & W, and of course Maddy, possibly the sweetest and most adorable baby in the world.

While I was in Portland, I had basically 3 days of free time. I was able to spend some time in the world's greatest bookstore, working on some math editing stuff in their great coffee shop. We also had some fabulous meals, and there was even some time for a little tax-free shopping.

But, even though it was just a short trip, it's great to be back to Cleo, our new, crooked-tailed kitty! Isn't she cute?

Friday, September 9, 2005

On the road

I’m not too far away, but still sleeping in a bed that’s not my own, which is especially difficult tonight because I’m not getting to snuggle with our new kitty, Cleo! (I promise I’ll post pictures upon my return.) I’m just outside of Portland, OR, where I’m singing a Mozart Requiem on Sunday. On the way down this afternoon, I was listening to it in the car, driving by flag after flag flying at half-mast, and I was suddenly overwhelmed with emotions -- with sadness, of course, for the thousands of people dealing with the loss of loved ones this week (this concert is held annually on September 11, but it will be the victims of Hurricane Katrina that will be in everyone’s hearts this year, I think). But perhaps even more than sadness, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of gratitude, that I have the opportunity to sing this great work, that provides both comfort and a way to mourn for so many people. In times like this, I am struck by the reality that we as performers are servants, in the best sense of the word. We are servants to our audience, yes, and also to the universe, to the spirits of the composers and the pieces we are asked to perform. I suppose we are ourselves mediums of sorts, letting the healing and cathartic powers of this music flow through us to those, hopefully, who need it most. And, amazingly, through this, we ourselves are healed. In the car this afternoon, I knew, perhaps more intensely than ever, that this is what I’m supposed to be doing with my life. This is the gift I can give back, in my own small way, to the world. If even one person leaves on Sunday evening feeling touched by what we’ve done, then we will have done our jobs.

Wednesday, September 7, 2005

my five

It’s coming to the beginning of audition season. There are lots of applications to be filled out, some on-line, and some by hand; recordings to be made; travel plans to be arranged; and most importantly, arias to prepare. Some companies want to hear just one, most ask for a list of four or five and choose from that. Some have specific language or stylistic requirements, others just want to hear what you think you sing best. Five carefully chosen, meticulously prepared arias, and maybe a couple of art songs and/or musical theater selections on the back burner just in case, will prepare you for almost any audition. Those five arias should show your vocal quality, stage presence, personality, musicality, and technique in the best possible light. You can imagine the agonizing that goes in to these decisions.

In years past I’ve never been totally happy with my list. There was always one aria that I would rather the adjudicators didn’t ask for, or one that I didn’t think really fit in my fach (probably because I wasn’t totally sure what my fach was – something that many young singers struggle with as our voices continue to change and develop). Also, for the companies that do have specific language requirements, there are some languages that really don’t have a whole lot to offer in terms of audition arias for a young mezzo like myself. Take German, for example. While there are several roles that I might sing in German in my career most of those (even Hansel) do not have an aria that is exerptable, and there are really only two audition arias that lyric mezzos sing on a regular basis. One is just slightly too heavy for my voice, especially in bigger houses, and one is pretty silly and really doesn’t show much except the fact that I can sing in German. I lean toward the heavier one (the composer’s aria from Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos), as it shows my musicianship well, and I’ve sung it at many auditions, but this year it’s going in the “back burner” category, to be brought out only when German is specifically requested.

This has been a huge year of growth and change for me musically and vocally. I have been studying with a new teacher who has given me what is perhaps the most powerful tool I can possess as a singer: the feeling that I have total control over the sounds that are coming out of my mouth. For the first time, I feel like I have a technique that works for me in every way, and I’m able to sculpt my voice in ways I could never have done a year ago. This has opened up new repertoire to me, and also has helped to clarify the type of repertoire which is best for my voice at this point, and I’m really excited to audition for people this year. I also have new confidence in my acting abilities, which I hope will come across when I’m auditioning. One of the most fun changes so far is that my voice seems to be well suited to the higher Rossini mezzo roles, including the title role in La Cenerentola (Cindarella). Rossini is one of the only composers where mezzos get to be the lead female character (well, other than Carmen, obviously), and the arias are full of showy coloratura passages. I had been told by several people in years past that I should be singing Rossini arias, many coaches seemed to think that they would be good in my voice, but I never had a firm grasp on the technique and stamina that I needed to get through one of the arias, which tend to be a little on the long side. That is no longer the case, and they even feel easy to me now. I’ve also found some Mozart that I think works well for me, and a French piece that I’ve absolutely fallen in love with. So, my “five,” as it stands now (subject to change between now and December, of course) are:
  1. “Non più mesta,” from La Cenerentola, by Rossini
  2. “Parto, Parto,” from La Clemenza di Tito by Mozart
  3. The Muse’s aria (“Vois sous l’archet frémissant”), from Les Contes d’Hoffmann, by Offenbach
  4. “Things change, Jo,” from Little Women, by Mark Adamo
  5. Either “Smanie Implaccabili” from Così fan Tutte by Mozart or the Composer if German is required.

It feels good to have five arias that I love and feel good about. We’ll see what happens!

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

it's back!

My website is finally back up. When we moved, we changed internet providers, and the new provider wouldn't let me link my domain name to my site. I ended up having to find web hosting elsewhere, which had its own complications. In any case, I figured it all out, with a little help, so take a look!

My latest favorite i-pod quirk

A while back I was amused when my recording of Hansel and Gretel showed up under "easy listening" in my i-tunes library. Today, I was scrolling through the artists on my i-pod, looking for my recording of Hindemith's Six Chansons, one of my favorite sets of choral pieces. I had to giggle when I saw it: "Westmoinster Choir." Tee hee! :)

Monday, August 22, 2005

never boring

One of the things that really drew me to singing is the necessity of a multi-faceted learning approach. There are voice lessons and coachings, of course, but in the course of learning to sing, I've also had the opportunity to study poetry, languages, conducting, dance, yoga, acting, movement, history,... you get the idea. It definitely keeps things from becoming monotonous.

What has really struck me this week is the resulting web of interconnectedness (interconnectivity? I think I'm making up words). Everything I study helps me in ways beyond what I would have originally imagined. For example, a couple summers ago I took an intensive Italian class at the University of Washington. Suddenly, really knowing the language, especially where accents are placed in words, changed the way I was approaching some high notes in an aria I was working on. Last week, in the Baroque opera workshop, I learned some period dances which totally affected the way I think about moving onstage, even outside of the Baroque realm.

This phenomenon happened again yesterday. I had the opportunity to take an embodiment workshop from the wonderful New York-based actor and teacher, Rob O'Neill. It dealt mainly with staying totally "in your body, in the moment," onstage, and with tools useful in developing the physicality of characters. I took it mainly because Hansel will be my first trouser role (when a female singer, usually a mezzo like me, plays a boy), and I wanted some tips on how to be believable physically. It was a fantastic workshop, and I came away with lots of great material to use, both with Hansel and in general. However, a funny thing happened. When I walked in to the room, my friend and colleague Molly (who runs the acting studio which hosted Rob), introduced me, and Rob said, "Oh, I've heard about you!" Molly replied," yes, she's not your average opera singer -- she can really move!" I was surprised -- at the time that Molly and I last worked together, I had no dance training whatsoever, and relatively little stage experience. Sure enough, when the class started, both Rob and his assistant commented that I moved beautifully, and that they would love to see me onstage. I was incredibly flattered. I think the Baroque dance last week helped some, but I realized later that it was probably due mainly to the fact that I play for ballet classes every week! I've never been a dancer, but I've spent countless hours watching dancers, from pre-school through professional level, be trained in how to move and carry their bodies. I must have picked something up along the way.

Another way this interconnected web works its magic is by inspiring me with new things to study. Learning new ways my body was capable of moving made me want to take more movement and yoga classes to improve my flexibility and open up even more opportunities. Singing all that Monteverdi and Landi recitative last week made me want to study more Italian and develop a new level of fluency with that beautiful language. I love having a job where I will never be bored!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

walking on a cloud

I'm literally (well, not literally, but....) walking on a cloud in one of my two Baroque opera scenes. I'm playing Aurora, goddess of the dawn, awakened by my three breezes to cause the sun to rise on Orfeo's birthday. But I also feel like I've been floating in a daze all week for different reasons. I've been falling in love....... (sigh)......

...... with Baroque opera. Yes, I've listened to Monteverdi, attended Baroque and Renaissance operas and concerts, but I've never had the opportunity to perform any of this incredible music, or to get to know any of these masterpieces in an intimate way. I can't quite put it all in to words, but I can say that it has changed the way I think about opera, music, and acting. It's been a challenging, rewarding, frantic (and too short) week, and I think the performance tomorrow night will be beautiful. However, I will take everything I've learned this week far beyond the performance tomorrow night, and hold it in my heart like the memories of a brief, cherished love affair.

Sunday, August 14, 2005 the skin of my teeth!

I have often bragged about being able to learn music extremely quickly. My background in piano and my knowledge of languages gives me an advantage in that regard, and I've always been able to take on difficult music and projects on short notice. So I've always said..... That has been put to the test this week!

In addition to moving and starting my new on-line job, I've been putting off learning an ever-growing pile of music. Today, I had my first run-through for the production of Hansel and Gretel I'll be in this fall, and as of Wednesday, I only had about have the role in my voice. Luckily, we're doing it in English, so the language is not an issue there. This evening, I had a gig with a lovely soprano and a woodwind octet: a fundraiser for a local school music program. I performed in 4 pieces (two arias and two duets), three of which I'd never sung before, two of which were soprano pieces that I really wasn't familiar with at all, and one of which was in a dialect of French that I could make absolutely no sense of. It all went great, though I was still memorizing music in the car on the way to the gig! (On the bright side, I think I've found an aria that I'll be adding to my audition repertoire as a result, so I'm really excited about that.) Tomorrow, I start the Baroque opera workshop, and I still need to memorize both of my scenes tonight. YIKES! I think it will be ok, though it will definitely be a late night!

Lesson learned -- don't forget to take non-musical things going on in my life in to account before committing myself to so many projects. It's all really fun stuff, though, so its worth it. Ok, back to work.....

Monday, August 8, 2005

my new studio

In our old house, there was a large dining room, with space for a table for 8, the piano, and all my cds and scores. Our new condo has a dining area which is about 6'x6' -- hardly big enough for a small table for 4, and certainly not big enough for the piano! Luckily, there is an extra bedroom, which I have now set up as my studio. It's bright and sunny, with a west-facing window and a nice, big Madrona tree ouside that blocks the view of the grocery store next door. I painted the walls a beautiful, buttery yellow, and even got a big new bookshelf which holds all my scores and music-related books. Today, the piano movers brought my piano (a bit of a nightmare move, as they forgot to bring a furniture dolly with them, but that's a story for another time!), and it fits perfectly against one of the walls. So, now I have my own space, with all the materials I might need to practice or work, and there's even a closet where I can hang my performance clothes and keep my filing cabinet. There are still several boxes waiting to be unpacked, and I haven't set up my desk yet, but I can already tell that it's going to change the way I work. The room is a lovely place to be, and I will look forward to retreating there every day. It's very easy to focus when I can close the door behind me and be in my own little world. It's a real luxury, especially in a smaller home like ours, to be able to have a space which I can decorate however I want and fill with things which will inspire and aid me in my work everyday, and I'm very thankful.

Friday, August 5, 2005

real life interfering

The lack of posting lately is due to several things. First, tomorrow is the big moving day. Our house is full of boxes, garbage bags waiting to be taken to the dump, donations for Salvation Army, and all those other fun moving-related things. There's still a lot to do. It's almost 90 degrees in Seattle today, which is far too hot for most of us Pacific Northwest weather-whimps. I hate packing with a passion that I cannot put in to words. But, tomorrow it will all be over. We have until Thursday to get any leftover stuff out of the house and in to storage or the new condo. Our landlady is hiring someone to come in and clean, which takes care of one of my other least-favorite things in life, and we're hiring movers for the first time in our lives, so at least we won't be schlepping things up to our second-story unit in the heat tomorrow. So, it could be worse. Still, I hate packing. Also, I hate packing. And have I mentioned that I hate packing?

Another thing that has kept me from posting is that I have a new job. I am going to be editing on-line components of math textbooks. I hope it will be a perfect job for me -- it's very part time, with flexible hours, and believe it or not I really enjoy math. It's a good opportunity to learn more about programming and HTML. Plus, it's all working from home (or wherever I happen to be), and the pay is great. I can fit it in around all my musical jobs, and it should give me the freedom to be a little more selective about which music jobs I take. However, right now, it's like learning a new language. I'm sure I will catch on fairly quickly, but I hate the feeling of not really knowing what I'm doing. Combined with the move, this adds up to a little more upheaval in my life than I'm comfortable with.

I have a gigantic stack of music to learn that has been put off with everything else that has been going on. Next week I'll be able to dive in, and I should have lots to write about.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Happy (early) Birthday to Me!

My birthday isn't for more than a month, but I'm writing this brief post from my gift from my wonderful husband -- a LAPTOP!!!!!!! I'm so excited! :)

Monday, July 25, 2005

food for thought

Beth, at something else for you to read, posted some thought-provoking musings on intent vs. action. To paraphrase: "we always wish to be judged by the intent behind our actions, but instead we are judged by the actions themselves, and how they are perceived by others." I'm struck by how directly this applies to musical performances. As a performer, I try to examine every facet of a song or role, to be sure of what my intent is at each moment, but it's not until I have an audience that can provide feed back that I know whether that intent has been translated to the listener. Now that I've written it out, it sounds obvious, but I don't think I've thought about performing in quite that way before. Hmmmm.....

Sunday, July 24, 2005

as if on cue....

On Friday, I returned to camp from the coffee shop (where I had been posting here and checking my email) to a pile of mail which had arrived for me that afternoon. After 3 weeks of hardly thinking about singing, the contents of my mail were:
  1. The latest copy of Opera News
  2. Scores for the Baroque opera scenes, which look great
  3. Music for one of the benefits I'm doing in the next couple weeks
  4. a dvd and photo cd from a recent opera performance

I felt exhilerated and elated. It was as though the universe were reminding me that real life and wonderful opportunities are waiting for me when I go home later today. I can't wait!

Friday, July 22, 2005

almost done!

Tomorrow is the last day of camp. I have to say, I am definitely ready to go home. Alec will be staying for another week, and I will miss him, but I'll come back on Saturday for the concert, and in the mean time I have lots to do to keep me busy. I finally received the opera scenes I'll be doing in the baroque opera workshop I'm participating in next month. I'll be singing the parts of Penelope in Monteverdi's Ulisse and Aurora in Landi's Orfeo. I have to admit, I don't know a lot about either one of those operas, but I'm looking forward to learning more! My mail (and hence, the scores to the scenes) is taking a while, as I'm having it all forwarded to camp, but hopefully it will arrive today. A couple other small gigs have come my way in the last week or so. I'll be doing another Mozart Requiem solo in September with a chorus and orchestra in Oregon, and a couple of benefit recitals in Seattle in August -- one for Northwest Harvest and one for a public school music program, which I'm always thrilled to support in any way I can. I also have a demo recording to make next month, and a couple of auditions, and it's time to start filling out applications for apprentice programs next summer, so I'm anxious to get back to real life. Oh! I also get to go to Ikea next week and spend a lot of money (well, not a lot, but plenty by our standards) on some new furniture! Yay!!!

I'm still enjoying camp, but I'm getting very anxious for it to be over. I finally caught the cold that's been circulating around the staff, and although I escaped with a very light case (thanks to Zicam and EmergenC!), it has still put a damper on my spirits. Also, it's been quite a rainy summer. It was supposed to be sunny all week, but early this morning (around 2:00 a.m.) it started pouring rain, and our tent, which has been great so far, decided to start leaking in about 10 different places. Not enough for us to get soaked, but enough that there was nowhere we could put the air mattress so that we weren't getting dripped on at least a little. Annoying. Luckily, the sun is back out now, and the rain promises to hold off at least through tomorrow, so hopefully we won't have to relive the moving fiasco of last weekend (see the post below).

On a brighter note, my vocal ensemble is fantastic this week, and has some boys with changed voices, strengthened by a couple male staff members, so we've been singing some of my favorite music, South African folk songs. I've spent a little time in South Africa, and I have to say that their folk music touches my soul in a more direct way than any other music I've ever heard. In fact, it was in South Africa that I first was encouraged to follow singing as a career path, so it definitely holds a special place in my heart. Also, the band I'm working with is playing Clare Grundman's transcription of Bernstein's Overture to Candide this week, which is such a fun piece. It also pushes me almost to the limit of my flute-playing ability, so it's been nice to have a challenge. I'm looking forward to the concert tomorrow, and then to getting home to my own bed!

Sunday, July 17, 2005

When it rains on Saturdays....

Normally at camp, our concerts are held in a lovely, rustic outdoor amphitheatre:

However, yesterday during breakfast, at around 9:00 am, it started raining, and the decision was made to move the concert inside. The only place indoors at camp big enough to hold all the campers and their parents is the upper lodge, which is where we eat all our meals. Within 20 minutes of finishing breakfast, we (the staff at the camp) had cleared all the breakfast dishes, swept the floor, moved all 36 tables outside, arranged the benches to make a place for the audience, and moved 80 folding chairs and a lot of percussion equipment up the hill from the amphitheatre to the lodge to make a "stage" for the bands and orchestra to play on:

We were all set to have the concert inside. It's not an ideal situation, because the lodge is extremely live accoustically, and the bands are really loud! Also, it gets incredibly crowded, hot, and sweaty with 500+ people crammed in to the space. But, it's better than getting wet. Luckily, by 10:20, 5 minutes before the concert was scheduled to start, the sky looked like this:

In 5 minutes, we had moved all the folding chairs and percussion instruments back down to the stage, set them up for the first band, and the concert started outside and on schedule! Hooray!

Needless to say, when some of us went out for Mexican food after the concert had ended, we were all ready for a couple of these:

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

non-camp details

First, we closed on our new condo yesterday! We are now officially first-time home owners. Luckily, both banks where we have accounts have branches here on the island, as we had a lot of last-minute details to take care of this week. Now, the fun begins. While Alec is still working at camp during the last week in July, I will get to buy the new furniture we will need, and pick out paint colors! I hate white walls, so we are planning a painting party the week before we move in. I can't wait!

The other detail (much less life-changing, but still fun), is that I've joined a blog-ring of opera blogs (see the bottom of my site for a link). I know, I haven't been writing much about opera lately, but once camp is over and I'm back to real life, it will become much more prominent. :)

Saturday, July 9, 2005

one down, two to go!

The first week of kids are gone, and the next batch arrives tomorrow. The staff gets about 23 hours off between the end of the concert on Saturday and the meeting on Sunday morning. We used part of this time to go do the walk-through on our condo, which we're closing on in just a few days (yay!).

The concert went very well -- the kids did a great job, and the parents were all touched and impressed by what their children had accomplished in six days. The concerts all take place in a great outdoor amphitheatre, which I promise to post pictures of next week sometime. The performance lasts about 90 minutes, and includes two bands, a string orchestra, a full orchestra, and the all-camp choir. As always, it is hard to say goodbye to the kids who touched my heart this week, but I know there will be more in the two weeks to come. In the mean time, I'm enjoying a little time off. I'll even get some time to practice tomorrow morning hopefully, and get some real work in on the roles I have to learn. So far I've been having to squeeze in 10 minutes here and there, which is fine for things I'm already familiar with, but not so good for things I'm trying to learn from scratch. I'll be grateful for a little quality time.

Thursday, July 7, 2005

shock and grief

One downside to being at camp is that we are basically isolated from the rest of the world while we are there. Newspapers, internet access, radio, and television are rarely seen there, and we rely on word from friends to keep us informed. As a result, while we were all aware that there was "something" going on in London this morning, I had to wait until now (almost 4:00 p.m.) until I could come up to my parents' house, check the web and get some details on the terrible tragedy that struck London's citizens this morning. Somehow, it makes the quote to the left seem somewhat trivial, yet at the same time all the more important and full of truth. My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families.

Wednesday, July 6, 2005

music geeks.

I am a music geek. Now, I am extremely proud to call myself one, and I have a large network of other music geeks that I spend time with and call colleagues and friends. When I was in school, however, there were very few to be found. As a pianist, I didn't often get the chance to play music with other kids, and even when I started playing flute, most of the kids in the band were not serious about music the way I was, so it was a bit lonely at times. It wasn't until I was well in to high school that I really found a niche, and not until I was in university that I really felt accepted as the music geek I am.

All this is to say that it is wonderful to see the kids at camp, all music geeks in their own ways, all getting along, making music together, and finding a network of support and friendship among people who share their passion for music. Some of them don't even find this in their own families, and live most of their lives as "black sheep." At camp, there are no black sheep, which is another part of what makes it such a wonderful place.

Also, on a side note, my little vocal ensemble, which generally has about 5-6 girls in it during the first two weeks of camp every year, has 11 girls, 2 boys with lovely soprano voices, and 2 other staff members in it this week, for a grand total of sixteen including me! So far, we've looked at folksongs this week from Spain, England, Croatia, Japan, the United States, and the Hopi indian nation. There are few things more lovely than young voices singing a cappella in harmony. It's good for the soul.

Sunday, July 3, 2005

We made it!

We are all settled in at camp on the island. Luckily, my parents live just up the street, so I can come up here and post. Believe it or not, the camp still has only dial-up internet, and you can imagine the wait to get on the one, slow computer, not to mention the pain of trying to upload photos, etc. I'm lucky. :)

We have been here since Thursday night, but today is the first day that kids arrive. In these first few days, there has been new staff training, rehearsals of this year's music, and general bonding and fun time. There will be time later to post about all the magical things that happen with the kids at camp, but I wanted to take a few minutes to list some of the things I love about these first days.

  1. Seeing all our old friends. Every year there are lots of new staff members to get to know (that is particularly true this year -- there are 59 staff, and I would say about 40 of them are in their first or second years here!). However, there is also a core group of us who have been here for a long time. We don't generally see a lot of one another outside of camp -- we live in different places, and have our own busy lives, and outside of an occasional wedding, holiday, or other special event, our lives are pretty separate. But there's a special bond that happens when you spend 3 or 4 weeks with people in an intense setting, year after year.
  2. Playing my flute -- even though my lips are somewhat chapped after the 5 hours of rehearsals we had yesterday (that's a lot for any wind player, but especially one who hasn't touched her instrument for almost 2 years!), I love getting out my old friend and playing in a band. It's a totally different musical experience than playing piano or singing, even in a choir, and it's great to have this change of pace for a few weeks -- definitely a new perspective.
  3. Our tent! I love sleeping outside, especially when we can do it in the relative luxury of our home away from home (see photo below), and it's been fun settling in for another summer.
  4. The views -- again, see the photos below!
  5. Getting to see new sides of people. One of the wonderful things about camp is how it can stretch your personal limits and encourage you to try things you wouldn't. For example, camp is the place I first got up my courage to sing, alone, in front of people. Ane look where I am now! Also, we all get to use our talents in ways that people don't normally get to see. For example, Alec is a teacher and conductor. I know he's great at it, because I hear his groups during the year at performances. However, yesterday I got to see him teaching first hand, and even got to play in a group that he was conducting, so I saw his amazing talents and skills from a totally new angle.

There will be more posts and photos as the three weeks go on, but I thought you might enjoy seeing some pictures:

home sweet home!

home sweet home!, originally uploaded by mlisap.

The tarp comes off when there's no rain in the forecast, and the top of the tent just mesh, so we can look up at the stars. Inside is a queen-size air mattress with a memory foam pad, down pillows and comforter, and plenty of room to store all our stuff. Next to it is a pavilion where all of us "tenters" gather. This year, we've run an extension cord out, so we have christmas lights, a fridge, and a stereo system. Not exactly roughing it, I know.

The view from our tent

The view from our tent, originally uploaded by mlisap.

It's great to wake up to this every morning. We can walk down a path to the rocky beach, and often have bon fires on nights when there are no kids in camp.

Retreat Center

Retreat Center, originally uploaded by mlisap.

Sorry it's a little blurry! This is where staff who are not assigned to a cabin of kids sleep -- there are several small buildings filled with bunks, a living area with a common room, bathrooms, and a kitchen, and a big deck off the back with a gorgeous view. Our little tent community is set up behind it.

The lodge

The lodge, originally uploaded by mlisap.

This is where we go for staff meetings, some rehearsals, and to eat all our meals.

The view from the lodge

The view from the lodge, originally uploaded by mlisap.

Not bad, eh? You can see why I keep coming back. :)

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

a blogging survey

Anne Carolyn at the concert posted a link to this blogging survey at MIT -- if you're a fellow blogger, take a minute to fill it out!

Take the MIT Weblog Survey

Monday, June 27, 2005

getting ready for camp....

As I've mentioned before, every year Alec and I work at a music camp. We met at camp. In fact, we are only one of countless couples formed among the staff at camp, and we were the sixth of said couples to go on to get married. I've been working there at least one week (out of four) every summer since I graduated from high school. Obviously, it has become an important part of my life, and it is a completely wonderful and magical place to spend a summer.

My recent incarnation as a singer has made getting to camp much more difficult. Summer programs, language classes, or gigs have increasingly had to take precedence over being at camp, as wonderful as it is. However, this year, my only singing obligations happen later on in the summer, so I am able to be at camp for three out of the four weeks. (I'm taking the final week -- jazz week -- off to come home and attempt to finish packing.) I'm grateful to be going, and for the opportunity to spend so much time with Alec this summer.

Getting ready for camp is quite a job -- in addition to packing clothes, shoes, etc. for three weeks of extremely varied weather, there is music to be picked out and copied; a tent to be aired out and cleaned (couples wishing to sleep in the same room with one another must bring a tent to sleep in, so we really are "camping" while we're there!); cds to organize, copy on to i-pods, etc; other teaching materials to be found and organized; mail to be forwarded... I'm sure you get the idea. Alec is also part of the management team of the camp now, so he has to be moving all kinds of band and orchestra equipment over to the island that the camp is on (which is only accessible by ferry), including a full steel drum band. Plus, I have to get out my poor neglected flute and make sure I still remember how to play it! (Yes, I teach flute at camp -- another remnant of a former life.) Add this to the packing of our entire house that we're currently in the middle of, and the details of closing on our condo, and last minute jobs to finish before we leave, and roles and other pieces that I have to take with me to learn, and the result is total chaos!!! But, I'm sure it will all work out. There may not be another post until I'm safely on the island, though.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005


On i-tunes, Humperdinck's opera Hansel and Gretel shows up under the genre "easy listening" instead of "classical." They should really keep their Engelbert Humperdincks straight -- the composer of the opera was the original, after all. :)

Tuesday, June 21, 2005


First of all CONGRATULATIONS to my friends Tim and Diane! After 5 years or so of living in Houston, where Tim was playing violin with the Houston Sypmphony, he was just offered a job in the 1st violin section right here in the Seattle Symphony!!! Which means they'll be moving here! Yay!

...and now for a weekly check-in! (by the term "weekly," you should by no means infer that I will remember to do this once a week.)
  • total number of boxes I've packed: 25
  • number of those that have been packed in the last 36 hours: 20 (you didn't think I'd procrastinate forever, now, did you?)
  • number of those that are filled with my shoes: 2 (big ones, not even counting the sandals I thought I might need in the next month)
  • number of wonderful French films I've seen in the last week: 1 (Les Choristes -- it's a must see for singers, teachers, or saps for adorable little french-speaking boys)
  • number of cds I've recently loaded on to my i-pod: 17
  • favorite of said cds: Sarah Vowell's great book, Assassination Vacation. Yes, I could just read it, but her voice is half the fun!
  • number of auditions today: 1
  • number of recordings to make this week: 2
  • number of times I've been to the gym this week: 3! (I'm currently flexing my muscles proudly in celebration. Alec has been 5 times!)

... and finally:

things that are on my piano at the moment (i.e. things I am, or should be, practicing)

  1. Rossini: final aria from La Cenerentola (for the audition tonight)
  2. Handel: Messiah alto solos
  3. Mozart: "Laudamus Te" from the c minor Mass (both of the above for a recording/audition requested by a conductor)
  4. Humperdinck: Hansel and Gretel (I'm performing the complete role of Hansel here in October.)
  5. lots of choral music (a local conductor pays me to record the women's voice parts for her choirs)
  6. many books of french art song from the library -- I'm planning an all-french recital program for later this year.

Monday, June 20, 2005

your cute quota for the day...

This post has nothing to do with music or with me at all, really. I just wanted to share with you a couple photos of my utterly adorable neices and nephews! They're so cute!!!


Maddy, originally uploaded by mlisap.

Ok, she's not technically my niece, but we've known her parents for well over a decade, so I am claiming her as my neice anyway. :)

sammy t and athena

sammy t and athena, originally uploaded by mlisap.

According to his dad, Sammy T is listening to Led Zeppelin. Doesn't look like Athena is much of a fan

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Happy Father's Day, Poppy!

Happy Father's Day, Poppy!, originally uploaded by mlisap.

...and Grandpa, too!

...and Grandpa, too!, originally uploaded by mlisap.

I love you! :)

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Yay! New gowns!

June is a great time to go shopping for cheap gowns. Proms and graduations are over, and everything is on sale. I was looking for something specific, which I didn't find, but I did find two great deals (photos below)! They were so cheap that I felt ok about buying them, even though I don't have anything specific to wear them for yet. It was an act of faith that there will be more concert gigs in the future.

By the way, my mom, who is visiting family in Wisconsin at the moment, also found three outfits on sale that will hopefully be perfect for the specific purpose I was out shopping for (the Requiem gig in October), but I will have to wait until she gets home next week to try them on. sigh. Oh, well. In any case, I think I'm done gown shopping for a while now!

dress #1

dress #1, originally uploaded by mlisap.

The first dress is a simple dark green velvet. I plan to knit a fancy, lacy capelet to wear over it, as I don't often like to go strapless at concerts. It's Ralph Lauren and was marked down from almost $300 to $25!!!!! How could I pass that up?

dress #2

dress #2, originally uploaded by mlisap.

This is the second dress I found, marked down from $200 to $48! It looked a bit like a circus tent on the hanger, but the lavender stripes turned from plain vertical lines to this lovely hour-glass shape when I put it on. Someday I'll have a New Year's Eve gig or something that this would work for...

Friday, June 17, 2005

quote of the day

Yesterday, I was picking up some music from a friend and colleague who directs the choirs at a local university. She has lots of quotes hanging outside her office door, to inspire her students. I saw this one, which has always been one of my favorites. I'd forgotten how much it inspires me:

"There is a Vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you in to action. And, because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique.

And, if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost. The world will not have it.

It is not your business to determine how good it is, nor how valuable it is, nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.

You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you.

Keep the channel open... no artist is pleased... there is no satisfaction whatever, at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction; a blessed unrest that keeps us marching, and makes us more alive than the others." ~Martha Graham, in a letter to Agnes deMille

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

a new gig

This is just a quick note about a new gig I was just offered for the fall. I will be the alto soloist in the Mozart Requiem in October with Orchestra Seattle/Seattle Chamber Singers. It's not a huge or flashy solo in any way (mostly quartet singing with the other soloists, and not even very much of that!), but it is one of my all time favorite pieces. I've sung it many times as a choir member, and heard it even more often from the audience, and now I'll have the chance to do it as a soloist as well! It's a stunningly beautiful and moving piece. My mom says, "it's one of the many reasons I'm glad I have ears." Hee hee...

Monday, June 13, 2005

year-end concerts

One of my many jobs involves teaching every Saturday at a private music academy. My responsibilities there include teaching ear training classes, accompanying the performance hour every week, and coaching two chamber ensembles. Last night was the annual spring chamber music concert, in which all the ensembles perform. The level of musicianship is extrordinarily high at this school, and the 10 or so groups performed at an amazingly professional level. Mostly, they consisted of small groups (trios and quartets), each made up of a pianist and a few string players, because that is the instrumentation available among the student body. My groups were different. I coach one piano duet and one vocal duet (see pictures below).

Watching your students perform is a nerve-wracking, exciting, satisfying, and touching experience. My piano duet, had very few rehearsals this semester where all three of us were present, but they pulled their two short Schubert pieces together in the end and did a marvelous job. My vocal duet is made up of two high-school girls, ages 15 and 17. They are currently the only two vocalists enrolled at the academy, though hopefully that will change soon, as I am working on starting a "singers only" program next year. In any case, both girls are excellent musicians, hard-working, and have lovely voices. The challenge lied in the fact that their voices are very different. Ashalyn (the one with the amazing curly hair) grew up in Hungary, and both her vowels and vocal tone tend to be quite dark and rich. Carina is slightly younger, and has a smaller, higher voice, with a pure sound and very little vibrato. I needed to get them to blend with one another, so I chose a gorgeous Monteverdi piece for three unaccompanied voices, and sang with them. Once they saw that I, with my operatically-trained voice, could blend with either of them (even though I'm nearly twice their age), they started listening to each other in a new way, and eventually, their very different voices melted together into a beautiful blend with great intonation. It was extremely gratifying. For their other piece, I wanted them to have fun and to have an opportunity to do some acting and movement while they were singing. I chose Rossini's Duetto Buffo dei Due Gatti, which translates basically to "Silly Duet of the Two Cats." The only word in the entire thing is the italian "miau." You can imagine the rest. At first the girls were very shy about acting silly in front of people, and making movements that were full and confident, instead of self-conscious. However, by the time they had their fuzzy cat ears on last night, they were giving it their all! The audience absolutely loved it, the girls had a great time, and it gave everyone a nice break in the middle of a wonderful (but somewhat long and heavy) program. Congratulations everyone!