Tuesday, June 28, 2005
Monday, June 27, 2005
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
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
...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)
- Rossini: final aria from La Cenerentola (for the audition tonight)
- Handel: Messiah alto solos
- Mozart: "Laudamus Te" from the c minor Mass (both of the above for a recording/audition requested by a conductor)
- Humperdinck: Hansel and Gretel (I'm performing the complete role of Hansel here in October.)
- lots of choral music (a local conductor pays me to record the women's voice parts for her choirs)
- 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
Sunday, June 19, 2005
Saturday, June 18, 2005
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!
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
"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
Monday, June 13, 2005
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!
Saturday, June 11, 2005
The other nice thing is that Molly, one of the other actresses, is Adam Arkin's daughter, and tonight he came to see the show! He was just one of the other proud parents in the room, but I'm a big fan, and it was exciting to have that very small brush with fame. He loved the show, by the way.
Friday, June 10, 2005
"Practice, which some regard as a chore, should be approached as just about the most pleasant recreation ever devised." --Babe Didrickson Zaharias (1914-56), sportswoman and golfer
This is a lovely quote, but it's exactly the kind of statement that used to make me feel guilty. It implies that we should all rush with enthusiasm to our daily practice, as though it should always be the highlight of our day. Over the years, I've developed a respect and affection for practicing. Once I've been there for a few minutes, singing through warm-ups and diving into whatever pieces I need to work on that day, I love it. Some days, I do find myself looking forward to it, planning in my mind what I am going to work on later as I'm playing for a ballet class or working out at the gym. Generally, I'm most motivated when I have a performance or big audition coming up, or when I'm in the middle of learning a new piece that really speaks to me. But, on a sunny day when I could be outside, or when I have to close a great book to go to the piano and start practicing, then the act of getting myself there and starting does seem more like a chore than a pleasant recreation.
I didn't really understand until I was in University that once I got myself there, even if I felt like I was just going through the motions, something would inevitably spark my interest and I'd always be able to get some good work done, and always be better off than when I started, and more often than not enjoy myself in the process. However, when I was growing up, practice almost always felt like a chore. Over the years, I was fortunate to have good teachers who taught me how to practice well (very different than just running through things mindlessly), and a mother who was always very involved with my music. I wouldn't say that she forced me to practice, but there were many "friendly reminders" over the years, and I can recall more than a few struggles when I hit a spot in a piece that was "too hard" and wanted to give up. (By the way, the struggles were always worth it -- the spot was never too hard after some good "spot practicing.") I loved playing the piano, and I loved making music in any form, but I definitely did not love practicing. However, on some level, and with a little help from some older, wiser people, I recognized that in order to make music at the level I wanted to, practice was a necessity, so I did it.
I have a very hard time explaining this now to the parents of my young students, some of whom practice very seldomly and make very little progress because of it, but love coming to their lessons every week and really want to be better at playing the piano. Many of the parents really want their kids to learn an instrument, but absolutely refuse to "force them to practice." Mostly, this seems to be the result of some horrible experience with piano lessons in their childhood. They seem to have this idea that their children will just sit down willingly everyday and joyfully practice their pieces without a complaint, or, if they don't do this, it's okay, as long as they're enjoying the experience. They seem to understand, in theory, that practice is 90% of the process of playing the piano (or almost any activity, for that matter), and that I can only work with them based on the work they've done the week before, and that the only way to improve consistently is to practice on a daily basis. However, theory and practice (no pun intended) prove to be two different things. Having said that, I also have some students who seem to have discovered that lessons are so much more fun, and they can feel themselves getting better, when they practice everyday, and have worked it in to their daily routine. This is very gratifying.
Today is one of those days when I'm itching to begin practicing, mostly because I have an audition for one of my dream roles in a couple weeks and I need to dust off an aria for it. I'll let you know how it goes!
Wednesday, June 8, 2005
Today, for example, I spent most of the day in rehearsals for two different musical theatre shows. When I was a young and naive piano major at university, I was quite snobby about musical theatre. Those of us who considered ourselves "serious musicians" thought we were much too good for it. Oh, how wrong I was! Now, I love every aspect of musical theatre and respect it for the important American art form that it is. It's also a major part of my life. Alec plays about 150 nights a year for a professional musical theatre company, and I've been involved in about 6 different shows in the last year. It's taken me to Scotland for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and given me my first crack at music directing, which I've thoroughly enjoyed. Right now, I'm playing for two totally different shows. The first is for a private, arts-oriented high school in Seattle. Four seniors have chosen to stage and perform In Trousers, by William Finn for their senior project. (Finn also wrote The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, for those of you who watched the Tonys last weekend.) It's extremely edgy for a high school show, but it's a small and progressive school in a very liberal neighborhood, so I'm sure it will be fine. It's been so amazing watching the kids pull everything together. One of the girls was a student at the camp I work at for many summers, and now she's going on to the prestigious Eastman School of Music in the fall. I'm so proud! As if I, her vocal ensemble teacher, had something to do with her marvelous violin technique....
The other show is a very abbreviated version of "My Fair Lady" at a middle school. It's basically the final concert of the year for the choir program, and everyone is involved. The girl who is playing Eliza is shy and quiet in class, and I hadn't seen her sing a solo before this. But today she got up and sang "The Rain in Spain..." and I almost fell off my piano bench! She had a beautiful, clear voice, with impeccable intonation, and wonderful stage presence. When she finished her song, she went quietly back to stand with the rest of the choir, and blended right back in to the crowd. It's so nice to be reminded of how wonderful music is for kids. It enhances every facet of their lives, and gives students who would normally be lost in the shuffle a chance to truly shine. And this is what I get to do for my "day job." How lucky am I?