Friday, February 17, 2006


My school schedule continues to amaze (and exhaust!) me. Next week is "mid-winter break," a phenomenon which is new since I was a student (not all that many) years ago. Instead of a three-day weekend for Presidents' Day, schools take an entire week off! Normally, when I'm on my regular schedule, and my husband suddenly has a week off in February, I think, "How silly. They just finished Christmas break, and in another month, they'll have a week off for spring break!" However, now that I'm teaching full time and playing after-school rehearsals, I feel a need to express my relief and gratitude for these precious days off, for a variety of reasons.

First of all, Alec and I are going on a real vacation! Granted, it's only 4 days long, but we'll be flying to New York next week, and while I'm there, I won't be doing a single audition, lesson, or coaching. I'll only be hanging out with friends, going to a Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra concert, looking at Art Deco buildings, and hanging out with my lovely husband, who I feel like I haven't seen in a month! It will be heaven!

In the three days before and one day after we return, I'll be learning an entire opera role plus one scene. First, I'm singing Tisbe in La Cenerentola in April, and our first music rehearsal is a week from Saturday (yikes!). Of course, with Seussical in full swing (the week we get back to school is production week), Cosi previews, traveling to auditions, and teaching, I haven't had time to learn the role yet, and it's a lot bigger than I thought it was! Happily, we are singing it in English, and I don't anticipate learning it to be too much of a problem. I'm a quick study, and it's Rossini, after all, not Schoenberg. Still, in retrospect, I'm glad that I'll be singing Tisbe in this production and not the title role, as I had originally hoped. These things have a way of working out.

Secondly, I'm being considered for a role in an opera next year with the Seattle Early Music Guild. It's only a small role, but it's in a great opera run by some really great people, so I'm thrilled, and keeping my fingers crossed! They gave me a scene to look at, and I'm having a coaching on it on Monday.

In short, I have my work cut out for me, but I'm still on vacation! Yay! :)

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone!

I'd forgotten what a big deal Valentine's day is in schools -- everybody is wearing pink and high on chocolate, and it's not even lunch time!

Monday, February 13, 2006

just for fun

AC at the concert posted the link to this quiz and I thought it was fun.

I'm a French Horn. (also scored high as string bass, oboe and bassoon, but definitely not violin).

If you were in an orchestra, what instrument would match your personality?

****Edited to say: Oops! This is what I get for going out of town for the weekend and not checking in online to see that EVERY blogging musician has done this quiz already! :)
Apparently I'm the only opera singer in the world (other than AC) who's not an oboe!

all done!

(written at 2:45 p.m. in the Calgary airport)

Well, it’s done! I think, all things considered, it went very well. It was a different audition committee this year, and they were not as friendly and chatty as they have been in the past, though that really doesn’t mean anything.

I had a moment of panic when my pianist (who came highly recommended) came in to the waiting area, introduced himself, and said, “Wow that’s a really tough Mozart piece you’re doing, eh? How do your other accompanists handle it?” (He was referring to “Smanie implaccabili,” which is tough, I suppose, though it’s also one of the most commonly performed arias in the mezzo repertoire. Luckily, we had a chance to talk through everything before it was my turn – he didn’t realize I was doing the recitative at the beginning, and the tempo he wanted to take was considerably slower than what I normally do. However, in the audition, everything was fine, and I breathed a sigh of relief. They were flying through people, generally only hearing one aria, and when I got to the end of Smanie, they heard part of “Things change, Jo,” and then it was over. I didn’t even get to do my monologue, which was a little disappointing! I mean, I learned one and everything…. Oh, well, maybe next time.

They chatted with me a bit after the audition was over, asking how I had heard about the program and why I was interested in doing it, etc. Then, I was off to a yummy lunch, and I will shortly be on my way home. A whirlwind trip, to be sure!

I made it!

(written at 9:15 a.m. on Saturday)

I’m writing in bed, from my hotel room in Calgary. Internet access is $12.95 a day here (yikes!), so I’ll wait to post until I can find a Starbucks or something later on. Calgary seems like a great city, and I’m sorry I won’t get to spend more time here! My hotel is lovely, with six huge feather pillows on the bed. I was hoping to sleep in today, but apparently, when one is used to getting up at 5:30, 8:30 is sleeping in. Oh, well.

The flight up was great, and I even checked in here in time to catch the lighting of the flame and Pavarotti singing in the opening ceremonies. Right now, speed skating is on (have I mentioned that I’m a total Olympics junkie?). It’s always interesting to watch Olympic coverage in another country. The last time the summer Olympics were on, we watched them mostly from Edinburgh, Scotland. It’s interesting to see the sports we never get to watch in the states, and to hear the different colours (a little Canadian spelling for you) of the commentators.

I had a lesson yesterday afternoon before heading to the airport. Being with a new teacher means approaching things from a slightly different way, of course, and I wasn’t sure whether I should take my audition pieces to the lesson. Banff only requires two arias, so I certainly had other things I could have sung. Not everything we would go over could be implemented before today’s performance, and it’s possible that thinking about new things might get in the way. I didn’t really decide until I was asked what I wanted to work on. “Why not?” I thought. “I can always choose to ignore the advice tomorrow if I don’t think it will help.” So, I started with the 20th century English (“Things Change, Jo,” from Little Women) and then we worked on “Smanie”. I made the right choice! We had a great lesson, and the changes (most of them minor) were easily implemented and totally fixed a couple of issues I’ve been wanting to deal with in both pieces. I plan to do some mental rehearsal this morning, and make sure my monologue is ready to go. I’m also drinking LOTS of water and tea, as Calgary is extremely dry! My breakfast (oatmeal – yum!) should be arriving in about half an hour, and then I will have plenty of time to have a long shower, warm up, and get ready for my audition at 2:15.

Looking out my window this morning, I saw that one of my favorite Canadian restaurants is right across the street, between here and the audition site, so I think I’ll be stopping there for a late lunch before heading back to the airport. A quick but pleasant trip!

Thursday, February 9, 2006

what is that strange, foreign color I see in the sky?

The sky is blue! After 6 weeks of basically solid rain, we here in Seattle have been granted a few days of respite. I have two giant, floor-to-ceiling windows in my classroom that look out on this lovely view.

The picture was taken with my phone, so it's not the greatest, but the building you see is the campus center, and in the distance, you miss the lovely view of mountains that I see from my seat at the piano. It's hard to concentrate on teaching classes!

Wednesday, February 8, 2006

my fingers hurt!

Seussical is mostly a rock show, with lots of driving rhythms and loud music. Since I've been playing the rehearsals without a drummer or bass player, I've been pounding away at the piano even more than I will in the actual performances. In addition, there's really no dialogue in the show at all -- it's pretty much musical number after musical number, so playing a rehearsal involves 3 solid hours of pounding. After last night's rehearsal, I woke up this morning with a feeling I haven't had since graduate school -- sore fingers! I have strong hands, and I've never had any bouts of tendonitis or any of the other hand and arm problems that plague so many pianists, but I'm going to have to make a few visits to my sister to make sure that remains the case. Right now, I mostly just feel like my hands have been through a good workout -- my fingertips and the corners of my thumbs are tender, and I've been stretching out my forearms all day to try to get rid of the stiffness before todays rehearsal, which starts in a few minutes.

In other news, I'm getting ready to go to Calgary this weekend for an audition. Normally I just drive up to Vancouver for this audition, but this year the Vancouver dates didn't work with my teaching schedule, and the Calgary auditions are on Saturday, so I decided to build up some frequent-flyer miles. This audition is unusual in a couple of ways. First, they don't provide a pianist. Normally, this only requires a few inquiries and a phone call or two to secure a good accompanist for the audition, but it was slightly more complicated this time. It seems that there is a huge music festival/competition in Alberta this weekend, and I went through about 12 pianists before I finally found someone. No big deal, in the end, and he seems really nice and came highly recommended.

The second oddity about this audition is a fun one -- they require a monologue. I don't often get to work on monologues, and I quite like them. I also finally have one that I feel really comfortable with, from A Perfect Ganesh by Terrence McNally, one of my favorite playwrights.

I've never been to Calgary before, and though I'll be there less than 24 hours, I'm very excited. I love Canada, and having lived there for 4 years and graduated from a Canadian University, I almost feel part Canadian. It always feels like going home in a way, even if I'm going to a new place. It does, however, make getting ready slightly more complicated in the midst of my currently crazy schedule. First, I have to find my passport! Second, I have to go to the bank to get Canadian currency to pay my pianist, as writing American checks for Canadian funds, while possible, causes nothing but headaches in my experience. In any case, it should be a fun trip. This audition, when I've done it in the past, has always been a very positive experience.

I'm hoping my t-shirt arrives before I leave!

Monday, February 6, 2006

I've decided to take it as a compliment....

Word is out at school, thanks to my singing at the party last weekend, that I'm an opera singer, and I've gotten numerous requests from students to "sing opera" for them all week. On Friday, I sang a bit of one of Carmen's arias for one of my classes at the end of the period. When I finished, one girl had this to say:

"Whoa! You should totally be on American Idol!"

tee hee.... :)

a lovely day

Some days I'm overwhelmed by how lucky I am to be a musician. I spent the morning rehearsing Johann Christoph Bach's gorgeous Lamento: Ach, dass ich wassers gnug hatte, for an upcoming performance. Then, it was off to sing some of my favorite parts of Dorabella (Smanie, both Fiordiligi/Dorabella duets, and Soave sia il vento, the heavenly trio) in a rehearsal for the upcoming previews of Cosi fan Tutte. A lovely day, indeed.

It would have been perfect if only the Seahawks had pulled it together to win the Super Bowl. Oh, well. Maybe next time....

Saturday, February 4, 2006

go seahawks!!!!!!!

We're determined to finish our Cosi preview rehearsal in record time tomorrow so we can all go home and watch.

a lesson

I'm happy with my current voice teacher, and feel that she has done wonders for my voice. However, I feel that it's important to take a break every now and then, to allow things to settle, and to get some new opinions. To that end, I had a lesson yesterday with Jane Eaglen. It was my first lesson with a "big name" opera singer, and I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I was in for a real treat!

First of all, I could not imagine a more lovely person. She's friendly and warm with a great sense of humor, and a way of putting people at ease. I started the lesson with "Smanie implaccabili," and then she asked to hear something else, so I sang on of Nicklausse's arias from Tales of Hoffmann. We spent the rest of the lesson working on the latter. It's slow and legato, and covers a two octave range, so it really shows my whole voice. As we worked through the piece, I noticed that her way of approaching technique is very similar to that of my current teacher, which was reassuring. She was very complimentary about most of what I was doing, but was much more specific than I am used to about certain aspects of breathing and achieving good support throughout the voice. She approached everything in a really positive way, and it was really fun to think about things from a new point of view. I noticed a difference right away -- things felt very free and relaxed, and I was able to let go of that last, stubborn little bit of tension in my jaw that I have been working to get rid of. Her basic philosophy is to sing with as little extraneous physical effort as possible, and to sing in a way that will keep the voice healthy for decades to come, which are definitely ideas I can get behind!

I'm hopeful that we can work together more -- I'd really love to explore these new concepts and see how far we can take them. How exciting!

Wednesday, February 1, 2006


When I accepted my temporary teaching job, I was asked to sing at a party in January, given the date and time, and very little other information. That party happened last Saturday night. As it turns out, it's a yearly event, invitations to which are bid on at the annual school auction, with proceeds benefitting the school's arts program. Certainly a worthy cause, and I was happy to donate my time. Nearly the entire arts faculty contributes in some way -- photographs, jewelery, paintings, and sculpture were on display from the visual arts department. I sang, of course, and accompanied R, the orchestra teacher, and the drama department had some wonderful surprises in store.

I'm always somewhat skeptical when asked to sing in someone's home. I often want to ask, "Do you know how loud opera singers are?" However, I needn't have worried in this case, as the home in question was more of a mansion than a house, with a huge two-story entryway and parlor (where I sang), complete with a beautiful grand piano brought in specifically for the occasion. I began the evening, and sang an aria from Carmen, as well as Voi, che sapete (in honor of Mozart's birthday, of course), and one of my favorite musical theater tunes, Bill from Showboat. I'm a high enough mezzo that, for the most part, soprano musical theater pieces (which tend to lie quite a bit lower than arias) fit nicely for me, and it's fun to pretend that I'm a soprano from time to time.... :)

I don't think very many people at the party realized that I sing professionally, so watching their faces as I started to sing was pretty fun. Everyone was very kind afterward, and it was great to meet some of the parents of the kids I've been spending so much time with, but that was only the beginning of the evening! We then went downstairs to look at some of the amazing artwork of the faculty, including some incredible hand-made silver and copper bracelets which should be selling for thousands of dollars somewhere. Then, S, the drama teacher and stage director, gave an incredibly powerful performance of a couple of monologues that moved everyone in the room. After a brief break so we could all catch our breath, B, who teaches stage crafts, set design, etc. at the school got up and told a story. He was introducing himself and chatting with the crowd, and suddenly, almost inperceptibly, his voice changed to an Irish accent and we were sucked in to this amazing tale of giants, which was exciting and so hilarious. We were all like a group of school children, totally engrossed in the tale from beginning to end, and he was so masterful in his crafting and telling of the story! Finally, we headed back upstairs, where R played some beautiful Bach solo violin, followed by my favorite, O Danny Boy, on viola. She asked me to sing it first, a cappella, so that people could hear the words. When it comes to that song, I'll sing it anywhere, any time, so I happily belted it out.

What an amazing opportunity to share in the talents of this amazing staff! How great would it be if we could all have chances to see the hidden talents of our co-workers?

just for fun

Over at, they'll create a word cloud from your blog and put it on a t-shirt for you. (No purchase necessary to create the word cloud.) Here's mine:

My favorite part about it is the presence word "organized". If only they could see the inside of my car!