Friday, March 31, 2006


I have the next two weeks off of school. I didn't realize until I was driving away this afternoon how tense I was (am). The combination of (somewhat frantic) rehearsals for La Cenerentola and 4 classes a day of kids with serious spring fever is not a good one. I've been craving vacation, and I finally get one.....

.....well...... sort of.......

Next week I have about 25 hours of editing to do. I also have 12 piano students and 1 voice student to teach, 6 hours of teaching at the small music academy where I spend my Saturdays, 15 hours of Cenerentola rehearsals, 2 Cenerentola performances, and a lesson (which I'll be taking, not teaching). Oh, and I have to finish my taxes. Hardly a vacation, I'd say! I do, however, get to sleep in at least a little past 5:30, which is when I usually have to get up to make it to class on time. I will also have time for a few lunch and coffee dates with friends and a concert.

Happily, during the second week of my break, I have the following things on my calendar:
  1. Sushi with good friend LL
  2. An overnight trip to Port Townsend with Alec to visit his brother, where we'll be staying in a quaint Victorian hotel
  3. A haircut
  4. A coaching or two, and a lesson
  5. Planning an upcoming short recital
  6. A massage, to get rid of some of the aforementioned tension

Just looking at all that lovely white, empty space on my calendar (yes -- I still use a hand-written date book, if you can believe it) for that week makes me feel more relaxed already!

Monday, March 20, 2006


I'm very jealous of ACB for having her taxes finished already. With all the craziness of moving over the summer, I'm left with a sizable hole in my record-keeping, so now I'm left digging through receipts and bank statements to try to fill it in. The upside is that this time of year always serves as a good kick in the pants to make sure that I have this year's records in order up until now. We purchased a home this year, which we're hoping will help somewhat, but I have trouble believing that we won't owe at least some money. Such is life for self-employed musicians, and when there are two of them in a family, it's bad news in April.... sigh.... Yes, we could avoid this by paying quarterly taxes, having extra withheld from checks throughout the year, etc. However, one fact of life when a good portion of your income comes from performing and teaching is that there are good times and lean times (lots of gigs at Christmas, kids on vacation in the summer and not taking lessons, etc.), and when it comes down to it, I'd rather have that extra money in a savings account in my control, just in case. Oh, well, back to my bank statements....

Thursday, March 16, 2006

warm fuzzies

When I was younger I kept a book of happy thoughts -- a little notebook where I recorded the little things that made me happy. I thought of it today for the first time in a long time. Here are some little things that have made me happy lately:
  1. Releasing my choir classes and hearing them sing the songs we've been working on all the way down the hall and out the door.
  2. Knowing that it's a long weekend (mid term break), and I won't have to wake up at 5:30 tomorrow morning.
  3. Rehearsing an opera with some great colleagues.
  4. Exploring new song repertoire.
  5. Working with a new teacher and feeling as though my voice is making noticeable strides in size and beauty, even in a short span of time.
  6. Taking a nap with my cat in the afternoon.
  7. Reading a good book.
  8. Consciously taking a moment to enjoy these little things when I notice them.

What makes you happy?

Monday, March 13, 2006


Last week, a great writer came to give a talk at the school where I'm working, as part of an annual writers' symposium. The school sponsors a writer to give talks to the middle and high school students, who have all been reading his or her work in class, then the writer visits English classes and leads discussions. I almost didn't go. I almost didn't make the trip across the hall to the theater, in favor of an extra hour of planning time.

What I almost missed was a wonderful, thought provoking talk, followed by equally wonderful, thought provoking questions from the students, who continue to amaze me every day. Mr. Wideman spoke mostly about Education, and the role it should be playing in the lives of young people. Education should include and allow for people to come to know themselves in the process, and only through that knowing of oneself can one begin to understand other people and the greater world as a whole. He spoke of feeling like an outsider as a child, as a teenager, and as one of six African-American students at Penn when he was awarded a full scholarship, and that he continued to feel like an outsider today. Moreover, he offered that it was impossible to enter in to the process of self knowledge without that feeling of not fitting in to the world around us. In my own experience, I have found this to be true. I have often felt most fulfilled by experiences entered in to with trepidation, with a feeling of discomfort, and knowing that I was an outsider to some extent.

Beyond this, he spoke of the absolute importance of silence in cultivating self awareness. Today, when we can take our phones, our music, the internet, television, movies, and other distractions with us everywhere we go, we too often fill our silences up with so many other things that we cannot hear ourselves. Not a new concept, certainly, but certainly one to be reminded of over and over in this noise of day-to-day life. It made me question the last time I had had real silence in my days. It had been a while. In my former life as a pianist, I had lots of it. In a practice room for four or five or even six hours a day, silence was a regular part of my routine. That extended practice time allows for ideas to develop in a leisurely way, for silence and sound to mix. In addition, I lived alone and often found time for meditation, or even just a quiet nap in the afternoon. As a singer I find that I often don't have these luxuries. First, I'm not a student anymore, and real life takes up a great deal more time than student life, allowing less time to practice. Secondly, even if I had six hours a day to practice, I couldn't possibly sing for that long, or even half that long if I have other singing to do that day. Certainly, there are other things we have to work on than actual singing -- translating, thinking about acting choices, etc. However, even with all that included, my practicing as a singer tends to be more..... full, is the only way I can think of to describe it. Often I'm learning things quickly for a looming deadline, or brushing them up for upcoming auditions, and a sense of space is lacking.

Now that I have a little more time in my days, I've made it a priority to find silence whenever I can. Still, I'm sure I'll need reminders like the one I was given by Mr. Wideman the other day.

Friday, March 3, 2006

so proud...

I tell you, there's just something about kids giving their all to performing that totallly gets me. When it comes time for production week, all the struggle that it took to get roles and blocking learned seems to disappear. Seussical opens tonight. It's the first high school show that I've music directed, and I'm very proud of everyone involved. The kids have really stepped it up this week, and everyone has taken the show to the next level with every dress rehearsal and preview. It wasn't an easy road. Student theater (or any theater, for that matter) never is. Things come together at the last minute, people don't know their lines, etc. But then, magically, something always seems to click. Suddenly, when the sets are up and the costumes are on, everybody embodies their character and gives their all to every moment of the show. Would it be nice if this happened all the time? Certainly, though it rarely does, even in professional productions I've been involved with. Why? Well, I attribute it mostly to the fact that giving your all at anything is exhausting. It puts you in a vulnerable place, and that's hard to do on a consistent basis, particularly for teenagers who spend most of their days in vulnerable places anyway. In any case, the final result is really quite astounding. Everybody is working so hard and the performances are really quite wonderful. It's not, in general, a very emotional show, but it is terribly sweet, and I've cried at every run-through so far! I'm a sap, especially when it comes to kids performing. I shudder to think what a mess I'll be someday when I have children of my own in performances of some kind (music, sports, etc. -- it all makes me sob!). One thing that amazes me about this show is how perfectly cast it is. I cannot imagine a more adorable Cat in the Hat, as I'm sure you can see from the pictures, and Jo Jo (left) is so sweet I could just watch her all day. Everyone, from the Whos down in Whoville to the Bird Girls, to Horton the Elephant, to the Grinch, is totally perfect. An added bonus is that after this weekend, my schedule will return to something resembling normal! I might actually have time to do all those little things that need doing, like replacing the burnt-out headlight in my car, or getting a much needed haircut, or cleaning my bathroom. And maybe even a trip to the spa! Aaaaaahhhhhhh.......