Friday, April 28, 2006

swimming through

There hasn't been much time to post this week, but lots to post about. 3 auditions, a recital, 3 concerts this weekend, and a great master class.... Lots of wonderful things are happening. Unfortunately, I'm too busy and stressed to really enjoy any of them. I feel like I'm swimming through molasses -- struggling as hard as I can just to get to the next thing, and there are so many things stacked up that there's no end in sight. But, I have a little break right now, and I'm hoping that the simple act of writing about them will help to clear my head, which feels crammed full at the moment.

In addition to the audition for the scholarship I was awarded last week, I also had auditions for 2 local companies over the weekend. Both went well. The first is doing a new opera over the summer. It seems like an interesting project -- the composer was present at the auditions and is flying out for the final week of rehearsals and writing a new chamber orchestration for the occasion. I was happy with the audition, and the committee really seemed to like what I did, but I'm fairly certain I won't be offered anything (i.e. I haven't heard anything yet, but know of some people who have received offers). The second was for Tacoma Opera, one of the larger small companies in the area. They still have one weekend of auditions left, so I know I won't be hearing anything for a while, but they do have a wonderful season for mezzos coming up -- Carmen and Beatrice and Benedict (Berlioz). I sang something from each at the audition, and both went well, though I think Berlioz is a little better fit for me, both physically and vocally. In any case, there are two mezzo roles (one big and one smaller) in each of the 2 operas, so I'm hopeful that something will work out. In the meantime, I hardly have time to think about it, which is probably a good thing.

Yesterday was the recital I mentioned in a previous post, for which I was preparing the Wesendoncklieder and Chansons de Bilitis. It went well, and was very well received. However, I didn't have time to prepare nearly as thoroughly as I would have liked. I used music, which was fine for the event in question (it was very casual), but I hate using music. Anything that interferes with direct communication of the music is extremely distracting to me, and a music stand between me and the audience, especially one that I need to look at while I'm singing, certainly interferes! I considered making some program changes and replacing the cycles with ones I've performed before, but in the end I decided that it would be better to just get these two cycles learned. I can always perform them again. And I will definitely do that -- I'm in love with both of those cycles! The Wagner are so lush and gorgeous, and the Debussy are so sensual and charming. I'm hoping to find some time in the fall for a full recital, but more on that later.

Meanwhile, the teaching year is reaching it's most hectic point, at least for performing arts teachers. My high school choirs have their concert tonight, and I haven't been so nervous for anything in years. The kids are prepared and I'm sure it will go fine, but conducting a concert of kids is totally out of my comfort zone. I know it's good for me, and I'm glad I'm doing it, but I'll breathe a sigh of relief tonight when it's over (and perhaps a celebratory martini will be in order, as well). The showcase class that I team-teach has their performance on Monday, but that's much less stressful for me -- I just have to sit behind the piano.

Speaking of sitting behind a piano, I'll be doing that at another concert this weekend -- I'm playing some orchestral piano parts in a local orchestra concert. The conductor is a friend and colleague, and he calls me whenever parts come up. I love it -- playing piano as part of an orchestra is a totally different experience than accompanying a singer or playing a sonata, or even playing chamber music. I love sitting in the middle of a large group of musicians, counting measures of rests, hearing the parts play off one another. It's another thing to do, but this one is a refreshing change.

Through everything this week, the recent tragedy at my alma mater has been constantly with me. I didn't know any of the five talented young singers (I graduated well before their time), but just knowing the school, the halls they walked down, the groups they sang with, the professors, the practice rooms, has made them feel close for some reason. It has affected me in ways I never would have imagined. My heart goes out to their families, friends, and the school that was their temporary home.

Friday, April 21, 2006


It's always nice to get little affirmations that we are headed in the right direction -- a compliment from a respected colleague, being offered a gig, touching someone at a performance. These things are important in all walks of life, of course, but particularly in the arts, where we are putting so much of ourselves in to our work, it's nice to know that people are appreciating it. On Wednesday I was awarded 1st place in a small scholarship competition here in Seattle. There weren't that many contestants, and the prize money is not huge (though it will pay for a few months worth of lessons, which is wonderful), but it's lovely to know that someone wants to help support me on my path, and that people can hear growth in what I'm doing. So thanks to them!

Monday, April 17, 2006

...and back to the grindstone

Well, vacation, lovely as it was, is over, and I'm back to work. 8 weeks of school left! (but who's counting, right?) It will be a busy next few weeks, with 2 choir concerts and a showcase (mixture of dramatic readings, musical numbers, and dance -- the culmination of the showcase class that I'm team teaching). But, after that, it's all down hill to the end of the year.

Cenerentola is in the books. It was a hectic pace to get it together (in fact, opening night was our first full run, which is always a little disconcerting), but in the end it was a great show, and everyone seemed to enjoy it. Now, I'm excited to get to work on the pile of music on my piano:
  1. Wagner's Wesendonck Lieder -- I'm studying with a renowned Wagnerian singer, and these lie well for me (possibly the only Wagner I'll ever sing, but who knows?), so it seemed like a natural fit. I'll be performing them at a little recital coming up -- good incentive to get them learned quickly!
  2. Debussy's Chansons de Bilitis -- I've been wanting to learn these for years, and the aforementioned recital provided a great opportunity.
  3. Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde -- mostly just to learn them, but they might be useful for an upcoming audition.
  4. Berlioz: Beatrice and Benedict -- a local company is doing this in the fall, so I'm looking at Beatrice's big aria in the second act. It's quite a sing! But, I'm having fun learning it.
  5. Several arias to be dusted off for upcoming auditions, including the mother's aria from Amahl and the Night Visitors.

Wow, my plate is full! I'm thrilled to be working on so many art songs. I haven't done a lot of that lately and I really miss it. I passionately love opera, but I think recitals are really where I feel most at home. Probably my piano background is the reason for this. I love the more intimate feel of recitals, of feeling like I'm communicating directly with the audience, with no stage make-up or costumes disguising me. It's just a small recital coming up, but I can't wait.

Saturday, April 15, 2006


Cleo is my adorable cat. She will sleep on my lap for hours on end, so relaxed that I can scoot out from under her to grab lunch or go to the bathroom, and she won’t be even the least bit disturbed by it. She hates my singing. It seems to be the only thing in her charmed little life that causes her even the least bit of stress. It doesn’t bother her when other people sing – students, recordings, whatever – she’ll just ignore them and go back to sleep. But should I so much as open my mouth to sing a note, it sends her in to a frenzy. It doesn’t matter, actually, whether it’s me singing live or a recording of my voice. Either way, she hates it.

Actually, I think she might think that the strange sounds emitting from my mouth are a cry for help or some alien being inhabiting my body. If I leave the door to my office open, she will come racing in with this panicked look in her eyes. If I’m sitting at the piano, which I often am, she will hop up in to my lap, sit up, and put a paw over my lips, as if to say, “Stop that, for the love of God!” When that fails, or if I happen to be standing and singing, she will slowly circle my body before deciding that the best way to deal with the situation is to attack my feet. Now, Cleo is not a vicious cat. Her idea of attacking something is to nibble lightly at it. Still, she’s incredibly persistent. Needless to say, I mostly practice now with the office door closed. She meows outside for about 10 minutes and then heads back to the living room to lounge in the sunlight streaming through the window. Rough life.

Friday, April 14, 2006

some thoughts on auditions and competition...

Seattle has been a great place to start out as a singer. There are, for the size of the town, many opportunities for young singers here, and I’ve been able to work more steadily than many of my friends from graduate school who have multiple degrees in voice. Granted, many (not all, but many) of these gigs pay little or nothing, but it’s been a good place to build up my resume a little, especially given that I was starting with nothing, having earned two degrees in piano performance.

One of the problems, and blessings, about living in a city with a relatively small singing community is that we all know each other. We’re all in the same small pond auditioning for the same roles, and we all know the people who are getting them or not getting them. Being in direct competition with friends and other people who I know and like (both musically and personally) is not easy. It’s not easy when a friend gets offered a role that I really wanted. I know that it’s just part of the business. In fact, a big part of starting off in this business for me has been learning to forget an audition right after I do it. I have no illusions that I will be offered every role or concert I audition for, or even one out of every two or three. The most important things for me right now are to keep growing as a musician and actress, to keep auditioning, and to trust that I’m on the right path. I’m getting better at that. I’m pretty sure it’s something I’ll always work on.

In the past couple of days I’ve run in to a slightly different difficulty. Getting offered the role means that other people (who really wanted it, too) didn’t get the offer. I like to get along with people. It bothers me when I feel like I can’t, whether or not it’s in my control. I don’t like feeling like, by my success, someone else has been hurt.

It’s all part of learning to be a good colleague, I guess. I hope that I can be happy for people’s successes, and not view them as my failures, because they really aren’t, when I step back and look at the big picture. And when I do get the gigs, I hope to do the work to the best of my ability, and to know and accept that competition is just part of what we do. It’s part of the business, but not part of the music and art that we create, which is why I’m on this path in the first place.