Tuesday, December 27, 2011


I hope you are all taking lots of naps and relishing the chance to relax like I am! It's snowing where I am and I am in heaven, also somehow wine seems to be cheaper here.

With 2012 just around the corner, I guess I'm trying to come up with some goals for myself and spending sometime think back over the year and about all the things, both good and bad, that have happened. I certainly have been rich with friendships and new professional relationships.

I have loved 2011, because it's taught me a lot. I wonder what is coming next?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Monday, December 19, 2011

Monday: Stocking stuffers for your favorite singer (edited to add more!)

Okay, guys! I had a couple of major discoveries this weekend, and I'm putting them down here. If you need a little gift for a singer, these are fabulous ideas.

1. Eucalyptus Essential Oil
You can get it at Whole Foods, and it makes your morning shower a spa experience-- just splash a few drops on the wall of the shower once the water is hot and there is a lot of steam. Plus, it is great for use when steaming.

2. Bromelain
This is a dietary supplement made from pineapple enzymes. It reduces inflammation, and worked amazingly well on my fatigued vocal cords yesterday when I had a concert to sing. You take one right after a meal, a couple hours before your gig. It just calms everything down in there if you've been singing a lot.

3. Practicing Peace in Times of War by Pema Chödrön
With such a far-reaching, lofty sounding title, you would never know how incredibly relevant to everyday life this book is. It's short, it's sweet, it's life-changing. It is currently changing mine as we speak. It's not about countries and politics. It's about the human heart. Unbelievable and mind-blowing. It's inexpensive, and even less expensive if you buy it for your Kindle. I think my copy was a little over six dollars!

Have a great week, dear readers! Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Friday: Discomfort is my comfort zone

As singers, we almost become more comfortable with discomfort than comfort, in many ways. We become accustomed to having teachers ask us to do humiliating things and make rather humiliating sounds in the course of lessons, because we have learned that ultimately, it always helps! We pay coaches to lovingly insult us into being better performers and more careful linguists. In fact, I have always had the distinct sense that when it comes to singing, if I'm not kept on my toes, I'm wasting my money! I think we would also all agree that there is nothing really that comfortable about singing art music in public. Sure, it gets easier every time, but ultimately, in order to even approach professionalism and a competitive level of work, we are performing with lots of focus and attention and energy. There's nothing cushy about it, in fact, it's pretty darn intense.

So, in that aspect of my life, I make a bee line in the direction of discomfort and ultimately growth.

It's the rest of my life that I find it's easier to fall into a pattern of comfort. For instance, sometimes its literally more comfortable to be angry with a someone that pisses you off than to make the effort to just get over it, and move through the discomfort of having to let it go. How funny that living with something damaging like anger is actually where my brain wants to go! Discomfort is my comfort zone. Yikes.

Just a couple of months ago, I made the decision while walking down the street that day to make a particular person in my life my spiritual practice. This person became my challenge to myself to see how much I could let go of anger, resentment, and annoyance that I found just seeping from my pores in their general direction. It has been really difficult sometimes, and nothing about it has been comfortable. But the changes it has made for me in this relationship with this person has been unreal. I am still struggling in my own way with aspects of this person's personality, but I now see it for what it is-- unnecessary. When I feel myself going there, I make the choice to let it go, and instead, react with kindness.

Something else completely out of my comfort zone: eating salads. I am making a huge effort to keep fresh greens in the house and just eat a salad a day, but it's hard, because I always have excuses and reasons why I'd rather be eating almost anything else. I'd rather be eating chips, you better believe it.

All this goes against my long held personal motto of "Sometimes you just have to do what you want."

And that is true too, except when doing "what you want" is actually bad for you.

Oh man is that deep. Whatever happened to frivolous Fridays???

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Thursday: things to stop doing!

Oh YES, please read this blog post NOW!!


Wednesday, December 14, 2011


The whole thing with me right now is Christmas.

Oh my goodness. I sang my last audition of 2011 on Monday, and did not embarrass myself despite intense exhaustion after the previous evening's emotionally taxing gig. In fact I sang competently in spite of the "interesting" accompanying. Now all I have to worry about are the church job concerts and Christmas Eve services, and since they are not really solo gigs, I find them less stressful. Oh, yes, and I haven't bought any presents for anyone. Nor have I finished trimming my tree. My holiday party is this weekend, and I spent all of last night making meatballs. The house has the distinct fragrance of, as Joe would say: a meatery. Every single fiber of my home is fully infiltrated with the smell of sauteeing pork. But I can check that huge job off the list. All I have to do now is make about twelve batches of pizza dough and buy some more wine, some cheese and some veggies.

Ahhh. I really do love the holidays. As long as there is wine.

Friday, December 09, 2011


My body is freaking out completely. My skin, etc. It seems like the perfect storm of a break down of bodily function. I asked myself this morning as I got up and looked at myself in the mirror: What in the HELL is going on?? It took me all of five seconds to realize: it's stress. The intense schedule, combined with a brain that never rests (re: memorization), along with some family drama: all these equal cortisol levels through the roof. Add to that, I haven't been able to get to yoga this week. So I'm a mess.

This morning I was blow-drying my hair, which is kind of a project (It's getting a bit too long for convenience), I was hot, tired, late for work, and I could feel all that frustration and angst rising. I almost had one of my famous tantrums (ask Joe, they are legendary), just because I needed the release of freaking out. Then I thought, okay, what good would that honestly do? It would upset Joe who also has a stressful day ahead of him as well, and I would only be more hot, more tired, and more late. So I took a breath and calmed myself down with my favorite yoga teacher's mantra: I am grateful, oh so grateful. Sounds cheesy, but it works.

There is comfort in the fact that what will be will be. The words of my pieces will probably come out mostly right. I have devoted a lot of time to them. I have to relax and believe in my own effort. The shopping will get done, the baking, the rehearsing, the overtime at work, it will all get done. It's time to stop giving myself a hernia over the whole thing.

Of course, I cannot just say those words and stop worrying. It's a process of constantly staying on top of my thoughts and the part they play in getting me so worked up.

But I need to cut it out because I look like the wicked witch of the west.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Wednesday: part 2

“Ignore those that make you fearful and sad, that degrade you back towards disease and death.”
― Rumi

Wednesday: Over-Correcting

When someone shows you who they are the first time, believe them. (Maya Angelou)

Words to live by. Words that I have not been following as closely as I should be. I have endeavored to stop making excuses for myself, why do I make excuses for others? When I see a glimpse of goodness and want to believe in someone, I forget about all the meanness.

So I've realized, I think it is possible to over-correct in the journey to non-judgement and acceptance. Especially as a professional singer, and when it comes to others you choose to work with. There is NO reason, NONE to work with someone who doesn't respect us, and all the things that we went through to get to where we are. I'm not going to allow it, and neither should you.

No jerks allowed. The last thing young classical singers need is negativity.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Tuesday: Memorization station

Friday's audition was rather kick-ass if I do say so myself. The whole commute to NYC went so remarkably smoothly, comfortably, and non-annoyingly that it almost scared me. I enjoy auditioning for so many reasons. Very near the top of the list would be observing other singers in their not-so-natural habitat. I love to see what the girls are wearing, I love to hear the chatting, the lingo, I am energized by the environment. I am learning to turn off the comparing voice in my head when I see the thinner, more beautiful sopranos walking out of the audition room, so that no longer is such an issue for me, and it's crazy how much more I enjoy the whole process of going to sing an audition. I don't want to give the impression that I'm THAT evolved, however, that with the right combination of hormones, things couldn't seriously deteriorate, if you know what I mean.

Focusing on what IS my job and leaving all the other stuff out of it makes life way more fun.

Well, this week, despite the fact that ye old google calendar looks like crayola threw up all over it, (aka I'm really busy), I kind of need to memorize ten pieces for a recital on Sunday. They're at that scary point in the process where I still screw the words up waaaayyy too often, but it's ALMOST there. Yikes. Onward.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Tuesday: fear factor

I have been MIA lately blog friends, but I bet you haven't missed me. We're all auditioning and preparing and taking buses and trains to sing for people and being brave. I applaud you.

I was thinking about the popular exhortation to "do one thing everyday that scares you," and realized that musicians and singers specifically are way over their quota especially at this time of year. If doing one thing everyday that scares you is truly and act that will enrich your life and develop your character (and I believe it is), we've got a lot of character building happening.

As I contemplate that phrase, it does make me a bit more introspective (as if I'm ever not), and wonder what I do or avoid doing out of fear. The other day another singer asked me about the results of an audition I'd done, and when I said I wasn't cast, the person asked who had been cast instead of me. I am so glad I stopped to think before I answered, because what was about to come out of my mouth was an answer specifically designed to make myself feel better by down-playing the talents of the other singer and the judgement of the audition panel. Oh, I've done it before. And I'm not proud. Phew, I avoided it this time.

Why would I ever think that that kind of thing would actually make me look good, make me feel better, or help to elevate the already strained atmosphere of classical singing? Maybe I need to just practice saying the phrase: "I think I must not have been what they were looking for. I better get back to work!"

Seeing another singer succeed should make me feel all the more hopeful and motivated to make myself more ready for that opportunity when it does come. It should give me the sense that it IS possible, not make me want to give up altogether because it was her instead of me.

Talk about facing your fears.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Monday: Live the Question

Oh my gosh. It's been a while since I've written, kids. I think this whole singing thing is getting a bit, well, busy? And, hey, I'm busy filing rejection emails in carefully marked folders entitled: OH WELL, BETTER LUCK NEXT TIME and DON'T EVEN TRY/NEVER AGAIN.

Because I just realized something. It is not my job to worry about the odds. Neither is it my job to worry about the numbers. Or the sopranos or the mezzos or the ratios there of.

It is my job only to do what I can do (apply, prepare, show up), and let the universe figure the rest out.

You'll hear people say: "It's just absolutely essential that you know for sure what your true purpose on earth is." Or "You have to know who you are and where you are going."

That is such a blaringly easy thing to say to someone when you have no real advice, or any idea to how to help them.

I think that my idea of what I am striving for is always changing, and I find that statements of certainty about anything tend to scare me, but my heart says: I have to sing. Do I know without a doubt who I am and what my ultimate purpose in life is? Absolutely not.

But I am living the question.

Deepak Chopra says: Live the question. And the answer will dawn on you when you least expect it.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Friday: from a wise woman

Audition season can make you remember why you do what you do, it can give you a goal to work toward, something to help you truly focus your practice time, great feedback from the panel can make your entire week. There are also those days when you're standing by Sbarro waiting for the Bolt Bus back to wherever, in the rain, with a heavy bag, dress, shoes, looking like a drowned rat, wishing to die and questioning why you ever thought pursuing a career in opera was a good idea.

So, today, because I love Maya Angelou (in my opinion, one of the great sages of our day), here's something she said that feels right for this time of year:

“A bird doesn't sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.”

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Wednesday: The post-audition thank-you note

I’ve been to seminars, classes, and you have too, and this has come up. People I love and respect have differing opinions. But here is mine.

1. There are two kinds of auditions: The kind where you are one of hundreds of people all paying $35 dollars to be heard for about 3-5 minutes, if you're lucky. And then there is the kind where a director or conductor are taking time to hear singers on their turf (a church, or the university where they teach) on a smaller scale, maybe it's even just you they've agreed to hear.

Note the difference. One audition involves the singer paying. One doesn't.

2. Consider for a moment that it is probably a part of a conductor/artistic director/etc.'s job to listen to auditions, because they rely on singers to perform the things that they want to direct or conduct. They need us to make their vision for their company, choir, etc. a reality. Please remember that you, too, are very important to the process of creating a show.

3. However, if I have asked for something out of the ordinary, such as special accommodation of my schedule that was not part of the original block of time alotted for the auditions, and it was granted, that deserves acknowledgement. It is not to be taken for granted that musicians are by far the busiest, most tightly-scheduled people I know, and if someone gave you any extra time, fit you in, it's a big deal. No really. If someone has gone out of their way for you, show your appreciation, and they just might become your biggest fan.

4. I admit, I'm a person who's kind of into thank-you notes in the first place. I think they are polite, I think it shows respect, thoughtfulness, and generally, that you care.

5. I have often noted (no pun intended) that while I do feel especially lucky to have gotten an audition when there are lots and lots of applicants for something like a YAP, I have, in almost every case (with the lovely notable exceptions such as St. Louis and Santa Fe), paid a non-refundable fee, taken time off from my job, paid for a bus ticket, and numerous other costly things to get to that audition that I am very lucky to have. Are they really doing me the favor? In that situation I suppose the reason to send a thank you note would simply be to hope that you might jog the memories of the people that heard you and to remind them that you actually did come, that you were there, that you exist, and that you sang, X, Y and Z. Although, there is a very good chance that if you just sang musically, in tune, all the right notes, with delightful and engaging acting, you would stand out from the crowd on your own.

6. There is something that feels, don’t kill me, a bit desperate about writing a thank-you note under the above circumstances. I’ve done it. And for some reason, it didn’t really leave me feeling warm and fuzzy. If everyone is sending them, do you think that it really is making a difference for you? If the answer is yes, then, by all means do it, but I suppose that I am starting to feel like singers, but sopranos specifically, need to stop living from a place of fear, and start living from a place of “Let me share this aria with you and remind you why humans have never gotten tired of hearing it after three hundred years, let me share myself, my heart, and who I am, and you will want to send me a thank-you note when I am finished.“ I am constantly reminding myself, in singing and in life, that I have nothing to prove. I do not have to prove that I am cool, that I am smart, or that I am the best singer you have ever heard. My job is only to do my work, be nice, and be me. I think a lot of times the bad feelings start and the thoughts about needing to be reminding and asking and sending things, after you have sung your aria and a half, poured your soul out on the floor, and they are still sitting there expressionless saying thank you for coming. It’s okay. There's dignity in showing up. You did your part. Walk out the door and get a coffee or better yet wine, and go home. It’s life. And it’s the one we chose.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Tuesday: The Four Questions

Last night, at yoga class, I was handed yet another moment of enlightenment, for about eleven dollars. And, very sore shoulders. But I've always wanted toned arms, and I much prefer this method to the one where you wave some weights around and stare at all the people with awkward gym clothing.

In order to basically take our minds off the fact that we were in agony, our amazing teacher adds chanting, singing, and lots of scientific and spiritual information in to the class. Last night's were especially thought provoking. She introduced each of the Four Questions of the Shaman, as we held another pose that was related to it. By the end of the first, there were tears rolling down my cheeks, partly because of the question, partly because of the PAIN! Good thing it was dark! Or everyone would know just how much of a basket case I really am.

First question:
When did you stop singing?
Not art for art's sake, not a highly refined discipline. Singing as a pure expression of exuberant joy. This really made me think.

Second question:
When did you stop dancing?
I haven't done any actual dancing since...well...a long time. It was something that used to make me feel light and happy and beautiful. Did you ever stop to think that dancing could actually be the solution to all of our problems with ourselves? Maybe it's time for an actual solo living room rock out dance party. Let yourself dance. If you can't bring yourself do dance in a public setting, do it alone in your room at home, but do it.

Third question:
When did you forget the power of stories?
In other words, when did you stop believing that miracles could happen? When did you become cynical? When did you stop really listening when people tell their stories, and stop sharing yours? Stories, like those in the bible, the ones your grandmother tells you about the old days, the one about the singer who worked her tail off and one day really got the big opportunity she had been unknowingly, but arduously preparing herself to be ready for all that time?

Fourth question:
When did you stop finding comfort in silence?
I always liked crowds, and the energy of a crowded room. But it can feel like I'm being overwhelmed by the energy that's coming at me from every side. It is an interesting thing to listen to the silence within yourself even when you are in a loud place, like New York at Nola Studios with jaded singers all around you, for instance. Some people call it listening to the listener. I find that it is easiest to connect with that silence when I am paying attention to my breath. Which couldn't hurt your singing, either.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Monday: from my guru


The four questions of the Shaman. They really rocked my world.


I'm not going to lie and say I'm feeling fresh as a daisy, but honestly, even after getting home last night at midnight, I still feel like I had a more relaxing weekend than I usually do when I am at home! No church, no synagogue, no teaching, just flying around and picking up rental cars and eating at abysmal restaurants and putting on make-up, and then, well...singing an audition.

My favorite moment on the flight there was when I got to my seat, I saw a gentleman sitting in it. "Oh," I said, smiling, "I think that might be my seat...the one on the aisle?"

"Oh, okay," He said, as if he were surprised. "I was hoping you could trade with me because I have such long legs I really like to be on an aisle."

His legs, I might add, were no longer than mine.

"Well," I said, still smiling, "I'd be happy to, as long as you are okay with getting up to let me out to go to the bathroom regularly, as I drink a lot of water when I'm flying."

He looked oddly shocked. I mean I really didn't think it was that weird of a thing to say. I drink a lot of water, therefore, I have to pee a lot, therefore, you'll have to get up a lot if I let you have the aisle.

He hemmed and he hawed, I continued to smile, and he obligingly slid into the middle seat and relinquished the prized aisle to moi, the one that I had, mind you, purposely booked for the very reason I explained. I then proceeded to put on my Vick's Vapo Rub and my socks, and drink an entire VERY large bottle of water, and consider what about that exchange had made him so uncomfortable. And you know, I think he was honestly, just really surprised that I didn't just say yes, of course. When I started to think about it, I felt this tiny twinge of anger. I felt put upon, annoyed that he would ask me to give up the seat I had booked, for a very specific reason, when he did not take the time to plan ahead to do the same for himself. He probably does this every time he flies. Just asks people to move, and they do.

Then, I thought, why would I create this entire script in my mind about this and a complex story surrounding this situation? I'm going to actually put myself into a place of anger over something that is not even an issue. I'm in the damn seat, that's all that matters! The fact is, he had the right to ask. I had the right to say no.

Later, when a very well-hydrated young opera singer arrived at the rental car pick up, low and behold, a VERY bright yellow car had been assigned to me. The young man who gave me the keys said that he thought that an "attractive lady" like me would enjoy a bright yellow car. I have to admit I was flattered to be called attractive, since I've kind of felt lately like my powers of attraction are drying up...but the car....the car. It was hideous on a whole other level. Does it matter? Is it worth hurting this guy's feelings? I would be driving it only for about 24 hours. The older gentleman after me got a nice civilized white car. But, there I was, with my yellow car of shame, driving away down the road to find my hotel and the nearest place to get something to eat.

On the subject of food...why must everything be so horribly over-salted? Okay, I'm done.

It's scary how much free time I had. I did my nails, I shopped, I watched Law and Order. It was awesome.

But here's the thing. The actual audition part: you know, the whole reason I did this...

When I got there, my warm-up went great, everything felt wonderful. Somehow between talking to the pianist, greeting the panel, and walking up on stage, I lost my ability to basically breathe.

The first piece was full of unusual breaths and singing that was not as controlled as I wanted it to be. I had to really work hard at not hating myself for that.

The second piece was great.

But I am concerned they would have already formed their opinions of me by the time I opened my mouth to sing a second selection.

What can I do? Nothing.


Friday, November 04, 2011

Friday: leaving on a jet plane

Tomorrow I leave for my little audition overnighter, and I'm really excited. I love going places by myself. I get so few opportunities to really be with myself, as weird as that sounds, that I'm kind of looking forward to it.

That being said, there is always a modicum of anxiety that enters my little brain when considering what to pack and what to wear on the plane. Why? It's not that big of a deal, and I'm not going to like Pakistan or anything. Where I'm going, there's sure to be a Target and a CVS should I need one. But I have this sense that when I'm in an airport surrounded by hundreds of people, it's not going to make me feel good if I look at all schlumpy or disheveled. But you still want to be comfy and warm. So, I'm thinking this is a job for a favorite member of my wardrobe family: leggings.

I've got my amazing pumpkin spice granola (comment if you'd like the recipe!), my green tea, my vick's vapo rub for use under my nose during flights. It is my theory that it keeps the germs out...and it definitely makes people avoid trying to converse with me because I look like a freak. I'm hoping Joe will loan me his noise-cancelling earphones...but we'll see about that. I've got my GPS for rental car driving and audition venue finding. I'm taking one pair of audition shoes and a choice of two dresses...we'll see which I feel like wearing the day of.

Okay...here goes!

Friday: a blog post to share

I can only imagine how the world of singing would change if importance were put on the issues mentioned in this wonderful blog by Claudia Friedlander!

Tuesday, November 01, 2011


Oh my gosh. The kids trick-or-treating! It's so cute that it's almost enough to make me want to have a couple dozen of my own! Wow. It was a smorgasbord of cute last night.

This week, I've made an effort to kind of give myself a little more downtime as I prepare to go on a little trip for an audition this weekend. I honestly am so excited about it. I need to practice, but I don't want to be my usual weekend wasteland of exhaustion as I head out. I'm staying in a truly "spectacular" airport hotel, and one thing I really don't love about that whole scene is the breakfast situation. So tonight or tomorrow I've got a recipe for Pumpkin Spice Granola that sounds like something the hubs and I would really be into. And, I can pack some to take with me to eat the morning I am out of town, and it will feel like home.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Monday: Best Costume Award

This costume is my favorite from the fashion blogs I love to peruse. From this lovely post at B. Jones Style!

I, however, will be trick-or-treating with one of my favorite little boys and his mother tonight in a princess fairy get up from CVS that is rather lack-luster. Sigh. If only I had had a bit more time this weekend to work this whole Halloween thing through.

Survival Sunday: How to not die

1. Do set your alarm clock fifteen minutes earlier even though it is painful.

2. Do not hesitate to ask your husband to make you coffee, even if it means he has to get up as early as you...now is not the time for selflessness.

3. Plan ahead by packing a very serviceable but sadly not at all tasty peanut butter sandwich on wheat bread because your stomach is sure to start growling half way through that second rehearsal.

4. Screw blowdrying. A neat ponytail is just fine.

5. Opaque black tights: warm, slimming, and go with absolutely everything I own. Also, all black is the best policy when pressed for time. I just don't have the energy sometimes to try to mix and match and wearing color stresses me out.

6. Avoid mother-in-laws when first arriving home from long day, as things might accidentally slip out of your mouth that you do not mean. Or maybe you do mean them. Either way.

7. Best technique for avoiding saying the wrong thing is just to immediately stuff mouth with food upon walking in the door. Cookies, chips, whatever is there. Although what I really wanted was a grilled cheese.

8. Last and very most important aspect of post intense day recovery: wine. And a lot of it.

Thank you. Goodbye.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Frivolous Friday: inspiration

This was particularly inspiring to me today! Now, if I could just stop eating altogether so that I could be her size! I say, as I tuck into my 7-Eleven bag of gummi worms. Not worth it. The clothes are pretty fab, though!

Here's a sneak peak!

Monday, October 24, 2011


This weekend was devoted to time with my cousin and her fabulous boyfriend. They came to stay with us, and we had a fantastic time doing FUN stuff-- almost a full day and a half of nothing but fun. We went to dinner, we took the water taxi, we walked, we ate a ton, we drank chardonnay (duh).

I had an audition yesterday, along with the usual two church services, and I had been worried about having a day of bacchanalia right before having so much singing. I almost asked my cousin to postpone the trip and come another time. But we looked at calendars and realized there was virtually no other weekend that looked good.

Then I realized something: What the heck was I thinking? Am I really going to allow singing a five minute audition to influence my life this drastically? Is it more important than taking a little time (it's not like it was a week) to laugh, play games, and just spend time with a person who has always been there for me throughout my life?

So, I drank tons of water in between the chardonnay, and besides having to pee a lot, I went on with my weekend of fun, having made the decision NOT TO WORRY ABOUT THE SINGING PART. So I spent the weekend really being in the moment, and had a wonderful time. I just told myself that things like this are going to come up in my life, and I have to learn how to make being a singer fit in around the other things that are important.

It was an interesting thing, to be honest. I had to think about my priorities.

Confession: thinking about singing nearly consumes me. I think about my voice in the morning, all day, and at night. It influences what I eat and drink, and what I wear, and where I go. But I know that I would not be happy if my relationship with my vocal cords was the only one I was successful at maintaining. Relationships with people have to come first, singing second. And when I think about what that actually means, it's kind of sobering.

What it means is that I have to be very disciplined in my life, and very choosy about how I spend my time. It means that I have to keep only a small group of friends and family close, and ration time on other things sparingly. I do not have the time I once did to spend going out, shopping, hanging out with people that are merely acquaintances. My practice time and my time with Joe are sacred, and the more each of us work (and that is a good thing...I think), the less there is of it, and the more important it becomes to be one hundred percent THERE when we have it, not worrying about not enjoying myself because I have to sing the next day. Okay, so I have to have one less glass of wine, or drink a gallon of extra water.

I surprised myself with how not freaked out I was yesterday, despite the challenges of the schedule, the fact that I hadn't slept well...etc. I went to church, I was there. I went to the second church, I was there. I went to the audition, I was there. When I got home I collapsed into the recliner exhausted, because I had really given one hundred percent to each thing that day, each experience that weekend. It was so great! I learned a lot.

And I have a call back tonight! So there you have it.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Frivolous Friday: here I go again

Okay, so I just read this very intriguing post on Tim Smith's blog.

And I'll be darned if I'm not inspired. The truth is, I won't be able to attend opening night of the new opera company here in Charm City because I've got another performance to attend, but you can bet I'll be dressed up for that.

I relish glamour, fun shoes, jewelry-- real or otherwise, and while I'm kind of of the school of thought that there is never a good reason NOT to look hot (okay, well, I'm not at my hottest in yoga class, admittedly), if there ever was a good reason, it's going out to hear something as fabulous as an opera. Why are we not waiting with bated breath for opportunities to wear our loveliest things? Why would we wear jeans or slorish clubbing clothing if we could wear dresses, suits, gorgeous shoes? I have a feeling that I'm preaching to the choir here, but, holy moly sometimes I question why...why...why would you wear that? To THIS? Is it a Jersey Shore Reunion? Are we at the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders try outs? Did we shop in the juniors section by accident again? There is no law against wearing a skirt that is at the knee or below. There is also no law against wearing the proper undergarments. Yes, spanx do kind of hurt, as do high heels, and wearing hose is not as pleasurable as say...eating an icecream cone. But how can you really appreciate your sweatpants if you never suffer a little for fashion?


Because I don't have anything brilliant to say, and not that I ever really do, here's a quote that I love for your Friday:

If we are facing in the right direction, all we have to do is keep on walking.
~Buddhist Saying

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


Why do I ever worry about a thing? It is so ridiculous, when I observe how unbelievably well the universe has cared for me. I am convinced I am married to the world's greatest person, I have grown exponentially in the past few years, I am doing more and more of what I really want to be doing, and I have amazing friends.

As my amazing guru/yoga teacher Brianna would say: "Just for today, be thankful."

I am so thankful.

Monday, October 17, 2011


I've been rushing around like a mad woman the past few weeks, and it's left my voice haggard and my skin disastrous. It was a gorgeous day yesterday-- I probably should have been outside doing something, well...outdoorsy, or at least taking a walk or something. But when I got home from my church jobs, all I had the energy to do was heat up some left overs and stuff them in my mouth and then I zonked out, and when I woke up, it was barely daylight outside.

It made me consider that it might be time for me to think about the importance of making space in my life for the things I really want.

Having time to practice is kind of major.

And I haven't had much of that recently. When I'm not singing at a rehearsal, I'm recovering from something, resting for something else. Yes, my time is filled with almost all singing related things, and one could argue that any money made while singing counts toward the goal, but I'm starting to believe that I have taken on too much.

Or maybe its just Monday. Which is also very possible.

Friday, October 14, 2011


Very cool article, forwarded to me by my teacher.

Find it here!

And another inspiring post from a wonderful blog!

Here it is!

Thursday, October 13, 2011


I am a geek. Or else I am just much more intelligent, cultured, and high-minded than the rest of the world. I've been watching Olivier Latry youtubes for the past hour.

God, organ playing is sexy.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


It wouldn't be October without my first "because of the sheer volume of basically one million singers applying this year, we are sorry, but you are a soprano and we couldn't schedule you for an audition" email.

I take it as a challenge. I'm throwing down the gauntlet. I DARE you to hear me! All of you. You won't be disappointed.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Frivolous Friday

From this lovely blog!


Shana Tovah, everyone. It's almost Yom Kippur!

I was teaching yesterday, talking about breath to my wonderful student, trying to explain the importance of expansive breath, from the front, back and sides. When I take the time to focus on my breath (which if I am being a good girl, I do as part of my warm-up), it is like I am transforming myself into a kinder, gentler, more centered human being. I feel the healing power of breath flowing though me, and a sense of calm washes over my usually crazed and neurotic mind. It is so much more difficult to sing in that busy-minded state, and there is so much more room for art in the other. Not only do you need the energy and support of your breath to make vibrations that are both beautiful and powerfully healing in and of themselves, but you need it to bring you to...I trail off...and a phrase I heard literally hundreds of times growing up pops into my head. I haven't heard it in years, but for some reason, there it was.

"Let us come before the throne of grace."

Never ever had I actually thought about what that meant to me before. And I was so shocked to hear it again, in my head, literally out of no where. When I was a kid, it was a hackneyed phrase that ministers always used in church to introduce nearly every prayer. Because of that, I never took a second to think about it...What is the throne of grace? What does it mean to come before it? Who will be there to extend grace to me? What does grace mean to me, and WHY did it come up when I was talking about breathing?

Then it occurred to me that during Yom Kippur, we talk about a holy being who is able to expiate us, from whom we beg forgiveness for all the ridiculous mistakes we've made throughout the year. We open ourselves up and admit what has gone wrong. We admit that we're not perfect. We admit that we still have a lot of work to do. That we could work harder at getting rid of the selfish inner dramas that keep the light from shining through us.

My idea of a holy being has changed over the years. He used to look a certain way to me, and now, he is not even necessarily a he to me any more. But I know that when I am drawing in and expelling my breath in a mindful way, I feel that intense peace, I can feel the vibration and energy of my own body. I feel like I am coming into a place of grace, of forgiveness, of okayness. I know that that is the place I have to be to do my best work as a singer, to get rid of any that would impede my ability to give of myself to the audience, to my students, to my friends. To be more than just a well-trained voice (see Thursday's first post) throwing out a resonant series of pitches, there is a lot of preparation involved.

Yesterday's little epiphany showed me how to repurpose an old phrase that has its emotional and psychological hooks in me. I think I know now that to come before throne of grace means to go to the place where my little soul stream connects with the big river, it is a place where all the unmerited favor I will ever need is there for me to wallow around in. And it is a place I can go whenever I need to.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Thursday, part ii

After church rehearsal, I was able to rush down to Joe's performance and catch the second half. When I arrived, the composer, whose music I have also premiered in the past, handed me a gorgeous cd. I'd long ago approved some of our live recordings from the Merkin Hall concerts, but had forgotten that there would be an actual cd coming out with my name, picture, voice, etc., on it!
It was very cool for me, gave me that little boost I needed this week. Especially when I discovered it was available on I-tunes and Amazon. It was my Almost Famous moment. :)


I'll write more later... but first, read this GREAT post from Once More with Feeling.

It corresponds with something I've always felt: Singers sound like who they are as people. Think about it. Does this ring true for people you've heard?

Tuesday, October 04, 2011


I walked outside today thinking it was going to be cold again, in a turtleneck, leggings and a leather jacket. But it's hot. And I am foiled again. I guess the bottom line is really that I need to watch the weather. Because I'm sweating.

Yesterday was the first day in weeks that I have not sung a note. It was actually tough to do-- to keep myself from humming or singing under my breath--but to just let the voice rest. Because we are back at it again tonight with another rehearsal. It was lovely to concentrate for a minute on other things that are important to me, like yoga. I went to a chakra yoga class last night-- so amazing how I feel after these amazing classes, that also include reiki energy work. It is so healing to spend 90 minutes focusing on your breath, and resetting your intentions.

Saturday, October 01, 2011


I am trying to rest my voice, and after rehearsal, I plopped down in front of the tv to guzzle water and just shut up. But I got bored, so then I promtly went to rite aid and bought six nail polishes.

Rosh Hashanah was intense this year, with the singing, at least. Not sure why it felt longer than last year. And it felt like such a relief to be done yesterday afternoon until I realized I had to teach, and then, oh yeah...I have a concert tomorrow.

I am excited about the concert, for sure, as it is music I am very happy singing, but I want to be at my best. So, I will continue to drink water, not talk, and maybe steam a bit.

And try to decide which nail color goes best with my concert dress.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


This morning I woke up feeling like a loser.

I mean I really felt bad. I cried in the shower.

Am I wasting my life? How old am I now? What have I actually accomplished? Why do my hard work and conscientiousness seem to be most frequently repaid with bull sh**?

I think Joe was a little worried about me. But hopefully he's getting used to it. I have these moments on a quarterly basis.

And then, while kindly, patiently trying to talk me down from the ledge... he said something that finally made sense to my beleaguered mind--
"Jessica, saying you're a loser is actually what makes you a loser. You're a loser because you're saying you're a loser! Cut it out, no seriously, you have to get a hold of yourself!"

And he was right. In light of the real problems of the world, I was being completely ridiculous. It's true, I'm exhausted, and my usual fortitude is crumbling a bit in the face of my full time job, hours of High Holidays singing and church singing and an upcoming concert that I am scared to death I won't have a voice left for. I mean I am really terrified-- the people listening will know if I suck.

But it's not the slightest bit productive to be terrified. There's nothing I can do to change the circumstances surrounding this, but I can shut up and stop complaining, because it's certainly not helping me be fresh and fabulous for the concert. And it's SINGING, not fixing faulty heart valves and doing brain surgery. But it is my reputation. Every time I open my mouth to sing, especially with the caliber of singers in this event, I know I have a high standard to meet-- both my own, and the audience's. I'm opening myself up for all to see, and sometimes I worry that I am not strong enough inside to do it.

But I put my big girl panties on and did my make-up and put on clothes, albeit, not the hottest thing I have (something's got to give), and here I am. I'm alive and kicking, I'm not living in a box, although I think most of us music types are wondering if it's not just around the corner. But, how bad could life be if I bought a fabulous dress on Ebay yesterday for 25.00?? I mean really. Oh, and I am finally starting to notice muscles forming in my arms! The yoga is working! Wowie! Definition in my arms??? I never thought it possible!

Why did I write this moment of weakness on the internet for all to read? Where I can never take it back, never hide it, where it can never be permanently removed?

Because it is truly the way I felt and I'm fine with admitting that to you. Sometimes we are afraid to say that we are scared. But don't be. I'm right there with you. If you say it, you can own it, feel it, and move through it. You can be done, and then get right back up on your high horse and ride onto the next opportunity that's coming. And there is one coming.

Monday, September 26, 2011


When it comes to singing, I've always considered myself a bit of a late bloomer. For some reason, it's taken me all these years to come to terms with the idea of being publicly very very loud. If you think about it, there are far-reaching psychological implications when singing in public, being a soloist, and being good at it.

The way I was raised, women were to be quiet in church, to avoid asserting themselves, to fulfill our role as "helpers" to the men. I've since formed my own opinions about women's roles, but the voices in my head have proved harder to shake. The problem is that those messages get kind of inside you somehow, so deeply, that it becomes impossible to go through the rest of your life without it coming up again, no matter how hard you work to change your thoughts, beliefs, actions.

I have had a fear, for the longest time, of really singing out. Forever, I had no idea what it actually felt like to sing as loud and as intensely as I could. I didn't know where my limit was, because I had never gone there. I had been told for so many years by careful voice teachers not to push, not to do damage, etc. I was afraid to screw myself up by singing with as much intensity and energy as I could muster.

The other piece about singing out, is that you lose some of your control. Now, I am am learning what it feels like to sing with abandon and know that what usually comes out is presentable, but for so long I was unsure, and holding the voice in a bit allowed me to sound better inside my own head, instead of risking everything by unselfishly giving the sound of my voice to the audience.

Oh, and there's another piece. I was afraid to be too loud, too special, or to attract attention. I'll never forget the day my undergraduate voice teacher, one of the single most important people in my life, even to this day, said to me: "You have to learn to be okay with being better at something than someone else is. You are afraid to hurt people's feelings with being great."

How can we grow beyond the limits we thought we had if we are afraid to go as far as we can go? How can I build the muscles to support a large sound if I'm afraid of bothering people all the time?

We have to claim our accomplishments and all the things that make us special, instead of down playing them in order to blend in with our peers. Yes, it's tough to do without seeming like a jerk, but I figure if we focus on the idea that we have something to give, instead of what we want from others, it is easier to avoid being the dreaded opera monster that we've all seen in action one time or another.

My reminder to you and myself this Monday: Go out and be absolutely wonderful. Astound yourself with the freedom and largesse of your sound, and the openness of your heart.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Frivolous Friday

Here we are again! I can't believe it's Friday, and it's my birthday weekend!

My plan for my birthday weekend goes as follows:

Tonight, a date with myself for Tosca at WNO!!! Yippeeeee. I am going alone, folks. Which is lovely, except that I worry I will be lost the entire time I am trying to drive there. And I have to say the weather is guaranteed not to help. We all know the disaster the beltway can be, in the best of weather. The other problem with going with yourself is that you have to take it easy on the champagne at intermission. There's definitely no DD.

Tomorrow, if I'm not painfully sore from last night's yoga core extravaganza, I'll go to yoga class while Joe is teaching his private students. And then, if I'm lucky, we'll get to hang out together for the rest of the day (hopefully there will be a pedicure in there somewhere) until I have to go sing for Selichot service. That is always such a beautiful one, so I am looking forward to it.

Sunday, I'm hoping to go to brunch. And I spotted the most absolutely, disastrously perfect, without a doubt JESSICA outfit on What I Wore: HERE. The very sad bit about it is that the skirt, which I would marry if I weren't already married, is VINTAGE, so I can't get one just like it. This is making me consider another run at my sewing career. I used to be amazingly accomplished at it, but my skills are rusty to say the least. However, I am imagining all the beautiful clothes I could make in my "spare time."

Have a great weekend, friends!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Well, it appears this week is every bit the sh** storm I expected it to be. Hell, I'm exhausted. It's getting to that point where I get up in the morning and put clothes on, thinking they look perfectly fine, and then, when I am at work, and finally awake, see myself in the mirror and wonder what the heck I was thinking. Whatever possessed me to put this ON?

Every morning this week, I've gotten up and thought, well I have to sing a sh** ton today, how am I going to make this sound like I didn't just come from high school honors choir with ground beef for vocal cords? But rather like a professional soprano? Oh man oh man.

But, hey. At least there are lots of bad words to make me feel better when I say them.

Gotta bring home the bacon.

It could be worse-- this time last month I believe I was mortally ill. And there was a hurricane and an earthquake.

Monday, September 19, 2011


I've got some free time, I seem to develop the uncontrollable urge to do one of two things: Shop or eat. Either way, it is consumption that I certainly DO NOT need to engage in at this particular juncture. Can I get an amen? What with that latest BGE bill for August: AKA HOTTEST MONTH ever, I am kind of broke.

That's okay. It's a good thing I don't have a lot of free time.

At any rate, my latest weapon in the fight against eating and shopping has been yoga. On Saturday, while the hubs was out of town for a gig, and I was faced with a miraculous free Saturday with NOTHING in it, I signed up for a Yoga Nidra workshop. It was a fantastic way to spend 90 minutes, with 50 minutes of it consisting of deep meditative relaxation. I mean... really? This was FREEEEEE???? So fabulous.

Then after that, I got to go to dinner with one of my favorite people. When I was getting ready, I did the ever familiar "What in the hell do I have to wear to this outing" dance. The answer was not great. I ended up in: you guessed it: a black dress with black tights and scarf. Boring.

So, the moral of this story is, maybe sometimes you do need to go shopping. And especially if you have nothing to wear.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Frivolous Friday: a style blog

I can't believe how late I am in finding this delightful blog!

This young lady, also named Jessica (mmmhmmm), has fabulous style and is inspiring my socks off.

Have fun, soprani and mezzi!


Ahhhh there's a snap in the air this morning and I'll tell you what it made me think of: audition season. It could be that I took my husband to the airport this morning for a gig at 5:45 am, and that I am just giddy from lack of sleep.

Gosh darn it, I thought, it feels like the start of audition season.

Not deer season. Audition season.

And I've sent out a few packets. Here we go again! Wheeeeeee

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


It's taken me a while to formulate my thoughts about this past weekend, because it was such a journey of emotion, so many frequencies and levels.

The weekend started with a fabulous coaching. I am starting to think I have found MY coach. Over the years, as a singer, you start to realize that musical authorities often say one thing to you, and do another. You'll be in an audition where you sang fabulously and they are all over you, throwing out promises about various things, and the contract never arrives. You'll have praises heaped upon your head from this or that person, only to find they've hired someone else who must be even more perfect than you for the role. You'll hear one thing from one coach, one thing from another. You'll ask what direction they feel you should go with your rep, and get an answer like "Anything that Kiri te Kanawa sings would be great for you." You start to wonder if anyone really give a damn about singers, really, or if we are all just there to pad their wallets, their budgets, and make them feel powerful. You begin to wonder if anyone is interested in really using the time you pay them for to focus on helping you to find your strengths so that you can make an educated decision. Or do they just want to a) take you down a notch, b) make you feel like you haven't done your work, c) get through the hour, or d) prove to you how intellectual they are? You start to realize why all those years your teacher told you how important it is to have a very strong sense of your voice, and of who you are as a singer.

It's rare to find someone that you feel you can really trust, who has no agenda and will give you honest feedback. I think I'm on the right track with this new coach, and I leave each session feeling inspired and excited about singing. It's a rare and wonderful feeling. I was lucky not to have to search long and hard to find my voice teacher, who also has the same effect on me. But great coaches who jive with your personality and are at once encouraging and brutally honest are just as hard to find.

After that marvelous coaching, I met up with some friends, I was on an emotional high, didn't have a bit of my guard up, and was suddenly forced to face an oddly painful issue I have with my singing, in a round about, weird way. I had such a great time with them, but left feeling sad because of my own insecurities. Part of me thinks that I've been in an emotionally raw state all week any way because of the 9/11 memorial things surrounding us. But, my faith in humanity was restored when a friend noticed my sadness and called to see how I was! It was good for me to have a conversation about it and hash this particular issue out with my friend and with Joe. Insecurity: It's there all the time, just under the surface. I never know when it will rear its ugly head!

There is one yoga class I try to go to on Monday nights that i always leave thinking "I can't believe I would ever NOT attend this class for any reason. It's insane that this is only $16~!"
I love the class because the teacher never gets comfortable in a routine-- she is always coming up with new ways to challenge us-- both spiritually and physically. She really seems to invest herself in every moment of the class. Last night, when we were holding downward dog for way longer than anyone should have to hold downward dog, she said something to us about how as humans, our instincts are to run from discomfort. Which is so true-- I am constantly trying to get away from things that make me feel bad. But she said that discomfort is what makes us grow, and learning how to be with the discomfort is how we grow. Think about how many situations in our lives this could be applied to! Agitation and discomfort and ambiguity can serve us in so many ways.

Friday, September 09, 2011


There are a lot of reasons that being a lyric soprano works for me. The main one is that it's the music my voice likes, but the second best reason is that the characters and I have a lot in common. I tend to smile a lot. I'm a romantic. I weep over lost love. Wait... well, I would weep. If there were something to weep about. And I cry in movies a ton. So that kind of counts.

So now I'm working on a character that doesn't really seem to have anything great or redeeming about her at all. In fact she's a sociopath. The Warren Jeffs of Handel Operas, if you will. She just uses people and throws them away. The one thing I admittedly love about Alcina is the fact that she's gorgeous and is adept at seduction. All girls like to play those kinds of people...but then there's the side of her that is pretty mean indeed.

So...how to access my inner sociopath?


It's in there some where. I'm capable of meanness. Like when someone walks out in the middle of the street when I'm driving and have a green light, I totally freak out. Or when people take advantage of Joe by not giving him their music in plenty of time before he has to play it.

Okay, I'll just think about that while I'm singing.

Thursday, September 08, 2011


The recording thing is growing on me! Yesterday, during my lunch break, I asked Joe to spend fifteen minutes working with me on the Handel aria, and I recorded our practice session. It was hilarious to listen to it as I was walking back to work, because I actually had a recording of myself asking Joe: "And it doesn't sound like I'm just like...in pain the whole time?"

He said no, and the great thing about the recording is that I now know that he wasn't just being nice. I didn't sound like I was in pain! I actually laughed out loud when I heard myself say that.

You know how it is, when there is an aria that feels like it is ever so slightly on the verge of falling off a cliff. You know, the precipice that we all teeter along the edge of, whether it be because of our passagi, or our high notes, or our low notes, or whatever the case may be...and you just feel like you are so close to falling off the cliff into a place of sounding really damn bad?

That's how I felt singing it, and it was interesting to note that I didn't, in fact, sound as bad as I felt.

Which is always great to know when you're a working singer who has to do a lot of singing at times and in repertoire that OFTEN doesn't feel optimally wonderful.

I recently read this article and it was great to get that little reminder that recording can be an invaluable tool even outside of voice lessons and coachings. It makes a huge difference when you are forced to sing sick, or under the weather, to KNOW what your voice normally sounds like, and to be able to record yourself in the compromised state and compare the two. You may find you can go out there feeling like ass, and sound rather fabulous!

It was almost stunning to note in the recording from yesterday, the huge discrepancy in how I felt and how I sounded-- in a good way. It's reassuring, singers. TRY IT!

Tuesday, September 06, 2011


The rain on the East Coast has me in that state of mind where all I can think about today is getting home to put on my leggings, eat some pasta, and watch Sex and the City re-runs.

I've made the decision that it's time I FORCE myself to record my practice sessions and listen to them, as a matter of discipline. It will help me to listen to myself both more objectively, and less from the stand-point of wanting to commit suicide every time I hear a recording of myself, and more in the interest of self-diagnosis. I hope to some day become either so good that I like the way I sound in recordings, or so zen that I can look at it as as learning opportunity. At this point it is still just PAINFUL. Today it was basically just really depressing to listen to myself sing that Handel aria I've been working on. Then the question is: Is this just not a good aria for me, or do I think focused practice can make it work eventually? How many hours have I actually just wasted trying to pound music into my voice that isn't meant for me in the first place? Maybe I should confine my practicing to music I am scheduled to sing in the near future, which would nip this whole agonizing bit in the bud. Because I don't have a choice... I agreed to do it, and therefore, I MUST sing it. There. Now that's a plan.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Frivolous Friday

It is high time we had some Olivia fashion eye-candy. How's that for inspiration? Now let us all go forth and dress like young ladies, and not the cracked out hoes that have been all over my tv lately. Not that I am judging. I would never dream of doing that. :) Stolen from http://olivia-palermo.com/
Happy weekend.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Okay, so this sinus pressure is getting old. Not only did it make me feel like I was singing dreadfully out of tune last night (because I cannot hear myself as well), but the drippage has made my cords swell. Oh, annnnnd I can't go to yoga, because my head would literally pop off if I attempted downward dog.

Enough bitching.

I am embarking on a new and wonderful journey this fall. No, it is not switching to my long preferred fach of lyric mezzo. No, it is not sky diving. It is fantasy football.

I'm sure I will tell you all about it. You have been warned.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


I can say with a grateful spirit, and just the slightest bit of disappointment, that the big hurricane didn't turn out to be really very big for us. It was for others, though, and I hope everyone weathered the storm okay.

The only thing that was canceled was the one thing that I didn't want to be canceled-- the recital! Now I know it was best-- I never would have been well enough to sing high cs without my head popping off from the sinus pressure. But, sighh.

Tonight, I've got another rehearsal, and I worry slightly about singing even now.

Oh well, that's why god made sinus medicine and neti pots.

Another thing god made, indirectly, of course, via, well...Amazon, is the Kindle for Android app on my phone. It is allowing me to be the voracious reader I always wanted to be but never seemed to have time. People-- you always have your phone, and can pick up that book at all the little moments in life when you are just standing there with nothing to do! I just downloaded my second book since this weekend, and it is making me feel smart and spectacular that I am on my second book in three days.

During the hurricane weekend, I watched the first half of Gone with the Wind, and tried to get Joe on board. He holds that he really does want to watch the rest, but I am not sure I believe him. After all, I suppose I am one of those strange people who kind of grew up watching old movies, so for me it is a great pleasure. Sigh, Gone with the Wind. I love it too much. And it took me way too long, sadly, to realize the irony of watching a movie of that title during a hurricane!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Friday Part 2

If I'm lucky enough to be sick at home with power, versus, sick at gigs trying to sing, versus sick at home without power, here's what I'll be making this weekend:

They are Joe's very favorite thing in addition to, well, every other breakfast food, and I'll probably further delight him by whipping up some more veggie cream cheese.

Ricotta Gnocchi
A very big batch, so I can freeze some, because these little pillows of delight are the ultimate treat.

And, my own recipe for Chicken Rice Soup. REALLLYYYY the very best thing for a cold, and so low calorie when one is feeling like a whale. And one IS feeling like a whale. It's like adding insult to injury.

Oh, and if you have two hours and a very good attention span and an affection for Olivia de Havilland as I do, immediately watch The Heiress (1949)


I have a cold. Ugh.

I had to cancel a lesson last night, and now, I'm just worried about not sucking in all of my singing this weekend.

If the Ravens hadn't beaten the Redskins last night and there wasn't the chance of a huge hurricane forcing everything to be canceled so I could stay home and sleep, this might be a really nightmarish weekend.

There is always the chance.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

someecards.com - Unfortunately, my daydreams about being skinny are always interrupted by the sound of my own chewing.


I'm feeling a little under the weather today. Hoping against hope that I'm not coming down with anything! I can't afford to lose the money for my weekend gigs, and a recital next week! No sick days for singers, people.

After I a particularly taxing rehearsal last night, I woke up feeling funny. So I am going to keep pounding green tea, and hope that going to yoga tonight will help me sweat it out.

On an evening when I get home from work, and have decided against practicing (because I feel sick, and oh yeah, my throat is basically dead meat from last night), I get all excited about the other things I could devote the time to. Like starting my new book club book, or doing a cooking experiment.

Joe keeps telling me I should figure out a way to pitch a cooking show about an opera singer who cooks things. I keep telling him that that is the last thing I need: another aspiration! Something else to fight for! It's okay, I say, to have things that are just things you do for fun. Then I think to myself, well, maybe I'm the one who is being silly. A lot more people cook than go to the opera.

Also, would YOU watch a cooking show with an opera singer? I think I would be suspicious that they weren't having much of a career or else they would never have time to shoot a cooking show. I don't think I would like it as much as I like Pioneer Woman's or Ina Garten. Oh I am SO excited for Pioneer Woman's new show, which is premiering this Saturday. She is the real deal, and her food is fab.

Okay, I'm off to guzzle some more tea.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


It's almost that time of year again, guys. Choir season.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


I think we all have an aria that haunts us. The one you pull out from time to time, and think: "If I can ever, at any point, sing this competently and with relative ease, I will know I'm amazing." It's in your fach, its something that you "should" be able to sing. It's just that it never feels quite right, and it's not something you ever feel great about when you are done singing it, for whatever reason.

My haunting aria is from a role I've actually done before. It was the sole reason I did not sleep soundly for weeks during rehearsals. It literally kept me awake at night. The tempo never settled in. The tessitura, the coloratura, the wide interval leaps never settled in, despite my practicing them for at least an hour a day. I drove Joe crazy making him rehearse it with me over and over.

Okay, people, here's the big news: I did it. Maybe it was just a fluke, but yesterday, I sang through, and it was actually GOOD, exhilarating, fun, not like slogging through the mud in rain boots. Maybe I have actually learned something after all these years. Maybe.

What's your haunting aria?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Tuesday: Part 2

I've had a lot going on in my head recently, my mind constantly racing, unable to let go of one particular situation that I'm in the middle of processing. I'm finding it hard to relax, to enjoy my precious time with Joe, to focus on anything else. In fact, the only time I stop thinking about it is when I am singing. The healing vibration of singing takes over and it is the only thing that can soothe me.

Maybe I just have ADD, but I've always prided myself on my multi-tasking abilities. I can bake a loaf of bread, load the dishwasher, cook eggs, and memorize recit at the same time. I can do laundry, make cookies, talk on the phone to a friend all at the same time. Okay, so it's not so amazing. Most of you probably do the same thing. But it's the same at work, I am ALWAYS doing more than one thing at a time. It's a skill I've cultivated, and a skill that has trained me to drive myself crazy. It's almost like I feel guilty if I am only accomplishing one thing at a time.

When I am practicing, all of that noise goes away. I am completely engrossed in what I am doing, totally in the moment of the music, thinking only about how to make my voice sound it's best. It's one of the few things I can think of that you can do during which it's nearly impossible to think about anything else.

Maybe that is why I find singing so incredibly healing. It really seems to me like a portal into a divine place of intense presence. A place where all I can focus on is the vibration and the sound and the emotion. It takes me out of myself. IT quiets the mental noise.

Like chanting and the purring of a cat, it has been suggested that the vibration literally has the power to heal us both emotionally and physically.

Since the pursuit of the opportunity to sing can drive us so completely insane, it's a good thing that singing itself has the opposite effect. Or I'd be so much more crazy than I already am.


You are going to cry a little when you read this. Pure love.

Monday, August 15, 2011


There's one in every family! My sister just had a bill board of one of her photos put up in TIMES SQUARE!

A talented, famous one in every family, I mean. :)

Sunday, August 14, 2011


My new attitude (see Tuesday's blog) is really working out for me! It was good to have a little reminder that singing isn't actually all about me. Can you imagine?

I am SO looking forward to this week, lots of work on music, yoga, and even the beginning of the school year isn't as scary as it usually is. To do: order Barenreiter Don Giovanni, since I get to sing Elvira again this season! I also have lots of music to learn for the High Holidays and for some upcoming concerts. I am so lucky that at some point in my early childhood, someone gave me those Mozart tapes. Now I'm addicted to this whole singing thing.

Tonight, for date night, we're going to see The Help. It was a fantastic book, and I can't wait to see how the movie measures up. And because I am cheap, we went to Walmart and bought movie candy, which I will sneak in. Don't tell anyone. :)

Friday, August 12, 2011

Friday, part the second: weekend reading

I really enjoyed reading this!


You know it's Friday because you wake up feeling like you went on a major bender the night before, and and that is because you did.

I guess because of church choir, Thursday nights became the designated night out for singers in Baltimore.

I was lucky enough to meet up with a couple friends for a super terrific happy hour, at my fave local japanese place, where I ate two three dollar appetizers and then somehow managed to run into one of the most ridiculous gay friends I have on the street. He refused to stop talking and made Ms. N late to the performance she was attending. Then, I was supposed to walk Ms. S down to get gelato, but suddenly I had to pee so horrifically and the bathroom at the gelateria was occupied. So I ran home and made her miss her whole opportunity for gelato. And I feel pretty bad about that. I should probably just wear depends. That way I could avoid these types of situations.
Then, even after two appetizers, I made Joe dinner and managed to eat A LOT of it myself, like a big idiot and despite feeling like I did a very noble thing by cooking such a delicious dinner for my husband, I felt quite large and enormous because I basically ate two dinners. He was glued to the TV watching the preseason football game, and so I could not talk him into going out again later, when the girls texted that they were meeting up at another place. There was no way he would have left. It is the most sacred time of year: the beginning of football. I suspect it was designed specifically so that teachers who are dreading going back to school and may have otherwise done themselves a harm have something else to focus on and look forward to as they live in these final August weeks of dread.

So my goal for this weekend is two fold: get some exercise and practice lots. I need to make bread, too. The grocery store bread this morning just didn't cut it.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Tuesday: my 1001st post

Continuing to riff on yesterday’s theme!

1. I respect the fact that no one has to sit and listen to anything they don't want to listen to, and any time an audience doesn't get up and leave, I am grateful. Time is precious and there are so many other wonderful singers, and so many other forms of entertainment to compete for an audience’s attention.

2. I believe that all humans have an innate sense of what is good, beautiful and true.

3. I believe that even someone with no experience of classical music can listen to a classical singer and know whether the singing is beautiful and moving or makes them feel uncomfortable and turned off.

4. I acknowledge that most aspects of vocal timbre and nuance are largely subjective. So, everyone is bound to hear things a little differently. But when you decide to become a solo singer, you are putting yourself in the position to be criticized for your sound, your choices, and your musicianship. If you put it out there, you know it will be talked about, and judgments will be made.

5. I have to respect the fact that being successful at what I do completely depends on people (somebody, anybody!!!), whatever subset of the population they may be, wanting to listen to me.

6. Since I have a line-up of respected musical professionals that I pay to tell me how to be the best I can be, I don’t love unsolicited advice, suggestions, and opinions. I think it is because I try really hard not to give other people feedback, unless it is overwhelmingly good, that they have not asked for. Making cut-and-dried statements about things about which I am not truly informed is something I try to avoid, except, of course, when it comes to cursing the play calling during a Ravens game. Even that, however, is a great example of how we as humans think we know best about mostly everything. The coaches of these teams stay up all night, spending countless hours analyzing tape of the opposing team before the games to try to figure out the most effective way to beat them, but everyone at home on the couches of America has something to say about the way the plays were called. It’s an interesting way to look at it.

7. Singers want to be respected as professionals. We want people to recognize that what we do is not just a “gift” that we were born with, but a skill that we have spent a lot of time and money to learn. It’s an athletic skill that takes conditioning and preparation and sacrifice to do well. So I think we may feel disrespected when someone who does not have experience with the skill of unamplified singing criticizes an aspect of our performance.

8. I have nothing to defend. And this is the part that I think I have to work harder at: I have to stop being quite so bugged, and try to learn from any feedback I can get from anyone anywhere. I have to have confidence enough in my product to know that empirically, I must sound fine or even good to most people, most of the time, or I would not be getting hired. However, I’ve said this before: the more I learn, the more I realize I know very little, and there are countless improvements I could make, and should make. The consumer’s point of view is always valuable.

I am the same as anybody in the world: a human trying to do their best with what they’ve been given. I do not have to prove that I am the best, that I am perfect, or that I know the most about what I do, because that is just so not the point. I have not been given the responsibility to punish someone when they embarrass themselves by making statements about things they do not understand. I have only responsibility to Music, and secondarily, my voice, which I cultivate in its service.

Monday, August 08, 2011


For Monday: a thought.

Only one. Don't get too excited.

So, remember how annoyed I get when people who really have no musical education criticize aspects of what I do?

I was talking to my sister yesterday, also in the arts, and she had a revolutionary idea.

If I would take a five minute break from getting so defensive, and begin to think of them as a consumer (despite, and not excusing their not-so-nice way of imparting their thoughts, and putting aside any other motives they may have for criticism) and my self as a business, I have to take something away from what anyone has to say.

I think the part of the whole equation that really bothered me was the presumption on their behalf that they know more than I do about what I study so hard to do well. That, legitimately, is really annoying.

But putting that whole thing aside, MY EGO aside (it really hurts to do that, because it is letting go of all defense), I have to say, well, as the people that are listening to me in some capacity, their opinions matter. There is a part of me that has to truly digest what they have to say and see if there is any piece of it from which I could learn.

Not that I don't think we should be treated as professionals, people who have made a lot of sacrifices to devote themselves to being really good at something, people who are smart, driven, committed, creative, resilient, well-put-together, and would have succeeded at a number of other professions, but choose, at great financial risk to themselves, to follow their hearts instead of their security. But I also think that it is hard to hear the layman's "suggestions" when we know how truly difficult solo singing can be, and that it is not the same as being in the choir in high school or church, and that the factors involved in having a good performance are MANY, some of which we have little control over. Sometimes it is hard to hear that we are not perfect by someone's standard when we are trying very hard to perfect our craft, and look hot, and do everything we think we need to do to get hired, in addition to making a living and trying to maintain our personal relationships on a daily basis. It can get pretty exhausting and it is by no means a 9-5 job where you get to relax when you come home from work at the end of the day.

By the same token, a person's sense that it is okay to go up to someone else and give feedback that was not requested is a whole other issue, and probably says a lot about who they are in the first place, which is why everything must be taken with a grain of salt.

But it is so difficult to switch, in that moment of intensity when the words are being said, to business mode. To go from being the being that lives and breathes music and singing whose heart and soul are completely wrapped up in every note that comes out, to the person who is selling a product to a group of consumers that tend to be a pretty opinionated bunch.

But I think I am going to have to start trying to change my thinking, at least a little. To give up defense completely is a very admirable goal, but this soprano is going to have to take baby steps. :)

Note: The givers of comments I have referred to here are not people who paid for tickets to hear me sing, but rather those who have heard me in a public setting.

Friday, August 05, 2011


Okay, the biggest news of today is that I am walking around like a 90-year-old woman thanks to last night's torture session, aka YOGA.

I get there early, spread out my mat, trying not to be obvious about needing the edges of the mat to line up perfectly with the seams of the wood floor. I then remember that I am there to let go of all these psycho tendencies and lay back on the mat to try to go to my zen place. I'm almost there when I hear the voice of our teacher saying: "For those of you that were here last week, you know we focused on relaxation and restoration. This week is going to be the exact opposite of that." Of course my first day back in a month is the day she spends 20 minutes on core work and all these other sadistic things that nearly killed me.

That's cool. I needed it and should not complain. But it hurts.

Back to the Pamina conundrum: I am not convinced. Voce is being stubborn about that funny run in the middle of the aria. If it were on an "Ah" vowel, I think it might me a different story. I'm practicing it as an "Ah" though, and hope that by slowly shifting the vowel back to what it really is, I can trick myself into being able to singing it with the proper articulation. But, I am REALLY enjoying Manon and Adina. They are lovely in every way, challenging, not at all just a breeze, but they seem to fit better.

Happy Weekend!

Thursday, August 04, 2011


Somehow, we were a Top Classical Music Blog in the Month of July!!!!


I am going to admit that I am paying for the super delicious potato chip binge last night. There is a large blemish right in the middle of my face. So that will teach me to eat things like that. Sigh.

As we all know (I hope), man cannot live by opera alone, and must indulge in a little pop culture now and then to feel hip, so I enjoyed some top-forty cheesiness last night. Not that you care, but this playlist made my drive fabulous last night, spanning a truly schizophrenic range of genres:

1. Stereo Hearts by Gym Class Heroes with Adam Levine
This is the essence of cheese.

2. Best Love Song by T-Pain, with Chris Brown
I am only just figuring out that all the references to a certain "nappy boy" in T-Pain's music are his way of describing himself. So there you go. Evidently, it's a really good thing I am only being entrusted with interpreting the great historical musical masterpieces of western civilization and not modern hip-hop.

3. Barefoot Bluejean Night by Jake Owen
Speaking of embarrassing, there really is an embarrassing line in this song-- something about the girls being hot and the beer being cold. But I like it anyway. It really is fun and reminds me of my 4-H days in Indiana.

4. Thinkin' About You by Mario

5. Where Them Girls At by David Guetta with Nicky Minaj and Flo Rida
You have just got to love a song with terrible grammar even in the title. You know it's going to be edgy.

6. Matt and Nat's by Natalie MacMaster
For your daily dose of Irish. And you should be having one.

7. One Day by Matisyahu with Akon
THIS is my favorite of the list. So soulful and beautiful.

8. Good Man by Raphael Saadiq
Apparently, a good man is someone whose "got no kids and loves the lord, never done time, well.. maybe just once."

9. Flower Duet by Luminaire
Thanks, Stu, for this fantastic remix of an opera favorite!!!!

10. Always Be My Baby by Mariah Carey
The first strains of this song have the uncanny ability to alter even the foulest mood.

11. Your Love by Nicky Minaj

12. No Es Una Novela by Monchy and Alexandra
A throwback to my salsa club days.

13. The Lord is my Shepherd by Hezekiah Walker and the Love Fellowship Crusade Choir
From The Preacher's Wife soundtrack, you know, before Whitney Houston was a coked-out scary version of her formerly golden-voiced self. This song reminds me of when I was a little kid in Sunday school, completely baffled by the 23rd Psalm. I couldn't for the life of me figure out who Shirley Goodness and her friend Mercy were, and why I would want them to follow me all the days of my life. Ahhh those were simpler times.

14. Eskimo by Damien Rice
Good, good, good. With a little mezzo-soprano love in there too.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011


Confrontation is SO hard for me, but when I take it upon myself to stand for something, I am always glad I did.

Tonight is my first voice lesson in months, and I am soooo excited. I'm excited for the drive (me time and music-listening), and to get my tune-up. Also, I usually indulge in fast food for dinner, which is a very rare guilty pleasure. Oh my goodness I am so excited.

Also, in Pennsylvania, they have these special potato chips made by people named Martin, in a white bag. They are impossible to find anywhere but this region of PA, and they are by far the most delicious chip I have ere tasted, maybe the most delicious food in general that I've ever eaten. So it's kind of the perfect storm of caloric in-take, which is why I only ate a very small lunch in preparation.

Oh, I'm singing Pamina tonight and looking at Alcina. Handel is so unbelievably good. I simply adore it, but am not really convinced it is a good fit for me at the moment. We shall see.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011


After a particularly thought provoking coaching Friday, I have about a zillion new arias to work on getting into my voice, and so I am in the soprano zone at the moment. My one sadness is the news that perhaps one of my very favorite arias to sing does not really belong in my audition package. The unfortunate thing is that it's true. Ah well. There are more where those come from. One aria I've successfully avoided all these years in Ach, ich fühl's, and it seems I can no longer get away with the excuse that I kind of hate Pamina as a person. The fact is, if you can like Micaela, which I do, you have no excuse for hating Pamina. Oh, and the other person I need to get to know all over again is Manon, and maybe Juliette.

The other thing I did this weekend was make: Ricotta Gnocchi. We ate it last night with tomato cream sauce and it was one of my proudest moments in cooking history. Oh my god, this stuff is worth the effort. Holy moly.

Tomorrow night I've got a lesson, which is lucky, because I have so much to think about vocally, and I haven't had a lesson in a couple of months. It is indeed time for a tune up!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Thank you, Ms. Millo, I needed that

Please read her delicious post, and embrace your fabulous, larger than life, opera-singing bad self.

Here it is!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Friday Frieeeeday

Well, campers, it's a hot one. I wore a very inappropriate dress to work today, because I walk, people, and I have to be able to not die in 103 degree weather. But no one really sees me, so it doesn't matter.

In other riveting news of my life (chuckle), I have a coaching today and I'm quite excited. I love coachings because I feel like it's a chance to really work through your issues with a piece without the pressure of it being perfect. I try to be as prepared as possible, obviously, but the premise is that these are works in progress not yet set in a performance-ready groove. They're supposed to still be very malleable. Having only just arrived at the conclusion that perhaps I don't suck as much as I always thought I did, I am noticing there is so much power in humble confidence. The humility part, of course coming from the knowledge that the more you know about singing, the more you realize you don't know. The confidence part coming from the hard work I have put in and the fact that I am willing to sacrifice and give of myself to be really good at something.

How often do you meet a performer in whom both of those qualities can coexist? It is rather rare.

The problem is that singing is something that is very difficult to ever feel sure of. You can know that the note has usually come out in the past, but you cannot KNOW that it is going to the next time you have to sing it. So it is not confidence in singing, really, that we can ever have, because our cords are fragile, temperamental little things that do weird stuff. It's confidence in ourselves we have to work to cultivate. It's so cliche-ish I almost hate writing it, and because it doesn't help to tell a person with no real inner-navigator to be confident in themselves. It is impossible to accomplish, and it's a phrase too cavalierly thrown around.

For the singer, the humble confidence comes from knowing we have prepared and done our work, and have put every ounce of ourselves (in the truest sense of the word "self") into what we are doing, and after that we are able to just let it go, and be okay with what comes out. It's the ability to get out of the way of the music and say, it's really not about me. I am here in service of something a lot more important than my voice and my career.

Sometimes it is a bit staggering to think that we are singing things that have stood the test of thousands of performances and hundreds of years. It kind of puts it all in perspective. I'm just one more soprano learning another revered work of the the canon, and in the words of holy writ: there is nothing new under the sun.

Thursday, July 28, 2011


Reasons why today is a great day:

1. Gigs. Apparently, and presumably, I am not going to starve this year. YAY!

2. Cooking dinner for the first time in weeks! YAY! Oh how I've missed it.

3. I just discovered there is a really good blog that will help me keep a close eye on everything Kate Middleton wears.

4. Taught a great lesson to a wonderful student who is such an inspiration to me.

5. Practicing: it's going better than I thought it would this time of the month if you know what I mean. I don't feel like I am dragging a wagon of boulders up a hill while trying to phonate and that is a good thing.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Wednesday: Truth

You must read this blog post.

Wednesday: Olivia Moment

This shoot is ridic. And as the Brits would say: get a load of those pins! Some mid-week style inspiration!


I just got back from an extended weekend of family fun at the beach. I laughed the whole time. Like real laughter. The kind where you can't breathe.

It was in the midst of one of these bouts that I realized I couldn't remember how long it had been since I'd laughed like that. In school I was the girl who laughed at everything-- all the jokes the boys made, even the dumb ones. I was a giggle-box, and I think it probably drove everyone nuts. Laughing was a really big part of my day. I also had buck teeth and thick glasses, and child-bearing hips, even at that tender age, so you can imagine. It's a wonder I could muster a snicker. Now I seem to have learned not to be such an annoying little girl. Which actually might not be as great of an accomplishment as it sounds! I still have issues with lots of things about looks, but back then, I have to admit, I looked way worse. But I don't remember even really caring so much--it barely bothered me back then that I wasn't that pretty. Now I am a disaster if I forget to put on mascara one morning. Maybe it was all the laughing that kept me from worrying about things that just don't matter.

How healing it is to be around people who can make you laugh, just ordering breakfast, sitting on the beach, doing whatever. To get that much laughing in is like the best treat in the world.

And coming home was tough, but I suddenly have all this motivation and I don't exactly know where it came from! I am preparing for coachings, auditions, performances with renewed vigor. Oh, and I am very tan. :)