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. 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 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
Happy weekend.