Friday, November 30, 2012


It's hard to believe tomorrow is December!  It feels like just yesterday I was getting ready to go to our family beach week or heading to the pool after work to make the most of the long summer evenings.  Wow.  Here we are.

I love this time of year in some ways.  I love Christmas.  I adore Thanksgiving.  I enjoy audition season and all the singer noise in New York City.  But for those of us in academia its also absolutely insane.  Recitals, performances, juries, everyone is spinning out of control with their own feelings of complete overwhelm-ness.  Not to mention that beyond working tirelessly to ensure the students are prepared for their events, we have many of our own.

I'll be singing some Bach in a concert on Sunday and I'm really looking forward to it.  I probably shouldn't tell you this, but its my first professional appearance as a BACH soloist.  This music is hard, people.  But I have learned a lot-- the main thing being how important it is to have a great relationship with my metronome.  Being perfectly in time gives so much freedom.  Knowing you have the structure of a steady beat takes some of the pressure off of the voice, somehow, because we are no longer the leader.  The beat is the leader.  The rhythm takes over and all we have to do is make sound.

Tomorrow, I'll be in New York for an audition and a lesson.  It will be fun to get my teacher's take on a few of the interesting things that have happened lately in my musical life.  She is excellent at introducing humor to otherwise rather devastating situations to help me see them in a new way.  In any case, she has always encouraged me to own both my great choices and my mistakes, and to take back my power when I've unwittingly given it away.  Everyday I get better at knowing, just knowing, exactly what is the right thing to sing, the right person to work with, and who I am as a singer.  I've learned this year that my instincts are ALWAYS right and only when I ignore them do I get myself into trouble.  That little funny feeling in the pit of my stomach is the best indicator of whether I'm doing the right thing or the wrong thing.  Everyday I realize that age is unimportant, and desperation is NEVER the right motivation.  Scrambling to reach a certain point is counterproductive if you aren't ready to be there yet.

I also found a bag!  TJ Maxx to the rescue once again!  Hopefully I'll run into some of you in New York this season.  I'll be the one in the royal blue audition dress with long brown hair who is nervously making jokes in the hallway, hoping my nose doesn't start running while I'm singing (as it always embarrassingly does) and being really nice to the poor person who has to check in all the singers.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

First world singer problems

Okay, so tis the season to be going to New York every time you turn around.  Well, at least if you’re like me and somehow don’t already live there.  Now don’t get me wrong, I jump at the chance to go.  It is truly my happy place.  But one very significant first world problem I seem to be experiencing is that I don’t have a bag that really fits all my stuff.

You know:

-Hose/support garments (must have!!)
-Water bottle
-Turkey dinner with all the trimmings (In my fantasies, but certainly it would enhance my singing powers if I did have that.  I hear stuffing soothes the cords.)

Even if I did have a bag this big it would hurt horribly to carry it hither and yon from bus to rehearsal space to audition to lesson and back again.  I thought I had the perfect bag (girls think about these things) but it turns out it really hurts my shoulder and leaves me sore and grumpy for my audition.  So what do I do?  Surely there is some able-bodied young person for hire that might be able to become my servant for very low pay (i.e. the fun of being around me and my winning personality) and carry all my things.

Well no, there isn’t.

I toyed with the idea of buying hairspray and a little brush at Duane Read when I arrive, using them, and then throwing them out before the trek back to the bus.  But they are not nearly so heavy as the shoes, dress, binder, water bottle and I-pad, none of which I can afford to offload in the interest of comfort.

So I’m going out tonight to look for one.   Let’s see what I come up with.  And seeing as my budget for this is a little low, it may be that I will just have to put up with the shoulder pain and compensate instead by taking cabs everywhere.

See, I told you it was a first world problem.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Opera21: a new online magazine for all you singers!

Hey gang!  I'm proud to announce I have an article up over at the exciting new venture with my friend Kim at Kimozart and Opera Rocks as editor!  I was flattered to be asked to participate.  My article is called: "Why be normal when you can be an opera singer?" 

So there you have it!

How was your Thanksgiving? Oh-- and I'd like to add another thing I'm thankful for to my last post:  Cyber Monday sales!  I have half my shopping done! :)

I had a marvelous coaching today and life feels rosy and wonderful and super fun.  Ahhh singing.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


- Being healthy, having a home, husband, friends and cats.
- For a grandmother who is my confidant, a mom who is finally happy (and for some reason flet it necessary to take a vacation on a catamaran in Panama this Thanksgiving.  But what the hell) and talented siblings.
- Food, namely: chips (eating fewer of those these days, sadly), pumpkin pie, chocolate chip cookies, pasta with marinara sauce and the odd meatball, baked potatoes, pickles, and thanksgiving potato filling.  It is not the slightest bit sad at all that most of the things I mentioned are complex carbohydrates. :)
- Anna Moffo
- Getting dressed and made up in the morning makes me so happy.  The joy of putting on a printed scarf with a striped boatneck is one that men will never understand.  Top it off with a topknot and pearl earrings and its just a pleasure to look at yourself in a mirror.
- Verdi, but mostly "Caro nome" (always and forever) :)
- New York
- jewels, both real and otherwise
- Taking a Thanksgiving morning walk in FLORIDA where it is 70 degrees, while listening to, you guessed it: my idols, Anna Moffo, Joan Sutherland and Luciano Pavarotti.  If you can't be happy about that, what can you be happy about.
- Chance to perform.  Knowing that I am getting better everyday, and that hard work always pays off.
- Passion for something!! For lots of things! What would happen to me if I weren't motivated by passion for music, food, writing, creativity.  I would probably just watch TV all the time.
- For all of the supportive and marvellous readers out there!!! Its been a wild year-- but knowingthat all of you are out there has meant the world to me!!! More adventures are ahead of all of us.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Best things about this Monday so far:

1.  I had a wonderful weekend, complete with a fabulous baby shower, a great Sunday lunch, fun friends, a concert, football, and my famous (well not really, only famous to me) Guinness beef stew.

2.  It is almost the best holiday ever: Thanksgiving.
Even though I will miss turkey (my grandmother will never make a turkey because she hates it), there will be of course the obligatory Pennsylvania Dutch potato filling, green beans with bacon, corn casserole and my sweet darling lovely pumpkin pie with cool whip.

3.  I am about to spend nearly four days of real time with my husband!!!! He is so cool and I like his company a lot.

4.  Forced hiatus from practicing.  Yikes.  I hope I will still remember how to sing on Saturday when I return.  Cuz I kind of have sh** to sing.

5.  Oh, did I mention some time off of work? That is a very sweet aspect of this whole week in general.

6.  I am wearing a smaller size of pants, and by the by, they are not even so tight as to hamper the workings of my internal organs.

Spread your wings!

This is a fabulous blog post: Remember to Spread Your Wings! 

You're welcome.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Life condition 101

This fall, its been a little bit of a struggle to keep my attitude right and not become an annoying person.  While there have been some REALLY fabulous things happening, there are aspects of daily life that have been tough.  Okay, so what.  Same for everybody.  And my problems are absolutely embarrassingly miniscule compared to the people who don't have homes, clothes, electricity, food in Staten Island, Queens-- all the places affected by the hurricane.

Sometimes, when I get into the pattern of downwardness, I start to worry about absolutely everything-- I can't be in the present-- I am always in the future or the past.  Why did I say that?  How could that have happened? What will happen when...?  Even if I am doing everything I know to do in the present to make things happen for my future,  I worry that it will not work, that my best efforts will not get me where I want to go.  And because of it I cannot enjoy myself even when I am doing things that I love!  It ruins the things that should delight me everyday.  Constantly being in the future or the past is the express way to depression.  It can sometimes be very difficult to trust that the universe is truly working in your favor.

But around about last week I got sick of it and decided I was done.  The problem with that is that even after you decide it still takes some time for the bad feelings to go away, so for a while you are just pushing through, hoping for the best.  I watch a lot of Oprah, and I'd been watching a rerun of something that said the quickest way to feel better is to do something for somebody else.

About a week ago a Facebook friend put up a post about a community in the Far Rockaways, Queens, that needed food, water, clothes, etc.  Joe and I donated to the Red Cross when the hurricane happened, but I always wonder what exactly happens to that money, and where it goes.  So having a specific person and place that I could send something to, and knowing that it would absolutely get to the people that needed it motivated me to try to put something together.  I went through my closet, and pestered my co-workers to bring in all their coats, sweatshirts, warm clothing, etc.  I went to the grocery store to get boxes and for goodness sake they said they didn't have any, which I thought was absolutely ridiculous.

I almost gave up on finding boxes because everyone I asked was rejecting my box needs!  It was silly-- and I thought, great scott, I'm going to have to go to a BOX STORE and BUY A BOX.  That's the silliest thing.  Then the fabulous production gentlemen here at work found me a huge box!!!!  So we packed it up and it weighed thirty-nine pounds.  I had to laugh when it took two of us to carry it to the mail room.  And then much to my happy gleeful surprise: it only cost sixteen bucks to ship!  And when all was said and done I realized that I hadn't been thinking about my silly problems the entire time I was working to get that sent out.

My next project was to make treats for a friend whose dad is having serious health problems, and whose family spends a lot of time at the hospital.  What a concept-- I can do my favorite hobby, cooking and baking and give everything away!  No weight gain here!  Except I did have to taste for quality control.

Every time I felt the worry/depressive feelings creeping in, and they definitely tried to, I pushed them away, saying to myself: "I did my work today, I practiced. I am allowed to have fun making things now."  And chose to be happy. Yesterday, instead of marinading in my issues, I left the office and when to a lunchtime meditation class.  And guess what-- it is getting easier and easier to push those feelings away when they come up.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

I think I'm fached.

Oh good god, look out—the sky may officially be falling--- Jessica sang high staccati and it appears everyone is falling off their chairs.

If anyone is interested in a news flash:  I am not really possessed of a voice that makes perfect sense.  There are aspects of many fachs in my sound.  Everyone is confused.   

But in fact, I am not confused.  I know exactly what I am doing. 

When I do not fit neatly into a box, it makes people nervous, and in fact, it may make my life more difficult in one way or another.  I have actually had a teacher tell me I might be a mezzo (although, wow, wouldn’t that be amazing if I were).  Nope.  I have always had the high notes—they just got lost for a few years while I went around the soubrette block, the lyric block, the full lyric block, and finally I am in the “How about I sing what feels good” cul-de-sac where I am allowed to be me.   There are the rare people whose voices, looks and personalities fit a fach like a glove.  I think of those people and wish that I was one sometimes.

In point of fact (oh I do love saying that), from a marketing perspective it is much easier for everyone involved if people know right where to put you.  But that is not how humans are.  We do not all fit into the same mold, unless we are faking it.  

So, while it may take a bit longer to get folks to catch on, I really do not have a choice.  I must be myself.  

Friday, November 09, 2012


I cannot wait to have a glass of something and some cheese tonight with my extremely nice Joe.  Boy has he been through a lot with me this week.  Some wounds can only be healed, I've discovered, by listening to Puccini really loudly.  And I bet dancing would help.

This reminds me of this post: The Four Questions of the Shaman. 

When did you stop dancing? I stopped a long time ago, and I need to start again.

So tomorrow, I may or may not be getting on a last minute bus to New York, or I may be going to yoga and doing a lot of practicing and music learning.  Either way.  It's the weekend!

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

my new best friend


I have downloaded one onto each of my electronic devices, and a very cute one in the shape of an owl that Joe has had since he started piano lessons rests on my piano.

I used to think that metronomes held me back, and they made me feel contained.  Now I am starting to think that I can hardly do anything without one.

It makes learning music so much quicker and it gets in your head and stays there.  Also, the one on my i-pad is especially loud and can be heard over even the loudest screaming. 

Okay, just had to decry the loveliness of metronomes.  I will go away now.

Obstacle Obliteration Step 3: Just stop it.

So now, I've done a lot of what I do best:  overanalyze.  I know what my problem is.  I know what it affects, I know why its there.  Now its time for the most complex and difficult to execute step of all:


Which, once you make up your mind to stop allowing the obstacle to be an obstacle, it can take a lot of concentration to keep it that way.  So, here's how it goes for me:  At home I will practice not editing myself, saying what I feel, and trusting myself.  When I hear something absolutely negative and self-doubting come flying out of my mouth, I'll say, "Gosh darn it, Jessica, you don't REALLY believe that about yourself, do you?"

When I practice, I will sing with abandon and conviction, always singing and emoting from my heart, and doing what I think others would like to see, not taking on issues that others have created (stereotypes).  I will strive to not feel bad about the idea being great at something, and to allow the idea of success and joy in accomplishment to become part of my everyday thoughts.   I will hear my dear undergraduate voice teacher's phrase in my head: "Go out there and be Jessica wonderful!"

Monday, November 05, 2012

Obstacle Obliteration Step 2: How did I get here?

So by now you’ve started to notice all the ways the thing you’re trying to overcome is really cramping your style.   Or the style you aspire to ultimately display. 

We’ll just use my obstacle as an example—for some reason, I find myself absolutely able to express myself in some ways, and in others, I say what I think for fear my comments will be seen as not PC enough.  In other words, I am constantly editing myself.  I have become hyper-vigilant in such a way that I constantly question myself in everything by way of a running inner-monologue about everything I do and say.  Which has turned into, you guessed it: self-doubt. 

Instead of walking on stage with the goal of projecting confidence and sharing with the audience via the complete mastery of my craft, I walk onstage wanting to be down-to-earth and self-deprecating.   And you know where that will get you when you’re singing “Sempre libera?”  Absolutely no where fast. 

I think it's a carry over from my pianist days that I never want to be “one of those singers.”  You know, the full-of-herself, annoying kind, whose every move is designed to attract the most attention and whose every artistic choice is based on her absolutely unbelievable high Q above L.  There are certain places and certain times in the life of a soprano when being super wonderful beyond belief is absolutely the right thing to do.  And it is every single time you open your mouth to sing.

The other thing that comes into play for lots of us is that perhaps we weren’t really raised with the message that its okay to stand out because you’re really, really good at something.  Maybe blending in was better.  Maybe in your family being a self-assured person wasn’t really valued.  I sincerely hope that my words will not offend anyone, because you know that I am a person who believes deeply in spirit and faith.   But in my family when I was growing up, there was no room for self-assurance or confidence, because we were taught that human beings have a sinful nature and cannot trust themselves to do what is right.  We were taught that all trust and confidence should be placed in God and the interpretation of the bible to which our religion ascribed.  Therefore, I did not learn to trust my instincts, to listen to myself, or to respect my own ideas.  So you can kind of see where I’m coming from here.

Understanding how I got to this place, knowing that it's a combination of my both my childhood, and my own issues with the singer stereotype (which, by the way I am not perpetuating and do not need to compensate for) helps me realize that I do not have to claim those things as mine.  They are no longer relevant to me, because they are not beliefs that I ascribe to.  When I begin to separate those things from my idea of who I am, I am beginning the process of edging them out of my consciousness. 

Friday, November 02, 2012

A hilarious tidbit from DV

All my life I’ve never gone out before lunch. Except to the dentist. It’s important to go early because at that time they’re at peace and not rattled and tired. Dealing with a tired dentist is really very tough on you.

--Diana Vreeland

Directive Obstacle Obliteration: The Work of Awareness

Breaking down barriers takes focused work and no one knows that better than a singer.  Nearly all of us have some vocal thing that we're working toward, targeting it with a series of specific vocal exercises. So it makes me wonder...why didn't it ever dawn on me to use that same approach with the other little things (which in an audition setting can be big things!) about my presentation, and ultimately, about my life, that I'd like to fix?

Every time a soprano has an epiphany an angel get her wings.  :)

So, the next several blog posts (with maybe a break in between to gush about something) will be devoted to the steps I'm taking.  If you have an obstacle you'd like to jump over, join me.  Maybe at the end of this, we'll all be perfect performers who get all the jobs we audition for.  :) YAY!!!!

Step 1:  The work of awareness

Today, I'll focus on noticing.  Noticing how self-doubt (my obstacle du jour) appears in my actions, my words and my thoughts.  Does it show up in the way I write an email?  Is it a pattern in my life that is making its way into my performance? 

If you're following along with me, observe yourself this weekend.  How does your little obstacle appear?  Don't do anything about it yet, just watch it.  See what it does.  

Next-- Step 2: How did we get here?

This weekend I'll be in New York for lessons and for some quality friend time.  Have a wonderful weekend!

And here's a little nugget of wonderful: 12 things you should know for sure.