Thursday, August 08, 2013

Geeking out

Well, gang, I've been doing some serious role work, listening to recordings galore and working on my high Fs.

The past few days of listening have sold me on a couple things.

A: I do not favor the light, tweety sound in a Queen of the Night.  Nor do I favor the robot sound.  It doesn't have to be like that to be right, people.

B: There is just nobody who does full-voiced, effortless legato Mozart like Edda Moser. Her Queen is RIDICULOUS, and the F in "O zittre nicht" makes you want to stand up and cheer.

For Konstanze, I'm loving my girl Edita Gruberova.  Plenty big, but small when it needs to be, and actually, you find out with this role, that it should be small whenever it can be small.  A girl has to save when she has three bravura arias pretty much back to back, the highest 39-page (in the Barenreiter) quartet ever, a 20-page duet, oh, yeah, and then the finale.  I had a fabulous coaching last summer on Konstanze, and the conductor I was working with reminded me that Mozart wrote the orchestra parts with the singer in mind, with a lot of light writing in between the heavy parts so that especially in the very difficult, virtuosic moments, you do not also have to be pumping full tilt.  You can take it easy sometimes and save the bravura for the end of the aria.

It is intense stuff, but the best, most refined, sensible music in the world.  It takes very little time to learn it because it is so smart, but to sing it well and properly takes FOREVER.  You have a real sense of history and duty when you sing these things and it is not to be taken lightly.

These are the things I am learning.  And washing it down with a lot of seltzer water and iced tea because it is hot.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Weekend Jaunt to the Big Apple

It wasn't exactly a jaunt, really.  We were busy every second.  It was intense.  

First, my bus was late and I barely made it to my lesson.  Speaking of lessons, by now I should know that there is literally no chance of getting to New York on time on a bus on a Friday afternoon.  REALLY.  And I need to plan for that better. The traffic is super horrific.  I barely had time to get some grapes at that iconic purveyor of produce, Duane Read.  But I got there, and I sang "Traurigkeit" like a champ.  It think this Konstanze business is working for me. 


Then, I took the subway back downtown to meet Joe at the hotel and get dressed to go for dinner at the ever delicious Benoit.  I had the cheese souffle there Friday night that made the world seem so good and sparkly and purely lovely.  I mean, who doesn't want to eat something that is literally oozing delicately flavored cheese?  It was unreal.   We had lots of plans for going to other places for drinks and dessert, but by the time we had stuffed ourselves with savory French delicacies, there was absolutely no room for anything else.  And between my work meeting in the morning, rushing to get to the bus, rushing for the subway, rushing to get grapes, rushing to my lesson...your girl was tired.

The next morning, it was my diner for breakfast, then another walk, and my lesson.  We got a cab to take us to the bus stop.  Well, either this gentleman was new or he hated me, because I had an honest to goodness panic attack in the car while we were sitting in cross-town traffic almost barely missing our bus. 

But I came home with a lot of music to work on and some clear direction as to what the heck I'm doing this year with this whole singing thing.  

In general, I am gaining the courage to put myself out there a bit more, and having the confidence to send the emails and ask for the auditions and self-promote just a bit better.

Love the art, hate/embrace the business.  But we have to wade through. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013


Tomorrow Joe and I are NYC bound and I am giddy with's been nearly two months since my last fix.  Stay tuned for some blog action from the road!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Epiphany at Bethany

My family does something completely insane every summer.  We rent a huge house on Bethany Beach and twenty-three people of all ages, political affiliations, occupations, first languages and religions live together for a week.  It has its stressful moments, especially when it's my night to cook!  But it feels very grounding to have such strong bonds with people with whom you never need to wear makeup, or put on anything dressier than a t-shirt.  You can just let it all hang out. 

However, I must admit that being around all my accomplished family members gives me a good reason to spend some of that time on the beach really thinking about my life and my purpose on earth.  I mean, my cousin Jorge just spent several weeks in Guatemala repairing cleft palates of babies and children for free.  What could I ever do for anyone that would be that life-changing?  Joe and I are the only musicians, except for one budding diva (!!!!!) and one jazzer-cum-accountant.  Other than that we have two MDs, two PhDs, one dentist, six attorneys (one of whom was just a commentator on the news, for god's sake), and the list goes on and on.  Luckily, we also have three visual artists, a linguist, and a therapist to balance it all out.  But I always feel a little bit like the underachiever, like maybe what I do is a little bit misunderstood. 

I think we all have moments in life when we wonder if we are on the right path, if we are fulfilling our purpose, if everyone feels this struggle, or if those who are really living their destiny sail through life with fewer cares.  One day I was feeling this particularly acutely, so I took a long walk on the beach.  When I am walking on the beach, it really is almost as if my brain goes blank.  It is the calmest I ever am.  The sound of the waves have such a soothing monotony and that is why I love the beach-- it's my happy place.  While I was walking, the thought came to me that I do have purpose, that I am living my purpose, that I'm right where I should be, and struggling at it like every other human.  I have two purposes: Joe and classical music.  

The clarity of this little revelation (which might really seem obvious in some ways) startled me.  

Without either I would not be me.  I would not be who I am.  I owe them both everything.  One saved me in one way and one in another. 

And so I know now.  It was quite a moment. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013


A good friend of mine has the personal policy of giving herself 24 hours to spend feeling bad about a disappointing experience.  Which makes sense for a few reasons.

1. You have a chance to acknowledge the fact that something bad happened
2. You have plenty of time to really feel sad
3. By the end of 24 hours you are usually sick of feeling bad, and don't feel like you are supressing your feelings by moving forward.

Once in a while there is something that happens that is so difficult that you really do want to wallow for longer.  But having a definite end point arranged is best, that way you can say with authority: ENOUGH is ENOUGH.  And you are controlling your feelings instead of allowing them to control you.

So I've reached the point where I am over it, and since I've already ordered the score and a recording, I'm going to learn the whole role any way.  The minute it comes, I will dive in as if I do in fact have to sing it very soon, I'll get my translating on and get to work.  I just know I'll sing it, and when the opportunity comes, I'll be ready.

And in the meantime, and after work of course, you'll find me at the pool.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Embracing it

I wanted so much to have good news to tell this morning.  But the truth is, I didn't get the role.  They said it was because of my availability.  But whatever the reason, it is so difficult to hear "We picked someone else."

It never gets easier.

So, this is all I can do:

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

I've missed you!

Hello, blog.

I've been away for several weeks-- not as a planned thing, really, but just because I didn't feel inspired to write.  None of you want me to just write bullhockey that I don't care about, so I thought it would be best to just take a break!

I went to the beach with good friends, family, had a great Fourth of July, caught a cold, consequently had a singing disaster, got better, got a call, and all of a sudden tonight I've got a last minute audition for a role I really want.  Life is so exciting-- the only thing you know for sure is that everything is changing all the time.  Out with the old, in with the new.  Regeneration station!

At the moment it is darned hot here in Charm City!  I love auditioning, as you well know, and I'm so THERE tonight, but it does seem a little bit wrong that anyone should be asked to do anything other than sit by a pool when the weather is like 104 or something.

I spoke with my teacher last night in preparation for the audition-- for which they asked me to learn some substantial excerpts, in about 24 hours.  Major lesson learned from this?

If you believe you will sing a role, it is really right for you, LEARN THE WHOLE THING!!! Then you're ready when they call!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Summer style for divas and divos

Weak in the knees, yes I am!  Light gray with blue looks so fresh and cooling...guys, you'll make 'em swoon with this combo.  The Suit can be found for a great price here!

I am loving this affordable, body-conscious, summery, yet appropriate dress from ASOS-- it would be gorgeous with a fabulous, colorful, huge necklace, like this one from Baublebar.

The  truth is, of course, I could never afford this stunning dress from Lela Rose, but it's serious inspiration, no?
This airy confection would be splendid with a metallic belt and some chandelier earrings... 
I am loving this one too- worn by one of my favorite fashion bloggers at Pink Peonies!  The dress is available here for a song! 
Can we all please agree that a light linen suit on a gent is ridiculously elegant.  This picture is from MenStyleFashion blog, which is chock full of great ideas and inspiration.  Also, this gorgeous light natural linen suit at Macy's is on sale and totally dreamy. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

June is bustin' out all over!

I'm closer than ever before to getting the chance to sing one of my dream roles...callback next week.  It's a good day!

The other thing is that I'm wearing really brightly colored trousers today.  If you see me on the street, you just may have to put the sunglasses on.

Besides the callback, there is so much happening that feels really important next week.  Send me your good vibes!!!!!!!

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Opera's youngest super-bloggers

I think it's high time I call your attention to some blogs that have impressed me lately.  But then, you probably already know about Opera Teen and Il Dolce Suono and OperaRox! because, people, they're all over the interwebs, getting shout-outs from greats like Joyce DiDonato, publishing insightful reviews of productions they see, engaging in intelligent twitter convos with opera singers all over the globe (and if you're on Twitter, you know how truly rare that can be), and generally amping up the visibility among the younger crowd and creating a buzz for our fabulous art form.

You've heard me talk about OperaRox! before, since it's the brain child of my friend Kim, who is also an editor of the online opera magazine Opera21. She does weekly livestreams of operas and chats with people all over the world about the production.  She's a lovely mezzo as well, and I know she's going to do great things...wait...she already has!

I love Il Dolce Suono's hilarious anecdotes and conversational tone-- she also has an awesome video on the blog right now of the fabulous Ferrucio Furlanetto singing King Phillip's aria from Don Carlo (aka best opera ever) it.

Opera Teen is getting a lot of attention these days for his operatic romps, read an article about him here on Operavore : "An Opera Teen Builds an Internet Fan Base" and indeed he has.  His Twitter feed is fun to follow, he reviews and writes articles on opera for The Huffington Post, he's been to LaScala (sigh!) and he's a regular at the Met.

This is the new guard of the opera-obsessed, giving me hope that, contrary to concerns of many in our field-- WE WILL HAVE AN AUDIENCE 20 YEARS!!! We will!

I am revived when I read these blogs!  The spirit and enthusiasm and fabulous videos they're posting-- love it.  It reminds me of why we're doing this-- opera is irresistibly fabulous, compelling, and actually kind of addictive-- we have to share the gospel of this super-human genre.  It's larger than life, and intimate at the same time.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013


Yesterday's audition was, well...a bit lackluster.  The circumstances probably didn't help, but to quote a friend, in this case I did not "set the world alight."  Nothing particularly bad about it, just not fabulous.

That being said, every time I have an audition, I feel like I learn something new about myself and my voice, which is one of the reasons I feel I enjoy auditioning so much.  It's really a rush.

On the way home a new and particularly stressful flavor of family drama began, with texts, calls, and eventually a total come-to-jesus with my mom.  Part of it went down while sitting at the pool (I'd gone straight there after my audition), which really made it only slightly better, and in some ways more stressful because I was staring down at my partially naked body in a swimsuit the whole time.  Add to that the fact that Joe keeps buying bags of chips and bringing them to the pool.  I can say with certainty I have no ability to control myself in the presence of potato chips, especially the kind pictured to the left.  They are the single most wonderful and most hated food in my life.  If and when I evolve into an all-powerful deity, the first thing I will do is create potato chips with no calories or cholesterol or anything.

I really should have been practicing, but after dinner, Joe and I decided to go out to thrift stores and find more fabulous artwork for our walls.  We were wholly unsuccessful, but we did end up with some watermelon and cantelope which I am hoping can now take the place of chips at pool-time.  Well...nothing could ever take the place of chips...but, you know what I mean.

Ahh life.  What a series of ups and downs it is.  But in the summer time and at Christmas it is really great.  And lots of times in between.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Weekend recap

It was a seamless and stress-free trip to NYC, and even more enjoyable because I am reading a fabulous book entitled Devil in the White City by Erik Larson.  It was recommended by friends who promised me it would be a page turner and indeed it is! 

I worked on some rep for an audition as well as my new bel canto stuff with my teacher and coach.  I had hoped to fit in a wonderfully cheap New York pedicure at my favorite place, Serenity Nails in Midtown, but there was no time!  My coach went over a bit with me (Lucky me!) and I had to high-tail it down town to catch the bus.  I did have just enough time to pick up two dark chocolate mousse-filled Ritter Sport bars on my way...mmm.  What a treat. 

The plan for yesterday after church was to spend the afternoon at the pool and then attend the concert, but I was feeling a bit under the weather, so it ended up being a very low key afternoon, especially since it rained!  So I made good use of the time by making bread and yogurt for the week.  I don't do very well with downtime...I have no idea what to do with myself.  I need to get help for that. :)

I've got that audition tomorrow!  Micaela, here I come.  Wish me luck!

Friday, May 31, 2013


I am grateful because my week has included a lot of good things.  My weekend will be awesome too, because I get to sing.

Tomorrow, I'm going to New York (lookout Megabus) for a lesson and coaching, and it is my pianist's birthday, so I will be bringing him some treats, or else getting him a Wendy's gift certificate, either one. It's a hilarious quirk, but he LOVES Wendy's, of all things!  He is the one who saved me before my last audition by running out to get me copies of my piece!

Tuesday, I've got an audition which has required some brushing up of some old rep.  I'm intrigued by, and shall we say nervously excited, about this particular audition as the concept is interesting and requires movement and dance.  Ahem.  And now you understand my concern.  At any rate, I'll go in there and give it all I've got.  As long time readers of this blog have observed, I definitely know how to dance it's just that I'm not sure if my kind of dancing it out is the kind they want. :)

In these kinds of uncertain audition situations (and let's face it-- most are uncertain in some way! Anything can happen...), I just try to focus on giving a consistent and compelling vocal performance and keeping a very open mind and heart.

I'm the only person I can control.

In other news I'm excited to hear some Bach and Handel at this concert on Sunday, and have some guacamole after at Blue Agave.  It's funny, I have to keep reminding Joe that there are other foods and cocktails in the world in the summer besides guacamole and margaritas.  We eat out on our own really only once a week, and I have to say lately nine times out of ten it has been guac and margs!  But the fact is I love when you can walk everywhere, and living in our neighborhood, we can walk to the mexican place.  I am reminding Joe we can also walk to the pizza place, the thai place, the japanese, the  pub...oh well!  He is very cute about it.   And anyway, it is summer.

My food for thought this weekend:

It is not my job to school others and force them to think rightly, or to change their ways.  As a friend I must offer my support, and build them up, remind them of their inherent fabulousness, and  always be the ear for whatever is happening in their lives.  I must try never to make them feel less than, or that their feelings are wrong or unimportant.  Only when they ask for my advice will I give it.  Who am I to say, when I am still walking up and down the streets everyday with questions in my heart, my mind every minute.  I want to be a safe place for each and every person I know.  I have been teasingly referred to as "The Feelings Police," a title I am kind of flattered by because I hope people feel: Your heart is safe with me.

We have not just ended up with what we have.  At least as far as adulthood is concerned, our choices have brought it to us.  We can delight in the good we have manifested and ponder the bad, but it all comes back to us: we are the manifestors.  

The universal law of cause and effect is happening all around me, and I have to make sure I am causing the good and effecting happiness.  

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Ten Commandments of Summer for Young Singers

Inspired by this adorbs post from a gal whose style I adore, I thought we needed a version for the classical singing types out there...

1. Thou shalt love the lord thy voice teacher with all thy heart and soul and mind.
And of course by that I mean, don't let what's shiny and new and super complimentary at your summer program entice you away from the person who has been slogging along day in and day out, working slow-but-sure wonders with your singing, taking your frantic competition panic calls, giving you the same advice over and over again that you never listen to, replying to your endless stream of emails, telling you you can do it, and generally building you up.  Don't get poached.  Just don't.  Two voice lessons at a program do not a long-term strategy make.  Change voice teachers every five minutes and you will be a mess.

2. Thou shalt not compare thyself to other singers who are older, and more experienced.
You will feel bad all the time.  Be inspired by them, because they are making it happen, but don't be a victim and let their level of accomplishment get you down.

3. Thou shalt not condescend and give advice to singers who look up to you, just because you are older and more experienced.
They have people who they are paying to work on things with them.  Don't step in with your extensive knowledge of the repertoire and confuse them by saying who they sound like, that they are really a tenor, that they should be singing Handel instead, you know...yes, you know exactly what I mean.  What all the older singers did to you that made you feel weird and like you have no idea what direction your life is headed.  Be the supportive, uplifting person that makes them feel good about who they are NOW.

4. Thou shalt NOT over-sing in Death-by-Aria the first night of the festival.  
It's a classic mistake.  Be the one who doesn't have to prove how loud they are.  And then you will have a voice the next day when it is time for the really important stuff.  What a concept.

5. Thou shalt absolutely use the summer to grow vocally even if you don't go to a program. 
Listen to Lucia all the way through.  Listen to something wild you would never normally want to listen to, like for me, that would include one of the Glass operas.  Learn a role.  Set up coachings with someone you have never worked with but have always wanted to.  Take your audition arias to an acting coach.

6. Thou shalt not feel bad about thyself if you choose not to go and pay $4000+ this summer for a program. 
The truth is, when you think about how long it takes a person like us to make that amount of had better be one heck of an experience.  So embrace your choice not to do it.  You are being prudent, and start a little savings account for your audition trips in the fall.

7. Thou shalt give a recital for free just to be nice. 
Get together with some friends and sing your audition arias, some new song repertoire, etc. for your church or a retirement community.  It's a great way to try out new stuff.  These kinds of things have certainly been invaluable for me in making discoveries about what is right and wrong for me to sing.

8. Thou shalt organize an aria club and call it Fight Club to be cool.
So, aria club could meet once a month, everyone kicks in for a pianist.  Every second month, you have to sing something brand new.  Sounds like good motivation to me!

9. Thou shalt attend an outdoor performance! 

10.  Thou shalt not forget to have fun. 
Remember how living life makes us better singers?  It does.  For heavens sake go to the beach or the pool or something and enjoy yourself.  Make dinner for friends. Be fabulous!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The past and the present

This weekend I was lucky enough to have an extra day off so that I could drive out to Pittsburgh for some time with family.  First of all, I have to say my new free Iphone made the trip more fun, as I was able to have all my fabulous tunes coming right through the stereo of my car!  I listened to Bach, Bellini, Handel, Beyonce, Fleet Foxes, soooo much music.  It was great.   There was a ton of traffic on the Turnpike, and when I stopped for gas, it was like the wild wild west at the filling stations, let me tell you.  I totally lost my cool with a lady who was beeping at me to hurry while I was trying to get gas, and I yelled.  But hey, it was a real Jessica moment, what can I say.  And let me tell you, everyone in the gas station heard.  :) Yikes.

I've said it many times here, I love being with my family, because I laugh and laugh and laugh.  I have a hilarious bunch of relatives, and laughter is the strongest medicine there is.  For my cousins and I, its a time of change and transition, marriage, family, babies, moving, and so there were a lot of tears this time too.  I was reminded that rejection and feeling like a loser doesn't just happen to opera singers... it's the way people our age tend to feel in general!  Whether we are attorneys, surgeons, dentists, singers or whatever.  We are all afraid that some part of our plan is going to fall through, and that we are going to let our parents, friends, spouses, and ourselves down.  We are afraid that we aren't good enough, and that everything we've accomplished up until now is all just a very lucky coincidence.  Also, it is very difficult to get a job in the current climate, even for those who thought their degree would provide them with a sure thing.  So we spent some much needed time commiserating, and lots of old stuff comes up, and the emotions you feel can be so intense. There were tears too, but it was a very healing and cathartic weekend.  When you are healing from a tough year, it is important to be with people who understand you from A-Z, who have seen the evolution of who you are and know the very unique nature of your challenges as only family can. 

It is true that our past does not define us, and that moving forward, we make choices everyday that can either reshape our lives, or keep us in the destructive pattern.  But what has happened is impossible to forget, and it will come back sometimes unbidden, and affect the present in ways we never could have imagined.  I am still trying to figure out how I can plan for those moments and keep them from affecting my performances.  As Leontyne Price said, "I would never let anything keep me from giving my very best performance for the audience." And lord knows she had some challenges!  But she kept it from getting to her in such a way that she was always in top form when she needed to be.  

I am working on this. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Because today is my Friday!

It is a happy day.  I have lots of things planned for this weekend, and because I need some emotional recharging, it will be some time with the fam in Pittsburgh, and hopefully it will not be terrible weather and we can celebrate the first weekend of the pool being open AT the pool.

Tonight there is a work event.  But I've painted my nails and done up my do, and will help to send the graduates off in style.

After we will meet up with friends to toast to the weekend of fun.

My yogurt and bread turned out amazing!  Not that you care...

And so did my practice session, although since my little break, my stamina is not what it was!  It is truly crazy how quickly you can lose ground.  We gotta keep moving forward!

Happy Memorial Day weekend, everyone!


Wednesday, May 22, 2013


This is a kind of a boring post, but I'm having the best day.

I've got some new things to practice for, and some new things to practice for those things!.  Super great.

Tonight, I've got it all planned out:

1. Practice
2. Make pork loin with asparagus (come on over!)
3. Make bread
4. Make greek yogurt

I know it sounds weird.  But it is a great night for me of creating things.

Edible things.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


When you tough it out, hold the line, and stay the course, Jessica, I promise you there will soon come a day when you look back over your shoulder, shake your head in dismay, and seriously wonder what all the fuss was about. 

Just like all the other times,    The Universe

Friday, May 17, 2013

This week

It started off a little sad, with the close of a show that had a quite a story, a lot of emotion, and a very close cast.  It was hard to say goodbye to that.  I was experiencing some of the typical post-show ennui.  I didn't feel like singing, and I told myself, "Self, no problem.  Don't practice again til you feel like you want to. It's called taking a break." And guess what.  By Wednesday I was practicing the days pass...I'm starting to get my mojo back, I have to admit.  I am back to being totally obsessed.  Obsessed with singing, singers, opera, song...all of it.

This week's posts included:

- A poem on Wednesday called Opening Night

- yesterday's self-motivational post called Coaching Team You.  It was by far the most popular this week.

Tonight Joe and I are off to Lyric Opera Baltimore's Rigoletto-- one of my very favorites.  I'll be on pins and needles all through "Caro nome." Otherwise known as the best aria ever!  We will be fuleing up first with margaritas and guacamole.  And between now and then, of course, I'll have to figure out what spectacular outfit to wear... I'm going back stage after...maybe I'll get to meet Bryan Hymel!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Coaching Team You

I love watching the ESPN show Hard Knocks, which follows one NFL team a year through their pre-season training camp.  Its a grueling process, and many players are disappointed when they just can't be explosive or consistent enough to compete with other stars on the team.  Dozens of players are eliminated throughout the course of camp, and in the end, usually one is chosen for each open position.  It's a fascinating thing to watch, and feels oddly familiar for a person like me who has chosen a path with a similarly competitive atmosphere.  I hate to say it, but I think even sopranos have it easier than some of these players...

What the NFL does have built into their system that we do not (besides the obvious billions of dollars), however, is constant encouragement, ass-kicking, support, and camaraderie.  There are coaches with each guy before every play, in your ear, reminding you what to do, how to do it, helping you to keep your focus, telling you you CAN.  I've often said to Joe-- "God, can you imagine if there was someone who would do that for us that we didn't have to pay?"  How much more fabulous would I be every time I auditioned, performed, opened my mouth!  If I could afford it, you better believe I'd have a person who loves my voice standing next to me telling me how freaking fabulous I was up until the moment I stepped into the audition room! 

Okay, ultimately, we're all on Team Opera, but rarely do you walk in the door for rehearsal and feel the single-minded focus that seems to be present in a football locker room.  We're all thinking about our own voices, mostly, right?  How it feels today, what's happening in there, whether I know my words, who my character is-- it ceases at some point to be a team sport, even though it probably shouldn't.  Not up until a work is performance-ready do any of us really become able to focus on the piece as a whole and telling a larger story.  We have to focus on getting our own stuff right. 

In the absence of a team of coaches standing on the side-lines yelling instructions(or heck, even one would do), whose sole job is to be sure I perform in that moment the very best I can, I've got to be my own teacher, coach, cheerleader, therapist.  In the face of rejection and negativity, and the constant newsreel about our "dying art," how do we wade through all of it and become the kind of singer we can get behind?  

If I know I've done the work, had the right attitude, put in the time, and I'm there for the right reason (MUSIC, hello), I have no reason not to believe I'm great.  No reason not to be one hundred percent in favor of me. No reason not to say myself in lieu of anyone else being there to do it: GO get em.  You are fabulous.  You love this, you work hard at this.  Show them what you're made of.

Let's win one for Team You.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


Opening night

Into the size and shape of answers that
I’ll never have
I plunge

I ask the question and live in the realm
Of wondering

Where is she
Who the world tosses up on shore
and harshly polishes with all the
moments come and gone
an entire night that lasted only seconds
gulfs waded through
cliffs over the side of which she may have
stupidly looked down
catching herself
When roughly chipped or thrown and landed
Then, all of the sandpaper words

And the mail still comes
Or maybe doesn’t
She waits

But I will always wait

It goes in waves, first a shell,
broken through raw and soft,
Then perhaps a scab forms
Always battered, with fractures
though never quite cracked through
love and hate and such sadness
surge ever closer to the surface

Tonight I bring it all to you

Friday, May 10, 2013

Friday is here... what a month

And you know what that means...opening night.  It's been a crazy month.  As I look back to the day I agreed to do the opera that opens tonight, so much was different.  I was ill, I was depressed.  I got through it, and I didn't give up, and somehow I will find the courage to stand on the stage and sing tonight.

By the grace of the universe, I wasn't really allowed to quit.  I had to keep going...there were more things and more things so I knew I couldn't slow down to feel sorry for myself.  What would have happened if I had?

I've been really inspired to write lately, because I'm learning things.  So here are some topics I'm hoping to address in the near future:

- Choosing teachers and coaches

- What is really worth our money

I hope you will all keep me in your thoughts tonight, and have a WONDERFUL weekend!

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Update to Audition/Performance Prep page: Repertoire for Auditions

Hello singers-- for any of you that are interested, I've just posted an epistle about my take on choosing pieces for auditions and strategy.  Check it out to your left in the Audition/Performance Prep page.

Have a great Wednesday!

Diva Style

My thing has always been that glamor will get you noticed before you even open your mouth.  and I've often said this here-- but I feel so GOOD when I look good.  I'm building my brand, right?  We must be gorgeous of voice and of countenance.  

Note: I said countenance. 

And to me to be gorgeous of countenance is to have a glow, a projection of inner joy, a sense of pride in our appearance and our product.  It does not mean being stick thin, it does not mean wearing drag queen make-up (although I do love my fake eyelashes).  

The other day when i was getting ready for my audition in my teacher's studio, asked her: "Do I need more make up?  I feel like I need more.  I need to be more glamorous."

She looked at me like I was crazy.  It was quite hilarious, especially since my teacher is always very well-turned out herself, great make-up, perfect lipstick.  Then she said:

"Jessica, this audition is about your voice."


Monday, May 06, 2013

Tired Panda

New York this weekend was wonderful, refreshing and tiring all at the same time.  Even if I don't live there, I am glad I live close enough to go often.  I feel free and happy and surrounded by possibility in New York.

My friend Jared and I had the best time catching up Friday night, then we had breakfast at my favorite diner on 52nd before my lesson at 11 AM.  My teacher really excels at preparing me for auditions.  Whenever I can have a lesson before an audition, I make an effort to schedule one.  During my lesson we began exploring a few arias that had not originally been on my rep list for this audition, and discovered that, wow!  One really worked!  Really really worked!

It was the end of the lesson when dear Max, the pianist said "Do you have a copy of the score for the pianist?"

The answer was of course no, because I hadn't planned to sing it.   But my schedule was very tight-- I was planning to change into my dress at the studio and then take a cab to make it to the audition just in time.  Oh no!  I started to panic...

"Change slowly," Max said. "I'll run down to Office Max on 8th Avenue and make you a copy! We must never forget the pianist!"

Oh my word.  I tell you it takes a village to get this soprano ready for an audition.  It was so sweet of him, and I felt very loved.  I was ready, copies in hand, in plenty of time.  Took a cab, walked in, and sang a really great audition.  Exhilarating.

Then I changed back into jeans and ran down to catch my bus.  I was back just in time for our orchestra run of the show I'm working on now.  Sunday was a marathon of church and rehearsal, but praise be to god, it culminated in a Cinco de Mayo margarita and guacamole.  I haven't had hard liquor in so long that I woke this morning with an upset stomach...but somehow pulled off a great rehearsal of musical theater and opera hits for my concert tomorrow...

Where am I?  What am I doing?  What is my name?

Dress rehearsal tonight.  Ahhhhhhh!

Find what you love and let it kill you

Fabulous blog post, right HERE

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Thoughts from the choir loft

1. There is always a new solo that is hard the day that I have had hours of rehearsal and an audition trip the day before.

2.  I have to pee

3.  It would have been good to drink more coffee

5.  Why are people joking about this hymn being very German and minor when it is definitely not in a minor key??? I don't get it.

Friday, May 03, 2013

On achievement

So okay, I get what all the fuss about taking the train is about...this is truly luxurious compared to a bus...sigh...loving life at the moment.  I bought a new song on I-tunes today, which I do periodically in an effort to stay sort of current...still have a long way to go...but hey.

I love this song, I've listened to it like 12 times already because it does all the things a good pop song should do.  It reminds you what it was like to be carefree.   What it was like when you didn't have to earn a living, be a good wife, when you cared less about achieving.  This song reminds me of the  summers at the barns at the 4-H fair, taking care of animals...when the most important thing I had to do was make feeding times, and in between it was a never-ending string of fun complete with events, concerts, crushes and falling madly in love with boys, every friend ever, so many pick up trucks, the music was always up loud in the barns, punctuated by soft serve and grilled cheese from the dairy bar.  I swear the best grilled cheese in the world was a dollar.  I want to be there again sometimes...  How weird would that be?? Would they all be there? The bull-rider I kind of dated, who was missing a finger from an event accident( would you believe he got a scholarship to a college in Wyoming for bull-riding? Now he is a bonafide blacksmith who shoes horses. awesome).  Yes. That happened.  So many characters.

Okay, let's reel this in.  Enough with the reminiscing.

It got me to thinking about how sometimes I feel self-righteous that I left. I went out into the world to  cultivate my talent and gosh darn it, DO something with my life.  I used to really feel better when I could say that and lift myself up in by making my journey *special* if only inside my head.  As opposed to lots of my friends who stayed and got married and had babies and kept getting up at four am to feed their animals like they always did and things.

Where did the need to achieve come from? And am I really doing anything?  Maybe? I don't know.  But it sure feels like I am running around a lot.

So I have to ask: who is Jessica without Jessica's story?  Who am I without the endless striving to achieve?  Is it even possible for me to completely forget about what I *should* be doing any more?

Can I sit with myself and be Jessica without trying to be a singer for five seconds?

Thursday, May 02, 2013


Oh my goodness, it feels like spring, and I am so grateful for today.

Last night was a marathon rehearsal, and I thought I might not make it, but somehow, with the help of  coffee and a huge blueberry muffin (my bad), I did it!  The music for this show is stunning and I am really starting to get excited about the performance.  I think the audience will react very strongly because the emotion is so clear in the score.  There are some moments when even now, I am afraid I'm going to cry!

It's great to have a night off tonight to regroup and rest my voice before leaving for New York Friday night...I have an audition and lesson, and I'm going to try to catch a new production of Don Giovanni if I make it in time.  

It's a busy time, and I have a concert Tuesday morning (morning after my first dress) with completely different repertoire... stressing about that just slightly.  Different and VERY wordy.  I need to make my flash cards and get to work immediately tonight.  I'll be cramming words like crazy on the train and bus and probably during the church service Sunday morning!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Today is a good day because:

1. I am alive

2. There are people who love me

3. There are people I love

4. I get to be with some of them today, and I got to be with some of them yesterday

5. I get to sing today and I am singing music that a brilliant person wrote, and so I get to participate in the brilliance

6. I remember how lucky I am to be married to someone so great that I miss him this much when he is away

7. Chocolate chip cookies

8. Pizza

9. I sold an old blouse that I never wear on Ebay and made thirty bucks

10. The rain washed the pollen away

Friday, April 26, 2013

Basking in the glow of Leontyne Price

Can we all just agree that Leontyne is unreal, unbelievable, on another level?  I grew up listening to her and Kathleen Battle, and really, they were my first concept of what opera singers sound like.  My first memory of opera is watching Aida with my grandfather on TV.  And I vividly remember the singers-- it was Placido Domingo and Leontyne Price.  It made a big impression on me-- I don't remember if I liked it or hated it-- but there it was, burned in my memory.

I'm singing in another competition tomorrow, and last night, in the interest of trying to block out the competition PTSD that seems to be seeping back in, I started youtubing some of my arias to get some inspiration.  Since I'm singing some Carlisle Floyd, I thought it made sense to find anything I could with Phyllis Curtin-- and there was a wonderful interview from the NEA Opera Honors.  In that same series was one with Leontyne...I couldn't resist.

I hung on her every word for the forty minutes of the interview!  It was so so so so good.  She talked about how important it is to gain acceptance of claiming center stage.  What a concept.  Sometimes I think that this is our biggest problem-- How do I reconcile in my brain the idea that I am good enough to be CENTER STAGE?  How do I claim center stage?

For Leontyne, and according to this interview, it seems that she fell madly in love with her voice and her sound.  She reveled in it, and relished sharing it.  She appreciated every opportunity she had to be on a stage, and she emphasized that she never let anything negative keep her from being at her best when it was time to take center stage.

Super good advice.

Now, how to do it?

I think the first step must just be to decide to do it.  Which I have.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The thing about singing

is that it's really G.. D... expensive.

So, I need to rant.  It is very difficult to plan your travel stuff, when you find out about auditions you've been granted less than two weeks in advance.  Which, I suppose, is one of the many fabulous reasons singers:
a.  move to New York
b. have enormous credit card debt
c. decide to stop trying

Here's how the whole thing went down:

1. I send company application and check by their posted application deadline one month ago.  Company had posted that the auditions would be held in New York two weeks after the app deadline.

2. I don't hear back by the date of the auditions (which I had kept free in my schedule), so I figure they didn't want me for any audition.  Okay, I'm cool with that.  I'd rather that than be led on and asked to audition even if you know there are no openings for sopranos.

3. Then I see in my bank account the check has been cashed.  Which, I have to say, I was a bit miffed about.

4. A week later, I get an email asking if I can audition on a totally random Sunday afternoon, and by random, I mean one that wasn't posted in their web listing.  And one on which I have an orchestra rehearsal for my current production.

5. I write back, politely thanking them and asking for a different time in light of my conflict.

6. They write back with another conflicting time, I write back asking for something more specific.  They are nice enough to accommodate me.

7. I realize at this point that I'll have to leave at like 5 in the morning if I want to make it in time to warm up and things.  Not a good scenario to sing well.  And I wouldn't have time to fit in a voice lesson or anything.

8. So I start looking for cheap hotels.  There are none.  And by that I mean no cheap ones.   There are also no bus tickets that fit my extremely small window of time to get back in time for the orchestra rehearsal.  I buy a train ticket instead.

9. I spend more than I should ever have on all of the above, to make it all happen somehow any way because I would feel really bad about myself if I didn't do something with singing this summer.  I am now broke.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The rest of the story, part the second

Today has been interesting...I was having a really bad hair day, so I decided to turn it into a fantastic hair day by doing a wild updo... and I'm feeling great about the decision!  I love intricate, romantic hair, but anyway... back to the tale at hand...

The afternoon of the concert for my former teacher, Joe and I went back to our hotel room and just went to sleep-- I was worried of course, about my voice, but I figured I'd sleep an hour then take a long, really steamy shower and warm up.  I needed that nap!  It was amazing.

Before the performance, I tried to sequester myself so that I could focus, but people kept coming in who I hadn't seen in years, and so there was a lot of difficulty concentrating on the task at hand...also, the young man who was in charge of ushering was a bit confused as to what we needed him to do when we cam in from the side entrance.  People aren't really accustomed to dealing with opera singers, I think.  All my friends were sitting in the audience before they sang, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it.  I was still worried about whether to sing the whole Act 1 scene.  My voice was so tired after the Strauss.  But I decided to just go for it.  In auditions, the cabaletta works on its own, but not really in performance.   It went well, despite my fears, and I was able to fit a real cough in at an appropriate time by passing it off as a tuberculosis moment!   I feel so happy and so satisfied when I am able to be the character instead of worrying about my voice, and in that moment I was.

The concert was a huge success, and I am so so so glad that we did it.  It meant the world to me to hear my talented classmates and their emotional and powerful performances-- seeing so many familiar loving faces was a balm to my wounded little singer heart.  And singing well and getting a few compliments never hurts...although if I hadn't sung well, I'm sure I wouldn't have enjoyed the experience as much.

The weekend ended with me having a good cry as we drove had been a really emotional time.

When I got home, guess what was in the mail box?  A contract from that audition I'd sung before I left.

I was so glad I hadn't let the competition debacle  keep me from going on to the next thing.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The rest of the story

The following weekend, I had an audition for a gig.

The audition went surprisingly well...I almost couldn't believe that sinus infection and post traumatic stress from the competition and all I was able to sing as well.  But then, I feel that I learned something from the competition.  I started with the wrong piece.  It was a classic mistake.  When I am ill, or feeling slightly compromised, high, fast and loud are always best for me and easiest to pull off.  Pair the horrifying plane experience, no sleep and illness coming on with nervousness?  And then I stubbornly "went with the plan" instead of following the instincts telling me to start with a different aria?  That was the worst thing about it.  I feel like I made a huge mistake looking all could have gone very differently had I sung something less delicate.  I am still kicking myself for that.

And then that thursday, Joe and I left for Indiana.  I'd been planning a concert to celebrate my teacher from undergrad since last fall, with thirteen singers I'd gone to school with.  I was still sick, and it made me very nervous, for so many reasons... however, it was good to have another thing to sing for dead ahead, so that I was forced to keep moving forward.

My teacher had requested a difficult Strauss song, that I'd learned for the occasion, and I was going to sing the first act scena from Traviata along with the solo bits in Make our Garden Grow from Candide, which all told are a few fairly big sings.  Put that in the kettle along with the fact that I would be trying to fit in seeing family, I'd be back in Indiana after something like ten years... a place awash in odd memories, and singing on the same concert with all the classmates I'd felt so very inferior to for the four years of my undergrad.  Yep, it was was an emotional land mine-- which rarely translates to singing well.

We rolled in just in time for the dress rehearsal-- after I'd insisted on a rib-sticking meal at my favorite travel restaurant Cracker Barrel!  Yes, I know...but I love the green beans more than life itself and the biscuits also make me very happy.  With a lot of butter, of course.  We sang through everything... I was still sickish, and totally exhausted after.  Everyone sounded FABULOUS.  I was so proud, and the vibe was very different-- we enjoyed each other's fabulousness in a very sincere was refreshingly fun to sing.  I say that because my last major singing thing had been pretty traumatic, and I have to say my confidence was at an all time low.  I kept saying to Joe, as I blew my nose and coughed-- "If I feel funny or too tired, I'll just start with the cabaletta and not sing the whole scene...I'm just not going to put myself in a delicate position again in front of all those people after all these years..."  His constant reply was "You do exactly what makes you feel comfortable.  Don't do anything that makes you feel afraid. Who cares what's in the program, sing the short version if you need to."  What a good husband!

The day of the concert, we went out for an awesome breakfast with my sister and a fabulous lunch with my sister in law, and somehow, my heart felt lighter.  I guess spending time with family has a way of reminding you that you are loved, and that even if you went out on stage ten days ago and were a complete joke in front of some of opera's most important movers and shakers, there are people that still find you valuable in some way.

To be continued...

Friday, April 19, 2013

I disappeared.

Hello friends!

I've been away for a while, and there are so many things to say!

Those of you who know me well know that sometimes I just have to withdraw a bit and be with myself to get through things that are happening-- I am starting to think that I may be an introvert, although I obviously love socializing!

After being on board a flight with hundreds of sick people, arriving over three hours late, at around 3 in the morning, being awakened mid-rem cycle at my hotel by a wrong number call, I became terribly ill the morning of the competition for which I had travelled to compete in my last post.  I also received a very disturbing and emotional message via facebook, despite my best attempts to stay away from the dramas.  I sang very disappointingly, and was absolutely one hundred percent humiliated.  I was by myself, away from all my loved ones, a crying, ridiculous mess, feeling very embarrassed that I had wasted so much money and let so many people down including myself and my wonderful host family and teacher.  It was just bad. And I was sick, and I felt hopeless and like the world's biggest failure.  After all, if I can't pull it off in touch situations like that one, how could I ever have a real career???

So here I was, stuck in FL, where it's oddly freezing and all palm trees and strip malls.  I was desperate to get back to someplace familiar.  I decided to drive to my grandmother's house three hours across Florida.  My mom was there visiting my grandmother in an odd stroke of luck, and they gave me tea and helped me heal a little bit.  They also took me shopping, which I have discovered always helps.  I think I spent something like $83.00 at Target on nail polish and shoes.  Worth every penny, and since it was too cold to go to the pool...

I got back and the very next day was hit with a question from a colleague about a production that threw me a bit...and at a time when my emotional and physical resources were at an all time low.  When I returned to work the next week, it was the busiest time of the year, and that was a very difficult week to get through.  Conflict at every turn.  I was starting to feel like I was beating my head against a wall, and like nothing good could possibly happen.  The weirdest thing was that I could hear myself thinking these negative thoughts and I knew they were pointless and not helping in the least.  I wanted to stop, but I felt like I just couldn't lift the fog myself.

So I just decided to keep doing the next thing.  Prepare the solo for church.  Work on the pieces for this or that concert that I had coming up.  I tried to stop thinking about "my career," and just learn my music.

To be continued.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Day 1

Everything was going so smoothly until they announced our flight was delayed...and it just kept getting later.  And later.  I did meet a really nice family with two cute kids that were completely melting down, poor was late at night and they were only five and three.

My flight arrived at midnight, I waited forty minutes to get a car, and then I had a 90 minute drive to my destination.

When I finally fell into bed at 3 am, I slept like a log until the phone rang at 8 am asking for Anita.  Note to self: unplug phone in these types of situations.  I went back to sleep for another hour and then...well...I was a mess when I woke up. So this is what it must feel like to have a newborn, I told myself, except less sleep.

But today, I went to the space to check out the lay of the land and meet my home stay family.  That was when things started to look up.  I am now in my cosy, fabulous cabana after a delicious dinner...starting to get a little nervous.  Pounding water, eating lots of pineapple, not talking.

I started to wonder about my starting aria after hearing it from one of the others today.  So I spent several hours wondering what other aria I should start with.  I bugged Joe about it too.

Then I remembered that the reasoning I had used to choose it was sound.  As I thought through it from every angle, I realized that what I bring is different than what she brought.  Fear is no reason to change the whole strategy now.

It's time to just stop worrying and do it.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Busy getting ready

Hey friends!!! It's been a busy couple weeks with competitions and prep galore!  Tomorrow I leave for the one in Florida...not a bad place to be with a storm on its way to the East Coast!!! I have my shoes and my dresses lined up and I'm excited.  It's tough to get used to being away from Joe for ten days, but such is life.  I'll never forget the five weeks he was away in Northern Italy for a competition once. Oh my word it was a long time.  But musicians have to do these things.

It's kind of weird to think that this is the very first time I will be singing opera during Holy Week and Pesach instead of liturgical gigs.  It's the first time in years that I won't be among the vocally shredded masses of singers making a buck.

I'll be checking in with you very soon... When I am snugly installed at my home stay.

Happy Saturday night all!


Saturday, March 16, 2013

A blog from the bus

Everything is fabulous today and I am already looking forward to my grilled cheese, but I seem to have forgotten to bring water on le bus and am unduly parched.

Finished the taxes last night with a little help from Joe when I got tired and started to melt down.  It feels good and was a major triumph to have that behind me!!!!

I feel slightly bad that as an Irish person I am venturing into NYC on the day of the big parade and am wearing a sleekly conservative bus-friendly ensemble of grey and black, when my brethren will be donning all manner and diverse shades of green.

A shout out also to my husband extraordinaire who accidentally stepped in cat puke this morning while shuffling me out the door.  It seems that Madamoiselle Mimi had been munching on the tulips.

Friday, March 15, 2013


Tomorrow I'm off to NYC and looking forward to it.

Tonight, Joe is taking me out for Greek food, which is never bad.

I am about half done the taxes and I hate having it hanging over my head.  Like a lot.  But one has to eat, and one does HAVE to go to New York for things.

Happy Weekend all!  I'll be coming to you from the bus tomorrow...who knows what kinds of brilliant insights I'll have!


Thursday, March 14, 2013

Things for Thursday

Hello all!  Its a beautiful day here in Baltimore, MD.

Some crazy stuff happened yesterday:

-- for about two hours I was convinced that I had a kidney stone, which is a lot less fun than it sounds.  

-- I wore black tights with contrasting shoes.

I know, I'm crazy, right?

Anyway,  since I have several competitions and concerts coming up and some traveling to do, I've been scouring the Ebays for some fabulous audition looks that are a bit springier.  And the lovely news is I found some amazing evening gowns for barely any money while out with my mom last wee, and I am able to fit into a size I never thought possible.  It was very encouraging.  Although at this particular place, I'm sure there is major vanity sizing, it's still fun!

I'm planning ahead as best I can to be sure I feel as diva-fabulous as possible.  First of all, something needs to be done about my feet if I'm going to be wearing open-toed shoes with my gowns-- that's an appointment I'll be needing to make.  I've got my portable steamer-- that's key.  My one dilemma is a present for my home-stay hosts...what to bring???  I love when I get wine and chocolate, but that can be so tricky because some folks don't drink, and some folks have dietary issues with sweets!   If anyone has any suggestions, please...!!! Help me!

I've been very methodical with my practice as I prepare the arias.  Two are new, which is a bit of a challenge all its own, two are OLD favorites, which I know very well, and one is medium.  So each day I work carefully with the metronome on the new ones, then work on the dramatic gestures and making sure the acting ideas are clear.  The medium one is truly the most challenging aria I've ever sung, and is one that requires intense focus, just to sing it.  Adding anything with acting is still a bit of a challenge, so I'm working on that each day too.  One of the new ones has a B section that isn't musically difficult, but is dramatically and vocally daunting for me for some reason.  That is going to require some more serious practice, but I'm up for the challenge, and ultimately I believe it is a PERFECT piece for me.  Every day I chip away at them.  And this weekend, I'll be in New York again to work with my coach and teacher and fine-tune some things!  I can't wait.  Singing is my very favorite thing, and I think I get more obsessed with voices every day.  Everyday I discover more about my own voice, figure out how to fix little things here and there, and realize how far I've come.

AND it's Thursday which means we've got the weekend to look forward to! 

Friday, March 08, 2013

The "luxury" of preparation

Hello all…I’ve been a very bad blogger lately.  Like really bad.  It’s been almost a week since I’ve seen you. 

It’s been an intense week for lots of reasons, and I just haven’t had much to say!  But I am looking forward to having my darling home this weekend since it is his spring break, and we are so happy about it!

I’m preparing for three competitions, working every night on my rep, trying to fit in some Bach and Strauss here in there so I don’t get too bogged down with arias!   But I am falling madly in love with my rep, the closer I get to it, the more I know it, and I am remembering what it used to feel like to know your audition arias really well!  I feel like I have been changing my rep so much, that it has been forever since I felt really settled with my music.

Actually, I’ve said this before here, but I feel like many of us have so much happening and have to do so many different things to make a living that our level of preparedness for things has to evolve too.  We either become amazing at learning music and gaining that comfort level very quickly, or become used to never feeling totally prepared.  For most of us, I wager it’s a little of both. 

You show up for a gig, and the director asks for an aria or two for a donor event, and by the way can you learn and memorize this duet or ensemble by you know, next week?  And you say yes, knowing you have no time to learn it, because no would be the wrong answer, and you just know that you will end up performing something that you are just hanging onto by the toes.

So having the luxury to sing things you’ve sung many times before is one to be appreciated.

As are impromptu lunches with friends and meetings that eat up half the day and suddenly…whoops…its time to go home!