Musings on m
y life as a busy opera singer, voice teacher, photographer and mom - not necessarily in that order! I consider myself immensely fortunate to have carved out a way of doing all of these things which mean so much to me - it may sometimes get a little crazy, but it's always worth it. Welcome to the madhouse!

Monday, December 28, 2009

A blog entry of special interest to me....

.... both as performer and photographer, written by my wonderful colleague Susan Eichhorn Young. What's in a Headshot?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Hodge podge, or just life?

I realise that this blog has gone in all sorts of different directions since I started it. Initially, I envisaged it focusing specifically on the challenges facing an "opera mom" out there in the trenches. Well, clearly there have been plenty of entries about that (welcome to my life!), but also a lot of entries on things rather peripheral to that.

In a way, that's a bit what 2009 has been like, so it's no surprise I suppose. My focus has been forcibly shifted by events and, while it hasn't always been happily so and has certainly rocked the boat, it has perhaps had some small hidden benefits.

It's all too easy to become hyperfocused as as singer, to ONLY be able to think about singing, things that relate directly to singing, what other people think of your singing, what other people are singing and where, where and what you want to be singing, ... it's no wonder that the caricatures of the self-obsessed singer are rife! Some of those attentions are necessary ones of course - like any high-pressure, competitive industry you have to keep up with trends and constantly be honing your skills, and with an instrument that's a part of your body, you DO have to pay attention to your health and general well being (physical and psychological) in a way that isn't quite the same as "civilians" who aren't expecting to be in the limelight and can do their jobs more privately. Even so, I think sometimes this self-focus can extend beyond self-care and into a kind of psychological and emotional professionally-driven tunnel-vision. This is a two-edged sword: that hyperfocus is often what keeps us going and drives us to perform and constantly seek to excel, but it can also make us forget to live our lives as whole people rather than A Singer.

Don't get me wrong - I regularly live this phenomenon, understand both how and why it happens and know that I sometimes NEED that tunnel vision available to me so I can gather and focus all of my physical and emotional energy into a really strong performance .... but I also know that it can be both difficult to live with (!), and also runs the risk of turning me into the Stereotypical Opera Singer, a caricature which I have long despised!

A friend and I often discuss the need for balance as singers. Balance in technique, to find the balance in the voice (the term for that itself even describing balance: "chiaroscuro" or "bright-dark" meaning the sound has both the brightness to give it cut and projection, and the warmth to make it beautiful) and balance in our lives to try and keep ourselves whole even while tapping into the reserves of self-focus that we need to do the job of standing out there onstage.

I think this year has given me new perspective on balance, largely because I've had more time to do other things. Photography, of course (which consumes one's attention too, although perhaps in a rather different way) but other things too. I've watched more TV this year because I've been home in the evenings to do so (given how little TV I've watched in recent years, it's been a very pleasant surprise to see how much it's improved of late, and I've really enjoyed some programs!) I've spent more time with friends (much easier to meet for an impromptu beer when you're not worrying about having to sound great at rehearsal the following morning). I've cooked more, played more games, been to more straight theater (thanks, Dad!), started listening to more music outside my own assignments and interests, and attended more performances "just because" ... activities I have in past years either been short of time to enjoy, or for which I just haven't had the attention to give.

So this blog has perhaps veered off its stated topic. But I'd like to think that encompassing a range of interests and activities reflects my own life as an opera singer in a very real way, and I'm not sure it's such a bad thing. The more of life we explore, the more of it we live, the more we have to bring to our art.

I suspect things will get busier as next year is already looking brighter than this gone by (wouldn't be difficult for that to be the case, but I'm happy to share that I have nice contract in the works for the summer), but I hope I can continue to explore my more global interests, even as I tap again into that tunnel vision which I will need to "do the job". I'm not sure it's actually possible to switch that off and on day by day as needed, but I'm interested to see what happens in the light of having stepped "outside" it for a few months. We'll see, I guess!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Saturday, December 19, 2009

And 2009 steams to a close...

continuing in the same vein it began. Oy.

The snowstorm which is passing over the Northeast has sadly snowed out my concert weekend - we made it through last night's performance of Messiah, but this evening's planned concert was a non-starter with 2-ft of snow falling overnight. I know, I know - in Minnesota, Alaska or even parts of Pennsylvania and New York this wouldn't so much have caused people to slow down, but down here in the officially-but-not-really South everything falls apart at the first hint of white stuff from the skies.

Of course, this causes more than inconvenience to a musician: most gigs are "no play, no pay", so when something like this happens that's nobody's fault and legally "force majeur"... the cancellation takes the fee along with it. Totally understandable from the presenter's point of view, but still not good news! It's hoped to proceed with tomorrow's afternoon concert, but there's no way of knowing until the morning if the roads will be clear enough for both performers and audience members to get there.

We actually got caught in the first part of the storm after last night's performance, and the roads were treacherous. We saw at least half a dozen cars spinning out on the slick highway, and came perilously close to joining them; it took over an hour to drive the last 5 miles home, and we came close to getting stuck on more than one hill. I am never happier that I stick to my guns and drive a stickshift (despite all the people who try to talk me out of it) than in a snowstorm!

So, today wound up a quiet day at home - it hasn't been "fun" snow since it's been very wet and it's so deep outside it's hard to play in, but kids don't seem to notice that the same way grownups do!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Catching up

(Note the fake nose and black fingernails!!!)

It's been another crazy month! Every year I think that I will be more organized and less frantic throughout the autumn months, and every year I am proved wrong.

Hansel and Gretel finished up well - it was challenging to put together a new role on the tight rehearsal schedule we had, but the outcome was good and I'm tremendously glad to have done it. I miss my lovely colleagues! (was it ever thus as a singer - you get to know people so well and then... on to the next thing...).

The "next thing" at the moment being auditions, and then the usual string of Messiah performances (this year with one of my favorite conductors and ensembles, which is always a real pleasure). I wasn't expecting that many auditions this year given how many companies have pulled in their horns but I've been surprised! Perhaps not as many as in some years past, but plenty to keep me busy, brushing up repertoire and keeping the energy going. It's been tricky because I've been afflicted with worse-than-usual allergies which seem to be migrating into a minor chest infection - it started during H&G, in fact, where because it coincided with the exodus of leaves from the trees I figured it must be my usual tree allergies, but a couple of weeks later it's still there. Last time this happened it turned out to be undiagnosed pneumonia, so if it doesn't pack its bags and go very soon... off to the doctor with me. In the meantime, I'm happy it's only having a minimal impact on my voice, although I wish it wasn't there at all!

And onwards. Photo shoots have been slipping in there amidst all the musical work, so it has been a highly varied and busy month (some of the results to be shared in a separate post). Busy the way I like it, although why does it alway seem to be feast or famine?!

Now if I could only find the time to start doing holiday stuff as well..... thankfully, we always put our tree up late (it's a European thing. That's my story and I'm sticking to it!) so our daughter is used to having to wait a little before we catch up with the neighbourhood. The way the dates fall this year I'm thinking it's going to be a VERY old-fashioned holiday with decorations going up on Christmas Eve!