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The Music Makers

The first time I ever heard the line “We are the music makers – and we are the dreamers of dreams” was in the movie Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Although the movie came out when I was still a child, I never saw the movie until I was an adult (I can count on one hand the number of movies I went to with my parents).

Honestly, it’s a pretty dark movie, and it could be argued that it’s not really appropriate for children. (There’s an argument that Wonka is actually a child serial killer.) I’ll be curious to see the prequel coming out in December 2023 starring Timothêe Chalamet, which may or may not expound upon that idea.

But as an artist, the movie has always spoken to me, both for its visuals and for the message that we need to embrace our identities as music makers and dreamers, and that we can’t ignore the power of imagination.

(I also love Gene Wilder, who was from my hometown of Milwaukee.)

Since one of my strongest motivators is curiosity and the idea of “what would happen if?”, the idea of harnessing pure imagination is mind-blowing to me – and to the composer/lyricist of the movie, since they made it the theme song:

If you want to go down a rabbit hole of composer Anthony Newley performances, hit up YouTube – he never sings a song the same way twice. Some might call him an acquired taste, but I acquired it when I was very little! This clip is from a variety show in the 1970s and features him and Sammy Davis – can you imagine a nearly 15 minute medley happening on a TV show NOW?

But I’m calling this blogpost “The Music Makers,” so I’d like to reference the original poem which was drawn upon for the line in the movie, and which has been part of my identity for a very long time now.

We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams;—
World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:

Yet we are the mover and shakers
Of the world for ever, it seems.
—Ode, Arthur O’Shaughnessy

Arthur O’Shaughnessy (1844-1881) was a British poet of Irish descent (and full-time herpetologist for the British Museum, which I just visited a few weeks ago – worlds collide), and his poem, “Ode” has been set by multiple composers over the years. The above is just the first stanza (there are nine). He died just short of his 36th birthday.

In upcoming posts, I’m going to be talking about the subject of identity and how it should influence your approach to, oh, everything, but specifically, pursuing your path as a singer. I just read Atomic Habits by James Clear, and the whole idea of creating habits based on who you are rather than what you want to get done is mind-blowing to me.

For today, I’m going to embrace my identity as a music maker. And a dreamer of dreams. (And hopefully a mover and shaker as well.)

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In my next post, I’ll be talking about our upcoming
June 5 showcase, past showcases,
and my music makers past and present.
If you’d like to know more about that, stay tuned!

College Bound 2022

It’s that time of year when my students make the decision about where to go for college.

(I was going to write about past studio showcases, but this is more important.)

This year I have three students who are pursuing arts career tracks and have gone through a rather grueling audition process. They had a multitude of choices, but made their decisions.

Nick Johnson has been working with me since June 2019.

A very fine tenor and actor, Nick had been on a musical theater track but made a sudden switch late last summer to pursue composition (although he intends to keep performing). He was accepted to prestigious programs at Hofstra, Columbia Chicago, Hartt, University of the Arts, and Berklee. And his decision was:

Nick – change his mind? Unheard of!

Sela McMullen is a terrific soprano who I expect to be singing in opera houses all over the world someday.

Her facility with coloratura is impressive and her range is outstanding. She’s worked with me since 8th grade, when she was preparing her audition for Carver Center. She was accepted at multiple colleges, including Susquehanna, Salisbury, Moravian, and Westminster Choir College at Rider University. Her decision was:

(The WCC t-shirt was in the wash)

Juliet Jones began working with me on May 3, 2016, when she was a fresh-faced 6th grader preparing to audition for Leader of the Pack at Roland Park Country School.

I remember the exact date, because later that day, I posted this to FB:

“I’m often nervous when working with a new student in a “trial” lesson because I’m afraid they’ll be scared off by my weirdness/intensity. This kid walked in and said, “It smells like pesto in here,” and I said, “Oh, we’re having an early Cinco de Mayo dinner and my husband is making chili,” and she said, “OH! Today I made up a Cinco de Mayo song for my advisor – it went ‘CinCO de May-O! CinCO de May-O!”

— I’m not worried.”

(My husband wonders why he was using pesto in a chili recipe.)

A force of nature, Juliet was accepted in the BFA Acting programs at Western Michigan University, Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, and DePaul University. After touring the two midwest schools, she ultimately went for:

Her kind of town, Chicago is

Congratulations to all three of these students, who are not only Mezzoid Voice Studio members, but also students at George Washington Carver Center for Arts and Technology. I am honored and consider myself so lucky to have had them as members of the studio these past few years, and I wish them the best of luck in their studies!

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Sunday is the deadline for registering for a four pack of summer lessons and getting a bonus lesson to boot! Register HERE or contact me at christine@mezzoidvoicestudio.com if you have any questions.

I’m BACK

I’m back from my trip to the UK, and honestly, I kind of wish I were still there.

Sometimes I go places, and I think, “I could live here.” My husband will say that I always say that, but it’s not true. I definitely could not live in New Orleans (hurricanes!). I love Key West, and wouldn’t mind having a vacation house there, but it’s too far from the mainland – although the mainland is Florida, and right now, the further I can be from there, the better. (Also, hurricanes.) And although I still love many things about my home city of Milwaukee, and think about having a place in the Third Ward to stay for Irish Fest and to rent out as an AirBnB the rest of the year, I couldn’t live there.

I could live in London. It has everything. There’s theater – for about a third of the cost of Broadway shows (I saw Bonnie & Clyde on the West End and Much Ado About Nothing at Shakespeare’s Globe). There’s public transportation that can get you anywhere within the city and beyond. It’s a walkable city (I averaged 15.5K steps/day), and, most importantly, I ate cheese off a conveyor belt (something I never did before, even in Wisconsin).

 

We also spent some time in Oxford, where the binge drinking I witnessed rivaled anything I ever saw in Wisconsin, particularly near UW-Whitewater or Madison (I guess a college town is a college town anywhere you go!), and the Cotswolds. The latter involved my husband driving on the left side of the road, because it wasn’t quite as rail-friendly, and we wanted to do some exploring. (Fortunately, he was able to make the transition back to right side driving when we picked up our car from the airport parking lot.) The airline we chose was based in Iceland, so we had a brief stop there both ways, although there was no time for exploration.

But all good things come to an end, and I’m back now. My friends who are living there right now (and were terrific hosts as well as tour guides) will be moving to the states in July. They’re not sure if they’ll stay here long-term or be assigned overseas (hopefully to another great location where we can visit!).

Honestly, we could’ve stayed another month – except for there’s this little thing I’m doing called a studio showcase on June 5, for which I have to prepare. I created rehearsal tracks and distributed music four weeks ago, so everyone (hopefully) has a good start on it, and we have the next four weeks to polish and get people together to work together and collaborate.

The ensemble programs that I did for ten years in Milwaukee were very special to me, and my Milwaukee students, with very few exceptions, performed above and beyond what anyone would expect of middle and high school students.  I’ll write about some of these past programs on Thursday.

Now that I’m back in town, I also need to remember that there are things about Baltimore that are equal to (or, in some cases, better than) things found in the UK. Unfortunately, I missed this year’s Kinetic Sculpture Race at the AVAM. But I’ll put up their exciting and creative exhibits against the dragon at the British Museum any day – both are fun and inventive. And no, I didn’t try the pie and mash with eels (shudder). Give me a Maryland crab cake any day!

picture of English pie with eels, Maryland crab cakes, dragon at the British museum, sculpture at the American Visionary Arts Museum, logos for Mezzoid Voice Studio in the middle, text "I'm Back!"
Pie & mash with eel vs. Maryland crab cakes – you be the judge

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Summer registration is now open!
For new students who register before May 15, pay for four (4) 50-minute lessons and receive a bonus lesson. All lessons must be taken between June 20 and August 16 (I will be off 6/30-7/10 for the NATS Conference).(I am on vacation through 5/8, but will answer emails as available)
Register at Summer Session 2022 – Early Bird!

 

Ringing vs. Wringing (in Singing and Business)

Here’s a 2018 blogpost about resonance. For more cool stuff about resonance, check out this video I just found:

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I receive daily email updates from marketing guru Seth Godin, which have been inspiring me to make some changes in the way I approach my studio management. This morning’s advice resonated with me in a way that transcended business. It was:

Ringing vs wringing

Ringing is resonant. A small force causes sympathetic vibrations, and magic happens.
Wringing requires significant effort and can even destroy the object it is applied to.
When you ring a bell for your clients, you’ve delivered with care and empathy.
But when you seek to wring every dollar out of a transaction, you’ve probably engaged for the last time.

Of course, we talk about resonance in singing, which is frequently called “ring” (or “ping” or “edge” or “focus,” but I like ring).

Ringing, in singing, is resonant. And when you engage things properly to cause sympathetic vibrations, magic happens.

Wringing, in singing, is manipulation and artificiality. You’re doing something contrived and unnatural and it will, ultimately, affect your technique negatively.

When you sing in a ringing tone for your audience, you are delivering your message with clarity and in a way that is pleasing and moving.

But when you seek to wring every last overtone out of a note, you are singing with too much pressure and force, and you are not engaging your audience.

So when we work on a resonant sound, work on finding balance and freedom to create clarity and magic. I’m working on new vocalise sheets, which I will distribute at the beginning of the fall semester (post-Labor Day), and we can go over any exercises with which you’re not familiar.

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Summer registration is now open!
For new students who register before May 15, pay for four (4) 50-minute lessons and receive a bonus lesson. All lessons must be taken between June 20 and August 16 (I will be off 6/30-7/10 for the NATS Conference).(I am on vacation through 5/8, but will answer emails as available)
Register at Summer Session 2022 – Early Bird!

This Small Room

If I ever do a podcast or a book, this will be its title…..

When I was growing up, I lived in a small 3 bedroom ranch house. We had one bathroom, two good sized bedrooms (although neither was particularly large) and a third bedroom which we called the small room.

Until I went to college, I had one of the bigger bedrooms and my sister (who was 8 years younger) had the small room. I commuted to college the first year and then moved to the dorms for my second and third year, coming home most weekends to work, since school was only five miles down the road.

One day during summer break, I came home from the Wisconsin State Fair with my friends to find that my sister had moved into my room and that all my things had been put into the small room. I wasn’t informed this would be happening, even though I still had three more weeks before school started, and as much as I protested, I was relegated to the small room for the remainder of the time I would be a resident of that house. Even when I moved back home for my senior year of college. With my stuff crammed into a small dresser that wasn’t mine, my clothes crammed into a too-small closet, and my body up against a wall in a too-small bed.

And for much of my life, I felt contained by my surroundings. I felt that I was too much for my space, for those I grew up with, and even for my family.

Once, long after I’d moved out, I had learned a new aria and was eager to sing it for my mother. After I finished it, she said, “I don’t know. Maybe it’s too loud for this small room.

She didn’t like opera. But I don’t think any room would have been big enough for her to enjoy my singing.

So many of us feel or have felt constrained by rooms that have been too small, whether it’s the actual physical space or the room in our heads, whether it’s through our own perception or that of another person. I haven’t felt that way for a long time now, thank goodness. And if you feel that way ….

Blow off the doors. Knock down the walls.

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Summer registration is now open!
For new students who register before May 15, pay for four (4) 50-minute lessons and receive a bonus lesson. All lessons must be taken between June 20 and August 16 (I will be off 6/30-7/10 for the NATS Conference).(I am on vacation through 5/8, but will answer emails as available)
Register at Summer Session 2022 – Early Bird!

Borle & Hicks – Together Again!

Last year, Mezzoid Voice Studio hosted actors Christian Borle and Adrianna Hicks as the master clinicians for World Voice Weekend.

Their master classes were incredible, and they offered terrific insight for their singers. We were fortunate enough to get them, in large part because Broadway was shut down. Now that the Great White Way has reopened, getting artists of this calibre will be more difficult – and probably even more expensive.

I was thrilled the other day when I read that not only are both of them working on new projects, they are working on the same project! Marc Shaiman & Scott Witman (Hairspray, Catch Me if You Can) have written a new music, Some Like It Hot, which will be opening this fall. It will be directed by Casey Nicholaw, who also directed The Book of Mormon.

This is based on the movie of the same name, which starred Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, and Marilyn Monroe as members of an all-female band (yes, cross-dressing is involved). It’s a fantastic classic. The Tony Curtis role will be played by Mr. Borle, and the Marilyn Monroe role will be played by Miss Hicks. (The Jack Lemmon role will be played by J. Harrison Ghee, who was in Kinky Boots.)

Tickets will go on sale on April 27 to American Express cardholders and on May 2 for everyone else.

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If you would like the opportunity to get into a studio that hosts clinicians of this caliber (and others), summer registration is now open.

For new students who register before May 15, pay for four (4) 50-minute lessons and receive a bonus lesson. All lessons must be taken between June 20 and August 16 (I will be off 6/30-7/10 for the NATS Conference).
(I am on vacation through 5/8, but will answer emails as available)

Register at Summer Session 2022 – Early Bird!

 

The Unwitting Personal Trainer/Emulating vs. Imitating (Again)

While I’m in England, enjoy this post from 2020 (I have an even greater appreciation of Billie Eilish since this post was written):

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About 7 years ago, I was at Zumba at the Wisconsin Athletic Club, and I was not feeling all that motivated. I had a move coming up, I was packing, and I was lonely, since both my dogs and my husband were out in Maryland.

I noticed a young woman in the row ahead of me who was really into it – her energy was on fire, her moves were smooth, and she seemed to be having a great time. Her t-shirt said, “Tosa East Senior Powder Puff Football 2007.” I did the math and realized that would make her 23. I decided that I was going to follow her and match my energy to hers. I joked later that she was my “unwitting personal trainer.”

Earlier this year, I started doing Zumba again at Brick Bodies and was really enjoying myself At the end of class, a woman (about my age) came up to me and said, “you’re really good! I was following you!” and I thought, “Oh my gosh, I’m someone’s unwitting personal trainer!” It felt good.

The reason I bring this up is that I follow a blog called Bulletproof Musician, written by a violinist and performance psychologist named Noa Kageyama. His most recent blog was on the topic of motivating yourself to practice by “copycatting a friend.”

EC089BBC-7BE7-4376-A6AF-60B4FE366309Generally, being a copycat is frowned upon (just ask Billie Eilish) in terms of finding your creative voice. But in this case, Dr. Kageyama is talking about finding someone who inspires you and looking at what they do that makes them successful. Do they get up earlier? Do they set a specific practice time daily and stick to it? What artists do they listen to?

Emulate, not imitate.

What does that mean?

According to Professor Paul Brians of Washington University, “emulate” is a more specialized term, meaning that you are striving to achieve something that someone else did (or surpass, as some definitions say). “Thus[,] if you try to climb the same mountain your big brother did, you’re emulating him; but if you copy his habit of sticking peas up his nose, you’re just imitating him.”

I emulated Miss Powder Puff Football 2007.

I imitate Julie Andrews.

Who is your “unwitting personal trainer?” Are you emulating them or imitating them? Do you know the difference?

(By the way, this song gave me a new appreciation for Billie Eilish.)

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For new students who register before May 15, pay for four (4) 50-minute lessons and receive a bonus lesson. All lessons must be taken between June 20 and August 16 (I will be off 6/30-7/10 for the NATS Conference).
(I am on vacation through 5/8, but will answer emails as available)

Register at Summer Session 2022 – Early Bird!

Pressing Pause

I am in need of a well-deserved vacation.

On March 4, 2020, I had a chat in FB Messenger with a friend and she asked what I was up to. I told her I was a little overwhelmed because, at that point, I had the following on my plate:

  1. Five more performances of Don Giovanni with WNO at the KenCen;
  2. A world premiere performance of a song cycle I had commissioned Garth Baxter to compose for me, based on poems by Irish poets, to be done in a house concert by an area impresario;
  3. Writing a cabaret show for several of my students to be performed at Germano’s Piattini on March 29;
  4. Holy Week;
  5. Leaving for the UK to visit my best friend and her husband, who were stationed at the U.S. Embassy there.

She said, “Wow! That’s a lot! But it sounds like a fun lot!” and I agreed.

Well. I think you know what happened then.

So this is what became of that:

  • There were three more performances of DG before the KenCen closed (although AGMA negotiated for us to be paid for one of them, we lost payment for two);
  • The house concert was cancelled (although I am recording two of the songs in a project scheduled for June 3);
  • Germano’s has closed permanently (really upset about that);
  • No Holy Week services were held with singers (this cost me nearly $1000 in income);
  • No trip to the UK at that time

BUT

I’m going this weekend! My friends are there for another two months and then they’re returning back to the DC area, but we’re staying with them and, for two weeks, we get to explore London and Oxford and whatever else my husband has planned.

Because I just sat back and said, “You know what – plan whatever – I will go along gladly with whatever you want to do as long as I don’t have to make any decisions.” (Hopefully he hasn’t scheduled bungee jumping from the Tower of London or anything like that.)

There will be many decisions to make when I return. I will be in the throes of preparing for our June 5 studio showcase, for which I’ve already assigned music and created rehearsal tracks. I will be preparing for the recording of the two Irish songs. I will be organizing a program for two of my graduating seniors to be done in late July/early August. I may be hosting a house concert in August (artist TBD).

But for now, I’m going to press pause. For the next two weeks, I’ll be re-posting some things (which I may tweak over the weekend before I leave to go with more of the style and format that I’ve developed since moving to WordPress).

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I haven’t forgotten about the summer lesson offerings;
those will be dropped before I leave. If you’re interested, contact me at christine@mezzoidvoicestudio.com.
I will answer emails as time permits.

Personal NOT-Victories

In last Thursday’s blogpost, I wrote about some of my personal victories. But what about the times when I did not emerge from the stage victorious? What if I felt as though I was a failure?

Failure is such an awful word, so instead of recounting my “personal failures,” I’d like to recount some of my personal NOT-victories. One in particular is a doozy.

As it turns out, I talked about this about ten years ago in a blogpost that I called, “Worst Things That Ever Happened to Me As a Performer.”

To save you a click, I’ll reprise those here with my added comments on them from a ten-years later perspective.

  1. When I walked up my skirt and fell into the first violinist’s music stand (see previous article on performance anxiety).
    My favorite story, and you really have to click on the link to get the full impact. A different impact than I made with the music stand.
  2. When I pierced my finger with a spindle during a production of Flying Dutchman at Washington Opera.
    That could’ve been a lot worse.

  3. When I was thrown off someone’s back while on tour with Pirates of Penzance and crashed into the stage, dislocating my knee and, as I found out much later, cracking my coccyx. (Didn’t know that until I lost weight and no longer had padding on it.)
    Again, could’ve been a lot worse. But it was one of the many things that contributed to my massive knee arthritis.

  4. When I came home from a Friday luncheon and decided to take a nap, only to sleep through a wedding I was supposed to sing that day – although I woke up deathly ill and wound up being so sick I couldn’t sing or teach for two full weeks.
    Boy, I lost a lot of money then, and again in the subsequent never-ending Bronchitis of 2018! But at that time, I had just quit my day job to focus full-time on singing, and it almost felt like the world telling me, “See? You should’ve stayed a legal secretary.” Upper respiratory infections are NO JOKE.

  5. When I drooled on someone’s head on stage. I was in Rosina at the Skylight, playing Pilar, the slutty landlady, and at one point, the soprano ties a scarf in my mouth and leads me across the stage to a blindfolded man singing a love song (he’s singing to the soprano, but I think he’s singing to me). Well, the scarf hit my tongue in just the right way to make me salivate. So I’m sucking back this mouthful of drool the whole time, trying frantically to keep it in my mouth – and just as I get on top of the baritone – I failed. Fortunately, he was wigged (and still blindfolded) and wasn’t aware of it. I was totally humiliated!!
    Although honestly, Pilar probably would drool on someone in the throes of passion. She was not a tidy woman.

  6. When I had violent abdominal cramps while wearing spandex in A Cudahy Carolers Christmas and wound up going up on a line and breaking character for the first and only time in my life.
    That sounds hilarious but….

This one hurts the most and is the most personal,
and I think it is why it was my last stage performance in Milwaukee.
Possibly TMI ahead.

It wasn’t just cramps. I wasn’t just in violent pain. I had some serious digestive issues. And there was one bathroom and it was located backstage. There was another in the lobby, but it only had one toilet, so the audience literally had to come backstage during intermission to use the bathroom. The other alternative was to run out the backstage door into the cold night air in what was a sketchy neighborhood and run around the block to get to the lobby. In costume.

The only time you could flush the backstage toilet during the show was during a laugh line or thunderous applause. By this point in the run (no pun intended), I knew where those moments were, so during the first act, it wasn’t a problem.

The second act was a farce and there was literally NO time to go the bathroom. (Especially when you didn’t know just how long it was going to take …. ) Entrances and exits were lightning quick. I was in such agony and I barely had a moment to catch my breath, I had serious brain fog, I’d actually lost my balance and swayed backwards during the first act finale, and that’s when it happened, right toward the end of the second act:

I walked out on stage and said a line and it was like I was disembodied, watching myself say the line, and I thought, “That was wrong,” so I said it again. And this time, I did say it wrong. So I actually stomped my foot and said it a third time. I watched myself do it in horror. So did the rest of my cast. And the director was in the audience that night because we were doing a photo shoot the next day and she wanted to see which scenes she wanted to capture. She was not pleased with me.

I had no idea why I had done this. I had 20 years of performing experience in my life up to that point, and I had never done anything even remotely like this. Just a few shows earlier, I had my thumb pop out of joint right before my entrance and managed to go on, deliver lines, sing an entire song, and then go off stage and pop my thumb back into place (the joys of being double jointed!).

In my first role, as Princess Margaret in The Student Prince, I literally got kicked in the head during my song by dancers trying to avoid broken glass on the stage and kept singing.

But this was the first and only time I allowed something to affect me to the point where it was not just a mere distraction but resulted in a totally unprofessional action. And I was too embarrassed to explain anything other than mutter an apology and something about having cramps. I didn’t want to tell them that it was more than that.

(I’m still using euphemisms – perhaps this is just too personal – but I’m not comfortable using anything else in this case.) But the result was that:

I’m pretty convinced that the director thought I was drunk. 

Of course, I was not. And honestly, it wasn’t the kind of show where I was being challenged to sing complex arias in a foreign language and needed my wits about me.

I was singing Christmas parodies with dirty lyrics. I could have had wine or beer with dinner and it would have no effect on the technique required to perform this show. I’m not denigrating the show – but we’re not talking about Shakespeare or Mozart here. If I could sing “Wanda’s Glamourland” with a dislocated thumb, surely I could sing it after having a beer.

But I had had nothing to drink before the show. And I was not drunk. But – if I were watching myself from the director’s perspective, I would say, “That woman is drunk.”

No, that woman really has to go to the bathroom and she can’t.

And I didn’t have the guts (again, no pun intended) to tell anyone that. I thought it was a personal failure for me to not be in control of my body, and it was a professional failure for me to respond the way I did. I wasn’t even able to tell anyone what was happening until a few years later. And then it sounded like an excuse to me.

So maybe she thought I was drunk (again, nope).  Maybe she thought I was a bad actor (nope). Maybe she thought I was nuts (perhaps, but that wasn’t why)..

All I can say is that I never got another stage gig in Milwaukee again in the subsequent 9 years I stayed there. Because that lack of professionalism, no matter what the trigger, bit me in the butt. Word travels fast, and I’m pretty sure that incident was the turning point in my Milwaukee performing career. I did not have a “second act” there.

But I have it here. And it hasn’t ended yet.  I just moved to a different stage – in location, and in my life.

Look at so-called “failures” as not-victories; they could be the result of clumsiness, or bad positioning, or illness. They could result from a lack of focus or technique, but they all are opportunities for growth, if you recognize the lessons you can learn from them.

When something happens that might be considered a failure, remember that it doesn’t mean that you are a failure. Something happened. Let it go and get up again. Whether it’s from a literally spill on the stage or from a bad line reading, get up.

z

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Do you have an amusing (or horrifying) story to tell about a performing experience of yours? How did you overcome it? Tell me in the comments!

Personal Victories

I was reviewing my blog notes for inspiration, and came across some things that I had written up for the Singer’s Journey course I took in 2021. I’ve drawn from these before, most recently in What’s on Your Life Playlist?, in which I looked at music that influenced my life.

Today I want to talk about a couple of the personal victories I’ve had in my life (so far) that completely changed the direction of my life.

  1. When I moved to DC the first time, my ex-husband talked me up to people he worked with as being this great opera singer. I had done a few operas but my vocal technique was in terrible shape. I had studied with a teacher in Wisconsin who wasn’t the right fit for me and I was just not singing well. Well, someone he spoke to knew someone at Washington Opera and they called ME to invite me to do an audition. I didn’t know what to do! Do I turn it down? Maybe I’m not as bad as I think? I had a lesson set up the day before my audition with a new teacher (Marianna Busching) but I really only had one aria that was even semi-passable.Well, I was as bad as I thought. I got through to the end and Martin Feinstein (the then-artistic director) got up and left. Ed Purrington (the managing director) spoke to me and said, “There’s a voice in there, but you need a good teacher.” I told him that I’d just started working with someone (again, literally the day before the audition), and he said she was a good choice and he looked forward to hearing me again.

    A year later, I auditioned again and got into the chorus of La Forza del Destino. During the initial rehearsals, they held auditions for a chorus bit. I auditioned – not knowing it paid extra, just thought it be fun to do, and figuring I didn’t have a chance – and got it! I wound up singing with them for 7 seasons, doing the big shows, the smaller ones that were a little more musically demanding, chorus bits, solo bits, and finally a supporting role in the world premiere of Dream of Valentino. (And now I’m singing with them again!)

  2. After moving back to MKE (and thinking all that DC/Baltimore work and the Peabody MM (also the result of studying with Marianna in the first place) would result in my being Mezzo Queen of the Midwest), I found myself doing a fraction of the work I’d done in the preceding nine years out east. I was supposed to do Augusta in a production of The Ballad of Baby Doe and the performance fell through. [That’s another story – it was actually much more convoluted than just that.] On the day I found out about it falling through, I realized it was the deadline for the NATS Intern Program. I quickly pulled together materials and sent them off just in time to make the deadline. Again, I didn’t think I had a chance – they only chose 12 people, and I was a private teacher, and most of the people they chose at that time were college-affiliated. About 2 weeks later, I received a letter inviting me to participate. It was the best thing I ever did at that point. I had the chance to learn from great teachers and to prove to myself that I was good at this!!

What are the personal victories that you’ve had that have changed your life’s trajectory? How did they come about? Did you seek them out or were you in the right place at the right time? Tell me about them in the comments!

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I’ll be dropping my summer offerings next weekend before I leave for vacation. If there’s something you’re interested in learning about, contact me and I’ll be in touch.