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Professionalism: Standing Out Vs. Sticking Out

Whether you are singing in a school or community theater production, going to audition for a college program, or singing in a church or community choir, the thing that will set you apart is an attitude of professionalism.

I’ve written before about being a good colleague, and that’s a large part of it. Show respect for them and for what they bring to the table, and don’t make it all about you. Especially if they don’t know you yet. Listen. Behave in an exemplary manner and don’t make excuses.

About a month and a half ago, someone posted a question in the NEW New Classical Singer’s Forum on FB (I forget what happened to the original “New Classical Singer’s Forum”):

If you are an opera singer that is successfully and consistently getting roles, what are you doing to get them? Can you dig all the way back into college for me and go step by step with how you got from being a college kid who wanted to sing opera to being a professional opera singer that consistently gets work?

There were many intelligent responses, but I was particularly impressed with one from soprano and voice teacher Davida Kagen of Washington State. Ms. Kagen has had an impressive opera career and teaching studio for a number of years.  (And in a picture on her website from her days at the Zurich Opera Studio, she is sitting next to my cousin-by-marriage, Susan Pombo-Ball!) With Ms. Kagen’s permission, I am posting her response here (bolding mine):

  • Study hard
  • Know your stuff
  • Be a very good actor, along with being an adequate musician
  • Be courageous
  • Trust yourself
  • Develop a thick skin
  • Take the craft seriously, but, not yourself too much
  • Always be ready for anything
  • Be in the right place at the right time
  • Be good enough to attract a sponsor, an agent for representation
  • Be prepared, on time, a great colleague who people love to work with

[These are] just a few of the qualities that get you noticed. Having a beautiful voice is only a very small part of it, but that helps as well.

With the exception of being an actor/musician, these all correspond to things you need to succeed in any other profession. Check out another blogpost I just read about the Six Traits of Professionalism. Really, it’s the same thing.

I would like to add

  • Don’t show off/draw attention to yourself*
  • Don’t apologize (unless you’ve actually hurt someone) or make excuses – particularly in advance of what you’re about to do
  • Be a generous colleague but don’t offer unsolicited/unwelcome advice/suggestions!

*I know this seems incongruous to being a performer,
but there’s a difference between standing out and sticking out

Performing is a team activity, whether or not you are a principal artist or in the chorus. In order to work well with others, you must show respect to them for their time, their ability, as well as being the best artist/human being you can be.

  • You may get hired once for your beautiful voice, but if you don’t back it up with the professionalism required, you won’t get hired back
  • You might not even get hired/accepted to a program if you don’t behave professionally in the audition – to everyone you meet, not just the audition panel. EVERYONE COUNTS.

You stand out by being the most professional: “Look at the work.”
You stick out by being the least professional: “Look at ME!”
Which will you choose?

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If you’re ready to choose a professional attitude toward your vocal development (even if being a professional performer is not necessarily on your radar), find out how to work with me
and stay tuned for summer lesson options!

Wishful Thinking: Seeds for Action

Wishful thinking is defined as:

: an attitude or belief that something you want to happen will happen even though it is not likely or possible

Brittanica Dictionary

You could also call these fantasies, delusions, magical thinking, pipe dreams. Nonbelievers would also call prayers a form of wishful thinking.

A lot of songs are written about making wishes, some of which are more likely than others:

There is a phrase, “Be careful what you wish for – you might get it!” The idea behind this is that you might find out that it’s really not what you want or not all that it’s cracked up to be, or that it leads to more headaches than it’s worth. That’s what Tzeitel is trying to tell her sisters in Matchmaker (one of the songs in our upcoming studio showcase!). And it’s definitely the case for all the wishers in Into the Woods – Cinderella gets her Prince (meh); The Baker and his Wife get their child but parenthood is hard; The Witch gets beauty but loses her powers; Rapunzel gains her freedom but loses her mind (and, ultimately, her life).

Seth Godin has another interpretation of that phrase:

Wishes are wonderful. But they are seeds for action. You have to take steps to implement them.  And if your wish involves a successful career in the performing arts (whether that’s being a star or working regularly as a chorister, in small roles with big companies or big roles with small companies – i.e., my performing career), there are steps you need to take. Steps that involve study, and spending money, and giving up things because you have a gig, or rehearsal.

And there’s always the possibility that, no matter how much work you put into making your wish come true – it won’t.

That’s when this can happen.:

There are no genies or fairy godmothers to make our wishes come true,  and no matter how many pennies we throw in a wishing well, making your wishes come true requires hard work on your part. And sacrifice. And change.

Are you willing to put in the work and effect the change that you need to fulfill your dreams? And if you do, are you willing to accept the outcome either way? And if that outcome turns out to be not what you want – whether you reach the goal or not – what will be your next step? (And don’t say “wishful drinking” – that doesn’t solve anything.)

genie

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If you’re ready to do the work to make your wishes come true, find out how to work with me!
Summer lesson registration opens April 23.

You are NOT the weakest link!

There was a TV show on about 20 years ago called The Weakest Link. It was a winner-take-all game show that was a cross between Who Wants to be a Millionaire and Survivor. The host back then was a British woman, Anne Robinson, who insulted the contestants by sneering at their wrong answers and questioning their intelligence. She was known as “The Queen of Mean, ” especially for her dismissive catchphrase, “You are the weakest link! Goodbye!”

Since I don’t have broadcast TV, I just found out yesterday that this terrible, humiliating, and ugly show has been rebooted, with Jane Lynch as the host. And she is using the same catchphrase.

Jane Lynch,
WHY???

The reason I am writing about this is that I caught myself using this term the other day in talking about how working with people who are more advanced than you, and how it can bring out the best in you. I said to this young girl, “because no one wants to be the weakest link.” And then I realized what a crappy thing that was to say to her, to myself, to anyone.

The definition of “weakest link,” according to the Collins English Dictionary, is:

the person who is making the least contribution to the collective achievement of a group

As I said in the blogpost I linked above, that term might have come out my mother’s own mouth when I was growing up. It was implied by actual quotes like these:

  • She sings higher than you so she must be better
  • Everyone was better than you
  • The camera did close-ups of everyone but you because your hair sat on top of your head like a hat (admittedly, that was a bad perm)

Consequently, I have worried my whole life of not being good enough. Of sticking out for the wrong reasons. You might call it imposter syndrome, feeling like a fraud, being afraid of being found out, of people seeing my acting or singing as the equivalent of a bad perm – just sitting there, calling attention to itself by its own inadequacy.

Yeah, that’s garbage. And it has held me back in the past, and I’m not about to let it hold anyone back anymore.

Our studio showcase is coming up on June 5 – I’m calling it “If we only have love” – and, as I did in Milwaukee, I’m putting together people who I think will work together well, will sound good together, and will learn from each other. Some people will be at a relatively advanced stage of their vocal development, and some will be in the beginning of their vocal journey. The point of combining people is to introduce the newer ones to performing with the help of more seasoned performers. It’s to build community, which is paramount to me.

No matter what your stage of development is, you have something to offer a group and something to learn from it.

Yes, work with good people so you can strive to achieve a higher level of performance. But don’t ever think of yourself as being the “weakest link” in the ensemble, and don’t let anyone else even hint that you could be. Not me, not a colleague, and definitely not Jane Lynch.

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Summer lessons begin June 20. Stay tuned for the full schedule and offerings!

Voice lessons and physical therapy

This morning I was reading a blogpost by Seth Godin about The Physical Therapy Metaphor and I was thinking about how much studying voice and physical therapy have in common.

I’m not talking about voice therapy in the event someone is dealing with a vocal injury; I’m talking about the process and goal of voice lessons and how similar it is to physical therapy. (Full disclosure: I have done both, many, many times.)

Godin outlines the following characteristics of physical therapy (and I’m adding my own comments below each in bold italics):

  • It’s self-produced. Even though we work with a professional, it’s done BY us, not TO us.
    YOU are your instrument. The sound comes from you.
  • It’s gradual. No one gets better after one session
    It takes weeks, months, sometimes years to fully develop the vocal instrument. Sometimes something can click right away and all of a sudden it’s easier, but usually, that’s not the case (although I have seen it happen, usually by suggesting a simple tweak in alignment or approach to breath management)
  • It puts our own resources to work to create the change we seek
    You have to practice and implement the things in your lesson on your own; just like in PT, there’s homework
  • It’s simple. There’s no magic involved, just directed, persistent effort based on science and testing
    So much this. Knowing your body and how it works and figuring out how to achieve a consistent result by doing the right things for you.
  • It takes effort. If you want something easy, you’re in the wrong place.
    Did I mention practice? Singing is easy, in that you have the instrument with you 24/7, but singing is hard because you have to coordinate everything so that you can produce sound consistently. You have to be aware of what’s happening in your body so that you can reproduce it when you want to.

This is NOT Seth Godin’s observation, but mine: Both voice lessons and PT involve getting out of your comfort zone in order to see growth – but gradually so that you can avoid injury (aka the danger zone)

One thing that’s different, as you can see from this graphic – voice lessons are much less hands-on (even when they’re not virtual, as they were when I did this photoshoot with Sasha, shown above).

This wasn’t always the case. There used to be a lot more touching – teachers would put their hands on their students’ ribs or bellies to see if there was expansion, adjust their alignment – and that just doesn’t happen any more. I actually was never that comfortable with touching other people – I was more comfortable letting them put their hands on my ribs (from the back) to feel what I was doing, but I haven’t done that in years and I don’t intend to do so. We do some stretching and aligning at the beginning of lessons, but don’t worry, I’m not going to come over and manually stretch your hip flexors for you. Not even if you ask.

I know several teachers who are very vocal about the idea that you need to be able to touch your students in order to know what they were doing, but do you? Do you really?

I think not.

Physical therapy, on the other hand, often involves direct physical touch, whether through massage, joint or muscle manipulation.

And you can do this yourself, through self-massage!

In this video, Ian Harvey (aka “Massage Sloth” – no, I don’t know why he calls himself that), demonstrates self-massage techniques for singers, specifically for those who are having issues with tightness.. He even does a little singing while he’s doing it. Check it out!

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I’ll be announcing summer lesson availability and some group programs in a few weeks, so follow the blog to stay tuned!

Happy World Piano Day!

Happy World Piano Day!

On this day, the 88th day of the year (one day for each key on the piano – except the Imperial Bösendorfer, which has 97, and certain digital keyboards, which have fewer), we celebrate the instrument that has given us so much joy, whether as a solo instrument, or for us singers, as a collaborative partner.

And since this is a singer’s blog, I’d like to focus on the latter. Over the last two years, when we haven’t been able to perform in a live setting,  the accompaniment app called Appcompanist has been a godsend. And it’s not going away, even though live performing is coming back. because it’s so handy. to use for practice So thank you to Darin Adams for developing this program, and thank you to his team of worldwide pianists for creating the thousands and thousands of tracks available to us as singers.

Thank you to the LIVE collaborative pianists/accompanists that play the auditions, play the recitals, and do the journeyman work that does not always get them the recognition or respect that they deserve. (I knew a choral director once who told the pianist, “Oh, just go back there and wiggle your fingers.”) Ben Moore wrote about this in the song, “Content to be behind me:”

People often remind me to mention the one who is slaving away at the keys.
But such decorous gestures are quite overdone,
Share the glory? Oh please!
I assure you that he’s
Content to be behind me, content there in the rear,
Content to feed my ev’ry need and never ever interfere.
For he has no ambition, he shed those long ago,
He’ll never claim applause or fame and that is why I love him so.
–Ben Moore

I have worked with many fine pianists over the years, and I’d like to name them here (in no particular order except how they pop into my head):

  • Alan Nathan
  • Robert Muckenfuss
  • John Komasa
  • Michelle Hayes Hynson
  • Patricia Kasprzak Sweger
  • Milton Peckarsky
  • David Sytkowski
  • Paula Foley Tillen
  • Diane Kachelmeier
  • Richard Carsey
  • Michael Sheppard
  • Aaron Thacker
  • Ryan Cappleman
  • Jamie Johns
  • Michael Tan
  • Will Zellhofer
  • Amanda McFall Draheim
  • Rhonda Kwiecien
  • Jim Collins
  • Anne Van Deusen
  • James Norden
  • Elna Hickson
  • Bill O’Meally

Thank you for the service you have given to your singers and other musicians you’ve collaborated. (And if I’ve left anyone out, I’m sorry!)

For more on World Piano Day, check out their Facebook page

For a playlist of solo piano pieces especially curated for this day, check this out (unless you’re boycotting Spotify, a choice which I completely respect):

Dig the jazzy sunglasses!

Comfort Zone vs. Danger Zone

People are always saying, “You gotta break out of your comfort zone.” And I believe that is true. Growth comes from trying new things, taking risks, doing what’s outside the box.

A very common graphic that is used in psychology and in personal coaching is one showing the four zones involved in growth.

Source: Unique Thinking
https://uniquethinking.co.uk/getting-out-of-your-comfort-zone/
  • The comfort zone is described as the place where we’re safe, we’re comfortable, we know exactly what we’re doing. Musically, the comfort zone could be described as spending the rest of your life singing the 26 Italian Songs. Or in musical theater, singing only legit OR belt and not developing the rest of your instrument.
  • The fear zone is a place of discomfort, both in terms of knowing that the comfort zone is holding us back and we’re no longer comfortable there, but maybe we’re not quite sure of how to break out of it or what will happen when we do. Maybe it’s deciding to sing lieder, and not being comfortable with German. Or maybe starting to work on finding your belt mix or your head voice. Will you ever get it? Is it worth it? It’s scary!
  • The learning zone is where you’re doing it. You’re figuring it out, you’re starting to feel confident; you’ve GOT this. Or at least, you’re GETTING it, and it’s almost there. You’re taking the necessary steps to get there.
  • The growth zone is where you’ve made it. You’ve mastered the task, and you’re at the next level. And after awhile, that level becomes your comfort zone, and you need to start all over to grow some more!

But what if you skip a step? Or two? Or three? What if you decide to skip straight from the comfort zone to a growth zone that is beyond your capabilities right now? What you’ve been singing “Caro mio ben” and your teacher or coach tells you, “Hey, this sounds good. You’re ready to sing some Wagner.”

If this happens, my friends, RUN FOR THE HILLS. Because you are heading for:

And despite what Kenny Loggins says, the danger zone isn’t a place of growth. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a danger zone is:

an area in which there is a high risk of harm, especially where this risk has been officially identified.
“this is a danger zone where any one of us can step on a landmine”

There are all kinds of landmines, not just ones in battlefields. Some vocal landmines include:

  • Vocal abuse
    • Screaming and yelling
    • Smoking/vaping
    • Coughing and throat clearing
  • Vocal misuse
    • Singing in the wrong fach
    • Speaking too low or too high than your natural pitch
  • Vocal overuse
    • Talking or singing too much without a break
  • Illness and environment
    • Allergies/colds
    • Medication side effects
    • Excessively dry environment, whether climate-related (i.e., Arizona) or room-related (dry hotel rooms, excessive air conditioning, lack of a humidifier)
    • Neurological disorders

Let’s focus on singing right now, specifically singing in the wrong fach or one that’s beyond you right now.

Your technique is a work in progress. I’m all for classical singers learning to belt and belters learning to sing legit. I wish I’d done it earlier, myself.

But it is a process and to leap into what would be considered an elite level of singing, whether it’s singing opera or a high musical theater belt, when you have not mastered coloratura, register changes, or even a rudimentary facility with belt, is a sure journey to the danger zone.

comfort zone sipping steps to danger zone

HIgh belts are all the rage these days. People call it “screlting” – “scream-belting.” It started out as a derivative term and has become an industry term, which many people loathe, including NYC-based composer/teaching artist David Cisco, who is also the founder of the blog ContemporaryMusicTheatre.com. He has written a series of three blogposts about the topic of screlting, entitled “Screlting – or Don’t Stand So Close to Me.” In the second of the blogposts, he writes:

There comes a time when each of us has to stop and say, “I can screlt and have a great career for about 5-10 years, or I can take more responsible roles and have a solid career for over 40 years.

If you are a young high-school or early college-aged singer and you want to sing “Vissi d’arte” from Tosca or the Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute, YOU HAVE TIME. Consider something else first. Want to sing Puccini or Mozart and your teacher thinks you’re ready for the challenge? Maybe start with “O mio babbino caro” or “Un moto di gioia.”

If you are a young singer who wants to sing “Once upon a time” from Brooklyn or “Dead girl walking” from Heathers (the equivalent of Wagner for the beginning classical singer!), and you haven’t done any kind of belting before, ease into it! Start out with “Johnny One Note,” work your way up from there into “A Change in Me,” maybe “Someone like you” or “Astonishing.”

Training wheels, folks. They’re not just for bikes.

In “You don’t have to be out of your comfort zone all the time!,” writer Julia Clavien calls the “danger zone,” at least in terms of exercise, the “snap zone,” the one where you are prone to injury or burnout (she uses the terms  “consolidation and stretch” regarding the positive zones, and her description seems to me to refer to stretch as a combination of the fear and learning zones, and consolidation as the growth zone). The term “snap zone” conjures up a particularly terrifying visual when it comes to vocal folds!

If you have put in the work in the fear/learning/stretch zones, and are in the growth/consolidation zone technique-wise, then by all means, take on that new piece that will challenge you, that will take you outside the box. But do it wisely, and don’t do it for a competition or a performance until you’ve mastered it and can do it healthfully and without fear of “snapping” anything.

And be strong enough to tell people just that.

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Choosing repertoire is my superpower. I assign music for the singer based on where they are in their vocal journey and where I see them heading. I encourage growth, I encourage finding new songs, I encourage people to bring me new songs. I discourage vocal damage. If you’d like to find where you are and where you’re going vocally, and do it in a healthy but FUN way, why contact Mezzoid Voice Studio for an Ask Me Anything or Vocal Discovery Session?

Celebrate World Voice Day with MDDC NATS!

People asked me if I was going to do World Voice Weekend again this year – but, unfortunately, World Voice Day falls on Saturday of Holy Week and it’s spring break for a lot of my students, so we’ll all be too busy.

Instead, I’m working with the Maryland-DC Chapter of NATS (for which I am recording secretary and programming chair – because I just have so much time on my hands) to celebrate World Voice Day by inviting people to participate in an online event leading up to the day itself.

The theme for World Voice Day this year is Lift Your Voice. MDDC NATS is taking that a step further with Lift Your Voice: Celebrating Diversity & Overcoming Adversity.

More information can be found on the website (above), the FB event page, and in this handy-dandy graphic below:

One minute may seem very short to tell your story – but actors have to do it all the time. Whether it’s for college auditions or show auditions, professional or community theater, actors are often limited to 16-32 measures, which roughly comes to 45-90 seconds. Think of American Idol, America’s Got Talent, and The Voice – they’re all limited to 90 seconds.

Why are we doing only 60 seconds? Because that’s the maximum time a video will play for on Instagram Reels or on TikTok. Any more than that and you have to click through to view the whole thing. And – as they say:

Aint Nobody Got Time For That Gifts & Merchandise | Redbubble

Plus you have the written part of the post to explain just why you picked what you picked, and that can be as long as you want.

A panel will review the videos in the week following World Voice Day and the singer whose video tells the story the best will be awarded a prize TBD. (And by TBD, I mean we’re still working on it.)

Perhaps next year, I may do World Voice Weekend again. World Voice Day falls on Sunday, April 16; Easter is the Sunday before. Maybe I’ll do it on my own again (hopefully with a little help to allow me to make it more affordable for everyone) or maybe I’ll collaborate with MDDC NATS.

Stay tuned!

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Speaking of NATS, I am happy to announce that Sasha Kostakis took third place in her section at Mid-Atlantic Regionals. While she did not advance to Nationals, I am proud of her for her accomplishment, and also proud of students Juliet Jones and Nick Johnson, who also made it to Regionals. Congratulations to all!
And since they didn’t advance to nationals, I can share these videos of their virtual auditions without worrying that it’ll compromise them at the next level. Enjoy!

Hitting the Right Chord: How Music Programs Boost STEM

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Technology) Education has become a major focus for schools, often to the detriment of a school’s music program (although somehow the athletic department always manages to keep their funding).

As I’ve written recently, March is Music in Our Schools Month. But what if your school doesn’t have a solid music program? How can you argue for the place of music in our schools as an enhancement to STEM education, and, in fact, worthy in and of itself?

In the fall of 2019,  I wrote an article for the Roland Park News in their Fall 2019 issue about this topic. Specifically, I focused on the benefits of taking private music lessons as a supplement to a STEM education, with an analysis of the components of STEM and how they can be addressed in music education. This chart appears in the article, but since I don’t like the way they laid it out in relation to the text, I’m reprinting it here:

Components of a STEM Education Complementary Components of Music Education
Development of critical thinking

Music analysis/technical development

Involve real world skills

Discipline/focus (practice); collaboration (in ensembles); leadership; creativity; kinesthetic awareness

Include design development

Songwriting; instrument building; audio engineering; recital programming

Include hands-on activities Inherent in the study of music
Teacher serves as facilitator, not lecturer

Teacher provides tools/technique for student implementation (also see “I’m here to inspire and facilitate“)

Ideally evaluated through a product rather than in writing

Performances: recitals, concerts

Mickey Hart, the drummer for the Grateful Dead, has become a huge proponent of the movement to make a STEM education a STEAM education. Although he was, by his own admission, a poor student in the STEM fields, he has come to realize that music and STEM are not only complementary, but intertwined.

In his article, “There’s a Fire on the Mountain,” Hart expresses the opinion that:

The arts are a necessity for insight: the arts make us human.The energy that you acquire from art and music turns inspiration into invention. This allows an inventor to dream up something never envisioned before and creates new industries and good-paying jobs.

(The title of this article comes from the Grateful Dead song of the same name, the studio version of which I’m including here – I chose the studio version because the live versions are over 10 minutes long, and while I appreciate the inspiration and invention involved in those performances, I figured a shorter version might be more welcomed. But feel free to pull up one of the other ones when you have time.)


While I am all about private music lessons as an important part of a young person’s overall development (because, let’s be honest, I’m a private music teacher and it’s in my best interest), I am also a passionate supporter of the role of the arts, particularly music, in our educational system. Hopefully, the current administration will continue to value that role and support arts education. Music programs/arts programs should be integral part of a STEM education.

(“Hitting the Right Chord” was the editor’s choice, but I kinda like it)

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If you are equally passionate about the arts in education, contact the U.S. Department of Education or the Education Department in your state. Feel free to share this article and any other information you find to support this cause.

Teacher, Coach, or Mentor?

Teacher, Coach, or Mentor? What do you need? And what is the difference?

I defined the differences between the services offered by voice teachers and vocal coaches in a previous blogpost (which was actually the content of a page I decided to keep as a link instead of separate page). I’d like to go a little further on this, because coaching has become a huge element of the business world, and mentorship is also becoming very popular.

So what are the differences? Are there areas of intersection between the three positions (at least in teaching singing)?

  • A teacher teaches technique, using a combination of vocal exercises and repertoire selected based on the singer’s level of ability (in the moment and with an eye to the future). A good teacher knows that vocal technique evolves and that one size (or song) doesn’t fit all.
  • A coach works on repertoire on which the singer is preparing for a specific purpose (performance or audition) which may or may not have been assigned them by a teacher. A coach focuses on specific aspects, whether it’s musicianship or interpretation, but does not work on vocal technique.
  • The idea of having a singing mentor is relatively new. Based on the definition of mentorship in the business world, the mentor looks at all the work the singer (or teacher) has done up to this point and helps them to create a path forward in their career development. The joint statement by NATS and AATS (American Academy of Teachers of Singing) on “Advancing the Culture of Mentoring in our Profession” describes it this way:

Broadly defined, a mentor is an experienced and trusted advisor.

I believe that the roles of teacher and coach overlap less in the academic world, particularly in classical music. In the private studio, especially when working with the budding pre-professional or avocational singer who wants to perform, a teacher needs to be a coach as well. (At least this teacher needs to be a coach as well.) I want my students to be able to inhabit their texts and find their own interpretations, confident in the fact that their technique is solid (or on its way to being solid) and won’t get in the way of what they have to say.

Mentorship has been an important element of my professional life.

As a singer, my teacher Marianna Busching was my voice teacher from 1987-1996. She was a mentor for me and the reason why I wound up completely throwing my life (and first marriage) into an upheaval to go to graduate school at Peabody. She didn’t TELL me to leave him and go to Peabody – but her encouragement (and the fact that she was there, and if I wanted to get regular time with her, I’d better follow her) told me that I could do it.

Alan Nathan, who died nearly two years ago, was the most significant person I ever worked with in the professional world. He was the Washington Opera chorusmaster, and although I had done a few small bits under his predecessor, the late Stephen Crout, Alan chose me to be the mezzo soloist for the Kennedy Center Open House for two years in a row, cast me in several solo bits in the chorus, gave me the supporting role of The Woman in Red in the world premiere of Dream of Valentino (although, honestly, I got that part because the girl originally cast was two inches too tall), put me in the most interesting and selective shows (not necessarily the largest), and basically changed my life. I’ll write more about Alan another time.

Backstage at Cunning Little Vixen (I was blonde then)

Professionally, as a teacher, my experience with the NATS Intern Program with George Shirley as my master teacher, and the late Shirley Emmons, the late Paul Kiesgen, and Carol Webber as the other master teachers counts as the turning point in my life when I knew that this was my real calling.

My membership in NATS has also opened doors for me to work with other mentors regarding my identity as a businessperson, including Michelle Markwart Deveaux in the Speakeasy Cooperative and Sara Campbell of the Savvy Music Studio (also a SECO member). The latter two are examples of how a mentor doesn’t have to be someone older than you – which is good, because that pool is shrinking rapidly. 😀

Marianna was my teacher and mentor. Alan was a coach and mentor. George, Michelle, Sara, and others have served as mentors in other areas.

All of them are/were people who I trusted with my vocal and career development. And I’m so glad that I did.

While I identify as a voice teacher, I have no problem with people referring to me as a vocal coach, because sometimes I am.

And I would be honored by anyone who might consider me to be or to have been their mentor. It is a responsibility that I do not take lightly.

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If you are interested in working with me, whether as a teacher or a coach
(I won’t presume to offer myself as a mentor, at least not right off the bat),
why not set up an Ask Me Anything or a Vocal Discovery Session?

 

I stand with Ukraine

Today’s post isn’t about music. It’s about what’s going on in Ukraine.

(Well, there will be music at the end, but I didn’t know that when I started writing.)

My parents were from Eastern Europe. My mother was from Estonia, one of the three Baltic countries that were occupied by the Soviet Union from 1940-1991. In fact, she escaped from Estonia during the second occupation of 1944 (there was a brief period where the Nazis were in charge) and fled to …. Germany.

I asked why Germany and not SWEDEN, to where a lot of Estonians had fled. Her answer was, “That’s the way the boat was going.”

Makes sense. I guess.

My dad was from Slovenia, which has a rather confusing history, but it was part of Yugoslavia beginning in 1918 and lasting until 1989. He had been held in an Italian prison camp until after the war was over, and went to Germany, where he met my mom in a DP camp.

That’s displaced persons. Displaced persons are defined as:

third-country national or stateless person who has had to leave their country or region of origin, or has been evacuated, particularly in response to an appeal by international organisations, and is unable to return in safe and durable conditions because of the situation prevailing in that country …. in particular:
(i) a person who has fled areas of armed conflict or endemic violence;
(ii) a person at serious risk of, or who has been the victim of, systematic or generalised violations of their human rights.

What it comes right down to is that my parents were refugees.

I know very little about my parents’ wartime experiences. They didn’t want to talk about them. I knew that my grandmother was raped and murdered by Communist soldiers and that my father found her dead. I didn’t know the circumstances under which this happened and how he found her until after he had died. It’s very graphic and horrific – let’s just say they guaranteed that she couldn’t run away. Or put up any kind of struggle.

(This explains why I wasn’t allowed to wear red as a child, when all I wanted was to wear a red plaid jumper on my first day of first grade. “What are you, a Communist?” “No, Daddy, I’m six.”)

So what does my family history have to do with Ukraine?

The people in Ukraine are fighting for their own sovereignty. Like the Estonians and the Slovenians and so many others, they fought hard for their independence, and gained it in 1991 when the Soviet Union fell.

Ukraine is the second largest country in Europe, after Russia.

If Putin can overcome Ukraine, what about the other countries?

What about the tiny little Baltic countries?

What about Poland? Or the Czech Republic?

Or all the countries that were swallowed up by the Soviet Union that gained their independence only a little over 20 years ago, after 70+ years of Soviet dominance?

What about the Russian people who are not being informed of what’s going on? Who are threatened with imprisonment for using the word “war” instead of “peacekeeping mission?” Who are being thrown into jail for protesting what’s going on?

I stand with Ukraine.

Not THE Ukraine, because that’s a region in the Soviet Union. Ukraine is a country, a sovereign country.

Flag against sky. estonian flag stock pictures, royalty-free photos & images
And so is Estonia
Slovenia flag: its meaning, history and design – Lonely Planet
And so is Slovenia

Can’t we all just – let it go? (I had to make it about music SOMEHOW.)