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Curiosity Killed the …

Nothing. It kills nothing. 

Curiosity is a good thing. According to Seth Godin (who I haven’t quoted for a while), curiosity is one of the three foundations of art:

  1. Curiosity
  2. Generosity
  3. Connection

These three components allow us to create and to make art, which “is a tool that gives us the ability to make things better and to create something new on behalf of those who will use it to create the next thing.” (The Practice, 2020, p. 55).

(Also remember the bumper sticker: “EARTH without ART is EH.”)

His 2008 book, Tribes, is a bit outdated now because of all the technological advances that have occurred in the nearly 13 years since its publication. But the roots of his work on curiosity are there, in his discussion of the difference between fundamentalism and curiosity, management and leadership, the settler and the heretic.

“It has to do with a desire to understand, a desire to try, a desire to push whatever envelope is interesting. …. Once recognized, the quiet yet persistent voice or curiosity doesn’t go away. Ever. And perhaps it’s such curiosity that will lead us to distinguish our own greatness from the mediocrity that stares us in the face.” (pp. 63-64)

I’m blown away by this because curiosity is the driving force of my life. And I can’t abide mediocrity. I don’t know if I can say I’m great (I am, after all, from the Midwest), but if I felt I was even remotely mediocre, I don’t think I could stand it.

So maybe curiosity kills mediocrity. Yes, I’m going to go with that.

Plus, the whole “curiosity killed the cat” thing is completely bogus. The phrase is actually, “Curiosity killed the cat – but satisfaction brought it back.”

To say half the phrase implies that it’s okay to settle, not to question, not to try, because to do so might actually court death. But instead, while pursuing something different might take you down for a while, ultimately, the satisfaction of the effort will allow you to bounce back up. (This, and other phrases, are frequently misquoted and misinterpreted.)

So if you’re curious about anything, say, I don’t know, maybe singing, maybe now is the time to take the risk and try it.

After all, look at these cats. Do they look dead to you?

Singing cats
Curiosity kills the mediocre. The cats are fine.

Also, thinking of curiosity – this song was played by Peter Jacobson in a Total Vocal Freedom class I recently took and I was just enthralled by it. It wasn’t this version, but this version was just the right length for what I wanted to include here. The song is “Experiment,” from Nymph Errant by Cole Porter (1933).

Original lyrics:

Before you leave these portals
To meet less fortunate mortals,
There’s just one final message
I would give to you.
You all have learned reliance
On the sacred teachings of science,
So I hope, through life, you never will decline
In spite of philistine
Defiance
To do what all good scientists do.

Experiment.
Make it your motto day and night.
Experiment
And it will lead you to the light.
The apple on the top of the tree
Is never too high to achieve,
So take an example from Eve,
Experiment.
Be curious,
Though interfering friends may frown.
Get furious
At each attempt to hold you down.
If this advice you always employ
The future can offer you infinite joy
And merriment,
Experiment
And you’ll see

**********

If you’re curious about finding your voice and speaking/singing your mind, contact MVS to set up a complementary 20-minute chat about what Curiously Strong Singing & Performing can do for you.

My First Webinar!

This past Saturday, I hosted a webinar on the topic of singing the Schubert Ave Maria. Each attendee received a handout afterwards covering:

  • The history of the piece (spoiler alert: Schubert did not write the Ave Maria – at least that wasn’t the name of the song, it wasn’t in Latin, nor was it intended as a setting of the Hail Mary prayer)
  • The translation of the Latin text and its setting in the song
  • The pronunciation of the Latin text using the International Phonetic Alphabet
  • A deconstruction of the song for practice purposes, including
    • Deconstructed sheet music 
    • A practice track for a singer to work with before adding the actual accompaniment

I posted a video of the webinar to YouTube last night, and you can find here. (Note: I accidentally did not record the first half of the webinar in real time – forgot to take it off pause when I was waiting for folks – so the first half was made after everyone had left; which allowed me to fix a few things I had issues with, tech-wise, during the actual webinar.)

You can watch it here:

If you are interested in getting the handout about the history/translation/pronunciation, please click here and I’ll be happy to send it to you.

What other topics would you like to see in a webinar? Someone suggested “O Holy Night” when we get closer to Christmas. Some ideas I have include:

  • International Phonetic Alphabet
  • Structuring your Practice Session

I’d love to hear your thoughts! Leave them in the comments.

******

Have you been asked to sing the Ave Maria (any version, not just this one) or another song for an upcoming wedding, and you want to make sure you do it right? Contact MVS to set up a discovery call
to see if a drop-in lesson or a package of lessons is right for you!

Summer Singers Society for Students 8-11

I have always said that I’m not a teacher of small children.

It’s not that I don’t believe that young children should take lessons. I do. I just haven’t been sure that I’ve been the one to teach them. So I’ve focused on reaching students 11 and up.

But I did some thinking and realized that two of the best students I ever had started working with me when they were 7-1/2 and 9 years old, respectively. Both of whom I took on reluctantly because their parents begged me for a chance. One stayed with me for 11 years (!) and, although she didn’t go into music, she has been active in the arts in her new home of Los Angeles, working in the entertainment industry with companies such as ABC and Amazon. The other worked with me for two years till I moved away, and then studied with my good friend and colleague Diane Lane until she graduated from high school. She won first place at the national competition for HS Classical Women at NATS in 2018 and she is studying vocal performance in New York.

So maybe I am the one. Or they were the ones. But either way, I don’t need to limit myself So I’m going to tip a toe into the pool of younger students and offer a 4-day online vocal camp that I’m calling the Summer Singers Society. (Kinda took the idea of The Singing Club from Nikki Loney at Full Voice Music and made it my own.)

Online voice class for kids 8-11

From June 21-24, I will work with six students between the ages of 8 and 11 to explore their voices in a supportive, fun, and pragmatic way, and start them on their vocal journey. The format will be the following:

    • 10:30am-Noon: Vocal Explorations and Technique
    • Noon-1:00: Lunch on your own (there might be a listening party during lunch, still TBD)
    • 1:00-2:30pm: Work on individual pre-assigned songs. Singers will work on their solo pieces in class twice: M/W or T/Th, and will learn to listen constructively when others are singing.

Songs will come from age-appropriate musical theater or folk song repertoire. Singers will submit a recording of themselves singing a song to Christine by no later than June 4. Appropriate songs include:

    • Happy birthday to you!
    • The star-spangled banner
    • Amazing Grace
    • Any age-appropriate* musical theater or folk song that shows range

*For example, “Defying Gravity” is not age-appropriate.

Singers may also submit a list of songs in which they’re interested. Based on the recording, I will select a song from their list or one of her choosing. Singers will be given a copy of the music and an accompaniment track for them to practice with, if they don’t have their own already. Song selections will be made and sent to the singer by June 7.

On Friday, June 25, students may have the option to book a bonus 30 minute individual lesson (online or in-person, if in the area) with me to work personally on their songs and expand upon the concepts worked on earlier in the week. An evaluation and suggestion for future study will be sent within 72 hours of the bonus lesson. If people want to continue working with me afterwards, that’s up to them!

Registration is $125 through May 24 with the code SSS2021, and $150 afterwards. Registration will close June 4.

Why online?

A few reasons:

  1. Although I’m fully vaccinated, the vaccine isn’t available for kids of this age yet, so I want a little more time for us to reach herd immunity before I let people in my house, especially a bunch of people. The individual lessons may be in my garage/driveway or in the studio with the windows open and an air filter running between students.
  2. I think it would be really cramped to have 6 students in my studio all at the same time, so I’d have to rent a space to hold classes.
  3. If I did have 6 students in my house, I would need to take the dog to day care.

Either 2 or 3 would be expensive for me and would increase the cost of the Society, which I would rather not do. At least not this time.

I’m convinced it’s going to be a good time! If you have a child or know a child who would benefit, send them my way.

Register for the Summer Singers Society at HERE
Register for the Ave Maria Webinar HERE
Or contact MVS if you have any questions or want to set up an info call

Session Singing – Being One Voice

A few weeks ago, I put together a few people to sing on a virtual choir video for World Voice Day. The day before WVD, I released a sneak peek of the video but didn’t really talk about it that much. (I had a few other things on my mind.)

Putting the video together was a new undertaking for me, and one I almost abandoned because I didn’t think I’d have the time to do – plus people weren’t really responding to my requests for participation. Ultimately, I had enough people to do it (although I did wind up laying down my own vocal tracks for soprano 2 and alto 2 because I was a little shorthanded, and also doubled the root of the chord in both the tenor and 2nd soprano lines just because we were a little out of balance). I have to thank my friend, fellow voice teacher, Speakeasy member, and Zumba instructor, Talia Zoll, for advising me on how to do it. I almost paid her to do it for me but then I figured it out for myself.

I sent everyone tracks to use, as well as the music, and gave very specific instructions on how to do the self-tape. Specific enough that everyone got them right! Then I compiled the videos and stripped the audio from them (much easier than I expected) and put the individual tracks into GarageBand to create one track. Which was much easier than I expected until GarageBand crashed right before I was about to add the final track.  Tears and a couple of calls to Apple later, I got it to work. I had the audio. I had to do some tweaking – cut off notes held too long, extend notes not held long enough, do a little careful splicing if someone was a bit ahead of the beat, but I was pretty pleased with the end result. Now on to the video!

I used the free version of DaVinci Resolve to put the videos together. The hardest part was figuring out how to get people to pop up at different times as they came in, but once I figured that out (thank you, YouTube!), it went very quickly.

I’m very happy with the final product.

And the value of it, other than acknowledging World Voice Day (and learning a few new skills on my part), is that this is a great preparation for being a session singer, which is a pretty lucrative skill to have.

According to Berklee College of Music, being a session singer (or a backup singer or a studio singer) is a valuable skill that may lead to future success as a solo singer or as a career in and of itself.  It involves a very special skillset, including:

  • Sight-reading – you often have to come in, read through something a few times and lay down the tracks in a very short period of time (studio time is expensive!)
  • Vocal harmony – sometimes it’s not written out for you
  • Vocal improvisation – see above
  • Knowledge of and proficiency in broad musical styles – pop, musical theatre, country, etc.
  • Excellent ear for pitch, tone – can’t be out of tune! While autotune exists, it adds to studio time and studio time is expensive!
  • Versatility – see knowledge and proficiency of styles
  • Phrasing – no swooping (unless you’re asked for it)!
  • Vocal technique – you need to be able to manage your breath so that you don’t have to breathe in places where they don’t want you to breathe
  • Impeccable sense of rhythm and timing – you can’t take liberties with the rhythm, especially if you are singing with other people
  • Ability to take direction – the producer or vocal arranger might decide to change things up quickly, and you need to be able to adapt (see versatility)
  • Not being a diva – if you are egotistical or unpleasant or argumentative, you will not be asked back (and the word will get out)

Some people might think of this kind of work as unglamorous, and it might be unless (or even if) you travel on the road with big-name artists. In 2013, the movie Twenty Feet From Stardom came out to celebrate some of pop music’s often overlooked (but not unsung) heroes. Here’s the trailer from that – I think the full movie is available on Netflix (figures that Mick Jagger is in the thumbnail instead of any of the subjects of the movie).

Even if session singing does not lead to stardom, it is a way to make a living and it might be something to consider. Like a lot of music careers, it depends on where you are and who you know. There’s more opportunity for this kind of work in places like NYC, LA, or Nashville than there is in, oh, let’s say, Milwaukee, but if you keep your eyes open and establish a reputation, perhaps it’s a side hustle that you can consider pursuing. (Plus the skills will help you be even more valuable in whatever your main hustle is.)

Figure out what skills you have already and what you need. Do you need to up your game in the realm of sightsinging? Intonation? How are you going to do that? What can I do to help you with that?

If you sang in the video I made, thank you and you should be proud of your participation in the video. I certainly am. Consider this your first time doing studio singing; and ask yourself – if I had done this live, what would/should I have done differently?

I am considering doing a workshop on being a session singer this summer, so …. stay tuned!

*****************

Summer lessons will be available for registration this Thursday,
May 13.
The Summer Singers Society (ages 8-11) will also be announced this Thursday, so look for that as well.
The free Ave Maria webinar is still open for registration and will take place this Saturday, May 15.
If you’d like to schedule a free Ask Me Anything Call with Mezzoid Voice Studio before committing to lessons, please contact MVS here.

 

So YOU want to sing Schubert’s Ave Maria …. correctly?

When I was a little kid, the organist at my parents’ church played the same songs every Sunday as the processional and recessional hymns:

  • Praise to the Lord, the Almighty 
  • Holy God, we praise thy name OR
  • Holy, Holy, Holy

Being a little kid, I thought that was how it was supposed to be, and when there was a guest organist who played something different, I became indignant. “No, that’s not what the opening hymn is supposed to be! It’s supposed to be ‘Praise to the Lord.'”

Except in May, when the opening and closing hymns were (almost always in that order)

  • Immaculate Mary AND
  • Hail, Holy Queen Enthroned Above

Why in May? Because, in the Catholic Church, May is the month of Mary.

It's gonna be Ma(r)y

(I am SO sorry)

I had forgotten that until this morning, and realized that my planned webinar:

So you want to sing Schubert's Ave Maria correctly (a webinar)

was very aptly timed! I picked the date because my husband was working that day and I didn’t have anywhere to be, and wedding season is coming up, but it has even more meaning because of the significance of the month in the Church year.

This is something I have wanted to offer for some time. Back in 2010,  a high school student of mine was asked to sing the Schubert Ave Maria for a teacher’s wedding. She didn’t tell me she was going to do it, so we had never gone through the piece. Her mom called me the night before the wedding to tell me that she had rehearsed with the organist, who had scolded her rather harshly because she sang it with wrong rhythms. She was kind of shaken because she sang it the way she’d always heard it (and that organist was kind of a jerk to do that to a kid, if you ask me). I don’t want that to happen to any of my students ever again.

So many people sing the Ave Maria wrongThey swing the rhythm – this is easy to do because, although the piece is written in 4/4, the accompaniment is entirely in sextuplets, while the melody is in duple meter, so it is a case of 2 against 3. Try tapping triplets with your left hand (123 123 123) and tapping in duple meter with your right (12 12 12). It’s hard.  

And then there’s the Latin. There are only 5 vowels in Latin, but somehow other ones creep in and it begins to sound like American Latin (note: while German Latin and French Latin are options when singing in certain styles of music, there is no place for American Latin in any musical genre).

Also – do you have to sing both verses? What if the time is limited and you only sing one? Is that okay? (The answer is, well, if you want to sing only half the prayer, that’s up to you.)

And if I’m singing it for someone German, should I use the original German text that Schubert wrote? (Quick answer: NO)

Join me on Zoom next Saturday, May 15, 2021, at 12:30pm ET to deconstruct the Ave Maria so that you can sing it for the next wedding or funeral. For 60 minutes, we’ll go through:

  1. The origin of the song
  2. The meaning – word for word
  3. The pronunciation, using the International Phonetic Alphabet
  4. The song itself – both the melody and that tricky rhythm

Participants will receive

  • The text with IPA
  • a copy of the Deconstructed Ave Maria in one of three keys, G, Ab, or Bb, within 24 hours of the webinar,
  • a practice track so you can work with it on your own and get it solid before you add the actual accompaniment

It’ll be fun!

Sign up HERE to join me!

Or CONTACT me if you want to work on it one-on-one 

I’m BA-ACK

Well, that was fun.

Both my vacation and World Voice Weekend.

Honestly, I could not have asked for either to have gone better. In the case of the latter, there were no

  • internet outages
  • no-shows
  • inappropriate behavior (not even from me – mostly)
  • boring clinicians
  • trainwrecks of any kind

The only thing that went wrong was that there was one person to whom I somehow managed not to send the Zoom link for Christian Borle. And he was very understanding, so I gave him a refund.

The clinicians were all excellent, engaging, and entertaining (did you know that I enjoy alliteration?). The performers were giving and brilliant, and the masterclasses were fantastic – both the teachers and the students.

I’d like to do this again next year, and I hope to be able to price it so that I can reach the audience for whom it could offer the most benefit: the preprofessional and young professional music/theater student. It is also valuable for the avocational adult who wants to know about their craft, and for the teacher who is looking to refresh their knowledge and get a different perspective. (Kind of like NATS conferences – I don’t go because I don’t already know this stuff, I go because I want a different point of view.) The tentative dates are 4/23-24 (because World Voice Day falls on Easter Weekend.)

Really, it’s beneficial for anyone who has an open mind.

My vacation to Sedona was fantastic. I will say that we should have taken FIVE days to get there and FIVE days to get back. 8+ hours in the car per day was a little rough. Not so much for Bill and me, but for Seamus … well, you be the judge.

 

Up next:

Group Voice Class for Adults, starting next Tuesday: 4 weeks, $95, 7-8:30pm. 

AND

So You Want to Sing the Ave Maria – CORRECTLY? – a free webinar on Saturday, May 15, 12:30pm ET.
(I’ll write more about this in Thursday’s blogpost.)

Counting down the days

Last day for auditor registration! Sign up HERE

 

 

 

 

 

Not QUITE more day till the One Voice Project video is premiered – tomorrow, April 16 (World Voice Day) at 11:30am (can’t watch it till tomorrow, but if you click on it, you can get a reminder to watch it):

Two days till World Voice Weekend launches (registration is closed but if you really want to get in, let me know and I’ll see what I can do):

AND four days till we refinance our house in the morning

And then head off to vacation some time after noon for two weeks.

 

This voice teacher needs a trip to Sedona!
Vacation awaits in Sedona, Arizona

 

 

Yes, we’re driving to Arizona. And bringing the dog.

Seamus gets to go on vacation too!
Celebrating his first birthday at puppy camp (2019)

See you on May 4 – or at World Voice Weekend, if you’re registered.

More projects are in the works for summer – stay tuned!

 

Changing my Vision

I have been very good at writing regularly for the past year. I did decide to go from thrice weekly to twice weekly in 2021, and I’ve kept to that. Till this week. I missed Tuesday. And I forgot to write out a schedule for my April blogposts, which I usually do on the first of the month (but it was Holy Thursday, and I had a lot going on that day).

It’s been a rough couple of weeks.

After an initial burst of enthusiasm at the launch of World Voice Weekend on March 1, sales dropped off shortly afterwards, and despite some pretty intensive social media and email marketing (I really hate email marketing), and a few incentives, they never picked up to where I hoped they’d be at this point, with only 4 days left for registration.

It’s not that no one is coming, it’s just not as many as I’d hoped.

My vision was that I was providing an event to unite the community of voice users. That we’d all join together for two days of incredible content, going from one fantastic workshop/concert/masterclass to the next.  And people told me that what I’ve planned was amazing, valuable, and important. And I believe that too.

I wanted to do more than just offer masterclasses and charge per session. Anyone can do that. And they do. I wanted to offer an experience.

And I’m still going to do so. And the price for the whole thing only went up to $250 from my early bird pricing. You can still get that through Monday.

But I’m also recognizing that either my marketing was not enough or on target (did I mention that I hate email marketing?),  or that the timing was off, or that I haven’t developed the KLT (know/like/trust) in order to get enough people to sign up for this. The last part feeds into that little voice in my head that whispers, “people don’t like you.” (Why that voice has an Estonian accent, I don’t know…) I really hope that part isn’t why.  (Not fishing.)

I also didn’t get a Creativity Grant from the state which would have paid for all my clinicians and made me less anxious. I missed it by one point.

Also I had skin cancer surgery. I’m fine, but it was just one more thing that I didn’t really want to have to deal with.  And it probably impacted my marketing progress.

So I’m changing my vision a little bit to offer some audit spots for the Christian Borle and Adrianna Hicks masterclasses. Since these are being offered in separate Zoom rooms anyway, I can do that, and still keep the rest of the weekend events for those people who paid for them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christian Borle’s masterclass will be at 3pm on Saturday, April 17. I will offer up to 25 auditor seats at $35.00 each. Six singers are scheduled to sing. You may register for Mr. Borle’s masterclass here.

Adrianna Hicks’ masterclass will be at 3pm on Sunday, April 18. I will offer up to 25 auditor seats at $25.00 each. Six singers are scheduled to sing, four of whom are scholarship recipients from Morgan State University and Baltimore School of the Arts. I was able provide these scholarships due to a generous donation from MDDC NATS and an anonymous benefactor. You may register for Ms. Hicks’ masterclass here.

I know that there were people who only wanted to audit these in the first place, and I didn’t want to go these, but the market has told me otherwise. For now. But only for now.

Purchase of either of these appointments only gives you to access to the masterclass itself
and to no other session in World Voice Weekend. 

Contact MVS if you have any questions.

World Voice Weekend Will Transform You (yep, I said that)

I have decided to extend Early Bird Registration for World Voice Weekend through April 5 (Easter Monday).

My business coach, Michelle Markwart Deveaux, asked me if I’ve made it clear in my marketing how I believe people will be changed by World Voice Weekend. I think I have, in my blogposts, in my social media posts, in my emailing marketing. But maybe I need to break this down further.

World Voice Weekend will transform you.

Yes, I said transform. In one way or another. Like these.

  • Mind/Body: If you haven’t done work with Alexander Technique or vocal explorations while doing yoga poses, you will come away with a new appreciation of the relationship of your body to your voice. And if you have, you’ll come away with some new approaches to the topic.
  • Acting: If you haven’t explored acting from the inside out (Saturday’s “The Voice in Storytelling”) or from the outside-in (Sunday’s “Putting in the Effort the Laban Way”), or even if you have, these are young and vibrant artists with very different perspectives.  Many people are particularly curious about the application of the Laban Way to acting/singing, since it was developed by a choreographer.
  • Vocal Health & Function: I’m very excited about Dr. Heather Nelson‘s session, “Be a Vocal Health Star!” I had a sneak peek at her outline and handout, and there are some terrific points about how overall wellness impacts your singing. I’m also thrilled about the work Jennifer Cooper is going to be doing about cooling down the voice, which is something many people don’t do (include myself). I’ve worked with Coop myself and she is dynamo. (As far as my own morning vocalise sessions, I think they’re pretty good , if I do say so myself. And I do.)
  • World Voice Brunch: Brenda Earle Stokes is an incredible artist and a consummate musician. Her interpretations are delightful and insightful. Emma Langford is a revelation and an important new voice on the horizon. Meeting her two years ago changed me as an audience member and a music listener. It will change you too.
  • Master Classes with Christian Borle and Adrianna Hicks. I don’t bring in famous people for the sake of having famous people. I’ve seen Christian Borle in a master class and he’s terrific and will give you new ways to look at things, in your own performances and for your students, present and future (in case you’re not a teacher now). Adrianna Hicks is pretty new to the scene, but her career trajectory has been impressive, and from the testimonials I have seen about her work with other singers and with her colleagues, she will have something fantastic to offer. Especially if pop style (musical theater and otherwise) is not your strongest suit. The Baltimore Sun described her singing as possessing “an enveloping radiance, whether going full-throttle in the most gospel-infused music or filing her voice down to a slender, intimate thread.” There are still two performing spots in her masterclass on Sunday.

In addition to all these takeaways, you have the opportunity to be in the presence of these fantastic artists/clinicians at a fraction of what it would cost to bring them here in person or for you to travel to where they are. And you don’t even have to put on pants. (I hope that you do, but if you don’t, please don’t stand up.) And remember, if you can’t be there for all the sessions, you can watch them at home (with or without pants) for one week afterwards. Or even if you caught them all, but you just want to watch something again to make sure you caught that one gem, that one particular bit of wisdom or insight that you’d never heard before. Because I assure you, there will many of those.

Early Bird Registration here.

 

WVW Early Bird Registration Ends March 31!

World Voice Weekend Early Bird registration ends March 31!

I’ll admit it, after an initial flurry of signups, registration is going more slowly than I hoped. Which is baffling to me, because people have responded to this program as follows:

WOW, WHAT A LINEUP!!
THIS IS AMAZING!

 

THIS IS SO VALUABLE!!

Unfortunately, I’m not hearing, “Take my money!” I have enough people to fill the masterclasses, but I know that there are more people that this program can serve.

I know that I have a great lineup and the offerings I have are both amazing and valuable. This is something I believe in and am passionate about offering. And I will continue to promote this. I may have to take a slightly different direction on a few things (still ruminating on those possibilities) but I believe in what World Voice Weekend has to offer its audience. An audience of voice  users from pre-professional to professional, from student to teacher, from vocational to avocational.

If your concern is that you can’t make the whole weekend,  you can watch the sessions you can’t make (except the masterclasses) for one week after the workshop. Even if you are registered for another workshop the same weekend, you can flip back and forth between both of them, and still watch them both on the replay.

The opportunity to see artists/clinicians of this level is unparalleled, especially for this price point. They’re worth every penny I’m paying them and every penny that you’ll pay me to pay them.

Final registration will close on April 12.

Don’t miss it.

Early Bird Registration through March 31: $225 with code EARLYBIRDWVW.
More info and registration links here.