Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Catching Up

Sorry for the light number of postings so far this year...I've been a bit overwhelmed with all of the singing that's been going on lately. I'll try to pick up the pace in the coming weeks...

In the meantime, for your viewing pleasure, here's a picture of one of the many sunsets I've been enjoying here the past few days in Florence, Italy.

It's a rough life, I tell you... :-)

And for your reading pleasure, here is a repost of my most recent entry at the Collaborative Institute of Chicago's blog, Collaborative Musings:


Let’s start this entry off with a few statistics. In these first 5 months of the year, I have given 28 performances of repertoire ranging from Bach to Britten. In those 28 performances, I performed 2 operas (Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia and Handel’s Ariodante), 6 oratorios (Carmina Burana, Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, Bach’s St. John and St. Matthew Passions, Bach’s B minor Mass, Mendelssohn’s Elijah), a ballet (Stravinsky’s Pulcinella), an orchestral song cycle (Britten’s Serenade for Tenor, Horn, and Strings), and a song cycle for harp and tenor (Britten’s Birthday Hansel). It’s been a very exciting first half of the year so far, filled with incredible music and music-making colleagues.

The main reason I list all of these statistics is simply to give you a snapshot of how intense my musical life has been like since New Year’s. With so much wide-ranging, diverse repertoire to keep abreast of, it’s been quite challenging to keep abreast of it all without tying my throat in knots. The most intense period was when I found myself singing 8 concerts in 3 different cities in the first 9 days of April. At the beginning of week, I found myself wailing at the extreme heights of my range for Carmina Buranas in Denver, only then to fly back East to jump back and forth between Stravinsky’s arrangements of Pergolesi’s delicate vocal music for concerts in Philadelphia and the intricate twists and turns of Britten’s last song cycle for recitals in New York. In those 8 days alone, my vocal cords musically spanned 250 years.

In my efforts to stay on top of all of this diverse music and the packed schedule of the past few months, I’ve spent as much time as possible checking in with my voice teacher in New York during my days off between concerts. In our lessons over the past five months, I’ve noticed her asking me a musical question with increased frequency that has rarely been posed to me: “What do you want to do?”

Every time she has asked me that question in a lesson lately, it has inevitably been because I had no idea what I wanted to do in that particular place. It was a spot that I had glossed over or taken for granted. It was a phrase for with I had no specific plan. The best part is that each time she has asked that question, it has forced me to find an answer. It’s forced me to make choices. Both the grueling schedule and my teacher’s insistence on decision-making have forced me to take even more ownership of my musicianship.

In so much of our training as singers, we are taught how to sing by our teachers, taught musical styles and phrasings by our coaches, taught how to enunciate text by our diction coaches. Then after all of that preparation, we begin to rehearse with conductors who show us with their batons how they want the music to be sung and directors who shape our performances through their stage direction. But in the midst of all of that, it’s important not to become too passive. It’s important to keep thinking about how all of this information allows us to enhance what we are already trying to do. Both the grueling schedule and my teacher’s insistence on decision-making have forced me to take even more ownership of my musicianship.

Going back to my blog post a few weeks ago about – I have been finding that so many young singers are incredibly focused on trying to plan out their careers. Lately, I’ve found myself musing again on what I wrote back then – career plans are important, but it is our musical plans that are of the highest priority. When it comes to the music – do you know what you want to do?

1 comment:

Jean Bernard said...

Thank you so much for this post. Being one of those young singers who sits and 'plans' a life that ultimately, is not planneable, I needed to hear your words today. Last week I sang an important gig with the Philly Bach Festival and next weekend I'll be singing a recital dedicated to Nat King Cole. I'm going to do, what I want to do.