Monday, August 29, 2011

Running Around

Earlier this month, on my way to sing a recital in Toronto, I walked by this sign:

I did a bit of a double-take, thinking to myself: but my life is all about running around! As I warmed-up for the concert that night, I found myself pondering what I saw on that church sign, wondering if I was losing touch with myself. The more I thought about it, the more I disagreed with the sign. On the contrary, I actually feel quite in touch with myself because I run around for a living.

Just a few days before I saw that sign, I was in Chicago having a conversation with some friends over dinner about nationalism and xenophobia, in which we were discussing, among other things, the recent shootings in Norway. At one point in the conversation, I said to my friends, “I can't make sense of that kind of action. Perhaps it's because I run around the world so much for work that my opinion has been shaped this way, but I have come to the fairly radical view that humanity is one and that, as a result, national borders almost seem a bit silly to me. Every week I am somewhere different, and I see how, despite differences of language and culture, we are all the same. We are all citizens of the world, and in this sense family. Why be so afraid of each other?” My Chicago friends pointed out to me that my point of view was somewhat unique, partly because most people don't travel as much as I do. I had to agree with them - my life is not what most people would consider "normal".

The dinner-conversation in Chicago and the seeing that sign a few days later in Toronto gave me a bit of a new perspective into how I am lucky to be running around all the time. Does the travel get to me? Yes, it totally does. Do I get homesick? All the time. Do I miss my loved ones and hate not being able to be there for important moments? Totally. But I am really privileged to have this much time alone on planes, trains, automobiles and in hotels and sublet corporate apartments in strange, new cities in foreign lands. I am lucky to be able to spend this much time meditating on life, music, and seeing the world. Faced with the perpetual challenges of new places, new situations, new people, new languages, and new cultures, I am forced to stay open and to see how I fit into the constantly changing world around me. Forever moving forward, I am never stagnant, never inert, and am always growing, always learning. I am made constantly aware of who I am, where I have come from, as well as who I want to be.

Here's a little video I came across last month while pondering all of seemed apt to post it here:

MOVE from Rick Mereki on Vimeo.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Weekend Inspiration

I'm about to step into the recording studio this weekend (in an incredibly charming town in Italy, I might add), for a project that I'll be able to tell you more about soon. In the meantime, I leave you with my inspiration for the next couple days:

"Brava! Brava! Sono tanto brava! Brava!
Sono tanto brava, sono brava
sono tanto brava
faccio quasi tutto con la voce, sembro un usignolo sì
forse...forse qualche nota non è proprio giusta...giusta
però io sono certa che così nessuno sa cantar
sono come un uccellin
senti il trillo...senti il trillo.
State un pò a sentir queste note così basse che so fare
poi vado su, vado su, vado su.
Brava! Brava! Come sono brava! Brava!
Certo se qualcuno vuole proprio...proprio pignolare
forse qualcosa non so fare ma sicuramente sì
non può essere che una cosa
che non ha nessun valore se vogliamo ricordare
che come me nessuno sa cantare
sono come un uccellin
senti il trillo...senti il trillo
e vi ricordate quelle note così basse che so fare.
Poi vado su...vado su...vado su due note
che volano nel cielo
E tutti sanno
che ho tanto di quel fiato
che neppure una balena può resistere sott'acqua
stando senza respirare tutto il tempo che io tengo questo "mi".
Brava! Brava! Come sono brava! Brava!
Sono tanto brava, sono brava
sono tanto brava
faccio quasi tutto con la voce, sembro un usignolo sì
però mi sentirei un poco...poco più tranquilla
se potessi questa sera farmi dire che son brava sì
ma che a dirlo siate voi
voi voi voi voi voi voi voi voi
voi che lo sentite questo povero mio cuore che fa bum
bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum!
Brava! Brava!
Brava! Brava!

Happy Friday!

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Masters and Students

“You are always a student, never a master. You have to keep moving forward.”

- Conrad Hall

This quote came to my mind frequently as I was doing some guest coaching in Chicago at Collaborative Arts Institute of Chicago last week. It’s not often that I am in the position of coach or teacher. Most of the time I am out on the road, performing and rehearsing, and when I am home I try to catch as many lessons with my voice teacher as possible, and in these ways I am mostly focused on forging my own path of musical growth – I am the perpetual student. The closest I ever feel I come to that position of “master” is the rare occasion that I am asked to give a Master Class or (like last week) work privately as a guest coach/teacher.

Earlier in the week before flying out to Chicago, I had a two-hour lesson of my own with my teacher in New York. After having spent most of the summer away from her in Europe, hopping from one performance to another, I found it a bit jarring to put my student hat back on. I was impatient with myself, and easily frustrated – it felt like banging my head against a brick wall. I left the lesson feeling fussy that I hadn’t made as much progress through all the upcoming repertoire that I wanted to touch on with my teacher. Having not seen each other in so long, we decided to go for a drink to catch up, and I forgot my frustrations as we chatted over a glass of wine on 7th Avenue.

A couple of days later in Chicago, the thing that struck me so much about my guest coaching sessions was how working with the singers who came in last week was actually a lesson for me in being a student. I was struck by how open they were to try my suggestions and how inquisitive they were in trying to understand the numerous concepts that I was throwing them. Listening to them grapple with and digest these new ideas as they took giant strides forward was fascinating. It made me realize how much I can get in my own way in my own moments of study – jumping straight from the stage to the studio can be a very tricky transition. Being on stage requires an ownership of knowledge and experience in order to find the confidence and trust in oneself to stand up and perform for an audience. Being in the studio, donning the disciple’s robes requires a different kind of mindset – that open and inquisitive one that the singers who were working with me in the CAIC studios had.

When I returned to New York over the weekend, I met up with my teacher for one more two hour extravaganza. This time, though, I came with that open mindset and did my best to set all the knowledge and experience I already had aside, quieting the impatient voices in my head, and only calling on all that experience when it related to something she was saying. The lesson was incredible, and perhaps one of the most productive I’ve had all year. We made tremendous progress, and I left feeling a sense of accomplishment and focus.

I guess we just have to constantly keep adding to the pot of knowledge and experience – it’s bottomless, really, and never full.

(reposted from the CAIC blog - Collaborative Musings - where I am a guest blogger once a month)