Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Few of My Favorite Things

As I was packing, I found myself mentally making a list of things that I've recently come to love.  Since I need a break from packing, I figured that I'd share these things with you.

1. Jessica's blog, A Soprano Steps Out

This blog has really inspired me this summer.  I especially love her post about choosing love instead of fear.  I also like her sillier posts about freezer food and shopping.  She's honest, down-to-earth, and a passionate writer.  I haven't enjoyed a blog this much in a long time.  Best of all, this summer I got to meet her, hang out with her, watch/hear her perform, and get to know what an awesome person she is.  This blog is an accurate reflection of her personality and heart, and that's what I love most about it.

2. My New Justice League Mug

Who doesn't love a new mug?  I thought that I should bring at least one of my famous/infamous mugs with me to my new place, so why not this one?  The only thing wrong with this mug is that it's completely lacking Wonder Woman.  But I guess you can't have everything...

3. Mailchimp

This is for all my singer friends out there who are thinking about starting an email newsletter.  I found this great service and, so far, I'm absolutely loving it.  I'm hoping to send out my first email newsletter in the middle of September.  If you'd like to join my mailing list, you can sign up here! :)

4. Eisley's The Valley

I've really been grooving to this CD.  Below is the video for their title song, "The Valley."


5. Milk and Sugar Cafe's Coffee

As you all know, I'm an absolute coffee fiend.  Some of my favorite coffee is served at the Milk and Sugar Cafe.  Chris and I went last night and I remembered just how much I LOVE that coffee.  If any of you coffee people are on Long Island, you have to check it out.  Also, if you're just a foodie, you should probably check it out as well, because their food is great.  They made this sweet potato fry sauce for us that was out of this world and their desserts are always exquisite (red velvet cake, anyone?).

6. My Little Sis's Blog

It's really too cute - my younger sister started blogging.  It's fun to see how different hers is from mine.  That's the lovely thing about blogging: it's personal, so every blog is unique. :)

Well, besides raindrops on roses and schnitzel with noodles, those are a few of my favorite things.  Feel free to share a few of your favorite things in the comments section.  Now it's back to packing for me!  Alas, packing is such sweet sorrow...

Friday, August 24, 2012

From Weakness to Strength: The Elina Garanca Paradox

The first two times I saw Elina Garanca perform live, she was singing the devilishly difficult heroines of Rossini at the Met.  She commanded the stage with her acting and her singing, her voice seemingly perfect in all things.  Her coloratura was flawless and I could only gape in awe.

When I met her at the stage door after La Cenerentola, I complimented her on her coloratura.  She shook her head and said, "No, my coloratura is no good.  It is so difficult for me.  It takes much work."  Taken aback, I insisted that it was perfect and that I could only hope to sing like that one day.  I complimented her overall performance and she thanked me before signing my program and moving on.

I couldn't stop thinking about what she had said.  When I got home, I went online and listened to some interviews with her.  Over and over again, she said how difficult coloratura was for her: that it didn't come naturally and she had to painstakingly learn it and work it to perfection.  I couldn't understand this - it seemed like an insolvable paradox to me.  So I stored the story away in my brain and went about my life.

I remembered this story yesterday when I got an email from Ms. Wong, the composer I had worked with this summer.  She mentioned twice how she loved how smooth my voice was in the recording.  This struck me because I have always struggled with keeping a smooth line in my singing.  Like Elina Garanca's coloratura, smooth singing is my "weakness."  It is the thing that I work painstakingly to improve.  My music is covered with notes like "keep this even" and "smooth" and "line" and (as my old teacher liked to say) "no sausages."  But here is an outsider pointing out my one weakness and labeling it a strength.  Everything clicked and I unraveled the Elina Garanca paradox: hard work and perseverance can transform any weakness into a strength.

It's amazing and liberating to think that anything we see as a struggle, as an inherent weakness, can be beaten into something that lifts us up.  We are not bound by the things that we struggle with - they can be overcome.  The negative can become the positive.

So the next time I feel like I'm cursed by this crippling weakness in my personality or in my singing or in my life, I'll just remember the Elina Garanca paradox and push through, because I know that I can make that weakness into something that shines.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Role Model: Frederica Von Stade

I'm sure that almost every mezzo-soprano in the world will say that Frederica Von Stade, or "Flicka" as she's endearingly called, is an artist they consider a role model.  I have many mezzo role models and Ms. Von Stade is definitely one of them.

The thing I love most about Ms. Von Stade is her personality.  She has an incredible attitude about life, singing, and people.  I recently stumbled upon an interview with her from the Houston PBS in 2009 and it confirmed all the things that I admire about her.  In this interview with Ernie Manouse, she covers everything: her own career, the pressures on young artists, how to balance a home life with a career, arts education, and the continual joy of learning.  This woman still takes voice lessons!  And she's not ashamed or embarrassed to admit it.  She's one of the most humble artists that I've encountered (in interviews, personal statements, other artists' opinions, etc) and a real role model to me in that way.

This interview is really a breath of fresh air.  I hope that I can always be as positive as Ms. Von Stade and just keep learning, because there is no end to exploring and growing it comes to music and to singing.  That's one of the things that I love about this craft - the endlessness of it.  I know that I will never truly reach the point where I know everything.  There will always be something to challenge me.  And that idea excites me.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Here's to Waiting

Two orders of business, and then the real stuff.

1. Last Sunday, I officially finished my recording for composer Cynthia Lee Wong.  I think everyone is really happy with the finished product.  I know that I am.  After the final session, we went to Koreatown for dinner.  The Korean dishes were all new to me and there were a few things that I didn't quite expect.  I've never had to mix a raw egg into my fried rice before!  I was a bit nervous at first, but my colleagues showed me the ropes.  I'm just really glad that I'm good with chopsticks, because otherwise I would have looked like a complete newbie.  Overall, it was a great experience (Korean food included!) and I can't wait to get the opportunity again.

2. This weekend, I'm going up to Bard to see Chabrier's Le roi malgré lui as part of their SummerScape festival.  I've been looking forward to this all summer for a few reasons.  First of all, it's going to be so nice to see a live opera again!  It's been way too long since I've seen one.  Secondly, Bard always does a stellar job with their operas.  I saw their production of Die Liebe der Danae last summer and it was nothing short of stunning.  Third, I adore Chabrier and I can't wait to attend another one of his operas.  Fourth, it will be great to see my family up there and it will be great to show my parents my new school.  It's weird to think that I've been actively pursuing Bard for so long and my parents haven't even seen it!  I'm sure they will love it as much as I do.

The Real Stuff: Exactly one month from today, I'll be attending my first day of grad school!  I'm excited and nervous all at once.  I still have a lurking suspicion that I'm going to wake up and find out that none of it is true.  It remains a miracle to me.  And an honor, of course.  I just keep looking up my teachers and getting more and more giddy about it all.  It's exactly where I want to be and I just can't wait to get started.

This time one year ago, I was lamenting the fact that I hadn't gotten into any of the schools that I wanted to go to.  I'd come so close and been so hopeful only to have it all fall through.  It was not my favorite time, but I see now that it was an important one.  I have done so much this year and grown so much as a singer, an artist, and a person.  A year ago, I wasn't ready for Bard, but now I feel as ready as ever.  The timing has worked out perfectly. 

Did things happen exactly as I wanted them to?  Yes and no.  Yes, because I got into my dream school.  No, because I wanted things to happen right away.  I wanted to go straight from undergrad into grad school.  But that wasn't how it was meant to be.  If I had, I probably never would have gone to Bard and I wouldn't have felt that desperate wanting that I've felt this entire year.  I thought I wanted to get into grad school, but after waiting a year and going through the application process a second time, I really wanted to get into grad school.  There was this new level of desperation that I found that I had no idea even existed.  I started to concoct these crazy plans: what would I do if I didn't get into the schools I wanted?  Would I go travel?  Volunteer for the Peace Corps?  Go to school for something else?  It forced me to ask the tough questions.  But in the end, I know that I know that opera is the thing for me and that assurance is priceless.

So I guess Kelly is right about "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" because I feel a whole lot tougher this year.  I'm ready to get my butt kicked at school and learn some really awesome stuff along the way.  So here's to waiting.