Monday, October 26, 2009

I can't be still, I might be a dancer!!!!

Growing up I was always dancing, singing, or moving around. I would get in trouble for not being able to sit still and I was never really that great in school. I was a B student but I never failed to practice my music. I was absorbed by my music. I would play music constantly in my bedroom recording the Top 20 Countdown and would make mixed tapes and I would also spend countless hours in the living room at the piano playing pop songs, country songs, and church hymns. I never was interested in Math or Science. I loved to read and did well in English classes and languages but I was bored with much anything else. I tell you all of this because I remember so vividly wanting music lessons and wanting to paint pictures but my school didn't offer those types of classes. Those classes stopped in the 8th grade and on the elementary level were taught only once a week. I agree with Mr. Ken Robinson from the above video. A lot of the times we squander the talent of children. We recognize it early in their lives and then we try to focus their attentions elsewhere. Artists only survive usually because they fight hard and/or they simply can't do anything else. I was such a case. I couldn't focus on anything else except my music and I knew by the time I was 13 years old that I would make my living doing music. I am thankful I had an outlet for my music and people who encouraged my talent. Mr. Robinson says in his speech, "My contention is that creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status." He also goes on to talk about how we are teaching kids OUT of their creativity. This is a very interesting speech and one that I related to quite well. I encourage you to pay attention to the young artists of the world and encourage them. If your child can't stop moving, give them some dance lessons. If your child can't keep quiet, get them singing songs. If your child draws all over the house with crayons and markers, get them in an art studio. Nurture a child's innate creativity.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Vocal Inspiration of the Week

I adore this song and the message. Have a beautiful weekend.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Found Music Episode 1

One of my hobbies while on the road is discovering street musicians. I love walking down the street and being surprised by a string quartet or a solo trumpet. I adore being on the Subway and a mariachi band appears out of nowhere and begins to play. I am enchanted by the accordions that I have heard played by street musicians in Italy and France and am captivated by the Tango in Argentina. Spontaneous music accompanying our time in the city sets the mood of our visits and gives us the flavor and vibe of wherever we are. New York is saturated with street musicians and I often carry spare change and dollars just for the opportunity to stop a moment and listen and then thank them accordingly. If I am lucky enough to have my camera I even video some of the performance. It is amazing to watch how people respond to these musicians. Some pass without acknowledgment and some, like me, make it a point to stop and gather to listen. A few years ago the famous violinist Joshua Bell did an experiment in Washington, D.C. where he played the violin at the Metro station. The objective was to see how many people would actually be aware that they were hearing one of the world’s finest violinists and also to see just how many people would respond. Mr. Bell played for 45 minutes and collected a total of $32. Only a handful of people stopped to listen and over one thousand simply passed him over unaware they were missing out on one of our greatest artists. Astonishing! Imagine just letting that kind of music just pass you by. (Click here to read that story and see the video of his experiment.)

So, in honor of all the street musicians who have accompanied my travels over the years and who continue to do so, I would like to offer on my blog some excerpts from my private collection that I like to call, Found Music. Once a week or so I will leave a clip of some of the Found Music either from my visit here in New York or from my archives. I’d like to start the series by showing one that I recorded last week at 42nd Street Subway Station. I was on my way downtown and I heard Bluegrass music. When I found the musicians I was astonished that they were African American! They even had a sign behind them letting us all know who they were. So, here, enjoy this clip from the Ebony Hillbillies and remember to always stop and hear the music and be sure to carry some money in your pocket to drop in their instrument cases.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Shell Seekers and Those Who Encourage Seeking

I woke this morning in disbelief that it was October 18, 2009! I am not sure where the month has gone. Actually, I am still wondering where September went. I get like this sometimes where my body and mind refuse to accept the passing of time. It usually happens this time of year as the cold creeps upon us and my inner clock just simply refuses. After this cold weekend in New York City my body is screaming, “Let it still be summer!”

Last weekend ended all too soon. The Elixir of Love with the Atlanta Opera closed last Sunday and Monday morning at 5:45 a.m., I was on my way to the Atlanta airport to take a flight to New York. I really just wanted a few days to let the fabulous weekend pour over me. It was truly a wonderful weekend. After Friday’s performance the Mercer University Alumni Association in conjunction with the Townsend School of Music, gave a reception in my honor. I must say that I was completely overwhelmed with this gesture. Honestly, I kind of felt how President Obama must have felt when he received the Nobel Peace Prize. I was very excited and honored, but at the same time I wanted to shout, “Just wait though, my best is yet to come, I promise!” I really feel that way. Even though I know that I have accomplished a lot in a very short time, I have huge ambitions for my future and I certainly don’t want anyone to get the idea that this is all there is! But seriously, I did appreciate being recognized. It was sheer joy to see all of my former professors and to meet the new ones who have joined the faculty. I met alumni who were there to support the School of Music and saw a lot of old friends. It is an indescribable feeling when you realize that you have an enormous support group. I had so many emotions Friday night. It is easy to be distracted by the pressures of performing and the negative reactions some might have towards your performance. It is so easy to forget that although there may be a few who criticize and want to wear you down, that there is a much larger group that wants nothing more than for you to succeed. Friday night was a fabulous party at my favorite Wine Bar in Atlanta with my cheering squad. These were the people who helped me get started, who saw something in me and encouraged me, who saw I wanted to know music so badly and paid for those piano and voice lessons (THANK YOU MAMA and DADDY!) and I wouldn’t be where I am today without any of them. It is just that plain and simple. (Some were missing, like Mrs. Betty Campbell from Lincolnton who left us too soon, but her spirit is with me always.) It was thrilling to have so many special people all together in one room. I’ll always cherish that night and even though it was fast and I didn’t get to spend tons of quality time with everyone, I hope that they will know how much they mean to me and how supported and loved I feel from having that wonderful evening.

Sunday was the matinee performance and I had more family and friends attend. I was especially happy that my nieces and my cousins little girls were able to come. These girls are my shell seekers. We were at the beach not too long ago and all these girls walked with me along the beach and we found some of the most gorgeous shells. We must have had four gallons by the time we left the beach. I was so intrigued by the way the girls selected their shells. They weren’t always looking for the most perfect. Of course, it was really special to find that perfect conch shell, but I loved that they were happiest just walking along and searching. I also really loved watching how different they each were with their selections. It was a lesson that taught me that beauty and preference is different for each who seeks it. So, my shell seekers came to the opera and I hope that they will remember as they get older how important it is to seek your dreams.

Monday morning I flew to New York on the worst flight I have ever had. I won’t go into details, but at one point I found myself arm and arm with the woman next to me. A lot of things were going through my head that morning and the most wonderful part was that I concluded that it would be the best time as any to fall out of the sky because I had just had the most incredible, loving weekend imaginable. I had seen most, not all, of my loved ones, visited with lots of people I always cared for and appreciated, sang some great music, drank fabulous wine with my friends, kissed my husband before I left the airport, and was happy. I realized when I landed that I loved my life beyond words and am so thankful for all the people who have come in and out of my life and for all the wonderful opportunities I have to sing and contribute to some sort of beauty in this sometimes chaotic world.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

On the Road Again

Today was a fabulous day in Atlanta. It was one of those longed for days after many many days of clouds and rain where the sun shines and the breeze is light, the humidity low, and the temperature a perfect 82 degrees. People were grabbing at a day like today, frantically aware that oh too soon these heavenly days will be far and few between when old man winter comes blowing in. Ahhh. Fall. I took advantage of this glorious day and went hiking up Kennesaw Mountain, just north of Atlanta.

I am packing. Again. I can’t believe that it is time to leave Atlanta. It all went by so fast, preparing a new role, rehearsing a new role, and now there are only two performances left. I am really proud of the work I did on Adina. She is such a fun character to play. Her spirit is light and playful and I find so much joy becoming her on stage each night. Now it is almost time to put her away and dig back into Rosina. I start covering Joyce DiDonato at the MET next week. So, yes, I have emotions right now that are at once happy about the last two performances and excited for all the people coming who I haven’t seen in a long time, but I have some sadness because I am leaving home. However, I know now that packing up time always makes me a little melancholy, which is to be expected. Although I am sad to be leaving the working comforts of home, I am very excited to be going back to New York City. It wasn’t always a trip I looked forward to. I had a hard time adjusting to New York. How could I not? I came from a small three stop light Georgia town. I like trees and space and quiet. You just don’t get much of those things in New York and I was like a scared cat the first time I arrived there. Really. All the traffic noise combined with all the mobs of people just over stimulated me and I was worn out trying to take it all in. Plus, I just couldn’t fathom the grit stuck to my face at the end of the day from all of the dirt and other icky things flying through the air. I have gotten LOTS better since that first visit back in 2001 and actually look forward to my stays in the fabulous bustling city. I am really looking forward to being back there and exploring more of the different areas of the city and plan to post blogs about my adventures. After all, I am always looking for inspiration and I always find it in the most surprising places in New York. You’ll see.

I was thinking just now as I was packing about how many times over the past ten years I have packed and unpacked bags. I would really love to know that number. It used to drive me crazy. I would over pack and then under pack. It certainly hasn’t gotten any easier with all the weight restrictions and extra baggage fees. But, that just makes us more creative. I have the special gift now of being able to look at a pile of clothes on the floor and know whether or not I will be able to fit them into a bag and I am also pretty accurate about the weight of the bag and know exactly how many shoes to remove if the bag is overweight to make it the strict 50 pounds. But there is also something very comforting about packing and unpacking so much. I have found that I only take what is necessary and what I truly love. I have to truly love an item to take it with me on the road because if it isn’t special I know it won’t get worn or used. The same goes for books…..however, I now own the fabulous Kindle which has changed my life! No more boxes of books thank you very much! I have even started incorporating this lightness of load into my home life. I simplify and don’t shop as much as I used to because I always think, “Can you carry that around with you? If you buy this are you going to love it sitting at home without you for six months?" There have been times that I forgot that I already owned something because I hadn’t seen the inside of my closet in three months! These questions have really helped me lighten the load which in turn helps out my bank account!

Tomorrow is our penultimate performance and on Sunday we have our final performance. I have several things I want to accomplish with this role before I close the score and put it away. I am glad I have a few more chances to dig deeper into my character. I am never finished with an opera, there is always something more to discover and I love it when out of the blue, something new comes to me on stage because I am committed to the moment and to my text and emotions. I love surprising myself like that when I unconsciously go off script, so to speak, with the staging. It happens when my impulses are free to flow. It happens when I am relaxed and well rehearsed too! I wish we did opera like musical theater at times where we have 8 shows a week. I just feel as though I could shed a lot of expectations and needs if the performances were more of a routine. However, it just isn’t possible because unlike musical theater, opera isn’t amplified. We don’t use microphones; therefore our voices need rest between performances just like an athlete needs rest between marathons. Alas.

Well, it is transition time. The next few days are going to be busy, filled with singing my last two performances and visiting with friends and family and my husband. Monday starts a new adventure in which I will blog about extensively in the upcoming months, COVERING at the MET! But first, Adina and then I will think about Rosina. Just like my darling Scarlett said, "I can't think about that right now. If I do, I'll go crazy. I'll think about that tomorrow."

Monday, October 5, 2009

The above photograph is simply why I sing. It is a card from an 8 year old who plays little Nemorino in The Elixir of Love. He is a darling boy and so very thoughtful. This goes to show you that you never know who you may inspire when you open your heart to sing. A huge thanks to Alex for taking the time to let me know how he feels. I see a true artist in the making! How can I Keep from Singing?