Thursday, February 17, 2011

Singing in the Crooked Letter State

A few weeks ago headed south through thick northeast snow to Hattiesburg, Mississippi. I was invited by my dear friends from graduate school, Kerrin and Taylor, to come and do a recital and master class at the University of Southern Mississippi. It was a great opportunity to perform the songs I am recording on my first recording project which is coming up soon. I loved being back in the South and being with old friends, staying up late, getting to know their three young children, and cooking all our favorite fattening foods. I had birthday cake three days in a row because Kerrin makes specialty cakes. I had to try all her new fabulous flavors. I also had the most incredible smoked barbecue made by Taylor which he cooked in the smoker for nearly 24 hours. I spent time playing doll house, reading books, and playing the Wii with the kids. I made fake lolly pops for Graces' birthday party and a wreath for Kerrins' front door of her new house. It was a great week for me to step aside from the constant climb up the singing success ladder and just be with people. It was important for me to get back to myself and remember other things I used to do a lot of, like cook, decorate, and sit in the sun and visit with friends. A lot of times I find myself working so hard and being focused that I forget the substance from which all of this music revolves. I loved every second of my visit even with one of the kids having the worst time with a bout of stomach flu, which thankfully and surprisingly, no one else got.
To be down there spending time in this way was therapeutic for this country girl currently caught up in the big city life.

Having the recital and master class was just icing on the cake! I had a great performance with Mary Chung, a doctoral student at Southern Miss. She was such a great collaborator and hard worker. We managed to pull together a really nice performance with such little time. I salute her for her hard work and fun spirit. We really enjoyed working together and laughed when we realized we were both married to men named Carlos.

I didn't' think the week could get any better or more rewarding and then it was time for the master class. I don't usually like master classes. More often than not they turn into episodes of American Idol with better music. I've never really liked the term 'master' as part of the class. I'd prefer it to be called student class , since that is what we all really are and should never forget we are all always learning and always searching for better ways to sing. Anyway...
The master class was incredibly fun and the singers were very talented and most importantly, extremely receptive to my suggestions. All the ladies who sang had such eager personalities and were good sports. It isn't easy getting up in front of people to sing. It is double hard getting up in front of people to sing knowing that critical thoughts are going through everyone's head. But, they did it and took my suggestions, and all in all, made some enormous changes fairly quickly. I didn't have any magical words to say. I mainly focused on having them take breaths that were part of the character and getting each singer to take their own time in the phrasing of the music. We often get ahead of ourselves as singers, trying to fit into someone else's tempo whether it be the pianist accompanying the singer or a conductor. Finding your own tempo and own space to breathe is a challenge and one that has to be incorporated in a young singers' practice. I loved my time with these ladies in Hattiesburg and heard some really great, mature singing. I saw eager students willing to put it out there and experiment with new ideas and I felt a true openness from them, too. There are good things going on at so many schools across the country and after this visit down south, I am hopeful for the arts knowing that they will continue through these fine talented young ladies! Bravi girls!

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