Thursday, February 25, 2010

a Sesame Street Opera

I am listening and watching a recitative being sung by Big Bird. Awesome. This is followed by Marilyn Horne singing, "C is for Cookie."

What a great way to teach kids about this art form!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

in charge

I was completely in charge of the Chicago rehearsal today from 10-3. I was a nervous wreck beforehand, knowing that it was the first time the pit orchestra was playing with the cast, not knowing if this would end up being a great rehearsal or a horrible rehearsal. I wasn't leaving any room for mediocre with the things that needed to be accomplished.

I made a schedule. A minute-to-minute schedule that had everyone busy at all times, whether you were a chorus member, a lead role, or a pit member. It was stressful to put it together and I had to exercise vigorously to get my stomach to unknot. I had little qualms about whether the kids would respond to the schedule, just qualms about the realistic nature of it, not knowing how the first rehearsal with pit would go.

See, I knew a couple things.

First, the assistant music director, who had been getting the pit ready the last few weeks, had nothing but negativity to report. And she knows her stuff. Worrying.

Second, there were still a few songs that we had never touched on before, or had not done well lately with the cast. The traditional apathy was setting in and I was worried about my assistant director's opinion of their readiness. She has worked at the school since I was there in middle school and is a very opinionated personality.

But. All was as well as could be hoped for. The pit played pretty well. Like, not the train-wreck I was hearing they were. My assistant was flabbergasted, but pleased. The cast sang and danced really well. They still need work, but they responded really well to knowing what was expected of them - they did independent work, respected my work ethic and adopted the premise of work hard then play hard and don't get caught slacking. They did me proud.

The drama director, as I said in the previous post, is a frazzled, fly-by-the-seat-of-her-pants kind of woman. While I like the ideas she has and I'm sure she is an amazing's not a great thing for a director to be. I am often frustrated by her lack of commitment to a schedule for the rehearsal. The students get frustrated as well, not knowing what is coming next. If I am ever permanently in a position like this, I hope I can make it a priority to be organized with scheduling.

I really enjoy this 2-month job. It's one of the busiest times of my year, but I really like every moment I'm with the high school students. I know there is so much more to a high school teaching position than what I'm doing, but it's the first time I've thought I might like it better than elementary.

Monday, February 15, 2010

"Alright, kids, let's start from the top."

I am running a rehearsal for "Chicago," and not only the show, but a high school version of the show. I am the music director, working with the drama teacher, dance instructor, pianist, and students.

The drama teacher who is spacey and frazzled and has too much on her plate.

The dance instructor who's marriage just fell apart and has much on her mind.

The pianist who is opinionated and hard for me to read at times.

And, the students. Ah, the students. So much I could say. They are tired (it's their vacation), unsure, uncoordinated, tough-acting, sensitive beings. I am trying to bust their butts to work hard on this music, which needs attitude and precision...when they give me apathy and routine.

I am not a leader. Not in my definition of the word. A leader doesn't let others' attitudes upset them. A leader has a vision that they know how to achieve. A leader can communicate well with others. A leader is a rock of self-assurance.

I am not that leader. Sometimes I see myself acting that way. I can be a good actor when I want to be. But I don't like myself very much when I'm that way. I have moments when I am coarse, rushed, bossy, or impatient.

And then I come back to myself and don't like who I just was. And I pendulum back to the other extreme, where I doubt my actions, my thoughts, other's observations, and wonder if I'll ever be able to just be true. Who am I supposed to be, really? I've always thought of myself as a more type-B personality:
- I don't like to cause waves
- I want people to get along
- perfectionism isn't as important as peace
However, when you're leading a group of people, there are a myriad of personalities to deal with. Not everyone will agree with you or each other on any number of decisions. Peace is not natural in this world. When people are in disagreement - this is where I need confidence to lead with grace and truth.

I don't like being the one responsible for where it all stops. Lately, that's a place I've found myself frequently. There is no one to hide behind - no one to pass things off to, or defer answers to. It's mine to call. I really don't like that. I feel inexperienced and shy about decision making. I don't trust my judgment or ability to be objective.

The drama director is a wonderful woman who likes to ski and has the joy of a daughter getting married in the spring. She is talented and spirited and I enjoy working with her. She never makes me feel the 20+ years younger than her that I am.

The dance instructor is a beautiful, Godly woman who takes the time to listen and understand and open herself up to you. I cannot fathom how she still does that given all she's been through.

The pianist is a friend of mine from college, who struggles with social awkwardness at times. I have to remember that she probably doesn't understand me as much I don't understand her. Sometimes I feel there are many people like this in my life...and maybe it's me, not them. I need to love them through God's eyes. My own often don't work well.

And the students. They can be draining, but they are usually life-giving. They are excited to be shown how to perform, to make the music and the drama that this opportunity affords them. They give me smiles, little funny comments, and they try really hard and sometimes succeed when I push them. They give me the gift of response. They let me lead them. I love them for that. I come back to the next rehearsal for that.

I don't know how to be the leader that it seems I must be in so many areas of my life. I have leaned on others for so much of my life. I know it's called growing up, but it's a little weird realizing that all these older people treat you as an adult too - not a "young adult" - no, no, that's different. That's the term that means "I-know-you're-technically-an-adult-but-you-still-act-kinda-immature-and-I-don't-trust-you-yet" Now, they trust me. Doesn't mean I get it right all the time, or even most of time. But it's good to realize that neither do they. We're all just supposed to try as best we can to do the work before us.

So. I'm the leader, I will lead. I might look foolish at times. I might screw up and have to correct myself. But, maybe if I stay true and honest, knowing when to speak and when to shut up, they'll keep following. The following is more important than the leading.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Answered prayers

I submitted my application for the Masters program about a week ago, and I got an email from the director saying I have been accepted about an hour ago.

(I was told that I wouldn't know until April.)

I don't have to take the techniques of conducting class since I took it as an undergrad, saving me about $1200 dollars, and giving me the opportunity to conduct a higher caliber choir later.

I have been given an amazing gift of free childcare this summer (while I'm doing this Masters program) from a generous couple of women in my church, who simply want to spend time with Jeremiah. I started crying on the phone when they told me.

(we don't have money to pay for the amount of childcare that we will need in the upcoming months. This has stressed to me out like you wouldn't believe.)

There is a huge possibility that we could move soon to a nicer place and pay less money while helping out an old friend. This would allow for us to pay off debt faster, pay more out of pocket for schooling, and save for a place of our own someday...all of which seemed so out-of-reach lately.

My church is changing. There's not much more I can say about this now, but it's needed to happen. One thing I'm thrilled about is Jeremiah now has a Sunday School teacher, so he can actually have some "church" too.

God is good. I will try to stop developing ulcers now.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

I read an article the other day in Classical Singer about tone color. It was detailing research that has been done about a singer's native language affecting the specific tone color of the voice, i.e. vocal color beginning with speech. The way a language pronounces vowels will affect a person's vocal color. They give the example of many Russians recently coming onto the scene, bringing with them a different set of tone colors than are traditionally heard. They give as another example the impending influx of Chinese and other Asian singers. Mandarin has 4 conversational tones that are used which would lend itself to many exciting new tone colors to be heard. This could be tough on traditional English and European voice types.

Interesting thoughts anyway. It's on if you want to look it up - but you have to be a subscriber.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


February is one of my hardest months to get through.

I know some of you out there agree with me. It's just...blah. It's routine. I know there's Valentine's Day, and that's cool, but it's not anything more than a day. It's not like you decorate the house and wait for it to happen.

Unless some of you do. Which is fine. (Maybe that's how you get through your February?)

I usually end up being somewhat depressed around this time of year and it totally has to do with the weather and lack of fresh air. It's really cold in New England for a long time. This southern-born girl does not appreciate a winter that is 4 months long. Sometimes (most times), longer. And February is right smack in the middle of that long stretch of miserableness. If it was up to me, I might have moved to warmer regions by now and just dealt with finding all new friends. My hubby doesn't go for that idea. He says winter is beautiful.

And today, there was a snowstorm. Well, a sort of snowstorm. As in, they predicted this huge snowfall and horrible commute and we got barely a dusting. Ah well. The nice thing is, the old snow looks fairly new again. And it was a change. It was nice to have something besides cold, dry, and windy. Falling snow is beautiful. Not the change I would have asked for (70 degrees and sunny, anyone?), but it is the change that was given.

So, I praise God for his willingness to bring some different into this February, even if it's a sensible different. It is the small graces that keep me alive and kicking.

Thank you, Lord, for the snow.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Flip at F

The latest vocal issue I've been tackling comes with the territory: practicing. I actually love to practice, mostly because I just love to sing, so it's always happening. But the kind of practicing I need to learn to do is more in the category of "workout." I had a lesson the other day with my fabulous teacher, and she told me that the only way my voice will be able to bridge those incredibly awful passagio gaps between middle and chest is by strengthening from head voice down and chest voice up. I was relieved to hear that, since all I had ever been taught was head-voice-down-head-voice-down-don't-put-it-in-chest-it'll-sound-too-harsh.

You mean it's ok for a mezzo to use her chest voice? To mix it in, but also use it fully!?

"Of course," she replies. "As long as it isn't strained."

Fabulous. I am on a roll. So, I am to create a regimen, a vocal workout that will strengthen the notes in the breaks, but also give me a general shape up in my singing. Things like:

*5 minutes of panting in 30 second intervals
*10 minutes of the Shakespeare exercise in head voice only up and down by half steps to the metronome set at 60
*10 minutes of Shakespeare exercise in fuller voice at same tempo and pitches


I like this plan. Like all good workouts, it will be exciting for a while, and then become mundane and like work. But, I know it will be better for me to do this and then add any warm ups and repertoire. So I will work and not have a little flip at my F above middle C. :)

Monday, February 01, 2010

DONE! (almost)

I am finally finished with my Master's application. :)

The hardest part by far was dealing with my incompetancy involving anything to do with technology. UGH. I had a simple task of recording myself for 15 minutes doing a lesson with some students, and transfering it onto a DVD. Simple.

Not so simple for cretens such as myself. I literally wanted to throw either myself or the computer at the wall. Jon decided to take over at that point.

He very nicely stayed up way too late last night making it all work (and was exhausted this morning). So, I brought my laptop to work today and spent my prep trying (and failing and trying again and failing again) to get the introduction-to-the-lesson video and the lesson video onto the same DVD. Finally (I have no idea how), I did it.

And I tested the DVD by playing it on a normal DVD player, and IT WORKED.

Now I just have to get a test done to make sure I don't have TB and I'm done.

(who gets TB nowadays anyway? Is this a problem in suburban America?)