Monday, February 14, 2011


"Noise creates superficiality - it's the curse of our modern times." - David Schiller

I love this quote. I tell my students all the time to not make noise...but to make music. I think they're finally starting to understand my meaning. Music is not just notes on a page or playing an instrument correctly. It is embracing the aesthetic as well.


This can also mean to slow down and enjoy the moments that are not filled with radio/TV/movies/discussion/music/video games/etc. It's unusual and a little scary to feel such silence, but it can be good, too. It makes us face ourselves.

Friday, February 11, 2011

ramblings and many hats.

Been thinking a lot about the many hats I wear, depending on the day of the week it is. Today is a mostly-mommy-and-sometime-voice-teacher day. The child is actually sleeping, the house is clean, and I feel triumphant as I blog some time away waiting for my voice student to arrive.

Today has been a wonderful day so far. I don't have anything specific to post, just trying to get some memories down. I can't help the looming feeling that life is about to drastically change...probably because I know it is! I am being pretty consistently reminded by others (and my own over-active mind) that two children is most certainly more than work load, attention, devotion, money, intentionality (is that a word?), and many, many other things. I am finding that I am more and more covetous of the time I have with my first little boy - and he is just loving every minute I spend with him to learn, read, play, and such.

I have begun the nesting process...I remember this vividly when I was about this big with Jeremiah (for the record, I am about 27 weeks now - just starting the 3rd trimester). I feel an overwhelming need for floors to be swept/mopped/waxed, windows to be washed, new bed linens, fresh coats of paint everywhere, clutter to be thrown away or put into a home and lots of things to be baked. For those who know me well (like, my husband), they keep pointing out how great, although, unusual this is! I am enjoying being domestic for a while...maybe this time it will stick a bit more than last time. Especially the baking...I don't like to bake, usually, because it's messier than cooking - but the results are really worth it! (although, with a 3 year old sugar-monger and a pregnant mama who shouldn't be eating so many sweets...maybe not a good habit to get into?)

Jeremiah has been in the local public preschool for a little over a month now, and is just LOVING it. Every day, he comes home and talks about his teachers and is finally starting to talk a bit about what he's doing during his mornings there. I know I haven't blogged a lot about what's going on with him, but it's enough for the general public to know for now that he has some developmental delays that have been hampering his learning. The good thing is, with the new program he's on at this new school, he's starting to blossom. I have high hopes that by next year he will be much more independent and, hopefully, more like a normal 4 year old! He is the sweetest child, really agreeable and loving, and his therapy times have only brought that out all the more, as he finds new ways to express himself.

Last month, I also started my annual gig as the local high school's Music Director for their Spring Musical. It always sounds like such an awkward title...too many "music's"...anyway. This year, we are performing "Working," which for those who don't know it, is a cabaret-style show that celebrates the blue-collar worker in America. We have 17 seniors this year, and thought it would be a good fit for showing off many students, instead of only 2 or 3 leads. The cast is great, the music's fun, my teaching team is great, as usual. The only problem is, these wonderful snow days that we keep having. I have had to cancel 3 rehearsals so far, and am scrambling to get all these lovely seniors the time to to rehearse their songs. It's been stressful feeling like we are already a week away from vacation, and there are still some parts of songs that are not learned yet. Not to mention other, bigger ensemble songs that have been learned, then reviewed only once. (can you tell I don't trust the harmonies to stick?) There's only so much I can do, but I am definitely feeling the pressure. February vacation is supposed to be the time when the pit orchestra comes in and begins playing with us...and we won't have half our rhythm section in a show that has mostly folk, rock, and gospel songs. I keep telling myself to take it one week at a time and keep reminding students to "review, review, review" so they don't forget something once they learn it during one of our few rehearsals. These two and 1/2 months out of the year are some of the most rewarding and most stress-inducing months I have. They stretch me to new limits every time.

In the meantime, I am also getting ready for "Sopranopalooza" with W__________ Opera Works on Febuary 26. I am proud to say I have a dress to wear, shoes to match, and the music memorized and ready to go. I'm singing one half of Lakme's Flower Duet, never met the other soprano, but hopefully it will work. Also singing a pregnant woman song, "Christmas Lullaby", so that will be apropo. :) The director is excited...she said it is a "very womanly situation for a womanly concert." I just hope I can breathe. Then, it will be no more solo singing for a while so I can have a baby and focus solely on family for at least 3-4 months.

Also...looking for a long-term sub for my part-time public school music position...anyone local need some time/experience/money? My principal is letting me sniff someone out - very nice of him. Teaching has been going SO well this year...I credit my master's program that I started last summer to my feeling of success. It spurred me on to new ideas, gave me courage to believe that I can actually teach well and still be a "fun" teacher" (I know...terrible. But I have found that I have many stereotypes in my own mind that I have to break), and I am so excited by what my students understand and do on a daily basis. I am a little disappointed to be defering this summer, because of, well, having a baby, because it was so inspiring and fun to be taught to teach again.

Gotta go prepare the voice lesson. Beginning sight-reading today...she's never done it before. :)

Thursday, February 03, 2011

the real artists

I've been reading a lot about artistry and creativity - people who claim to be artists, or don't and are in spite of their claim; artwork that is unconventional and wouldn't be called "art" per se (like, essays or cooking or website-design); how to be a "real" artist.

I wonder if our sense of what a "real" artist defined by pride.

Think about how much being recognized is part of how "good" an artist you think you are. Many people try to escape the trap of people-pleasing...trying instead to "do justice" to the art form...but humans are frail and mean and humble and feel the need for recognition, the need for significance at something.

And those of us whom God has blessed with some sort of extra-creative side to our brainworkings...I wonder if we all struggle with "art-for-art's-sake" vs. "look-at-me-and-how-much-I-contribute-to-the-art!" Or maybe it's as simple as the "can-I-be-labeled-a-good-artist-now?" insecurity every time we present our art form to public scrutiny.

I know, for me, I struggle with accepting that I can sing well/play piano well/teach music well, etc (anything to do with my musical self) if it isn't acknowledged by those who are, in my opinion, the "higher-ups" in my field. What I constantly come up against is my family, who, for all their other wonderful qualities, have little to no experience with classical music, and so have little to no barometer to measure my "success" with a certain concert/recital/solo passage. My mom reminds me all the time that God is blessing people through my singing, and it is just not significant whether or not it was, technically, perfectly executed.

Also, I think there is this belief out there that some people just "have it." And, I think, to some degree, this is true. Like I said, some people have been blessed with supernatural creativity. But, I went around for a long time thinking that I shouldn't be having to work so hard to get recognition, for, if I was truly talented, things would just get handed to me as soon as I opened my vocal folds to bless others' listening ears...right? (how pompous of me that I actually thought this at one time...but there it is)

The real deal is, the truly talented ones either fizzle out from not working at their art, or they become really amazing from working so hard at their art. Lucky is the person that learns early on that you cannot rest on your talent...hard work is the other 80%. Professional ________ (fill in the blank) work hard to be where they are at. They are famous because they don't just rest on talent and recognition for their natural ability.

For example - think of Terrell Owens...famous NFL receiver who has been bounced around from team to team because he is talented enough for any team to want him, but he slouches and doesn't work as hard as he is talented...and consequently has a bad attitude because coaches get tired of him. He thinks it's his right to catch more balls than anyone else. Now, what should have been a Hall-of-Fame receiver is wasting his prime years with a bad attitude and a team who is fed up with him. There are countless examples of super-talented people, some whom I know, and some whom I don't, who lack understanding that natural talent is not the entire means to the end.

I have been guilty of this, as I'm sure many of you out there have at times. I want to do better. I want to truly recognize that it is God who gives these talents, and He also gives the opportunities, but I have to work at them. He created us to work and give Him glory, not give ourselves glory. It's hard....I love the spotlight, especially when there's acclamation for something I just do I turn it around and make it about my Lord? How do I be an artist unto Him?

I think it begins with a lot of prayer and a lot of grace, learned at the feet of Jesus. He teaches that we are to desire His Father's approval, not the approval of men. Maybe being God's artist doesn't look like much to the world...wouldn't make me famous...but, then again, Jesus wasn't much to be desired during His earthly ministry, according to the Bible. Yet, to those who took time to look and listen, He was life and fresh air and truth.

This is an honest struggle I've been having for years...and I hope I was able to convey it somewhat accurately here. How do I become the top-notch artist I so desire to be, while not letting the pride that seems necessary to that profession overtake my desire for God's kingdom? Why would I have this talent from Him if not to share it? How do I humble myself in singing, but still sing "skillfully and with a loud voice"? (Ps. 33:3)

Any of my creative types out there reading, I would love your thoughts. :)