the heart and the voice

(It’s been a while. I had the best of intentions when I said I would be blogging regularly on my newest goals and dreams. I’ve been at work, slowly but surely, and either haven’t had anything to write or I’ve been so occupied by life that this blog had to come second. Sorry I wasn’t as good as my word… but I’m back for now. OK, disclaimer over…)

The new year has been a time of redirecting for me, in a more profound way than usual. Perhaps redirection isn’t quite the right word, maybe returning is more accurate. My heart, my soul, my body have been missing singing in a huge way since summer when I let my practicing slide to make room for the big changes taking place in our lives. The habits have taken this long to make their way back into my life; and only by necessity. I finally found something in Vancouver that I wanted to audition for and then I had to practice, no choice in the matter.

Several things happened in those evenings of finding my voice again. Like returning to a house once lived in and discovering a nook that one doesn’t remember being there, new parts of my voice opened up to me. A new note up top, a new note or two in the basement. After not singing classical music for nearly six months! Something I will never understand about singing is that breaks are often the best possible thing for one’s voice. I also found that phrases in arias that were hard to get through in one breath were now effortless. It could be all the running I’ve been doing… I am probably in the best shape of my life, but I didn’t expect this to cross over to my singing for some reason.

Most importantly, I am rediscovering my heart for singing. As a young singer trying to make my way in the world, it’s incredibly easy to lose sight of this and think only about how to get heard, how to get roles, how to get that high G. I am remembering what it feels like to sing and to communicate and to connect to my heart in the process. It’s a beautiful thing. There is absolutely no other reason I should be singing, and if I should forget this ever again, I hope it’s a truth that will return to me, or that I’ll quit entirely.

It’s all happening. I have a lead role in an operetta in May, two possible upcoming (big) auditions, and I’m in the process of beginning a teaching studio again. This is my heart, to communicate truth with my voice and to help others do the same. By the grace of God, the opportunities keep coming when I make myself available and prepared.

The preparedness, the diligence it takes to get there, will always be the hard part for me. But I am learning to conquer the excuses, one step at a time, and give myself grace when I fall.

three things

Okay, here we go. I’ve made my decisions and here are the three goals from my list I’m going to be focusing on for the rest of the year and into 2011. I’ll introduce each today, and give you my plan in general, then start a weekly-ish post on each to keep myself accountable and y’all updated.

One: number 9, develop a Rule of Life and stick with it. Our home church in Seattle, Bethany Community Church, has been focusing on Rule of Life for a couple of years and I love the idea, I just have procrastinated on actually making it my own. The idea is all about cultivating habits and spiritual practices to deepen one’s relationship with God and walk with him on a daily basis. From these habits and this relationship will also stem habits of service and connections with one’s neighbors. Over the next week, I will be taking inventory of what I am currently doing in terms of spiritual disciplines and deciding, prayerfully, where I want to be and what God is calling me to. I won’t be making it too rigid so I don’t set myself up for failure, and I will be selective with what I share on this blog; after all, this is between me and God. I will write about my journey with this Rule of Life on Mondays.

Two: number 10, perfect my aria package. Lately it’s been easy to forget that I’m a singer. The process of moving countries and working 5.5 days a week has robbed me of my stamina in the singing realm. I have so many desires and goals, but no practice regime to speak of at the moment. So here’s the process: first, I will make room in my life to practice four days a week. Ideally, I’d be singing every day, but I just know this isn’t possible right now. Once I get there, I’ll figure out ways to make use of other time, but first, I just need to get my chops (and high notes) back. Second, I will find a teacher in Vancouver. Money is tight so I don’t know how often I’ll be able to take lessons, but I need guidance and someone else’s expertise. Third, I’m going to choose the five arias I want in my audition repertoire and work them to death until they’re perfect. For those of you who aren’t classical singers or opera geeks like me, an aria is a song from an opera, and I need a bunch of them ready to sing for auditions. So ready that I could be shaken awake at 2 am and sing them with such perfection and passion I could make a statue cry. I’d love to be there by next fall for the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. We’ll see. I’ll write about singing on Thursdays.

Three: I want to be at my goal weight by March 1st. (Okay, this isn’t on the list, but I’m breaking my own rule and I’m totally okay with it.) I started losing weight by exercising and using an iPhone app called LoseIt! in May, and I’m halfway to my goal, but I took a break from actively working at it while I trained for the half marathon. I will (starting TOMORROW, really) get back to tracking what I eat and working out to lose weight and get my whole body, not just my running legs, in great shape. I’m planning to kick off with 30 days in a row of Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred (lame, I know… but SUPER effective) and running 3 times a week with one long run on weekends. I may be setting myself up for failure with Christmas just around the corner, but I’m sure going to try! I’m deliberately not sharing my exact goal weight online, by the way. Everyone’s body is different and numbers are only partially useful. I’m also going by how I feel in my clothes, and how much energy I have. I have a number in mind but I want to remain flexible about it. How’s that for a wishy-washy goal? but I know what I want and how I’m going to get there and that’s what’s important. I’ll write about eating and exercise goodness on the weekend.

Can I do it? Only time will tell. Stick with me to find out! Happy Thanksgiving to my lovely friends, family and readers in the good ol’ U S of A!

the great balancing act

Three months ago, I wrote a list of 30 things I want to do before I turn 30. I really like the list I came up with, and I was feeling very optimistic about my prospects of meeting these goals, but optimism alone isn’t enough to get me there. Item number one, ‘run a half marathon’, is imminent at this point; but it’s taken a LOT of work to get there. A lot of work, plus some organization, plus some accountability. It seems to me that if I’m to succeed at the rest of my list, I need to take some cues from how this whole running thing has worked for me.

It’s easy in this life to lose our balance somewhere between the day-to-day activities and what we really want to be doing. Saturday morning rolls around, and the laundry, errands, or leftover work squeak squeak their way toward the front of the line, and the practicing, working out, writing or calls to friends get put off again. I’ve been letting things slide for far too long and not regularly acting on any of the things I say are the priorities in my life. Laundry is definitely NOT a priority!

So here’s what I’m going to do. I’m picking three items from my list. They will be different enough to keep the spice of life abundant, attainable enough to keep me from giving up, and interesting enough to not bore you to tears. Then, I’m going to give myself a specific deadline for each, and make a plan. Finally (this is where you come in) I will be writing about my progress, struggles and victories right here. Accountability is key! And what’s more public than my very own bloggy blog?

Here I go to choose 3 things from my list! Anyone have ideas? Expect my plan by Saturday! Oh, and on Sunday, I WILL check off the first item! Wooohoooo!!! Wish me luck!

Does anyone want to join me on my goal-getting challenge? Let’s do this!

30 things

I’ve been inspired lately by a few other bloggers’ lists. They have taken different forms and sizes, but all have something in common: goals and dreams. Since I’ve been thinking so much about goals lately, and having decent success with one in particular, I decided to take on this task. So, here we go:

30 things I want to do before I turn 30

1. finish a half marathon 11.21.10 in 2:14:13

2. audition for a real opera company

3. plant a garden

4. keep a garden alive long enough to harvest it

5. make new friends

6. keep the old

7. commute entirely by bike and public transit

8. read my Bible more

9. Develop a Rule of Life and stick with it

10. perfect my aria package

11. compete in the Metropolitan Opera Council Auditions and NATS Artist Award

12. have a baby

13. continue learning how to be a good wife to Nate

14. see the Aurora Borealis

15. hike part of the Pacific Crest Trail

16. ride the STP (Seattle-to-Portland)

17. start a music school (or at least write the business plan)

18. star in a local opera

19. raise a puppy

20. become a local-ivore

21. become more politically aware and active

22. cook my way through a classic cookbook- Julia Childs or Mark Bittman?

23. see NYC

24. attend a professional conference for teaching voice or Kindermusik

25. start a neighborhood gathering or community dinner in our home

26. become a better piano and guitar player

27. write songs and play gigs

28. discover how to live more simply

29. learn to live in the moment

30. write more letters and cards

We’ll see how it goes! 5 years and a few months. Can I do it?

P.S. I know you’re reading this… but I don’t know who you are! Leave me a comment, ’cause I want to hear about you, too! What’s on your list?

champagne, arias, and iTunes

This was a lovely evening. My last voice studio recital was tonight, and my kids, as slammed as they are at the end of the school year, sang absolutely wonderfully. They have made so much improvement, and I feel so affirmed as a teacher! I only have one more lesson with some of them. My heart breaks to leave them, but I know I will hear about their lives from afar. Who knows… maybe one day, I’ll be competing with them.

The other success of the evening was I debuted “Ach, ich fuhl’s”, an opera aria I’ve been working on for a while. It went quite well, and although I know I still have a lot of work to do on it, it felt good to get a trial run out of the way. There were even a few moments that I felt the piece take over and my voice do things I didn’t tell it to (good things), which is always a bit exciting.

Nate and I came home to pack for our trip to California and our neighbor was throwing some sort of party. On a Thursday evening. A loud one. I have to admit, I was a little peeved a) because they were being loud and I wanted to go to sleep and b) because I wasn’t invited. But as I’m stuffing my airline-approved-sized toiletries into my airline-sized clear ziploc bag, Nate says, “Listen, honey, someone is singing!” Oh great. Bad karaoke is all I need right now, I think. Then Nate continues “I think they’re singing opera!” I go to the window, and sure enough, some mezzo-soprano is belting an aria next door, and quite well. Being the sneak and the extrovert I am, I slip on some shoes and mosey into the courtyard. I hear her finish and everyone clap, so I knock on the door (why not?!). She yells “entree vous!” so I entree… and introduce myself… and before I know it I’m drinking a glass of champagne (it’s Champagne Thursday, of course) and introducing myself to several local opera singers. My neighbor Vicki, who I’ve met once or twice, turns out to be a dramatic mezzo-soprano who sings in local houses, and now I have an open invitation to come over and practice on her baby grand and attend the frequent “diva nights” she and her friends hold.

Moral of the story: when the diva sings, knock on the door, and you may just be handed a glass of champagne.

Side note: This photo also contains proof of my newly-spent iTunes giftcard. I am now the proud owner of The Weepies and Fleet Foxes most recent albums… if only to prove that an opera singer can have varied tastes in music.

I knew it!

Turns out my instincts were totally right. I love it when that happens!

I went to a workshop tonight at the 5th Ave Theatre on “effective auditioning for professional musical theatre”. I expected to feel completely out of my league, but instead, I ended the night feeling like my theories and philosophy of auditioning were pretty much on target. It was so refreshing to hear  the artistic director of the 5th say that what he really wants to see is someone shine and be themselves, to give their very best, and to make the auditioners feel something. WOW! In a world where everyone is trying to “be somebody” and to make an impression, it feels like being yourself is never good enough… but that’s exactly what they want!

After tonight, I feel tenfold confidence to go to an audition, and not worry about the outcome. It’s just another opportunity to shine and to perform, which is what I’m out to do anyway!

So, I signed up for a slot in the 5th Ave General auditions. Even if nothing comes of it (and actually, I hope it doesn’t… that would complicate things a little too much), every audition is a chance to practice and to hone my skills.

Now, what to sing…

It’s not easy in Soprano-land

Every now and then it hits me that I have chosen one of the toughest rows to hoe. So I’m a good singer. So I have a degree in voice. There are a million of us out there… what makes me special?

I think I keep expecting someone to tell me where to go, who to sing for, which arias to learn, where to get a masters, who to study with; in short, exactly how to live my life and succeed as a singer. But no one has the answers, because everyone gets there in a totally different way. What works for one person might not get the next person anywhere at all.

So what does a girl do when the thing that makes her feel the most alive is singing? Especially this girl: I’m ambitious. I’m competitive. I don’t like being second best. But I’m not willing to give up my entire life and every relationship I’ve ever had to get to the top.

My teacher asked me the other day to envision where I want to be in ten years. Not just in singing, but in life in general. It’s hard for me to draw up this image; the things I want are seemingly incompatible. I hope mommy in ten years. I want to be a loving and dedicated wife. I want to be making a difference in people’s lives, and serving God with my whole heart. AND, I want to be singing, and singing well, not feeling like I wasted the years I had studying and preparing my voice. How does it all fit?

I feel like it’s hopeless to try to make it all work together. Like packing for a month in a weekend-size bag. Is it that I want too much? Or that my bag’s not big enough?