In the flurry of activity this past year has been, my site has gone sadly neglected. Here’s the latest.
I auditioned and was accepted into the San Francisco Symphony chorus! This past fall I’ve sung in a revival of Prokofiev’s “Ivan the Terrible”, a community concert for Dia de los Muertos and am currently gearing up for a busy winter/spring season which includes Poulenc’s “Stabat Mater,” Berlioz’ “Te Deum” and some more Mozart and Bach, West Side Story, Beethoven 9.
You can view the schedule here.
Singing in the chorus so far has been an absolute joy. Our conductor, Ragnar Bohlin, comes from a vocal background and is sensitive to phrasing and our sound together, in addition to preparing us for the roster of orchestral conductors who work with us.
I’ve also had a privilege of singing in a master class with Ragnar. Back in October, I prepared “Ach Ich fuhl’s” (Pamina’s aria from The Magic Flute) and sang one Saturday morning in front of the director and a few other chorus members. Ragnar walked me through the phrasing in more detail, and helped me open up my sound to convey the emotion is character is feeling. I’ve approached this aria in the past with caution, as the notes are exposed, the dynamics must be perfect and the meter a classic Mozart andante. In a nutshell, our director helped me overcome the perfectionist and approach the song with more tenuto.
Last spring I (finally) started taking regular lessons again. I’m currently studying with Eric Howe, a tenor with a thorough pedagogy background. He was a classmate of a few former teachers of mine (it really is a small world) and has been a perfect fit ever since.
I’m currently building up my library of opera arias and contemporary art songs, and will be singing a few of each in a studio recital on December 22nd!
Because of other rehearsal, lesson and work commitments I’m still figuring out where my priority in teaching lies. Back in Boston, I taught regularly, and here I’ve taught the occasional colleague, group or friends-of-friends. Between rehearsals, work and my own study (and commuting between all three on MUNI), I’m not sure where to make this fit quite yet.
So there you have it. One year in and I’ve achieved a few successes, and I’m still trying to figure out others. Stay tuned!
San Francisco has been quite the adjustment, but I’m up and running. The more I learn about the arts out here, the more I like it and the people who choose to pursue it. Since November I’ve done the following things — some music related and some not — but every time I’m back in the practice room (or at least at my keyboard) it’s pure bliss.
-I got a new job at a great company, where I work with some pretty neat people.
-I auditioned (and didn’t do so well this time) for the San Francisco Opera Chorus. Lesson learned in self-care when it comes to illness and stress.
-I taught my first West Coast voice lesson(!), and we improved by leaps and bounds even within just one hour. I’m pretty excited to teach her again.
-I visited my new voice teacher, Eric Howe, for a lesson up in his lovely studio in the Oakland hills. His pet Corgi, Nia, observed my howlings. I’m pretty excited to sing with him (and Nia) again, too.
-I ran my first five mile (and first overall) race in November: the Golden Gate park Turkey Trot! I kept up a 10-min mile more or less through the muddy, misty course. I’m still not sure I beat the turkey, but he sure was tasty later that day.
-I fought two ear infections, three sinus infections and two bouts with the flu (whew!). Needless to say, my new doctor has me on a strict allergy medication regimen. Fingers crossed!
-Okay, fine, and I’m learning a little programming (not just concerts, computer stuff!), too. The CodeYear and RailsBridge/SF Ruby Meetup groups have been especially helpful in building my “stack”. I’m hoping this will help me do magical things to this and other websites — maybe even port it off WordPress one day!
-And I’m still accepting new students. Email email@example.com if you’d like to start!
One cross-country flight, several suitcases, one large shipping container and three weeks to move in and settle, I’ve now landed in San Francisco. I’m currently in the midst of auditions, interviews, studio development and exploring the new neighborhood, but my voice studio will soon be operational in the Bay Area. Because of the smaller living space and out of consideration for new neighbors, I plan to “travel teach” for the time being until a suitable studio space can be found.
My first night in town, while wandering in search of a grocery store, I came across Sunset Music . This is a terrific little store that’s packed with a wide variety of sheet music, piano lesson guides and series’, instrumental chamber music and instrument parts. My studio information and rates are now on file there and I couldn’t be more thankful to have this place close by. They even rent out studio space. Check it out! 2311 Irving St. San Francisco. Tel. (415)731-1725.
Today brings time to update my site and re-assess objectives for teaching in the Bay Area. I’m very, very new to the classical scene out here and welcome any and all suggestions from fellow teachers, prospective students or friends. Feel free to drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org . . . and keep practicing!
I may as well announce this now: I’m moving to San Francisco! I’ll be preparing to audition for several organizations and teaching voice at a few community music schools in the area. This list, below, is as good as any to provide an introduction.
12 Things About Me
- First instrument: Piano
- Age at first music lesson: Six
- First piece performed in public:Prelude in C by JS Bach.
- Piece most recently performed in public: “The Vacant Chair” by George F. Root
- Band camp: No, but I did go to (several) choir camps!
- Marching band: No, but I played violin in orchestra all the way through high school
- College a capella:Nordic Choir sang a capella, but not in the “Sing-Off” sense
- Absolute pitch: yep!
- Moveable do or fixed do: moveable
- Faux pas: Forgetting the words to the National Anthem when I sang for a sports event in high school.
- Favorite conductor hair: Charles Dutoit
- I wish I could play: The cello! I chose violin for 4th grade strings because it was easier to carry on the school bus. . .
Thanks to Eileen Huang for passing this around. Happy fall, everyone!
The Boston Symphony, with the help of Maestro Bramwell Tovey and a large cast of talented singers, performed The Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess with heart and dedication at the end of August. As a member of the chorus — perhaps my first and last time I will ever sing this piece — I was deeply honored to have had the opportunity to present this opera. We all had a blast onstage: we reacted to the actors, we danced, we pretended to speak, we acted.
Though no one could jump like Jermaine Smith, as Sportin’ Life.
(Photo credit, Michael Lutch of the New York Times)
What I’d like to approach was the environment in which we performed this. Back in Boston, and completely by coincidence, The American Repertory Theater was opening its own, musical, version of Porgy and Bess. With a re-worked score, inserted dialogue and less singing, Diane Paulus’ production (with Audra McDonald as Bess) was meant to re-image the Heywards’ and Gershwins’ show for “modern” audiences. It has a different ending, it has spoken dialogue and it’s headed to Broadway.
Our performance was the opera in a concert setting. As Porgy and Bess, to some, walks the line between musical and opera, I’d like to cast my vote that Porgy is an opera: It was written as such– the show is often billed as an American opera. The vocal lines are sung in effective arias or recitative, and there are clear motives and leitmotif for each character and theme. Porgy’s story, while tragically fitting to a dramatic opera, is a simple vignette of a community, rather than a clear-cut plot with a beginning, middle and end. And while there are dance moments, the music does not allow for a more traditional big dance number that we know from other Gershwin shows. Indeed, Porgy and Bess is an opera.
And, tried and true, it once again delivered.
One of my colleagues posted a terrific list on her Facebook page and I just had to share –it’s NEVER easy getting your performing career, organization or studio up and running:
15 Ways to Sabotage a Music Career
1. Avoid networking: don’t use business cards or swap contact info with colleagues & contacts
2. Don’t invite people to your performances
3. After performances, don’t socialize with fans or colleagues
4. Don’t keep in contact with former teachers, employers, colleagues, donors
5. Don’t bother returning calls or emails promptly
6. Don’t include your audio and video clips on your social media profiles
7. Come to rehearsals late and unprepared
8. Be difficult to work with: have an attitude, be a Diva
9. Don’t record and release your own performances
10. Don’t join relevant professional music organizations
11. Don’t read the publications relevant to your field (ArtsJournal, Classical Singer, Musical America, etc.)
12. Don’t bother learning about the business side of your profession (AKA the music industry): after all, you’re an “ARTISTE”!
13. Be convinced that you need to win a competition or land a major record deal in order to have a career (HAHA got that singer friends?)
14. Wait until you get an agent, are “discovered,” or get that lucky break, and then start your career (Yes. Very Smart.)
15. Assume that someone else is going to take care of managing your career (booking your performances, attracting your audience, handling your finances, taxes, etc.).
On the other hand, if you’d rather succeed in a music career, do the reverse of the above
Between singing for Tanglewood gigs, I’ve been busy putting a little update together on my portfolio. Below please find a preview of headshots from Andrew at Gentle Grace Photography . I had a blast in the photo session and can’t wait to share the final pictures –and new demo songs — soon!
I’m typing this from my room at the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, MA. It’s a cool night, around 60 degrees, and I have a hot cocoa by my side. Writing fuel.
There’s a lot happening right now. I’ve just recorded a new demo of opera arias and art songs (to be uploaded soon!), performed a beautifully moving recital in the Tanglewood Festival Chorus with Stephanie Blythe, am working towards memorizing Brahms’ Schicksalslied Op. 54 and Naenie, and managed to pack my scores for “Porgy and Bess” and Beethoven’s 9th symphony for the remainder of this week. The Brahms will be performed Sunday and Gershwin is to be off book by next weekend. Though “Porgy” is a tome by all definitions, at least it’s catchy.
I also sat in on a master class by Swedish baritone Hakan Hagegard (of Magic Flute fame), given to a few of the Tanglewood Music Center vocal fellows. Between a soprano’s Wolf(?) Lied and a baritone’s absurdist Poulenc aria, the lessons were the same — and refreshingly so: perform honestly, breathe, move with intention and sing for the audience because they’re around to hear/watch/experience the story you’re about to tell. Master classes are my favorite way to see how other performers learn and experience the methods teachers use to impart knowledge. It’s a winning situation for everybody.
<–Mr. Hagegard coaching me in Puccini, way back when at New England Conservatory
On this July afternoon, as I ponder memorizing some Brahms, I decided it was finally time to update this little blog. Since late April, there has been a lot going on and there is even more to come. So here goes:
May 2011: Berlioz’ “Romeo et Juliette” with the Boston Symphony Orchestra
This whirlwind performance — merely 10 days after our Bach performance — with Maestro Charles Dutoit blew me away. The strength of the orchestration of the Berlioz, the endurance of the players and vocal capabilities of the soloists to carry sound over such a massive orchestra and chorus provided a sweeping dramatic interpretation of Shakespeare’s play. The catch? As a soprano in the chorus, we spent most of the performance in the green room awaiting our Act III entrance, in which we sang as Capulets and Montagues bemoaning the loss of our children and resolving to stay friends forever. Hence, I could only really gain an iota of what this performance meant from my knowledge of the play and from what we heard over the PA system. And even then, I was thankful. It’s been a long and active Symphony season and, to be honest, I was grateful to sit back and enjoy most of this concert. I adored our rehearsals with Mo. Dutoit. His insight into Berlioz’ desire for the work to be more symphony than opera enabled our ensemble to perform as one great body, rather than individual instruments or voices. Berlioz himself reasoned thus:
“If, in the famous garden and cemetery scenes, the dialogue of the two lovers, Juliet’s asides, and Romeo’s passionate outbursts are not sung, if the duets of love and despair are given to the orchestra, the reasons for this are numerous and easy to understand. First, and this reason alone would be sufficient, it is a symphony and not an opera. Second, since duets of this nature have been treated vocally a thousand times by the greatest masters, it was wise as well as unusual to attempt another means of expression.”
Photo credit of the Boston Herald copyright 2011.
This weekend we performed a powerful concert series here in the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Tanglewood Festival Chorus: Bach’s St. John Passion. This harmonically perfect, intricate work tells of the crucixion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ from the book of John in the Bible. Due to its emotional and often devotional nature, this story isn’t easy to perform or receive, though our performance was much easier to digest and enjoy than a more modern Passion from last season.Perhaps it was the logical and poignant harmony and counterpoint that was inherent to Bach and our understanding of his works that captured the beauty of such a difficult story, but our and the audience’s reception of this series brought many bravos and standing ovations, rather than puzzled looks and quiet (obligatory) applause. We in the chorus seemed to enjoy it more, too.
The opportunity to work with Bach Collegium Japan director Masaaki Suzuki was an immense pleasure. Although, overall, the BSO and our chorus often perform with larger sounds, Maestro Suzuki helped us convey intense emotion through carefully placed expression in the bass and counterpoint. While our rehearsals were long and even a little tedious, it was all for good reasons and –even — a refreshing break from the often fly-by-night Symphony guest conductor appearances. The standing ovations and reviews were evident.
On a final note, in Maestro Suzuki’s tour this spring following the earthquakes and nuclear distaster in Sendai and the Fukushima Plant, the conductor has made it his mission to appeal for donations to local Japanese foundations for the purpose of relief in the affected areas. These concerts were presented in collaboration with the Japan Society of Boston and Greater Boston Food Bank to aid those affected by these disasters, as well as the hungry right here in town. Both organizations, as well as the BSO , are collecting both tangible and monetary donations continually. Please click the links above to learn more about these efforts . . .and to make a donation! As you can see below, our chorus and Maestro Suzuki heavily promote this initiative.
A short and sweet update:
April 12, 2011
Boston Arts Academy senior voice recital. I look forward to seeing one of my students perform classical songs from Baroque through contemporary periods. Emmannuel Church on Newbury St., Boston, MA.
April 21-23, 2011
Bach’s St. John Passion (1749 version) with Boston Symphony Orchestra, Tanglewood Festival Chorus and conductor Masaaki Suzuki of the Bach Collegium Japan. What better way to celebrate Easter than with beautiful music? Concert and ticket information: http://bso.org/bso/mods/content1.jsp?id=44200079
Symphony Hall, Boston, MA.
May 4-7, 2011
Berlioz “Romeo et Juliette” with Boston Symphony Orchestra, Tanglewood Festival Chorus and conductor Charles Dutoit. This dramatic symphony tells this ages-old tale with the grandeur only Berlioz could have envisioned. Part of the BSO’s 20-under-40 ticket promotion. Information here: http://bso.org/bso/mods/perf_detail.jsp?pid=prod3720054 Symphony Hall, Boston, MA.
More detailed information, remarks, reviews and anecdotes to follow — I’ve been keeping busy with all of this music to learn!