Thursday, December 26, 2013

Dr. Kris Voice Students


You must register before the first day of classes or I cannot teach you. Come see me early Monday, January 6 if you have a problem with this. I have done the overrides for all of you so you should all be able to register, but of course let me know if you have issues. See below: I need to have a lesson with each of you by the end of Tuesday, January 7 if at all possible.

Please email me your schedules before the first day of class, January 6 (Valencia wins the award for being first). The permanent schedule will be posted as soon as I have everyone's information. 

I will only be in town the first two days of class due to a conference in NYC, and I would like to see all of you in those two days if remotely possible. Please note your availability those two days, and we'll start our work then.

Following are repertoire assignments for spring 2014. Bring one or two pieces to your first lesson, ready to work. Do not come in with nothing learned: we only have 14 weeks in the semester now!

Jake: bring anything from NATS rep (either category). Since your recital is so early, plan on working two pieces per lesson. For each lesson, everything must be memorized.

Nole: bring anything from your NATS rep. Come with your musical theatre rep chosen as well. Since you are competing in two categories, have at least one piece memorized for each lesson (two is preferred).

John: Handel in first lesson in January, preferably memorized or close to off-book. Dichterliebe in second lesson: have #4-6 ready to work; "Nocturne” by third lesson

MK: Two pieces from your recital, memorized and ready to work.

Valencia: Bring the two new French pieces, and we'll slog through the text. Have them learned well enough to plug in the words.

Kelsey: "Drink to me only with thine eyes" by Quilter (try both keys and see what feels best: the library has both volumes).

Amanda: Handel's "Va godendo" (the library will probably have this; you may also check online. Let me know if you have trouble, as I own it.)

Madison: bring in something you know, and we'll choose new music together.

Have a wonderful break, and enjoy some well-deserved down time! Happy New Year.

Friday, December 6, 2013

End of semester reminders

Folks, to recap today's performance class announcements, please remember the following:


  • Complete your listening assignment by 5pm Tuesday. Review your syllabus for details. No excuses or extensions for computer problems: plan ahead.
  • Return opera scores and any other music you have borrowed from me, or you will not be able to register for classes in the future.
  • Advising began in October and is over as of December 12. You cannot register without a RAC code, which you obtain during your advising. I will not do any "holiday" meetings: lack of planning does not require me to give up my break.
  • Check the blog for spring rep assignments, to be posted within a few days.
I'm sure these are reminders that none of you actually need. Be aware that I will not send you emails reminding you to complete class requirements, even if you've done great work all semester. If you miss a deadline, you get the grade you earned. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Props for opera

Folks, remember tomorrow we meet at 3:30 at the loading dock. Nole will bring his truck and I'll bring mine: let's have at least one other car so we can all go over to the prop shop to unload together. With all hands on deck (yes, it's required for everyone), I expect it to take less than an hour. If you want, we can celebrate afterward by making the biannual pilgrimage to YoMo. Thanks, all!

Monday, December 2, 2013

DVD viewing for opera

Folks,

We'll meet tomorrow at 3:30 in HRH to watch the DVD, as that's the only day we can have the recital hall. Thursday, we'll meet at 3:30 on stage to load all the props. This is required for everyone, including understudies. All singers, bring your scores, as we'll need to destroy any photocopies. Thanks!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thanks-giving to SEMPLICE cast

Folks,

A week has passed since opening night, and it seems like it was ages ago already. But I promised you a love note, and Thanksgiving seems the perfect day to write it. 

We have to start with those who made it possible. Ed designed another masterpiece and lit it brilliantly, not that we'd ever be surprised by that. As I post more photos, you'll see just what I mean. Our beloved Les was your captain through occasionally rocky waters, and his musicianship and kind spirit kept all of us calm. Dr. Steele was our rock through everything, and was absolutely unflappable even through the longest of rehearsals. Laura and Amanda did more for you behind the scenes than you can imagine, and were absolute professionals in every way. Ella and Katie handled well the occasionally stressful task of supertitles, and I am thankful to them as well.

But you, darlings, you were the backbone of the piece. You should be so very proud of your work. Who would have thought we'd take on a Mozart opera in the original Italian? But with you, it seemed the logical choice. Young singers with the amount of drive that you have deserved a challenge such as this, and you rose to it admirably. 

The recitative was, of course, the hardest part. A few weeks ago, I confessed that my backup plan was to change it all into English dialogue if necessary. I didn't tell you this ahead of time because you deserved the opportunity to give it an honest attempt, and I was delighted when you made the backup plan completely unnecessary. When Reed Woodhouse arrived to polish your work, the most gratifying words he spoke were, "You are so well prepared." Indeed you were.

Performing the opera entirely in the original Italian was also an enormous feat. Most of you have not taken diction, which means the extent of your experience with the language has been a few Italian songs studied in your voice lessons. Your pronunciation and inflection improved considerably over our ten weeks together. Will it continue to grow? Of course it will: you have only scratched the surface. But you should be very pleased with your progress.

Lastly, you all grew as singing actors. What a joy it was to watch you take chances onstage, and to truly commit to telling the story. At times I asked you to do outrageous things. Many times I told you, "I don't believe you." It was delightful to watch you take the initiative to solve problems yourselves. Taking the responsibility to inhabit the characters both musically and dramatically is a skill that you will take with you to every show in the future.

This was a first for all of you: it was your first full opera in Italian with recitative. For some of you, it was your first opera role ever. Given that, the work you did is even more astonishing. I am deeply proud of each and every one of you and how far you came in one short semester. It's incredible to think that, in ten weeks, you went from knowing only one aria in the opera to mastering an entire role! You should feel such a sense of accomplishment. Some years from now, you may look back and say to yourself, "Wow, I sang an entire opera role in Italian when I was only 20. How did I do that?" 

Are you finished growing? You know the answer to that. We all learn and develop as artists throughout our lives, and undergraduate work is only the beginning. More than anything, I hope you have discovered the deep joy that comes from difficult and painstaking work. There are things we do in this life that are enjoyable because they are merely fun or even effortless. But the fulfillment that comes from making progress on something that is a lifelong pursuit is different and wholly more satisfying. Hard work at something you truly love produces a more enduring happiness, don't you think?

On this day of Thanksgiving, I am deeply thankful to all of you. You inspire me. I am grateful for the opportunity to teach you, and through you, I am also taught. May your day of Thanksgiving be filled with gratitude, time with loved ones, and some well-deserved rest.

And know that I love y'all madly.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

So proud of you, SEMPLICE cast

Kudos to you from Dr. Panion:

Kris, please allow me to congratulate you and the students for a superb operatic production this weekend. The quality of the students' singing is "through the roof." In fact, those voices could have been on any stage. Everyone was commenting on the quality of the sets, the staging, and the convincing acting skills of out music students. I must have been sitting next to a group of people who spoke Italian very well. They were very impressed that the entire opera was sung in Italian, with impeccable diction, by students no less...

And from Kelly Allison, Chair of the Department of Theatre:


Congratulations!  Valerie and I attended the performance last night and were very impressed by the production.  Ed's set looked great and your direction/staging was inspired.  Really effective story telling by a director.  Your cast was fantastic and seemed to handle the language very well – beyond my expectations.  The entire production reached heights beyond my expectations!  I hope you're proud of your accomplishment.

This is high praise, folks. I'll send a little love note soon. Right now I'm just a little too happy for you to even write.

Love y'all madly.

Dr. Kris

Friday, November 22, 2013

BRAVI TUTTI!!!

Darlings, I could not be prouder of you. You had a solid first night, and any glitches in the system (even the monitors not working) didn't throw you in the least. You are professionals to the core, and are poised to have a wonderful run tonight.

We will have strike tonight so plan to stay long enough to pack costumes, move props into a locked room, erase scores, and clean the dressing rooms. It shouldn't take long, and is required for everyone, including understudies.

We'll meet after break to bring props to their final resting place (as it were: stay tuned) and watch the video. Plan on class both Tuesday and Thursday after break.

Dinner tonight at 5.

Love y'all MADLY!

Friday, November 1, 2013

SEMPLICE cast

Darlings, great work this week. You really have a first act ready for a final polish, which is exactly what we needed this week. I'm truly pleased with your work, your attention to the text, and the thoroughness of your preparation. It's very clear that memory slips are minor, and you're able to get right back on track. That's important.

Next week, we may not have the chance to be quite as thorough with specific direction as we were this week, so that we can have a final product for Ed on the 11th. This does not worry me: we'll have time for tweaking starting the 12th. I also expect that, with all the wonderful character work you've done so far, you'll be able to make choices with less direction from me, because you have Act I so clearly in your heads.

As I said tonight, remember to take some time for yourselves this weekend. Go to a movie, take a long nap, or go for a walk when it's so beautiful outside. Some time away from the work is just as important as the time you'll need to spend preparing for Monday. Constructive rest on a daily basis (lying semi-supine on the floor, with or without a few thin books under your head) is great physical and mental rest, even if you only do it for 5-10 minutes.

I'm very happy with your progress. This show will be something we can all be proud of. Stay the course!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Separate performance class Friday

Folks, our studios are meeting separately this week. My students will meet in HRH, Dr. Cho's in my office, and Dr. Mosteller's in his. The following people are expected to sing in my studio this week:

Coley ("O Waly Waly")
Shane ("Sole e amore")
Amanda (Handel)

Jake, Valencia, John, and EmKay, you're all encouraged to sing one of your opera arias or a grad school audition piece, but are not required to do so. Do it if you can: it will work to your benefit.

Be prepared to talk about the book and what you're gaining from it.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Great work, SEMPLICE cast

You've done a solid first, memorized, hack-through of the score this week. Polish up a few things for tomorrow, and we'll give it another go. I'll continue pushing you until the bitter end, as you well know.

I'm also proud of the work you've already done!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Today's schedule with Reed Woodhouse


Courtesy of SNATS, USGA, and The Department of Music:


Thursday, October 17

3:30-5:30 Mozart intro to recitative and coaching
pp. 18-25
pp. 32-35


Friday, October 18

Private coachings in Hulsey 249

8:30-9   COURTNEY Faure's "Les Berceaux"                          
9:30-10 CINDY “Sono in amore”
10:15-10:45 EMKAY Semplice aria #12
11-11:30 JAKE Semplice #25


12:20-1:10 Master class in Hulsey Recital Hall

Valencia Callens. soprano: "Ho sentito" from La Finta Semplice
Leah Eiland, soprano: Öffne dich, mein ganzes Herze from Bach’s BVW 61
Corey Griffin, tenor: "Guarda la donna in viso” from La Finta Semplice


3:30-6:30 Mozart coaching with Reed Woodhouse (Dr. Kris’s Studio)
all called (you are here to learn and observe!)

Recit. Act I, scena IV pp. 104-120 (Rosina and Cassandro)
Atto II, Scena VII pp. 245-257 (Rosina and Cassandro)
Atto II, pp. 272 (starting bar 46)-284 (Cassandro and Fracasso)
Atto III, pp. 375-381 (Rosina and Cassandro)
Atto III pp. 353-357  (Fracasso and Giacinta)

With Dr. Steele and Dr. Kris (Dr. Steele’s studio)
Atto III, pp. 336-337 (Ninetta and Simone, without Simone!)
Atto I, p. 44 (Fracasso)
Atto I, pp. 50-61 (Fracasso and Cassandro)
Atto I, pp. 78-79 (Rosina and Ninetta only)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

SEMPLICE cast: you rock!

That's all I had to say. I'm having a blast working on this opera with you. Keep it up!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Healthy = Happy: see below!

Turns out, steps you can take to be healthier actually also make you happier. This article was really interesting to me...I hope you enjoy it too.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Opera schedule next week

Friendly reminder, folks, and a correction: next week's rehearsal is Act II finale ONLY. Given this, I'm happy to let you go at 5:30 Tuesday. Don't worry about singing out that day: you're welcome to mark, just so long it's clear you're comfortable with the text and the music (even if you take down an octave). Be sure you have your recital clothes with you if you don't have time to run home, and make plans for dinner so you're not running on empty at the recital. Thanks for your great work this week!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

On death and dying


Recently, I had a conversation with my students about death. Most of us are at a loss with regard to what we’re supposed to do when someone in our lives loses someone. I remembered when I was in high school or college, and people near me lost dear ones: sometimes I did the right thing, and sometimes I got it horribly wrong. I was driving blind, because I hadn’t experienced it myself. Following my father’s passing, I’m thinking quite a bit of those times people around me lost loved ones. There is deep regret for the times I messed it up. And I’m so very glad for the times I did the right thing, even if it was uncomfortable in the moment.

I figured it was worthwhile to talk about it. Death is a part of life: we are all going to deal with it at some point. While some of my students may have been horrified by this conversation, I hope it gives them some tools when the time comes. One student I just began working with came up to me afterward. “Dr. Kris,” he said, “My sister died in a car accident last fall. Thank you for talking about this. No one does because they’re so uncomfortable about it. So many people didn’t know what to do, and so they just avoided it…or avoided me. And that was the worst part.”

So I decided to write this post, mostly because of my student Coley. This is also lovingly dedicated to my students Madi and Sarah Grace, who lost parents while they were students at UAB. Until this summer, I didn’t quite understand that what you do—or don’t do—during these huge life events might shape personal and professional relationships. It’s not worth it to just blow it because you’re uncomfortable or don’t know what to say or do. So here are some ideas: I’ll bet that others who have gone through this will have some too.

What to say. Here’s the good news that will probably be a relief to many: you don’t have to say anything, especially if you can be there in person. A hug, holding a hand, just being with the person…all of those actions are more appreciated than you can imagine. In fact, it’s almost better to say nothing, so that the grieving person has room to say what he or she needs to say. Sometimes, re-telling the story of the person’s death is part of the process. Getting used to saying the phrase, “when my father passed…” helps make this whole incomprehensible event graspable, because for a while it doesn’t feel real. But if you feel compelled to say something, keep it short. Here are some phrases that might work:

  1.  I’m so sorry for your loss. This is always appropriate.
  2.   I’ve been praying for you/thinking of you. Use whichever word you feel is right: it’s a nice sentiment.
  3. I heard the news. How are you doing? Then listen. Just listen. Don’t try to insert what you assume.
  4. May his/her memory be a blessing for you. I like this one in particular.
  5. I can’t imagine how you must be feeling. This is actually much better than “I know how you feel,” because you don’t. It also opens the door for the person a chance to explore and share how they feel. My husband said this to me, and I so appreciated it; it was honest.
  6.  I remember when your dad… These stories become cherished, especially when it’s something you didn’t know about your dearly departed loved one. A high school friend told me that my dad was only positive male role model in his life. I’d never known that, and it moved me greatly that he said so.


What not to say. There are some phrases, however well intentioned, that may not be helpful or might even be considered unkind. Here are some examples:


  1.        He’s better off where he is now.  First of all, you may not know the bereaved person’s faith (or lack thereof), and this can be incredibly presumptuous. What if--God forbid--the grieving person actually fears for this person's soul in the afterlife? Then you could really be stepping in it with a well-intentioned statement like this. Besides, they’re grieving a loss right now, and this kind of comment can make them feel guilty for grieving, which makes things worse. Focus on the bereaved person’s pain. You can’t do anything about the deceased, nor can you assume what happens after life, though many of us carry very deeply held beliefs.
  2.         At least you had your father for X number of years. This, too, is insensitive. Acknowledge the loss; don’t minimize the pain. Comparing your grief to someone else’s (as if your pain was worse) doesn’t make you appear virtuous. You may have no idea what complicated family circumstances, manner of death, or anything else makes this loss as tough as it is. Losing a loved one is terrible no matter the circumstances, whether they lived 30 years or 80 years.
  3.         What can I do for you? This is tricky, because it’s usually so well intentioned. The grieving person may have NO IDEA what he or she needs. Don’t ask him or her to make decisions if you can help it. Just try to do something nice for the person. See below for ideas.
  4.           Don’t monologue.  This is not the time to talk about your own experience. There will be a time for that. It will probably even be an important and perhaps even a healing experience, but the first days and weeks are not about you, they’re about the immediately bereaved. Now is the time to listen, even if the person just wants to cry.
  5.          Don’t assume that a difficult relationship makes for an easy time with grief. I lost my father first to alcoholism, then to my parent’s divorce, then to dementia, and finally to death. After all that loss while he was alive, I assumed I'd be nearly done grieving by the time he passed. I wasn’t, not by a long shot. How’s that for a surprise?

What to do. Our society is so uncomfortable with emotion, especially grief, that many people just avoid it. Even worse, they avoid people who are grieving, leaving them feeling abandoned and lonely as well. The appropriateness of each thing might depend on your relationship to the bereaved person or how frequently you see them. When in doubt, do more if you can, especially if you see them often. Here are some options:


  1.            Call. See above for what to say/not say.
  2.        Offer to make calls if you know people who should be informed. I’d never thought of this, but appreciated it when it was offered.
  3.         Send a sympathy card. If you don’t have the person’s home address, call their place of business. You can also send any number of free online e-cards if you know the person’s email address. My colleague Sue walked one over to our house, and I was deeply touched. It was the first one I received.
  4.          Send flowers. You can go to ftd.com no matter where you are in the world. My colleague Denise and her husband Dan sent a peace plant, and it’s flourishing. In my opinion that’s an even better choice than flowers, because it goes on living if I tend to it…just like relationships.
  5.         Ask when you can stop by. See above for what to say/not say. It might actually be helpful to say, “I’d like to come see you tomorrow late afternoon. Is that okay?” It sounds silly, but in those first few days, having to choose a day and time to receive visitors might be even a bit of a daunting task. I so appreciated those who named a time, then checked to see if it would work for me. It was less to think about, when thinking about anything at all was really challenging.
  6.         Bring food. It’s a tradition for a reason. I found that cooking was the last thing I could muster the energy to do. Casseroles or soups are easily frozen and reheated if necessary. I was so deeply moved by the couple that brought dinner one night (and, even better, stayed to eat it with us). I hadn’t eaten all day, but had no motivation to cook. We had been meaning to get together for ages, so we called it the “Thanks, Frank” dinner. I was deeply moved by the dozen or so people who came and brought food, listened to me read my eulogy, then cleaned my kitchen and put things in the freezer before they left. I didn’t have to worry about meals for a week. And thank God for them—I could barely get out of bed, let alone decide whether I was hungry, and what to cook. One dear friend brought chocolate to “sweeten the bitterness of grief.” I will be forever grateful for these people and their gifts of both their presence and nourishment.
  7.        Go to the funeral, or wake, even if you didn’t know the deceased. You are there to support the bereaved person, whether or not you know the person that passed, and whether or not you liked the person that passed. It’s a show of solidarity that conveys respect and compassion: when I was temping, my entire workplace turned out when a co-worker’s parent died. I’ve gone to funerals of people I never met, and been so glad I did. Where I come from, this is just what you do, and it’s a good and right thing to do. It took me a long time to realize this: whether or not I like funerals (who does?) or think that wakes are barbaric is really beside the point.
  8.        Offer to come to another memorial. I have childhood friends from my hometown and relatives within a day’s drive who have offered to be present when I spread my father’s ashes in Vermont. Wow.
  9.        Make a donation. It doesn’t have to be much, and in fact, is meaningful because it’s truly the thought that counts. There are people I only met once or twice who made a donation to the Alzheimer’s Foundation in my father’s name when they heard the news. Consider donating to an organization appropriate to the deceased person’s medical condition, to the survivor’s church or synagogue, or to establish a scholarship in the deceased person’s name. The nice thing is, there is no timeline on this kind of thing, but of course, the sooner you do it, the better.
  10.        Text or Facebook message. This makes the most sense if you’re not able to send something, be there in person, or call, or if you haven't been in touch in a long time. I was especially moved my elementary school friends I haven’t seen in decades who sent messages including memories of my dad when we were kids. I also so appreciated my students who sent me private text messages saying they were thinking of me. Two particular students from afar send me goofy pictures of them making faces with the message, “we’re thinking of you.” I got the sentiment and the attempt to make me smile simultaneously: how sweet.


What not to do. Many people are so nervous around people who have experienced loss, they just avoid the person who is grieving and hope the worst of it will blow over soon. As my friend Stan put it, “I don’t remember everyone who was there when my mother passed, but I sure remember who wasn’t.” There are also those who behave abominably because they have their own issues. Here’s what not to do:


  1.        Assume the bereaved person will ask for what he or she needs. They may not know what they need, and may not know how to ask for it if they do. Reach out and do something without an invitation.
  2.         Pretend it didn’t happen. This is a huge event in this person’s life, especially if it’s a death in the immediate family. Ignoring it is never helpful or kind.
  3.        Wait until you think the person is “ready” to talk about it to even acknowledge it. By the time you’re comfortable enough to ask, the bereaved person may have decided you didn't care enough to ask. My student who lost a sister in a car accident said that he felt like people avoided him when he needed more than anything to be around friends. Once the funeral is over and the relatives have left, that person is alone with his or her grief. This can be the worst time. Be there with them.
  4.         Be afraid the person will fall apart if you ask how they’re doing, so don't bother asking. They might really need to talk. They might not. They might cry; they might not. But grief is a process, and our task in this life is to be with those around us in their journey through joy and pain.
  5.          Jump on the bandwagon when no one else is doing anything. If no one else steps up to the plate, that’s all the more reason to be the better person. Don't make one person's inaction your excuse for inaction.
  6.       Don't use death as an excuse to settle old scores. One estranged family member actually had the gall to email me and say, "Now you know how it feels." No matter how justified you feel, doing something ugly and selfish like that doesn't serve anyone, least of all yourself. You may feel like you're winning the battle to get in a nasty dig, but you'll certainly lose the war. Permanently.

What else?

  •           There is no timeline for grief...it's different for everyone. There was a great op/ed in the New York Times about this: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/04/opinion/sunday/the-trauma-of-being-alive.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
  •          Don’t expect the person to be your version of “normal” for a while. I remember someone stopping me in the hallway mere weeks after my dad’s passing. Perhaps I’m a normally cheerful person, but that day was a really tough one and it must have shown on my face. “What’s wrong?!” the person asked, with all good intentions. I actually felt shocked. What’s wrong? What’s wrong is expecting someone to return to “normal” so quickly when her father is no longer on the planet. That's a huge adjustment.
  •       “Firsts” are hard, and are another opportunity to be there for someone. First Father’s Day, big religious holidays, first birthday, the anniversary of the person’s death. My birthday this month will be tough, because I won’t hear my dad tell me the annually repeated story of my birth: “…and when I first saw you, I cried.” I’ll really miss hearing that story.




Repertoire assignments

Hi folks, Following are your repertoire assignments. As always, I welcome requests! Remember, I reserve veto rights, but knowing what inte...