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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Performance Class Friday

We will meet all together in the recital hall this Friday (and every Friday) at 12:20. Those who are prepared to sing, you know the drill. The rest of you, relax and have fun!

AMAHL audition sign-up sheet posted

HI folks,

The sign-up sheet for AMAHL auditions is posted on my door. If you'd like to audition, please sign up for a time and bring your sheet music for our pianist, Miss Jane. Right now, there are many open slots.

Of course, you're always welcome to just come and wait for an opening, if you don't mind waiting.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

RE-REVISED studio voice schedule

Hi Folks,

Yes, there are already revisions, due to pianist availability. Please scroll down and re-read all instructions in the original post below. Here is the new schedule:

Camilla 11:15-11:45
Jenn 11:45-12:15
Addie 1:15-1:45
Alyse 1:45-2:15
Peyton 2:30-3
Briana 3:30-4:20

Beau 12:20-1:10

Michael 9-9:50
Kristin 11:15-11:45

Madison 1-1:50

Mallory 10:45-11:15
Eric 11:15-12:05

AMAHL auditions

Auditions for our fall opera, Amahl and the Night Visitors, will be September 1 from 3:30-5:15 in Hulsey room 308. Bring any song in English, preferably memorized, and be prepared to sing it with our pianist. Bring the sheet music to your piece! If you'd like to sing one of the arias from the show, though it is not required, I have the music for Kaspar, Melchior, and the Mother.

On Tuesday, August 30 (same place, same time), you are welcome to sing your piece for feedback and coaching. This is a great chance to have a "dry run" of your piece and to get comfortable before auditions.

If you would rather not audition but would like to be in the chorus, please contact me or Dr. Kittredge. Rehearsals for the chorus will take place during Chamber Singers time.

Performances are November 17-18 in Sirote Theatre, Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center. You can read more about the show here, and watch the original TV broadcast here.

20 Tiny Changes #17: be grateful

Studies show that it isn't happy people that are grateful: it's that grateful people that are happy.

Each day, preferably right before you go to sleep, make a list of things that make you feel grateful. I keep a small journal next to my bed and write one page before going to sleep. That page fits about 6-10 items, and they vary. But every night, I find there is something that makes me count my blessings.

On a rough day, you might be able to only name two things. You might even only be able to say you're thankful for a bed and for making it through the day. But those are good things, regardless. I know that every day, I'm grateful for my husband, and that's no small thing.

Give it a try and see if you notice a shift in your attitude over time.

Studio Voice Schedule

Hi Folks,

Following is the schedule for your voice lessons this semester. Let me know IMMEDIATELY if I have inadvertently scheduled your lesson during a time you are not available. If I somehow left you off, let me know. I had everyone's schedules on time (thank you, dear ones), and I did my best to honor requests whenever possible.

Note that everyone enrolled in voice must attend Performance Class every Friday 12:20-1:10. We usually meet in the recital hall, but please stay tuned re: where we'll meet the first week. If you are on tour on Fridays, I need an email from you no later than Thursday of that week notifying me that you'll be on tour. 

A few of you have not yet registered (Eric, Beau). No worries, as you have time to register. Please be sure you've registered before your first lesson, or I cannot teach you.

Lastly, we have not yet assigned pianists to lessons. If you'd like to have a pianist at your first lesson, please email Dr. Chris Steele or Carolyn Violi and ask them very nicely if they wouldn't mind coming to your first lesson. Of course, you should send them a PDF of your music ahead of time if they agree to do so, or be sure to get them a hard copy. 

Looking forward to hearing your beautiful voices!

Camilla 11:15-11:45
Jenn 11:45-12:15
Addie 1:15-1:45
Alyse 1:45-2:15
Peyton 2:30-3

Briana 9:45-10:35
Beau 1-1:50

Kristin 11:15-11:45

Beau 9:45-10:35
Madison 1-1:50

Mallory 10:45-11:15
Eric 11:15-12:05

Monday, August 15, 2016

20 Tiny Changes #16: change a habit

We all have habits we'd like to break. It might be negative thinking, or interrupting people, or driving too fast. I'm guilty of all three, plus many more habits I'd like to break. If you spend more than two seconds thinking about it, there are probably a few bad habits you'd like to kick, too.

Pick something easy, or something that should be relatively easy, to give up. Then make a choice to get through one hour, then one day, then one week without it. It won't be as easy as you think...that's why it's a habit.

Try a trick my husband swears by: wear a rubber band as a bracelet. Whenever you catch yourself doing the habit, give it a good snap. If nothing else, it'll jolt you out of the auto-pilot that lets you indulge in that habit in the first place.

Or you can go back to the phrase I use during Constructive Rest: "Is there anything I am doing, consciously or unconsciously, what is unwanted or unneeded?" Boy, that can yield some great fodder for this exercise...especially the "unconsciously" part. Bring it to your awareness, and see if it's something you want to continue.

I'll see you on the other side, hopefully with a few bad habits left behind.

Friday, August 12, 2016

20 Tiny Changes #15: walk it off

Watching the Olympics always makes me think about how we as musicians handle pressure and disappointment. It can feel devastating when we miss a high note, have a memory slip, or tank an audition.

All of us have done it. Let's be honest: it's part of the deal when you're an artist. You WILL fall short occasionally. Sometimes it will be a private kind of struggle in the practice room, and sometimes it will be public and humiliating. It comes with the territory.

If you didn't see it live, I'm sure some of you saw some gruesome footage online after one of the first nights of men's gymnastics. French gymnast Samir Aït Saïd broke his left leg as he attempted a vault landing. He broke his tibia and fibula, and the snap of his bones was heard throughout the arena. To add insult upon injury, the medics dropped the stretcher as they were attempting to load him into the ambulance. This happened in front of millions of TV viewers, after years of training. His Olympic career, after all this work and sacrifice, was over for this year. 

It's probably safe to say that night sucked in proportions more epic than we can imagine.

I say this to put what we do into perspective. Of course we need comfort when things go wrong. Sometimes we feel disillusioned and need to wallow for a bit. Many times, though, I think we just need to get over ourselves and move on.

That might come as a surprise to many of my students, who know that I'm a softie at heart and will be your mommy-in-waiting when needed. But frankly, I think we're too easy on ourselves most of the time. 

Think like an athlete. Bruises happen. Mistakes happen. When you can, it's probably best to just walk it off. In coach lingo, that's what you do when something isn't broken or horribly injured. You don't boo-hoo on the sidelines. You WALK IT OFF. Then, true professionals watch the footage over and over again until they determine what went wrong and figure out how to fix it. They don't cry about it (well, maybe they do, but then they get right back to business). They don't waste any more time.

So, unless you've just snapped your leg in front of God and everybody on international TV, my advice from now on will be to WALK IT OFF. Suck it up. Get back into the practice room.

Learn from your mistakes: that's why they exist. Take the lesson, and get back to work!

For the record: Samir Aït Saïd broke his other leg in the same way on another occasion. He recovered, got back into training, and made it into the Olympics after breaking his leg the first time. Let that be an inspiration and lesson to us all.

Monday, August 8, 2016

20 Tiny Changes #14: Reconsider Time

Every week, I listen to Ted Talks on NPR, usually while I'm at the gym. This week, the theme was our conception of time (you can listen to it here). The portion on physics kind of blew my mind (I love that stuff), the concept of our perception of time shifting as we age made perfect sense, and the rest just got me thinking. Then CBS Sunday Morning had a segment on a 98-year-old guy who is still running races. He started running in his 50s. Humbling! 

Along with my latest favorite book, Pressfield's The War of Art, these broadcasts raised the greatest issue any of us faces: how do we spend the little time we're given? Does it reflect what we truly value? Do we waste it?

It's not always easy. There are many distractions in our world. But there are choices we can make every day that make us feel better about how we honor who we are. There are also choices that affect how our experience on this planet is shaped over time. Here are some of the choices I make, in no particular order:

I read spiritual texts every morning and sometimes in the evening, even for only 10 minutes, to ground myself as a spiritual being. This helps me be a little more patient, which is a struggle for me.

I do strength training so that my bone density is maintained or improved over time. I swim so I feel looser both physically and mentally. I do cardio so that my vascular system is strong and will continue to be strong. This will allow me to do the things I want when I'm older, rather than retiring into an easy chair in front of the TV.

I sing coloratura arias and exercises every day so that I don't lose flexibility in my voice. I do sostenuto work as well, to maintain legato line. I incorporate text into my vocalises as well, so language work isn't separate, but is integrated. All of this will positively affect how I sing when I am 50, 60, 70.

I do constructive rest every day, so that if I mis-use my body while typing, for example, I can get myself back on track. This, too, will affect my posture over the long haul.

I keep track of my calorie intake throughout the day, so that I can adjust if necessary. This might mean adjusting what I have for dinner if I have an indulgent lunch. It might mean that I throw caution to the wind for a day or a two, but I get right back on track after a weekend of naughtiness. This affects everything from how my belly feels today to how my knees will feel in 10 years.

I work on NATS summer workshop stuff in August, so that once the semester gets cranking, I don't feel overwhelmed trying to meet deadlines.

I could go on and on, touching on relationships and other parts of life, but I think you get the idea. 

How do you spend your time? Does it reflect what you really want? Does it point you in the direction of where you want to be in 10, 20, 30 years? Or are you spending time on things that have little or no payback over time?

I, for one, plan to be here for a long time. Women in my family tend to live until their 80s or even mid-90s, so I don't want the last 20 years of that long life to be uncomfortable, miserable, or lonely. And if I were to kick the bucket at age 50, I would hate to think that I wasted any of that precious time.

Friday, August 5, 2016

20 Tiny Changes #13: turn it off

I've posted this one before, back when I did 12 Tiny Changes, but it bears repeating.

Take one day a week to refrain from electronics. No Facebook, no email, no texting (unless it's a loved one texting that they've been in a car wreck and need you desperately) for 24 hours. Maybe even...*gasp* ...don't turn on the news for a day. Really, turn it off. The world won't end, I promise.

It's hard to step away from these things that seem like they demand our attention. The first time I did it, I felt like the way I imagine smokers feel without that daily (or hourly) cigarette. I have to say, though, that once I got through that first painful day, I felt happier. Refreshed. Less anxious.

Our society is very anxious, and I believe that part of the reason are these things that seem to demand our immediate attention. *Ding* there's a text! I must answer it right now! *RING* My phone is ringing! WHO can it be? IT MUST BE IMPORTANT!!!!!!! MUST...ANSWER...NOW!

Actually, it rarely is so important that we must answer it immediately. Most things can wait a minute, and hour, or even a day.

Once you try it, you may never go back. You'll look forward to that day of rest, and your ability to delay gratification will do things for your state of mind.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

20 Tiny Changes #12: Planning

So, I'm a Tech Nerd. In some ways.

I used to be devoted to my Franklin Covey planner, then I switched to Google calendar, and did everything online. It was lighter! It was portable! I was hip! (Who am I kidding? I hoped I was hip.) I loved it...or so I thought.

Then I found myself setting five reminders on my phone, especially for non-regular events, just so I wouldn't forget anything. Then I would try three times to enter something, and realize my thumb had hit the wrong day, then have to try again. (I'm clumsy that way.) Then I had a mortifying experience: I showed up one day late to a very important presentation.

To say I freaked is a bit of an understatement. To say I had a niggling suspicion that it was electronics, not paper, that had failed me...well, that would be fair.

It all worked out in the end, thanks to some incredibly kind and understanding people and a reasonably flexible schedule. But I had what is called down here a "come to Jesus" moment.

Electronic calendar-keeping was NOT working for me.

There are many studies that show that writing is different than typing when it comes to retention, especially note-taking. Here's an article from Scientific American, and here's one from NPR. Here's an article about calendars in particular. My husband, an editor, insisted that the problem was that I hadn't written it down...and I hadn't printed the calendar before noting my date and time. He spends his whole day on the computer, but he knows that he must print something if he's going to catch every typo when he reads it.

I gulped, and ordered another paper calendar from Amazon. It was only $30. But it was big (8 1/2 x 11"! How was I going to manage?!). And antiquated. And old-school.

And I LOVE it. Love   LOVE   L-O-V-E   it.

Sitting down for only a few minutes a day to write what I'm going to do is totally different. It's hard to describe, but I'm getting more done. Because it's written, I've made a contract with myself regarding what I'm going to actually do that day, that week, that month. And my days are packed, because I'm so motivated to fulfill that contract.

So whatever you do for the school year, or however you divide your life into units, I simply offer this: Pick a planner. Use it. Most importantly, be sure your planner works for you: that you not only like it, but you feel like it helps you.

So, I'm not going back! Google, you're great for so many things, but a paper calendar is my anchor.

Monday, August 1, 2016

20 Tiny Changes #11: add protein to breakfast

We talked about eating breakfast every day, and not to worry about WHAT you ate. Just eat breakfast, I said. Now let's go the next step: let's make it even better.

Try something with protein as part of your breakfast every day. You could add hardboiled egg(s), some sort of meat (turkey sausage, for example), a cereal that has protein (Kashi's Go Lean is delicious), or a protein shake. Every day, I start with a protein shake made with LeanOne mix, a half cup of frozen blueberries, 8 ounces of unsweetened almond milk, and chia seeds. I add an ice cube or two to make it nice and cold. 

Try one of these--or something different, if you have a better idea for adding protein--and see how your mood, energy, and general wellbeing changes in the morning. I find my moods are more level if I have some protein, rather than simple carbs which result later in a sugar crash.

Give it a try!

Final performance class

We will all meet together in HRH today. If Mr. Byrd or Dr. Mosteller is playing for you in lieu of Dr. Steele, be sure they have your music!...