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Austin, TX
I'm not a character mezzo ... I'm a mezzo with character!
Interests: opera, classical music, writing, theater, cooking, health, hiking, travel, outdoors, wine, dogs, organics, locally grown food
Recent Activity
The time: early 90s. The scene: a shopping mall in Champaign, IL The action: some fellow students and I are singing arias to advertise our upcoming production of The Marriage of Figaro. A little boy of about 4 stands, mesmerized, a few feet away. He does not want to leave... Continue reading
Posted Apr 6, 2014 at Mezzo with Character
Alexandra! I heard from our very tall tenor friend that you have a very sweet gig coming up. Congratulations! Hope we get to work together soon, and I want to see pics of what you come up with re: wardrobe!
Who out there loves packing? Let's see a show of hands! Bueller? Bueller? *crickets* Packing is an unfortunate but frequent necessity for those of us who travel for a living. It's always been painful but now with the airlines vampirically sucking every cent out of their passengers and charging astronmical... Continue reading
Posted Mar 22, 2014 at Mezzo with Character
So very sorry you were dragged here and forced to read, Over It. But thanks for doing so!
1. You listen to it all but YOU decide on the takeaway. There's a lot of input for singers. We're expected to consume a LOT of information, advice, feedback. (I should know. I'm one of the people frequently running my mouth. People ask, I tell. Well, sometimes I just tell).... Continue reading
Posted Mar 13, 2014 at Mezzo with Character
Aklista25, thank you for your comments. I hear so often from singers who have a similar path to yours, and that is one reason I started doing my workshops. I hate to see talent and joy beaten down by the harsh realities of our business and I hope to provide some guidance to help people avoid some of the pitfalls. I hope that singing will still be part of your life if you want it to be. Last year, I heard from a singer who had amassed a HUGE amount of student loan debt and was just realizing how it was going to handicap his career. He asked how he could possibly make money using his degree and skills. In response, I wrote two articles for Classical Singer. They appear in the May 2013 (The Day Job Dilemma) and June 2013 (Careers for Classical Singers) issues, and if you're a subscriber you can access them in the archives. They might give you some ideas you haven't already thought of for how to use your singing to provide for your family. Best of luck to you! Cindy
Wow. What a great response from singers, teachers, colleagues, people who were in the business and left, people who studied and then decided not to go into the business ... so many thoughtful and valuable comments on Part 1. I am both thrilled and humbled to see the dialogue that... Continue reading
Posted Mar 11, 2014 at Mezzo with Character
Thanks for commenting, SV. It's true that I didn't mention institutions in this post, but in my workshops I talk about them a LOT. I talk to students about what they should be getting from their schools and what they should do if they're not getting it. I give them a checklist of things to do before they graduate. I talk to them about how to choose a good school and a good teacher. That being said, I agree with you wholeheartedly that many of our schools and institutions are NOT doing all they can or even all they should. Opera companies are at the mercy of patrons and board members who may or may not know or even care much about the art form. The people who get to stick around are often the ones who can raise the money. It's a complicated equation. There are politics and economics at play, and while I think (and know!) that *individuals* at schools listen to people like me, the institutions themselves don't really care. Unless you are a huge name in the business, they're just not interested in what you have to say. Ultimately, we can't control what others do or think. We can only work on our own skills and strategies.
This will undoubtedly come as a surprise to some people, but education is not something that just happens to you. And it is not free. Every day I spend walking this earth, it becomes more apparent that the vast majority of people just want to get by. They want to... Continue reading
Posted Mar 3, 2014 at Mezzo with Character
If you're looking for profundity, today is not the day to find it here . The skies outside are gray, it's been foggy and wet, I had a big rush rewrite of a giant article to do this morning, my desk is covered in papers I don't want to deal... Continue reading
Posted Feb 25, 2014 at Mezzo with Character
Criticism is a regular, inescapable, and even necessary part of the singing business. As developing artists --- and we are always developing --- we require frequent constructive criticism from our teachers and mentors in order to learn and grow. We must develop perception about our own work, as well. And... Continue reading
Posted Feb 20, 2014 at Mezzo with Character
My graduate school career was limited to one semester. It was a good thing, too because it was largely miserable. I didn't like the town, didn't like the school, didn't like most of my classes, and generally felt like a misfit. The culture was SO different from my undergrad, and... Continue reading
Posted Feb 14, 2014 at Mezzo with Character
Being as how the weather pretty much everywhere is awful right now, it's about time for some serious comfort food. The trouble is, having recently recommitted to a serious fitness regime, my comfort needs to be healthy as well. Luckily, I like to tinker in the kitchen. Sometimes this turns... Continue reading
Posted Feb 12, 2014 at Mezzo with Character
Russia, never a leading proponent of human rights, continues to make headlines for its public and private persecution of its GLTB citizens. Now Sochi officials are rounding up and poisoning their hundreds of neglected stray dogs in an effort to clean up the streets before the tourists get there. And... Continue reading
Posted Feb 6, 2014 at Mezzo with Character
It's no secret that opera, and opera singers, have a public relations problem. Opera is perceived (by those non-fans who give it a second thought at all) as an expensive, snobby, upperclass entertainment with an audience populated by people who look and sound like Thurston Howell the Third and his... Continue reading
Posted Feb 5, 2014 at Mezzo with Character
Happy 2014, everyone! Every year during the holidays,we take a family photo. It's always annoying ---too many cooks and kibbutzers, no one will be quiet or stand still and so the process ends up taking much longer than it should --- and yet we're all really glad to have the... Continue reading
Posted Jan 3, 2014 at Mezzo with Character
The day after Thanksgiving is a special day in our house : we go shopping. But not to the mall or the big box stores. We're not looking for bargains. Ever since we got married, Eric and I have kept a glass milk bottle by the back door. When we... Continue reading
Posted Dec 1, 2013 at Mezzo with Character
Jesse, thank you. That is very kind. And I really like what you have to say about vulnerability --- SO true. If we don't share ourselves, the audience feels cut off (though they may not know why). Also your remarks about being able to multi-task: ironically, anyone who has ever had to hire temps knows that actors/singers/entertainers are PRIZED employees because they can do a million things at once, do them well, and be charming all the while.
Toggle Commented Nov 22, 2013 on The secret lives of singers at Mezzo with Character
One of the many things I love about my agents is that, when I tell them I want to do something, even if they think it might be difficult, the wheels start turning and they start planning how we can make it happen. And just such a thing happened in... Continue reading
Posted Nov 21, 2013 at Mezzo with Character
Anthony, I realize the post was long for your tastes, but perhaps you didn't read carefully. Nowhere did I criticize people for their taste in music or call them mediocre for their preferences. *I* don't like kiddie "opera" stars or the whole "popera" genre, but if you enjoy listening to them, good for you. My disagreement is not with others' musical taste. The problem for me is when people with very little musical training (in this case, specifically vocal training), insist that Singer A is just as good or better than Singer B simply because they like Singer A best. They are entitled to their preference, but they are (mostly) not qualified to judge what makes a singer superior. In the area of vocal technique (and related areas), the fact is that a highly trained singer or teacher IS better suited to assess the quality of singing. Art is to a high degree subjective, but not all aspects of it are subjective. There are some quantifiable areas and vocal technique is one of them. As a professional in this field, I find it objectionable and tiresome to hear endless praise from those who have no training heaped on an inferior product. Regardless of what these child and popera artists call themselves, they're perceived by the general public as opera singers, and that's objectionable to those of us who have studied and trained for many years to hone our art. I think you also misunderstood what I wrote about superiority. I went out of my way to point out that there are many, many areas in which I consider myself inferior. Math is certainly one of them. But classical music, and singing in particular, are my areas of expertise and statistically speaking I *am* superior in these areas. I'm not saying that makes me a better person than you. I am saying that I know more than you do (and here I mean "you" in a general sense, as I have no idea what your particular areas of study might be). If that makes me a snob in your eyes, so be it.
Toggle Commented Nov 20, 2013 on The worship of mediocrity at Mezzo with Character
You know, there's really no nice way to say "I'm better than you." But that's exactly what I'm about to do, and some people are going to get it, and others are going to just think I'm a horrible snob. If it makes the latter feel any better, I'm 100%... Continue reading
Posted Nov 12, 2013 at Mezzo with Character
My job is pretty cool in a lot of ways, not the least of which is getting to travel all over the country (sometimes the world) seeing new places. Thus the long silence. I've been off leaf-peeping in Virginia singing with Opera on the James in Lynchburg, VA. We drove... Continue reading
Posted Nov 8, 2013 at Mezzo with Character
One of the things I talk about a LOT in my workshops for singers is taking ownership of your education, your career, your art. As Kimberly noted in the comments section of the last post, many students aren't ever taught to think outside the box and in fact are discouraged... Continue reading
Posted Sep 23, 2013 at Mezzo with Character
Susan, it is not my premise that voice students are (universally) lazy. As I wrote in the post, I do think that a lot of them are working very hard, but don't always have the right focus. Part of that is because they don't always receive the information they need; and here is where I think you and I do disgree: I believe that it IS up to the student to take responsibility --- ultimately --- for their own education, and that includes seeking outside sources, which, thanks to the Internet, are SO much easier to find than ever before. I do completely agree with you that many schools are falling down on the job of teaching any sort of business training, and preparing the student for the reality of the business today. There are all kinds of reasons for that and something I hope to address in a future post. The school must bear some of the responsibility, but ultimately, it's the student's life, the student's career, and they have to have the passion to go out and find out what they need to know. It is not easy, and it may not be entirely fair, but it's reality.
Toggle Commented Sep 23, 2013 on Are voice students lazy? at Mezzo with Character
Wow, there are such great comments on this post! Thank you, everyone, for contributing your thoughts. I think this is a really useful discussion to have. Susan: earning a degree is certainly an accomplishment. I don't disagree with you that there's a lot of work (I took 17-20 hours a semester as an undergrad, and that didn't count rehearsals!). And I agree with you that schools in general could be doing a LOT more to help prep students for a career. That's one of my soapbox issues --- in fact, one of the things I do with my workshop is try to fill in that educational gap for students --- and it's a whole 'nother blog post. :) I don't teach at a university any more but I do work with a lot of university students, and there do seem to be an awful lot of them who want to just do the bare minimum they have to in order to get that piece of paper; or else, there are the ones with the big egos who have had a certain amount of success in the very small pond of school and think they're ready to take on the world, so they can't be bothered to seek out other perspectives. Perhaps I should have also said, there are plenty of lazy teachers, too! Because that certainly is true. Lee Anne --- thanks for this great perspective. I am SO glad to hear that your alma mater has changed its focus to define success in a musical field. When I was in school, it was the same --- if you weren't singing opera at the Met, you were a loser --- and that simply isn't true. Ironically, my own beloved teacher, Mignon Dunn, a regular at the Met, used to tell all the kids in the opera class that there were MANY ways to be successful in music, and singing opera was only one. She was the only person in my education who told singers that chorus was a good job! In my workshops, I make a big deal out of telling students that they must define success for themselves (and we also have a big segment on different types of careers in music). Kimberly - you've hit the nail on the head with one of the major problems in our educational system. It's NOT built to encourage independent thought. I was very lucky to have parents who encouraged me to explore, try things out, and figure things out. What do you think universities can do to help students break out of the box? Late Blooming Soprano --- thank you for sharing your story! It doesn't sound to me like you were lazy at all. :) I'd like to clarify that I didn't mean singers should rush through their education, but they can't dawdle either. I've worked with a lot of people who left school and then "took a few years off". When they finally are ready to try for a career, they haven't been studying, they're singing their old college repertoire which they often have matured out of, they haven't kept up contacts, and they're either close to or already have aged out of Young Artist Programs. Now, it's not always a hopeless cause, but it certainly makes it a LOT harder to get started. You have to stay on it. And we all know those singers who just never seem to get their techniques together, and suddenly they're 35 years old and cannot get hired.
Toggle Commented Sep 23, 2013 on Are voice students lazy? at Mezzo with Character