Saturday, October 12, 2013

Blogging isn't Dead

Nearly 18 months have passed since I last wrote a blog post.  Several of you have inquired about why I stopped blogging.  There are two reasons: 1. Life got messy and complicated 2. No one reads blogs anymore.  Seriously, I had folks tell me they loved my blog, but asked if I could make it shorter because they were too long.  I explained the difference between a blog and a tweet, but still people insist shorter is better.  So, here I am updating my website and wondering if blogging is even relevant anymore.  Oh, what a short two year love affair we had!  The thing is, I still write nearly everyday in my journal keeping up with thoughts.  Writing for me has always felt good and been a place for me to record feelings and goals.  It's always a treat to go back and read what was written.  You can see how there are themes in your life and looking back you can see how you got exactly where you are.  I love that about writing.  I've been doing some reading of old journals and it's refreshing to see my growth and very interesting to see how long it takes before change actually occurs.  You don't get a lesson until you GET the lesson and you will repeat something over and over until it becomes your new way.  This applies to your artistry, technical issues, as well as any growth happening in relationships.  So, I write this blog post to encourage all of you young singers (my main audience here) to begin a journal practice.  Try a stream of consciousness of three pages every morning before you even hit that first cup of coffee.  Sit with yourself and listen and write.  It doesn't have to be profound and can even be a series of words.  I started doing this after reading The Artist's Way by  Julia Cameron.  It's become a fairly regular practice and helps me tune into myself each day instead of jumping straight into emails or Facebook.  It's a place of total honesty and freedom, which means I need to add a line in my will as to who gets to read them when I die!  So, I'm back friends!  I'm going to start blogging again and will try to keep it somewhere between a tweet and a novel.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Be a Good Traveler

Next month marks the five year anniversary of my first audition trip to Europe.  I am writing this from my tiny hotel room in Antwerpen, Belgium on yet another audition excursion.  I was thinking today as I arrived groggy and dry-mouthed, about how much easier travel has gotten now that I do it all the time.   Going to Europe used to feel as though I was journeying into the far corners of the world and now it seems closer to me than California.  I guess I should really change my earlier statement.  Travel hasn't gotten easier as much as I have figured out how to take care of myself while traveling.  For you youngsters getting ready to brave the European audition circuit, here are some tips:

1. Drink as much water as you can the day before you fly and abstain from alcohol the day before, day of and during the flight.  Trust me on this one.  The voice is a delicate little thing and flights are drying enough as it is. Alcohol only makes it worse.  Save it for the flight home as a treat!
2. is a great website for booking hotels.  I like it because it has a search option where you can find hotels near certain popular tourist destinations.  I click on the filter to find hotels in my price range near the opera house I am auditioning for or near the train station if I'm catching a quick train after the audition.
3.  Pack light.  Seriously ladies.  I did a three week audition tour in the fall and had one carry-on bag and my purse.  I carried my wrinkle free audition dress, shoes, and three outfits.  Since you are going from city to city no one sees that you wear the same thing all the time.  Just bring enough underwear and socks and you are good to go!  I travel with my audition shoes, a pair of sneakers, and my black leather boots.  You can wear black leather boots with anything these days and you never know what kind of weather you will run into. Best to be prepared.
4. Download workouts as podcasts to minimize expenses in gyms.  It also is a handy thing to have because I don't like being out after dark in new cities all alone.  This way I can go out and see a town and come back to workout in my hotel room and not be caught in risky areas.  I was caught in a risky area once all alone in Italy and have never forgotten it!  Jogging in a new city isn't an option for me for this reason.
5.  Get an e-reader.  This is a no brainer.  It is worth every dime you spend especially if you are an avid reader like me.  I remember when I first came to Europe to audition 5 years ago and would buy books and leave a trail of them behind me because I didn't have the space in my luggage.   It's so much better now because we can travel with all our favorite books and magazines.
6.  Take out a lump of cash at the ATM at a time to avoid every transaction having a processing international fee.  Those fees really add up.  You may also be able to find a bank that has low fees.  Don't forget to tell your bank you will be traveling out of the country.  Several times I have forgotten and after the first transaction the card is tagged for possible fraud and then you are stuck with having to deal with that ordeal from overseas where it is difficult to get a new card.
7.  Don't tell the passport agent when you enter the foreign country that you are in town for an audition.  People don't understand what this means and all of a sudden you will find yourself being asked to show a work permit for a job you don't even have.  Until you get the job, it is best to be traveling 'for pleasure'.  I was once very honest with a London passport agent, telling her proudly I was in London to audition.  SHe then demanded to see my work permit for said 'audition'.  I tried explaining to her that I didn't need a work permit to enter the country to 'try' to work.  She was snarky and said, "How do I know you won't get the job and just stay here to work without a permit."  In my tired crankiness I said, "I guess you don't.  You'll just have to take my word for it."  She took my word for it but she also stamped my passport preventing me from entering Great Britain for six months to work.  Ouch.  So, if you are are on a pleasure trip.  When you get the job you can say you are there to work and the company you work for will have submitted you for a work permit which you will have to show the passport agent.....unless you work in Italy, and well, that is another story all together.

These are just a few of the things that came to mind today as I was reflecting on my audition travel.  You will learn your own things and you will figure out what works for you.  Here are some good tips on being a good traveler:
1.  You must have patience and be open to change.  Things don't go as planned so be very grateful for when they do.  Flexibility is the name of the game.  I've slept on the floor of the Madrid airport and on a string of three chairs in London Heathrow with a high fever.  Accept it, fall asleep, get comfortable.....raising hell doesn't fix it.  I always see people getting all worked up about things and the truth of the matter doesn't fix the problem.  It only adds to the frustrated energy permeating the boarding area.  Find a good spot and hunker down.  Go to sleep.  Drool.  You'll get there eventually.
2.  Know that you can always get whatever you need most anywhere you go.  So, don't feel obligated to bring everything and your kitchen sink along with you.  Aside from specific medication that you have a prescription for, most European pharmacies have everything we have at home. 
3.  Be kind to people and polite.  This throws some Europeans off because they think you are fake or crazy but it's always good policy.
4.  Talk to strangers.  I've met many interesting people in SAFE PUBLIC places by doing this and I have wonderful stories from chatting up strangers.  I met my husband in the Atlanta airport!
5.  Be curious and unafraid to get lost.  You can always turn around and ask for directions.  Getting off the beaten path is part of the fun.
6.  Try to speak the native language and even when you can't,  ask politely if they speak English.  Don't just assume they do. 
7.  Bring your own shopping bags.  This is big in Europe.  They charge you for plastic bags and who couldn't use some savings?
8.  Be more patient than ever with TSA agents.  This is mainly a personal reminder.
9.  If you get on the wrong train.  Don't panic.  Eventually it will stop and your mistake can be corrected.  Hopefully, before you exit into another country!  (I could be speaking from personal experience here.)
10.  Learn about the history of the place you are visiting.  You don't need to be a scholar, but when you take the time to learn about the group history of a people, you can see their perspective and really get to know a culture.  Educate yourself.  It fuels your art.

Bon Voyage!!!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Pearl Fishers Promotional Video

I have sung the role of Leila in Bizet's Pearl Fishers twice this season.  Each time I was fortunate to be a part of this wonderful production directed by Andrew Sinclair, choreographed by John Malashock, and designed by the fabulous Zandra Rhodes.  The production has traveled around the U.S. since 2004 and has received great acclaim.  This is the twelfth time this opera has been produced and second time it has appeared in Detroit.  Tonight is my final performance and I will miss this wonderful cast and delightful production.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Bee! I'm Expecting You

Bee! I'm expecting you!
Was saying Yesterday
To Somebody you know
That you were due—

The Frogs got Home last Week—
Are settled, and at work—
Birds, mostly back—
The Clover warm and thick—

You'll get my Letter by
The seventeenth; Reply
Or better, be with me—
Yours, Fly.

~Emily Dickinson

Monday, April 16, 2012

God's World

O world, I cannot hold thee close enough!
   Thy winds, thy wide grey skies!
   Thy mists that roll and rise!
Thy woods this autumn day, that ache and sag
And all but cry with colour! That gaunt crag
To crush! To lift the lean of that black bluff!
World, World, I cannot get thee close enough!

Long have I known a glory in it all,
   But never knew I this;
   Here such a passion is
As stretcheth me apart, -- Lord, I do fear
Thou'st made the world too beautiful this year;
My soul is all but out of me, -- let fall
No burning leaf; prithee, let no bird call.

~Edna St. Vincent Millay

*Photo taken at Muir Woods July 2011

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Wild Geese

Wild Geese
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
       love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting-
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

~Mary Oliver

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Let Evening Come

Let the light of late afternoon
shine through chinks in the barn, moving
up the bales as the sun moves down.

Let the cricket take up chafing
as a woman takes up her needles 
and her yarn. Let evening come.

Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned
in long grass. Let the stars appear
and the moon disclose her silver horn.

Let the fox go back to its sandy den.
Let the wind die down. Let the shed
go black inside. Let evening come.

To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop
in the oats, to air in the lung
let evening come.

Let it come, as it will, and don't
be afraid. God does not leave us
comfortless, so let evening come. 
~ Jane Kenyon 
*Photo taken at my parents' farm in Lincolnton, GA