Remember me?

Well, it’s been quite a long time since I’ve written here! I won’t make excuses for my absence except to say that life has happened, and my writing took a backseat.

But that won’t be for much longer.

I’ve had a number of conversations over the last few weeks about the state of the operatic field. How do we prepare singers to enter the field? How do we define a successful career? How do we support singers as they transition from performing into other fields?

I’m afraid that there still is a lot of shame around leaving the stage; I need both hands to count the number of conversations I’ve had under the aegis of secrecy with singers who are considering leaving the field but are not sure how, or whether it’s the right time, and are paralyzed by the double whammy of losing a professional identity AND having to forge a new one almost immediately.

If you are a singer/performer? Let me peer into my crystal ball and tell your future:

You’re going to be FINE.

In fact, you’re going to be able to find a career path that allows you to have those things that you’re not getting from singing, and that allows you the very same activities/feelings that singing feeds for you.

I promise.

In this space in the coming months I’ll be sharing stories of folks who began their college studies as singers, actors, dancers, and now have fulfilling careers offstage. Some had capital-C careers, some made the switch while studying. Some are still performing as their desires and schedules allow, some have found new creative outlets: all of them credit their training and performance education in helping them find their path into a gratifying career.

As a bit of a review, please click over here to read some past profiles. (Caveat: some of these folks have moved tracks yet again and are doing new and awesome things. I’ll round up some updates for you in a few months.)

And as always, if you are game to be profiled, or know someone who has an interesting or helpful story to share, you can email me at



Y’all. I’ve missed you! Our summer season has been amazingly rewarding, but has also been incredibly dense with performances, events, and wonderful people.

As it winds down, however, I find that I’ve missed this space, and the opportunity to talk about career shifts and renewed purpose, and searching for that elusive thing – meaningful work. So I’m happily diving back into the fray.

If you started your collegiate education in the fine or performing arts and have transitioned into another field, I’d love to talk to you. (And if you know someone who has an interesting story, please pass this link on!)

If you have questions about making the switch, let me know – I’ll investigate!

In the meantime, here’s a great profile from about Lori Richmond, who made the transition from web design back to her fine-art roots, and is now a sought-after children’s book author and illustrator.

I’m planning to circle back to some of our archived conversations, and catch up with their new pathways, and to offer some resources for exploration.

More coming soon – promise!


State of the Arts

I’ve been writing a little bit on my personal blog, and had to respond to two performing arts-related articles I’ve recently stumbled upon.

My question for you is; what would your ideal arts experience look/sound/feel/smell like? Has it changed over the years, and how?

(Let’s be real. I have many more questions. But let’s start there.)



A return… of sorts. 

Y’all, it has been a WEEK. 

The World Series. 

Leonard Cohen. 

The Election. 

It feels a little bit like the world has missed that left turn in Albuquerque, to quote Bugs Bunny. So much to process, on so many different levels. I really have no words, mostly because there are still so many in my head, there’s so much that I don’t know, and those things that I do I’m struggling to interpret in a way that makes sense. 

In an effort to reframe this new world order into something that I can wrap my mind around, I’m taking a step back. I’m going to start posting here, on a daily basis, for 30 days. And the things that I post will be things I find beautiful, inspirational, thoughtful. 

I would love to hear from you, too. Share with me those things that inspire you, that make you laugh, that soothe your souls. You can email me at indirectroutes at gmail, or message me through the book of Face. 

Let’s start, shall we?


  • It’s Veterans Day, formerly Armistice Day.  As a new military auntie, today feels a little more personal than in years past. Here’s the poem that John McCrae wrote to commemorate the day. What would we do without poets to make sense of the world for us?
  • Relatedly, I’m so grateful for this poet’s canon. Taking huge comfort in his legacy today. 
  • A meditation from Brain Pickings, author Rebecca Solnit’s parsing of what hope is and isn’t.
  • A first step to personal growth and creativity. Lace up!
  • I’m reading this book, and it’s rocking my world.
  • Wait But Why has masquerading rabbits. Tricksy tricksy bunnies…

More tomorrow. 



This blog started as a way for me to parse out the reasons that I decided to leave performing behind, and the skills/knowledge/sensibilities that allowed me to transfer fairly easily from one milleu to the next.

I have a confession though.

I’ve been art-ing.

Actually, I don’t have quite enough self-confidence to call it ‘art,’ not yet anyway. I have friends who have made their lives and livelihoods from their paintbrushes, and I can say unequivocably that I have not their skill nor innate talent nor experience.  Having trained as a musician, I realize the countless hours that it takes to master something. (Hell, I started playing piano at age 3, got 2 degrees in music, taught and performed for nearly a decade and I still wouldn’t EVER claim to have mastered music-ing.)

But over the last several months, I’ve noticed something: that I’m happiest when I’m making stuff. And the ‘what’ that I’m making is almost irrelevant: could be an intricate doodle in the margin of a page of notebook paper, could be an unholy mess in the kitchen as a result of a dinner adventure, could be a recorded cover of a song I dig. As long as I have something to show for the time at the end of the day, it seems time well-spent. I bought myself a pad of paper and some markers this winter…and then got some watercolor papers and paints…and then bought some big 18×24 paper and compass. And I started filling up those pages.

And it feels good.

It feels good to start something, not having the foggiest idea of how it will turn out. Sometimes the end result is more awesome than anything I thought I could do! Sometimes it’s a hot mess. But every time I noodle around, I’m learning something – about the materials, about these very basic techniques and aesthetics I’m developing.

This new-found artistic discipline is also helping me to tap into some of the things that I loved about music, but have little occasion to practice in my daily life. Solitude. Slowing down to examine the things around me.  Working on a piece, but being able to put it away for an undetermined period of time without penalty. I also get to be the last word, if only because no one else is in my head…it’s a small thing, but something that I find that I missed from teaching.

Maybe more importantly, however, this little doodling project has opened up some wonderful doors for me. I spent a day at the Art Institute of Chicago and walked out so wonderfully overwhelmed, with such a thirst to spend more time around amazing art of all types. A good friend gave me Liz Gilbert’s new book Big Magic, and there were several points that I found both immediately applicable and really helpful. Another pal asked me to doodle for her soon-to-be-born daughter, and posted a little clip on her youtube channel. (it’s in the first minute or so.)  I’m more courageous in my artistic pursuits – in fact, I’m diving back into the NaNoWriMo pond this November because I think I might actually have figured out what the larger problem with the novel I wrote back in 2012 was, and Imma Finish That Story Dammit.

So here’s a question for you: how are you cross-pollinating your non-artistic life?

(If you’re interested, my doodling can be found on my instagram account, and on a very small etsy store.)

Busyness, attention, and deep meaning.

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I have a new weekly habit. Since my knees have forced me to give up jogging, I’ve spent the past few weekends logging 12-16 miles on my feet, but at a slower pace. It allows me to pay attention to the beautiful flowering of my little neighborhood, and to become reacquainted with the few miles around my house. I often find myself not quite ready to head home, because the best part of this new habit isn’t actually the walking, it’s the podcast On Being. Krista Tippett interviews engineers, philosophers and artists each week, to ask them the big, cosmic questions and by doing so teases out both heartbreakingly personal stories and universal motifs. As a lapsed Catholic, this serves in many ways as my church: the intellectual inquiry of deeply held beliefs, pressure points, difficulties and small triumphs. I find inspiration, solace, and millions of questions at the end of each episode.

Screen Shot 2015-05-17 at 9.21.07 PMThe most recent episode featured Maria Popova from Brain Pickings, another of my weekly pleasures. I’ve listened to it twice now, and only half-kiddingly considered tattooing the transcribed interview on my back, so that the words could actually become part of my being. Maria talks at length about how we desire deep knowledge, but are resistant to devoting the time that it takes to actually acquire that knowledge. We expect it to come easily, or we make our decision based on listicles and infographics. (The most popular/most expensive/most desired wins.) I’m totally at fault – I love a good infographic, but in line with Popova’s thought, it’s because it gives me just enough context to feel like I actually know more about situation than I actually do. She reads and writes all day, and I am delighted by the things she finds in the journals (not diaries. Journals.) of Thoreau, the writings of Seneca, books for children and books about time. Krista Tippett, too, endlessly discusses presence and attention; both in the mundanity of the everyday, and in those times of stress and transformation.

I struggle with wanting to take the easy answer. I admire those who do not. Why, then, do I not always strive for deeper meaning? I wonder if this inattention, this resistance to digging in and doing the work, pervasive? Are we all dilettantes, looking for the easiest answer to the problem? Or is it just me?

Rehearsal for the summer season starts tomorrow morning. So the timing of this desire for attention, presence, and thoughtfulness is not coincidental. I am, however, very much looking forward to spending another summer with people who have dedicated their lives to the pursuit of deep knowledge.   Screen Shot 2015-05-16 at 8.13.29 PM

Spotlights : Footlights.

Frank Bruni has a story in the NY Times that caught my eye this evening. It was about one of Hilary Clinton’s staffers, Joel Benenson – he’s one of her chief campaign officers, a pollster and political strategist.

And guess where he started? (If you’re reading this blog, you know he wasn’t a Poli Sci major.)

Queens College. Theater school.

You can read more here. In this season of recent college graduates maniacally interviewing for jobs, I hope it serves as a gentle reminder that the path to an amazing, fulfilling career can be, well, indirect. Stay open to the possibilities, and corraggio! 


The Lost Art of Browsing.

There was a lovely essay in the New York Times this morning by Stephanie Rosenbloom – she talked about getting lost in Europe, about stumbling onto statues, to Oscar Wilde’s childhood home…the lack of preemptive navigation allowed her to travel without direction, to observe her surroundings, and ultimately gave her a richer experience.

My iPhone finds the most direct route to anything I wish to see, which is why I turn it off. Keeping it on would mean missing out on countless small streets and dead-ends, all those quiet, beautiful lanes and impasses with names I don’t remember.

I’ve been speaking with a number of young people about their career trajectories, their struggles to find permanent work, the cycle of interviewing and waiting. Many of them are planners, and it’s obviously a stressful time for them, to have a destination in mind but not being able to somehow get from point A to point B.

It seems as though navigation has taken over not just our physical wanderings, but our professional ones, as well. 

In graduate school, my research methods professor pounded (nicely) into us the importance of browsing the stacks. Even if we thought we knew what we were looking for, he counseled, by browsing we might find something complementary, or something totally different but much more interesting. He spoke of it as a way to spark creativity, to broaden context, to inspire and delight. (In context, it was less helpful than you might imagine…I just wanted to write the damn paper! But in retrospect boy does it ring true.)  As someone who has delighted in bookstores and record shops, who loves to read every description and review on every bottle of wine at my local wine shop, and as someone who wandered quite a bit professionally   before finding a niche, I’m constantly reminded of how non-linear my paths have been, and how I’ve really enjoyed the “scenic route.” 

So, perhaps this is is actually an old-fart rant masquerading as a blog post: one that implores you to allow yourself to wander a little bit en route to your destination – or, maybe to reroute that trip from the expected to something that is both unexpected, and maybe even a little terrifying at first. 

Here’s to finding something breathtaking around that first corner.  


Old Dog, Meet New Trick. (WOOF.)

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I’m on record as being a big fan of trying new things – my own career path is a twisty one, that largely echoes those experiences and topics that I find interesting. But, I have to be honest – I’ve got a great job, a great personal life, and it’s all remained pretty static for the last few years. There are inherent challenges in both professional and personal aspects of my life, but they’re not of the earth-shaking kind. (And I’m quite grateful for the stability and comfort – life is good!)

One of the projects I’ve been closely involved with for the last several years is Center Stage from Wolf Trap. The chamber music series that I program for The Barns at Wolf Trap spins off into a nationally-syndicated radio show that’s heard in Fairbanks AK, San Juan Puerto Rico, and on hundreds of public radio stations in-between. I’ve been involved as a producer for years – which loosely translates into doing research for the on-air personalities, listening for inaccuracies in their narration, and keeping them plied with coffee and munchies to keep the train on the tracks. Spending a few intense days in the studios at WETA talking music nerdery of the highest order with some great musicians is a respite from the opera world that I both enjoy and have come to crave. It’s fun!

This year, we weren’t sure if we were going to continue the series: we had a million internal discussions about its future, about the communities that we were trying to reach. (I personally reach for Sirius or Spotify or Pandora before terrestrial radio most days…is public radio relevant anymore? I’d hope so, but who knows?)  We threw everything – every aspect of the program –  up into the air. When the pieces reassembled themselves? Well, the series had survived. I was named Executive Producer! (Sounds so fancy!) The format had changed a bit, as had the on-air personnel.

They put me in the booth.

To talk.

On air.


It’s been admittedly years since I listened to my own voice through a headset – likely when I was singing, trying to critique my technique or performance for improvement. But I was always singing someone else’s words, with beautiful music behind it. Now it was just me – nothing in the sonic landscape to distract from my voice, as I prattled along. RK, a veteran radio announcer colleague and pal, fed me lines and tried to encourage me.

It. Was. Terrifying.

I’m thinking that one circle of Hell is a plane of existence where you have to listen to everything you’ve ever said, played back to you. (Here’s the breakdown: It’s 20% vocal ticks and fillers, 75% sounding reeeeeally dumb; maybe 5% of the time something gets from brain to lips that sounds both clear and vaguely intelligent.)

I had watched the guys banter effortlessly for years from the control room. They made it look easy! But it sure wasn’t. I got home that first night with a fatigued voice (because I usually don’t talk for 8+ hours in one day), and a foggy mind. But I also felt really good – I had tried to develop a new skill, and while I still sounded like Howdy Doody, I was enjoying the process and was starting to feel like maybe it was something I could actually do.

By the end of the second day in the studio, RK and I were starting to work out our back-and-forth, and were really having fun. We wrapped 13 shows, and afterwards we all walked across the street to grab a beer, chat about what had worked, and talk about the new direction the series was taking.

It felt like a new start, an exciting beginning. And I’m grateful to have had the chance to learn something new.

You’ll be able to hear Center Stage from Wolf Trap on a public radio station near you beginning in July of 2015. And there’s an email address listed as part of the broadcast that you can give feedback: I’d love to hear from you! (But be gentle – it’s my first time!) Thanks to the gang – Rich, Vic, and Bruce – for being so patient with me, and for the folks at Wolf Trap and WETA for being so supportive. Can’t wait for the next sessions!

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Artist + Leader

Becky Bermont from RISD wrote a lovely piece for HBR about artist-leaders. I’m especially interested in item #3: iteration.

According to our Provost, iterating on a concept or plan is a lot like teaching — it’s feeling the moment, and responding with real-time agility.

I’m a big proponent of DWWR. (For those of you who have worked with Choral Conductor and all-around dynamo Robert Page, you’ll recognize the shorthand for “Do What Was Rehearsed.”)  But to do so without responding to the room, the audience? Well, it would be a missed opportunity on a large scale, no?

Flexibility, responsiveness, agility – as artists, and especially as performing artists, these are things at which we excel.

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