Tag Archives: opera

Opportunity: Leadership Intensive

OpAmOpera America is again offering a fantastic professional development course for Opera professionals. The application deadline for their Leadership Intensive is January 31st. As a member of the inaugural class, I can tell you that the experience changed my perspective on the business and my role within it profoundly, and that’s in large part due to the people I met and worked with there. Their advice, expertise, and support have been really invaluable – and the fact that they’re great fun makes our continuing connection something I look forward to greatly.

It’s a wonderful experience – I recommend it wholeheartedly!

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Continuing Education

Continuing Education

I was a part of the inaugural Opera America Leadership Intensive, and I cannot overstate the impact it has had on me – both on a professional and personal level. Applications are open for the class of 2014 – if opera is your thing, this is most definitely for you.

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Screen Shot 2013-10-30 at 10.56.46 PMWriting this from a hotel room several storeys above Houston’s sidewalks. Usually our Houston residencies are filled with cool weather, friendly faces, and ease. This year has been unusual. We still have some of my favorite friendly faces around, which is lovely. But the travel to Houston was long and tedious (hours on a plane with no ventilation, an aborted flight attempt, and an arrival late enough to miss all connecting flights, which warranted renting a car and driving from Austin to Houston in the black of night.), and the humidity has curled my hair and haloed the street lights. The view from the 17th floor is actually quite lovely…like my own private Lite-Brite.

I’m reminded, in sharp relief, how valuable time is. (Rough segue – bear with me.)

For the long travel day and the crazy hair and the swampiness? Well, it serves as karmic payment for several days of good singing, for reunions with pals and artists that I’m crazy about, for quality time in a city that I rather enjoy. I’m reminded that the same lunchtime deluge that drove my pals to hysterical laughter as we dodged raindrops and piled into a car was likely the straw that broke the camel’s backs for a singer who has driven/flown/bartered for a couch to sleep on/paid a coach or teacher for a 10 minute audition that can’t survive the logistical obstacles that preceded it. Now, this isn’t a reflection on the performances we heard today, it’s just me putting myself in their shoes and thinking “Whoa.”

But moreover, do I not owe those singers 100% of my time and attention?

I do.

So then I have to ask: why do I not give that same amount of attention to everyone who stands in front of me? When did I become able to skim faces and not take them in? When did cutting off sentences become acceptable behaviour?

We spent time in San Francisco with a young mother and her little boy. And, as tired as that little man was (and he was pooped), he still made eye contact – constantly – with all of us. Martha Stewart symbolizes unlimited free time – her creative crafting and meticulous planning appeal particularly to the chronically overscheduled. (Speaking from experience, natch.) But who is the patron saint of focused attention? Of listening until someone is truly finished talking?

I submit that our largest obstacle is in distraction. (And by ‘our’ I mean ‘my.’)

So when you see me, tell me a story. Musical, personal; fact or fiction. I want to hear the whole thing. I may never be an ace, but I’m interested in at least trying to emulate that patron saint, whoever he or she is.

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It’s so difficult to represent ourselves accurately on paper. When you’re trying to move from a performance résumé to an academic CV, or from the professional world to academia, or from performing to the non- or for-profit worlds, it’s hard to reframe experiences in a way that makes sense.

Linda Essig has a lovely outline for artists trying to put together a CV for academia. It makes sense to me – what do you think?

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Coming up for air.

Yes, it’s the name of a great Patty Larkin song, but it’s also what I’m doing now that the opera season has finished. (We got some good press – you can read it here and here and here and here and here and here and here!)

It’ll be a busy autumn: in addition to our annual audition tour, I’ll be participating in a local leadership program. (Can’t take the student out of the classroom for too long without her getting antsy, I suppose.)  

And, in an ironic twist, I’ll be addressing music performance students at my alma mater in a few short weeks. (Well, I did sing in the shower this morning…) I’m having a heck of a time writing my talk – I’m still sifting through what the broader message should be, and my stream-of-consciousness writing is by turns boring and condescending and nostalgic and then really-boring. The struggle is a(n unnecessary) signifier that this talk is important to me; here’s hoping I can level up before the big day! (If it’s good, I’ll post a copy here. If it’s not, I will spare you; you can thank me later.)

What have you been up to this summer?

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Live from Vancouver

I’m writing from the lovely city of Vancouver, BC – and really, beautiful does not begin to describe the city, the weather, the geography, or the people. I’m here for the Opera America conference, and have been making some good connections and learning a lot – I am a big fan of professional development and enrichment, and while this introvert is looking forward to some quiet time, I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to attend and learn.

This article came up on my newsfeed today. I love the fact that the NYTimes is tracking the career paths of performers who have had alternate careers. As a voice student, I was in awe of all things Juilliard. It’s nice to know that the self-examination, struggle and discernment that I went through wasn’t unique to my circumstance.

Look back on your last 10 years. Where are you now? Where did you think you’d be? Are you content where you are?

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An opportunity for career changers

An opportunity for career changers

If you’re a performer hoping to figure out a path into another profession, I’d encourage you to take a look at an opportunity with my company. This Fellowship is paid, and allows you to cycle through several departments to learn a wide array of skills. It’s a way to take that passion for music, and parlay it into an off-stage career. For additional info contact our Education department. It’s a great opportunity!

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The Audition Muscle

Writing this from New York City, on the eve of a week’s worth of auditions. If you’re in the biz, you know that the autumn months are a gauntlet of sorts for singers- applications, acceptances, rejections, auditions, offers, contracts. Aside from being one of the weirdest interview processes of which I could conceive, (you have 10 minutes to tell me all about your training, your aspirations, and your artistry…the catch is that you have to tell me using someone else’s words, and most likely do so in a foreign language. But, as a plus, you get to use some pretty killer tunes to make your point.), it’s the basis on which our corner of the art is built. A necessary evil.

We talk about auditioning being a muscle that, when worked out regularly, improves. I don’t believe that anyone really enjoys the experience, but I think that it does become easier with practice. Most things do.

This is also the time of year when people will start to second-guess their career paths. They didn’t get the auditions, or any offers for next summer or next year. The choice is to either dig in more fully, or to look around and investigate other options. Everyone’s timetable is different, as are the the thresholds.

Let me put it one way: after 7+ years of sitting on an audition panel, hearing over 500 singers each year? I can say that 90% of the singers I hear are doing a lot of things right. They’ve done the work; they know the text and subtext of their piece, they have good diction, they sing in tune. (That last one’s a bigger deal breaker than you might think.) There are 5% who end up singing for us who are not ready, in one way or another. And then there are the super-shiny top 5%, who give us an authentic artistic experience when they walk into the audition room. The performances aren’t perfect, but they’re compelling- fundamentals are exceeded, and we get a sense of the singer’s artistic voice.

If you hate auditioning? Before you walk away, do it more often; so that the hate becomes mere dislike, and less epic. If you can’t get there? Well, then you’ve given it a fair shake, and maybe investigating other options is the way to go.

Commit. Ride the wave. (And, when you get to shore? Decide whether you want to go back in, or whether it’s time for an ice cream on the way home. )


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Profile Friday Roundup

Greetings from San Francisco! (I bet that curtain weighs hundreds of pounds...)

As I try to acclimate myself to the west coast (it’s been three days and I’m finally waking up at 5:30am, rather than 4am. Progress!), I hope you’ll skim through the profiles that we’ve featured here over the last few months.

(Listed in order of appearance.)

Mark Bradley Miller

James Lynn

Melissa Collom

Joseph Craig

Jennifer Empie

Tonya McKinny

Sean McAuliffe

Kim Pensinger Witman

Tracy Cherpeski

Vic Muenzer

Stephen Brody

Annie Burridge

Tom Wright

Peter Zimmerman

Gia-Ninh Chuang

At the very least, there are some salient points to be taken from each of these journeys. At best – and that’s personally where I think these stories and intentions belong – they’re tales of discernment and courage.








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On standby.

Tuesday is Travel Day!

Posting will be light for a while, as I’ll be on the road for our Annual Autumn Audition Extravaganza…over 500 auditions in eight cities across the country over the next four-and-a-half weeks. It’s an exciting and challenging time for us – we’re vetting repertoire choices as we’re listening to singers, trying to find the right mix for our 2013 season.

During this time, I’m always reminded of my own circuitous journey, that brought me to my seat on the other side of the audition table. I’m happy with where I am now, but I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that it was a rough path getting here. I’m hoping to post some reflections, and a little bit of inspiration, during this year’s tour.

This Friday I’ll post a recap of the profiles we’ve seen thus far. And – if you have a story that you’d like to share, or want to nominate someone whose story you’d think would resonate with readers, please email me at indirectroutes@gmail.com.

If you’re auditioning this fall, please know that I am in awe of your courage and that I’m sending you good wishes from my side of the table. And if you’ve decided that this is your last audition season, or that your heart’s not really in it, or that you need to try something else but are too scared? Well, I hope you’ll check back for a little bit of support and some real-life examples.

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