Here's the display at Houston's Hobby Airport - the Southwest employees get my vote for Most Festive!

We're travelling on Halloween, which is a little strange. I'm a little sad to be missing it at home, as the new wave of tiny neighborhood kids are dressing up for a first or second time around the block. I'm not a huge fan of costumes for myself (my favorite one is the gypsy costume from second grade...paisley scarves, hoop earrings and GOBS of green eyeshadow. I was gorgeous.) but I absolutely adore seeing the kids in their costumes. And candy...any holiday with candy is good by me. The scary part? Not so much of a fan - I'm enough of a scaredy-cat in real life that I'm pretty easily terrorized.

Yesterday was a full day of auditions, both for the Young Artist tier and the Studio tier. Lots of great singing, lots of brilliant, funny, interesting choices. I tend to notice the stagecraft of the singers as that's something that's interesting to me. I will say that after 3 days of auditions I've seen lots of dynamic, complex characterizations. But I've also seen more than a few monochromatic aria readings, lots of self-pity (which IMHO is rarely an interesting choice in any aria) and closed eyes. This is a tricky point, as sometimes the action in the aria may justify closing your eyes to imagine something delicious or to stop seeing something horrible. Often in an audition it ends up seeming indulgent and - more importantly - cutting off the connection between the singer and the listener. I want you to tell me a story, not shut me out! The audition is such a strange construct...distilling so much information about the aria, the scene, the singer in such a short time is difficult, and even more so if the folks behind the table can't hook into your storytelling. My two cents, to take or leave...

Three days of strong showings... it bodes well for some really difficult choices for us over the next few weeks, but also for some first-rate opera next summer! Seattle, here we come!

Lissstening to Losssss Angelessss

I'm recycling this thought, as we get ready to fly to Seattle for another day of auditions.

Things I Am Thankful For:
  • Catching up with old friends in unexpected places.
  • Listening to hope (in so many forms) via Mozart, Puccini, Verdi. And via Sister Mary Ignatius, Blue Window, and John Raitt. Thank you to all the folks who opened their hearts to us... we are thankful.
  • Experiencing gracious hospitality in a terribly personal manner. I am so grateful to the Lee family for opening their home to us, and making us feel like family. I can't wait to come back to LA!
  • Greek Food. How amazing was dinner this evening!?
  • Opportunities... to know friends in a different environment. To know more about people that I think are interesting.
  • To learn how to spell my name in the Georgian alphabet. It's really pretty, and I wish I could show you.
  • To see photos of friends' most important memories, and hear the stories that accompany them.
The life of a professional singer or coach is so transient...you're in close contact for 5-6 weeks, and then you may not see that beloved friend for months or even years. It is a true gift to have the time to catch up, to share those things that are most important. Would that I had more than 1 day...

And so I say, in LaLaLand, that I am thankful, a la Blanche Du Bois, for the kindness of strangers, the courage of artists, and the tenacity of love. Je t'aime, L.A.


Houston, day one

There's a Lyle Lovett song that I love that's fitting for my first trip to Houston: "That's right, you're not from Texas, but Texas wants you anyway." Texas is making a serious play for my affection. We landed on a beautiful, sunny October morning, and walked out of the airport into a 70 degree, low humidity paradise. Is it seriously like this here all the time? If so, I take back all the nasty things I've said about Texas, what with the heat and humidity and insects of unusual size. It was lovely. Texas, you just might win me over.

Shortly after arriving we dumped our baggage at the hotel (It's a lovely little place with real keys instead of those plastic credit card things that I use for bookmarks. Lots of character!) and headed for the opera house for a performance of Ballo that was really inspiring. Kudos to the entire cast, especially Trappers LB, BG and RM! It's such fun to hear familiar voices from the stage.

Today we had our first day of auditions. Houston Grand Opera is hosting us, and members of their coaching and stage management staff are helping with our auditions - so many capable hands make light work of the details, and we're free to just sit back and enjoy! Many familiar faces (including JJK and Spicy Soprano RC), and some really solid singing. It was an exciting way to begin. It also reminds me of just how competitive our field is - if every city is this strong we'll have some tough decisions to make!

We take notes on out laptops during the auditions; I wonder if the tappity-tappity sounds are unnerving to the singers, or if they're so absorbed in their pieces that they don't notice. {I hope it's the latter!} Sometimes I'm writing descriptions, sometimes comparisons to singers I know well to give myself a frame of reference. Sometimes I'm noting their outfit or hair color {or, more likely for the ladies, their shoes} so that I can access their physical presence. And sometimes I'm just writing "wow." I also record audio for each singer and make a note of the track number {which is key...life really stinks when I forget that crucial second part.} At this point it doesn't seem like much, but after hearing over three hundred singers even the most sparkly and special will start to mush together.

Today's special treats? Sneaking in to see the second act of La fille du regiment, and dinner this evening at Ninfas. And seeing lots of alums in this very cool town... Texas, I think you do want me anyway!


And we're off!

It's Saturday morning, and I'm up waaaaay too early.

It feels a little like the first day of school, and in many ways it is. Today we start the audition tour. It's a clean slate: we have no specific repertoire to cast [that'll happen once we hear everyone], so we're really just listening to who sounds the prettiest, strongest, best. It's a little Darwinian, I guess... every year we level the playing field and start from scratch. I think it's a good way to begin.

Today: a flight to Houston with the largest suitcase in the history of mankind (hey, it's a long tour! And mama needs her shoes...ALL of them.), tickets to a show that I've only seen on video, (You know the one, with Ruth Ann Swenson and the big book/skeleton set in the middle of the lake? Pretty cool...), and then catching up with some fab singers from seasons past, including Little Ms. Bossy and my hometahn buddy LB - GO STEELERS! Looking forward to seeing - and hearing - everyone!



Ok, the posting has been a little sparse and non-substantive.

I wish I could say that it's different today, but sadly it's not. I'm up to my armpits getting ready for this little work trip, and am having problems spelling let alone writing a whole sentence. BUT my dear, sweet readers, I have signed up for NaBloPoMo, which means that I'll be posting everyday in November. (Actually I'll probably start tomorrow, in Houston, and end when we're done listening to opera, right around Thanksgiving. I'm not breaking the rules so much as stretching them a tad, right?)

And if you know this terribly bashful dude (ha!), give him a buzz and wish him a happy birthday!


a day in the life

So here's an accounting of my day in the studio.

8:15 am pick up VM and NM at the Pentagon Metro Station
8:17 am coffee. cup #3 for Rahree, but it seemed really early. A little light knitting for NM
8:48am driving to the Radio Station for day #2 of recording

Now, all of the musical material for the show has already been recorded - it's taped live as part of our Discovery Series - and there's some great audience noise - laughs and applause mostly. There is of course the more-then-occassional cellophane candy wrappers. Note to self in 30 years: open the candy quickly. Quickly. It may seem momentarily obtrusive, but it's much less so than stretching out the opening over several beautiful, exposed, lyrical minutes of a beautiful piece. Really. Trust me.

9:00am waiting for the last team member at the front desk
9:15 am still waiting...
9:30 am all present and accounted for!

Usually before each session the two hosts (RK and WM) and the producer (the lovely NM) listen to the pieces being discussed. We did the listening for this show the day before, so the hosts are scanning through some last-minute research and preparing which points they want to talk about. NM is in the room to make sure that their speech is clear and concise, that their sentences have verbs, and other pesky matters. VM, BC (the engineer) and I are in the control room, which allows us to share stories, chit chat, grump about the housing market and wonder about the wild turkey population in Massachusetts. (I mean, don't they know it's almost Thanksgiving?)

10:00 am record program #1
10:50 am make a last-minute substitution to program #2 - we're punting!
11:15 am listening to program #2
12:30 pm record program #2
1:30 pm Lunch! Yay! (This is my mostest important job besides pulling research from the internets...feeding the troops. I take my job pretty seriously. This place had GREAT sandwiches)
2:00 pm listening to program #3
3:45 pm record program #3
4:05 pm everyone starts getting a little punchy... bad jokes and smack talk abound!
4:10 pm emergency chocolate break. Whew! Things were getting a little dicey! {ok, not really}
4:15 pm listening to program #4
5:40 pm record program #4
6:15 pm record radio promos for the series
6:30 pm pack up!

Time for some laundry and some rose pinot noir - which is appropriate for the upcoming Halloween holiday, and is also really yummy with a slice of pizza!


different perspective

Today is all about new, cool things.

Drove to a different part of Virginny today. I was driving down the George Washington Parkway at 9:00, with the sun roof open and the heat on my feet [yep.] when a plane flew overhead. As I looked up through the sun roof [like I said, 9am on the GW Parkway...I wasn't really moving] the plane passed, and there was a HUGE rainbow bridging the sky between Washington DC and Arlington. It was visible for quite a while [read: until traffic started moving], and was just awesome. An auspicious start to the day!

Have been sitting in the control room at a local radio station, listening to two cool guys talk about music from the 2006-2007 Discovery Series, threading together pieces for our radio series. It's a cool place, and watching the process is really interesting; I'm mostly listening, doing a tiny bit of last-minute research, and - most importantly - getting lunch. [mmmm....Thai food...] They're knowledgable and personable, and a whole lot of fun. And they're all good sports, especially after I folded them all into my roller skate of a car this morning at the metro station.

It's been a great day so far - can't wait to see what else is in store!


thoughts, unordered

  • Went for a glorious walk yesterday. Took my prescription sunglasses, and noticed how my perspective shifted when I wore them. In the shade I was focused on my feet, scanning the ground for acorns and pretty rocks. In the sun I was able to take in more of the scenery, more of the world around me. Both perspectives were beautiful, in really different ways. Assignment: translate that little observation into how I conduct myself on a daily basis.

  • In the studio for the next few days. Challenge: fitting all of the out-of-towners into my tiny 2-door coupe for the short trip from the metro station to the studio. May have to tie someone to the roof...

  • Audition tour begins in less than a week. Challenge: packing. O.M.G.
  • Went to a beautiful farm in northern Maryland yesterday to meet the newest member of the family. We have 4th pick of this litter, but truth be told I would take any of them. I would take all of them, actually. We spent almost two hours with these little guys, and I could've seriously stayed all day, they were that cute. Watch out, kitty...life is going to change!

  • On the docket for today? Shopping for the trip, some half-hearted house hunting (read: nosing around other people's homes. I love it!), and a literal walk in the park.

  • TLLT's posting about rainbows. I love this site!


warning: this not for evrbodee

I will admit freely that I adore this site.

And I have posted about this site before, and how cool it is.

But the two? Combined?




To update my earlier post, check out this book, reviewed in the NYTimes.

Oi veh!


counting down

It's the evening on October 15th.

We leave for the audition tour on October 27th.

To do before I leave?
  • Notify several cities worth of people as to whether we can hear them or not. Sigh...

  • Juggle the infinite number of requests to change audition cities/dates/times, without dropping or double-booking anyone. (Note: if you can work out a swap, by all means do so! Just make sure that both you and your switch-er notify the organization. Save me the juggling, if you care for me at all.)

  • Find audition monitors in each city...I have a bunch, but am still needing several.

  • Make sure that everything is set for this concert that I'll regretfully be missing.

  • Update info for the Board meeting.

  • Double check the audition schedule for each city.

  • Finish financial projections for the end of the year.

  • Double check hotel & flight reservations.

  • Email repertoire lists to accompanists.

  • Triple check the audition schedule for each city.

  • Print out registration forms and info sheets for each site.

  • Figure out how I'm going to pack for 2+ weeks on the road in one suitcase! And that's INCLUDING shoes.

And, of course, gotta welcome Kool Piano Woman back from her trip! Hope she brings back lots of pictures...but if she brings back breakfast, I may have to respectfully decline...



When I was 11 years old my parents sent me to Mansfield University for camp. Gifted camp, or "Tifted and Galented" camp as we used to call it, spending three weeks lisping and lurching among the cheerleaders and those college students unfortunate enough to spend the summer as our counselors and instructors. I took photography and painting classes, studied astronomy (I still remember sobbing in the dark in the planetarium, listening to Elton John's "Rocket Man" blasting on the stereo and wondering why the boy I like liked wouldn't look twice at me.) and lived for drama class and play rehearsals. Yep, even then I had the theater bug.

I found out years later that my parents had hoped that I'd have a healthy appreciation for the arts but grow up to be a doctor/lawyer/indian chief. You know, one of the jobs where you buy your folks a car or a house to thank them for putting up with all of your teenage drama. Life didn't quite work out that way (although I have a slightly unhealthy fascination with the Law and Order franchises and enjoy jury duty a more than I should) and I got things a little mixed up. Sorry mom & dad; no new house or corvette. But lemme ask...did you ever have me tested for dyslexia?

ANYway, the other subject I majored in while at camp was definitely not on the curriculum. But it was one in which I excelled.

Like a sailor.

Imagine, if you will, a pudgy soon-to-be-sixth grader with mousy brown hair and a gap between her front teeth walking around her dorm room saying "asshole" in as many different inflections as she could think of, a la a b-list (c-list? ok, amateur) actor trying to figure out a line reading. And then trying it out on her peers in the cafeteria that evening.

Oh, yeah. Dale Carnegie I wasn't.

Using a string of as many verboten words as possible to describe a moment's irritation was not only something to strive for, but something to master. I knew that swearing made me seem older, cooler, dare I say sexier. And it wouldn't get me in as much trouble as smoking or drinking, two things that I wasn't really into, anyway. Heck, no one ever got sent home for swearing!

Re-entry to the family home, however, was always dicey. Dropping the f-bomb in momma's house was most definitely not allowed, and would likely have been turned into a "teachable moment" about sex or something equally humiliating if the word actually made it out of my mouth.

So it's with great f*$&ing glee that I stumbled across Steven Pinker's article in the New Republic. (Thanks, BookDaddy) He talks about the origins of swearing, why the more taboo words are physical/sexual/scatological rather than violent (which, why is that?), and the religiosity of many of the curses. And he throws in one of my favorite [ok, one of the only ones I know] Lenny Bruce quotes.

F*$#ing brilliant. :)

Parkour and FreeRunning

This stuff totally amazes me. I trip crossing the street. Jumping from one building to another? Only in my Bionic Woman dreams.



Have I mentioned that I love my job?

Tonight this chamber group played in the small theater. What an awesome night!

The theater itself is a rough-hewn jewel box, and one of my favorite places in the world. Vocally sympathetic, kind to strings and winds alike...it's a great place to both hear music and perform. Tonight TJ pointed out to ED that the wood in the hall was actually older than their Guarnieris... cool, huh?

The performance was amazing. Haydn - which to be honest I wasn't all that excited for, but that held everyone rapt. It sounded fresher, newer than I can remember in recent memory. Janacek - my favorite. Outstanding. Such a cool piece, so well done... I could've listened to the whole thing two or three more times. Brahms - perfectly done. (I find his quartet writing less satisfying than his bigger orchestral works - the transparency of the form is a real challenge for the performers, I fear)

My background is not so much in strings, other than violin lessons (mi-ssi-ssi-ppi HOT DOG) and a methods class for my teaching certification. That being said, these guys are a primer for all that is good in string playing and a true lesson in ensemble. They danced together, told jokes, wept... Their playing was so precise that you could see the architecture in the piece, but their playing was nuanced, warm. The range of color, the communication between players...truly inspiring. And the second violin's perfect rock-star hair moshing about in the circle was pretty cool, too.

And, as a bonus, they were just lovely folks! We were unfortunately waiting for taxis for longer than I would've liked, but I loved having the opportunity to talk candidly with them about music, audiences, recording fidelity, and the Rockies. (the baseball team, not the mountains)

They're at the top of their game. Heck, the top of THE game. And they're playing the same program at Carnegie Hall on Saturday. [tomorrow. no,wait...TODAY] Run and get tickets - they're that good.


Click and Clack would be ashamed.

I'm not a car person. I love my car because it gets me from point A to point B quickly, is small enough to park on the side streets in Georgetown, and the cd player allows me to sing at the top of my lungs in public without anyone having to hear the caterwauling. When we were shopping for a car to replace my trusty Civic, I had three deal-breakers:
  1. The car must have a cd player.
  2. The car must have a sunroof.
  3. The car must NOT be a mini van or any other mom-ish car.
Everything else was negotiable. Much to the frustration of hubby. 2 door or 4 door? Don't care. Color? Don't care. Point A to point B while singing. That's all I need.

Except today? Today I drove a big-girl car. With more than 2 doors. And a sunroof. And XM radio. And heated seats... aaaaaahhhh. As I was driving this beautiful loaner back to the dealership, I seriously contemplated calling them up and saying that they couldn't have it back, that I had been to the doctor's and had the car surgically attached to my backside. But that I'd trade them my little buggy in it's place.

Drinking a toast to heated seats on a crisp fall day. Mmmmmm....



odds and ends, in no specific order

  • Once again, I am reminded of how lucky I am to have good girlfriends, and strong, fun role models in work and life. No big epiphanies or major occurrences...just feeling appreciative and grateful.

  • Productive evening: finally backed up my iTunes. (only took an hour - gotta get crackin'!) And hung all the diplomas. And the new photos. And did some laundry. Whew! To celebrate? Drank a nice glass of white wine. Mmmm....
  • Trying to decide between:
    • doing some work at home tonight
    • practicing for rehearsal tomorrow {argh...Lukas Foss...slower tempo markings, please!}
    • watching bad tv and surfing the internet more than i should
    • going to bed early and doing some yoga before work tomorrow

  • Ate my weight in polenta for dinner. And lived to tell.

  • I have been protesting the heat wave in October. I have registered a formal complaint with JM regarding the weather and I guess he's been working on it, because there has surfaced a rumor on weather.com that maybe, just maybe, it'll pass. By tomorrow. (!)Or by this weekend at the latest. If it happens I will owe Herr M big time. Maybe I'll let him borrow all my pretty cable-knit tights...

  • What to get Mom for her birthday? {Mom, no reading the blog until after your birthday, ok?}
Tomorrow? Getting those scheduling emails out to auditioners. Last year we had around 650 folks apply. This year? I'm ballparking close to 1,000. Does that mean that more folks are finding out about out us? Or that there are more folks singing at a higher level? Either way, it bodes well for this little art form that we all love so much.


A case of the Sunday lazies

Surprise, surprise. Rahree spending a Sunday doing nothing worthwhile? That's SO unlike her!


But today is a little different...today I used up all my energy going to the gym AND a bike ride. [I know! Rahree, are you a gym rat? What gives with the double workout?] And so an afternoon of total sloth is not only justified, but practically expected!

And while I did slack quite a bit of the day away, between football games (side note - Comcast, will you PLEASE show a freaking Steelers game once in a while? Is it really too much to ask?), reading the Sunday paper (all of it. Even the business section. Although I did only skim the stocks.) and running errands, I found little pockets of time to do good, constructive stuff. Sat at the piano for an hour and hacked around, trying to remember how to read open score (Don't drink and try this one, kids. It'll make your brain hurt.) and figuring out the chord progressions to a few pop songs that I'm singing ad nauseam. Broke out the sketchbook and drew for a while, with decent (for me) results. Thought of a story idea that I'd like to develop. (read: figure out how to write a short story so it's interesting to someone besides me. And my mom.) And made my favorite dinner, with a glass of good wine and a bite of ancho chile chocolate to polish it off. Yum!

It feels good to do some creative things, not matter how small the scale. Even while working in a creative field, so often the things I'm called upon to do have little to do with innovation or expression and more to do with supporting others' creativity, being proactive or, when I'm not doing my best, damage control. I forget that it's just as important to have creative outlets now as it was when I was singing and teaching. Creating something from nothing takes courage. Keeping my hand in, as it were, makes me a better administrator, more adaptable, better able to problem solve. And it keeps me empathetic to our artists' concerns and struggles.

So, to all of you pursuing the dream, I both salute and support you.

And for those of you with day jobs? Dude, we should totally start a band.


you've got possibilities...

Saturday morning, staring down the barrel of a three-day weekend. Yay!

This time of year is both difficult and rewarding in the Rahree household. Work is difficult - spending the majority of my day saying "no" and wondering how to soothe the karmic wrath I'm incurring. Everyone in my family - grandmother, mother, father, brother - have birthdays in the fall, and with the length of the audition tour it's going to be difficult to get home. (I think I'm going to have to instill a Birthday Weekend in Pittsburgh - like the running of the Polacks at Christmastime, but a few months earlier and with much less gift wrap.) And there is the challenge of packing everything I'm going to need for 3 weeks on the road in several different climates into one suitcase. (Here's a tip - I'll be the one dressed like Johnny Cash.)

Fall is also the time I take stock: it is, after all, the Teacher's New Year and old habits die hard. I had dinner with MI (who is fabulous in every way, and also has incredible parking karma. If you go out with her, ask her to drive. I'm serious, the parking is really that good.) who asked some very innocent questions about life, professional and personal, that have really started me thinking. It's a good place to be: there's something very freeing about being in a stable place and being allowed to daydream about five or ten years down the road without feeling pressured to move on something immediately. Law school? Culinary school? Start a company? Get pregnant? Volunteer for a relief effort? Move to the country and live off-the-grid in a yurt? Anything's possible, and boy, is it fun to think about!

As far as the little goals for the next few months, I'm going to get out from behind my desk a little bit more. After a little over a year in this position I'm starting to get the hang of it. (Not to say that I don't make a gajillion inadvertent mistakes, but I'm starting to grasp the ebb and flow of the different projects a bit.) And so it's time to turn some attention back to the musical/dramatic pursuits that I've been missing so much. I'm reading more than I have in a long time, which is a real treat. I'm prepping for a recital with EF, a fab flute player, and we've been reading through several pieces to see what we like best. I'm enjoying the collaboration, making music in the middle of the work day, having a goal to work towards. And this little blog is making me a little less afraid to write (I'm not really sure that's a good thing, but it is what it is), so maybe it's time to try out some different formats.

So here's a toast to possibilities, to trying something new, to thinking a bit outside the box, to stretching.


Lift me up

Feeling a little downtrodden this evening, in spite of the gorgeous weather in suburban DC.

Spent the better part of the day fighting with either a financial software package that I'm not quite educated (read: smart) enough to use and splitting hairs on the audition schedule for New York, the busiest stop on our tour. This will be my second autumn in this job, and my first time doing the full tour, so I've been lucky to have a little more insight into the process and a little more access to materials. And even though I don't professionally consider myself a singer anymore, I still am most definitely a singer at heart. I want to show all of the applicants the support and encouragement that they have worked for and deserve. But there's only so many spots...do you give a familiar face one more chance or opt to hear someone who has never applied before? It depends...

(On a related note, I'm lucky to learn this business from someone who pours over applications with amazing intensity and compassion. If she struggles with these same decisions after years of screening applications, then maybe I'm going about it the right way.)

So I'm getting my mind out of the office. Listening to pop music [right now? "Guenivere" by David Crosby and "Excuses" by the John Butler Trio. Easy to sing along to. Much to my cat's chagrin...], doing the sudoku and plotting my next move in a scrabble game. And reading a fabulous review for one of our singers from the summer, a beautiful, sweet girl with pipes for days. It's a concert that I should've attended but didn't and now I'm feeling even more bummed. I'm a jerk. But you knew that already, didn't you?

Tomorrow? I am determined to exercise. Maybe some yoga...because I don't think lifting a fork loaded up with mac and cheese to my mouth as quickly as I can for a bajillion reps really counts as exercise. But I wish it did. Oh boy, do I!


Bits and pieces.

  • When was the last time you had a peanut butter cup? Yeah, it's been a long time for me, too. They're just as good as you remember. Although it is hard to eat just one...

  • More applications today. Wow, there are lots of people singing all over the place! Lots of interesting things going on...makes me wish that we could sustain more folks. Last year we processed 650 young artist apps...this year between the young artists and the studio we've already passed that. And with rec letters, resumes, audio samples and payments all coming in, we have to process on average 5 pieces of info per applicant. I'm betting we end up with 900+ applicants for both programs...that's almost 5,000 items to lose. Wish us luck! [And don't fear paper clips, my friends.]

  • Catching a Seinfeld rerun... Kramer's making kreplach. Outstanding! It's getting close to pierogi time for me - my contribution to Christmas Eve dinner [and to lucky friends!]. There's nothing like spending an afternoon singing to the iPod, covered up to the elbows in flour... aaahhh. I think I have my weekend planned out...watch out, Mrs. T - there's a new little Polish lady in town!

  • I'm officially participating in NaBloPoMo. I'll be posting about the tour, the towns, the travel, and will hopefully get some video up, as well. I know, terribly exciting! Well, I hope the travel won't be terribly exciting...uneventful is the word I'd like to use for that part...

  • Here's a song that I've been listening to in the car a lot. It's the same folks who sing "Half Acre" that's on a commercial. I like that tune too, but this is the one I'm loving right now.