Well, my 2010 has wrapped up fairly nicely...my house has been scoured (I love to start the new year with a spanky clean house...it means I'm off the hook for the rest of the year!), I have a small gathering planned for this evening for which I'll no doubt make way WAY too much food, the sun is shining and the temperature is supposed to get above 50 degrees.

Lovely, right? Right!

And, while 2010 hasn't been my best friend, it's been one of those buddies who offers amazing insight at what seems to be totally inopportune times. I do wish that she had been nicer to many, many of my friends. (She was a bit of a beeyatch.) But I feel pretty lucky to be where I am, to have such great friends and family, to be blessed with interesting work and good colleagues, to be safe and (a little too) well-fed and comfortable.

Life is good!

Here's hoping that 2010 has been kind to you. And here's wishing you a ridiculously happy 2011 filled with joy and bacon and lurrrrrve.

My 2010 five:
  1. Being loved.
  2. Being challenged.
  3. Being healthy.
  4. Being content.
  5. Being amazingly grateful.


a new year's wish

This is a hard time of year. And it's been a hard year for many of my friends and family...

Major health concerns.

Crumbling relationships.

Loved ones lost.

There was a time when it seemed like everyone was getting married, having kids, celebrating. We tried to figure out how to buy enough presents for all the occasions we were invited to,  juggled our schedules to make it to the various parties and weddings and showers, and once or twice threw our very own bridezilla fits. (Ahem.)We figured out how to make small talk with people we likely wouldn't ever see again, how to sit in that dress that was a wee bit too tight in the wrong spots, how to walk across grass in stilettos. We tried to support the people we loved, even when money and time were both tight.

Boy, those were nice problems to have, eh?

I miss those days. Even though I wouldn't go back for anything, the older-but-wiser me would like for 2011 to have WAY more celebration than we were allotted in 2010.

Less grieving, less strife. Less sickness. Less hopelessness.

More transformation.

More excitement.

More magic.

More joy.

What are you hoping to find in 2011?


the blog is dead! long live the blog!

Hi All,
So, I've been writing in this little corner of the interwebs for almost five years...and while I'm not lighting any narrative fires here, I love it. I love that I feel like I know so many of you, even if we've not met IRL. I love that I have a place to share stories and music; that I get good advice and support from so many of you. And I love that I don't have to censor very much....sure, y'all pay the price in the amount of drivel and nonsense that scrolls past, but you are a very accepting, permissive bunch.

(I love that about you.)

Anyhoo, I'm increasingly aware of how many folks read this, and how many of those folks I don't know...and it freaks me out a little bit. Because I don't believe in anonymity. But mostly because little bits of my blog are ending up in other places, and I can't control it. 

So I'm leaving this up until the end of 2010. I'll still be writing, and in fact I'll likely still be writing here...but the site will be password protected.

I'd LOVE to take you with me into Double Secret Blogation. Email me and I'll send a password.

(Ssssshhhhhhh! DON'T TELL ANYONE.)

Happy 2010, kittens. And here's to an even happier 2011!!!

My five:
  1. Fuzzy hats.
  2. Watching pieces fall slowly into place.
  3. Wrapping presents while watching bad tv. (Hello, my evening plans!)
  4. VERY FUN LUNCHES! (Thanks JR!)
  5. Hanging with the extended families. Can't. WAIT.


masochism lives!

I'm obviously finally feeling better. How else to celebrate than with a trip to the Galleria on the Saturday before Christmas??

I'm nuts, I know.

But hear me out: it's the smaller of the 2 malls (the other being Tysons, which is HUGE and a total madhouse on normal weekends), the Macy's is tidier and more thoughtfully curated that at the other location, and there are always fewer people because of the plethora of really expensive stores.

And they have indoor snow. Seriously!

(It makes the incessant carols totally bearable.)

I was just trying to find a cute holiday outfit for Christmas day...we get together with hubby's side of the family, and they're all teeny and super-stylish. (After 10 years? Yep, still feeling pressure to look good at the in-laws.) And, after scouring the mall, I still don't really have anything to show for it, other than a new appreciation for peppermint mocha lattes. And a bag full of candy for the in-laws.

(And maybe a candy bar for myself.)

Speaking of hubby: those of you who know us know that he has a magical ability to thwart even my most thoughtful gift giving. Year after year I agonize over his presents (because there's less than a month between Christmas and his birthday, it's a double whammy), and almost every year he somehow divines out what I've decided to buy him, and tries to purchase it himself. Kayak lessons, bike gear, a laptop...all previous gifts that he tried to purchase for himself mere days before the holiday. (I am still indebted to the stalwart saleswoman at the kayak place who refused to let him purchase the lessons even after his browbeating. I'm glad he called the next day to apologize!)

This year's installment? An iPad. He tried to buy one Thursday night, even as the one that I had ENGRAVED to him sat upstairs in my nightstand.


I gave it to him today...so that he could play with it before his trip to Chicago on Monday.

(I'm getting him socks for his birthday. Nothing but socks. That'll teach him.)

My five:
  1. Feeling better. I HATE being sick!
  2. The Sing-Off. I seriously almost started to cry a few times - from joy! It's goooood stuff!
  3. Gray weekend days. Makes curing up with a book almost mandatory.
  4. Low-key family celebrations...I'm excited for the holidays!
  5. Chocolate and peppermint.


reasons I love snow part #27

Here's a secret that's not really a secret: the teachers are almost always happier about a snow day than the kids are.
Santa came to my office!

Old habits die hard, friends...the office closed early, and even though I was making some good progress I was out of there as quickly as my boots would take me. I'm happily ensconced on my couch, a dog at my feet, the tv tuned to my dvr'd episodes of Glee and The Sing Off. The cat is running around the house like crazy, watching the coven of crows that have roosted in our neighborhood. (I can't tell from the cawing whether they're enjoying the snow or are bitching about it...) I'm weighing my afternoon options...nap? Or making chowder & biscuits?

Both. Most decidedly.

The early dismissal is actually a really good thing, though. I'm still (!) struggling with getting better...the cold temperatures outside, the dog that needs walking in said frigid temperatures, the gimped up hubby, and the office that still hasn't reached above 65 degrees is making recovery a little more of a challenge than normal. I still totally sound like a phone sex operator! But there's still casting to be done, Christmas presents to buy and wrap, friends to connect with...all fun stuff that I'd like to really enjoy, not just get through. So maybe an afternoon on the couch before a busy weekend is just what the Dr. ordered, right?

Wait, he drives a green SUV? Where's Blitzen?
Nap. Then chowder and biscuits.

Yup. It's a plan.

My five:
  1. Fleece-lined pants. Such a brilliant concept, they should be awarded the Nobel Fleece Prize! (Thanks for the pun, Brenda!)
  2. Flameless candles - so cool!
  3. Unexpected free time.
  4. Time to reflect.
  5. New resolutions.


Puttering, interrupted.

Usually my weekends consist of a long list of little to dos...errands to run, chores, classes at the gym, new recipes to try, folks to visit. I'm good a spending an hour or so being lazy, but too much more than that and I get restless.

That restlessness is also my litmus test when I'm not feeling well. I started feeling a little pooky Wednesday night. By the end of our work holiday party I had almost no voice...which, when you don't have to sing for a living, is actually kinda fun. But I was still feeling ok when I went to bed after the party.

The next morning? A different story. I think it was the first time in a looong time that I actually succumbed to germs. (Usually I'm good at catching it early and preventing a full-blown case of the cruds. Not so much this time.)

I spent all of Friday on the couch. In my pajamas. Getting up only to fill my teacup and to occasionally let the dog outside. I threw a cheater's bolognese sauce in the crock pot in case hubby was hungry after work. And I napped and read and watched Bravo.

C'est. Tout.

So, between throwing myself into a pile of gravel and catching whooping cough (kidding!), I'm guessing that my body is asking me, oh-so-nicely, to slow the heck down for a bit.

I'm finally listening. Today's limited docket includes more Bravo TV (Top Chef reruns!), more reading, a puzzle or two, and putting up the Christmas tree. I think that's plenty.

My five:
  1. A good book. I'm enjoying this one right now.
  2. Tea.
  3. Warm socks.
  4. Soup.
  5. Permission to be lazy.


links o'GOLD.

Ok, so half-marathon training is on hold while my knee returns to its original size. (Go big or go home, I say. And, as I was reminded today, I could've broken a tooth in my spill...so I'm still firmly in the "Lucky" camp.) To mourn the passing of several non-sweaty days and a holiday party or two, I've eaten the lion's share of a loaf of Italian bread slathered in butter, with a bit of stew as a chaser.

(Carb WIN.)

In other, possibly related news? Someone broke into my house when I was on the road! They took everything out of my closet and replaced it with the exact same item in a smaller size.

Sneaky bastards. Harumph. Lucky for me that January is a-comin', and with it smaller portion sizes and a renewed gym routine.

Lucky for you? I haven't posted a good link-o-rama in a looooong time. Let me remedy that STAT!
  • I love this little video - I'm only a little embarrassed that it made me cry.
  • Amen, my doodling friend.
  • Try this. You can call me DJ Rahree
  • Are you a daily autocorrect fan? This is for you.
  • WANT.
  • Having lost my father-in-law for hours in a Smithsonian museum makes this even more amusing.
  • Lisbeth Salander AND Sherlock Holmes? YES.
  • I made this with Thanksgiving leftovers...and it's super tasty.
  • Ow. Even if it is for art's sake...still, ow.
  • I can't tell you how much I love this series. Playful, fun and a bit disturbing. Good stuff!
  • A good reminder...
  • ...as is this.
  • And this? Well, you can see this at work all the time. (Guilty as charged...)
  • Agreed. Please??
  • Along with heated seats and flight capabilities? This is what my car needs.
That's all for now... time to whine about my poor beaten visage and knee for some sympathy from the hubs...hope he doesn't catch onto my antics too soon!

My five?
  1. Lazy evenings.
  2. Hot tea.
  3. Stew.
  4. ADD workdays.
  5. Early bedtimes.


a good day.

stuffing a giant wreath for Holiday Sing
I have to admit, I've been defaulting to "Grumpy Old Lady" mode more often than I'd like. Easily irritated, prone to poor-me-isms, with achy joints and a desire to wrap myself up in a fake illness and spend the day in bed.

But today? Well, today could've been more of the same. It's freakin' cold here, with winds that exemplify the word "rude." They cut through clothes, find those gaps between sleeve and glove, shirt and belt. I knew they were going to slap my cheeks silly this morning.

And they did. But only for the last half-block of the walk. A half-block...ok, totally doable.

And I got up early enough to get some stew into the crockpot before leaving for work.

And I remembered (and had time!) to get to the store before work for snacks...because snacks make the day suck WAY less. And this song was playing over the muzak at the store, but instead of making me feel old it made me totally happy.

And I got a lovely holiday boon at work. Two, actually!

And a situation for the summer was resolved in a most satisfactory (read: AWESOME) manner.

And I had two - count 'em, TWO - opportunities to make some fun music with work colleagues.

It was a good day.

So now I'm sitting here with a pot full of stew, a good candy bar and a tasty glass of wine...with catalogues for a little more holiday shopping...and with a big ol' bath fizzy to warm me up after walking El Diablo around the block in the wind. And I'm marveling that I've enjoyed today as much as I have. It's such a tricky time of year, fighting against the cold and the dark, without the discipline of January's resolutions. I'm looking forward to celebrating, but am simultaneously viscerally missing my dad.

(And I guess that's why Grumpy Old Lady's been around more...not because things are bad, but because I miss him, and there's just nothing to be done about it. So if I can't fight against it, wish it away, work it away or pierogi it away (7 dozen made! Watch out, Mrs. T!), I guess I'll just grump against it.)

But today? Well, I'd like to think that Dad's working a bit of holiday magic. And Dad? It was a truly magnificent Tuesday. 

(I can't WAIT to see what you have in store for Wednesday.)

My five:
  1. Polarfleece and down vests.
  2. Holiday Sing - carols and cookies? WIN WIN.
  3. Scarves. I'm living in a fuzzy black circular one.
  4. Trashing my kitchen. 
  5. The return of hat weather...my neighbors no longer have to hide their eyes from the lady with the scariest of all bed head.
edited to add: not ten minutes after posting this (and before the glass of wine, for the record) I totally tripped while walking the dog. Cue the fat lip and the subsequent flipping o'the bird at the universe. If you need me I'll be over here, picking the gravel out of my teeth.


    You wanna talk nesting?

    peanut butter dog biscuits!
    Because I am SO there. After being away for so long, the last few days have been all about my house & family. I have totally trashed my kitchen on multiple occasions (Thanksgiving dinner for 2, homemade Manwich night, turkey jook, homemade dog biscuits, maple-hazelnut granola, pierogi filling, and today pierogis!), started decorating for the holidays (wreaths, porch lights and window candles...a little less motivated in this area...), and largely ignored the cleaning and organizing that I should be doing.

    Can you say procrastination?

    The big thing that I should be doing? That I really neeeed to be doing? Is casting. Ranking Studio applicants, listening to the audio again, making more notes. Looking at the repertoire possibilities for the summer and trying to construct an ensemble that can handle the choral demands while also covering the diversity in the principal singers so that role studies and Inside the Opera scene performances are castable. I've spent more than a few hours on it over the last few days, making sure that people are fresh in my mind, creating some scenarios, listening to audition tracks and recordings of the operas that we're considering. I don't have a system yet, this being my first time, so it's taking quite a bit of time and mental real estate.

    Which, honestly, is the way it should be. I'd rather overthink it and really be able to defend my choices than to approach it with a cavalier attitude. It's important. 

    And the other folks? At other summer programs? Who have been at this way longer than I? Well, they're making offers.  I don't want to lose someone that I'd really like to invite due to hemming and hawing, but I also don't want to rush. It's hard to hold so many good voices in my head, to weigh one against the other knowing that I had less than 10 minutes with each of them.

    (Needless to say I'll be bookending the pierogi time this afternoon with some significant work.)

    Another new thing in my world? Beside the lovely results of my kitchen escapades? Several extra pounds from eating my way across the country during October and November.
    C&O Canal

    So, I signed up for a half-marathon.

    I must be high.

    I know that I work better when I have a goal, though...and this race is on the C&O Canal, one of the most lovely places in the DC area. I used to live within walking distance to the trail, and this will be a lovely way to revisit one of my favorite places.

    (It will also be a wonderful excuse to cram pasta into my maw on one evening in late January.)

    So, while I will likely not be setting any land-speed records, (HA! the day that happens will also be the day that I also become tidy and develop an aversion to carbs.), I'm psyched to have a new goal to work towards. And I welcome any company....hint, hint....

    My five:
    1. Puttery days with my guys.
    2. HGTV. After living in fixer-uppers as a kid, I love to watch renovations. (Hate to live through them, but love to watch!)
    3. Brisk days.
    4. Trashed kitchen and full fridge.
    5. Enjoying the holidays for the first time in years.


    Giving Thanks

    Today is a great day to reconnect with friends and family - to gather together, give thanks for all the good, break bread and laugh together.

    I'm doing things a little differently.

    My mom & brother are a few states away, and the last month's grueling travel schedule makes me reticent to pack ANYTHING and toddle to another city/state. I haven't had quality time with my hubby, my pets or my kitchen for months.

    It's a grey, drizzly day, with just enough nip in the air to be invigorating.

    So Thanksgiving? Becomes a lovely, low key day.

    I started with coffee and music. Took a short jog in the cool air. Stuck the turkey breast in a maple brine for a few hours. Chopped veggies for roasting, made stuffing, assembled a fruit crisp (WAY easier than pie) and poured myself a glass of wine.

    Cleaned up the kitchen as I went...might be the most adult thing I've done.

    Talked to my mom.

    Ate microwave popcorn for lunch.

    Made sure hubby took his meds for a nasty back.

    And here? On the flip side of a tasty meal for two? Well, there are LOADS of leftovers for soups and sandwiches and such over the next week. The kitchen is mostly clean. The dog and cat are curled at our feet, snoozing as the tryptophan hits.

    And I might, just might, be back in my jammies. Watching House Hunters International, football, and a stroll around the block with El Diablo are the only things on the docket, other than perhaps starting a holiday gift list. And going to bed early, of course.

    Wishing you a gentle, relaxing holiday, full of things that you need (regardless of whether or not you knew you needed them in the first place).

    My five:
    1. Creating my own holiday traditions.
    2. Remembering my dad making up translations of Native American words. He tried very hard to convince us that Susquehanna (the river that ran through my childhood town) meant "C'mere, Hanna!"  Hanna was obviously the Chief's wife. (PC, my dad was!)
    3. Stuffing. Best food EVER.
    4. Needed time home with my boys.
    5. Family and friends.


    Dun, da dun dun DOOOOOOOOOONE!

    Today we heard the last singer of the audition tour.


    I'll let the boss lady churn out the statistics, as she's so good at that. But if I were to convert the number of arias we heard to, say, cheese cubes? Well, that'd be several years worth of party/reception cheese cubes. An array of cheese cubes that would easily make it impossible to fit into my favorite pants.

    (Not that I'd know anything about that after being on the road for a month. Blergh.)

    So, there's still lots to do. But I get to sleep in my own bed, and walk my dog around my little neighborhood...and that's gooooood stuff.

    Tour highlights? Reconnecting with some great people. Seeing 4 amazing (if an ooch crazy/maudlin) operas, and some fanTAStic performances. Having surprises walk into every city on the tour. NOT shoplifting my lunch (by ACCIDENT, people!) in Chicago.

    It was a crazy, grueling schedule, for sure...but I feel like we have a really strong perspective on the national state of young singers.

    And it's a pretty strong state, to be sure.

    For all of you folks who put yourself out there this audition season? Tutti bravi. I hope good things come your way!

    My five:
    1. Puppy kisses.
    2. Hearing singers on home turf.
    3. Not having to pack a suitcase for a month.
    4. Great music-making.
    5. A national holiday justifying the mess I'm going to make in my kitchen.
    And, as a gimme, the video to which we referenced almost daily during the tour. It has nothing to do with singing, but does capture the panel's mind set on several occasions. I think the tiny 'harumph' is my favorite part.



    I'm sitting in the Starbucks in the lower lobby of the Palmer House, listening to Leonard Cohen over the sound system (a large step up from Josh Groban's Christmas Album yesterday...that was a rough start to the day.), and trying to keep the anxiety smooshed down. We fly from O'Hare to Dulles today, sprint off the plane and drive to work, where we'll hear another several hours of auditions.

    So there's the travel anxiety...we have a buffer, but it's a small one. And, after a full month of travelling and listening to opera, the edges are starting to fray a little bit. We've lost a good bit of resiliency, and things that might usually run off of our backs are now grabbing us by the lapels and shaking us around.

    But the thing that is more anxiety-making than that? Is Wednesday.

    You see, we hear out last audition on Tuesday evening.

    So Wednesday? We will spend Wednesday with graphs and charts, moving people around from project to project, seeing who we can bring onboard and who we have to pass over. We'll try to find the projects that make the most sense given the people we've heard. We'll sit with the budget and look at the numbers to see what we can afford.

    And hopefully by day's end? We'll have a season.

    This year I have a little more responsibility, and have some of my own casting to do that will lag a little bit until the big pieces fall into place. It's amazingly exciting, but a little nerve-wracking too...I have some pretty big shoes to step into, as I really respect the two guys who came before me. (But I'm psyched to stuff some tissue paper into the toes of those shoes and walk around in them.) It is literally the time when when we put our money where our mouths are, when we use a big pot of cashola to support singers that we believe in by featuring them on our stages and building original productions around them.

    Heady stuff, but not without serious implications. And coming at a time when we're feeling pretty seriously compromised by the schedule, the travel, the lack of exercise and the restaurant food...we've been out of the office since late October, and yet all I want is to spend a few days in my house, doing nothing except watching HGTV, playing with my animals and cooking for my hubby.

    Oh, and working out. Things are feeling a leeeeetle snug. And when I say things? I mean pants. Blergh.

    Wish us a smooth flight east this morning, and just an oooch more stamina for the home stretch.

    My five:
    1. Home.
    2. Home.
    3. Home.
    4. Home.
    5. Home.


    action isn't always "action"

    Chicago has blessed us with volumes of good stuff. We're in a bee-you-tee-ful room that is vocally flattering but still easy to hear. And we're hearing some great stuff.

    In the vein of my last rant though? A mini-rant. Well, not even a rant...a thought. Here goes:
    Dramatic action and physical action? They're not the same thing. Every single aria demands dramatic action...intention behind the line.
    • What is the reason that your character is singing this tune? 
    • What happened in the story right before this moment - what situation did this aria arise from?
    • Who are you singing to? (And are they in the room with you?)
    • Where are the "beats." The moments of transition? Of realization?
    These audition pieces often come at a place of heightened emotion in an opera. But it's not enough to wash the aria with that emotional color, without finding the moments of contrast, or the "aha!" moments in the piece. And feeling sorry for yourself? Almost never translates satisfactorily to the hall....sure, it might feel totally appropriate, and could be justifiable to your character (seriously, who HASN'T felt sorry for themselves?) but six minutes of it will not win anyone over, regardless of the beauty of your tone.

    Here's an example: Pamina's Ach, ich fühl's. Now, this is a beautiful melancholy piece on the face of it. She's in love, her man won't talk to her, and she's upset.

    But she's also trying to accomplish things during this aria...she's trying to force him to speak to her, and also trying to discern why he's not communicating with her. There are tactics that she can use to find out information during the aria...she can weep (which she mentions) to see if her tears will move him. But she can also try any number of other actions...scolding, cajoling, pleading, declaring...within the aria. And she could take a different tactic for each line, to see if something will work, will make him respond...when that tactic doesn't work? She will likely move on to another.

    (Next time you go to the grocery store, look for a parent with an 8 year old. Listen to the different ways that child tries to get Mom to buy those whoopie pies...they'll promise things (like cleaning their rooms), ask, bargain, plead, pout, and finally cause a scene to get mom to buy those dang whoopie pies. Not that I'd be recalling a personal incident... Nope...not at all...)

    It pays to break your piece down into sections and assign actions to the lines. Start with verbs - choosing real action words will make your tactics clearer to those of us on the other side of the table.

    Here's a warning, though. When an aria is fast, or when your character is agitated or fighting to make a decision? Please don't confuse the actions above with pacing/flailing/gesticulating. The action comes from intention. We've seen some amazingly nuanced performances when people have stood stock-still...and we've seen a gajillion performances derailed by unconnected movement.

    Just sayin.

    Here's something to inspire you to get some more action into your life. :) (I'll be singing this all day long!)

    My five:
    1. Reunions - TallBlondeMezzo and the Radio Folks in one evening? Awesome.
    2. Chicago architecture...wow, this town is amazing.
    3. This stuff has saved my LIFE this month.
    4. Magazines full of holiday recipes...I have BIG plans for making a total mess of my kichen when I get home.
    5. One more sleep away from my boys. I'm ready to be home.


    ...that toddlin' town...

    We've landed safely in Chicago! (And the flight was WAY better than this one. For. Sure.)

    It was amazingly ironic that I packed the smallest bag I've ever packed IN MY LIFE for this jaunt. I fit all of my gak into one backpack...computer, files, clean clothes (promise!), magazines for the airplane.

    You're thinking, "Rahree, that's not ironic. Resourceful or something, but not ironic."

    To which I'd reply, "Well, we did fly Southwest...where bags fly free."

    Yep. I could've packed a whole suitcase full of SHOES. For freeeee!!!!

    (Seriously....what's happening to me?? WHO AM I??)

    We're in a new room this fall, and from the photos it looks GORGEOUS. We typically hear strong singers in the Windy City for both programs, and I'm excited to get my ears back on after two short days back at the homestead. Since we're starting to distill the short lists, for both singers and pieces, there's a whole additional full time job that waits for us in the hours between auditions...listening, hypothesizing, making lists (and checking them twice, three, four times...), questioning and reframing and refining.

    Early start tomorrow, and lots to do! More to come.

    My five:
    1. Finish lines.
    2. Sunshine.
    3. Sweet hubster...he's cute.
    4. Interesting repertoire options...next summer is going to be FUN.
    5. Coffee. Seriously, Starbucks - this tour could be yours! Have your people call my people....


    ...and miles to go before I sleep...

    For more than 90% of the year, I am a homebody.

    I have a routine that I love, plenty of time for my little family, fabulous neighbors and friends to spend time with. Also? I have a serious yen to get OUT. To go out, to travel, to try something different.

    But November? In November I get to squish all of that wanderlust into a focused, full-of-travel month. And it's awesome! We cram auditions and meetings and operas and reunions into what soon becomes a fairly masochistic schedule. I get to see folks, make my own brand of awkward conversation, take in new art, and resurrect/nourish relationships that are important but that languish under a heavy layer of neglect. Rough math, I've seen 4 operas, heard well over a thousand arias, flown on five planes, read 7 magazines (Thanksgiving editions! And cue the cravings for turkey and stuffing!) and one book (Bukowski. My first foray...I will dip my toes back into that pool.) I flew from the east coast to the west coast on the day that daylight savings time ended, and my body clock is STILL all ausgefuched.

    Cramming all of that in takes a toll. I am tired. Tired of 20 year old sopranos offering nothing but 7+ minute arias without offering cuts. Tired of lugging my things around like I'm a turtle. Tired of singers having no idea of the text of their aria, let alone subtext. Tired of trying to find time to exercise. Tired of the caricatures. Selfishly tired of trying to be a good colleague to my workmates back at the office, and so very irritated at myself for falling pitifully short. Sadly, quite tired of Stephano and Siebel. (Cherubino? Despina? I miss you guys...) Tired of my right shoulder living a full 2 inches above my left.

    Bitch, bitch, bitch. I know. And really, this has been a nice, easy tour...beautiful rooms, smooth travel (knocking on wood, as we're not done yet!), good singing and lovely warm reunions. I have found that 16 month old babies are perfect lunch companions (they eat enough of your fries and ice cream to reduce the guilt level to nil! And they give random kisses...the best kind.), that singing pop songs at the top of one's lungs is an easy way to clear the aria jukebox, that 5 minutes of focused, in-person conversation is better than hours of chat. That having separate travel days makes life totally bearable. That my travel companion and I travel well and easily together, and that's a real blessing. (And also that we have some hours away from each other...we need some new stories for the next flight!)

    Next stop? Chicago...that toddlin' town. But before that? A quick stop to repack. To reconnect with my little family.

    To get a massage. Because the hunchback I'm sporting is even more striking than the fabulous shoes.

    My five?
    1. Sleep. Too much is never enough.
    2. Context. The doorman at the hotel in Houston asked us to wait inside for the cab, because it was too cold outside. It was GLORIOUS outside. :)
    3. Cinnamon spice candles.
    4. Restaurant meals.
    5. Fasting and exercising.


    my home away from home?

    Before I visited Houston, I was convinced that every part of Texas was dry and desertlike, with huge bugs and lots of dust and really good spicy food.

    But then I visited lovely, lush, green Houston. Houston in November is like the DC area in June. It's lovely and green, with just enough humidity to put a little bend in your hair but not so much that you end up looking like a jungle creature.

    (I hope.)
    Anyway, we hopped a flight from San Francisco to Houston, hoping against hope that we'd be able to see this little sea story at HGO. We knew we'd be cutting it close, but the universe smoothed out everything except our (road weary, craptastic) moods...the flight was lovely, our bags were first off the plane: we caught a cab, picked up room keys and tickets and headed for the opera house.

    Smooth like glassssss, baby!

    And, not ONLY did we see familiar faces on stage, we ran into several singers and pianists in the audience. Our social calendar is filling up BIG TIME. (Seriously. Have your people call my people.) AND I bumped into one of my fav students from my Pittsburgh days, the Poetess. She looks fabulous, and somehow? I'm not at all surprised to run into her at the opera.

    In Texas.

    On a random November evening.


    Universe, please don't mind my grumpalicious mood - I am totally digging what you're throwing down.

    Day one of a three-day-stand in H-ton begins tomorrow morning!

    My five:
    1. Actually getting work done on a flight! AMAZING!
    2. Complimentary chocolate cookies.
    3. Large hotel rooms.
    4. Hearing the sound of horse hooves outside my window, in the middle of the city.
    5. Reconnecting.
    No video, but audio for one of my favorite songs. A musical nightcap, if you will.


    the bloom is off the rose.

    (Well, that's been true for several years. But you, dear readers, are quite kind for never bringing it up.)

    MegaPow! (Obvs not an action shot.)
    Today we had auditions in San Francisco, one of my most favorite cities. The weather was capital-G Gorgeous. I woke up early, feeling better than I had in days, ready to kick some audition patootie. I went for a short run (because seriously? In San Francisco there are serious hills...kick your ass, just-as-hard-to-run-down-as-up hills. And little miss shin-splints here is unused to that particular kind of discomfort. 2 miles? Yep, c'est tout.), AND did some yoga AAAAND ventured out for coffee and breakfast with KPW.

    A good start.

    And auditions? Awesome. And difficult. At this point in the tour, I start losing language. I have a vocabulary of words that I can use to describe certain sounds...plummy. Uncomplicated. Wobbly. Covered. Complex. Bright. Lush. Focused. There are more, both flattering and less so, that I call on fairly frequently to describe what I hear. And it's at this point, after hearing a few hundred singers, that I feel like I'm writing the same comments over and over again. I'm religious in notating the auditioner's repertoire and some distinguishing feature - a purple dress, a red shirt. A matching tie and pocket square. A fabulous pair for shoes. (Natch.) But I find myself repeating comments like "pressed vibrat," "No connection to the text," "Ham and cheese hands" and "Mezzo? Soprano." in every single city we've visited.

    And, as someone who struggled with every single issue on that list? Well, on one hand it's nice to know that I wasn't alone in trying to figure those things out. But there's also a frustration on behalf of folks who are getting sketchy information/recommendations. (Been there, still have the t-shirt.) Get your information from a group of people that you trust, and who have extensive experience in both academia and professional arenas. 

    Anyhoo. Some familiar faces, some really beautiful singing. We met a new pal in pianist CP, and spent more time with JW and MegaPow. KPW and I took a short walk into Japantown(?) for my first ever bibimbap at a country-style Korean place. How have I never had this before? It might be the perfect comfort food!

    It was good day.

    (Well, except for the epic wait for a taxi. Seriously a full 30 minutes. New York has ruined me.)

    And now?

    I'm toast. Sit-on-the-couch, stare at the interwebs because reading is too hard, kind of toast. Listening to the people in the suite above me pace back and forth, pondering going to bed at 9pm.

    Lamelamelamelamelaaaaaaaaame. But necessary, I suppose.
    Tomorrow? Houston. Time change. Peter Grimes. Early to bed seems like the right thing to do.

    My five:
    1. Silk dresses and sweaters in late November.
    2. Good singing.
    3. Finish lines.
    4. Silence.
    5. Laughter.
    Here's one of the tunes I'm using to keep the aria jukebox out of my head. (On heavy rotation? Marie from Fille du Regiment, and Je suis encor from Manon. Constantly. I cannot escape. And they were never my repertoire!)It's particularly appropriate, given my mother's phobia of Great White Sharks, and her conviction that, if she ever flies in an airplane, that said plane will crash and she'll survive - only to be eaten by sharks. (And if you ask her about overland routes? She'll calmly answer "Water Parks. Aquariums.")


    We've had a lovely, fairly uneventful travel day...new route to the airport to drop off the rental car, an irritating game of "Pace the Terminal" at LAX when we were sent to opposite ends of the terminal for each step of the bag check/check in/security timestep. We spotted Virginia Madsen and Amy Pohler in the terminal. The flight was short and smooth.

    And I was grumpy. The kind of grumpy that's really only dislodged with sleep or time with friends or magical unicorns and double rainbows.

    We were booked into a new hotel, and a flight of green marble stairs greeted us at the front door. "Ugh. It's Philly all over again." I pouted, recalling pulling my heavy suitcases up the stairs at their lovely music school. But a porter met us at the door and did the heavy lifting. The reservationist was lovely...and as I looked around at the pretty Victorian lobby, and grabbed my heavy brass room key, I thought that maybe it would be OK.

    And, as I opened the door to my THREE ROOM SUITE? With a chandelier and a fireplace and high ceilings and a bay window? I thought, yep....things are OK.

    After a grilled butter and cheese sandwich (srsly. my arteries all clogged after bite 1.) (Of course I kept eating.), we commandeered a cab and headed for the opera house. We're doing a bit of a reverse-chronology tour of Janacek's oeuvre, with House of the Dead last year at the Met, and the Makropulos Case at San Francisco Opera tonight. (2011? Must be Vixen!) It was opening night, and I saw Karita Mattila for the first time.

    Holy. Moly.

    The committment. The voice. The sheer athleticism. The ferocity. The moments of comedy - some staged, sure, but some were spontaneous and totally enthralling. She had us all - even the grumpy ones - in the palm of her hand. It's not often that I leave the theater this jazzed...I'm lucky to see a lot of performances, in a bevy of genres and disciplines, and I'm a little jaded sometimes, I guess.

    (Oh, and Rufus Wainwright was there. In a plaid coat. I am a celebrity-recognizing FOOL today!)

    Tonight. Not jaded.


    Tomorrow? Back to the opera house for the last bit of West Coast auditions. Let's see if we hear a mini-Mattila. :)

    My five:
    1. A charming, non-chain hotel.
    2. Good news from my rock star hubster.
    3. Yoga podcasts...my shoulders and back doth protest too much.
    4. Easy travel companion - especially at this point, when we're both tired and stiff and grumpy. 
    5. Spending more time with JadaBoy and MegaPOW tomorrow!


    Banishing the grumpy old lady.

    Sunrise in Malibu
    The left coast is so good to us.

    We got in late Sunday night, and were immediately welcomed into the arms of Santa Barbara's most lovely, generous family. We made it to our sleeping quarters around 10pm, which very much felt like 2am to these 2 east coasters.

    Monday morning's sunny drive into LA proper along the Pacific Coast Highway slapped us into reverence...I wonder if the folks who commute that way stop seeing how gorgeous it is? Or if it's awe-inspiring regardless of how many times one has seen it?
    (It would've been even more awe-inspiring had I made a pot of regular coffee instead of decaf. I seem to have a hard time adequately caffeinating myself in California.)

    We heard singers and coaches at LA Opera's rehearsal space in Little Tokyo. (I think that's the neighborhood? It's part of the warehouse district, near the arts district...lots of districts in a three-block area!) It's a long room on the second floor, which means that the first few singers bounce up the stairs, start singing and then realize just how out-of-breath they are. We had a few second takes in the morning. :) But we heard some great singing, and some great monologues from Studio auditioners...the dramatic piece of the puzzle seems often to be more put together out here, no doubt from the prevalence of (perceived?) tv/film opportunities. And with the lovely Ninotchka on the keys and the Judgess as the monitor, we were in fabulous company all day. The other thing that's great about the space? The fact that there are a jillion exercise balls and even a mini trampoline in the room! It's easy to keep moving in this space, and it makes the day easier, for sure.

    Today we have a workday in the trailer park. Time to back up data, make some decisions, and listen in on some work calls. We might even have time to visit the beach. I'm grateful for the slow day, as my body is trying to fight something off...I think a nap might be just the thing I need.

    My five:
    1. Texts from hubby...it's hard being away from my boys.
    2. The smell of the ocean.
    3. Rekindling relationships on the road.
    4. Warm generosity.
    5. Regular coffee.



    The Vontz Center at UC. Designed by Gehry. And sitting right outside my window!
    Ok, Cincinnati, you've done it. With lovely weather, friendly people, a leisurely schedule, incredible food, good singing and that amazing double rainbow, you've won me over.

    I no longer hate Cincinnati. In fact, I think it's a pretty lovely town!

    (Although my football team is still going to kick your team's tuckus tomorrow night. I don't love you enough to forgo all smack talk.)

    Today is a travel day AND daylight savings time. Which means that I've gained an hour this morning (Good thing those high school kids across the hall made sure I didn't go to bed too early last night...I'm sure it's delayed karmic payback for my own high school shenanigans.), and will gain another three when we fly to LA this evening.

    (Can you say totally f-ed up body clock? Whoa.)

    See y'all on the left coast - auditions tomorrow at LAOpera's rehearsal space!

    My five:
    1. Sun salutations in the sunlight.
    2. Pleasant surprises.
    3. Tea before bed.
    4. New music. (video - of sorts - below!)
    5. Video chat.


    GET OFFA MY LAWN! (Or, A Cranky Lady Rants.)

    I’m about to rant.

    I’m not going to cloak it in edu-speak or niceties, because it’s my opinion, and if this is indeed my tiny corner of the internet, I should be able to speak my mind here. If you’re not in the mood, please dig through the archives or visit one of these fabulous sites.

    The things that I love about opera, this crazy art form that I’ve dedicated my professional life to, are all related to communication…the ways that the human voice can communicate such beautiful words AND add startling, heartbreaking subtext by coloring the tone, changing the articulation…through sheer intention. The amount of information that can be conveyed is infinite and powerful. It’s transcendent. The music speaks to me, but it’s the addition of text that breaks my heart. I suppose it’s the reason that I gravitated to singing more strongly than to the violin or piano…I love words. But I also love the way a skilled singer can take a phrase, a scene, a role, and create something new and vibrant and relevant through their interpretation…seeing a situation through someone else’s lens is powerful, and I think the clearest way to see similarities and differences in oneself.

    But these beautiful lines, this rich subtext, the conflict has to be communicated. And to successfully communicate, there need to be two parties involved: the speaker and the listener. The listener, in this case the audience, need to free themselves of distraction (i.e. no texting during the show, running through the to-do list, or firing off the random email from the seats), and be willing to spend a good chunk of time listening. They need to  suspend disbelief (in dragons, true love, the wrath of the gods, et cetera ad nauseam) and be receptive to the crux of each of these stories: the relationships therein.

    The performer’s responsibilities are to create a believable, multi-dimensional character: to tell that character’s story: to believe the story 100%. They also must create two types of relationships: those onstage that facilitate the telling of the story, and those with the audience that creates the space for the telling of that story.

    Part of that audience relationship is made up of those nit-picky things like vocal technique and knowing your music: because let’s face it, if those pieces aren’t in place, the story you’re telling isn't  “I’m in love with a man who walked away from me and our child and now my life is not worth living,” or “Because you’ve killed my lover I’m going to throw myself off the nearest bridge/tower/parapet,” but rather “holy CRAP I’m totally unprepared and uncomfortable.” 

    BIG difference in subtext, that.

    And yes, a beautiful tone is included in that nit-picky list. The voice has to be lovely and secure. It has to be big/focused/resonant enough to reach me in the hall while maintaining that special quality.

    But as a performer, you cannot stand and phonate at me, and expect me to listen to your story. When you yell at me, with nothing below a mezzo-forte, when you trot out unconnected stock gestures (Raise left arm and look hopeful! Clasp hands and look concerned!) without having made a connection to me, you lose me. When your eyes skate over the room like it’s an ice rink, until I can’t tell where your focus is, I soon stop trying. (Is the heroine you’re singing to stage left or stage right? Or maybe floating over my head? Or is she pinned under your shoes?) When your anguished face and your ecstatic face look the same, the lack of both context and subtext is apparent immediately. And please know that Every Single Time you close your eyes onstage you sever our connection. It’s the easiest way for you to tell me that you’re really talking to yourself, and not to me. That I’m not integral to your music making.

    (And if that’s in fact the case? You don’t need to sing onstage…your shower should do you just fine.)

    If you are hoping that the sheer beauty of your voice will make you a career, I’d like to persuade you, in this era of hi-def video simulcasts and close camera angles, to invest in acting classes and a gym membership. Sign up for dance classes if you feel trapped in your body...no one's expecting you to be Baryshnikov, we just want you to look comfortably in control of your appendages. At all times.

    Or you could always just resign yourself to bitching about the system and how it’s stacked against you.
    Your choice.

    Tell me a story.

    I'm a typical audience member. I rushed to the opera house after a busy day at work, grabbed a bite at the concession stand, and sit here now, ready to experience someone else’s life. I want beauty and passion and strife. I want to laugh. I want to be moved to tears.

    I am here, listening to you.

    Tell me a story.


    Happy birthday, Dad.

    I miss you.


    Cincinnati: update

    Double rainbows. A gorgeous rendition of Pierrot's Tanzlied. And dinner at a fabulous Indian fusion restaurant.

    Touché, Cincinnati. You're wearing me down with your lovely gestures and lovely people. 

    My five:

    1. Carrot cake. Carrots are vegetables, right? So dessert was practically a salad...i should've had two.
    2. Performers who radiate fun.
    3. Hotel room thermostats. It's like Jamaica in my room.
    4. Fun new photo apps for my phone.
    5. Silly text messages from my niece and nephew.


    Leg 2: Cincinnati

    Ok, so Cincinnati and I have a rocky relationship. The first time I was here I loved that the geography and architecture reminded me so much of my western Pennsylvania stomping grounds. But several years of brief stops, coupled with this nightmare of epic proportion has my head swayed firmly against Cincinnati's charms.

    Whatever they may be.

    But this trip? I think that Cincinnati is trying to win me over. We had a short flight from disgustingly wet DC to sunny CVG, our bags arrived at the carousel in record time, the hotel gave each of us HUGE hotel rooms. Tomorrow a sunny baritone has promised to bring breakfast (and coffee!) along with him, and we're spending the day with two fun ladies with serious musical chops.

    (Did I mention that my room is HUGE?)

    Cincinnati, we're not besties yet...but if you keep this up, you might make my party list. You've at least made me forget (temporarily) about having to leave my purple suede booties at home.

    My five:
    1. Big sandwiches. Smoked prime rib? Come to mama.
    2. Quiet time.
    3. Pop music...I'm needing it more than ever, since every time the TV or iTunes goes off my brain goes immediately to Aria Jukebox.
    4. Service people who are really, sincerely friendly. (Or really good actors. I'll take either.)
    5. Mushy text messages from my hubby.


    auditions: the monologue edition

    One of my favorite parts of the Studio audition process is the monologue. We require a one-minute modern piece, so that we can see/hear the auditionee in their native language, without dealing with the rigorous bonds of vocal technique. Sometimes we ask for the monologues when the other rep on the list won't tell us anything new about the candidate....sometimes we ask when the sung performance is stiff or awkward, and we need a different take on the performer...and sometimes we just like the excerpted piece.

    Some of the good ones we've heard so far, volume 1?
    • Autobahn by Neil LaBute. (The work is composed of short plays, so there are several options to choose from.)
    • It's Called the Sugar Plum by Israel Horovitz-Zuckerman. "Strudel dough, strudel dee!" Short, with fun wordplay. And silly - a giggle is worth a thousand words!
    • The 13 Hallucinations of Julio Rivera by Stephen R. Culp. A slightly bawdy take on Dorothy and Oz.
    • Richard's monologue from Two Pianos, Four Hands by Richard Greenblatt. About quitting piano lessons.
    More to come, I'm sure! The keys are to know your piece well, to find and deliver the beats cleanly, and to connect to your audience. We've seen lots of good examples over the last week!

    Today we wrapped up our first date back at the Barns, and it's been lovely being home for a bit. I'm sad to bid (a temporary) adieu to IvoryTickler and SilverDollar. But tomorrow begins the real work: packing for 80 degrees and sunny (Houston) and snow (Cincinnati) in the same, less-than-fifty-pound suitcase...

    ...AND still managing to bring at least one pair of cute shoes.

    (might be impossible.)

    KPW and I have vowed to travel light for this leg of the trip...we'll see how successful we are. I'm just going to try my damndest to not pay extra for my bags!

    My five:
    1. Time with my boys.
    2. Chicken soup from the Deli.
    3. Early bedtimes.
    4. Holiday catalogs.
    5. Slippers.


      Rollin', rollin', rollin'

      (This was the view from my New York hotel room. Fitting somehow that it overlooked the DKNY studios...)

      Writing just a quick bit on the train to Philadelphia. It's been a long, lovely week full of all kinds of operatic goodness. And while I treasure the singing, the highlights of this week have been about communicating...I was so lucky to have some great one-on-one time with friends that I haven't seen in the last 4-15 years. We ate, we laughed, we remembered silly stories, we comforted each other and talked about happiness and love and life and the kinds of big, exciting ideas that come from good reunions. I feel lighter and more energized having spent time with them.

      Tomorrow is Halloween, and we're hearing auditions all day. Wonder if anyone will be coming in costume?! I will be questing for candy prior to the auditions...if I'm successful, everyone may have a slightly sweeter day tomorrow.

      My five:
      1. Challenging, exciting conversations.
      2. New York food...I'd be two-ton Tessie if I lived here. Holy moly there's good eatin'!
      3. Hugs from old friends...balm for the soul.
      4. Quiet time.
      5. Getting out of Times Square. Whew!


      ...aaaaand it's Friday. How did that happen?
      Time flies here in New York differently than anywhere else on the planet, I swear... as an occassional visitor, I find the urge to see, do, try to be unrelenting...and the opportunities are so vast. So yes, I'm happily burning the candle at both ends...reuniting with old friends when I can, seeing shows, having good, deep conversations...and not sleeping very much. Shocker.

      Oh, and I've been listening to auditions! Right! The reason we're here! I find that my ears are weirdly taxed during this trip - trying to listen so closely to so many voices, listening both for potential and for potential problems, and feeling a little more responsible for my choices this year. We've had some lovely, lovely musical auditions, but we've also had some that have totally shot my eardrums with unrelenting, all-one-color volume. Whew. I'm not naming names, but some teachers are doing SO well by their students, and some of y'all should get off campus and listen to the wider world more often. And some singers would benefit from having more than one or two colors in your crayola box to use.

      (My ears are feeling a little tender still - can you tell?)

      Two of the highlights of the trip, (aside from seeing EZ and AlohaDude - HUGE highlights!) so far were seeing City Opera's production of Bernstein's A Quiet Place and getting together with some Alums at the Delta Grill. The opera was challenging and gorgeous and totally devastating in turns...a great evening of theater, even if I don't so much want to spend an evening with that f*ed up family again any time soon. And reconnecting with some alums? Priceless....love to hear how they're doing!

      On the docket for today? A quick zip down to B&H. Loads o' auditions. Packing. (checking out tomorrow! Ack! I'm a wee bit too comfortable in my rented room.) Seeing two fabulous Ellisians! And the dress rehearsal of Intermezzo, directed by my favorite Dirty Old Man.

      I'd say that it's going to be another fabulously full day. :)

      My five:
      1. Fried food. (My body HATES me for eating like this, but my soul is so, so happy.)
      2. Sunrise on city skylines.
      3. Great, thoughtful conversation.
      4. Easy, fun colleagues.
      5. Permission to dream big.


      Day Two!

      I was a good doobie this morning and set my alarm to give me enough time to get a little exercise in before plunking my butt into a chair for several opera-filled hours. (And there's the fact that there are few bad eating experiences in the beeeg ceeety. And I am weak.) Let me tell you, friends, that the quietest place in all of Times Square happens to be the exercise room in our hotel. I spent a good half-hour totally, completely alone before a few random business-type dudes wandered in.

      Need a little peace of mind? An escape fro the rat race? Go sit in the gym. I'll let you borrow my entry card. :)

      Today there are several things that I need to take care of back at the Foundation from long-distance, so the challenge will be connecting with folks in between all of these auditions. Wish me luck!

      My five:
      1. Waking up to iTunes.
      2. Deep, dreamless sleep.
      3. Lavender.
      4. Laughter.
      5. Full days.


      Day One.

      Auditions. Boy, they're a weird thing.  We had some really great singing today! But we also had a touch of "crazy eye" syndrome (i.e. acting creepy to convey a character. Here's the thing - almost no one really thinks, IRL, that they're creepy or the bad guy or the villain of the story. We're all the heroes in our own, personal stories - it's the circumstances that the person - or, in this case - character finds themselves in that makes for the crazy. Find the humanity, and leave the crazy to the set and costume designer.), and more than a little oversinging in our lovely, yet live, little room. And the nerves...oh, lordy, my heart goes out to all of you folks who are brave enough to do this for a living! Just know that we really do want you to have fun - when you do, we do too.

      One of today's biggest surprises? Hearing a lovely young woman audition...and realizing that the last time I heard her sing was when she was a middle school student. That makes me old, sure, but that makes her pretty cool.

      However, I am still waiting to spot my first pair of OMG audition shoes. EG sang in a lovely pair of black pumps with a slight ruffle that were classy...they're my favorite pair as of right now. But they were very conservative...I'm watching... somebody rock my world! (please!)

      We spent the evening in Morningside Heights on a working session (and following tasty dinner) with our favorite (living) composer. And now? To bed, to bed, to bed.

      My five:
      1.  Doodling. I love this blogger (and also her blog), and am making this part of my 30-day routine...a doodle a day. Nothing worth sharing with you yet, but when I make one I'll certainly share it here.
      2. Quiche. Comfort food to the max. 
      3. Mushy text messages.
      4. Reunions.
      5. City skylines from quiet rooms.


      ...aaaaaaand GO.

      I'm writing this, thanks to Apple's tethering technology, from a comfortable seat on a northbound train. Auditions for the 2011 summer season (! wow, that seems far away.) start tomorrow, and because we're high, masochistic, or both, we have 633 auditions to hear over the next several weeks.

      Over. Six. Hundred. Auditions.

      (Makes me a little tired just thinking about it.)

      But today is a totally civilized travel day...train ride to NYC, checking in at a new-to-us hotel (in Times Square. I'm a little sad...I reeeeeally like the UWS.), a stop at B&H to procure a fancy-schmancy new video camera, and some meetings with prospective directors. Add to that totally GORGEOUS weather and the possibility of reconnecting with old friends, and it makes leaving my boys almost OK. :)

      My five:
      1. Sun-filled autumn days.
      2. Train travel. Infinitely more civilized than airplanes.
      3. New songs.
      4. A change of scenery.
      5. My fabulous hubster.


      radio silence

      I promise that I'll be back soon...a weekend of neighborhood (bonfire!) festivities and personal (anniversary!) festivities has grudgingly given way to a week full of audition tour prep, Inspector-related events and chamber music performances. (!) (?) Lots to do, and correspondingly little time to write about it.

      You'll hear from me shortly, from the road. Cheers!

      My five:
      1. Early morning walks.
      2. Hats.
      3. Coffee...aaaaahhhh...
      4. Tights.
      5. Reconnecting.


      The weirdest interview process...

      funny pictures
      see more Lolcats and funny pictures

      I'm in the thick of the Studio application process...reading applications, resumes, teacher recommendations. And this post is subsequently 50% vent, 50% constructive criticism...because there are some folks who look incredibly put together at this tender age, and many who do not. And, when you are only able to hear a third to a fifth of the people who apply for a particular site, the details tend to become more important when you're making those screening decisions.

      (And by you? I mean me. Help me out, my friends.)

      Here's my advice, with the caveat that I know you've heard it all before...but the fact that you're not actually doing it means that the mistakes do count against you.
      • Resume: ONE PAGE. As an undergrad or first year grad, I promise you that you do not have enough relevant info to put on more than one page. And if you feel that you do? Ask a professor or administrator at your school what info you should cut. Because the longer the resume? The more difficult it is for me to figure out what's really important. I'd rather have relevance and white space than the list of part-time summer beach jobs you've held. (We do surprisingly little professional ice-cream scooping during the opera season... tragic, I know.) Full disclosure? My mother was an English teacher with a killer eye and a penchant for red pens. Find yourself a friend who loves to find mistakes. If you don't have one? I'll give you my mom's email...she'll help you out.
      • Resume: SPELLING. If you have performed the lead in Tosca, but have it spelled Toska on your resume, I'm going to doubt the legitimacy of your experience. If you misspell a conductor/teacher/coach's name? That's disrespectful...especially if you've asked those folks to speak on your behalf. Also, make sure that your headings are spelled correctly: nothing will make you feel dumber than finally noticing that your resume says "Educaion"after you've handed it out to several professional companies. (Thanks SL for the example!) And if you don't think this applies to you? Send me your resume...I dare you.
      • Headshots. I'm a happily married 30-something woman with NO intention of sleeping with any of the people I hire, ever. Don't try to seduce me with your photo: it won't work. Wife beaters, too much cleavage, scary-intense gazes, unhappy photos? Not my thing...I'm trying to hire singers that I can support with time, resources and money; not cable TV stars/fitness models/psychics. Your headshot should telegraph that you're responsible, creative, intelligent, and approachable. (And while environmental shots are awesome, please make sure that the tree branch doesn't look like it's growing out of your head.)
      • Applications: please don't fill every field with "See resume." I know it tempting with the amount of applications you're filling out. But it's a shortcut. Moreover, my database makes it hard for me to say yes to you in my first pass if there's no information to parse through...and the second tier is full of good singers who have very similar qualifications. Make it easy for me to say yes to you!
      • Recommendations: They are a huge pain in the wazoo, sure. And you likely have to ask for them for multiple projects...some guidelines:
        • Ask for a rec from someone who knows your work well and likes it and you (both as an artist and as a person. they're not the same thing).
        • Ask your recommender well in advance of the deadline. No one feels charitable when under the gun.
        • Provide your recommender with the correct address and addressee for each program AND provide an addressed, stamped envelope.
        • If your recommender sends you a generic letter, make sure it's dated, and doesn't address a specific program. Don't recycle it years later in the hope that it'll get you in the door, especially if it's addressed or refers to a competing program...
       If you've sent in a Studio application but haven't heard from us yet, I promise you will soon. If you've won an audition (and, let's face it...with the gauntlet that we make you go through, 'won' is an appropriate word!), congratulations! I'm excited to meet and hear you! (And please don't forget that there's a monologue requirement...if you do, we'll be able to sense it, and will most certainly ask for it...) If you've not garnered an audition, write to us for feedback on your application, and take a hard look at your resume...it'll show you the areas in which you need additional experience.

      Industry friends - any additional advice?

      Thanks for the vent, all.
      My five:
      1. Spice-scented candles.
      2. Duck confit pizza at Chef Geoffs. AMAZING.
      3. Velour jammie pants. These things are so overworn, but dang I love 'em.
      4. Bath fizzies from Lush.
      5. Hub's return. Can't WAIT!
      And, because was one of the rare days when the universe didn't give me the melodic support that I needed, I'm including two tunes that helped me fake a happy mood.




      momma woke up in a weird state of mind this morning.

      not quite enough sleep. good memories of a fun evening reconnecting with a friend twisting together with some tragic news. there's not enough space in my brain to reconcile the two extremes.

      hubs being out of town. more dream-crushing on today's work to-do list.

      i'm feeling unsettled, and impotent...there's not any way to avoid these things or make the rough ones better for the other folks involved.


      so that my mental state doesn't rage across Teh Interwebs? Good links.
      • i need an armload of these STAT.
      • but if you bring them to me? this is what will happen.
      • boy, i wish i had thought of this seven years ago!
      • fellow shoe-whores: would you wear these?
      • Boo's homework...i expect to be able to play this when i get back at Thanksgiving!
      • this would make that starbucks order WAY easier to carry...
      • and now? name that Police tune...
      and since I'll be humming that tune all day? well, you should too. i hate to be alone.

      My five:
      1. health. 
      2. quiet mornings.
      3. catching up with friends.
      4. hazelnut coffee.
      5. cold fingertips.


      i did it!

      I actually ran a 10k.

      Hubs drove me down to the tidal basin this morning (and didn't even grumble as i got us sooo turned around. Good man!) as the sun was coming up, and took the dog to play some frisbee as I walked to the starting line. The weather was gorgeous - sunny, cloudless, and cool - and the course followed the banks of the Potomac river...which meant that it was lovely and flat. :)

      I certainly didn't set any land speed records, but I maintained a pace under 11 minutes per mile. I didn't stop to walk. And I enjoyed it....really enjoyed it.

      There's a correlation between running and singing for me. Last night and this morning I could feel the old nervous thoughts inserting themselves into my routine. The upset stomach, the irritability, the "what if"s jumping around my head. It was my old pre-performance narrative, adapted for running..."you're going to finish last." "you're going to twist an ankle and then you'll be SCREWED for the audition tour." "children and grandparents are going to smoke you, TurtleGirl." But once I got to the line, heard the music and the announcer, and passed through the gates? It mostly went away. I knew how to do it...had rehearsed enough with shorter distances, with running to a certain playlist, that it had become second nature. I could enjoy the scenery, snap my fingers along to the music (and yes, I may have sung a few bars), and pace myself in a way that felt, well, good.

      I told myself that the 2 things that I wanted out of this morning's run was to complete the course without walking, and to pace myself in a way that would make that possible. And I have to say that even though I totally wanted to rabbit at the beginning (Because passing people? Is AWESOME.), keeping myself in check, my breath underneath me,  and my steps steady for the first half of the run really made a difference. I even had enough steam at the end to pass a poor bloke.
      (Who knew I was a wee bit competitive??)

      I'm crossing Run a 10k off of my imaginary life list.

      My five:
      1. Supportive hubster. He's the best.
      2. Cookies for breakfast.
      3. Rising to a challenge.
      4. Advil.
      5. Looking for the next challenge.


      house arrest

      Well, we're about 2.5 weeks away from the yearly audition tour. I'm equal parts excited and reticent. Excited because, well, it's exciting! Seeing old friends, hearing new voices, making eeeevil plans for next summer...really, what's NOT to love?

      Oh, that's right. My hubs and my pets and my little house and my sweet neighborhood (and my beloved hoochie shoe collection) can't come along. Sad face. :(

      I'll miss my small town's Halloween parade. (And I LOVE those Shriners in the teeny tiny cars!) I'll be walking in the autumn weather, but with no hand to hold. (I guess I could hold the Boss Lady's hand in a pinch, but that'd be pretty weird...) And all those pals that I finally started to get caught up with after the summer? Yep - they're back on the back burner, yet again. Sorry, my lovelies.

      So I'm enjoying being home. I'm taking every opportunity to hang out at the house. I'm cooking more than I should, and skipping the gym in favor of jogs around the 'hood. And it's suiting me quite well, I have to say. Please join me on the porch in the next few weeks - I promise I won't be far away!

      And, speaking of the audition tour, a word of advice to those of you who've not applied yet? Your resume should be NO LONGER THAN ONE PAGE. ESPECIALLY if you're applying to the Studio program. You may be an exceptionally gifted, experienced 20-something, but you're not 2-pages experienced. I promise. Edit, edit, edit, my babies...leave the most important stuff.

      (And if you don't want to edit? I recommend writing a blog. Lord knows I do blather on...)

      Speaking of blathering? Some links! To cool places around the interwebs!
      • Made this for dinner, after being inspired by JBW's facebook status.
      • I could've been this woman - a serious case of "there but for the grace of God go I." Judy B, I neeeed you to get that law degree!
      • I wore these to work today. Granted, I may be crippled tomorrow, but damn, I looked cute today!
      • Worth watching. I hear they cover George Michael and Sade, which makes me so happy. Also, the fact that the singer looks like Joaquin Phoenix is a bonus.
      • Can Farmville really be that large???
      • Stopped me in my tracks. (from Jess at bravissimi. You should visit her. She's super cool.)
      • Cool, but I probably wouldn't wear them unless I was going to be surrounded by kids. Or tripping adults. That'd be fun.
      • Everyone needs a Whenwolf.
      • The picture is ridic, but the quote is sound.
      And my five:
      1. Scarves.
      2. Roasted squash.
      3. Quiet evenings. 
      4. Fleece-lined slippers.
      5. Pinot noir.