Thriving After Domestic Violence

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I am a musician and also a survivor. I am a survivor of domestic violence. I have been a survivor since August 26, 2008, and today is my third Anniversary of Freedom.

Now it’s time to thrive.

This is a powerful part of my story, of my journey, of my healing, and tells the most about me and who I have become. This is why I am so grateful for everything I have accomplished.

The History

In 2003 I got married and moved to Germany to be with my now-ex-husband. I call it a “marriage” because it was anything but a marriage. In 2008, I had one chance to leave him and I took it. It was purely a decision based on the fact that I knew I couldn’t stay. He was beginning to get physically violent--it was serious.

The chance came when I was on my first solo visit to my parents in five years. It was a beautiful, summery Friday afternoon. I started reading a book I had picked up at the library, Lundy Bancroft’s Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men. In the book was the number for the National Domestic Violence Hotline. Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men by Lundy BancroftIt took me several tries to actually make the call, as I was literally shaking and didn’t know if I needed to call, but I had a feeling that it would be a good idea to talk to someone. Finally I called, and a woman named Ella answered.

“Are you in a safe place to talk?” she asked. “Yes, I am, I’m alone at my parent’s house,” I replied. “How can I help you?” she asked in a calm tone of voice. I began to sob, “I’m so scared…” All my fears and hurt feelings and questions poured out of me.

Ella spoke with me for 1 ½ hours that day. After our conversation, I opened up to my parents and told them what the “marriage” was really like, that it was anything but a marriage, with the criticism and fights and severe disparity of who controlled how much money. I told them that no matter what I did, it was never good enough and that I had gotten so much hurtful criticism from him day in and day out. The emotional abuse was unbearable.

It was then that I was presented with the opportunity that every victim of domestic violence wishes for: the opportunity to leave safely.

And I left.

I tore my life apart over a span of mere days, giving up an entire “marriage,” my business in Germany, and everything that I had built for myself there. I literally fled the country. It was the single most terrifying thing I’ve ever done and I give thanks every day that I not only realized I needed to leave, but that I had a safe opportunity to do so, the complete support of my family and friends, and the support of a shelter and a truly amazing advocate at that shelter.

Through that shelter I attended a workshop led by Lundy Bancroft, the author I mentioned earlier; I took the opportunity to tell him that I had been in an abusive situation and had realized I could leave because I had read his book and thus called the National Domestic Violence Hotline. I said to him, tears welled up in my eyes and so choked up I could barely speak, “It’s been 8 weeks and 2 days.” He said, very emphatically, “Congratulations! Good for you!”

Soon after that, I stopped counting the days and weeks since I had left. Now I only notice the seasons passing.

Just the same, the road that I have walked since then has been very, very long and very, very hard. Starting my life over again is the most difficult thing I have ever done. And I wouldn’t give it up for anything.

And now:  thriving!

Life_is_so__much_funAugust 26, 2008 marks the turning point in my life where I chose to live my life rather than try to survive something that wasn’t my life at all.

Now it’s time to recognize what the last three years have brought me. I have my friends again, I have my family again, and I have made new friends and have new family members. My tribe has grown magnificently and I am honored and blessed by many wonderful friends and acquaintances. I’m on the path of my career and enjoying every minute of it. Most importantly, I’ve discovered that life is an adventure meant to be enjoyed.


The blessings that I have received in the last three years are immeasurable. Not only have I found my way to self-confidence, joy, and enjoyment of life, but I have discovered my career path, talents I didn’t realize I had, and methods of self-expression I had previously only dreamed about.

Most of all, I’ve started having SO MUCH FUN! So let’s get on with it! Let’s get on with having a seriously good time!

9.11.11 United We Stand - Live on MPTV!

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9-11 logo





On September 11, 2011 I'll be joining the Bel Canto Chorus and the Milwaukee Chamber Orchestra for a FREE commemorative concert of Mozart's Requiem in downtown Milwaukee.

This event will be broadcast LIVE on MPTV 10.1 at 3:00 pm and rebroadcast the same day at 6:30 pm on MPTV 36.1.


This event is also an acknowledgement of first responders and veterans. From the press release:

United We Stand will feature appearances by local and state government, community, and religious officials. First responders and veterans are encouraged to attend in uniform, as they will be publicly honored during the concert.


Although the event itself is free, premium tickets, which include chair seating and access to the post-concert reception, are available at $100 through the  Bel Canto Chorus Box Office at (414) 481-8801.

What's the Difference Between an Alto and a Mezzo-Soprano?

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In choral singing, voice parts are normally listed as soprano, alto, tenor, and bass. A four-part, mixed voice choir is frequently referred to as an 'SATB choir,' where SATB is short for soprano-alto-tenor-bass. So if SATB is for a chorus of women and men, what do you think an all-women's chorus would be? Take a guess--and read on! It's an 'SA choir,' or an 'SSAA choir.' However, since all of these women's voices are notated on the treble cleff, a women's chorus is most often referred to as a Treble Choir.

You'll remember from my previous blog post that voice classification in individual singers is somewhat different than the names of voice parts in a chorus or ensemble. However, when we get to bigger concert pieces, like the Mahler Symphony No. 2, the score (sheet music) lists the soloist's voices like the choral voice parts.

Let's use the Mahler Symphony No. 2 as an example. It calls for an orchestra, an SATB choir, a soprano soloist and an alto soloist. A soprano soloist sings the soprano solo and a mezzo-soprano then sings the part of the alto. A true alto, a contralto, can also sing this part, but as you read last time, there aren't as many true contraltos as there are mezzos and their ranges are similar. That's why mezzo-sopranos so frequently sing alto.

Which is exactly what I do. I am a mezzo-soprano (my voice classification), however I sing the alto part in many oratorios and concert pieces. I sing the alto solo in Handel's Messiah, in the Pergolesi Stabat Mater, the Mozart Requiem and in Bach's Christmas Oratorio.

There are scores in which the composer calls for a mezzo-soprano soloist, in which case it's pretty clear:  a mezzo-soprano sings the mezzo-soprano solo.


Do you have a question about voice parts, singing, or music? Email me and I'll answer it here on the blog!

What Your Teacher Never Told You

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So you're 18, fantastic at music, everybody loves what you perform, and they all want to know if you're going to study music. 'Yes!,' you say, and you head off for 4 years (or more) of higher education, maybe take another 2 years for graduate school, and you hit the real world as a freelancer. But your teacher (or teachers) never told you this: that you're an entrepreneur. And you need valuable skills that no one taught you in college or grad school--one of the most important ones being: money management.The Money Book

We're not talking about making a budget and balancing your checkbook, we're talking about setting aside money for taxes, paying them on time, avoiding fees & penalties, creating an emergency fund (for when those gigs don't come rollin' in!) and creating a system by which you can be financially successful.

Years ago my dad taught me this: Don't follow the money; never let it out of your sight.

I knew how to do that with my checkbook, but for my business I had to figure it out the hard way. (That is a sad statement for someone who went through 6 years of higher education.) Here's one tool that I picked up recently and from which I have learned an immense amount: The Money Book for Freelancers, Part-Timers, and the Self-Employed: The Only Personal Finance System for People with Not-So-Regular Jobs.

Go take a look and use the "Look Inside" feature. Watch 'The Money Book' Video. Don't let your money out of your sight!

N.B.:  This book doesn't differentiate between personal and business accounts and they assume you have one main checking account. Use separate accounts for your business and personal finances--you give yourself clarity, avoid overwhelm, and you avoid potentially serious problems with the IRS!

How Savvy Are You?

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The Savvy Musician by David CutlerJust like your instrument, The Savvy Musician: Building a Career, Earning a Living & Making a Difference is a tool for your toolbox. And if there's one thing I've seen that more musicians need, it's business skills.


In college and grad school, no one pulled me aside and said, "Hey, did you know that you'll be an entrepreneur for the rest of your life and everything that goes into your career you'll have to generate yourself?" If they had, well, we'd all be reading a different blog entry right now.


Over the years I've created several lists of skills every performer needs from "time management/scheduling" to "flexibility, sightreading, networking, branding" and the like. Thankfully Dorothy Wu, Co-Founder of, told me about David Cutler's book


The Savvy Musician: Building a Career, Earning a Living & Making a Difference. I've already implemented ideas from this book and as I can personally attest to, it's an extremely valuable tool for your toolbox!


Stay tuned for my next tip for Musical Entrepreneurship Success!