The Neighbor and the Techno

on . Posted in Singing

The Neighbor and the Techno

Now that I've moved to Milwaukee it's safe to tell this story.

My former neighbor, whom I'll simply call "Neighbor," was not what you might call the "communicative" type. If I said "hello," he would do a double-take and then say, surprised, "Hello." If I didn't say hello, he would just walk awkwardly past me. And the woman that he lived with, she was even worse. I once saw her outside, turned to her to say hello, and she literally turned and ran in the other direction. (Needless to say I didn't miss her when she moved out. It took me months to notice.)

Neighbor had an affection for techno. Really bad techno. And of all the music types in the world, you'd think that there would be enough of it that he would find some good techno when he'd start playing it at, oh, 7:10 in the morning. But he didn't. And I don't know that he played anything new. He certainly didn't play any GOOD techno, and I wished to all that is good that I could have knocked on his door and made some recommendations...

I also don't know if he perhaps composed it himself. (No comment.)

It was really annoying, but not that bad, if I played my own music at a regular volume I couldn't hear it anymore. No problem! Sometimes you just gotta deal with the neighbors, especially if you're staying for a while.


Except when this happens:

It was a Monday and I was practicing for the Les Nuits d'été concert with the Mesabi Symphony. It was lunchtime and I had exactly one hour to practice before I had to get on the road to drive to Northern Minnesota to rehearse and then turn around and drive back.

I warmed up and starting running through the songs, concentrating on the texts which I found hard. I sang through the first song, the second...and then it started.


No...he didn't...


Oh, yes he did...

Why I Love Singing at Funerals

on . Posted in Singing


I love singing at funerals.

And I don't care if anyone thinks it's weird.

I love singing at funerals.

It's probably the most human and the most humane thing anyone can do, to sing to those who are grieving.

Funerals are for the living.

In a high school a student two years younger than my class died in a tragic accident; it was a horrible event and shocked our small town.The high school choir sang and I was so mad because I didn't want to go--I knew I'd cry through the whole service and I thought that would be so embarrassing. My dad advised me, "Funerals are for the living. They're for the families and for the friends to say good-bye." Although it was difficult, we all made it through the funeral and we were able to transition from the initial shock into some kind of acceptance.

Since funerals are for the living, now when I show up to sing at a funeral, it ultimately leads to the question "How did these folks know the deceased?" Sometimes I get to chat with the visitors, sometimes I sit on the side and am just another human dressed in black. Sometimes the family members all want to introduce themselves and talk about the details of the service and what their parent or sibling or friend would have wanted.

Bel Canto 2015 Regional Artists Competition

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Bel Canto Regional Artist Competition 2015

The Bel Canto Chorus is now accepting applications for their 2015 Regional Artist Competition. The postmark deadline for applications is Thursday, March 26, 2015.

The 26th Annual Bel Canto Regional Artists Competition is Saturday, May 9, 2015.

From the Bel Canto site:  "The competition was established to support and encourage singers with strong oratorio experience of any age who reside in Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, and Ohio.  Adjudicators come from a wide variety of performing arts organizations from throughout Southeastern Wisconsin.  The winner is awarded a solo performance contract with Bel Canto Chorus in the following season, which includes a $1000 cash award. Past winners have gone on to sing with recognized organizations throughout the United States and Europe, including the Metropolitan Opera.

The 2014 Regional Artists Competition winner is Mezzo-soprano Clara Osowski of Minneapolis, Minnesota. Osowski will perform with Bel Canto Chorus in March 2015."

Read more and get application materials from the Bel Canto Chorus website here.


I had a wonderful experience meeting the folks at the Bel Canto Chorus for the first time back in 2010 and I'm very happy to have worked with them every season since. It's an honor to be in their national ad this year, advertising the Regional Artist Competition, and I wish them every success and loads of fun listening to the singers on May 9!

Get your application in now!

Black History Month 2015

on . Posted in Singing

It's Black History Month. I'm into Social Justice. So here you go.


Oh, Nina Simone...what an incredible voice.

She wanted to attend Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, but she was denied...and she was not able to pursue her chosen career of becoming a concert pianist.

Ms Simone was able to turn another situation into an opportunity, and thank goodness she didn't let racism stop her from creating music.

Her voice has such a distinct quality it stops you in your tracks. Check this video out:



Reginald Mobley, countertenor extraordinaire.

Reggie has one of the most beautiful voices I've ever heard. His ornamentation is exquisite, the result breath-taking.

I had a verbal agreement to do a St. John Passion once, and I lost it to a countertenor when the conductor found out he was getting a period orchestra. That burns me to this day.

If it had been Reggie that I had lost the gig to, however, I wouldn't mind. Not one bit.

Listen up here, and listen real good:


Camilla Williams, soprano

THIS is the soprano who sang the Star-Spangled Banner before Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech. THAT would have been spectacular to witness.

Here is Ms. Williams in "Ritorna Vincitor" from Aida. A stunning beginning, incredible musicality, and she gave me goosebumps at 3:50.


What other African American singers do we need to know about? Post your links, comments, and video links below!


Dealing with Audition Rejection

on . Posted in Singing

Every audition is a job interview. It's a chance to get one step further in your career, to get another contract, another paycheck, and another business relationship.

It's a chance to practice your skills and to prove to yourself what you can do.

It's also another opportunity for rejection. And it can sting. But it doesn't have to sting as badly as it might--here are 3 rules of thumb to keep in mind to prepare yourself well and, if need be, to take the sting out of the rejection.

If I wanted rejection id go audition

1. You can only control what you can control.

You audition to have a chance at something--in actuality, an audition is no more than this. You cannot make them give you a gig. But you can control how you present yourself, you can have your pieces so well-known that you could sing them backwards with candy in your mouth and still be understood. You can control how well you respond when the pianist loses his place or the pages stick and you keep going like the prepared, professional you are.

At some point in some audition somewhere, things will go wrong, strange notes will come out, you'll feel pressured to take that earlier time slot that's open because someone else didn't show up, you'll realize your right shoe is pinching in a spot it has never pinched before.

So what. Notice it, let the thought pass through, and move on.

2. Realize that an audition is exactly what you've always wanted:  a performance!

That's all you really want to do, right? PERFORM! There's a captive audience, a pianist, and you looking fantastic, with beautiful material prepared. If you think it's anything other than a performance, think again.

Plus, a director once told me that when she was casting one particular show, she sat there, watching auditions for two days, praying that someone would walk in the door who would fit the parts they were casting. She wanted someone to really show what they could do, to really perform for them. (Someone did it finally 3/4 of the way through day 2 and she was happy.) Show what you can do. Directors are waiting to see you present what they are looking for.

Hopefully you will have your own goals for this performance, perhaps it's to add two gestures you haven't done before, to try moving around the stage more, or simply to make sure you nail those 2 difficult measures at the top of page 87. If you achieve those things, then you've achieved your goals for this performance and you'll walk out the door, knowing what you have done.

3. Either you'll get it or you won't.

If you don't get it, take time to lick your wounds if you need to. And then get up and go do it again. For whatever reason, you didn't get this part, this gig, this opportunity. Leave it at that one--it's just this audition. So put yourself in line for another opportunity.

If you do get it, great! Have a little celebration and feel that excitement. For whatever reason, you got this part, this opportunity. Leave it at this one--this audition. And put yourself in line for another opportunity.


How do you deal with rejection? How do you measure your own successes and goals--the things you can control? Comment below! (No registration necessary.)