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.

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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

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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:

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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.

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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.)

Break the freaking rules.

on . Posted in Singing

Rule #1:  You have to be doing "big stuff" all the time.Romanov poor musician.svg.hi

Rule #1 broken:  No, you don't. You need to be doing the real stuff--engaging with people, doing the best you can do on any given day. That's it.

We don't *always* need to be doing the big concerts, having the "big career," which by the way, doesn't exist in the same form it did even 10 years ago. It's changed.

New Rule:  Make your best art as often as is appropriate for you.

 

Rule #2:  You have to suffer to make art.

Rule #2 broken:  Nobody actually likes a martyr. So quit beating yourself up for following rule #1 and taking crappy opportunities because you "need the money" or "maybe it'll lead to something else." You know what comes from low pay? More low pay. And more bills. And a reputation that you'll put up with a lot of crap. Don't contribute to the Wal-Mart economy of music and start requesting an appropriate fee. (Notice I didn't say "high fee." I said appropriate.)

New rule:  Figure out

How to Write a Last-Minute Application

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To accomplish this major feat, you need to know a few things. Because learning this shouldn’t take longer than the actual application, here it is short, sweet, and to the point.

1.    Decide if it’s really worth it.
Sit down, and for five minutes think about what this application could lead to—what are the possibilities? If it’s worth a lot later, then it’s definitely worth a few hours of intense work right now. If you don’t care very much, then don’t do it. You’ll only be annoyed with yourself later if you simply think you “should.”

2.    Write a list of everything that needs to be done AND a second list of what needs to go in the envelope. Use brightly colored paper, as chances are everything else will be on white paper.

To keep things organized, you can keep this checklist paper-clipped to the “completed” materials until it goes in the mail. Make sure you this paper gets tossed when you’re done so it isn’t in the envelope when you mail it off!

3.    Find out where the closest post office is and how late they are open.
If you won’t make it during regular business hours, find a post office that is open late.  Find this out now if you have applications coming up.

4.    Drop everything.
This really means everything. There is no cooking dinner while you’re doing this, no talking to your best friend via Skype. It’s PB&J, a phone on silent mode, and sign out of Facebook, Skype, and whatever else floats your boat. This is not boat-floating pleasure time, it’s hard-core crunch time for you to show what you’re made of.

5.    Keep it simple.
Your best bet, whether it be the cover letter, updating your resume, or other additional materials is to keep it simple. No bells, no whistles. Rely on the good, solid work you’ve already accomplished.

And speaking of updating your resume, this is not the time to do a major overhaul. Make it work the way it is, and when you’re done with this application, go back and do the major overhaul right away. That way, you’ll have it easier  the next time you do an application at the last minute. You know this last-minute thing will surely happen again, so just do it. You will thank yourself for it later.

6.    Get any 3rd-party materials, like recommendation letters, ASAP. Call in favors.

Also, make good on the favors you owe others when they need last-minute help. People remember this and they remember it well. Being reliable in the favor department makes you memorable to good people.

Exception:   when disorganized Darla needs materials from you for an application for the 5th Friday in a row and you have a hot date:  say no. Good fences, good neighbors. ‘Nuff said.

7.    Trust that you will get it finished on time. Having faith that you will get it done makes it so much easier--and it will be stellar!


When you’ve heard back, whether your application is accepted or not, be sure to say thank you to the people that helped you. It does matter that you say thank you; people have spent their valuable time helping you and they deserve to be recognized for it.

Intuition 3: Shielding. What's Woo-Woo and What (Actually) Works

on . Posted in Singing

Shielding is the second part of the esoteric practices grounding & shielding. Shielding is usually presented as a visualization exercise that's meant to protect you from anything ever. Perhaps something like this:1234405721566117915kablam Happy Heart.svg.hi

Imagine your aura (the energetic substance surrounding your body) as a bubble extending 6 feet above you, 6 feet below you, 6 feet in every direction. It's only your energy, your energy is clear, and no one else's energy affects your aura.

That's all well and good, but when you really need to protect yourself, you need more than a visualization exercise--you need boundaries and you need to assert them. Which can be hard if you're not clear on what those are and how it feels to have healthy boundaries and how it feels to assert one's self.

Musicians are incredibly sensitive people. We pick up on subtle body language cues, can sense someone else's entry into a piece of music without even being able to see them. We are feelers. As singers, not only are we incredibly sensitive people, but whatever we do, however we feel, and what we're thinking is reflected in our voices. Singers have got the double-whammy of feeling.

Singers often feel very vulnerable. And frequently we are dealing with a double-standard:  we're part of the performing ensemble, however we ARE the instrument. We're up front, letting it all hang out, looking as fabulous as possible in the process, and we are completely exposed. We are part of the group, yes, however if we mess anything up, we have nothing to 'blame it on' but ourselves.

This is where grounding and shielding come in very handy. (Check out grounding here if you haven't yet.) Grounding helps keep you centered and clear in your mind; shielding helps you protect your center and stay clear on your goals. Now that's a winning combination!

5 Steps to practice self-protection and assertiveness (a/k/a Shielding)

1. Find tools that assist you in steering your own ship.

muscular-penguin-hiIf it's helpful to visualize your aura as extending, impenetrable, fortified by steel and, if need be, protected by 6-inch, razor sharp tentacles that would injure anyone who tried to tread on your boundaries.

That's an esoteric way of saying "See yourself as strong, unshakable, with a solid, core belief that you are valuable and you are skilled; if anyone tries to tell you otherwise, you will stand up for yourself in whatever way is appropriate to the situation."

If you are strong and protect yourself well with exercise, keep it up! If it takes needlepoint, knitting, or meditation, do it. Find what works for you and keep it up!

2. Control only what you can control. Leave the rest.

There's nothing worse than feeling like you're completely out of control...of everything...so find what you're in charge of. You're in charge of your business--learning your part, researching the music, making sure you're on-time, having your performance clothing ready to go.

You can't control that cello player who plays all wonky, the giant wasp flying around the conductor's head, or the guy in the 3rd row on the left who forgot to turn off his cell phone. Again.

If you can do something about it directly, do something. If not, learn to push right on through it until you can get away from it.

3. Know when to separate yourself from negativity & gossip.

rumor-button-hiWhen you feel negative and it's not your natural state of being, it's time to do some centering and strengthening. Nay-sayers are tough to deal with, most especially ones that say gigantic negative things with a smile on their faces. If you feel positive, or even neutral, feel it. But separate yourself from others' negativity. It's theirs, so leave them to deal with it. (More to this in #4.)

Gossip will destroy relationships faster than you can say "You know what I heard?!" Participating in gossip is talking about other people behind their back, spreading information that you know isn't true or that you don't have the right to tell about other people; it's unhealthy because it creates a triangulation between you, the person with whom you are speaking, and the person you are speaking about. To put it in plant terms:  leaves of 3, let it be. Nobody likes poison ivy. So if you're gossiping, you're the poison, Ivy.

So while you can't control the fact that everyone's gossiping about the conductor doing you-know-what with you-know-who, you can choose not to spread the rumor and you can choose to change the conversation.

Remember that sometimes we all fall into the gossip trap. We are human, afterall. We do it without even noticing it. If this happens, get centered and strengthen yourself so you can steer clear of it and move on.

4. Your new mantra:  "Not my circus, not my monkeys!"

Drama. It's for the theater, the opera stage, the concert stage, the rehearsal space and nowhere else. Use this mantra as often as needed....and then 5 more times.

Because it's not your circus, nor are they your monkeys.

5. Carry compassion with you.

John Watson said it best:

Be kind; everyone is fighting a hard battle.

 

You will probably never know the battles that others face every day. And you may never know what keeps them going.

There's this guy in my neighborhood, for instance, whom I was most certain I would pelt with old shoes if I lived next to him. He mows his lawn for hours on end, all exact rows lined up perfectly, then gets out the leaf-blower and blows the grass clippings off the decorative rock around the trees. And there are a lot of decorative rocks.

One night as I was walking past I thought bitterly, "If I lived next to him, I'd sell my house and move! He makes so much noise! On the nicest evening of the week!" Then it occurred to me that for a lot of people, they have one activity that they hang on, it's their weekly salvation. And for this guy, it might be taking pride in his lawn. Perhaps his job his horrible and the only thing that helps him in summer is creating a beautiful lawn and being outside.

I could be TOTALLY WRONG, but that thought certainly gave me peace.

Speaking of peace, it's important to carry compassion for yourself. Carry compassion for times when you haven't asserted yourself, for the times when you've gossiped, for times you've gotten into other peoples' circus'. (Circi? ;) )

Compassion is beauty and strength in one.

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What helps keep you strong and assertive? We'd love to hear your thoughts below.