The Pug Under the Piano Bench

on . Posted in Singing

My wonderful, first voice teacher, Nancy Burman, loves animals. Every animal they have ever owned, whether cat, dog, or hamster, has enjoyed an entertaining atmospher e, copious amounts of love from Nancy's numerous voice students and their own family. The Burmans' animals live the good life!

A Pug dog.

When I was in high school the Burmans had a pug named Betsy. Betsy was one of the happiest little dogs I've ever seen. She'd wave her little tail and greet you at the door every week. She loved to sit under the piano bench during lessons and was a very well-behaved dog.

 

Betsy also snorted.

A lot.

Betsy left a legacy of s(n)orts on every lesson recording we made. Because when you're serious about voice, even in high school, you listen to the recording of your lesson to help you practice during the week. Nancy recorded our lessons and song accompaniments for us and we would practice with them to get ready for a competition or a recital.

Betsy was on all of them.

Picture this:  a great voice lesson with loads of progress, and you're learning a wonderful art song like Joseph Haydn's "In the Country." You sing a bit, then the piano is by itself for a couple of measures, you sing a bit, and then the piano concludes the verse.

It's a song that creates a feeling of being out in the country on a sunny day, out in nature with trees and fields, fresh breezes and loads of sunshine...

 

Away from care and sorrow,

I gladly greet the morrow,

When I throughout the night,

Have slept till morning light.

 

 

*PUG SNORT*

 

With freedom in my heart,

When morn dispels the night,

And sorrows all depart,

My heart is ever light.

 

 

*PUG SNORT*

 

(English translation by Frank La Forge, Copyright 1938)

Cook Up Your Resonance: Drop the chicken!

on . Posted in Singing

Few people have informed my singing the way Julia Child did.

 

Really.

 

Here in the Midwest, we don't speak with much resonance. Out East, moreso. But where I come from in Wisconsin, we lock our jaws, freeze our lips, sink the sound to the back of our throats, and cut off all signs of resonance. It's a vast tundra of non-resonant speaking and lack of pronunciation.

This is not helpful when you're learning Classical singing.

It's like only having months-old frozen hamburger in your freezer when you really want a nice, fresh filet mignon. Or my favorite, the New York strip. Yes, this smacks of Alanis Morissette's "Ironic." Very much so.

My first voice teacher, Nancy, tried and tried and tried to help me understand resonance:  "the mask," the "inner smile," what it felt like, what it didn't feel like. She tried one thing, then another, then another, she stayed patient. I did not. I tried, I tried, I tried some more. It didn't grow. I felt awful. I just didn't get it.

 

My next teacher, Lila, looked at me and said

"Can you breathe through your mouth and keep your nose open? Let air flow in and out of both your mouth and your nose at the same time."

What, be a mouth-breather?"

"Yes," she laughed. "Be a mouth-breather for 30 minutes today. That's half of your car-ride home."

We worked on it--it felt bizarre. "Yes, that's it!" Lila said.


Then came Julia Child--in the voice lesson.

"You know Julia Child, right?"

"Of course! She's on PBS."

"OK, do you know the famous story of when she dropped the chicken on the floor, picked it up, and went on cooking?"

I was appalled. That's disgusting. The germ-freak side of me gagged.

"She simply said, 'Oh, damn, I dropped the chicken!' and kept on cooking."

I laughed! That was insane! Someone like Julia Child--with her reputation--that's all she said?! And picked it up off the dirty floor and went on cooking?!

 

"Try it. Imitate her saying, 'Oh damn, I dropped the chicken!' "

"OH DAMN, I DROPPED THE CHICKEN!"I said in the highest, most high-falutin' half-British, half-American I could muster.

That was it! My resonance opened up, I felt the buzz, "the mask" came alive, I smiled inside my nose (without having to raise my eyebrows).

Free to Create - Feast Day of St. Cecilia

on . Posted in Inspiration

In her audio program "Seeing in the Dark: Myths and Stories to Reclaim the Buried, Knowing Woman" Jungian psychoanalyst and cantadora (keeper of the stories) Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes reminds us that as artists, we shall not criticize, not judge, not break down others for their creativity--because so many of us are imprisoned, are unable to create, are not allowed to create. From a prison cell in another country to our own downtrodden neighborhoods, to people imprisoned in themselves.

We have an opportunity to create and thus to free ourselves further, and to work towards freeing others. Art educates, art comforts, art inspires, art heals. Since we make art, this means that we educate, we comfort, we inspires, we heal both ourselves and others. This year, the Feast Day of St. Cecilia falls on Thanksgiving. Let's give thanks for the freedom to create, to write, to sing, to paint, to sculpt, to inspires, to heal, to comfort, to educate.

Here the "Hymn to St. Cecilia" by Benjamin Britten:

Featured in WE Magazine for Women

on . Posted in News

WE Magazine, "Inspiring Women in Business and in Life"

WE Magazine, an online magazine for women, featured me back in April of this year. Their section "Women on the Move" features women under 35 who have their own businesses, are creating a name for themselves, and are role models for other women.

There are loads of free audio programs, resources, and articles for any woman entrepreneur, especially those of you who are spiritually minded.

Read the article about me in "Women on the Move" here, and check out the site and the dozens of free resources.

Enjoy!

 

Talking about Domestic Violence on the Kathleen Dunn Show - WPR

on . Posted in News

Last week I was honored to be a guest on the Kathleen Dunn Show on Wisconsin Public Radio (oh, a happy Sconnie am I!)  for Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Carmen Pitre, Director of the Sojourner Family Peace Center in Milwaukee, WI, was Ms Dunn's guest on the show for the same hour. The Sojourner Family Peace Center is a 42+ bed shelter in Milwaukee with confidential support groups. They've even developed a Healthy Relationship Test, which you can read here. Carmen was so forthright, so calm, and so informative, a true advocate for DV awareness and for change in personal relationships.

We talked about recognizing red flags, awareness of violence in relationships, and I talked about my own personal experience surviving and getting out of a violent relationship. In light of the recent Brookfield, Wisconsin shooting, this conversation is more timely than ever. And based on the calls that came in during that hour, this conversation needs to continue.

Thank you so very much to everyone at WPR that made this happen, it is so important.

CLICK HERE to listen to the broadcast(this link opens directly to the player). If you prefer, you can download the broadcast to listen later by visiting the Kathleen Dunn Audio Archive page and finding the link to the October 24, 2012, 9:00 am show.

 

Music for Domestic Violence Awareness--Red Jumpsuit Apparatus

on . Posted in News

Thanks to the magic of Pandora, this song showed up on my main channel and I was pretty astonished to hear the lyrics

Do you feel like a man when you push her around?
Do you feel better now as she falls to the ground?
Well I'll tell you my friend, one day this world's going to end
as your lies crumble down, a new life she has found.

It's pretty impressive. And they even raised funds for the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Rock. On.

Takes a real man--know what I mean?

 

Listen to it on iTunes Radio:  Face Down - The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus

 

Or buy it on Amazon.com: