Friday, October 15, 2010

812 Reasons I became a Vocalist

I am a classical vocalist.  A dramatic coloratura soprano to be specific.  If you know what that is, I love you.

1.  Papa
2. Grandma
3. Dad
4. Mom

I've been singing my whole life.  My grandfather (aka Papa) used to sing us all to sleep when we were little; mostly "By the light of the silvery moon" and "The Army Air Corps Song".  Grandma (aka Grandma) is still always humming to herself, or randomly breaking into softly sung renditions of "What a friend we have in Jesus" or "Let me call you Sweetheart".   My Dad (aka Boss/Dad) has a little bit of musical ADD - if he hears anything that reminds him of a song lyric, he'll instantly regale you with a verse or two of the song.  Mom does that a little bit too but not nearly as much.  And Mom can sing.  In tune.  My brother can rap, my little sister can rockband.

5. I was a "creative" (read: somewhat ADD) child

Being in a family that accepted random musical outbursts, I grew up not being squeamish or embarrassed by singing in front of others.  When I would play with my She-ra horses (I liked the horses better than the dolls) or Barbie horses or any other kind of toy horses I had (and the fancy stone/crystal/ceramic ones that were supposed to be just for looks) I would lay them out on my bed or the floor or whatever surface that would be the backdrop for my fantastic adventures, and I would sing each part.  I would sing the setting, the action, all the different voice parts for my toys, and they would have epic adventures, battles, romances, and whatever gibberish my brain would spew forth, all done in song.  I would sing along with the radio, the tv, other people, or just by myself.  Sometimes I'd sing songs, other times I would just sing whatever came to mind or whatever I was doing (I still do that by the way.  I have typing songs, driving songs, cooking songs, and most of all Kitty Cat songs.  Steve the cat likes to sing along with the kitty cat songs.)

6. Lutheran Church

So, anyway, I grew up in a singing family and I went to Lutheran church.  For those of you unfamiliar with the various Christian sects, the Lutherans are known for their singing and for their strict sensibilities.  We thrive on tradition and are pretty much Catholic Lite.  So, lots of singing, chanting, sung responses, and the like. I was a troublemaker, so I always ended up getting passed down the pew until I reached the end, where Papa sat.  Well, Papa had the patience of a saint (and no one else to pass me to) so I'd end up plunked down next to him.  Sitting between Papa and Dad, I had no choice but to behave myself and follow along with the service.  Papa would give me his gold-plated pencil from the engraved pen and pencil set he always kept in his inside suitcoat pocket, and let me draw on my service folder (we all thought I was going to be an artist back then) during the sermon to keep me mildly entertained, but I was expected to sit quietly and pay attention during the rest of the service.  Sitting between his bass and Dad's tenor, I sang everything an octave down.  So, I spent about the first 13 years of my life as an alto.

7. Debbie Follsteadt and my first solo

When I was 10 years old, our elementary school (oh wait, I should stop and point out that I am a twin.  Because of that, I tend to refer to my childhood in 3rd person plural to incorporate the fact that almost everything I did included at least my brother.) was putting on a little show about the American Revolution with the 4th, 5th, and 6th grades.  Well, one day after practice Debbie Follsteadt (aka Debbie St. Onge) called a handful of us down around the piano.  She selected Rachel and asked her to sing the first verse of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic".  Well, Rachel, as about all of the rest of the group, was in the G.A.T.E. (Gifted And Talented Enrichment) Music program.  I was in G.A.T.E. too, but for Art.  So, Rachel sings, timidly, the verse.

She calls on me next.  I start off timidly, as Rachel had, feeling extremely and uncomfortably self-aware.  About halfway through the verse I realized "wait, I wasn't singing it like this in practice, why am I being shy now?"  And that's when it happened.  I ignored my emotions, gave it my all, and rocked those grapes of wrath.  I got the only solo in the entire show. That moment changed my life. 

8. Carmen

Well, after that it was established that I could sing.  But, I was still singing alto (or tenor or baritone) thanks to Dad and Papa.  Until a woman at my church named Carmen started sitting behind me.  Carmen could sing, and she was a soprano.  With her behind me, I was tuning into her instead of Dad and singing everything in a proper octave.  This was the point where I really began to grow and develop my voice.

9. Miss Lindsey

 Miss Lindsey (now Lara Moon) was my junior high choir director.  I had her for 7th grade choir and Vail Singers.  In 8th grade I dropped choir to take Spanish so I could go on the foreign language field trip to Washington DC.  I figured I could just do Vail Singers, but the tax levy didn't pass and it got cut from the extracurricular activities.  So for at least one year, I had a great music program.  Miss Lindsey was soooo patient with me and my quirky annoying habits - gave me solos, worked with me personally, and even put me in my first contest.  I sang "Panis Angelicus" and got a 1 (that's the best ranking).  It was my first time competing and it was my first time singing in Latin. 

10. Julie Dima

Dima was a great director and I learned the most about music theory from her.  She and I were never close, but she was an incredible director.  Strict, but she got results. Our A Capella choir went to contest at AA under her and got a 1.  She had me sight reading in 6/8 time. 

11. Dr. Robert Hauck

Dr. Hauck wasn't my first voice teacher, I saw a lady for a few months my junior year of high school but she and I never clicked and I don't feel I grew or developed at all as a vocalist under her.  She did send me to contest where I sang "All in the April Evening" and got a 1, but I do feel it was more on my merit than hers.  She was really more of a glorified accompanist.  I'm not knocking what she did for her other students, but she and I just weren't very compatible.

Now, the latter part of my senior year I began seeing Dr. Hauck.  He was fantastic.  He taught me proper breathing, proper technique, tricks and tips, dark vowels, and under him I grew and developed a rich vibrato.  I stopped seeing him because time and money got tight.  I'd go back to him in a heartbeat though, I just wish he didn't live so far away.

12. My Choirs

With my voice came the privilege/obligation to use it.  I'd join almost any choir that needed me.  This included my church choir (under Debbie Follsteadt), my schools A Capella choir, Show Choir, every musical, The Lebanon Symphonic Orchestra and Chorus, The Dayton Philharmonic Chorus (I was the first high school student to sing for them), and currently the Middletown Civic Chorus, my church choir under Jim Fry, and the First United Methodist Church choir under Mary Ellen Clinard. 

13. Mary Ellen Clinard

 Mary Ellen was our accompanist my senior year of high school.  She and I got along well, but we really didn't know each other very well back then.  That would come 9 years later, when I went to see Yun Kim perform at the First Friday Concert series at the First United Methodist Church here in Middletown.  Well, Mary Ellen saw me there, remembered me from high school, and asked me to join her choir.  This has been a fantastic opportunity for me.  I've met interesting people, soloed, expanded my repertoire, and feel that I'm really beginning to get my voice back and thanks to a tonsil/addenoidectomy in 2002 I now have a bigger post-resonance chamber thereby giving me a fuller, richer, deeper sound.  She's been awesome to work with and she her motivation, energy, and enthusiasm really makes me feel like I'm working towards being a professional vocalist again. 

14. Yun Kim/Mike Hughes

Yun is one of the absolute top organists in the country.  I'm not just saying that, she has the awards to back it up.  She has a doctorate in organ performance and I could listen to her play all day.  Mike is her adoring husband/faithful promoter/devout page-turner.  By far one of the most genuinely compatible/adorable couples I know.  Mike and I have been in several choirs together, and Yun has been my accompanist many times for everything from church services to solos to scholarship competitions (which I, of course, won).  I have been so fortunate to have them in my life for their support.

812. Debbie Follsteadt/St. Onge

Every time I think of all the different factors that went into making me the singer I am today, it always comes back to Debbie.  She gave me my first solo.  8 years later I was the soloist for her wedding.  She gave me solos, duets, ensembles, descants, and auditions; and has been a teacher, and accompanist, a choir director, a judge, and a friend.   She has been a phenomenal inspiration and resource for me and without her influence, patience (I don't think I can emphasize that enough) and support I don't believe I would be the singer I am today, if at all.

I have been so lucky to have all the fantastic people in my life that I do.  This list is just a sample of those that I feel were the most influential to me, particularly in my growth and development.  I don't know if it is luck, fortune, or fate that puts me in the right places at the right times, and this list is always growing.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Twisted Sense of Humor

I was recently asked why it is that some people tend to enjoy joking about dark and disturbing subject matter.  Here is my .02

Well there are a lot of reasons people are attracted to dark, disturbing, or violent imagery and discussion. It varies from person to person, from moment to moment, and is subject to change.

1. Yes, it could be that the person has disturbing thoughts and jokes are the only socially acceptable outlet for them.

2. It could be for shock value, interpreted as cool or edgy, and the person may be expressing themselves that way in order to portray that edge, much like a way of dress or smoking can be done as a method of expression.

3. We all have a "shadow" to our personality. We used to be able to express this through our own means of living - blood, guts, feces, and death were a part of everyday life. Sex was taboo, but death - that was just part of life.

Now, it's quite the opposite - very few of us have actually killed an animal for a meal. We have toilets, bathrooms, bedrooms, privacy - unless you have siblings, it's very likely you may have reached young adulthood without ever seeing the opposite gender nude. So, we have a lot of stigma associated with the blood, guts, gore, feces, and death that were previously part of everyday life. When someone died, you put them in the parlor for 3 days, let everyone give their respects, then you buried them. And you went into mourning for a time where you wore black and didn't attend social functions. Then, when your period of mourning was over, you were permitted to wear color again and rejoin society.

I think it was in the 1920's or 1930's when a popular woman's magazine stated that it was unfashionable to display a body in the home. Families were encouraged to set away their heirlooms and replace the family parlor with the "living room". This created the funeral parlor. Also, with the increase in medical care, more people were dying in hospitals than at home, both death and the body were no longer something to be dealt with inside of the home. As time went on, sanitation improved, houses got bigger, privacy increased, meat was killed and butchered by the butcher or farmer rather than members of the household, and medical care improved. We were living longer, healthier lives. So, as time went on, our exposure to the core, essential elements of living were restricted to the point where it was considered rude and crass to even discuss them.

But, they are part of our existence. A part that we are no longer exposed to except in small, restricted amounts that we are no longer permitted to acknowledge. If the thought of blood, feces, or puke turned your stomach you wouldn't be very effective 60 years ago. Now, it's perfectly acceptable.

We are no longer allowed to grieve properly. It's no longer acceptable for anyone to be sad over someone's loss, we just tell them that the deceased is in another place and that they should get on with their life. As a result, we force people to hide their grief and internalize it, and as a result they hang onto that grief rather than letting it out and working through it.

So, we have essentially turned these topics into social taboos, and that causes us to ruminate on them. It creates a shock value and creates a need to explore our feelings towards those topics, yet we know we are not socially permitted to discuss them.

Age is More than just a Number

I've never believed that age is just a number.  Now, I primarily work with an older adult market, and I do agree that as age increases the lines blur more and more.  I have clients that are preparing for the end of their life, I have clients that still have children at home, I have clients retiring, I have clients starting new careers and going back to school.  But I digress...

What I commonly see are issues with myself and my friends and our younger friends.  When you're in high school, the lines are much more defined and age makes a huge (and sometimes legal) difference.  But once you're out, the lines blur and the only real difference between you and everyone else is whether or not you can legally buy booze.

But the differences don't end there, and for at least the next few years, there are many life stages that must be passed through before one goes from being a legal adult to an actual adult.

Reasons why age does matter:

1.  So you're a legal adult.  That's awesome.  You ready to install a water softener?  You have the money to pay for the maintenance on your car? Do you even know how to change a tire?  Ya, you're probably still relying on your parents for a lot of things.  You're not independent yet.  Even if you live on your own, if you're still financially dependent on your parents, you're not an adult.  I don't care how old you are.  Being an adult means being financially independent and self reliant.

2.   There are a lot of emotional changes taking place through this period.  It's hard to go straight from being a child to being an adult without the transitional period there.  It can lead to rocky relationships because you want to be accepted as an adult but you're emotionally still underdeveloped.  Your emotional needs and relationship goals are constantly changing.  Just because you know what you want in the long run doesn't mean that's what you need right now.  Don't be afraid to act your age or you'll grow up too fast and wake up one day realizing you really are an adult and that you never had any fun like I did.

3.   Having your own place and own money doesn't mean you're an adult. There is a lot of real life learning that has to take place, what to do when the drains are backing up, how to care for your lawn, how to drain your water softener, how often to change your furnace filter, etc. that only come from experience and advice.  Don't be afraid to ask for advice or to accept it when it's given - you don't know everything about everything and it's worth your time and attention to learn from others that have been in the game longer.

4.  Accept that you and your friends might be at different life stages.  It used to be that you graduated high school, maybe went to college, got married, and had kids.  It was easy to define everyone's life stage.  Now, we're staying single longer, moving out later, leaving and coming back to college, etc.   So, even though you may be close friends, there can be a world of difference between an 24 year old and a 28 year old.  That's not a bad thing, but it is something to be taken into consideration.  Not everyone can stay out all night.  Sometimes saying that you have to stay home and do laundry and clean the bathroom means that you really need to do that - it's not going to clean itself and that is the time you had budgeted to take care of household chores. Likewise, needing to study is serious business and should be respected.  Just because you're done with college doesn't mean others don't still have a long way to go.

5.  Inter-relational dynamics.  This is where it can really become an issue.  Whether it is a relationship or simply a friendship, when one partner is significantly further along in their life stage, it is very difficult to see someone on a less developed stage as an equal.  This can skew the relationship from being symmetrical into being complimentary - instead of being partners one becomes the teacher/parent figure and the other becomes the learner/child.  Once this has been established it can be a very difficult dynamic to overcome.

6. More dynamics - When unbalanced partners enter a relationship aside from casual friendship, they enter into a superior/inferior dynamic.  This means that one partner inevitably holds the power in the relationship because they bring more resources into the relationship.  This could be having their own place, having more money, having handyman/mechanical/automotive skills, having more friends, or being the person the other relies on for emotional, financial, or sexual support.  This means that the inferior partner will have a more vested interest in the relationship because they are having more needs met by their partner than they are meeting for their partner.  This can lead to excessive bargaining in order to preserve the relationship, and may eventually lead to resentment.

7.  Goals - As mentioned earlier, just because you both want a house and a family some day doesn't mean you both need it right now.  If one of you is looking at remodeling a bathroom and financing options for a new car and the other is looking at finding a job where they don't have to deal with hot grease burns and trying to find a way to keep their mom off of their Facebook, you might not have the same short term goals.  Now, maybe one partner is willing and happy to wait for the other to finish their degree and get established in a career before talking about marriage, but it is very likely that one partner will either believe that the other is holding them back or trying to drag them along before they're ready.

812. Don't be afraid to act your age.  I've said it before and I can't say it enough.  You can't expect to be treated like an adult when you still react like a child.  Likewise, if you do act like an adult, people will assume you are one and treat you accordingly whether you're prepared or not.  You don't want to wake up one day with a spouse and house and child and realize you never had any fun or that you never took the risks you wish you had before you took on your adult responsibilities.  Likewise, if all your friends are working hard, buying houses, getting married, and breeding - maybe it's a sign that you either have to get with the times or be left behind.  You can still have fun and enjoy life without wasting it.  Don't latch onto other people to benefit from their hard work without being willing to work hard to earn those things for yourself.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Britain's Top Exports

1. Dry comedy
2. Music
3. Gordon Ramsey


Opinions are opinions, people are people.  We ought not to confuse the two.

Reasons why attacking a person for their beliefs is pointless and only perpetuates crazymaking.

1.  Opinions are fluid and their greatest strength is that they are malleable and changeable.  If we all believed and thought the same things, the world would lose all its magic and be incredibly boring to me. 

2.  I love a good scholarly debate, but I do feel that opinions are opinions, I am entitled to mine, and you are entitled to yours, and that there is a world of difference between debate and attack.

3.  When one attacks a person for their beliefs, it creates a schema that we are at odds with that person, and due to cognitive dissonance, even if we do find that we agree with other opinions that person holds, we will not be able to to assimilate that into our schema; we will either deny/ignore it, or we will consider it to be an exception to the norm.

4.  I have a very good friend that I have shared many years of debate and entertaining stories with.  However, we do disagree extremely heavily on a few key matters, both of which we hold rather dear.  Fortunately, we are both mature adults that accept that it isn't worth hating each other over these differences, and that we both value each other's company much more than we value having the last word on the matter.  Yes, the easiest thing to do is simply to ignore those topics, but they do come up from time to time.  We are, however, able to agree to disagree without becoming angry or attacking each other's opinions or person.  And that's why Tony rocks.

5.  Anyone can say "you're wrong".  It takes a much bigger person to say "I feel differently and here are the reasons why I believe what I do".  Never throw out an opinion you can't support, you'll only show that you react emotionally instead of logically.  By the time you've thought things through, you've had a chance to simmer down.

6.  What's the point of rant-rage?  Yes, I believe I just coined that term.  The internet leave so much anonymity that all we have to go off of to create the image of the author is our own emotional reflection.  Debating on what you feel based off of the few words of mine you've been kindly enough to read, you might think my brain is so damn hot you just want to give me a brain massage and hope that some of it seeps through my pores so you can carry it with you always.  Or, you could think I'm the dumbest bitch ever to ride a keyboard and you'd like to punch me through your monitor right now and the only reason you're still reading is because iTunes is updating and your browser is running too slowly to take you the hell away from here.  Either way, I'm glad that I've siphoned some kind of an emotional response from you.

7.  What's the point?  The point is, nobody wins when someone comments "ur gay" or "this sux".  Big deal.  Don't care.  You've not invoked any kind of emotional response from me, although I do imagine the poster is probably gay or sucks themselves.

812.  I have nothing to gain from petty arguments.   I doubt you do either.  And if you do, I am sorry that you have such a pitiful, miserable life that you have to resort to arguing with strangers from the internet in order to gain a sense of accomplishment for winning an argument. 

Reason 812

I am a logical person.  I like definitions.  I like knowing not simply that things work, but why.  There must be a reason for everything, even if that reason is simply "I felt like it at the time". 

Because of this, I am compelled to describe the reasons for my actions, thoughts, musings, and whatnot.  Will I contradict myself? Of course.

I hope you find this amusing, informative, or simply a conversation starter.  My goals will be changing, but as of right now I would say that I simply hope to be able to unload some of my brain dribble and see what form of creativity will spurt forth from it, and that this may inspire some higher thought and perhaps inspire introspection among my readers.