Dirt Roads and Opera

May 31, 2011

The adventure continues.

Last weekend, my husband and I went down to Pensacola for an audition. Now, I’ve made this trip to Pensacola a number of times. I’ve auditioned for them a few times (as a side note: the folks at Pensacola Opera are quite possibly some of the most wonderful people to audition for. If you’re in the area, go see a show. Their season is January thru April) and my brother went to flight school down there, so I’m used to the drive. I’ve almost got it memorized.

Well, we hit a little snag in the road when all of a sudden, all 3 lanes of interstate traffic came to a halt in Alabama. Now, I’m quite used to this now because pretty much all of I-65 in Alabama is one big construction zone. If you’re wondering where all that Obama stimulus went? It’s in Alabama, Mississippi and Harlem. No joke. Those are the only places I’ve seen signs attributing the massive funds to that stimulus. But I digress. So I suspected that was the issue. Always the impatient driver, I pulled out my handy little phone, told Google where I was and begged it to tell me what the problem was (Remember, I was stopped, so therefore, not technically using my phone while driving). Well, there was no info on why, but it did definitely tell me that the traffic was stopped for the next 15 miles! Being the astute driver I am (oh yeah, I’m really smart), I decided that was outrageous, and we exited the interstate to take the back roads.

The backroads were awesome! Well, that is until everyone else had pulled out Google, found out that there was a serious problem and discovered our backroads. Stopped once again in traffic, I once again submitted to the almighty power of Google to find out the backup was 5 miles long. At this point, many people would give up. But not me! Oh, no! There are many more roads to take, and if they exist, I will find them!

Needing refreshment and a potty break, we stopped at quite possibly the nicest gas station I’ve ever seen in Jemison, Alabama. The cashier informed us that an 18-wheeler tanker something or other had overturned and both directions of the interstate were shut down. We asked if there were other backroads. And, of course, there were.

Taking her advice, and with the direction of the almighty Google, we set out away from the backed up traffic.

Now, because we were glued to the almighty Google, we didn’t really pay attention to where we were going. We did what Google said. It was kind of like the game of Simon Says. We saw another back up ahead, so we made a quick right turn to outsmart them all. Well, that right turn turned out to be a dirt road! So here we wer, in a brand new rental, driving down a bumpy dirt road on the way to an opera audition. Really? Is this really my life? Granted, I grew up on a dirt road in Arkansas, so I am very familiar with the art of navigating the dirt road. But on the way to an opera audition?

We followed that little dirt road until it hit another state highway, turned again onto another highway, hit another back up, but this time decided to follow the locals in their huge 4×4 trucks across a field (oh yeah, you can’t stop me in my little Chevy Cruze rental, baby), skirted that back up, followed more back roads, made an emergency turn again that spit us out on yet another dirt road! Yes, folks, 2 dirt roads in 30 minutes. I haven’t been on that many dirt roads in a day since I moved out of Arkansas at the age of 10!

Eventually, we made it back to the highway and outsmarted all of those other people who were too scared of those dirt roads. But not me. Why? Because I am an opera singer. You can’t stop us. We are, er…um…too stupid to stop. If we see an opportunity, we go for it, no matter what.

But what you should also be reminded of in this story is that people think that being an opera singer is glamorous and exciting. I hope that by now, if you have been reading my blog for very long, you are not that naive. I’ll give you exciting, but glamorous? Well, you know better.

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Is this really my life?

July 19, 2010

So I’m on the plane (read yesterday’s blog if you are confused). Whew. One connecting flight, and I’m in the Big Apple.

No hiccups encountered (well, except for that 10 year old boy behind me who thinks that his tray table is really fun to flip up and down, up and down, up and down…oh a drink…up and down, up and down, up and down…you get my drift).

Get to Baltimore. Send a friendly message to my friend to remind him what time I will be arriving at his apartment tonight. He was a last minute save when my sublet fell through. I’m am boarding my flight when my phone registers a text. It’s my friend. He’s forgotten I’m coming. He already has someone at his place in the spare room and he forgot to tell his girlfriend I was coming. Can I find somewhere else to go? What!?!? Can I find somewhere else???? It’s 8 pm!!! All my other friends had guests, too. He was the only one without one!!! So, my co-dependent self obviously took over, and I respond by saying, oh yeah. No problem. (side note: this friend of mine is quite possibly one of the most gracious, giving peopled in the world. He has never forgotten I was coming. This was a random occurrence, but it makes for a great story!) So here I find myself, on an airplane with no where to stay when I get there. I go to my backup. My teacher. He has a guest, but he also has a comfy couch. I hate sleeping on couches, but what else am I going to do? It’s better than a park bench. I send him a text and turn off my phone, praying that I will have positive message awaiting me when I arrive.

And then the stars aligned. The couch is still free.

And to make it even better, I walk outside and my most hated bus, the M60 is pulling up.

And then it hits me. Is this really my life? Am I really pursuing this crazy dream of a career which has landed me in a city for 2 weeks with nowhere to stay except a couple of people’s couches? Is this the crazy career that one moment is going really well and getting you work etc…and then you find yourself couch surfing because all the money you’ve managed to save is going to coachings, lessons and food? A break, anyone? Anyone?

Beat the system

July 18, 2010

I have arrived in New York. That equals an uptick in the blog entries. And today was no exception.

As with anytime I fly, there is some subconscious part of me that wants to “beat the system” i.e. show up at the airport much later than the “suggested” time. AKA, be as stressed out as possible and be that person in the security line checking their watch, sighing heavily, giving those people who didn’t take off their flip flops (hey, there could be something bad in that 1/4 inch of rubber) dirty looks for holding up the line. It’s a part of me that I just can’t deter. So I have come to just accept it and try to keep my heavy sighs and dirty looks to myself.

So I pull into the airport at 2:10 for my 3:05 departure. I planned to park in economy, but after going in and seeing no shuttle bus anywhere close, I went to short term. The hubby was flying in a few hours later, so I figured it wouldn’t be so expensive. I managed to get all my stuff for 2 weeks into my carry on (oh yes, I am woman, hear me roar!), so I grabbed my boarding pass and got in the security line. Suddenly it hits me, “hey, what time is it?” So I go to grab my phone. Not there. I empty the contents of my purse on the floor. No phone. I’m suddenly that person holding up the line. I dart out, thankful I’m in short term. As I’m leaving the airport, I hear the time announced “The time is now 2:30”. Ack! I’m racing to the car, sweat pouring in the 90 degree heat. Search the car. Not there. Just as I’m about to give up, I look down and lo and behold, there it is on the pavement next to the car. Victory!

The dash back to the airport is on. Back in line at security. I choose “expert traveler” lane thinking it will be faster. Ha! Thwarted again! No! It is slower than all the other lines. In fact, the TSA scanner guy is just sitting talking with his friends, laughing and such while we stand there waiting for him to move our plastic baggies with no more than 3 oz of liquid in them down the conveyor belt. He must have been good at least at finding those forbidden over the limit items. Below the belt was a graveyard of half full toothpaste tubes and hair gel containers (man, those are dangerous! Glad I’m not traveling with that sad person. Bad breath and bad hair?).

I make it through security. It’s 2:45. Where’s my gate? You guessed. At the very end of the terminal. Attempting not to be that person running crazily in the airport with my bags and other things flopping in ways they shouldn’t, I take up a quick pace. My shirt is now wet on my stomach and back from sweat. You can see it. Yeah, I’m that gross. The fortunes looked upon me, though, for I made it to my flight by 2:55 and was in my seat by 3:00.

Oh yes. I beat the system again.

But just when I thought things would be just fine…the other shoe hit the floor. That entry coming tomorrow…

(I know you will be on the edge of your seat, unable to sleep tonight, in great anticipation)

Last night, while Tim showed me the Double Rainbow video on YouTube, we got sucked into the Muppets…and when I say sucked it, I mean it. An hour or so later, we realized we were still watching Muppets clips. In our Muppet whirlwind, I found my 2 favorite clips.

A fantastic rendition of Carmen’s Habanera (with a few unintentional key changes)

And Beaker’s ode to Ode to Joy

I’m Famous!

July 7, 2010

Well, at least that’s what they say when you put something on YouTube, right?

I got up the gumption to put myself out there. Take a listen (and a look)

This is Nina’s Final Aria from Thomas Pasatieri’s The Seagull which is based on Checkov’s play of the same name. I recently learned this piece and it is by far my favorite audition aria.

Check out this video

April 15, 2010

Click on this link and not only see pics of me in action in Hansel and Gretel, but also help support Opera Manhattan in a competition to win a fantastic performance space!

Um…shoes?

February 5, 2010

So this was a first.

I had an audition last week. Fortunately my best friend’s parents live close to the audition city, so I saved some cash by crashing at their place.

While in the shower, I was thinking through my audition material, my outfit, my hair, my clothes…MY CLOTHES! HOLY CRAP! I forgot my shoes!!!

First time ever. I had forgotten to pack my shoes, and I all I had with me were snow boots and running shoes. So the gerbils in the brain start running. Do I just go in barefoot? Do I have time to buy anything? Do I wear the running shoes and start a great conversation about it? Do I walk on tip toe and say I have imaginary shoes on? After realizing that none of these were good options, I asked my friends mom.

2 things were fortunate. 1) She has good style. 2) She had black heels.

Unfortunate thing? They were too big. Her solution? Stuff the toes.

So I sang an audition in my best friend’s mother’s shoes with panty hose stuffed in the toes.

The Girls of 207

March 24, 2009

Here I am, less than a week away from ending my time in Sarasota, and I have not yet introduced you to my awesome roommates. I am remiss.

Sarasota Opera houses all of the apprentices at RTA (Ringling Terrace Apartments), 3 to each apartment.  Honestly, I was a little nervous about the situation.  I haven’t had roommates for years (unless you count the hubby and, well, that’s another situation all together) and the thought of getting all snuggly with 2 strangers? Not my idea of fun.

Enter Lindsay and Candra.  Candra and I actually went to school together so although acquainted, never had to deal with sharing the same bathroom.  Lindsay I did not know, but soon discovered that this was going to work.  Put plainly, the girls of 207 rock.

Candra is the super free spirit of the group.  Always dressed up just for the sake of dressing up, I learned very quickly that, “A girl doesn’t need a reason to dress up!” and when I ask about why she’s wearing heels for a walk to the coffee shop she replies, “I’m single. I always have to wear heels.” Her hair may not be brushed yet and she may still have mascara under her eyes from the day before, but damn it, she’s gotta wear those heels! 🙂  She’s the one in the group that cries during all the sad parts of the movies and whose face gets are snarled during the fights.  She has also been known to cry during Don Carlos when we’re all on stage.  She has challenged me not only to always look good, but to let my emotions hang out a little more on my sleeve.  Just a little bit. Don’t worry. I’m not coming back all girly. Heaven forbid.

Lindsay is the middle-ground between my nerdy, organized, and (according to Candra) my boyishness (look, I can’t help the fact I sit like a dude in a dress and ho boots) and Candra’s free spirited, beautiful woman.  Lindsay takes my t-shirt and jeans and pairs it with a pair of sexy red heels. And though she loves nerd games like Dungeons and Dragons (the real one with dice and math and junk) and Munchkin (I don’t even know so don’t ask) she is quite possibly one of the wittiest people I know.  She is a super smart cookie, beautiful with the girl-next-door quality and playful. Because of her, I know have some sassy heels for my jeans and my inner child has emerged more.

We have become a great family. There are 2 places we talk: Lindsay’s bed (we’re not really sure how her bed won because we all have uncomfy beds) and the cramped hallway where the bathroom door, my door and Candra’s door meets.  It is in these moments that you may hear a vocal “trumpet trio” (Lindsay always starts it, Candra matches her expertise and then I come in sounding like a rhino. I need to work that talent) or see us eating crackers and cheese.

The girls of 207 have kept every cheese maker in this country and possibly some in Europe very busy this season.  Whenever we needed a snack…what did we want? Cheese and crackers!!! Well, and those nasty little sweet pickles from which I abstained.  Heck, I think there could’ve been more than a few full meals of cheese and crackers.  The counters are always full of cheese and cracker crumbs. Even when we clean, somehow they come out to play, to taunt us, to beg us to eat more cheese and crackers.

We’ve also sent many dollars to China and other major tea exporters.  I’m sure several children have a brand new Wii due to our tea consumption.

And don’t be surprised if  you hear one of us say, “Jeesie Creesie” followed by another one of us saying “Don’t call me Jeesie Creesie” followed by the third “Holy Ghost”.  It has also been known to happen in reverse order.  If you are not familiar with Eddie Izzard, this is lost on you and it is a situation which must be remedied.

Other favorite past times of the season (which always included the 2 above mentioned delicacies) included watching both seasons of The Tudors and Rome.  We are gluttons for dramatized “history”.  There also may or may not have been an evening where we put together a Gingerbread House 3 months after Christmas…

I’m going to miss these ladies.  I’ve never liked my roommies so much.  They have become the sisters I never had.  I wish I could take them to Nashville. Our house is big enough, but I suppose I’ll let them go on with their lives.

I love these ladies.  They will always be dear to me.

The Night Before

January 5, 2009

I leave tomorrow (Monday) for Sarasota for 3 months.  The night before I leave is always so hard.  I love my hubby and my friends and the roots I have put down, it is always so bittersweet when I have to leave for extended times to do what I love so much.  It’s such a terrible mix of emotions.  Most of the time all I do is just sit with Tim and laugh, talk and cry.

It’s hard.  It would be very easy for me to put up a wall and move into independent mode and act as I don’t care before I even leave to make it easier to leave.  But that would be dishonest. I do care, and I am not independent when I am home…nor do I want to be. Life with Tim is awesome, and it’s always tough to leave it.

I used to be able to pick up and go whenever and wherever I pleased without a care. But that is before I cared about people.  I moved so much as a child, I never put down roots and knew somewhere in my psyche that’d I’d be gone soon enough so my care went to God and my immediate family. They were the only constant.

But now I have a new constant, Tim, and others whom I have developed close ties with.  And I revel in it for what little time I am home until I have to pack up and go away again.

Don’t get me wrong. I am looking forward to being in Sarasota.  Singing and meeting new people is always fun and an amazing adventure. And it is only 3 months.  But I notice many of the singers I know or have come into contact with who have become incredibly successful have developed a thick wall around themselves.  Many don’t seem personable. They are nice, but you can’t get too deep. I think I know why now. It’s too hard to let too many, or anyone in, just to get up and leave a week or two later.

I have chosen for that not to be my fate – even though it is harder.  That is not a good life to me. The life I have is wonderful, and we weren’t made to walk around being careful and protecting ourselves from potential pain. It ain’t easy, but I guess that is my cross to bare.

I’m still 3 months out from going to Sarasota, but I’ve already compiled a list of things that they have done well – things that I will note if I ever start an opera company some day.

1) Within a week of verbally accepting a position, I received a contract with every detail broken down. I had no questions.

2) With my contract, I received the bulk of my music already bound for me.

3) With my contract and music, I also received a copy of the synopsis and libretto.  So instead of trying to find time out of an already busy schedule to find the scores, buy them, have them shipped then go to the library to find the librettos and translation, it showed up in my mailbox, ready to learn – easily saving me, not only money, but at least 3 weeks of precious learning time.

4) My travel to and from Sarasota will be covered. People in other fields may find this a given but at the level I’m at right now in this career, it is not always a given that such a luxury will be afforded you.

5) To this point, I have been treated with an incredible level of professionalism.

6) I found out that we are only 3 miles from the beach and beginning in February it’s warm enough to swim! Woot!

So far, Sarasota has impressed me.  I’ll keep you updated. And all you folks who are thinking about starting an opera company (of which I know there are hoards), take note.  Making your singer feel like they are valued is the best way to ensure quality work from them.