August 27, 2012

Happy Anniversary, Year 2

Happy two-year anniversary to the Voice Within Community Blog,, and the Voice Within newsletter! It's super hard work managing a website, blog, and newsletter-- or the Holy Trinity, as I like to think of it-- but it has been such a rewarding endeavor. Please continue to check out the blog for the latest rants, gossip, and craziness that result in my life as a musician and die-hard lover of opera and performance.

Thank you guys for all your comments and participation. Without you guys....these things are impossible!  Happy two-year anniversary!

July 21, 2012

Opera savants to punch your face

A common misconception is that opera is enjoyed by a small segment of people or that people don't really know much about the vocal art form, other than lessons taught by Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd. The consensus is that most people just don't enjoy it, can't appreciate it, or don't care to understand it. Hmm, where's the fork and spoon? I'd like to eat those words.

Actually MOST people know a little something about opera beyond the fat lady with the shield and horns. And these same people have really great opinions about the performance practice, singers, and the art as a whole. So, despite its boogie beginnings, knowledge of opera has spread vastly into society and into the daily lives of people of all ages, races, and backgrounds. Granted, the art form will never be as popular as Lady Gaga, the TMZ gossip column, or products from Apple but it's out there and people know about it....more than ya might think!

I'm always singing or humming in the most awkward or inappropriate places. I can't help it. It's usually during these moments I encounter the unassuming-everyday-opera-savant:

Setting-- Locker room, My gym
Humming-- Una Furtiva Lagrima
Savant-- middle-aged man, scantily clad, short, smelled like Brut
Savant moment-- "I love that aria! Are you a countertenor or tenor....I always confuse the two. Please tell me you've seen Rinaldo at Lyric. I thought the production was fantastic. I saw it several years ago with my wife in London....we aren't opera people but I like Haidell...Hadell, Handedell...who is the composer again?"
Moral-- Secure your towel before your next audition. 

Setting-- Northbound bus, headed home
Humming-- Intricate cadenzas
Savant-- Older man in Bob Marley tank, dreads down to his knees, vagabond-ish
Savant moment-- "Man is that some opera stuff you're singin'? That's good man. Man, that Maria Callas was off the chain man. Did you ever hear her sing that Norma? Man she was off the chain...blew me away man."
Moral-- Is Maria Callas the Devil? Regardless, that smelly guy in the corner knows opera rep

Setting--Elevator in downtown
Humming-- Un Aura Amorosa
Savant-- Teenaged kid, with skateboard, listening to something kinda loud
Savant moment-- "Mozart is pretty cool, " as he walked out of the elevator
Moral-- People in elevators can hear you, no matter what. And they are ghostly smart.

Setting-- El train, headed north
Humming-- An unpopular Rossini aria, score in hand
Savant-- young women, holding some groceries
Savant moment-- "Excuse me, are you a singer of some kind? I think that's incredible what you guys do with your voices. Rossini? Wasn't he a bel canto conductor?"
Moral-- Stouffers is not all they sell at your local grocery mart.

July 15, 2012

Something old, new, borrowed, blue?

Remember the old bridal checklist... something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue? Who says these gals are the only people concerned about these requirements? After all, preparing for an audition is much like checking off these very points-- five arias, one musical theater, a monologue, contrasting styles, at least one song. Get the picture? Sometimes preparing for an audition is just as hectic and hair-pulling as arranging a wedding. At least one ends with cake and an open bar!

Commonly we all ask, what should I take, what's ready, and what's appropriate? So aside from keeping good records with the help of magic life-saving tools like Velvet Singer, YAP Tracker, or a simple Excel spreadsheet, ask someone! Preferably another singer or colleague is a great starting place. They are simple and easy enough to be the type of resource we overlook because we're scurrying to learn something new, find a pianist to rehearse, memorize the text, translate, yadda yadda yadda. All along our musical theater piece, art song, or 5th aria is that quick easy little number we sang in a performance class, in an impromptu rehearsal in the hallway, or casually at someone's birthday party. Most of what we need, we already make it work!

Remember adjudicators know, on some level, singers are going to present what they have. Rarely would any singer show up having learned five brand new arias and three musical theater songs the week before. It's probably happened and it's probably happened with some degree of success; but let's not play odds. Instead, pull from the vault of music that's ready, in decent shape, and available!   

July 14, 2012

Thanks and Sayonara

So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye! What a magical and fun 8 weeks of letting loose, getting wild and learning how to build real in-your-face characters. This is a small photo tribute to the whacky class of SPACE summer session one. Thanks for not dropping like all the other flies!

Joey's Poison-- Antoine, Edwin, Me, Steve

Me & Antoine McKay

The Emily and Jonell after party

Umm hair and makeup ladies?
With scene partner Craig Conover

Our small dysfunctional but FULL of life family!

June 27, 2012

Be brave. Expand your life.

"Life expands according to your courage," I read this once. Today, this idea came into perspective as I drove home from the last session of an 8-week acting class. My thoughts resulted in this...

In life we are given a host of variables on any one day. Sometimes they are favorable, sometimes not. Sometimes, they are fun and interesting while other times they are challenging and not at all happy. And, as we live, we learn more about the infinite variables that establish our daily lives, routines, and habits. 

But, when we desire to understand more and the patterns of daily life become too familiar, we quietly ask ourselves, "Is there more..." or "how can today be can I grow?" With this question we ultimately ask, "how can I amplify my life, feel something new, and conquer different ambitions. Essentially this curiosity begs us to understand, "what all am I really made of?"

The answer, life expands according to courage, the ability to cast away routine, explore a different choice, and shake away thinking that binds us to our habits and safenesses. We are innately courageous beings, life won't have it any other way. Yet, sometimes, we forget. We forget how brave we are and deny the sparkling well of bravery, curiosity, improvisation, and experimentation surging within us.

Life calls to us every moment of the day. We are beckoned to ask, to participate, and to explore. We are encouraged to live. We must remember, we are alive; we are brave.

June 20, 2012

Swim, don't pee in the water...

It's hot! Summer is here and we are all looking to cool off and keep in shape. But the typical gym routine is becoming played out? There are only so many reps, so many lunges, and so many miles we can run on the treadmill before the body says "something different, please." Crazy fitness videos like P90x or INSANITY are interesting, but who has space and equipment in the living room?

Two thumbs up for SWIMMING, a health-seeker's new best friend and a singer's superior way to whip that breath support into wicked shape. Until four months ago, swimming was a complete myth to me. People did it, but somehow it wasn't real. Swimming was only for the arthritic, the constipated, or the pariahs of the gym trying to tread back to the locker room. That all changed. I gave it a shot and am learning a lot.  

Swimming technique boils down to breathing and coordination, the link between respiration, how it's used, and how it relates to the body. While swimming the body must be ridiculously relaxed while at the same time resiliently powerful and full of energy. Singers, sound familiar? Swimming puts breathing into action. I once read that swimming is one of the best activities singers can do. I'm a witness and will testify before God or audition panel. After swimming laps, breathing is much deeper, breath moves more freely, and there is more awareness of the breathing cycle. I almost feel...alive!

Swimming helps burn body fat, build muscle, lengthen the body, and increase endurance and stamina. Granted, it will take a few trips to the pool before you're able to identify these benefits. You might feel completely exhausted after your first 3 minutes and battle cardiac and respiratory mutiny, but stick with it. It's really really good for you. Baby steps in the beginning. In fact, most sources suggest simply wadding in the water or dipping in and out before learning strokes or swimming laps.    
Only YouTube and people-that-look-like-they-know have coached me on the basics. It is a very friendly and fit community that continues to welcome me. Great information is available online. Search for some. As a precaution talk with your doctor before do anything cray-cray. By the way, don't pee in the water.

June 18, 2012

Really, What's stopping you?

Often we dream about all the things we want in life, whether it's owning a new car, living in a foreign country, or starting a successful business. Dreams are exciting, they're big, and they contain reflections of the people we want to be. We each dream uniquely and differently. After all, the ambitions of a six-year-old are rarely the same as someone thirty years older. But the main point emphasized is that all people regardless of age, locale, race, sex, or belief, desire accomplishment in life, and this sense of accomplishment is manifested in the dreams we hold. We consider climbing Everest, a wedding in Fiji, or winning the Met Council auditions because these concepts are not beyond us. A familiar and quiet whisper inside always urges us to excel, to try, to conquer, always saying, "yes, actually you can."

With age and time we dream a little less. Life demands our attention in other serious ways and we start to believe that what we want is outside of ourselves. That only people of extreme luck, or elaborate career networks, or heirs to large fortunes or thrones can have the things we want. What we want becomes impossible, beyond us, and outside of reach.

But sometimes we forget the world is actually a finite place but of infinite possibility. When we mute our dreams because of inexperience, because we feel too old, or because we're afraid, we dismiss all possibility. We dismiss our passport to life and forgo the momentum pushing us along the path toward our ambitions. We smite the potential to really know, to really understand, or to really conquer, each being the ultimate theme of that faint whisper inside.

"The inevitable arrival of Death should be every man's motivator." ~Anonymous.

June 14, 2012

Connecting some dots

Life is perhaps the greatest inspiration for any staged work and maybe it's true that art actually mimics life. Thinking through this, singers and actors alike should feel a great deal of comfort and confidence; there is nothing contained in a score or script beyond one's personal experience. Since appearing naturally and presenting the circumstance of one's character easily and progressively is the goal, then artists might consider actual life as the creative teaching model. The method we progress through emotion is not unlike the manner characters do on stage. We've all been angry, lost jobs, been in love, had our hearts broken, lost a loved one, been full of bliss, etc... Therefore these are the creative lines we must draw to make effective drama and comedy. The creative work we accomplish is closely linked to the actual emotions, feelings, and habits of daily life; they sit side by side. The more this idea is practiced the more naturally we create staged work, whether simple or epic, with ease and believability. Bottom line, theater and opera are not worlds away from everyday life or interaction. It's our job to connect the dots.

June 13, 2012

Career advice and Porno

Someone once mentioned to me that being a singer is perhaps, "the most difficult job in the entire world," that I am a part of something of "tremendous hurdles and impossibility."  I snickered a little and shrugged since this individual is prone to dramatic sensibilities. Granted, it's not easy to always pay the bills, save for retirement, or go on that dream vacation at the start of one's vocal career; but, is it easy to do that anyway, regardless of one's profession? My vote is no. After all, singing is not neurosurgery, finding cures, or initiating world peace. As singers, or any artist for that matter, we aren't responsible for people's lives. When we create work, planes don't crash, babies don't die, and diseases don't spread! Every career path will have difficulty, no matter what.

In broader terms, what does mounting a successful career really take, despite the field a person is in? Some say luck....hmm, bleh. Others, might say networking...perhaps. And some might even say fate or destiny...ok. In some capacity all these ingredients are necessary, BUT in less lofty and esoteric ways these terms can be whittled down, leaving something simpler, basic, and more identifiable in their place.

Step 1: What on earth do you want?
Answering this question honestly and openly is, literally, 95% of the battle and this is the most general area from which a career is born. In quiet moments, we learn that what we really want are the very things that also make us happy and enrich our lives and professions. Once you've done your work here, say it out loud and right it down somewhere.

Step 2: What do you love?
The key word is love. Not like, enjoy, or appreciate, but outright LOVE. Without this special something you literally go crazy and would volunteer to pull your teeth out. Write it down in the same place, after saying it out loud. 

Step 3: What are you really good at doing?
For one week, look in the mirror once a day, and ask yourself this. I guarantee that by week's end you'll be a lot closer to knowing, if you didn't already. What are you good at? Figure it out, write it down in that same place...affirm it by saying it out loud.

Step 4: Say all your words out loud. 
This is a tell-all step. Once your words are on paper starting back at you, look at them, scrutinize them. Do they make sense? If not, go back and rethink any ambivalent area. Ideally, these thoughts should be a sound place for identifying your ambitions.

It's not always an easy to hash out answer to these questions; in fact sometimes you might find that the answers you derive contrast and do not relate. This is normal, a way the brain is attempting to make connections for you. Have patience and really commit to finding answers. With time this simple exercise will help you discover something. If not, maybe this anecdote will help:

I once had the chance to meet a very famous adult film star. We chatted for a few minuets before he was whisked away to an interview. Before we parted I ask him, "...Why porn? How did you decide on this career?" He put down his martini, flicked his bangs, cleared his throat and gave me a firm but friendly glare." ...because I love sex; I'm terrific at what I do, and fortunately it makes me a lot of money too."

May 5, 2012

Music: What can I do with this degree?

Hmm, so you've spent quite some time in school practicing scales, going to rehearsal, preparing for juries and performances. The bell rings, class is out, and you've graduated. Finally, no more class, tests, or homework! But wait, somehow the rent, car note, groceries, and unexpected expenses still keep knocking at the the front door. Who's going to answer it? You are--with poise and style, knowing that your music degree has paved an INCREDIBLE path for your future success.

Keep practicing those arias and scales, have a lesson when you can, and audition your little butt off, but on your way to the top of the music mountain consider all these areas that can enrich your success.

Music Therapy
Generally, in music therapy some certification is required. Most professionals have advance degrees in music, psychology, or social work.
--Special Education Facilities
--Mental health centers
--Nursing homes
--Correctional facilities
--Private practice
--Outpatient clinics

Recording Industry
The recording industry is a vast and wide net where many performers catch better entry into their fields. This field includes professionals who obtain degrees in music performance or music business.
--Publishing and Editing
--Talent Acquisition
--Promotions/Media Relations
--Marketing and Sales
--Product Management
--Post Production

Traditionally this path is for the musician who wishes to make performance his/her sole occupation. This highly competitive but rewarding field is based heavily on networks, auditions, and talent. In the United States, graduate degrees and consistent professional experience is preferred.
--Armed Forces
--Symphony Orchestras
--Small Ensembles
--Concert Soloist
--Radio, Television, and Motion Picture
--Opera chorus/solo
--Voice over
--Musical Theater

A field growing in demand for musically experienced individuals is communications. Businesses seek artistic professionals able to handle many aspects of performance or art related projects. Generally this is contract work for professionals with at least undergraduate degrees in music. 
--Music Director
--Live Performance

Other great opportunities for the music professional are found in the law field. This is a great field for learning the legal responsibilities of music business/performance. Music professionals in this arena work in tandem with law professionals on varying music related issues. Law degrees are generally not obtained. 
--Music copyright and Licensing
--Clearance Administration
--Entertainment Law

Musicians with a flare for writing are always welcomed in the journalism field. Our expertise on musical form, performance practice, history, and theory are all strengths that make writing for local, city, or national news unmatchable. Strong writing skills/portfolio required.
--Music journalism
--Music critic

May 2, 2012

The Alchemy of Talent: Adrienne Walker, Soprano

It's good to stay connected with friends. You might need a couch to crash or a lift to the airport for that next audition. But colleagues also need one another in other important ways. Since we singers love to chat, another conversation was created with friend and colleague, soprano Adrienne Walker. Having teetered gracefully amid both sides of the musical theater and operatic worlds, Adrienne offers insight into the differences, likeness, and demands of each artform.

Welcome back to Chicago! It has to be exciting to be back. What have you been up to since leaving The Chicago College of Performing Arts?
Yes, I am happy to be back. Chicago is such a great city and, aside from the crazy weather, I love this place. But of course, Atlanta is my home. I’ve been keeping busy and have done a handful of shows.

Awesome. Which?
Let’s see, Porgy and Bess, The Mommies, Hair, and soon Dreamgirls, which will bring me back to Chicago again later this year. 

You have been busy. What were you doing to keep projects on the horizon?
Auditioning. I auditioned in Atlanta as much as I could. There are fewer opportunities there, but it’s always great to be near my family before hitting the road again. While performing Hair I was still auditioning in Chicago. This gave me opportunities for future work.

Is the scene different in Atlanta?
Yes. Less opportunity, in turn, means fewer gigs and chances to earn money. There are always productions, but unfortunately they don’t always pay. I choose to earn, even if only a little…haa haa!

Totally understandable. After all, this is our job. So it’s been a good return?
Incredibly. Hair was an amazing production and I made great new friends; I’m back in a city I know and love; I’ve made some money and I’ve auditioned for another show. All pluses.

It looks like you have been getting sound work in the musical theater arena. Has that been an adjustment since you are classically trained?
Are you kidding? Yes! Definitely an adjustment, but I absolutely love it and the chance to expand my skill and experiences.

What have rehearsals been like?
With opera gigs, you learn ALL your music before meeting the maestro, the répéteur, or an orchestra. No one “plays notes” for you. It’s similar with musical theater, but producers and directors are more apt to teach a cast their parts while preparing for a show. You still have to be a great musician. They aren’t teaching intervals and chords.

Are rehearsals similar in any ways?
Music rehearsals are typically 3-4 days. Then you begin blocking. So despite the genre, the demands on a performer are pretty much the same. One must learn and memorize music quickly and begin to work off book within days.

And what about vocally, is the technique wildly different?
As far as style, I'm still learning what is acceptable in musical theater. Above the staff is a whole different beast for me. But to my aid, I did grow up in a church where belting is ALL we ever did. Then again, I’ve never been trained to do that properly either, haa haa. So that’s a challenge I’m working through.

Have you recognized any significant differences between the genres?
Dance. Dance! DANCE!

Haa, haa. So are you a good dancer?
Lord has witnessed my attempts! I’m working on it. I am a singer. I move well but by no means do I dance. I pulled a muscle during Hair, probably while flinging my neck during the title song. After 2 muscle relaxers, a mild dose of anti-inflammatory, and a prescription-strength pain reliever I was back on my feet.

Goodness! And three shimmies from the morgue.
Haa haa.

So, the ability to move well on stage is important it seems?
Yes. Actually, I’ve danced in every production, even Porgy and Bess though that was still the least demanding. You’ve got to have some nimble feet—and a strong neck—in musical theater.   

Am I right to say there is a different acting technique in opera and musical theater?
Chicago is full of small storefront theater, home to many musical productions I’ve seen.  Since these spaces are more intimate, performers can be more subtle and be more “real” (or life like). It’s not so difficult to see or even hear these performers as an audience member and they aren’t so far away.
…And opera?
It’s grander and houses are bigger, there can never be anything subtle with opera. The characters and music are often bigger-than-life and singers sometimes have to be become less “real life” and exaggerate so that the 4000th seat three stories high can receive the same effect. With opera, acting must match the caliber of the spectacle and is sometimes less in sync with every day behavior.

Anything else you’ve recognized as a notable difference?
Lots more, but another real adjustment was getting used to a microphone! I’d never used a mic in a production until my first gig in musical theater. In opera, we don’t use mics. So every little cough, throat clearing, or breath I was sure the audience would hear…they don’t though. Good sound engineers are invaluable.

Interesting word you used to describe opera “spectacle,” but one could say spectacle is something both genres share, no?
Certainly. With both there is always a since of narrative and we see the relationships between the characters and drama, setting and circumstance, development and plot. But there is more emphasis in musical theater on the story being told and actions of the characters; opera is more concentrated on the caliber of a voice, its tone and capability. 

Well said, I agree with you.
Keep in mind opera is basically archaic when compared to musical theater. Musical theater became fashionable in the early 1900s, stemming from vaudeville and street theater. Opera had already been in existence for centuries! Because of this, standards are different and so are the expectations, practices, and customs.    

Oh là à brains and beauty, a wise and knowledgeable performer you are!
Haa haa, I’m blushing.

Have you recognized any differences in general performance style?
The fourth wall is broken a lot in musical theater but in opera it’s often more understated when singers reference the audience, if they even acknowledge their presence at all. I’ve experienced that with musical theater, the audience are participators; whereas in opera, audience members are more like spectators.
Interesting. I’ve never thought of it that way. So I have to ask, has either art form taught you more about your artistic strengths and goals?
Each gives me something so totally unique. For example, with musical theater I have more freedom of singing technique and am able to achieve certain nuance and colors with more ease. I’m able to create funnier characters and be a bit more of a ham too. But, its also shown me that I have to become more comfortable as a dancer and actor.
…and with opera?
I’m always challenged, in a good ways. Opera helps me isolate my voice and points to areas of my technique that can be better. I enjoy that this art form helps me understand the mechanics of my voice.

What are you working towards now, your goals? Musically, technically…anything?
Since my last few productions I’ve been really exploring how to reach the audience… really reaching them. That’s my goal. No matter if I’m spinning high Cs or giving a monologue, it’s about creating something unique, real, and relatable for everyone sitting on the other side. Otherwise I might as well retire now. So, I’m working on merging Adrienne the singer with Adrienne the actress.

They’re probably are a lot closer than you think, no?
I’d say they are in the same state but different counties right now.

Haa haa, with visitation every other weekend and holidays?
LOL! Exactly. But you know, it’s just about finding experiences that help you believe in what you have, that it’s enough, that what you have matters and experiences that help what you have continue to grow.

Totally. Ok, let’s wrap up here and just for fun tell me, what roles in either genre would you really like to do?
Is it weird that I don’t have any dream roles? I have an honest and open love for simply learning music, auditioning, and seeing where that takes me.

No, that’s no strange at all.
…But I would love to play Aida, Elton John’s version. I would also love to be a part of the Lion King. That show has a special place in my heart. I think Deena in Dreamgirls would be simply amazing too. Ok, maybe these are dream roles…haa haa.

Anything in opera?
Mimi! I’m simply in love with everything Puccini; so maybe one day. I think I’m also going to make one heck of a Countess someday too!

I agree. You’re charming, full of adventure, tremendously talented and headed in the absolute right direction. Good things to come, you’re going to surprise yourself!
Thank you, I hope so…can we eat now!?

April 12, 2012


Movies are an expert source of creative inspiration, especially dramas and contemporary biographies. Watching film is one method of keeping the acting chops alive and buoyant, and watching an amazing actor/actress is simply icing on an already dense and decadent cake.

The extent to which some performers tread to find the characters they represent is a lesson in patience and diligence. It's a mystery, that fine line between being aware as a performer and being completely absorbed as one's character, giving an often fictional being a pulse, desire, and purpose. This duality is intriguing and not always the easiest task to make believable.

In a quest to heighten these ideas on the operatic stage, a few basic conclusions derived from movies and films I've seen or revisited in recent months....

Iron Lady--

Exploit your character's strengths and be mindful of their weaknesses. After all, they are "human." Characters are real beings with real feelings that exist in worlds that are, often, very unlike our own.

The Help--

What is the driving force of your character? It's not enough to simply discover a motivation; that's too short-lived. As performers, we must define the very reason why our character is alive and wants the things they do. Ask, why?

Dancer in the Dark--

Have conviction! There are many types of people in the world and doubly as many for the stage. Just as we are all unique, our characters must also be unique creatures containing independent thoughts and actions.

Latter Days--

Inner development must manifest outwardly. How a character evolves is crucial. Rarely are the characters we become the same people at the start of the movie/opera as in the end. How does this change manifest?


Be ugly, determined and visceral. The feelings our characters have are never wrong. There is no right and wrong when characterizing. Every emotion has its place and each feeling has an infinite spectrum of intensity and meaning.

Hotel Rwanda--

Rely on the talents of your team. No production is presented alone and good artists understand they are only part of huge whole. Rely and trust the talent of your colleagues to better understand your character's circumstance.

Whore's Son--

Our characters must inhabit their own emotions. The way we personally feel must never interfere with the way our characters feel; we are not our characters and they are not us. As singers/actors we work hard to represent who we believe these people to be. Therefore, they must always be independent of ourselves.


Celebrate your character no matter who they are. The ultimate aim of characterization is not only to bring a fictional being into life and to give them purpose; but, it is important to present their point-of-view and help them to be understood for better or worse.

April 2, 2012

Fear and Imagination

I recently saw the 3rd installment of Paranormal Activity, written by Christopher Lanoon and directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman. One question, did the movie have me loading the shot gun, cleaning the crucifixes, and buying holy water after my friend left last night? ...Yep!

Everyone knows that I am somewhat of a horror/thriller buff and enjoy a good scare. Call me odd. The PA films are known for their gritty, real-life, as-the-action-happens style. No CGI, no big Hollywood sets; in fact, the set of each movie takes place in a house never leaving its different rooms. We simply experience the hair raising events that unfold for this family, which might I add, are pretty darn frightening. It's not a series for the faint of heart. Even I, a thriller lovin' fiend, found myself clutching the pearls and tossing and turning at night. So, all this got me to thinking....what is fear, really?

Fear takes shape in many forms. It's sometimes heavy, haunting, and horrific, taking our breath away like in the movies I described. Other times, it's just the opposite, abrupt and sudden catching us off guard or by surprise. Fear sometimes sits right beside us and sometimes it's intangible, existing in another universe all together. Sometimes we can only see it; sometimes it's only felt; sometimes it's both! Fear is complex inspiring both the good and bad in us all. But, if I had to bottom line it I'd say, ultimately, fear is proof of the exponential power of our minds and the breadth our imaginations. It's far more harrowing to imagine what's lurking under the bed than to actually see it. Fear is indestructibly bound to imagination, and since imagination can never be fully quantified, both coexist allowing the mind to travel in the most extreme and unbridled directions.

This is pure fuel for the performing artist!

March 26, 2012

Bling: Opera and Hip Hop

I'm a bit of a hip hop junkie if you didn't already know. There's nothing better than a great beat, crazy rhymes, and a great artist on the mic. And the more I delve into hip hop, the more I witness connections between rappers and classical artists. I wrote about this topic once before, but now sometime later I recognize stronger parallels between worlds that, otherwise, seem just as related as a jungle and desert.

Hip hop stars have to know "text" like a crazy person! To be at the top of their game, it's not enough to simply use words. Hip hop stars have to master them. They have to be able to command the use of words in fresh and creative ways. We opera people pretty much stick to what's printed on the page, but the hip hop gurus are creating new ways words are used. Either way, both performers have to know what they're talking about.

Improvisation. This key word of Baroque and Bel Canto literature rests at the center of the Hip-hopster's mojo. Prolonging syllables, toying with word emphasis, and manipulating beats and creating new rhythms on the spot is something both the skilled rapper and classical singer share in close common. Improv is a method of embellishment and technical autonomy for both artists.

Lastly, Bling! Both arenas are categorized by decadence, of imagination and the pocket book. Diamonds, pearls, champagne, couture, and delicious decadence. Callas wore Channel everyday; Lil Wayne has exclusive rights to Nikes made only for him; 50 Cent has Stanley Korshak upholstered car interior; and Yves St Laurent designed the entire opening night wardrobe of 3 Metropolitan opera stars.

No matter how it's sliced, opera and hip hop share amazing attributes. Whether it's in the music, in the dressing room, or on the stage, both are worlds of supreme creativity, technique, and extravagance.

March 25, 2012

Creative Arts Expo

Chicago's Cultural Center is not only a beautiful place, but a place to learn about the business of art! Thanks to this year's Creative Chicago Expo more than 8000 singers, dancers, photographers, and writers came together and learned deeper levels of the arts as a business. The best part of it all, it was totally FREE!

Arranged in a series of 1-hour seminars spread over two days, artists were able to dabble in everything from marketing, project planning, city spending, networking, and a whole host of useful tools to help make what we do a whole lot easier! With more than 60 on site vendors, retailers, and arts organizations, this year's expo was probably fairly successful. It was packed and definitely the place to be with a few extra business cards on hand. More expo info here.

Jennifer Rapp Peterson, a representative of Indiemade, gave a great presentation on creating a strong web presence. She's made all the material from the workshop available online. However, the gamut of her resources is also worth browsing. Check it out.

In case you weren't able to make it to this year's expo, not to worry. Many of the topics and workshops can be found online. Maybe this is just a starting place?

March 18, 2012

Eye See You

The power of the eyes is unmistakeable. Whether a person is happy, tormented, or full of joy, the eyes really are a window to the soul and an indication of what's happening on the inside, mentally and emotionally. On a recent venture to ol' Lyric Opera, a cast of singers presenting a new production of Rinaldo was a show not only of musical beauty but one containing an emotional integrity worth mention, made especially evident through the use of eyes from the entire cast!

Not until this production did I witness the power of "the eyes" first hand. Granted, I had good seats, still no where near the stage, but with every aria I was compelled at the emotion behind each singer's eyes. Cheryl Studer is a particular name springing to mind when considering the effective use of eyes as a unit of technique. The cast performed at a level beyond the black and white of the page; their characters were real, alive, and feeling.

This is great a enigma for the performer: how to make the character come to life without standing in the way of this process or confusing personal circumstance with that of the characters we create? Bottom line, eyes help audiences understand the character, their thoughts, and all the things that the voice is not be able to completely express.

March 3, 2012

None The Less

Reading through a few posts I've published in recent weeks, I decided that, apparently, I have favorite word. Why has no one mentioned my obsession with the word nonetheless?

March 2, 2012

Blogging Opera

Just when you think you're all alone in the big scary world the internet says, "nope, you aren't." On a recent Google search, lo and behold--I love saying that; it makes me feel so biblical-- I found another opera blogger comme moi. Though the blog has taken a mild hiatus, nonetheless, the creator is another opera-loving ranter just like me. I swiped the image from he blogger's original site because it was darn cute. Since her new job, the blog has found a new home at here. Check her out!

February 28, 2012

Google Coloratura

Did anyone else see this today on Google's Search page? Why frogs are the musicians of choice I can't say, but nonetheless, what a cute tribute to Gioachino Rossini. Apparently the only way to share the image was via print screen. Anyway, happy 220th Birthday Rossini you hefty talented note-lovin' fiend.