September 15, 2013

Roller Coaster: Music to My Ears

On special pass to Six Flags Great America, the park was open only to VIPs. Rides were running and the wait time for any attraction was less than 10 minutes. It was heaven! What would normally take an entire day, visitors could accomplish in two hours.

Whether it was the constant dropping from heights, the non stop adrenaline in my system, or the beating of my head against the seat restraints, I got a loopy. And, in spite of my best effort, I simply couldn't stop riding. After the twenty-third coaster ride, I had a musical moment: these machines are pretty much musical phrases. I'll try to explain; caution, my head's still swollen...

Good musical line demands that there is enough energy to start a phrase, keep it moving, and eventually slow down, all without loosing physical energy. This is what enjoying a roller coaster is all about. As we peak the first great height and eventually cross the summit, nothing stops until the ride is over and done. We are constantly in motion building to the next exciting moments.

Before anyone ever gets on a coaster they have a pretty good idea of what it looks like, what's going to happen, and what to expect. The same should hold true for the musical phrase. If seeing it in the score is like watching a coaster from the waiting line, then singing something should be equivalent to strapping in and riding. There is no need to predict, to guess, or imagine where the coaster is going. We've been watching it for the past four hours in line! There is a good idea of what's going to happen and when.
All the nuts and bolts, we pray, before jumping in the latest and greatest thrill attraction are secure and ready. At a place like Six Flags one can bet highly that rides will operate smoothly day-to-day. This confidence comes from knowing the machinery. How it operates in different seasons, with less riders, in rain, or even God forbid, a damaged brake system. Ahh! Of course, I'm writing metaphorically but it's true, consistent success is closely related to knowing the hardware, what it does, when, how, and how well.    

The aim of any coaster is to leave smiling, happy, completely absorbed in the feelings and forces that occurred. We are to leave one ride, pumped-up and excited for the next. It's a dizzying and sometimes frightening experience to mount these machines seven and ten stories above the ground, but it's meant to be an experience. Engineers want to thrill and challenge us, but also they want us to leave having been unquestionably lost in a stimulating and exciting experience. When we're swirling high in the sky, passing loop-to-loop, and soaring through a double helix, what else exists? Nothing. Composers of music want exactly the same for us as performers, especially while creating the musical phrase.

September 11, 2013

We will remember: Opera and 9/11


On the anniversary of the darkest day in recent American history, opera shines a light to retell the events occurring on nine-eleven. Though years have placed time between us and the tragedies that took place, we have not forgotten the families, the children, the mothers, fathers, or brave men and women this day tremendously affected.

For those who grieve the loss of loved ones, you are not alone. We grieve together, we remember together, we are strong together. Though we do not understand; we sometimes live in fear and like to think of better days; we are bound now and forever. 

God bless, our country America. 
Protect her and all those who dwell within.  

September 2, 2013

Courage: What's the Definition?

When we boil down what the most inspiring careers are made of, typically there are only two things remaining-- Talent and Courage. That's not entirely a career in the arts either. Doctors who start their own practice, a professor shaping young minds, or a president leading a nation all need a strong mix of the two. Therefore, these concepts are universal and apply to any field, craft, or profession. Taking it one step farther, Maria Callas once said, "that the more important of the two will always be courage." Granted, there is a host of complimentary factors that must be at work; but, in fact, whittled down in its simplest context she's made a powerful point. Courage is ultimately how we find happiness, overcome obstacles, and find deeper levels of our own personality. But aye, the rub...what is it?

Actually, it's hard to define exactly what the word means. In fact, it's highly individual and holds different meaning from person to person. For some it's the act of saving families from burning buildings; for others it means exploring new technology that helps discover life on Mars; for some, it's a high C for nine productions of Barber of Seville. So in effect, courage manifests differently across the board. But here's how it might be universal as Ms.Callas alluded...

Courage is a feeling, not an action; not a story in a book; not something we hear about on television. It is the combination of risk and gain, the feeling we have as something raps our potential and demands that we yield to what is right. Courage is that moment, somewhere deep inside, we know--not hope, not think, not wish-- that we've done something in the name of Good, something for the better, something right, something that teaches us about our souls. And then, we can clearly define courage when these moments remain near us, stretched out as the stepping stone for challenges or adventures yet unmet.