Tuneful Tuesday Week 37: O Holy Night

This is and will always be my favorite holiday piece to sing. The power and grandeur of this song make it almost operatic in quality. I love that there’s a Christmas song where I can “bring out the big guns” and use my full voice. Merry Christmas everyone!

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“We can’t grow when we are only ever comfortable. We need the discomfort. We need the pebble in our shoe. We need the thorn in our side sometimes. We need to see what mental anguish is pacifying us to stay locked away. Just out of reach of our potential. Just shy of our greatness. Just comfortable enough not to ask questions. Sometimes we need to stretch ourselves. We have to feel the growing pains. But that’s also the signal that we are using muscles that are just aching to be of use.” -Chani Nicholas

It has been a rough week to say the least. Between a rainy 8 hour pilgrimage to Los Angeles for an intensive audition prep 2-hour lesson with my voice teacher, a crazy teaching schedule that had me in my voice studio until 9pm every night, and scrambling to carve out my own practice time, this week has left me mentally, emotionally, and physically worn out. To top it off, I have my first big audition of the season tomorrow with Opera Santa Barbara. The week leading up to any audition is always a roller coaster of excitement, anticipation, fear, and self-loathing. I start the week feeling ready to tackle anything. My voice feels powerful. I feel prepared. Everything is smiles and sunshine when I think about my upcoming audition. 

But then, two days later, the negative self-talk kicks in. “I’ll never be good enough. Why am I wasting my time and money to audition? What if I make a fool of myself? Why should I even bother?” I become so worn out by all this crippling self-doubt that I try to come up with excuses as to why I shouldn’t go. My brain tells my body to start feeling sick to get out of the audition and my body listens. Suddenly, I’m feeling depressed, fearful, and, to top it all, sick. To make matters worse, I see all this coming. I know it’s going to happen. I know what to do to break the bad cycle I get myself into. But, my insecurities about auditioning are still stronger than the meditative, peaceful mind I have worked so hard to cultivate–old habits die hard, you know. This just leaves me feeling powerless and guilty that I couldn’t stop the negative sprial. I think become angry with myself for letting these insecurities affect me. Angry, confused, sad, and scared, my life is thrown into complete upheaval because of a few minutes of singing. 

Even during those moments when I want to give up and stay at home hiding under my bed, I know deep down that I am going to that audition tomorrow. I will step into that room, smile at the nice people behind the table who mean me no harm, breath, and sing. As much as I hate auditions, I know that they can lead to performing-which is what I love. I know that the stress and trials that audition put me through are worth more than just the act of stepping out on that stage and singing. They teach me to deal with my own insecurities, to understand my own imperfections, to address my competitive nature, and to learn to love myself even when I fail. It’s a long, hard path we singers have to take; but, it is in the discomfort that we grow. 

#basicyogamix challenge day 20: wheel pose. Today I will open my heart to my judges. I will conquer my fears and insecurities and do my best, for that is all I can do. 

Behind the Curtain

 As artists and performers we need to branch out and learn more facets of our craft. So often, young singers fresh out of undergraduate programs believe that they will either be in the spotlight on stage or quit singing altogether. But in the real world of performing, things are not so black and white. While I, too, wanted to always be center stage singing my heart out, I’ve worn many other behind-the-scenes hats. I’ve directed, assisted the director, assisted the conductor, choreographed, worked the light board, assisted with costume design, worked as stage manager, a stage hand, and as prop master, I’ve climbed up in the rafters to adjust spotlights then climbed back down just in time to perform in the next number, and I am continuing my tradition of running supertitles for Opera San Luis Obispo this evening.  

 From the crows nest above the stage, amongst the cables and dials, I frantically flip through the pages of my score trying to keep up with the rapid dialogue and lyrics. Technical difficulties add troubles and adrenaline to the mix, but, just like a singer on stage, we learn to make do, make it work, and keep the show going. The more you work behind the scenes, the more understanding and grateful you are to those who are hiding behind the curtain. The men and women dressed all in black who move about the stage under the cover of dark, who adjust the lights, repair ripped costumes, and even keep the supertitles up on the screen, they deserve just as much praise as the leading diva. Without them, the show wouldn’t go on. These jobs lack the glory, but not the pressure. So, the next time you’re asking a stage hand for a favor, being given a cue by a stage manager, or being dressed by your costumer, do so humbly and with gratitude. You never know what they are going through and you never know when you might be filling their shoes. 

#detoxyobody challenge day 12: noose pose. Sometimes I need a twist in the dark during intermission to keep my cortisol levels down.  


Glimpse of Greatness

Days go by, one after the other, hour by hour, minute by minute. Often times we become caught up in the net of normalcy, the monotony of everyday life, that we forget to reach out for greatness. Once in awhile, when we are able to break free of our habits, we get a glimpse of this greatness…. If only for a fleeting moment.
Today I caught that glimpse. During my 3 week intensive study, I have made some serious progress, overcome many vocal technique problems and I have begun to glimpse exactly how beautiful, full, and flexible my voice can be. To think that 8 years ago I was entering into USC as an “undeclared” major because I didn’t make it into the vocal department. After being told throughout my vocal life that I’ll never be able to sing coloratura, that I’ll never make it to have a career, that I’ll never be a “legit” opera singer, and to have finally broken past these barriers is an amazing and fulfilling experience. There were so many times I could have given up (in fact, I was told to on several occasions), but I kept clawing my way to the top, and these brief encounters with greatness have proven to me that none of this has been in vain. These glimpses have been really short lived, for suddenly old habits and muscle memory patterns return, but the key is to make the most of these little glimpses: to cherish them, learn from them, and then allow them to grow. Slowly you begin to string them together to create something great.
This is true for singing, but it’s also true of life. Find those moments of greatness, those moment of pure joy, and begin to live for those short-lived times. Soon, you’ll find that those little moments seem to arrive more frequently until they are “moments” no longer. When your entire day, entire month, and entire life is spent present, focused, and connected to your inner greatness, then you have truly found bliss.
So, how can you glimpse your greatness today?


You can find your greatness if you only bother to turn on the light.