In two days I leave to teach a Yoga For Singers courses and perform with the Redwoods Opera Workshop. It is such a blessing to learn from and be inspired by an amazing faculty and to work with such talented singers each summer. Unfortunately, the program always begins just a few days after my voice studio has its end of the year recital performance, so my own personal practice and memorization time is always severely limited…… that’s why this crazy dance party is absolutely necessary.
I actually learned this technique from a yogi who was working on perfecting her dristi “focus” in balance postures. She would perform the poses while her friends ran around trying to distract her. The point is, if she could maintain her focus through that, she could handle anything. I started taking this idea into my own vocal practice when attempting to memorize quickly. I would stare at myself in the mirror acting as ridiculous as possible and constantly trying to distract myself. If I can keep the words in my head while dancing around the room, then those words are going to be seriously locked in there. It sounds nuts, but it works! It gets me out of “thinking” mode and into muscle memory mode, which is where the real memorization happens. Plus, it’s fun to dance around like no one is watching…. well, except you are watching. Ah well. Enjoy my ridiculousness and try it yourself. It’s fun!
A big thank you to this video of the Watch Duet I found on YouTube to sing along with. In the middle the Rosalinda makes a few sounds which are interesting…… but that way you could hear how the two parts of the duet go together.
This Sunday my vocal studio has their annual recital. 25 of my students, of various ages, styles, and levels, will take the stage to share their progress and their love of music with the community. As their instructor, I am both excited and nervous for them. Performing is such an intense experience. When you’re successful, it can lift you up and make you realize you have a strength and courage that you never thought possible. However, if you’re performance is not as successful as you’d like, it can break you down, make you feel inadequate, and make it difficult to keep the drive to move forward. This week, I am doing everything in my power to prepare my students both technically and emotionally so that they’ll enjoy the process and continue to love singing. In honor of their performance, here’s a silly song I wrote to help my youngest students remember the meanings of various musical terms. Can you figure them all out?
When I was deciding what school to go to for my undergraduate degree I had to choose between a full-ride scholarship to Cal Lutheran or massive student loan debt from the University of Southern California. My gut told me to go to USC. I loved it there. It just felt right. But, my high school councilor told me to go to Cal Lutheran to enjoy that free education. She said there was no guarantee that a vocal performance degree would make you money after school. Actually, she told me that I was “wasting” my exceptional grades by going into an arts degree. She wanted me to go into the sciences or business… something that would “make money.” It took me 30 minutes of pleading to get her to sign off on an arts degree which she did so grudgingly. So, with crippling doubt, I accepted USC and the debt that went with it. By working two jobs while I went to school and summer gigs between school years, I was able to keep on top of the acruing interest while I was still at USC. I was then blessed to obtain a full scholarship/assistantship and stipend as I pursued my masters degree, so I thankfully did not add to my student loan debt. Still, when I finally finished my 6 years of schooling and that first loan repayment notification came in the mail, I had a mini panic attack. How was this starving artist, currently living at her parents’ house with no clear job prospects going to repay this massive sum? Looking at the interest projections, I was daunted by the fact that by the end of my repayment schedule I would have paid almost double what was originally loaned to me….. I couldn’t accept that. So I got to work. I took on any extra jobs I could find. I helped my mom at her flower shop. I worked a catering job, I started teaching a few voice lessons a week. I saved every dollar I made to pay my student loans each month: starting with the loans which had the highest interest. Later, as my voice studio took off and I began teaching yoga classes, I continued to live frugally, working extra gigs here and there and paying all of my remaining income each month to my student loans. I was going to pay these loans off as fast as possible. Every time I was about to buy something which was not a necessity, I first thought “but this money could go towards my student loans” and I put that item back. I am happy to say that this workaholic and ridiculous self-restraint worked–I paid off the remainder of my student loans in just 4 years. It felt so good that I decided to pay off my car early as well.
As I enter my 30th year, I am happy that I stuck with my gut instinct and went to USC for my undergraduate degree: loans and all. But, I am even more ecstatic that today I am completely debt free. Not many 30 year olds can say that. It’s enough to make one jump for joy.
As I near my 30th year on this Earth, I remark at how my body has changed over these three decades.
Growing up, I was morbidly obese. I went through a series of diets, all of which seemed to end in me gaining rather than losing weight. My doctors and nutritionists continued to berate me year after year for not “taking care of my body,” but, unfortunately, they did not realize that my difficulties were emotional rather than physically. The amount of emotional stress I was going through, which was exaccerbated by worries about my weight and health, were the cause of my eating problems. I buried my emotions in stomachaches. I hid my feelings underneath butter and bread. When I was upset, rather than throwing a temper tantrum, I would quietly sneak to the kitchen and steal food from the refrigerator. I thought that the pain in my belly would mask the pain in my heart.
When I turned 16, I decided that I was done enduring the taunts of bullies and the endless stream of fat jokes. I was done going to sleep with a lump of heartache in my stomach. I was done hurting myself. I decided it was time for me to ask myself some difficult questions. Did I want to take the easy way out and be unhappy and unhealthy for my entire life, or did I want to fight and struggle to take control of my emotions and my body? It was a definite crossroads moment, but, happily, I made the right decision. I started doing research, I found foods which made me feel light and energetic rather than weighted and achy. I became diligent about going to the gym to read my beloved books rather than sitting at home. I replaced the gallons of soda I drank daily with an endless supply of herbal tea. I figured out what worked for me and stuck with it. Most importantly, I began to develop a healthy self-esteem.
That all sounds well and good, but the difficult truth is that I have been on a constant diet for 14 years now. While my “diet” has become more streamlined by becoming a gluen-free vegan, there will probably always be that little voice in my head weighing if eating a cookie is worth the calories and judging if I did enough cardio for the week. The struggle now is keeping that voice from becoming an unhealthy obsession. It’s a difficult balance to create for those of us who are blessed with eating disorders of any kind. I say blessed, because going through those trials has made me the determined, self-restrained, and focused person I am today. I had to learn at an early age what it was like to reach for a goal that many considered unobtainable–to put in the time, to push yourself to be better, to give up what is easy in favor of what is right.
As I approach my 30th birthday, I hope to continue to love and take care of this body that I’ve been given–imperfections and all… and to maybe let myself eat a few more cookies. Life is too short not to eat a few [gluten-free, vegan] cookies.
Today I am grateful to be turning 30 because I get to live out big dreams and goals every day. I get to choose what I spend my hours on. I get to choose which projects I take part in. I get to choose to perform both classical and musical pieces on said CD. I get to have control of my life. That freedom is bliss.
Yesterday I did a photo shoot for my second annual holiday CD project. I dedicated hundreds of hours over the past few months to recording, editing, and designing my CD (other than my mom who was so kind to listen to my instructions, point the camera, and press the button.)
I’m not doing it for fame…and definitely not for fortune. I’m spending that time working away because it’s fun, it’s challenging, and it’s hopefully adding some joy to the lives of those who purchase or are gifted my CDs. Mostly, though, I’m doing it for me–because I can and because I want to. I explained to someone earlier that my life feels listless and dull if I don’t have an artistic project to focus on, so I am grateful to now have the freedom to fund these projects and see my creative vision come to fruition. Yeah, being 30 might not be so bad.
#hippyhalloween challenge day 1: #badhakonasana
I always get a little loopy during my CD album photo shoots… But yoga saves the day and keeps me centered and giggly as I have to smile and look pretty for a few hours. ☺️
“Opera is a phenomenally difficult sport.” -Regina Resnik
Singing requires complete focus and intensive energy. You have to be completely on your game for every rehearsal, practice session, and performance. Sometimes, though, my body just doesn’t support my voice. On those days when I’m feeling lethargic, broken down, and weak, I pull out my furniture gliders, step up on them, and start to float into plank.
Any basic furniture gliders will work, but I like the larger, longer version so that my feet don’t slide off. My favorite thing about this core work is that it activates the complete 360degrees around the midsection. This will definitely wake up the body and get it to support my voice once again.
So, work it out and wake it up! It’s time to get your body behind your voice.
#springtideopenwide challenge day 9: #elephantpose “Man, sometimes it takes you a long time to sound like yourself.” -Miles Davis
As I slowly return to full-strength vocally and physically, I find myself encountering the same fears, doubts, and frustrations. My practice time becomes cluttered by negative self-talk telling me I should be achieving more, applying for more, and performing more. But, what would happen if I let all that go and just enjoy the fact that I am finding my voice? Perhaps I would recognize that, for the first time, I am sounding like myself. And that is worth more than all the money and fame in the world. (Although money and fame would still be nice.) 😉
“Down south where they grow cherry trees, they slash the trunks of the trees so they have to gather energy from a deeper well to draw more fruit. Don’t shun the tragedy in your life for that suffering bears more fruit.” -Elizabeth Vrenios
These past few months have been full of pain, suffering, and tragedy. As I’m slowly pulling myself out of the mist and putting my life back together, I recall this quote from my favorite vocal coach/ director/ philosopher. I think singers and yogis alike need this reminder every now and then. Lean into the suffering, endure it–it is life; but then come out the other side stronger, more empathetic, and more grateful than ever before.