Monthly Archives: October 2014

Watch, Listen and Learn

The Death of Klinghoffer by John Adams, opened at The Metropolitan Opera this week in New York City. This opera tells the story of the murder of Leon Klinghoffer, an American Jewish passenger in a wheelchair during the 1985 hijacking of the Achille Lauro cruise ship, by members of the Palestine Liberation Front. Read more about the opera plot and production here. It is a heavy, dense historical display.

The opening on Monday evening was met with protestors standing outside, boos from some audience members after the first “Chorus of Exiled Palestinians”, and during the first half a man was escorted out for yelling, “The murder of Klinghoffer will never be forgiven”. At intermission a man was arrested for disorderly conduct and during the second half, and just after the murder scene, a woman shouted a vulgarity and left, accompanied by ushers. Read here about the excitement of opening night. It was an unforgettable night, for sure. Some people came to be heard, while others came to watch… And hear…history.

On one side of the coin there are people who claim that this show romanticizes terrorism and makes a spectacle of very tragic historical events in the past and political conflicts of the present.  These statements are fierce and bold. They come across aggressive and angry. They place blame, point fingers and accuse people. Their language is anything but peaceful.

On the other side of the coin are those who stand up for the opera and it’s historical legacy. As found in a New York Times article, one rally attendee held a sign saying “A work of art about a subject is not a work in favor of that subject.” In this video, the director of this production, Tom Morris, says that the opera “dramatizes terrorism, it does not condone it.”

Isn’t that what theater is- dramatizing- presenting- showing you something?  Isn’t that what our history books have done all these years… shown us what has happened in the past? If the issue then becomes how tragically horrific the content of this opera is, let me point out that we all read about the holocaust in our history classes… and the civil war, slavery,  the assassination of MLK Jr. and President JFK.

And not only did we read about these horrors in school, but haven’t many of us watched movies based on these topics? Blockbusting hits that have gone on to win awards for their masterful way of telling these stories. These truly horrible stories. Just last year, Captain Philips and 12 Years a Slave came out and won awards. Tragic personal stories, that happened to real people. Yes, we watch these stories, mouths gaping at times, half closing our eyes, in awe that such things truly exist in this world.

What makes this opera any different? Why the protests? Why the claim that this art is worse than our history books or blockbusters? Don’t get me wrong, I point no blame towards the movie directors and producers. I think that they are telling important stories, using great mediums, get good attention. Aren’t these musicians, the singers, the composers and the directors all working towards the same goals as our history teachers were? Why the hostility towards these artists?

Comment below if you want! I’d love to hear your thoughts. Consider my mind boggled.

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Mama vs. The World: A Survival Mechanism

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Morning Necessity

When I first started Mockingbird Studio of Voice, I knew I needed to create an efficient schedule for myself. The flexibility of creating my own schedule is great, and as a parent it is invaluable. However, for those of you who know me well-  a crazy organizer in love with highlighters and calendars to a fault (That’s good for business, might I add!), I knew I needed to create a set schedule very quickly. Many new teachers will bend their schedules to accommodate prospective students, but I am unable to do that. For me, that requires more (money for babysitters!) time away from home. I set myself three very long days of teaching and one day as a “work day”. This work day is used for scheduling meetings, fitting in that doctor’s appointment that I can’t seem to get to any other time, and lesson planning and prepping.

So, my schedule was set, and it was great. Except that, as you can imagine, running a business requires a ton of time. A ton of time that did not fit into my Monday work day when I had meetings and appointments already scheduled. With a business comes… emails. SO many emails. To grow your business you really must respond in a timely manner and provide quality service. I found myself spending too much family time responding to work. In an age where smart phones are accessible and almost necessary, emails pop up right in your pocket! An email pops up, and responding immediately, I would miss the cool trick my four year old daughter was showing me at the park. Or worse yet, we miss going to the park all together because something comes up, I got distracted and lost track of time.

I knew right away that something had to change. So what change could I make? Where could I come up with this extra time? I tried to stay up to work at night, after Emerlyn went to bed at 8:30pm, but as many parents can commiserate, I was just too tired to be productive that late. So the other option…wake up early. I started getting up at 6am to get an hour or so or work done before Emers woke up. At first this was hard; It was dark and quiet and I just wanted to keep sleeping. However, very quickly I realized how awesome having this time of day to myself is!

Not only did I become ok with having to get up early, but I started to WANT to get up early. Even on my days “off”, I get up to have this time to wake up slowly. I have a little routine that I sincerely look forward to (I am a creature of habit for sure). I do this thing with the coffee that I call my “secret cup of coffee”. I turn on the coffee pot and when it’s about 1/4 full, I pour all that in to my favorite coffee mug before the rest of the pot finishes brewing. It makes this one truly amazing, super bold cup of coffee (I know that I am a little crazy when it comes to coffee), and I get to enjoy this cup of coffee all by myself, in my sweats, sitting in the dark, (and most importantly) quiet house.

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Secret Cup of Coffee

This is truly my ME time. I love it. I need it. It makes me a happier, healthier person, and because of this, I can be a better mother and wife.  Even while working, because I truly enjoy what I am doing, I can still wake up slowly, sipping my not-so-secret-anymore-cup-of-coffee, enjoying the time alone, uninterrupted and productive. Since I am already awake and content, I get excited to see Emers wake up, immediately ready to talk… so much. When my wife is home, I get to take her a cup of coffee in bed and we can enjoy a minute of calm before we get going for the day. I feel productive so early in the morning which allows me to take a breath and enjoy a little more of the day. This hour in the morning has changed my life!

So, what changes can you make in your life to benefit your health, your happiness, or others around you?

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Practice Makes Perfect?

You have just finished a lesson, and you are excited and encouraged to make progress for next week’s lesson. What do you do now?

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I tell my student’s to practice just ten minutes a day. Unless you are specifically trying to get a piece of music learned and you need to sit and “plunk” out notes, which can take a while, there isn’t a huge need to sit and sing and sing and sing. It actually can be a detriment to your voice.

When I am practicing between lessons, much of what I do is silent; I am a thoughtful singer. I go over and over what we have done in my lesson, in my head, re-tracking the map we have created, seeing if I can recreate the space or shapes internally. I do this a lot throughout the day- doing the dishes, driving, working on my computer; Silent, yet active.

When I actually sit down to sing, it is often with a specific piece I am working on, and in short spurts of time. I add sound to the internal, silent work I was doing throughout the day. The key is to make sure I am being as close to 100% technically accurate as possible. If I am having a “good” singing day, achieving technical successes, I run with it- take it while I have it! On other days, when I just don’t seem to be getting that piece of technique correctly, I stop and walk away. Often, if I am not getting something, the more I sing the worse it gets. It is better to walk away and then come back and try again later; I let myself really digest what was happening right/wrong and come back with more knowledge than before.

Practicing Carmen
Caught very literally in action… thinking “How would Carmen do this?”.

When you practice, you are effecting muscle memory. Part of practicing is about building new muscle memory, and part of it is about getting rid of old, incorrect muscle memory. When you work in smaller lengths of time, you are more likely to make changes to your muscle memory in the right way, and less like to go too far in the wrong direction if you are struggling to “get” something. Being mindful is what it’s all about. Be a “thoughtful” singer. Try not to listen too much- things sound different inside our heads than what it sounds like from the outside. Record yourself and listen to the differences from one minute to the next. Make changes and check your recordings again.

When you show up to your next lesson, you can come in with concrete information for your teacher [ I was struggling with this… This kept happening… I just couldn’t get this… When I did this, this happened… ]. Having real intelligent and thoughtful information for your teacher is the best way to start a lesson! Your teacher will thank you.

Now go… practice thoughtfully!

Thank you for reading my blog post!

Check out Mockingbird Studio of Voice and Chanson Voice and Music Academy.

Follow @MockingbirdSOV on Twitter.

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