Monthly Archives: January 2015

Ka-Boom Goes the Dynamite

The artist must create a spark before he can make a fire and before art is born, the artist must be ready to be consumed by the fire of his own creation.
Auguste Rodin

 Just reading that quote makes my heart race a little bit. I think about being on stage and making music. I can see myself in a few different circumstances- In a beautiful concert hall, dressed in a gown, the orchestra playing behind me – On a theatrical stage, in costume, lights and set surrounding me, the story engulfing me – Or in a more intimate setting, the audience within reach, my voice stretching out telling a story.

Each vision involves being overwhelmed by the music, it swirling up and around me, breathing it in and singing it out. I’m a dreamer for sure, but as an artist this is real. This is how we create. If our hope is not to be consumed by our art, than what is it?

Carmen, Habanera, Opera on Tap January 2015 – Photo courtesy of Melanie Tvete

As artists, it is our responsibility to inspire ourselves to inspire others to inspire change.
Ricky Lee Gordon

In the past, when I have tried to pin point what is it that I love so much about performing, I have failed to find words that truly explain it; I tried for a long time without success. I always attempted to express how awesome it is to “feel” live music- how all these singers, actors, instrumentalists, the conductor, the stagehands… all the powers at hand… come together in one moment to bring to life a piece of art. All together you create this “thing”. The performers feels it… the audience feels. And this is not just in classical music, but all genres. Artists come together to create one piece of work and the audience- the viewer- as much a part of the work as any one else. We create.

I recently had to answer a question in an application that asked me why performing arts were important to me. It was here, in this moment of being forced to say the above sentiments professionally, that I finally pieced together my feelings:

The performing arts are so important to me because it is my chance to take what I love (what I was made for) and influence and move other people. It gives me purpose. The most exciting part about performing art is getting the chance to create something that matters to more people than just oneself. To create something that can quite literally change the world. The arts move people; they challenge them; they cause them to question, to doubt, to stand up for something. As an artist, I act as the liaison between the work and the audience. I am ecstatically responsible for the message of the music- be that beauty, pain or strength- and the vision that the audience perceives. Sincerely, where would the emotion of the world be found, if not in art?

Oy- talk about deep… that’s my heart, folks, on a platter.

Carmen, Habanera, Opera on Tap January 2015 – Photo courtesy of Melanie Tvete

 If you have a calling, an urge, something you think about day and night, a passion, it is there for you to follow, to listen to it, to move toward it, and to find out the ways it may bring you more into being your total and complete self. We have all been given unique and extraordinary gifts in order to use them,and to share the wealth and joy of it with others.
Brenda Johima

 My life, as it sits now, is so full of music- so full of my passion. I finally have found a way to weave it all together and make bring music more completely into my daily life. I am working throughout town singing as often as I can, making a modest name for myself. All I can ask is for a chance to perform for people, and those chances are popping up all the time. I am working hard to become the best singer I can be, taking weekly lessons as I have been for the last twelve years, learning more about my voice every day. I attend performances to spark and re-inspire my need to be on stage.

I am teaching others to sing; I encourage them, I help prepare them for auditions, I invite them to nourish their own artistic growth by attending live performances. As a teacher, all I can do is open myself up to my students- act as a mentor, show by example, push buttons in each of my students that might ignite that spark within them. I respond to texts when they have reached a break-through at home. I reply to excited emails about upcoming auditions and repertoire selections. I giggle and squeal with students in their lessons about whatever is happening at home. And I congratulate them on their progress each week before they walk out the door.

My life is rewarding. Each student I come in contact with means something to me and teaches me something. Every role I get the chance to prepare helps me grow as a musician. Every lesson I take teaches me how to be a better teacher myself, and every lesson I teach opens my eyes a little more to what my passions are. Life is good, folks; Mine is full of artistic passion.

Have you found what ignites a fire within you?

Have you found something that lights a spark?



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Life Changing Moments

When I was in fifth grade I participated in a city-wide choir. I remember my teacher coming up to me in school, suggesting that I audition for the group; She thought I would do well in that sort of environment. That was my first ever audition; I took it very seriously. I got into the choir- the only person from my school- and spent a semester in the group, preparing for a concert. I was surrounded by students that I did not know- shy and awkward with ice breaking conversations… what are those for 5th graders anyway? Even with my social butterflies in full swing, I thrived in the group. I loved every minute of it. Being part of this community, music ensemble made me feel important- part of whole- comrades with those I had just met- participating together in something we all loved.

As I chose a career path later in life that involved music and education, I have made it a goal of mine to try and impact as many people as I can, whether through performing or teaching. As an educator, I teach students that range from nine years old to sixty-five. I make it a goal to find out what will motivate and move the students, and I try to tap into that as much as I can. I care a great deal about what will inspire my students. With inspiration in mind, I can not help but think back to my time spent in that community choir- what it felt like to be chosen, to be a part of that whole, to make music together with others. This brought forth my desire to start a choir.

Lyrebird Youth Choir, Fall 2014, Final Concert

Last semester my colleague Anika Kildegaard and I piloted a choral program at Chanson Voice & Music Academy; we started with a middle school youth choir (6th-8th grades). The choir was small but mighty. We made the most out of low numbers with the opportunity for intimate group building activities and an outreach activity that wouldn’t have been possible with a larger group. After getting the program off its feet during the fall of 2014, we knew immediately that we wanted to add a high school (9th-12th grade) choir in the spring of 2015. We also knew that we wanted to stretch the semester from a 10-week session to a 16-week session to allow more time to prepare advanced repertoire. Thus what was solely the Lyrebird Youth Choir became the Lyrebird Choral Program, which now includes the Lyrebird Youth Choir and the Lyrebird Young Women’s Choir.

0001DpDuring the development of this program, something that stood out as an obstacle to Anika and I was the need, as a small business, to charge tuition rates that would cover our services, but still be within reach of our students’ various financial backgrounds. We want our program to be viable for all singers, regardless of their ability to financially prioritize the group. We applied and received a grant that will give us the chance to make this possible for the Lyrebird Young Women’s choir. We have created a sliding scale tuition fee for the high school choir that allows families to pay, as they are able, from $20-150 for a 16-week choral program; it is a fantastic deal! We are so happy to be able to offer this to families. Our hope is to have this option available every semester for both choirs, and we are working hard to make this happen.

0001IbThis semester’s session starts up soon! It runs from Sunday January 18 through Sunday May 10, and we will have concerts for both groups during the month of May. The youth choir is doing a program of dance music throughout the world, and the young women’s choir will be paying homage to our state by singing a program of works by female Minnesotan composers. We are so excited to be bringing these programs to head this semester. It’s going to be a blast. Please help us spread the word about this amazing opportunity. This sort of experience can change a child’s life… it sure did change mine!

Registration for the choirs is open, and we currently have a 10% off tuition deal running through the 9th of January. Register HERE!


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Usher in Positivity

The holidays are over. The wave of craziness came and went without a hitch. Exhaustion levels were at a high this year, but happiness and enjoyment stood firmly beside it. So much family. So many friends. So many gatherings to celebrate! The year has come to a close and life is picking up where it left off about two weeks ago. My lists continue to grow. Here I sit at 6am with my secret cup of coffee, writing to you. All is as it should be in the McNally household.

My survival mechanism.

As I scan through social media, I cannot help but be overwhelmed by the number of status updates and tweets that are anything but graciously ushering out the year 2014. It seems as if people had a hell of a year and can’t wait to move on. Don’t get me wrong; I see the positive lists online as well- the friends and family that have thanked the previous year for all its gifts. These posts are what so clearly highlight a contrast between one and the next. The thing is… these people seem to do this every year- After New Years, without fail, you will find lists of things that were unfavorable from the prior year- things that people are happy to watch disappear behind them, as if the turn of the calendar year will somehow wipe the slate clean and all the gunk will just wash away. Out with the old and in with the new. People ecstatically welcome the new year into the old one’s place as if it’s insurance that “this year will be different”.

Here’s where we falter. Not to sound cliché, but things really do happen for a reason. It may not always be clear what that reason is, which is why you must be active in figuring it out… sometimes being active means simply being patient and waiting it out. So, even when things happen in life that are hard- even awful and tragic- do not usher them out the door to be forgotten. Do not dwell on them as hindrances to where you can go from here. Examine and learn from them, count the blessings you do have and move forward. The turn of the calendar is a good metaphor for moving on with a clear path. Moving on with a positive outlook is a good; I do not discount that. Setting resolutions and goals are great, even if they only last a little while. The key is that if they don’t hold up they way you wanted them to, not to look at that like a failure; if you do that, they don’t serve their purpose to usher in change and positive anticipation.


Last year I had a great year. I made a career switch that changed my life. Music truly became the center of my career for the first time. I started a business that is successful, hitting all of my enrollment goals earlier than expected. I became an operational board member of Chanson Voice & Music Academy and piloted a choral program at the school; I was active in receiving its first grant, enabling the program to expand in 2015. More to come on that! Stay tuned! Changes happened in my family life last year that are all for the better, which as I look back, I see needed to unfold in this way to get us all to the happier, healthier place that we are at today; a clear example of not knowing how something bad can become good, having faith and patience- waiting it out. I made serious health changes, dealt with the trauma of asthma as an opera singer, and came out on the other side more healthy than when the year started; you can’t ask for better than that.

The year 2013 had ended with awful auditions of which nothing came from, pushing me to get a new voice teacher early last year; he offered me a “gig”. This set in motion a string of events that led me to take part in four shows last year which each changed my life as a performer (how lucky is that???). These shows each introduced me to people that changed my life. They brought forth opportunities for the new year; More to come as 2015 progresses. I am amidst an unveiling of another new project that will change my life forever- something I have dreamt about for a long time, and I finally get to see into reality. Once again… cliff hanger, check back in for details!!! I will be updating you all within the next couple of weeks.

Words of wisdom from mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato.

I ended 2014 busy and exhausted from working solely on things I love. I was able to connect with people, new and old. It was a good year. I cannot wait for all that 2015 holds in store- not because I can’t wait to see 2014 disappear in the distance, but because the years all link together. What I dreamt up in 2014 now gets to be fleshed out further in the new year. I get to see it all become more of a reality.

Take this advice- clean your own slate, if that’s what needs to be done. Clean up messes and make room for new ones. Learn from things you didn’t love about last year and march forward. Set goals.

Oh… and make lists.

Happy New Year, everyone!


Thank you for reading my blog post!

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

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