Category Archives: The Performer

A journal and diary of life as a performer- updates on preparing a role, working with companies, auditions, etc.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

 

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Choose Wisely

I have had time to finally sit and reflect on my time spent on Carmen at the University of Minnesota. I met many new friends and colleagues that changed my life. When you are in a show, you spend so much time with these new people in a short amount of time that you get to know them quickly, and sometimes really deeply. You devote so much of yourselves to the same work, the same product that you can’t help but find a connection with each other. You work hard, you become attached to these new people, and then you finish the show and bam, back to reality, back to real life. Some times this means never seeing certain people again. Thanks to the norms of social media, you can easily stay in contact with people from anywhere in the country, but it’s still hard to feel like the people you were the closest to are gone all of a sudden. The world of performance is ephemeral. It can be a lonely existence. Many performers really struggle with this.

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Don Jose and Carmen… you can’t even tell he just stabbed me to death!

It is important to keep positive connections in your life outside of this lonely world. Not everyone has a family to come home to at the end of the day, in the traditional sense, but there really is truth in saying that your family is chosen. You need your person…or people… someone you call to vent to, someone who is there any time you need them, even if that is to simply sit quietly together. You can build your family on your own, and often (let’s be real here) you get closer to your chosen family than your “real” family anyway.

I have an over abundance of family in my life. I have a huge group of family and friends, so supportive and loving, that I can exist in this crazy world of come-and-go relationships without it eating away at me. It is still hard to finish a show and feel like I am thrown into disconnect from what I knew and loved within a cast and production, but having this support is certainly helpful. Finishing Carmen was really emotional for me. I truly loved the role and the people I worked with. I was sad before the final performance started and I cried the second I walked off stage for the last time.

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My parents and I after the Carmen. Non-stop-full-time-supporters, and only a small handful of the family there that day!

This sadness was short lived, though, as I walked around the corner to see a huge group of friends and family waiting for me with hugs and smiles, flowers, notes and so many pictures. These people are MY people. Many of them came from out of state to see me perform and I was more than appreciative of their support. Seeing them all there filled me with so much happiness. I looked around and thought, it doesn’t matter how the performance went- these people would think so much of me no matter what. These are the people I would call throughout the process of the show and vent to, express concern over learning the role, exclaim to when I finished memorizing the role, etc. They knew the behind-the-scenes take on it. There were others who couldn’t make it to the show for various reasons who sent texts, left voicemails, sent messages online. This support isn’t taken for granted. The love and support of these people is what keeps me going- in and out of the crazies that come along with delving into a character and coming back out on the other side.

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Friends who traveled up to see Carmen and bombard me with love after the show. These are some of my chosen family!

You have to find this for yourself. You have to find those relationships in your life that are real, non-materialistic, beyond-the-surface connections with people, and hold them tight. Make sure they know you are there for them as much as you expect them to be there for you. Ask them how their day is because you are genuinely interested in hearing about it, and you know how nice it is to hear that from them. Take the time to go support them in whatever endeavors they work so hard at day in and day out. Send them a note from time to time. Call and check in when you know they are hearing back about something important. You get the point… be there. Choose wisely whom you bring into your life and keep them close. Make them feel important.

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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Plaguesville: The Hot Spot this Season

Tis the season for colds and flus and viruses, oh my! It seems like every one I know is sick or has been sick recently. It also seems like the year that everyone I know continues to get sick over and over again. Many people will comment “Oh, that’s my ‘illness’ for the season” as if they only get sick one time throughout the winter, and then before they are back to full force they are slammed down with something else. There has been a specific virus going around this fall and winter that seems to stow away in you for about a month before you start to really feel better… Just in time to catch a cold or the flu!

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Meet Sicko.

So what do you do to get healthy in this wasteland of germs and guck?

First thing’s first, STAY healthy! Work hard NOT to get sick in the first place. Of course, wash your hands often. Be mindful of sharing food and beverages, even with loved ones. People joke about singers being overly cautious hypochondriacs, but if your job was literally impossible when you are sick, you would be careful with whom you swapped germs with too! Teachers… I haven’t figured out the tricks quite yet… you have tons of people coming in and out of your studios all day long opening their mouths, touching your things… where a face mask?

It seems to be unavoidable that you will get ill throughout the course of the season. So what can you do to feel better?

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Supplements build your health, not just fight off symptoms of poor health.

First thing you need to focus on is catching symptoms early! You have to start being aware of your body all the time, from the inside out. You know what I mentioned about the hypochondriac singer… well, I will admit, I know when I am getting sick before it happens. I can feel the slightest changes in my body- my throat, my muscles, my sinuses, my head. “I am getting sick…” I can tell when things are off and getting worse, from the tiniest signs. When that happens I LEAP into my supplement cabinet. I try to fight this sucker before it gets out of control. I take my normal multivitamin, and vitamins B and C and D… then for immune boosts I take garlic supplements and Echinacea. Not kidding though, if you jump on them right away, it usually works!

I also start using my nasal rinse twice a day, when I wake up and before I go to bed. Some people use nasal rinses every day, all the time, depending on their health and sinus issues, but I only use them when I feel something coming on. These rinses do more than you think they will! Even when there isn’t a bunch of gunk to flush out (sorry, graphic), the rinse helps keep your sinuses clean- just what you need!!! You don’t want it to get to the point of needing it… you want to prevent yourself from needing it.

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Take time to rest whenever you can!

If you are feeling ill and wonder if you should go to your lesson… don’t. Teachers get it. Teachers don’t want you to spread illness around, in their teeny tiny studios full of stuff to touch. If you have a singing engagement, that’s another story, you probably need to be there. If you have a good technique to fall back on, you should be able to get through things just fine, but that is a whole other post to write… stay tuned for that one. Stay home and rest as much as you can; it really is true that rest is the best medicine. Not every one can stay home from work with a stuffy nose or a case of the aches, but use your energy wisely. Store up as much as you can. Take the elevator instead of the stairs this time. Go to sleep earlier than normal, sleep as late as you can. And if you CAN stay home, do. You’ll notice that taking a day off BEFORE you get to Plaguesville will really help you avoid it all together. Oh, and stay hydrated! Flush this junk out of your system… literally.

Stay well, stay rested and stay tuned for more!

Thank you for reading my blog post!

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

Follow @MockingbirdSOV on Twitter.

Please LIKE my Facebook Page.