Sunday, January 19, 2014

New Beginnings Part 3

So, as the final installment of my "New Beginnings" series, I will tell you how my audition for the Seattle Opera went! Well, the mind map worked absolute wonders. By having sent my intention out into the world, it truly had it's effect on the actual outcome. Traffic was fine, I found parking easily, and arrived on time. when I got there, a practice room opened up. In the past, I would basically drill the music over and over, until I basically exhausted my voice. I warmed up just enough to get centered, and then sat in the waiting area.

I was incredibly aware of how I had the tendency to compare myself to the other women auditioning. The other women were also giving me glares, sizing me up, judging me. I closed my eyes, stayed centered, and reminded myself that I was connected to all of these women through music.

When it was my turn, I walked in, feeling genuinely excited to be able to sing for someone. The judges (for lack of a better term) could sense my excitement and energy, and the mood was lighter than any audition I've done.

I took a deep breath, and sang. I was fully present in the moment, expressing the words and the melodies like I never had before. I felt like I was on a different plane of existence.

Afterwards, one of the judges told me that my performance of Non so piu, cosa son cosa faccio was one of the most expressive and accurate interpretations she had seen. They also told me that they thought I had a lot of talent, though I was a bit rusty technique-wise. We discussed why I hadn't been singing for the last few years, and they asked if I had a voice instructor in the area. When I said no, they suggested a mezzo in the area who teaches at Cornish. They told me they really enjoyed the audition and they wanted me to come back!

The best part was that I had a wonderful, positive experience. I've learned that mental preparation is just as if not more important than technical preparation.

Throughout all of this, I've still remained undecided about singing professionally, but I know that no matter what I decide, it will be enjoyable!


Tuesday, February 12, 2013

New Beginnings, Part 2

So,  here is the continuation of my last post. Beginnings are easy for me, but finishing things are another matter, so when I say "continued tomorrow" I probably mean "continued whenever I can force myself to get around to it".

So now, we're in Seattle. Moving here, I was forced to face quite a few things about myself that I didn't want to face. We moved here in 2011, and by that point I had been aware for over a year that I had been struggling with an eating disorder most of my life. Thankfully, there was an incredible clinic here specializing in eating disorders, and my husband had incredible health insurance with his job. If anyone wants to know more about this facility, I'd be happy to provide you with information.

This is where my intensive healing path began.

I started intensive out-patient treatment at this clinic, and the growing pains (and healing) began. I also started doing my own personal work outside of the clinic (aka therapy). There is such a negative stigma about therapy in this country. What I'd like to say is that growing up I was always against the idea of it, because in my mind getting help was admitting I was "weak" or "messed up". That's not true. Everyone needs help now and again, and there is nothing to be ashamed of about that. Besides we've all been hurt or wounded in our life. Not one person can escape that.

So, I suppose the last year and a half has been spent doing intensive, painful, enlightening work that has helped me to be more functional, at peace, and better able to pursue my passions. 

One of my biggest fears was of failure. I would rather not try, than try and potentially fail. I started to get really fed up with holding myself back. I also realized that singing has been a form of therapy for myself my whole life. In fact, there were times in my life where singing may have been how I survived. I realized that I need this in my life again, no matter how painful the process. 

Something that I'm learning about myself is that I can go from zero to sixty in a split second, shocking everyone, including myself. I hadn't sung more than five or six words for three years, and then I had a sudden urge.

 I was going to audition for the Seattle Opera. I had been looking at singing opportunities online, and saw that the Seattle Opera Chorus was holding auditions. Now, keep all of these things in mind: I was incredibly out of practice due to not having used my instrument for years, and there may not have been any openings for mezzos, as they have very few positions to begin with. The auditions are held regardless of openings in the chorus, to keep the current members in the "lowest tier" on their toes in case they've been slacking.

Equipped with new mental tools, and a wonderful support team, I prepared for the audition. I only had a couple of weeks to relearn songs I hadn't looked at since college. These are the things I learned during this process that I will carry with me into the future. I believe they apply to a lot of things in life other than singing. What I learned deserves it's own post, so I will do that separately.

The most profound tool I used for the audition is...

Mind Map!!!

This is a technique that I wish I could share with the entire world, because it truly is magical. It works for anything you could think of. Are you stressed about going to a party where you don't know anyone? Mind map it. Are you giving a big presentation at work, and hate public speaking? Mind map it. Do you have a phone call you have to make, and are dreading it? Well, you know. And in my case, I was about to go to an audition for a legit opera company. I will teach you about the wonders of mind mapping in a moment.

 My goal was to have a spectacular audition. And by that I don't mean, "I blow my competition out of the water. I'm the best looking, best dressed, and all-around most talented, awesome person there". I can't control what the judges will think of me, nor can I control who else will be at the audition. I wanted this to be spectacular for me. I wanted to feel that pure ecstasy that all singers know when you're present in yourself, feeling every note and every word, and the emotions that come along with them. This was quite the goal, considering my audition history had left something to be desired, to put it lightly. Most every audition I ever did was terrifying, and extremely stressful. I was so worried about things I couldn't control, I wasn't able to enjoy myself. I remember once, my voice teacher in college said he knew a woman who loved auditions, because they were an opportunity to perform, where you had people's full attention. That concept was so foreign to me, but I longed for that feeling.

So, I was taught how to mind map, and now I will teach you. Seriously, I want to teach this in master classes at music schools around the world.

Mind mapping starts with a simple bubble chart. Here is one that I found online as it applies to business.

When doing a mind map, think of all of the things that may stress you out, frighten you, or worry you. These are the things you will address on your mind map. Most importantly, what are your intentions for this audition/event? The mind map should be filled with your intentions. Obviously, you will create the mind map sometime before said-event.
Here are the simple, but very important rules to mind mapping an event:

Everything that you put on the mind map must be positive
Let me give you an example. Let's say that you're stressed about the other people going to the audition, and you don't want to spend the whole time comparing yourself to them and obsessing over who is prettier/better dressed/better singer. 

What you may want to put on the mind map is : I am not comparing myself to the other singers.

That is a negative statement, and doesn't belong on the mind map. Instead you need to come up with a positive statement to replace it.

 I chose: I am my own, unique, beautiful person. I am here for my own reasons

Some things may seem difficult to spin in a positive way, but it gets easier with practice.

Everything is in present tense, AKA No Futurizing 
This is important. Just trust me. 

What not to do: I will be present while I sing
What to do instead: I am present as I sing  
Whatever your wildest dreams are, put them on the paper

This is something I didn't understand the full extent of on my first audition. Basically, in your dream world, how would this event go? Don't let worries or pessimism get in the way of this part. Do you wish that a blue elephant would magically appear during your audition and start harmonizing with you? Put it on the mind map. But seriously, any limitations you put on yourself will affect the outcome of that day. 

For example, I put all sorts of things that I hoped for on my mind map, but I didn't put one important thing; "I am selected to be in the chorus". Do you want to know why I didn't? Because I didn't believe in my wildest dreams that it would happen. I let my own insecurities and beliefs about where I was with my singing hold me back from having that as my intention on my mind map. The world has a funny way of responding to the energy you send out. You can't hide those beliefs, not even behind fake confidence.
And with those rules in place, I give you a mind map! I will bare all and show you my mind map for the audition. I recommend doing them by hand, which I did. But because it's pretty messy and I doubt you'd be able to read my handwriting, I've replicated it on the computer.
So, do you want to know how my audition went? I will tell you in the last part of this three part series! This time, I won't promise to do it tomorrow. I'll write it when I'm ready.


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

New Beginnings, Part 1

Something monumental happened for me this weekend.

Let's back up. I graduated with a BA in Vocal Performance three years ago. Singing was my life. If anyone asked me what I'd do when I'd grow up, the answer would always be "sing!"

So, when I graduated from high school, and was on my way to college, I optimistically and blindly signed up for the only degree I could imagine, Vocal Performance.

I started as a double major in performance and education, but my advisor basically laughed at me and said I'd be in school for eight years. So, I decided to drop education, and stick with my passion of performing.

Immediately, I was barraged with the rules, opinions, and strong beliefs of all the music professors.

"This isn't American Idol"
"Your performance must be perfect!"
"Don't close your eyes when you sing, you close out the audience"
"No parallel motions with your hands"
"You don't get to sing songs you enjoy in real life, so you don't get to pick what you sing now"
"If you can't sing all day, then you're not singing correctly"
"There's too much air in your voice"
"Your voice isn't airy enough"

I was tugged and pulled back and forth between feuding professors, forced to pledge my allegiance to one or the other, wanting to please everyone.

I spent hours and hours practicing, never to feel good enough.

I was constantly sick with strepp, bronchitis, and other illnesses because I was so stressed and overworked.

One of the lowest, most brutal moments was when I was preparing for an operetta. I worked so hard, and was so prepared for our performance. The night before, I got very sick. I had bronchitis, and I lost my voice. I had to perform anyway, and my solos were divvied out to the other singers. Did I receive compassion and concern? No, I was treated as an inconvenience. In fact, I was told that I'd be able to sing if I did my best to take care of myself that night. The day of the performance, I could barely get out of bed. Putting my hair back and my makeup on was near impossible. I trudged to the performance hall, half alive, and sat back stage, ready to mime my parts.

On stage, no one would have known I was sick. I was animated, vibrant, and entertaining. Between scenes, I hobbled back stage, and coughed up blood.

If I were in a stronger state of mind in college, and had a clear, unfaltering vision of why I was a singer, all of the things that were said and done by the professors and other students wouldn't have made as big of an impact. Unfortunately, I was a vulnerable, na├»ve, moldable girl, fully believing the words of anyone with authority.

So slowly, my passion began to fade, and I became horribly critical of my voice, and myself. My instructors didn't need to chastise me for mistakes, I did it well enough for them. By my last year, I was drained of all joy in music, and went through the motions like a mindless drone. I got to be a lead in the opera that year, which would have been a dream come true before. At that point, I just wanted to get through it.

I sang the national anthem and alma mater at our graduation, but all I could think of was getting out of there. When I graduated, I got married immediately afterward, and moved out to the Washington D.C. area.

I was deeply depressed and lost. Being a small town Alaska girl, D.C. was overwhelming and terrifying. The one thing that was consistent in my life before was music, and without it, I didn't know what direction to take. I worked retail, hated it, and then got a receptionist job at a medical company., where I was unchallenged, and unfulfilled.

I was going through the motions, doing pretty much everything but singing. Every once and a while, I'd feel the strong desire to sing, but as soon as I would the critical voices in my head would attack, and I'd go silent.

After two years, we moved to Seattle. This is where things slowly began to change for me.

(Continued tomorrow on Part 2)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Channeling Farrah

In the 70's here in Seattle today! I put on my retro style dress, and decided to flip my hair out as a nod to Farrah Fawcett.

Dress-Forever 21, Belt-Vintage, Shoes and purse- TJ Maxx

I thoroughly enjoyed this gorgeous sunny day. My husband and I walked around the neighborhood and admired all of the blossoms and flowers, and then we went to a BBQ at a friends.


Thursday, April 19, 2012

April's Spring Pickin's

 So a couple of weeks ago, I blogged about this cool project by Dearest Nature called Spring Pickin's.

Here are my pics for the month. I would have liked more, but with things being as they are, well, this is it!
French Lavender

Pretty ground cover

Stumbled upon this stump on a hike. I don't know why, but I love it so much!


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