Thursday, December 17, 2009


So, I won tickets to see the David Letterman Show, but I had to be available for five hours.  Instead, I decided to take a tour of New York City.  By the way, my Pine Mountain audition went well, I had a powerful voice because of allergies, but now I just have to wait and see.  Also, next year, I was granted auditions for North Texas, Florida State, and UMKC so far.  I will hear more from other schools later this month and next.

Enjoy the tour!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Chautauqua Opera Auditions

It's definitely worth living life to the fullest, even if you have to deal with the repercussions.  I woke up this morning at 2am and my good friend Evan drove me to the airport in KC (thanks so much!)  I then slept during my flights to Chicago and then to New York.  I wore my suit and just carried around everything else in my backpack.  I took a taxi from LaGuardia to Grand Central Station.  Once I was there I got some food; I went to a pizza shop and ordered "the Newman" named after the guy off of Seinfeld - it had salami and feta cheese.  It was raining, but I really wanted to walk around the town.  So, I started off 42nd avenue, walked by Bryant Park (where the fashion show are), went to Times Square (this was like the Vegas Strip on steroids - I was completely impressed) and walked up broadway and found the building that my audition was in.  It is the same building as the David Letterman show.  So, before I went in to wait for my audition, I applied for free tickets for a taping.  Then I went to wait for my audition.  It was on the 11th floor, and when I got there, it was in a studio off of a small hallway.  The hallway was packed with people preparing for auditions.  I talked to a few of the singers, some of them have had over 25 auditions just this year!  Anyway, we received a letter saying what they expected in the auditions and that out of over 800 people they were selecting only 11!  Tough odds.  Anyway, I waited for almost 6 hours for my audition!  They were running really slow, and I was the very last person on the very last day.  With that being said, I was very proud of how I sang today.  I sang Questa o quella and they asked that I sing En fermant les yeux.  They were obviously impressed, and even commented on how well I did. One of them smiled huge every time I sang some crazy high notes and would move around feeling the musicality in my second piece.  The other said, in French, that how I sang it made him close his eyes and dream - a parody of the words of one of my arias. I thought it was a great compliment - AND, that I so quickly understood something in French! (I was very happy, in a nerdy way). After that, I went back to Grand Central Station, and I received a voice message saying that I got tickets to see the David Letterman Show tomorrow!  I am assuming it is the one that will air tomorrow night, but I do not know for sure, so make sure you watch.  Then I had some trouble with my hotel.  It is in New Jersey and it is really expensive to take public transportation from the state of New York to New Jersey even though they are so close to each other.  So I walked from Grand Central Station to Penn Station.  I passed Times Square again, the Empire State Building, Macy's, Madison Square Garden.  From there I got on a train to dirty Jersey and then took a shuttle to my hotel.  It took about 4 hours, but I eventually got there.  Lastly, I wanted to add a little odd sidenote, that the police car sirens here not only do the high squeel we all know, but they also have a deep booming noise as well, really similar to thug car sub woofers; it's kind of hard to believe that has never caught on any sooner.  At any cost, it definitely echoed so much more than just the siren.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Central City Opera Auditions

Well, I am back from Chicago once again.  It is quite a beautiful city, but very busy during Thanksgiving weekend.  I made an all day drive up to ChiTown on Saturday and drove back Sunday.  I stayed at the same hotel as I did last time, but I had a surprise visitor - a wasp!  In November, in Chicago, in my hotel room!  I had a pot of hot water I threw at it and killed it, but that was definitely unexpected.  I woke up early again on Sunday, wore a purple tie this time, warmed up and went downtown to my audition.  It was in the building right next to the one I had Santa Fe auditions in.  The building itself was quite old and I had to go to the tenth floor.  They had an elevator guy to work the elevator!  The Kansas State Capitol is the only other place I've been to that has one of those.  Anyway, my audition went well. I sang Questa o quella.  I started off poorly, made some silly mistakes, but by the end I sang very well.  These were the first people to outwardly show that they were interested in me.  They talked quietly, as I was on stage, they were too far away for me to hear them.  But, they looked very interested and happy in my performance, so I'll cross my fingers and hope for the best.  We only had five minutes to sing, and they had a whole day of auditions.  They only invited 6 tenors, so that greatly increases my chances, but the other 5 could be awesome, you never know.  Most of the singers are older than I am, and some significantly older, so in some ways I am fighting an uphill battle.  But it is all about what kind of voice they want and need.  But now it's back to Manhattan for a week of concerts!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Schedule Update

I will soon have a website that will help out with all of this, but I have a schedule update.  My Nov. - 1st Week of Jan. schedule is as follows:

Nov. 26 - Newton - THANKSGIVING
Nov. 28-30 - Chicago - Central City Opera Auditions

*Dec. 1 - New York City - New Jersey Opera Auditions (attempting to reschedule to a later date)
Dec. 2 - Manhattan (All Faiths Chapel 7:30) - Singing on Dr. Thompson's Recital
Dec. 3 - Manhattan (FUMC 7:30) - Department of Music Holiday Concert
Dec. 6 - Manhattan (All Faiths Chapel 3) - Directing Men's Glee on their Holiday Concert
Dec. 12 - Manhattan (Bramlage Colliseum 9) - Singing Natl. Anthem @ DUSTI'S GRADUATION

Dec. 13 - New York City - Chautauqua Opera Auditions
Dec. 14 - New York City - Pine Mountain Opera Auditions
Dec. 24-25 - Salina - CHRISTMAS
Dec. 27 - ? - DUSTI'S BIRTHDAY
Jan. 7 - Atlanta - National Opera Association Opera Scenes Performance

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

St. Louis Auditions

Well, it is really rainy here in STL.  I am very sad that I can't go looking around the town today, especially going to Busch Stadium where the Cardinals play (they are my favorite baseball team) and to see the arch and all the other stuff I should do in St. Louis.

Anyway, I made it into St. Louis last night, and it just freaks me out that the sun goes down so early out here, in Kansas we are closer to the time zone change so it is still light out later than it is here.  With it being overcast, it is pitch black by about 4:45pm!  But, I stayed in a Best Western Hotel, and it is supposedly a non-smoking Hotel, which is what I need because smoke irritates my voice.  Well, at about 10 last night, I started to smell cigarette smoke and it lasted through the night; that was very annoying. At any rate, when I woke up I just had some phlegm problems, mostly from the weather changes, and luckily I didn't have a runny nose from the smoke - I would have been very mad if did.

I woke up about 5 hours before I had to sing, drank some hot water from the coffee pot, hummed for a long time, put on a green tie this time (I wore blue to the last one), and packed up and checked out.  Then I started driving with the Garmin's help to the Opera Theatre of St. Louis.  Well, luckily I'm super early to most anything I do, because this time the Garmin took me to the wrong spot.  Following the Garmin, I found myself winding my way through dirt alleys to a Franciscan Monk Seminary where I parked and asked the reception lady where the Opera Theatre is.  Well both of these are on Hazel Ave. but Hazel Ave. is only a few hundred feet long and there is a gigantic seminary where the theatre should be.  I later found out that there are two completely different Hazel Avenues in St. Louis.  She printed me off a map and I got to my audition - which was running early - just in time to sing a little bit and then it was my turn.

The facilities at the Opera Theatre of St. Louis were awesome.  Everything was brand new and the accoustics of the practice rooms were amazing.  I am not singing any arias from any of the operas they are doing, so I decided to sing Ecco ridente.  I like to brag that if I sing it all the way through like it is written with all the most challenging cadenzas, of the hundreds of notes I would have sang, 67 would be G4 or above (in layman's terms - 67 notes would be really high).  Well, there are so many ways to sing the piece and we had a time limit so I cut out some of the middle so in the end I probably sang between 30-50 notes at G4 or higher, but in any case - that is a lot of high notes.  Well, I sang it really well, one of the best times I have ever sang that aria.  Funny thing was that they were not ever concentrating on me, they were talking and typing the whole time - not loudly, but you could tell that they were thinking about something.  So, I finished my audition and now I am waiting to see if they want me to sing again.  We were given a sheet that said that they may want to hear you again if they still need to hear more to make their decision, and if so they would let us know later today.  So, with that said, all of us auditioning are out of the loop for the moment as to whether or not we're singing again, if we're singing tomorrow, if so what time, when will we find out, etc.  So, for the mean time, I drove to a Borders and am utilizing their free WIFI, so if you get bored, please facebook chat with me!

Anyway, as for who is auditioning and how many.  In short, I don't know.  But most of them are older than I am, and some significantly older than I am, but my young looks count for something I hope, plus I bought some new hair gel, so maybe that'll win someone's vote.  But, in the end, all of that is pretty trivial, it's all about how well you sing in Opera.  Musical Theatre is a little bit different in that aspect; but in Opera the musicality and performance of the music are what matters most.  Hopefully I gave them what they wanted to hear.

I will update again if my situation changes, but for now I will just be relaxing in a book store.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Santa Fe Opera Auditions

Well, one piece of advice for anyone out there that has any more common sense than I do - Don't Drive in Downtown Chicago.  Luckily for me, it was Sunday and the business district wasn't as bad as it could have been, and my dad let me use his Garmin GPS to get around.  I will forever endorse this product; it not only got me to where I needed to go, but also found a hotel for me.  Anyway, I had a lot of fun today.  Chicago is a beautiful city, the public transportation needs an update, but other than that it is a wonderful place. 

So, I stayed at a Super 8 Motel in Aurora, woke up at 5:45 to start warming up.  I drank two coffee pots full of hot water because I was having some phlegm problems.  Anyway, that eventually went away, and I got in the car and started driving to my audition.  Believe it or not, but Chicago is difficult to drive in.  I made it safe everywhere, but you have to think three dimensionally instead of just forward, back, left, and right.  The road I should be on might actually be below the road I'm on, or the next exit I should take actually goes to a road that is two levels of roads above me.  Anyway, I got eventually got to where I needed to go.

My audition was in the middle of Downtown in a very impressive building.  I sort of had to zone out and not let the magestic architecture, size, and beauty of everything get to me so I didn't hype myself up.  If my adrenaline gets going too much, it can really effect my voice, which is a really fickle thing, it can be effected by humidity, food, air temperature, etc.  Well, I got there with plenty of time to spare - which if you know me, I am always sure to be prepared for anything, and usually arrive earlier than I need to just in case.  Well, I got there an hour and a half before my audition and the building wasn't open.  There were several other singers just standing outside as well, but I decided to go around and see if there were any other doors open.  I eventually found a security guard who let me in.  The others left by the time I got back, so for about thirty minutes I had the whole auditorium to myself!  It really was a great thing for me, because I was pretty nervous, I know I don't show it on the outside but on the inside I was shaking a bit. The architecture and all was so overwhelming that it was hard to shut my brain off to that and just focus on what I needed to do.  Being there without anyone, I was just able to look around, sing a bit, look out over the millenium square and lake michigan, and just relax and enjoy where I was and how I got here.

Shortly thereafter, people showed up and the auditions began.  I was the third audition of the day.  I walked in, gave them my headshot and information, walked to the piano, and presented my music.  I selected Dies Bildniss to sing, we only had a very short time to sing, and I chose to sing Dies Bildniss because it is from an Opera that Santa Fe is planning on doing this coming season.  After I sang, they thanked me and asked me to tell Mr. Ganz hello, however I do not know who my auditors were, but at any rate, I will pass the word along.  And, that was it; short and sweet.  Now, I originally thought that they had callbacks, but I got one of the long distance regional auditions and only later Sunday night did I find online that they do not have callbacks for long distance auditions, so I will find out sometime after Nov. 24th what they have decided.  I personally felt that I did just about what I expected myself to do, not the best I have ever sung, but honestly that can only be one time and if I have sung that aria several hundred times, it is pretty long odds to beat your best every time.  But, I thought they had a good representation of how I sound, and now I have to turn my attention to the St. Louis auditions on Tuesday.

Sunday evening, I did some touristy things.  I went to the top of the Sears Tower, Chicago Lyric Opera, went to Millenium Park, met up with one of my friends that lives in Chicago, Mai Shibahara, and went to a hole-in-the-wall Chicago style pizza place.  It was great.  Chicago is a great place - a little cold in November - but otherwise definitely worthy of the Olympics (shame on you IOC).

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Well, I have been very busy lately. This semester has been crazy. I got married on August 8, I have an assistantship with K-State and work for both the Choral and Voice areas, I teach classes and have a private studio, I direct at University United Methodist Church in Salina, I am going to school for a double Master's in Conducting and Performance, and applying for Doctoral Schools, and also applying for professional companies. It is definitely overwhelming.

In short, my Major Events Schedule for the next couple of months is as follows:

Nov. 14-16 - Chicago - Santa Fe Opera Auditions
Nov. 16-18 - St. Louis - St. Louis Opera Auditions
Nov. 26 - Newton - THANKSGIVING
Nov. 28-30 - Chicago - Central City Opera Auditions
Dec. 2 - Manhattan (All Faiths Chapel 7:30) - Singing on Dr. Thompson's Recital
Dec. 3 - Manhattan (FUMC 7:30) - Department of Music Holiday Concert
Dec. 6 - Manhattan (All Faiths Chapel 3) - Directing Men's Glee on their Holiday Concert
*Dec. 10 - New York City - Chautauqua Opera Auditions (attempting to change to a later date)
Dec. 12 - Manhattan (Bramlage Colliseum 9) - Singing Natl. Anthem @ DUSTI'S GRADUATION
Dec. 13-15 - New York City - Pine Mountain Opera Auditions
Dec. 24-25 - Salina - CHRISTMAS
Dec. 27 - ? - DUSTI'S BIRTHDAY
Jan. 7 - Atlanta - National Opera Association Opera Scenes Performance

Well, there is a lot of stuff on the list there, but there will potentially be a lot more. I will hopefully have Doctoral School Auditions in January and February. I will also be applying for competitions so I can raise money to pay for all the trips. K-State Opera is producing "Hotel Casablanca" the first week of March. The choir is going on tour in April. Also in April are several recitals of mine and my conducting recital is in May. I hopefully will be singing for a company from June-August and start my Doctorate in September.

This semester has really been a learning experience in a lot of ways. I have been very productive and that, oddly, has a lot of bad side effects at times - many new stresses. But, this has been a very exciting ride so far. Soon I will be adding more things so people can follow along easier; it is very difficult anymore to keep so many people up to date, including myself and my wife. So, I will be commenting on the upcoming events as they happen and please feel free to comment; I love to hear from you all.


Monday, June 22, 2009

Days 9 and 10

Sorry it took so long for my last post. As soon as I got back to Manhattan, Dusti and I worked on wedding invitations.

Saturday, the day of our final concert, went really well. I sang very well, had exceptional high notes, it's always a guessing game whether the high ones will be great or not. Everyone else did a wonderful job as well. The main highlight were the exit interviews. In these, we discuss how we did in general over the past week, and we plan future plans. The main question was whether I should go down a Doctoral degree and summer internship path or whether I should enter the profession right after my Master's and do Artist Programs the many Opera companies use to teach new professionals the trade. We take into account family situations, the whole gamut, and try to get the best idea of what I should be doing. They really wanted me to go into the profession right away, which was a little shocking to me. They thought that after I graduate I needed to go to a teacher that could help get me into some programs that could give me oportunities to perform and get my name out there. They said the thing that is worst about my situation is that no one knows who I am, so I need to be in situations to get myself out there. They thought that I could do internships, apprenticeships, Artist Programs, until I could get roles. We even went through roles that I could do immediately, which is great to know; most of the Operas mentioned are pretty obscure, but at least I know I would do well in them. Anyway, these are just their opinions. The faculty in on these discussions are very knowledgable: NYU professor, a manager, one of Pavarotti's closest friends who is a former manager and currently a career counselor, and they know their stuff. I do not know what I want or should do after my Master's, that is a question Dusti and I will still have to decide.

Then on Saturday night, several of us went into the city. We were going to go to the Lower East Side, but Mai and I got lost, and we ended up walking up and down 42nd street and Park Ave. We saw the United Nations, and the Chrysler Building (it was really neat because it went into the clouds and the top spire was lit), Grand Central Station, and we ate in the basement of a KFC on 42nd St. We felt like real New Yorkers.

Then, early Sunday morning we got on a van to JFK and left for Atlanta. In Atlanta, Mai and I ate at a Bar and Grill and watched a little bit of golf, before we got on our flight to KC. And, we were very anxious to get back, and the drive was beautiful from KC to Manhattan. I love the flint hills. They were green and the sun was shining down through the breaks in the clouds. It looked amazing. After I arrived back in Manhattan, Dusti and I did wedding invitations and life is back to normal for a few days. Yay!

Thanks for following my blog; I received several hundered hits per day which is nice to know that people were following me in my trip to New York. I hope you enjoyed reading my experiences. 'till next time folks!

Friday, June 19, 2009

New York Trip Day 8

Well, I'm getting down to business now. We've been working really hard, and spending a lot of time trying to replicate and absorb all the information and teaching that we've been getting over the past week.

This morning I had a lesson with Sherry Overholt, one of the nicest people here. She is definitely one of those up front people who will tell you exactly what they think but she's a Midwesterner with a great work ethic - work hard and keep it simple. We just sang through some scales and she is trying to teach me a very important lesson which is teaching me to teach myself. It is very different to be the teacher, and it is a very strange sensation to teach myself because I cannot hear myself. If I do, then I'm resonating in my head somewhere and not letting it out into the room, so in a way, the more resonant (pingier or louder) I am, the less I am able to hear, sort's hard to's much more of a feeling than a sound, especially high notes. Anyway, so I am trying to learn the feeling and placement of vowels and pitches in where it needs to resonate or where I imagine it resonating. I can only barely hear a difference but I can really feel when it is right or wrong. It is very interesting.

I went through my staging with Elizabeth, and I felt so bad for her because she had an allergic reaction to the soap I used from the bathroom. I hope she doesn't feel too bad about me, if you're reading this I'm so sorry! We also had a master class with the conductor from the Connecticut Opera. He was great, and had so many ideas about musicality and work ethic and how to get hired and rehired, all kinds of great things. I also heard a great aria from Vanessa (it's an opera, not a person - well, it's a person in the opera too) and I have also sang an aria from that before, but I would really like to do that at some point.

We talked a lot of my future planning, and I expect I will still hear much more feedback, and I continually get requests and suggestions for roles and arias. People here are very opinionated, and they are being paid to be opinionated. I have heard the whole gamut. I will say this however, there is a general consensus, that I can be very successful if I keep giving myself opportunities, work hard, make myself known, and perform well; they have been very very optimistic about my talent, but that's only a third of the business (management and luck are the other 2/3rds). It is a guessing game; the best singers don't always get the gigs, but I have to keep it going and snowball my way up (wait, that's usually a negative phrase, oh well, you know what I mean). The faculty here definitely want all my musicality and my most free and frontal tone. I am a baby, only 24. I have received suggestions from people thinking I should capitalize now on my talents, but I run a high risk of singing too much heavy literature for my voice to handle, and that leads to very short careers. Others want me to take a very light repertoire approach so I can stretch my career out as long as possible - 30 or 40 or more years. Even that has its own opinion bank, with whether I should be auditioning for companies straight out of the box, or do high profile summer programs, or go get my Doctorate right away. There are definite pluses and minuses to every one of these. I have a very pure voice, healthy and resonant, and I will do what it takes as long as I continue to sing to keep it that way; it will be a full Lyric voice at some point in the future and I hope to take advantage of that.

I have been very happy and proud of the work I have done this week. My voice has improved so much, especially with the help of Sherry Overholt, Arthur Levy, and Audry St. Gil, and I hope to be able to keep replicating this. I really can't express the difference it has made. And, everyone always compliments Dr. Pittman for his great teaching. I was able to get so much out of this program because I didn't have to worry too much about technique issues, so I am very proud and thankful to have such a great teacher at K-State these last 6 years helping me out. Also, I wouldn't be here if it weren't for the help and donations from my friends and family back in Kansas, especially UUMC in Salina. Thank you so much!

But this is just my side of the story. Dusti and I will be beginning our marriage and who knows where that might lead us. There are so many variables to our future that it can be so overwhelming yet exciting and so we will just have to deal with what we can decide at the moment. But, I am so excited, and teared up a little bit (I know Dusti can't believe it, but I have proof) thinking about our wedding in August. I am so excited, and I know she is too. Love you, babe! She's such an inspiration and strong person; we have very difficult schedules and she has to deal with all of my traveling during the year and wedding invitations this week without me there, and I can't tell you how much I appreciate her and for all the help and support she gives me. *smootch*

Tomorrow's Schedule - Saturday 6/20

Dress Rehearsal 10:30-12

Concert 2 (we staged Questa o quella - the beginning of Verdi's opera Rigoletto--for me to sing that is, everyone else is singing their own things as may be a VERY long concert)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

New York Trip Day 7


It rained all day long today. It kind of messes up our voices a little bit; the changing weather can cause our vocal chords to swell just a little, putting unneeded weight on the voice.

Well, I was able to sleep in this morning, which was nice since we were all almost exhausted. Unfortunately I wasn't able to meet Tiger Woods, mainly because I wasn't at the US Open, however he texted me this morning to tell me not to come out in the rain, so I wouldn't get pneumonia and therefore sacrifice my voice, so I wished him good luck and apologized because my dad is rooting for Phil Mickelson. Dad, don't worry, he didn't tell Stevie.

Ok, so seriously, I had a coaching with Steve Crawford, Conductor at the Metropolitan Opera. We really cleaned up some things in my Mozart piece, and we went through the Stravinsky piece very methodically. One thing that Maestro Crawford does that I appreciate so much is that he has a rationale for what he does. It isn't that something just intrinsically sounds better or worse, there is a reason for everything, which I very much needed to hear because I have people with all kinds of crazy ideas about the Stravinsky yelling down my throat and then telling me it's the perfect piece for me. Very confusing no doubt. But we went through the piece and he had some very good ideas, a very very talented man. I ironed several things out and now I can say, "No" to people who want me to slaughter Stravinsky with their savage ideas, because I have the final word from the Met conductor on what to do. Unfortunately that doesn't mean anything, and if a conductor wants something different I will have to do that, but at least I feel somewhat vindicated.

I went through the Stravinsky piece with Gerry Hecht and that was fun for both of us and I talked to some of the other faculty here throughout the day as well. I am very excited and very happy with the connections and friendships I have gained over the past week. I have one more day of rehearsing before our concert but I very much appreciate everyone involved with this Institute. Opera is not a large industry so we all are very close, and now I am very pleased to know these people personally; they are no different than the people in Kansas, just straight down-to-earth type people, very happy and caring and I very much appreciate that.

This evening we had a master class with Maestro John DiConstanzo. It mainly focused on the Italian language but there was a little bit of German and French thrown in as well. There are so many intricacies to language that it is so important for singers to maintain a high level of proficiency for musicality's sake. The composer is only bound to language, so there is a natural flow and feel that every language has that we have to replicate through the music, especially if the composer is competent. French is very even, German needs emphatic consonants, Italian has a flow of vowels, voiced consonants, and silence, English requires a "chewiness" with its many diphthongs, and Russian, well Russian is just weird. But I love listening to these singers sing phrases concentrating on these intricacies, because it brings so much of the feeling out to the audience. Sometimes we singers love the music so much that we hoard all the good feelings for ourselves, and not give anything to the audience for them to feel what we are feeling. I have also earned a new love for Mozart. I can see now that we can be so simplistic and so expressive with his writing. It all needs boundaries, but that is what makes it so special and so real.

Music is just art with sound as its medium and time as its structure, but it goes even further. Mozart has boundaries of phrasing and emphasis, language has boundaries of silence and aspiration, my voice has a boundary of color and size, so it is all about how these can coordinate into a mass of organized expression that we really understand and feel what is intended. Music goes so much further than whether if it is pleasant or pretty or incredibly difficult or fun to dance to, it is expression of something we can not really express at all, we are trying to replicate what we actually feel in another medium that others can also achieve. So, the next time you listen to music - pop, country, rock, classical, jazz - try to think of it differently, think of what is trying to be expressed. A piece of pottery on display at an art museum can be used as a soup bowl or be seen as someones expression through pottery. It's all what you make of it. Music doesn't have to be deep or emotional, it can be fun and joking, or anything else, but we have to try to understand and learn more. That's the beauty of art; we learn, try, think, make, and express all that is who we are.

Ok, the lecture is almost over, but please support the arts. It's not an activity, like sports, it's not entertainment, like the movies, it shouldn't be treated like that. It teaches us to understand ourselves and one another. Some "don't get it", some "don't care", some "don't understand it" but being ignorant doesn't make you smarter. So, encourage people and your community and support the arts; you won't regret it.

Tomorrow's Schedule - Friday 6/19

Lesson with Sherry Overholt - NYU Faculty - 11:20

Staging - 2:50

Master Class with Maestro Willie Waters - Conductor at Connecticut Opera - 6:45-9

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

New York Trip Day 6

Today was definitely a learning experience for all of us.

At the beginning of the day, I had a breathing lesson. She used all kinds of objects: weights, giant beach balls, the floor, the wall, etc. It was very interesting. I came in very skeptical (like pet psychic skeptical) but in the end, it was amazing how some of the things we did helped me tremendously.

My next stop was for staging. It was pretty straight forward. How do I walk in? Where do I go? What do I look at? What do I look like? What am I doing? What are my eyes doing? And I already asked Dusti's permission, but I get to kiss a girl's hand.

My last event was an Audition Recital with Louis Burkot of Opera North. This ended up being very interesting. I sang "Here I Stand" from The Rake's Progress by Stravinsky. It is an opera that I would be perfect in. Actually, everyone almost to a fault says that exact phrase. And actually, I am singing for the accompanist at Juilliard tomorrow just because it is his favorite piece of operatic music, just for fun; he doesn't get to play it much, and no one selects it among my songs, so we'll both enjoy performing that. I sang pretty well, very good compared to the beginning of the week, but Mr. Burkot wasn't shy about letting me know that he didn't care for my voice. He prefers the Corelli sound (it's the sound you make when you get punched in the gut, ok, I'm joking, but the technique is quite opposite to what I do). He also wanted me to sing it in a romantic style but this piece is neoclassical, very different from romantic. So, I am sure that he has probably produced this opera before, everyone has, but I completely disagree on the style. Anyway, it requires a light voice like mine, but he prefers the "pushers". They tend to have really pumped out high notes (which crowds like) but have very very short careers. I am from a different school of thought that loves the musicality and brilliance of the voice rather than force and weight. All of us who auditioned had similar "difficulties" with the situation, so I am not alone; but I am a very well educated musician and I expect that when I see a performance, that the singers exhibit the highest level of musicality that can be achieved from the style and structure of the music. I do not subscribe to the "showstopper" mentality, because we lose all the detailed artistry if we just power through things; it's a gimmick, that is, to just scream all the high notes for impressiveness sake. We are all about the fine details, but in the end it is all about someone's opinion, someone's business, and sometimes companies go after what sells instead of what should be done. That's all I'll go into that. I was very pleased with my performance, and so was the rest of the Institute, and they stood up for all of us, so I feel very happy about that.

On a side note, I just want to say that I officially feel "in the loop" because I received an email from Arthur Levy (the most acclaimed tenor teacher in the biz) in which he said that he is sending me another email about our lesson and repertoire, etc. But I thought that was kind of cool - an email anticipating another email, from such a revered musician.

Tomorrow's Schedule - Thursday 6/18

Meet Tiger Woods before he tees off down the street at the US Open - 8

Message back everyone who thought I was serious - 11

Coaching with Maestro Steve Crawford - Metropolitan Opera Conductor - 2:40

Coaching with Gerry Hecht - Juilliard Accompanist - 4:40

Maestro John DiConstanzo Master Class - 6:45-9:10

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

New York Trip Day 5

I am actually pretty drained today, and it kind of ended on a sour note (punny!).

Ok, so today I had a lesson with Thomas Goodhart, a professional baritone here in New York, and has sang at several major opera houses. It was a very interesting lesson to say the least. Some teachers have different techniques, but his was a variety of teaching by example. Well, he is a very tall and large low baritone and I am a skinny high tenor. Obviously, there is some dissimilarity between the two of us, which made the "teach by example" technique very difficult. I have a another lesson with him later, but I would classify the lesson today as shaky.

It got better because the next coaching I had was with Valerie Trujillo. She is the reason why I am here, and just a wonderful person all around. But, we went through "Dies Bildniss" and worked on detailed musicality elements of the piece. We also went through some planning as to where I will go from here, and what literature to study as well. Again, I can't say enough about Valerie, she is just a great musician and great person. Oh, and by the way, she says "hi" to everyone back in Manhattan.

The afternoon I spent listening to singers test out some new repertoire and musicality ideas. I really love some of the arias, and I could hear "Ain't it a pretty night" from Susannah a million times and it is always like the first time I hear it. It just makes me melt. Even small art songs were sung like "Gia sole dal gange" and even the great arias of opera like "Nessun dorma". It is just a showcase or exhibition where we can try things out, tweak things, etc. It was just a lot of fun, and the ambiance of the place was great; they sang in the parlor of a New York mansion, really classy, and the sunlight was shining through the curtainless windows, with trees and gardens outside...really a neat place to make art.

I also had a consultation with Scott George, Met auditions winner in '79 I believe, and the president of a talent agency. He was very complimentary and I was left with a very positive response, very similar to that of the other management group last Saturday. He thought, just as the previous group thought, that I needed more performance under my belt, and hopefully I will be able to get that within the next year, but again, he was very interested and I am still a baby, so I feel like it was another great first step.

The final audition recital this evening was great for all of us. We got a closer look into what management looks at when they see singers. The heldentenor here got extra special attention, and I think that they may be interested in him. I wish I could sing the literature he sings, but I will not ever have as big of a voice as he has - he's 37 and maybe 6'3'' and large (Pavarotti size) - so he can pump out some air for sure. But the night ended on a sad note, kind of a reality check on the competitiveness of the profession. I am just very happy to have had this opportunity and to be able to sing well and to love music and most especially, to have the degrees I have, so I don't look like a fool ;)

Tomorrow's Schedule: Wednesday 6/17

Lesson with Deb Birnbaum - Met, NYCO, Chicago Lyric voice teacher - 10

Staging coaching - 11

"The Singer's Body" Seminar - 1:30-5

Luis Burkot Audition Recital - Opera North Music Director and Conductor - 6:45-9

Monday, June 15, 2009

New York Trip Day 4

Well, I had another exciting day. I met some great people and had a great time making great music with the greats.

My day began with a self marketing class with one of Luciano Pavarotti's friends, and a former CAMI agent, and currently a career consultant, Connie Barnett. She is one of the nicest people here and she gave us some great advice on management and self management. Most of it is business details, but one of the things that I thought was so sweet was when she began speaking of Luciano Pavarotti, she started to cry, because she missed him.

The next event I had was a lesson with Arthur Levy. He is one of the very best teachers in all of Opera, and definitely one of the very top teachers in New York City. I was so excited from the beginning to have an opportunity to sing for him. I was totally amazed at what he did for my voice. I had incredible freedom up high and he gave me a lot of inside knowledge of singing the "power notes" with precision, flexibility, and comfort. He taught me a new vocalise that I love. When I have a high note, A flat or higher, he had me break that register and sing immediately into that note, much like one yodel followed by the full sound of the high note. When I did this, I had so much ease into those high notes, so much control, it felt amazing. The next thing I did was to sing "ah" up the scale for an octave and continue on for another major third on "oo" and back down, so an eleventh. Well, that gave me so much control, I was able to vocalize all the way up to D flat (almost an unnecessary note, because I know of only two things written higher than that). In the end, I had just an amazing lesson. We talked a little bit, and I am very glad that he took such an interest in me, we will be talking in the future.

Next I had a very interesting lesson with the director for the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Steve Crawford. The Maestro is likely the most detailed musician I have ever known. He payed so much attention to details of my arias. For example, he needed my jaw to drop two inches for just one of my eighth notes, and needed slightly more grounded grace notes, very detailed things. He also is a genius of musicality and quotes. One of my favorites was that "the map doesn't match the terrain". That was intended to mean that even though Verdi wrote it with those notes, he couldn't show all the musicality he intended because the inflections are so small. But, he had wonderful ideas on the musicality and was incessant on the result. I was proud of my quick learning efforts, and I knew he desires more than the most, but for as intense as it was, it was worth the effort to find those short moments of satisfaction, and it ended with a booming fifteen second long high B flat, that left a small smile on his face (totally worth the time and effort).

We concluded with a breath technique seminar, which had all of us laying down and propped and stooped in all kinds of crazy directions to feel particular muscles engaging in our breathing. It was fun, and we got to know our bodies just a little bit better.

Tomorrow's Schedule: Tuesday 6/16

Lesson from Thomas Goodhart - professional baritone for the NYCO - 10

Lesson with Valerie Trujillo - vocal coach (the person who told me about all of this, and the reason why I'm here) - 10:40

Recitative Workshop 11:20-12

Consultation with Scott George - President of New Century Artists - 1:20

Power Auditions Workshop - 2-5

New Century Artists Audition Recital - 6:45-9

Sunday, June 14, 2009

New York Trip Day 3

Boy, I'm tired. We all are. But, I'll give you a brief rundown of events for the day.

Today I had a coaching with Maestro John Di Costanzo. We went through my German aria and my Stravinsky aria called "Here I Stand". He really preferred a very dark and full sound. I did enjoy some of what I produced, it really sounded mature at times, and I was very pleased with that. The other coaching I had was with Joan Krueger, one of the nicest people here. She was my accompanist at the recital yesterday. And, just for you performers out there that read this, she said that even though the audience fell in love with me with my arias, my auditors were sold within the first five minutes of meeting them, and that she was sold when I placed the music in front of her. First off, that was very meaningful and I appreciate that very much, but it really sinks in that the performance begins at the point the audience first sees you and interacts with you. I am not quite comfortable with coachings yet, mainly because I haven't ever had too many, but it is expected that you know how to fix the "problem" or how to change something to what the coach is wanting from you. Most vocal coaches are piano players and not vocalists, so there is a lot of responsibility with the vocalist to change things correctly. I definitely need to work in understanding this better. And for those out there not operatic singers, when we sing high, we do not hear it as the audience hears it, and the higher we go, the more abstract that sound becomes, it is almost more a feeling than a sound. So, if someone wants to hear a different sound, I have to know what that feels like to manipulate it into the sound they want, even though I'm hearing 'O' and they hear 'Ah'; sorry for the detail, but this may help someone out there reading this.

Anyway, Joan Krueger was great and gave me a reality check with my Fach (my voice type) and I think that almost everyone here agrees on the same roles for me and that I'm a Light Lyric Tenor. These things mean a lot to careers and such, and they change over time but for right now, it is Light Lyric.

In the afternoon I sang for Connie Barnett. My voice was pretty tired by this point but I sang through Questa o quella and Here I Stand. She recommended Light Lyric roles (surprise) like Tamino (almost everyone has recommended this) and Rossini and Donizetti. We will see about that, but she said if I could do those then I'd be "making a fortune". But, by the end, she was still unsure as to whether I should do that or not. She didn't know if my voice could handle the runs and the high flexibility of that literature. I would hope that I could do that, even though I have no experience with Rossini and Donizetti, but we will see, I will meet with her again, and I hope that her perception was confusing because my voice was tired. I want to do all the best I can do, so it is really hard to hear "no you will not be able to do that" but that might be a legitimate statement.

As for the surroundings, I have a whole floor to myself: seven rooms, a bathroom, full kitchen, and living room, and it smells like paint. I could have all my stuff spread all around, but I keep things all neat and tidy in my little bedroom, nice and simple. As for the people of New York - one of the biggest misconceptions was that the people here are too forward, rude, and tell you like it is, or what some people call "mean". Well, I have met a lot of them, this even goes for the professionals, but they are no different than the people in Kansas. Most everyone is very nice and understanding and say things calmly and courteously. And there are bad attitudes but it is just as common as those found in your own hometown, nothing out of the ordinary. I just felt that I should break that impression we have of New Yorkers out West.

Tomorrow's Schedule: Monday 6-15

Class on Self Management with Connie Barnett (career consultant) - 10-12

Lesson with Arthur Levy (Voice Teacher of performers at the Met, La Scala, Covet Garden, etc.) - 2

Lesson with Maestro Steve Crawford (Metropolitan Opera Conductor) - 3:20

Deborah Binbaum Master Class (Voice Teacher of performers at the Met, NYCO, Chicago Lyric, etc.) - 6:45-9:15

Saturday, June 13, 2009

New York Trip Day 2

Ok, well this has been one of the greatest days in my short career. If it wasn't the best, it is only second to when I won NATS last November.

It started out with an early breakfast followed by incessant calls to Delta, as I was still trying to get my luggage back. I finally got it at 2:30, so that was good. But, after breakfast I quickly went to the practice rooms to get some singing in before my lesson with French great Audry St. Gil. One funny thing about my practice room was that it was probably the most run down practice room there, and maybe in all of New York City. There was even a pile of animal poop of some kind...I would say medium dog size, but the New York City practice rooms are iffy at best. Anyway, my lesson went great. I sang "Questa o quella" from Rigoletto by Verdi in my lesson. It is my highest and most demanding piece. I rarely do it, unless it is requested. But Audry St. Gil is a genious. She had me sing the piece almost oppositely of what I had originally sang it. She changed it so much, that it has a whole new character and a huge power to it (something we try not to do pedagogically, but is very useful theatrically). One thing she said that came across real well, was that when I gave it my all, she said, "look right here, I actually have goose bumps!"

The definite highlight was the Audition Recital with the Vice President of Columbia Artist Management - one of the very best agents in all the world. Just so you know how an audition goes, I got to pick one song to sing and he picked the second one. An Audition Recital means that it was an audition in a recital setting so all the participants and some of the faculty were there.

I sang "Questa o quella" again, only this time in front of everyone. I was second to last, so I had to follow a lot of very talented singers. But, I sang it in this new way, with potent lyricism and bold high notes. Singing is very much like a sport and we have to plan and strategize the same way. One of my strategies was to hold the high notes as long as I could and release strongly as to give the effect that it was very difficult. I can and prefer to sing it as easy as I can, but people do not feel connected to it, so I have to give the impression that my easy singing is difficult, give the audience something to anticipate and be anxious for. Who wants to hear the tenor sing all the high notes like it's nothing, they cheer for their favorites to do the hardest thing they can and pray that they make it through, and then the audience is left with a feeling of victory. That's what I went in with, and at the very end of the piece, there is a very high note (b flat) and I held it for maybe 4 times longer than I normally would, and I felt that I had even more so I did an embellished turn that leads to an (a flat) and held that until I had no more breath. It is even more impressive because the piano does not play at this part, so I'm just screaming away. Then I sang the final measure and got a great ovation with whistling and hollering. It was awesome!

Then he picked "Dies Bildniss", the same piece that I sang yesterday, only this time I sang with a similar musicality idea, so it was actually vastly different than yesterday. The end of this piece is actually very hard and I just barked it out for all it's worth. I got the same ovation the second time. Amazing! Today was easily the best I have ever sang. Then the Vice President of CAMI gave me some advice on repertoire and roles. He took me aside afterward, and I had already spoken to him for half an hour earlier in the day before he heard me sing, but this time he asked me what my plans are for the future. I told him that I was wanting to go on to the doctoral level and also do Apprentice Programs. He told me that I need to be doing the best apprentice programs like the Metropolitan Opera YAP and Santa Fe YAP. And, sorry internet world, I will leave it at that, so I don't jeopardize anything. But, I was so pleased with his response and interest in me and the reactions of all the musicians there, it meant so much.

Two responses I liked in particular. One was in response to my near ecstasy on my face at the end of the second aria (I was actually about ready to laugh, because I was so happy with how it went) but they said that they knew no one else knew you wanted to laugh but they loved my "victory laugh". Second was from the Vice Pres. of CAMI when he said that my musicality was impeccable with both pieces and he really enjoyed living that moment with me. That meant so much, and that is why we musicians do what we do.

Tomorrow's Schedule: Sunday 6-14

Lesson with Maestro John Di Costanzo - Opera Producer - 10am

Lesson with Joan Krueger - Cecillia Bartolli's Vocal Coach, NYU faculty - 11:20

"The Singer's Body" seminar - 1:30-5:30

Mock American and European Apprentice Program Auditions and Stage Techniques - 6:45-9:30

Friday, June 12, 2009

New York Trip Day 1

WOW! New York is BIG! It's pretty hard to describe unless you are here, but I am having an awesome time so far with a few exceptions.

My day began at 2:45am when we drove to the airport in Kansas City. The computers would not let us check our luggage so we had to do everything manually and we almost missed our flight. We were literally running through the airport to our terminal at 6:30 in the morning - a lot like "Home Alone 2". We got on the plane in time and arrived in New York around 10:30. However, there was one problem, the Kansas City Airport left one of my bags back in Kansas City and I have not received it yet. I am getting somewhat upset so hopefully I will have it by tomorrow afternoon.

After sitting in the airport forever, we were picked up and taken to Sarah Lawrence University and checked in, met the other people attending, had a meeting, and ate dinner. One surprising thing about the people attending was that they were of all ages, not just my age. They probably ranged from 20-50, and came from Russia, New York, Vancouver, Japan, and all over. Another thing (close your eyes Dusti) almost everyone attending were women, and Sopranos nonetheless which means that it will be a loud week. And the only guys attending are all tenors and range from lyric to heldentenor (very interesting for sure).

My voice was really high by the evening so I chose one of my hardest arias to sing at the "Death by Aria" concert, mainly because I wanted to do it while I could easily accomplish it. So I sang "Dies Bildniss ist bezaubernd shoen" from Die Zauberfloete (The Magic Flute) by Mozart. It went very well and there was a distinct murrmur from the back rows as the faculty cooberated. I took that as it must have been very successful. Hopefully, it was. But the rest of the concert was amazing. I just feed off the musicality of all the musicians, it was one of my favorite concerts ever; these singers are amazing.

But, now it's time for bed...and I am ready, I have been up WAY too long!

Tomorrow's Schedule: Saturday 6-13

Lesson with Audry St. Gil - vocal coach for New York Opera Society and Ecole Normale de Musique de Paris - 10:40

Alexander Technique Introduction - 1:30-2:30

Great Singers seminar - 3:30-5:15

Audition Recital with Ken Benson - Vice-President of Columbia Artists Management - 6:45-9

Thursday, June 11, 2009

New York Trip Day 0

Well, it's off to see the world, or New York that is. I am very excited and nervous to see what tomorrow might bring. I have everything packed; I feel overprepared, and I am sure I will learn that I could not have prepared enough for this, but it is the day before and I can not do much more now. I have all the important items: phone, computer, ibuprofen, wallet, and I need to remember to pack my flight itinerary.

In case you do not know what I am doing, I am an aspiring opera singer (tenor) from Kansas. I currently am at Kansas State University trying to complete my Master's of Music in Vocal and Conducting Performance. This summer I am attending Westchester Summer Vocal Institute in New York City.

I pretty much was thrown into this Institute, without knowing too much about it. I am very excited to be around other singers, pre-professional and professional, which I have really needed this last year. But going into this, I am really trying to find out where exactly I fit in the world of opera. I am only 24, so I have quite a while to go, but was accepted to a very select Institute in New York, and I am very excited to listen to the other singers and hear what the top professionals in the opera world have to say about my voice.

I will let you know the good, the bad, and the ugly as I test the waters of the professional world in the Big Apple.

Tomorrow's Schedule: Friday 6-12

wake up at - 2:45a
leave KC - 6:30a
arrive in NY - 10:30a
register - 3:30p
meeting - 5:30p
"Death by Aria" Recital - 7:00p (I will be performing "Lenski's Aria" from Eugene Onegin by Tchaikovsky)

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