Tuesday, November 29, 2011


It's my annual hajj to New York for auditions.  This year, I was invited to audition for New Jersey Opera, Pine Mountain Opera, Saratoga Opera, and Opera North.  In the past, I blanketed many applications to all corners of the Nation, but this year I was very specific about the programs that I would be auditioning for.  I already have a gig in June, and my schedule would have to work around that.

But before I get to my trip, earlier today I went over to Joyce DiDonato's place here in Kansas City to pick up several items that she is donating to be auctioned for a scholarship through my charity KCVI (Kansas City Vocal Institute). The items are posters from her recent production of La donna del lago by Rossini at La Scala signed by her and other cast members including Juan Diego Florez!  How exciting!!  For those who think I am just saying gibberish, in plainspeak:  One of the world's greatest and most famous sopranos donated an autographed poster of a show that she starred in at arguably the greatest opera house on earth along with one of the world's greatest and most famous tenors.  She has been very excited to be part of this, and I am so thankful that she has been able to help.  She's amazing!

Now on to this week. I am very excited for this little trip...here is my top 10 list of things to do:

1. Drink Water from my Coffee Maker - Nothing is better than using the coffee maker to make really hot water.  For some reason, hot water is like an instant warm-up for me.  New York is a hard place to audition because it is incredibly difficult to find places to warm-up.  I am pretty much limited to humming for several hours while I'm on public transportation or just walking down 7th avenue.  But nothing gets my chords going like hot water!

2. Get a Metrocard - In the past, I stayed in New Jersey, took the train into Manhattan, and walked everywhere on my own.  Well, the last time I was there, if you remember, I sprained both of my ankles - likely exacerbated by all this walking .  This time I will use public transportation!

3. Show Up Early - I am very anxious about schedules, so I tend to show up early for important things.  "Important" generally means football games, meals, and any music related event.

4.  Find Captain, the 25-year old Opera-singing Parrot that went missing in New York two days ago.

5.  Eat Somewhere New - One of my favorite things about New York is the food.  Last time, at a Cuban restaurant, I got Oxtail Soup, Moro Rice w/ Beans, and Fried Sweet Plantains...my mouth is watering just remembering it...

6.  Buy Something Nice for My Wife - I don't get permission to go to New York without a price.  I'm thinking of something boutique but unique.  Like this beautiful cigarette necklace...

Or this amazing pair of designer shoes...

They kind of match this bathroom hat...

7.  Visit Ground Zero - They have recently finished the National 9/11 Memorial and I want to visit and see what all they have done with the site.  Believe it or not, I have to apply for passes to get into the memorial, but I have been accepted and I am looking forward to it.

8.  Visit the Met - Handel's opera Rodelinda plays tomorrow night, and students can get great ticket discounts.  The greatest part is that one of my favorite singers of all time, Renee Fleming, is the title role!  The following video is of her singing "I'll be Home for Christmas".

9. Star in Another Movie - Last year, my wife and I were extras in the now released motion picture "Tower Heist".  Hopefully, I can accidentally be a starring extra or crowd member in a movie more oscar worthy this year.

10.  Visit My Favorite Store - The Poptart Store!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Busyness Business

Hopefully everyone had a great time looking at my Basilio pictures.  And for your entertainment (and my embarrassment) here is yet another one from my facebook page.

I had several muses for the role, including a friendly drag queen and Jack Sparrow.

Hopefully, I will now be able to retire this character.  Where are all the heroic tenor roles?  I once had to play the role of a Rhinestone Cowboy in a Pasatieri opera.  I suppose I just give off some weird vibes in my opera auditions.

Anyway, I am very thankful to have a week free to celebrate Thanksgiving, watch football, and relax.  I haven't talked very much about my upcoming schedule, but it is packed with all kinds of awesome things.


Once again, I have several auditions in New York next week.  I am trying to get them all during the same period so I don't have to make too many trips out there.  My schedule is packed as it is.  Anyway, for this trip, the companies that I received invitations from are New Jersey Opera, Saratoga Opera, Pine Mountain Opera, and (tentatively) Opera North.

Following that, I will be the tenor soloist in Messiah at Calvary Bible College on December 2 in Kansas City. I am so lucky to be just the kind of tenor that Messiah was meant for.  I have a feeling that I will have a lifetime of Christmas and Easter Messiah productions.  Luckily, I really enjoying singing the tenor arias, unlike many tenors.  The Baroque period was very unkind to tenors...the castrati ruined everything!

Also at the beginning of December, I will be singing with the Conservatory Choirs in their Christmas festival concert at Visitation Catholic Church on December 3rd.  We will use this unique space to sing some antiphonal pieces.

On the evening of the 10th of December, I have been asked to sing at the holiday party for a major American railroad company at Union Station in Kansas City.  I will sing some classical holiday selections in what will be an incredible venue for music, as the cavernous marble-laden lobby will certainly echo music like an enormous cathedral would.

The following day, December 11, I will be singing a Lessons and Carols concert with the Spire Symphonic Chorus at the Community of Christ Peace Temple, which is one of the most amazing music venues that I know of.  The concert will feature one of my good friends and certainly one of the world's greatest organists, Jan Kraybill.

On December 13, I am very excited for a special audition for the Kansas City Symphony that I was generously offered.  I don't have much to say about it right now other than it requires my Cyrillic Alphabet reading skills.

The following weekend, I will be singing with the Kansas City Symphony and the Kansas City Symphony Chorus in their Christmas Festival.  It will certainly be a blast and DON'T MISS IT IF YOU LIVE IN THE AREA!  There are many performances, and it will get you in the Christmas spirit.  Of course, this concert will be in Helzberg Hall at the beautiful Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts.

Additionally, I will be a soloist for a couple of concerts with the Village Symphony and Chorus on December 18 in their "Tidings of Joy" Christmas festival.  As you can see, if you need to get some extra Christmas spirit in you, just hang out with me!!  Unfortunately, I can get a little grouchy, scroogey, and grinchy with my life being a near endless stream of Christmas music.  (It can become annoying in a way...similar to how I can't ever figure out the words to Wooly Bully, and then it gets stuck in my head because I like the tune, which means I have to whistle it, all the while I still can't figure out the words, and frustration ensues.)  Christmas music so easily gets stuck in my head, partly because it is enjoyable or perhaps it is just simple and catchy, and becomes annoying over a long period of time if that is all that I can think about!  Nevertheless, I hope to see you in the audience, as these concerts will be a lot of fun!

I will soon have a lot more to say about my schedule for next year.  I am performing a recital in January dedicated to the memory of those lost in the Soviet genocide of the Volga Germans 70 years ago, featuring a new song cycle based on Volga German folk tunes written by composer John Mueter especially for this occasion.  I am so thankful for the work that he produced, and the enthusiasm that he had for writing this. And the day before the recital, I will be a soloist in a Bach cantata back at the beautiful Visitation church. 

In February, I will be singing with the Kansas City Symphony Chorus at the Kauffman Center in their production of Mahler's Second and I will be singing with the Conservatory Choirs later that month in a production of Carmina Burana also at the Kauffman Center.  

In March, I will be Don Jose in La tragedie de Carmen at the Conservatory, and then competing at the regional NATSAA competition in Chicago.  

In April, I will be singing with the Conservatory Symphony and Choir in a production of Chen Yi's Chinese Myths at the Kauffman Center and I will be a soloist for a production of the Pulitzer Prize winning composition The Little Match Girl Passion at Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral in Kansas City.

And finally, I will be singing in a world premiere of a new Libby Moyer comic opera in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania for Capitol Opera at the Whitacre Center in June.

Next week, I will have information about the celebrities participating in this year's KCVI Celebrity Auction! I'm so excited to tell you all about it, but I'll hold you in suspense until then.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Basilio - Self Portraits with Cell Phone

Le Nozze di Figaro
(The Marriage of Figaro)
Comedy by W.A. Mozart

Conservatory of Music and Dance
University of Missouri - Kansas City
White Recital Hall
Thursday, November 17 - Sunday, November 20

(I'm Basilio by the way - I am a music teacher who loves to snoop in on other people's business, mess with their lives for my own entertainment, and am struggling to weasel my way into the upper class...oh, and I'm a total fop - how ridiculous can it get?)


Monday, November 14, 2011

Opera University: Auditions 101 (week 4)

Week 1 - Ego
Week 2 - Self-Promotion
Week 3 - The Audition

The Life of an Artist
"Passion = Lots of Rejection, Little Pay, Long Hours, and Happiness"

Perhaps you have a similar profession, but the life of an artist is not easy.  Essentially, artists are trained to express themselves in abstract ways - and in my case, singing.  And it is not only the expression, but the way it is expressed that is most meaningful.  For some arts, perfection is idolized, for others it is ingenuity.  All of the arts have their own rules, but in the end, it comes down to an idea and how it is conveyed.

For most people, they go to local stores to find wall decor - "art" - because it "looks pretty".  It may look gorgeous, I'm not arguing that, but if you are not observing it in a way that is expressing something, then it really isn't art - it's a craft.  All this means is that it is created for a specific purpose - e.g. plugging up a blank spot or hole that you punched in the wall.

Now, not all artists think this way, some just sing because they're great at it.  But, the business of it all is centered around these crazy ideas of expression and perfection.  Perfection is a tough thing to accomplish!  But all of this is highly enjoyable for most artists, because it is a work that even on the worst days we still enjoy doing.  Many have a misconception that an artist's days are filled with having fun and goofing off, but that couldn't be further from the truth.  They are long hours of micromanagers perfecting something for the sake of "art".  We know not everyone will view what we do artistically (they may go to the opera because their wife made them) but I have worked in construction, in education, in churches, in Boy Scouts, in all kinds of fields, and the hardest working and most devoted workers that I know are all musicians.  And, they love it!  The hardest part is dealing with the rest of life.

In general, we pay money to have companies reject us many times over, have to deal with family/friends asking us about the eventual rejections, get crappy pay for highly competitive gigs, are constantly critiqued in every possible way by reviews and by other musicians, work the strangest schedules (my rehearsal schedule today is 2pm-11pm), work weekends, have gigs on all the major holidays, hours of practice in solitude, AND THEN pay the bills, car loans, eat, sleep, write your blog entry, etc.  It can be very unforgiving.

For those interested in living "the life", just know what it takes.  It takes sacrifice - you probably won't see your friends for long periods of time, and they will probably stop calling you and asking you to do things assuming that you are too busy.  It takes guts - you are of course letting the world judge you constantly.  It takes pride - because you may be the only one who understands how hard it was to get that bad-paying gig in the Middle-of-Nowhere, America.  It takes devotion, and it certainly helps when you have a great support structure (e.g. family, friends).

I have heard several times about the difficulties of being a singer and being married.  Of course, mostly divorced people gave the lectures, but in general, it is difficult.  The obvious difficulties are work, eat, sleep, talk, and travel schedules, but besides that, it's a piece of cake!  I know everyone has unique difficulties with their own lives and marriages, but I have to give a ton of credit to my wife, for letting me do what I do.  She has to put up with a LOT of troubles, and she certainly doesn't get enough credit or attention from anyone for her devotion.  It can be annoying when people are only interested in your husband's weird profession and don't ask her what she has to go through, or just how her life is going, and yet she still is very supportive and devoted!  What a gal!

So, it's a tough life, but certainly not impossible, and it is very very rewarding.  You get to do what you love to do, and you make people happy along the way.  It truly is very rewarding.


Yesterday, I was the tenor soloist for a production of Messiah by the East Hill Singers.  This was one of the most amazing groups that I have ever performed with.  The singers were a mix of local singers and prisoners from the federal penitentiary in Lansing.  They genuinely love to sing (Handel no less), make amazing music for hundreds of people, and then get to meet with their families and friends for a moment after the concert.  They are genuine people with big souls, giving their service and lives to something bigger than themselves.  What an amazing experience!

Finally, I have many schedule additions.  Please check my website for more information - www.bryanpinkall.com.  I will have a lot more about future stuff next week!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Opera University: Auditions 101 (week 3)

Week 1 - Ego
Week 2 - Self-Promotion

Week 3
The Audition
"Nerves and Uncontrollable Shaking, Fainting, Peeing, and Vomiting"

Imagine that you are preparing for your daughter's wedding.  Amazingly, everything is going just as planned.  The extended family is already running around drunk with table runners draped on their heads, while the groom's aunts are rearranging all the flower arrangements that you have so carefully put together, and following them is your four-year-old niece who is pulling out the petals from all the roses leaving scores of bright green stumps on the sides of the church pew aisles.  I know it's not all good, but be honest, you just KNEW this was going to happen.  So, it's no surprise that it did.

The ceremony goes as planned - in this case, we're assuming you thought they would both say "I do" - and now it is on to the dance.  Upon your arrival to the luxurious Knights of Columbus agriculture showroom at the County Fairgrounds, fixed with the appropriate number of kegs and the best polka band in state, you notice that the cake hasn't arrived.  The problem is that your cake decorator is taking too long to deliver as she is having complicated issues at another wedding party in the parish center downtown.  You must go there, pick the cake up, and take it back to your daughter's wedding party.

You arrive downtown and the decorator gives you the pristine cake, one that will soon be smashed into the face of your daughter and new son-in-law.  You mindlessly hold it, and then...you freak out.  This was a dangerous and scary job, to carry the wedding cake.

What are you thinking?...
You don't have the skill to do this?...
What if you drop it?...
Your palms sweat...what if you trip?....

You will certainly ruin the wedding if you ruin the cake, a wedding that couldn't be ruined by the ring bearing puppy "Boozer" taking a tinkle on two pew ends and Aunt Edna's walker on the way to being dragged to the altar by your flower decapitating niece.

But, you calm yourself down, what's the worst that could happen?...

That's right.  The worst can happen!

Here's the problem with auditioning.  I know you are nervous.  I've auditioned a hundred times and still get nervous, but it all comes down to your mental preparation.  If you think all of those negative thoughts, you are only feeding The Beast.  You are only going to make it harder for yourself to do well.  Instead you should be thinking only that you are going to do your very best.

Before you go into the audition, make sure you have your music.  Go ahead, check and make sure 10 times, until your OCD calms down.  Make sure that you look professional - not frumpy, not too sexy - just look your best.  And by the time you go to the Door Moderator to check-in, you should have already sung and warmed-up.  Now, here's where it gets easier and harder.  The hard part is that you have to wait, and the easy part is that you don't have to do anything else, other than wait.  This is the worst part of performing - hands down!  Some keep their mind occupied; I try to fall asleep.  My mind is usually going a million miles an hour, so I try to relax as much as possible.  Now obviously, I don't go to sleep, I just try to get my breathing and heartbeat slower.

My name is called, the door is opening, my hands are sweating, my heart is pounding, but I make a slow and professional walk to the crook of the piano.  I wait until they are ready, slowly and with projection announce my songs, and off we go!

The simpler you can make the process the easier it will be, but you must know yourself.  You must know what your nervous habits are and sometimes it takes other people to point them out to you.  For some, it may be that their hand juts out to the side on high notes, or that they cease making facial reactions and look like Ben Stein.  Going down the list, another common one is that women will fiddle with the bottom of their skirt and inadvertently start pulling the skirt up! There's no need to give them a show!  I know others who get so nervous that they have to vomit in the bathroom before they go on.

What is being nervous?  To clarify (this goes without even saying) that nerves are horribly hard to control when they are already out of control.

Honestly, the best way to overcome this is to (1) be prepared, (2) keep your mind in the moment, and (3) get experience.  If you struggle with nerves, you should be practicing how you handle nervous situations by putting yourself in nervous situations.  Ask people if they will watch you perform to see what nervous twitches you have.  You may be doing things that you never knew about!  And when it comes to your performance, be confident in how you look, walk, breathe, and sing.  And at the very least, fake yourself out, and pretend to be confident.  The more you perform, the more comfortable you will become at performing.

Next time:
(the last post in this series)

Week 4
The Life of an Artist
"Passion = Lots of Rejection, Little Pay, Long Hours, and Happiness"

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