Thursday, October 17, 2013

Loving K-State, Loving Music

Lately, when I am asked where I live, I generally say "the most beautiful place in the world."  There's something about Kansas that I get homesick for when I'm away.  Now living in Manhattan, KS, otherwise known as "the Little Apple" or "Manhappiness," I have realized how few trees one needs to be happy in life.
My photo from the Kanza Prairie Biological Station near Manhattan
My photo from the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve
Don't get me wrong, life isn't plain out here in any way.  I'm plenty busy in Manhattan as K-State is a huge university, nearly 25,000 students strong.  Life at K-State has been exciting.  I have twenty private voice students who are doing very well, and I teach two Italian Diction classes.  In a couple of weeks, I will have 12 students participate in the regional NATS (National Association of Teachers of Singing) auditions.  NATS is an annual voice competition.  My students are working hard, and I am so excited for them to have this experience.  My other students will be at the NCCO (National Collegiate Chorus Organization) convention representing K-State on a national level in Charleston, South Carolina.

A corner of my office, with my Steinway named " Dorothy" and a PEZ style K-State football soda dispenser that my brother made me - I also have a Pavarotti PEZ version as well!
In September, I was able to arrange for some of the K-State opera students to visit the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, meet the world-famous Joyce DiDonato, and watch a dress rehearsal of her with the opera company as they prepare for a production.  Having lived in Manhattan and as an alumnus of K-State, I know what it is like to live in the middle of Kansas AND be a professional musician.  Thankfully, one of the great artistic centers of America is only 100 miles away.  I thought the experience was priceless for our singers to go to Kansas City and see what a professional opera company is like and what the professional work environment is like with some of the world's greatest singers.  Thank you Joyce and the Lyric Opera for welcoming us!
K-State Opera with Met opera stars - Joyce DiDonato, Nicole Cabell, and William Burden
K-State is going through a tremendous time of growth and change.  There is a giant addition to the football stadium, however the football team is not quite on track with our championship caliber teams of the last several years.  Still, I love to go to the games (frankly, because I'm the loudest fan) - quite literally, I went to college to learn how to make loud teachers taught me well.  Sadly, since I was 4 hours late in renewing my season tickets this year, last week was the first time since December of 2002 that I didn't have a ticket to a K-State football game.

Photo from my less than ideal seat at a game this season - I couldn't really see anything downfield
I moved to sit with another professor in a seat that opened up near him - this seat is what I need!
Outside of lessons, I'm currently helping to plan some major events including one of the largest arts events in K-State history called "Rhapsody".  It will be held at the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City on May 3.  I will post all sorts of info on that in the future.

Last week, I sang with the Chorale, and as the voice of Sebastian in "Under the Sea" from The Little Mermaid, in our Songs from the Silver Screen concert.  It was pretty amazing, only because I never get the opportunity to sing songs like that and rock out in front of an audience.  I usually reserve that for my car, and only when no one is around. The concert was the first time my parents, Aunt Rita, and grandparents came for a concert, so they took some much needed photos of the Grammy.  The Chorale normally doesn't perform film music but it was extra special to meet J.A.C. Redford, the orchestrator for The Little Mermaid, Avatar, WALL-E, and many other movies.  In a way, it was really funny to meet him.  We both felt awkward at times during a donor's after-party following the concert as we stood in the corner of the donor's art-filled living room.  Neither of us knew many people there, so having met only minutes before, we began talking.  It turns out we both read the same book over the summer about being introverts!  Appropriately, we talked awhile in the corner of the room away from everyone.  I hope to work with him again sometime.  He loves the Chorale, so I'm sure our paths will cross again, but until then, he is orchestrating the next couple Pixar films!

Next Sunday (Oct. 27) I will be performing Finzi's "Farewell to Arms" for orchestra and solo voice with my good friends, the Village Chamber Choir & Orchestra in Kansas City.  I will give you an overview of that piece next week.


In gearing up for the Opening Ceremony, I can't tell you how excited I am for what I hope will be the greatest ceremony in history.  I watched the Beijing ceremony (again) last night, and that will be a tough show to top, but I suppose you will have your opinions on that come February 7!

In another bit of startling news, the Olympic Flame has now accidentally been extinguished 16 times!

Also, my media interview tally is a daunting 30 now, but I have some exciting plans for once I am in Russia.  I will be doing some live interviews for NBC in the weeks leading up to the games, as well as a couple of interviews for some K-State outlets as well.  It's an exciting time!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Machaut, Machaut, Man

If you didn't read my last post, I'm going to the Olympics!

Tonight, after this posting, I will have a TV interview which will be my 21st media interview within the last week.  Besides the newspapers and online media, I was interviewed by the NBC affiliate in Topeka, KS and am scheduled to be filmed next week for a commercial for K-State.  I can deal with an abundance of work stress, but media stress is another animal.  Essentially, I am asked the same thing 90 different ways, and all the while, I cannot give out much information at all.  Then when I read the articles I think to myself, "well, that could definitely be worded different" or "I wish I had the opportunity to clarify", but I suppose that is what I am left to deal with concerning the media.  All the people who have interviewed me have been wonderful people, it's just a type of stress that I'm not used to.

I am so thankful for the people at K-State and all of the support that I have had.  If you sent me an email last week, I'm slowly culling the herd.  I only have 905 to go - down from over 3,800 at one point!

This weekend I will be singing a couple of concerts with the Kansas City Chorale!  The concert is called "Skyfall: Music from the Silverscreen".  It should be a fun concert of movie music, and if you can't make it, pay close attention to the reviews - I will close the concert with a solo accompanied by the Chorale that is sure to draw some comments.  It will be a lot of fun, and I am so happy to be able to perform with this amazing ensemble!

7:30 Friday, October 11 at Unity Temple on the Plaza, Kansas City, MO
2:00 Sunday, October 13 at Asbury United Methodist Church, Kansas City, MO

My Te Deum Antiqua concerts last weekend went very well, and drew some good reviews.  I cannot wait to see what that group evolves into.  Te Deum Antiqua specializes in early and ancient music, and for modern audiences, it is a refreshingly new experience to hear Perotin, Leonin, Machaut, and the like. 

You're welcome music nerds
Here at K-State, my studio is preparing for NATS - National Association of Teachers of Singing - auditions in Emporia, KS on November 1 & 2.  I will have 11 students participating and you bet you will hear of their accomplishments right here on my blog.  I am so proud of my students and all that they have accomplished in their lessons so far!

Next week, I plan to give an update of things going on here at K-State including the opening of a new recital hall and a K-State opera trip to see Joyce DiDonato at the Lyric Opera of KC.

Lastly, I wanted to share news of some exciting Olympic developments.  In the news this week was that the Sochi games has eclipsed Beijing's record of the most expensive games in history.  

1st - Sochi, Russia 2014 - $51 billion (and counting)
2nd - Beijing, China 2008 - $43 billion
3rd - Athens, Greece 2004 - $15 billion

Most of that price tag is due to all the new stadiums constructed including the Olympic Stadium, as Russia wishes to go "all out" in welcoming the world to Sochi.

Construction on the Olympic Stadium
Construction on the Olympic Stadium
Another bit of news is that the Olympic Torch accidentally went out by my count at least 4 times.  They are working on the ignition system, so that hopefully won't be a problem in the long run.  Thankfully, there are several emergency lanterns that always travel with the torch, so the true continuous flame will eventually make its way to the Opening Ceremony.

As to the torch's design:  "Its form reminds of the feather of the magic bird, which is said to bring good fortune and happiness. Its pattern is something that all Russians have been familiar with since childhood, when they first hear the fairy-tales and legends about the Firebird, or the Phoenix which rose from the ashes."

(if you're not a classical music person, ALL OF US are immediately thinking of a certain Stravinsky ballet the moment they read the torch description above - so I'll do you a favor and embed an excerpt)

Oh, I love the 7/4 finale!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Living a Dream

Hello, world!

It has been ages since my last post and frankly, I've lived a lifetime in the last several months.  While my personal life was in turmoil, I have had some great professional and academic achievements.  I do not know how I withstood all that without going crazy (and perhaps I did for a time!), but I am back at it - and back to my blog!

Since I last wrote, I have performed numerous times as a soloist to mostly sold-out performances at the Kauffman Center in Kansas City with the KC Symphony's Education Concerts, Bach's Mass in B Minor with Te Deum on my birthday no less, and Britten's Rejoice in the Lamb with the Kansas City Chorale.  I also performed in the chorus of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony with the UMKC Conservatory at the Kauffman Center.  Anyone who knows me well, knows how viscerally I love Beethoven symphonies!  I also performed as the Evangelist for Bach's St. John Passion, one of the most mentally challenging roles out there, and performed as a soloist with the Flint Hills Masterworks Chorale during a death-defying stretch of 15 concerts in 9 days.  I'm not joking!  And my Spring schedule rounded out with organizing the KSU Summer Choral Institute followed by a week of recording with the immaculate Simon Carrington Chamber Singers.  

Amid the noise, I also completed my Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the Conservatory of Music and Dance at the University of Missouri Kansas City.  So, I'm officially Dr. Pinkall!!  AND at that same time, I also applied to an Instructor of Music position at my Alma Mater, Kansas State University, and was offered the job.  I feel like the luckiest person in the world - there's no place that I'd rather be!  Obviously, I didn't think twice about accepting, and I have since started my first semester teaching at K-State.

Unfortunately, with a break-neck recording and performance schedule, completing my Doctorate, applying and auditioning for my first position in academia, organizing a large summer music program, and suffering some enormous challenges in my personal life - I missed the deadline by a few hours to renew my season football tickets at K-State.  I had been a season ticket holder for 10 years!  Ugh!

With all of that and despite the loss of my football seats in Section 15, I can safely say that I am enjoying the stability of working at K-State!  I am loving my massive private studio of 20 amazing singers and I teach two Italian Diction classes.  I still perform with the Kansas City Chorale, it is one of my favorite things.  And I have added some concerts with a new group called Te Deum Antiqua.  Our first two concerts are this Saturday and Sunday in Kansas City!


However, today is a special day.  I want to announce something two years in the making.  I went through testing, language proficiencies, and interviews during that time for a very unique gig. I want my friends and family to know that I cannot say any specific information until after the event, but a few weeks ago, I received word that I had been selected by the Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games to join the group tasked with the production of the Opening Ceremony in Sochi, Russia!

I will help in the management, production, and performance of the event itself, and will travel to Russia prior to the games to be on site with final preparations.

This is a complete dream come true for me in many ways.  My passion for the Olympics runs deep, and their ceremonies are likely the largest artistic event in the world.  I cannot fully express my gratitude to the Organizing Committee for this opportunity.  I cannot say any specifics on my role in the preparation or performance of the Opening Ceremony at this time since some of these details are highly secretive at the moment. Those involved with the ceremonies have agreed to keep sensitive information from the public until after the opening night.  That doesn't mean I can't talk about it - it just means that I have to be careful with what I say.

The Opening Ceremony will be on February 7, 2014 and will be broadcast to an estimated 2 billion people!

With that said though, I will once again provide weekly posts on this blog and track my progress to the Olympics as well as other happenings at K-State and with my many performances!

Thank you to Kansas State University and the Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games for their flexibility in this process.  I am so excited!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Ceremonial Music 101: So, the Pope resigned...

February has come to an end, and there are several very exciting moments on the horizon.  As many of you know, I have an obsession with ceremonial music and one of the biggest world events of the year will occur next month in Rome.

Pope Benedict XVI has resigned, but we can look forward to some awesome ceremonial music within the election of his successor.  Benedict is the first Pope since 1415 to resign, and interestingly of the 265 Popes in history, only 9 have resigned and 3 of them have been named Benedict.  One of these, Benedict IX (1012-1056) has an incredible history.  He was elected Pope as a teenager - he was from a powerful family that produced 7 popes!  Famously, he was the first actively homosexual pope, and even more amazing, he was pope 3 times.  He was eventually removed by force twice and but initially was convinced to resign by selling the papacy to his godfather, becoming the only Pope to sell the papacy.

Believe it or not, this is Pope Benedict XVI with the last pope to resign voluntarily, Pope Celestine V in 1294!
Nevertheless, this rare event brings with it some exciting and ancient traditions that display some of the greatest musical gems in history.

So here is what to expect

Interregnum - this is the time between popes.  Obviously, since Benedict XVI hasn't died, then there will not be the normal funeral that has preceded most papal elections, so for that matter I won't bother you with the music details of that.  Instead this period will be highlighted by the soon-to-begin Conclave, which must begin within 21 days of the vacancy.  They will begin the Conclave with a morning Votive Mass for the Election of the Pope.  The music for the mass will be performed by the Schola cantorum or the papal choir using the old Gregorian chant originating from the 8th Century A.D.

Unfortunately for many music history professors (and the Catholic Encyclopedia) who teach this incorrectly, Gregorian chant was not created by Pope Gregory the Great (590-604), but actually was a melding of several different chant traditions commissioned by the Carolingian Family in the 8th Century.  Charlemagne was a member of this family and once he became Holy Roman Emperor, this Gregorian chant spread throughout the Christian world and is still the basis for the most solemn masses of the Catholic Church.

For Catholics out there, because it is Lent (the period that leads up to Easter), you will not sing the "Gloria" in the mass, because it is banned if the priests wear purple vestments.  The Votive Mass for the Election of the Pope is one of the only times that the Catholic Church performs the Gloria during Lent as the vestments are red.  Here is the version performed at the papal conclave:

After the votive mass in St. Peter's Basilica, they will process to the Sistine Chapel to the chant Veni Creator Spiritus or Come Creator Spirit.  This 1,100-year-old hymn always begins the Papal Conclave:

The Vote - The College of Cardinals then vote by secret ballot and whoever receives a super-majority (more than 2/3rds of the vote) is elected Pope.  The ballots are then burned and white smoke billows out of the chimney for the public to see.  If no pope has been elected after a vote, a chemical is added to the ballots and the smoke appears black.
Sistine Chapel 
The Inauguration - At the Inauguration Mass of the Pope, he will receive his ring and pallium (a band of cloth around his neck).  All the Cardinals enter from the tomb of the first pope, the Apostle Peter, in St. Peter's Basilica and then parade out to the crowd of thousands in St. Peter's Square, while chanting the Litany of Saints - a short repetitive chant asking an enormous list of saints for their help and guidance.
St. Peter's Basilica
Altar in St. Peter's Basilica
The mass is chanted and special anthems and ancient hymns are performed   One exception to this great collection Roman Catholic music history is the recessional which in Benedict XVI's case was the unfortunate choice of Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor!  The oddest part isn't that he programmed a Lutheran's music for a Papal Inauguration, and I don't mean to give any disrespect, because it is a beautiful musical decision.  But, amid the American media clamoring and showing pictures when he was in the Hitler Youth and serving in the Nazi Air Force Reserve, perhaps a less angry Bach selection would have been sufficient?


The Enthronement - The Enthronement is a mass celebrated at the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, where the actual throne, or cathedra, of the Pope rests.  The Basilica of St. Peter is not the most important church in Catholicism, rather it is the nearby Archbasilica that holds the title of the highest ranking church.  Musically, there is one very interesting part of the Enthronement that has left a rather embarrassing mark. The original throne was called stercoraria and made of red marble. It was named that after the anthem that is performed during the Enthronement called "De stercore erigens pauperem" meaning "lifting up the poor out of the dunghill."

The Papal Cathdra (throne) at St. John Lateran
The Coronation - I will be very interested and excited to see if this happens, because no pope has had a Coronation since Pope Paul VI in 1963.  It was a tradition held for nearly 800 years and it involves some very interesting traditions and music.  The Coronation would begin at St. Peter's with a blast of specifically silver trumpets playing Gounod's Himno Pontificio as hundreds of priests, bishops, and cardinals enter down the center aisle and following them the new pope is carried down the center aisle wearing no less than 8 robes on a platform chair surrounded by the Swiss Guard and large fans of feathers!  Meanwhile a long chant of various psalms called the terce is sung.  As the pope is carried on his chair, he is stopped 3 times and a bundle of weeds is burned before his feet, and the procession continues.  The long chant is still sung while all the pope's robes are taken off at the altar so he can wash his hands.  Then 8 other robes are placed on him along with gloves, ring, and hat (Mitre).  Keep in mind the chant is still continuing while all 120 Cardinals individually kneel and kiss the pope's ring one at a time, and finally the procession and the chant is finished.  Poor musicians!
The Pope carried during the Coronation
For musicians, the Coronation is very exciting because it has featured the same mass setting since the 16th Century, and one of the most famous pieces of Renaissance music, Palestrina's Pope Marcellus Mass.  Here is an excerpt of the Sanctus.

The entire ceremony is completely filled with music and the grandest ancient gems in music history - even the readings from the Bible were sung and all the prayers were sung.  During the preparation for communion, the Silveri Symphony was performed by a choir of trumpets.  The highlight of the Coronation was the crowning of the Papal Tiara to the words: "Receive the tiara adorned with three crowns and know that thou art father of princes and kings, the ruler of the world on earth, the vicar of our Savior Jesus Christ, to whom is honor and glory through all ages"

Obviously, being crowned Ruler of the World has its problems in this modern era and the Coronation hasn't been performed in 50 years, but as a musician, it would be great to see a massive event like this only so we can have a better record of its tradition in this modern era.  Only 3 have ever been filmed.

The gigantic papal tiara
If you want to learn more about Ceremonial Music, browse my past projects on the Olympics and other ceremonies right here on my blog!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Dusti and Bryan Experience the GRAMMY's (video episode!)

Experience the GRAMMY's with us in this new blog Episode, which includes broadcast and audience-view video of the GRAMMY wins by Charles Bruffy and the Kansas City Chorale!  The video is in High Definition so click the full screen box at the bottom right of the player for extra excitement!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

GRAMMY Videos coming soon!

Be sure to check back in the following days for two episodes of my blog coverage of the GRAMMY's including video of us going crazy after our victories, video of the red carpet, and video from the after parties.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


See below for a Photo Plot of "How the Camel Got Its Hump"
I am ultimately excited for this week for a couple of reasons - I will be attending the Grammy's and hoping the Chorale can take back some hardware, but mainly for the chance at an actual vacation!  I have had to travel quite often in the past, but it is always stressful and "business" related.  This time, I will be able to enjoy life!  Thank you to everyone who have helped us out so we can attend and dress like belong; we are so thankful for you!

I will be providing a lot of updates (hopefully) via facebook mostly through pictures.  If you are interested in following, my profile is

Of the several events planned for the weekend, I will be attending a rooftop cocktail at sunset in downtown LA on Saturday with a record company.  Then on Sunday, I will attend the GRAMMY Pre-telecast Awards Ceremony and Reception, the Red Carpet, the Primetime GRAMMY Awards Ceremony, and Wolfgang Puck's GRAMMY Celebration Afterparty.  You can follow all of these events live at this Sunday starting at Noon O'clock Pacific Time.


As for other news this week, our neighbors had a kitchen fire, burning-up their microwave oven, and filling our place with the most vile and bitter smoke.  Unfortunately, this directly led to my sinuses becoming unbearably packed with gunk.  I normally would not mind, but I had a voice competition the following day.  I nearly cancelled, but I have never cancelled in the past and I didn't want to break that record even though I had a tough, up-hill battle.  So what were my strategies to overcome my smoke damaged voice?

1. I warmed up two pots of hot water with my coffee maker and drank it all - this is a trick I learned after traveling often and having to sing on the same day as your flight arrives.  Many times plane flights can dry out your vocal chords due to the environment in the plane cabin, so lots of warm water is a great remedy for many voice ailments.

2. Don't over-practice.  It's tough to keep yourself from warming-up if you're in bad voice, but if your voice is swollen, using it too forcefully can cause more friction and damage your voice even further.  Warm-up soft and very slow, while drinking all that warm water!

3. Blow your nose! This goes for everyone who sniffles at all.  If you are a singer and sniff up your snot every time it drains, you are just packing gunk in your sinuses where you need air to vibrate when you sing, plus you can inflame your throat if you swallow and cough up all that mucous.  Sniffling may be an habitual problem for some people, but blowing your nose will help you breathe easier, give you an easier and more resonant production of sound, and make it more enjoyable to sing.

As for the result of the competition, well, I was pleased that I was physically and vocally able to complete the audition.  It went better than I expected - I didn't win, but I tried as best as I could given the circumstances.


And now for your amusement, here is a Photo Plot from the opera for children that I was in "How the Camel Got Its Hump" by Leah Pulatie

The lovely "orchestra" begins the Overture
Prologue - Royce wants us to act out his favorite story, "How the Camel Got Its Hump"
The Ox, Horse, and Dog have to work hard at the beginning of the world and the Camel isn't helping!
The Animals plead with the Camel to help out
"It isn't fair, Camel, that you aren't helping us out and we're doing all the work"
The Horse has an idea - to ask the Camel nicely
The Horse pleads with the Camel to help - but the Camel ignores everyone saying only, "Humph"
The Horse has an idea - to go to the Man for help
The Animals bring a formal complaint to the Man about the Camel
The Animals plead with the Man to help
The Animals make a formal complaint to the Man that it isn't fair for the Camel to be lazy
The Animals pout because the Man won't bother helping
The Camel, who only says "Humph," protests any work - he even finds going on strike to be too much work!! - but he sure feels lonely and would like some friends
The Ox hears a strange might be a genie!
The Animals summon the genie
The Animals summon the magical Djinn of the desert to help
The Animals summon the magical Djinn
The Djinn, a genie, has appeared!!
The Djinn performs magic tricks
The Animals plead their case to the Djinn
The Djinn will help out the Animals!!!
The Animals find and capture the Camel in the audience
The Camel is captured by the Animals and the Djinn
The Djinn of the Desert helps the Animals and gives the Camel a giant hump
The Camel gets his hump!
Ox teaches Camel how to work
The Camel decides to help out his new friends with his new hump

Lesson - You'll get the Cameelious Hump if you don't lend a hand!
Curtain Call    

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