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!

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