Friday, June 12, 2009

Catchin' UP

Wow! Time flies when you're busy... I know... a month is way to long to go without posting something, but... nonetheless.

Well, Don Giovanni went well last month. We had two performances - one on a Friday evening and the other on the Sunday afternoon of the same weekend. It was low key in the sense that it was basically a concert version with some minor staging, in a small space in the McLean Community Center. We had good sized audiences both performances and many people contacted us to say they would like to see more performances. We are slated to sing in DC in July - a condensed version of the program. It looks like the workings of a new opera company are forming. If I didn't have to work full-time, I would spend more time helping with the business side of it, but as it is right now, there are other folks who have come "out of the woodwork" to see if they can't make it happen. In fact, John Turner, the gentleman who organized the show originally, got a call from someone who used to work for the Orlando opera doing publicity, etc., so hopefully that will lead to something bigger so that we can see greater things come to the McLean area.

I gotta say though, that Elvira was definitely a challenge for me. I'm glad I sang the role, but boy(!) what a workout! I was sweatin' buckets after each performance and though I was physically tired, I was not vocally washed. I am so excited about that because that means that I am singing right - using the body and taking all the pressure off the chords. In fact, I sang at a musical fireside (the term used in the LDS church for a spiritual gathering consisting of music and spoken word) only about 1.5 hours after we finished DG, and had no problem singing. I was still in great voice! (Now the next day was another story! LOL. I felt like I had been hit by a freight train! Sort of like a runner the day after running a marathon.) But I rested up and was back to the grinding stone a couple days later.

I met shortly thereafter with Carmen to get my music assignment for the festival in San Francisco this summer. I don't think I've mentioned this, but I was invited to sing at the InterHarmony Music Festival in San Fran this summer for two weeks. I am sooo excited about this opp because I will be singing mostly chamber music - excerpts from Faure's "La Bonne Chanson" and from Rachmaninoff's opuses. (As a bit of trivia, I just looked up the plural for "opus" and found that that it is the word "opera" - or some use "opuses." Isn't THAT interesting! I can't say I'm at all surprised - makes perfect sense that many opuses would constitute an opera.) Anyways... along with the chamber music we'll sing some other arias and art songs. We'll be staying on the San Fran State Univ. campus. I am very much looking forward to that! Stay posted for pics of performances from the Wharf and of Phase 10 card games - a great favorite of those going!

I recently returned from Chicago to attend the Classical Singer Convention. While I took away some very good information and a couple of great contacts, I have to say that I was a little disappointed with the convention as a whole. I think the intention to provide classes and information for singers of all stages, the focus was so much on the University aged singer that I really didn't learn anything that I didn't already know. However, I had a wonderful AFE (audition feedback experience) where I sang for Mr. Hines who works with Chicago Lyric, and Stephen Goldberg who directs for the Indianapolis Opera. Both were very complimentary and then gave me some very good feedback as to my coloratura style and how to clean it up. They were very constructive and left me with many good resources for study and even a coaching recommendation. I was very impressed with their sincere interest in my progression as a singer.

Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for my friends who did not have as good an AFE. Neither one really got the type of feedback that I did - meaning it was not helpful. We were very discouraged by that. Most of the masterclasses that we attended were geared toward young singers - the singers in them were not developed with their characters, etc., so I felt like I was the audience to what would be a lesson with one of my students. Ah well...

There was a very good class from the director of an opera company in New York State (the name escapes me at the moment) about how to make it to the top and stay there. This was very encouraging because I realized that with a couple more years of focused study/work, I could be singing for bigger houses. He said that most singers don't make it to the top because they aren't willing to put in the hard work. There are so many singers in the middle that could be on top, but just aren't willing to give what is required. I was very glad to hear that since many times as singers we think it's for lack of talent... not so!

Other than that, there was not much to be had from that convention. However, I did get to see one of my favorite teacher/singers - Dr. Alfonso Anderson who teaches at UNLV. I met him when I was at AIMS. He is such a plethora of good information and such a wonderful teacher. I sang briefly for him and he gave me some very good reminders about my sound as it pertains to my support. I really enjoy being around that wonderful man. It was so good to see him!

Well, it's now busy, busy, busy. I'm going to try to put together a recital in the next couple of weeks to help raise money for the cost to sing at the festival in San Fran. (I think sometimes I bite off too much...), but I have to remember that singing for me is another full time job on top of the already full-time job that I have. [sigh]

OH! One other thing... looking forward to returning from San Fran as I will be singing for an agent in New York... I'll definitely keep ya'll posted on how that goes.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Healthy or Unhealthy??

As promised, I am focusing this entry on how foods that we eat and lifestyle habits that we have created for ourselves have an effect on our singing.

I am not going to go into a huge novel about nutrition, but rather to give my insights into how what I eat affects my singing. For a little history... my face used to look like the "before" picture on the marketing brochure for the acne fighting product Acutane. In fact, I was probably their biggest user! After the third treatment over the course of 5 years, I decided that my liver and body had had enough of its extremely destructive contents - beside the fact that it was not working! My massage therapist at the time, who also has a degree in nutrition, suggested that I try the holistic approach to getting rid of the acne. She explained that next to the colon, our skin is the largest excreting organ in our bodies and so whatever our body does not process, it comes out from our skin.

She then introduced me to a juice fast which I decided to do. Again, I will forgo the gruelling details, but over the course of 40 days, I drank only fruit and vegetable juices, tea and water. I lost 25 pounds, and ALL of the acne. After going back on solid foods, I determined that I was allergic to dairy (since within hours of eating it, I started to break out, and just hours of not eating it, the acne went away), so I completely removed it from my diet - eating soy products and drinking soy milk. (Incidentally, later I found out that the process for which soy milk is made, causes the end product to coat the intestines such that other nutrients are prevented from entering the blood stream.) So, I immediately switched to drinking rice milk (which I LOVE).

I gained 10 pounds back, and have stayed at that weight since that fast. My body achieved more energy, my brain and eyesight, more clarity and my overall health and what I eat was changed forever. How did this affect my singing?... well, I didn't get as sick as often, because I wasn't eating dairy (which causes extra mucus to develop, which is a bacteria magnet!), and so I spent more time in my music and less time in bed. It wasn't until more recently that I discovered how my breathing and onset directly affects the sound that is produced. (see my post called "The Breath of Life.") But to continue, I want to talk about other foods that can adversely affect us.

Any amount of sugar in our bodies will affect us, for good or bad. So, I try to eat foods that have less sugar - that are more alkaline and less acidic. Acidity causes yeast and sugar to develop and grow - not a good combination. This also produces more mucus - again, bacteria's favorite camping spot. I'm not a huge fruit eater, although, I LOVE grapefruit (very alkaline) as opposed to oranges (very acidic), and tend to eat more melons - high in water and less acidic. I don't eat very much red meat (the occasional burger or steak here or there), and I prefer fish over chicken. Some would argue that meat is bad altogether, but my motto is "moderation in all things." Our bodies need animal protein to heal. If you are a vegetarian and don't get much animal protein in your diet, you may find that a cut will not heal as quickly as with us "meat eaters." Red meat and chicken, however, are acidic meats - not when on your plate, but as your body processes them, they produce more acid and therefore turn into sugar - the bad sugar. Fish, on the other hand, is much more alkaline, and is very high in omega 3's - great for your heart. Then, of course, in the warmer month's, I consume as many greens as I can, and in the raw, ORGANIC form. That juice fast got me hooked onto organic foods. I have a hard time eating especially fruits and veggies that are not organic. The taste is AWFUL! Sometimes I feel like I can't get enough greens. These foods open up our pores and allow our bodies to breathe more - giving us more energy. During the cold months, I eat more veggies that come out of the ground (potatoes, rutabagas, etc.) and then increase the legumes. These foods do the opposite of greens - create an insulation for our body, requiring less energy to keep us warm, giving us more energy to fight off unwanted viruses or bacteria.

So, what does all this have to do with singing? Well, I'm hoping that you're getting the idea by now. If we keep ourselves healthy, our singing will be healthy. We will not have extra phlegm on our vocal chords, preventing bacteria and other viruses from spreading, we will have more of that desperately needed energy and our minds and bodies will have more clarity - something I need when pouring my heart and soul into a character.

Now, onto lifestyle. I'm not going to shake my finger at my readers and tell them what they can and can't do because that is their decision. But, I would recommend, again, moderation in all things. If you're a smoker, however, everyone knows that is NOT good for anyone, so I hope that you make every effort to quit. If you drink alcohol, be careful about this too. I don't know all the consequences for drinking or not drinking and some would argue that a glass of wine with dinner is good for you. I don't know that, so I'm coming to you from my personal perspective. Because of my religious beliefs, I chose, at a very young age, to not drink alcohol or to use any addictive substances (I'm still struggling with mint chocolate chip ice cream - yes, we all have our vices), and so I have never tasted alcohol and don't plan to. And everyone has the choice...

So why am I bringing this up? Because just like my ice cream craving, you might crave something that you know is not good for you, but you consume it anyway. Since my allergy discovery, I have done a fairly good job of staying away from dairy, but every once in a while, I have to have a huge bowl of ice cream. Do I know how I will feel the next day, and for the next week while my body is trying to rid itself of the garbage I just fed it? Of course! I go through that mental fight every time, and usually, my better judgment wins. But the times that it doesn't, I am regretting eating it for the next five days and every time I sing during that "recovery" phase. So, do your body a favor, and don't consume those things that are not good for you, or that your body will react to adversely.

On the other side of the coin is performance habits. How do our everyday habits directly affect our practice and performance habits? Notice I am calling them habits, because we are creatures of habit, AND "practice makes habit" NOT perfection. I mention this concept in my post "The Decision" but will elaborate here for this post's purpose. I had been struggling with a particular passage in an aria and this time, my all-knowing voice teacher, Carmen, helped me discover that it was not that I didn't know the music, but how I was practicing it. She had spent many lessons teaching me about how to correctly adjust vowels in the higher tessituras and how to study my music so that I am learning it correctly, etc. And all the time I was struggling, I had her voice in my head telling me what to do in order to fix something. Yet, I wouldn't do it. I was letting myself be the victim.

We then discovered that there were other things in my life that were not "in order." I live alone, so it gets easy to get lazy and let the laundry go unfolded, or the bed unmade, or the dishes undried - no one else is around to criticize it. I am not a dirty person, so my house isn't dirty, but, I had allowed myself to get out of the habit of being consistent with the upkeep of my house - the day-to-day things. Or I would put off folding the laundry for a couple of days while it sat on my living room chair. I realized that this was showing in my singing habits as well. I was getting lazy with my technique. I had all the tools, but I wasn't using them. And I was hurting myself as a result! Ugh!

Fortunately, I made the decision that I was going to change that. Since then, my house and singing have been much cleaner. Granted, I'll let the house slip a little, but it is very rare that I will let the singing slip. THAT is something I vowed to "upkeep." So, take a few minutes and think about the things in your life that might be a little "out of sorts" and then decide to fix them. Maybe you need to eat healthier foods, start an exercise regimen, plan better so that you are not procrastinating, spend 15 minutes each day picking up the clutter around your house, etc. See if that doesn't help change how you sing! It did for me and I am enjoying every minute of it!

Reference: The information about the pH levels in food can be found in the book, "The pH Miracle: Balance Your Diet, Reclaim Your Health" by Robert O. Young and Shelley Redford Young. I highly recommend it!

New Pics from Recent Shows...

Here are some pics from my most recent show, "L'elisir d'amore" with the Loudoun Lyric Opera. We performed this in March 2009 with the Loudoun Symphony Orchestra. It was GREAT fun. Teri Bickam beautifully sang the role of Adina, Auriello Dominguez was magnificent as Nemorino (his "Una Furtiva" was stunning), Jason Buckwalter was hysterical as Belcore and Daryl Ott played the Dr. Dulcamara very well, and I sang the role of Giannetta. The chorus was wonderful and the whole production a great memory. What a nice group of people to work with! I have to give a compliment to the orchestra, conducted by Mark Allen McCoy. They were very gracious and such a compliment to the singers! A first for both companies: the collaboration was a huge success.

These photos are from "Die Fledermaus" that I sang in, also with the Loudoun Lyric Opera - last April (2008). You can see more photos on my website -

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Breath of Life...

I made another "discovery" a few weeks ago whose results were made very apparent while teaching voice lessons this past week. Again, this is something I've known for a long time and even practiced on myself, but it was made evident again, when teaching one of my lovely students, Eva. She is a senior in high school and while she does not plan to study music at this point, she is very dedicated and loves to sing; not to mention, she has a beautiful voice with lots of potential.

For the past couple of months, she had been struggling with the clarity of her high notes. She has such a free sound and an extremely high range - "Queen of the Night" material. Her high tessitura requires little work, yet we were getting so much phlegm at about her high C and above. While it was not an issue all of the time, and we were getting some very clear notes about half the time, I was blaming it on allergies and her diet. Over the ensuing weeks, she cut down on dairy and told me that she wasn't having many allergy issues, yet the phlegm kept coming back. It finally occurred to me that the way in which she was inhaling was gravely affecting her onset and phonation.

I had thought about this a few times prior, but unfortunately, had just not put two and two together. (Yes, teaching, like singing, is a lot of trial and error.) Needless to say, during her lesson this past week, it hit me - like a freight train. This was something that I had struggled with for years, and had to conquer myself, and have observed that many singers deal with this problem. So, it's not surprising that the discovery was that she, too, was a "victim" of her breathing habits. The great thing, is that she decided right then (see post called "The Decision"), that she was not going to be a victim to her unhealthy breathing habits any longer. When I explained to her that the way she breathes directly determines the kind of sound she is going to get, she decided that she wanted clarity and freedom in her sound, and so she was going to breathe with clarity and freedom. Before this decision, her breathing was fast, shallow and extremely husky - almost grinding. It was very audible. And not just when she sang. She breathed that way when she spoke as well.

She determined that she was going to discontinue the unhealthy habit of husky inhalation and allow her breath to be quiet and inaudible. The results were fascinating! She did a complete 360 degree turn-around with her sound in a few short minutes. The phlegm went away and in a few short exercises, she was free of its chains. We then had a lesson this past week. Because she was getting over a cold, her sound was a little airy due to the swelling of her chords, but there was no phlegm to be found and her sound was much more healthy. She also commented to me that her speaking voice had obtained more clarity (which I also noted) and that her friends were commenting on her efforts to make the positive change.

This change did not come without mental concentration and focus, however. In order for this to count, Eva had to unlearn a very old habit so that she could re-learn a new one. She had to carefully scrutinize her every breath (literally) and make the conscious effort to slow down when she inhaled, and to release the tongue so that it would not be in the way of her breathing. This allowed her to access the complete breath, as well as prevent the collection of phlegm in her throat and on her chords that was getting in the way of the sound. (Not to mention, probably a breeding ground for bacteria that causes sickness - more on that in my next post.)

Congratulations, Eva! You're on your way to discovering the freedom that comes from healthy singing!

In my next post, I am going to discuss more about how what we eat, how we breath and how our habits outside of singing directly affect our singing. Stay tuned!!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Up and Coming...

Since my last post was along the philosophical line, I thought I would give you an update on what I have in the pike for the next couple of months. I am deep into rehearsals for Don Giovanni and really enjoying that. I love the role, Donna Elvira. I am her. (no, really, I am...) We perform that on May 15th and 17th. It will be sung in Italian as a concert version with piano accompaniment and English surtitles.

I will then be singing in a competition on May 11th in New York. Looking forward to getting away for a day and being one of the many fish in a very small and over-loaded pond. Any chance to be heard...

Shortly after that, I will be putting together an audition cd with a couple of new arias for a competition that I hope to be selected for, in June. More on that, if I make it into the competition.

Then, at the end of June, I will be traveling to San Francisco to participate in the InterHarmony summer program. I'll be singing for the famous Bay Area in concerts with my voice teacher, other singers and chamber orchestra. Can't wait for that! Voice lessons and coachings each day, performing, and perhaps a couple of auditions for some bigger houses. Again, more chances to be heard.

I'll update with pics of Giovanni when I have some to share. bye for now.
The Decision

Since changing my blog's purpose, I have come to realize that my entries before this were mostly a travel/event log about what I've been doing - not very interesting. Going forward, I plan to use this more as a writing forum or journal, if you will, about my discoveries while singing and studying the beautiful art form of opera. I hope that my entries will inspire and help other singers and students of music to be better musicians and, indeed, better people.

I had a voice lesson last night with my wonderful voice therapist, Carmen Balthrop. I call her my voice therapist because her teaching is therapy for my voice, as well as my soul. She teaches more than just singing technique or about the voice. She goes way beyond that to help her students understand a lot about themselves as a human being and how that affects their singing person. We re-discovered last night that unless one is going to make a decision about what they are going to do or, in this case, how they are going to sing, then they are usually unsuccessful in their singing. Carmen then applied this to our lives - if we do not make decisions about how we are going to live them - and these are every day, minute-by-minute decisions, then we are nothing more than puppets to our own "craziness." And while we look at ourselves as not crazy, others might see us as crazy, based on the decisions that we do or don't make.

I mentioned that this was a re-discovery, as opposed to a new discovery... this is because we had talked about this concept of making decisions before, but not in the way that it struck me last night. I realized last night that if we decide not to make a decision one way or the other, and are basically sitting on the fence, then our lives are in limbo. Just like if someone will not decide the career path they want to take, then they are on hold until they make that decision and move forward. Until then, they are stuck in the same place, having no progress.

It is the exact same with singing. A person either decides that he/she is going to involve him/herself with the character, therefore connecting with that character, and delivering a performance based on those human experiences and qualities, or it is going to be one long mental fight of "am I breathing right?," "am I supporting my sound enough?," "what does that translation mean again?," "I hope I look ok," "Oh no, here comes that high note that I am scared of...hopefully I'm relaxed enough to hit it," "I hope the judges will see how good a singer I am," and on and on and on. But, if we decide to be the character that we are singing about, and allow them to come alive through our own personal, real or imagined experiences, then all of that "craziness" goes away, clearing our minds and giving that clarity to the audience, which is what they paid for, and to us, which is what we have worked so hard to achieve.

Here's an example straight from my lesson that I will share. We were doing the "drill" where you sing through your audition pieces and touching on any difficult spots, or spots that need polishing. This particular piece is full of very long, legato phrases, that require a lot of breath support all the way through the phrase, etc. It also has a high D toward the end of the song that is intended to be sung at a mezzo piano, rather than a loud "bang" that so many arias tend to end on. I had just come into my lesson fighting traffic on the beltway during rush hour, with an accident, and so I was a little stressed - my muscles pretty tense.

Instead of doing warm-ups, we jumped right into the piece. This was all on purpose, I found out later. But, right from the beginning, I had trouble with the breath support and phrasing and, of course, the high notes. About 2 pages in, Carmen asked, "when are you going to decide that you are going to sing this correctly?" Meaning, you have not decided yet, that you are going to allow the character to be a part of you, and as soon as you do, let me know, so that we can move on, because right now, it's holding us up. LOL. Yes - I did laugh out loud! She then used a great technique where, as the student is singing each phrase, she calls out the inner monologue of the next phrase, helping the student to focus on staying in character. Almost immediately, all of the "craziness" that was going on in my head (the dialogue, the fears, the insecurities, the tension, etc.) went away, my body and sound were more relaxed, the breath support became easier, and I was taken to another level of singing. To an extent, I was that character.

This sensation was nothing new to me, for it had happened countless times before on the stage during rehearsals, performances, auditions, competitions and recitals. But this was the first time it had occurred so early on during a voice lesson. Carmen helped me understand that we can enjoy this new level of singing right at the start of singing, and it can be enjoyed every time we sing - whether we are warming up, or an hour into a performance. BUT, and this is a BIG but, we have to DECIDE that we are going to take ourselves to that level. Does this mean that we are going to sing each note perfectly and sing with the energy and physical strength each time? No. We are human. We may not be able to sing each time as we would in a performance, but we can be involved with the character as much - in our minds. And through that involvement, we have an indescribable enjoyment that only so few have experienced, even just a few times in their lives. So, we can hum the melody, or sing the high notes down an octave, or sing just some of the notes with the rest of the tune going on in our minds... whatever we feel we can physically handle in that moment. But, we can do it with the highest level of enjoyment... if we allow ourselves to.

I decided that I was going to live that moment at the highest level that I was capable of - at that time. As I do more of this, I believe that I will be able to raise the bar, and not for just some singing occasions, but for all of them.

I also want to point out that the times I have been most in touch with my character are the times that I have been less nervous, more focused and most relaxed. I'm not worried about forgetting the words, or being able to convey the meaning of the music. I'm not worried about the other singers, the judges, people in the audience, or what they might think of my performance. I am completely focused on what I have to offer my audience, and how my performance will compare to previous performances of my own: the healthy form of competition singing.

Lastly, here's something to consider again; imagine what would happen if we decided that we would live every aspect of our life with this type of enjoyment. I'd like to think that perhaps we may be able to live on cloud 9, or 5 or 10 - whatever cloud we want to be on... if we decide to allow ourselves to.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

This is something I'm doing for my sister-in-law... she promised to send me a wild and crazy gift by the end of the year, but in order to get it, I have to post something to my blog... so, here it is. Here's to you Trina!!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Wow! Another seven months since my last entry. I gotta get better at updating this blog!

To pick-up from where I left off, I sang at the competition and did not make the top five singers. But I am very happy with my performance and my voice teacher actually ended up being one of the judges for the final round and said that I should have made it to the final round (she viewed a recording I had made of my performance). That was very encouraging since she is a very reliable critic and would not tell me something that was not true about my performing - believe me... she has been honest since day one and would not have encouraged me to enter the competition if she didn't think I was ready.

Anyway, it was a great experience and I met some wonderful people.

Shortly after that competition, I took part in Richard Crittenden's summer workshop program again - participating in both workshops in the evenings. It was challenging - mostly because I didn't have my music as ready as I would have liked, and Richard always motivates his singers to do better by being very critical (which is a good thing, if you want to improve). I thoroughly enjoyed it again, however and hopefully honed my skills in even more.
In September of 2008 I sang with the brand new opera company, Barcroft Opera Theater as Susanna in the production of Le Nozze di Figaro. That was a very interesting experience. I'll summarize by saying that the cast was great, but full of drama. And, unfortunately, the director only allowed the show four weeks for rehearsals which was entirely insufficient, and then he ended up in the hospital a week before the performance with a staff infection.... very scary. Needless to say, we pulled a semi-staged version of it together, which seemed to be a success, and the director recovered very well. I LOVE the role of Suzanna and if I had to pick one to sing for the rest of my life, that would be one of them. I am waiting for the video recording of it, but here is a pic or two from the show.

After "Figaro," I was asked to be the cover for Lauretta for Loudoun Lyric's production of Gianni Schicci. That was a fun opportunity. They coupled the one-act opera with a recital of Puccini music, which I got to sing in as well. The cast was full of fun and talented singers. I just love singing opera - you meet such wonderful people (most of the time) and get to enjoy many different dynamics in others.

The Christmas season was full of wonderful singing opportunities as it always is. I was the director of my church music program for our Christmas service, at which I sang a duet, and then sang as the soloist for "The Messiah" at another church. I just love that piece as well. I also visited my parents for Christmas and was able to perform at their church. I thoroughly enjoyed that. I am so blessed by the talents that I have been given.

I am working right now on singing the role of Gianetta for Loudoun Lyric Opera's production of "L'elisir d'amore." Again, a wonderful cast of people and this time, we are singing with a full orchestra. I am very excited about that since it's been a few years since I've been able to sing with orchestra. That will be in early March.

Directly following that, I will be hitting the books again to prepare for the role of Donna Elvira in Mozart's "Don Giovanni." I'm performing with my colleagues for a production put on by my colleagues. We are soliciting smaller orchestra groups for collaboration for a concert version, but right now, that performance is slated for May - concert version, with piano accompaniment. Two weeks after that, it's off to Chicago for the Classical Singer convention. I am very excited for that since my friend Becky Morris - a contralto, will be there, along with many other singers and directors, etc. I am excited about the audition comps there and learning more about the opera world.

As mentioned, the Lord has been so good to me - giving me opportunities to develop my talents and to share my love of music with others. I am truly grateful to him and my loved ones for their support. Music - a gateway to the soul. Check out my website for more pics and info.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

It's been about a year since I've written, so I thought I would do a quick summary of this past year's activities:

Work with new teacher, Carmen Balthrop
Singing various roles with Loudoun Lyric Opera
Opera Workshop classes with Richard Crittenden

Yep, that about sums it up! I have had a spectacular experience working with this "genius" of a singer - Carmen. I had been working with another wonderful teacher and friend, Donna Zapola-Connolly, but I was having to travel to Jersey to take lessons with her and the cost and time to do it was hard. So I looked for a teacher locally and found Carmen. I joke with her that she is more of a music therapist than a voice teacher. She has helped me find my voice in every sense of the word. I thank God every day that he guided my footsteps to her. For the first time since I can remember, I am having FUN singing, and my voice is the wonderful product of that fun.

I sang the role of Adele in "Die Fledermaus" with the Loudoun Lyric Opera this past Spring. I had a great experience and met a lot of wonderful, dedicated singers. Since then, I have sung at various fund raising functions with them. Sorry - I don't have any pics from that experience. I have video, but not sure how to put a clip on the blog.

Most recently, I entered a voice competition with the Maryland Opera Society. I have not sung in a competition for about 4 years, so I was a little hesitant. However, Carmen encouraged that if I don't start now, I will never start - "you have to start somewhere." Well, I made it past the first round and was chosen with 9 other singers to sing in the semi-final round this coming Friday afternoon at Harmony Hall in Fort Washington, MD - see a picture of the hall above.

I am very excited for this opportunity and look forward to having fun on stage instead of feeling mind-boggling nervous. If I pass the semi-final round, I will sing in the final round two days later against four other singers for prize money. I am very excited and am looking forward to it. I am sure that the training I have received from Richard Crittenden will also help with my performance. He is also the kindest of men and is somewhat of a genius as well. He teaches techniques that WORK!

I have truly been blessed by these wonderfully kind people who have sprinkled some of their ingenuity and love for music on me and I hope that I can share those blessings with others. I'll be working much more with Richard this summer as I participate again in his summer workshops. It will be a little tricky this time around since I am doing the program part-time (can't afford to miss work) and will only be rehearsing in the evenings, but I am so excited to be doing it again and hope that I will learn more and hone my skills in even further.

Future plans: Audition, audition, audition. This is the only way to have more and more opportunities. I've thought about school, but don't feel an urgency to apply again at this stage. Looking back, I think my applying was solely to introduce me to Carmen Balthrop and so I am grateful for that whole arduous process. At my age, school may or may not be the best thing and I am making enough connections that hopefully I can move forward with a career without more schooling. But, the Man upstairs is really the one in control of all of this, so I'll go along with what he guides. Hopefully with those auditions will come sponsorships and more work. I'll keep "you" all posted.