Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Ripped From The Archives

I'm off this week on an adventure with Beloved.  Here's a post from the archives.  See you soon!

People are frequently astonished that I have never seen Breaking Bad, Orange Is The New Black or even Titanic. Yes, it is true.  I've never seen this moment:

For those of you reading this on a mobile device, click here.

Until recently, I couldn't figure out why. At first I blamed it on living in a testoterone-filled house, where there's always a sporting event appearing on at least one screen. But then I realized there are plenty of other screens available for my viewing pleasure.

And then I figured it out. I was missing out on all these small-screen shows and movies because


Obviously, attending live performances is a priority for me. As it should be. I'm a performer and I train performers. I better get out there and see what's going on.

Some of you are able to attend live performances AND watch all of the latest Netflix series. Good for you. Let me know how that works out when you end up with a more-than-full-time career, a husband, a kid AND a house in your life.

I also know that many of you don't attend live performances because you think you're tired, you think you don't have enough money, you get depressed because you're not on the stage, or, because that party your friend is throwing just feels so much more important.

I'm going to encourage you to change your thinking. Here's why:

Enjoyment – When you work as an artist, it is easy to forget that you actually enjoy the art. At least I hope you do. I frequently think of the colleague from my opera years who told me she never attended live performances because she didn't really like opera. I never understood that. Why would she give so much of her time and energy to an art form she didn't like? Especially one as demanding as opera? No offense, but it's not like being an accountant.

I go to performances because I love seeing humans express themselves. I am continually taken with the various ways humans, as a species, have found to express and communicate. Don't you love that feeling of joy or of being moved to tears by a piece of art right in front of your face?

I recently attended a performance of the opera Manon at the Met. I don't like this opera, mostly because I don't like the character Manon. She makes life choices that I cannot understand and I have never found the music that compelling. Well, the performance I recently saw changed my mind. It was everything opera should be – a captivating story well-told through great singing, a great orchestra, a wonderful concept carried out in excellent costumes and sets – but that wasn't the best part. The best part was the last moment of the opera when the character Des Grieux is kneeling over the love of his life, Manon, as she lays dying. (It's an opera, get over it.)  This singer, Vittorio Grigolo let out a cry that was so honest, so compelling, so human. I couldn't help myself. It brought tears to my eyes. It was real.

Everything had been fantastic that afternoon. But that cry....that's why we go, folks.

I am also continually taken with the way we, as consumers of art, respond to live performances. Why do some people respond to one song and not the other? Why do some people love the ballet and not the tango? As a working artist, that's important, because I need to be able to:

Discern – it is true that some of the performances I attend are not of the highest quality. Instead of mentally snarking my way through, I ask myself what would make the performance better. Is it the performers? Is it the direction? Is there a different way to present this same piece of art? Is it the work itself? Is it the venue? I don't stop there. I take it to that next, important step, and I ask myself – how does this apply to my creative work? This is, I suppose, a form of:

Professional Enrichment – which is me using big words. Let me translate. There are wonderful new creative ideas out there, waiting for you, hanging out in the places you haven't thought of yet. They will enrich your work and transform your life. Go find them.  See above story.

Support – I attend many events because I want people to know that I believe in them and I believe that what they have to say is of value. Maybe they don't get it right all of the time, but they're trying. Maybe they'll say one phrase, play one note, move one move that will transform my life. In my book, that's worth sitting through okay moments. In my book, that merits my support. Yours too. And you know what else? Sometimes looking out there and seeing that one face makes all the difference. Be the face.

Yes, frequently I do not want to leave my comfortable house. I still go. It's the Golden Rule in action.  Remember that one? Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Yes, it's true. If you want people to attend your performances, you need to attend theirs.

It's cultivating an attitude of generosity. It's opening yourself up to experiencing something different, to being a good colleague. Besides, you never know who else is going to be in attendance, which means you might have the opportunity to:

Network – That's right, when you attend performances, you're going to rub shoulders with other people in your industry. Most of them tend to be impressed when they meet you at a performance. It says you care, it says you're invested in the form. This is particularly advantageous when you encounter the people who make the hiring decisions. They tend to appear at performances. Rarely do they appear in your living room.

The spring is a wonderful time to attend performances. There's many to choose from and the weather is usually better. So here's your Creatavita challenge.

Attend a live performance or event.  For a double challenge, attend an event that presents a new form to you.

Go to a book signing.  Go hear a singer-songwriter.  Go to an opera. Try something different.

Post your comments here on the blog.  Don't put them on Facebook or Twitter, because not every Creataviter can see them.  I bet we'll get some cool experiences.

Oh, if you need assistance choosing an event, I'm glad to help. You know where to find me.

Gotta go. The show starts in 7 minutes.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Being Stuck

Recently, I've been thinking about being stuck.  You know what I mean - we get stuck in habits that don't serve us or our dreams, we get stuck in all kinds of relationships - friends, professional, lovers - that we allow to keep us from the light, and the worst -  stuck in an unfulfilling job.

When I get stuck, I immediately assume I am the only one who is stuck.  That others might get stuck temporarily, but they can recognize their stuck-ness and climb right out with no collateral damage.  Of course that isn't true.  Of course others are as stuck as I am.  Of course others struggle with being stuck.

And then I stumbled onto this post from the most-excellent Brainpickings blog:

Now, I must give you some background information. Willa Cather is one of my favorite authors.  I like to think that I have much in common with Willa.  Willa grew up in Nebraska; I grew up in Wisconsin.  Willa left the Midwest to settle in New York; I left the Midwest to settle in Philadelphia.  Willa wrestled her entire life trying to merge her creative spirit with the practical nature of the Midwest; me too.  Here's my favorite quote from Willa:

"...that shaggy grass country had gripped me with a passion that I have never been able to shake.  It has been the happiness and the curse of my life."

If you're a creative spirit who struggles with "fitting in", you MUST read Cather's Song of the Lark

Back to the Brainpickings piece about Cather.  Until reading this piece, I had no idea that Willa had struggled so fiercely with the tug between commerce and creativity.  I had no idea that she, just like you and me, had to step out of her comfort zone and take some risks.  She had to leave the well-paying, secure corporate job.  The one that was sucking her soul.  This led me to wonder - what if she hadn't taken that single step?

The world would have never had her beautiful, deeply human stories and words.

What if you're the next Willa Cather?  It's possible.  Willa didn't know what possibilities lay inside of her when she left her cushy job.  I imagine she dreamed that she would be a successful writer, but she didn't know for certain that would happen.  Right?  None of us ever know.

Be like Willa.  Find a way.  Take that first step.  Perhaps it will be difficult.  No, scratch that.  I'm sure it will be difficult.  I'm also sure it will transform your life.

1/21/16 Update:  I've fixed the Song of the Lark broken link.  Click away!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

A Day At The Office

Once upon a time, I was a young and enthusiastic opera singer.  I embraced the opera world fully.
Even auditioning.  I'd truck up to New York, my bag filled with high heels, makeup, fancy dresses, rhinestone jewelry, binders, resumes, maybe a granola bar.  And water.  Always water.  It was an exciting time for me.  I was well-prepared and my resume was spit spot perfect.  Didn't have much on it, but it was perfect.  More about that perfection problem later.

However, there was one area where I was woefully, inadequately, unbelievably, how-did-this-happen prepared - my mental attitude.

You see, at first, I did most auditions on a lark.  I really didn't think I stood a chance (this is where a lack of self-awareness can be dangerously helpful), so I'd bust into the room without a care in the world, sing my aria and just be thrilled that I was singing an audition in the Big Apple.  This attitude actually worked beautifully for me.  Without even trying, I had found the ideal level of "don't careness".  Hence, the music would shine through.  I got lots of interest and quite a few jobs.

Yup, that's me.  Singing Sandman in Hansel & Gretel with Tulsa Opera.  Just a few years ago.

That success made me care more.  Once you get to sit at the big girl's table, you don't want to leave.  In caring more, I made a huge mistake.  I started to wrap my own self-esteem into each audition experience until every audition became a do or die proposition.  Do an audition.  Die until they call you.  Die when they don't call you.  Spend weeks getting over the disappointment.  Repeat.

Then, one day, I was walking down 7th Avenue, headed to an audition, when I ran into the husband of a colleague.  Tim was further along in his career than I was in mine.  He had sung leading roles in both the US and Europe. People in the business knew Tim and his work. I knew him as Jody's husband.

Like a little puppy dog, I said hello. Everything about me oozed inexperience and naivete.  I asked Tim what he was doing in New York and he said he also had an audition.

"Are you nervous?" I asked,  assuming I'd find a comrade for my nervous state.

"Na," he said.  "It's a day at the office.  See you later.  Oh - toi toi toi."

And he crossed the street.

A day at the office.  Those words hit me like a bullet to the forehead.  Wow.  Even though I was in the early years of my career, I could tell that attitude was important.

You see, for Tim, auditioning was something he did all the time.  He didn't wait for the feedback, the phone call, the email before he went to the next audition.  He did an audition, walked out of the room and moved on to the next one.

It took me years to cultivate this attitude.  I still fail sometimes.  But I always return to Tim's words.

A day at the office.

Still me. Still singing. More recently.This time Messiah with the Bach and Handel Society of Jim Thorpe, PA.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

It'll Never Work: 3 Tips to Make New Year's Resolutions Work

I'm back.

Did you miss me?

Boy, did I go into a blogging funk.  Started around the beginning of December and I could not Not NOT pull myself out.  So here I sit in my office on a Sunday night, telling myself to write for 10 minutes.  My own medicine, right?

Since it is a brand new spanking year (welcome 2016!), resolutions are everywhere.  I used to detest New Year's resolutions - they never worked for me.  Then my dear friend Jean changed my life.  You can read about that here.  Now I look forward to the goals and opportunities that a new year brings to my life.

However, if you happen to be one of those folks who think it will never work for you, I will give you three tips to get you started.  That's all.  Only three.  That way you won't feel overwhelmed and you might even give it a try.

#1 - Reflect.  Take some time to think about the good things that happened to you last year.  Try to find three - one in your professional life, one in your personal life and one in your dream life (not your night time dreams, the life you dream about, the life you wish you lived every day).  If you get going, don't stop.  Let it flow!

Here's some of my list:

Booked 2 huge upcoming contracts
Performed 4 completely solo cabarets
Got the Teen out of high school and off to college
Spent quality time with Beloved
Kept creating, especially Navigating
Acted on advice from people I respect, even if I didn't believe
Visited London (finally), Scotland and Columbia

You get the idea...

This exercise will help you start the year with a positive attitude.  You'll be amazed at the good things that happened last year.  You'll likely be more motivated to consider the good things that you might be able to make happen in the upcoming year.

#2 - One Goal.  Choose one, especially if this is feeling like an assignment.  Make it incredibly simple, but specific, like:

Take one weekly dance class for 6 weeks (this is one of my 2016 goals).
Walk for 30 minutes twice a week for 2 weeks.
Eat one less cookie every week.
Attend one audition.
Contact one possible client.

You want a goal that feels easy to accomplish, yet targets an area of your life that matters to you.  See, here's the thing - you'll accomplish that goal.  Then you'll feel successful and that's a marvelous feeling.  We want you to feel successful.  We want you to feel marvelous.  You can then say you're done or you can choose another small goal.

#3 - Find A Buddy.  One person who you can trust when you mess up.  One person who will be empathetic, but motivating.  One person who will check in with you to see how you're doing with your goal.  One person who will celebrate with you when you succeed.  This is the key to my ability to attain goals.  My friend Jean is ideal for me - she listens, she asks the right questions and she doesn't let me off the hook.  You can't use her for your buddy, but I'm happy to try to find you one.

By the way, I've noticed people posting their goals to Facebook and asking the world to hold them accountable this year.  I don't think that's going to work.  You're asking your 693 friends; who's really going to follow up on that for you?  We will all assume one of the other friends is doing it.  Instead, find one.

Interesting...I've been here for more than 10 minutes and this post is ready to go.  Amazing what happens when I just start.