Posts

A blank summer slate

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What are you doing this summer? Whether or not we have made plans that leave little room for anything else, summer is still a blank slate as we look ahead toward it on May 31. It can be a time for much-needed refreshment, recreation and rest, and/or a time many of us use to accomplish goals we had no time for during the fall, winter and spring. I look forward to some traveling, a bit of singing, and a good deal of writing to keep me busy. I also have delved my attentions into so many books that my desire for mental stimulation should be quite satisfied.

This moment in time gives rise to an important annual rite of passage in looking ahead to what summer should include, accomplish, create, improve, or retire. Taking a break from normalcy over the summer months often gives one a chance to re-evaluate priorities and activities. Is anything currently taking up my time without showing any kind of purpose? Do my activities get me closer to my life goals or are they mere distractions? Do …

Giuseppe Verdi and The Divine Sarah Vaughan

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My career path has opened up into a place in which I have the unique opportunity to create concerts honoring pioneers of the music that resonates deep within my soul. Not many performers have these amazing and challenging opportunities, so I consider the responsibility of caring for the music as it is delivered to the audience to be sacred and extremely meaningful. Artists and composers about whom I have created, arranged, and performed concerts in the past include Ella Fitzgerald, Jimmy Van Heusen, Peggy Lee, Jerome Kern, and J.S. Bach, among countless compilation performances honoring multiple music masters. My next concert celebration, occurring this weekend, consists of performing the passionate and unparalleled Requiem by Giuseppe Verdi at The Peace Center with the Greenville Symphony Orchestra and the Greenville Chorale, conducted by Edvard Tchivzhel. Just two weeks later I will be fronting the best jazz band in Upstate South Carolina, the Greenville Jazz Collective Contemporar…

Journaling

Why should artists journal? What could there possibly be to write about? I have noticed over the past couple of months that I personally journal more than I initially realized I did before I gave it serious thought. To give you a description, I have one journal that I write in like a diary, recording things I am learning, quotations I wish to remember, events that are significant, a daily list of things for which I am thankful, thoughts, feelings, patterns I notice in my life, goals, and other miscellany. Another (separate) journal I maintain on a daily basis is a business log of all the work I complete during the course of a day. This helps me keep track of important contacts, dates of possible future concerts, progress on any projects I am in the middle of, work done at home or away from home, errands run, strategic planning, commissions, songs or articles written, and so forth. Being a self-employed, entrepreneurial, performing artist, composer, and author, this log helps me both a…

Literacy and then some

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I have recently given myself permission to read for pleasure again. This has been a long time coming. I have been elbow-deep in so many creative projects, with even more pressing things on my to-do list related to home maintenance, family obligations, and mundane tasks, that I had begun to view books as "time luxuries" I could not afford. On the contrary, it has been reiterated to me by multiple trusted sources that if I am to remain intellectually sharp and artistically inspired, I must not neglect the important personal growth that devotion to reading great authors' works affords.

That said, in the past thirty days I have gleaned inspiration from books by Twyla Tharp, Sarah Ban Breathnach, Diane Ackerman, Sarah Palin, Eugenia Price and Edith Wharton, among others. Turning toward women whose ideas and/or language mastery enrich my experience has proven to bring a sense of well-being and balance back into a formerly crowded and stressed existence. These women have aptl…

The Importance of Cultivating Taste

In completing my responsibilities as a voting NARAS member (the Recording Academy), I was recently dismayed to discover a downturn in the moral content (and in some respects, musical quality) among the top five contenders for this year's Record of the Year category. Without mentioning any names, all five songs being considered for the prized Grammy award contain lyrics that are highly objectionable, to say the least, and not only to those with traditional, conservative values. Any parent or teacher conscientious about protecting their children/students from filling their ears and minds with downright destructive, obscene, inappropriate-for-any-age messages should be concerned about this trend. So I endeavor now to urge not only those that have the honor (I'm beginning to wonder about that, too... it's a responsibility, to be sure) of deliberating over Grammy awards, but everyone in the listening public, to ramp up their standards of quality, and not to simply tolerate list…

Working Through Illness

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From time to time, everyone must pass through seasons of forced rest and recovery. Often through no fault of our own, we find ourselves exposed to germs at a time when the immune system we rely on is depressed for one reason or another. One mentor of mine phrased it thus: "Sometimes there's just a bug with your name on it." It's important for singers to remember that these times require careful attention to one's instrument. Vocal rest, when there is pain in the throat or larynx, is an absolute necessity. However, much work can still be accomplished during this time-out from singing.

Score study, which too many singers ignore, to their detriment, can still be undertaken while in the sick bed. In fact, this mental practice is every bit as necessary as the physical kind whenever one is preparing music for performance. Too often we picture "practicing" as something we do in the same manner every day, when it needs to be an organic process that ebbs and …

The U.S. Army Voices

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I had the distinct honor and pleasure of spending a week this month with some of the finest musicians and classiest people I have ever met--the distinguished members of the U.S. Army Voices. This ensemble is a highly select vocal ensemble within the elite Army Band known as Pershing's Own. They are the bearers of the singing burden for official government ceremonies in Washington, D.C. including appearances at the Pentagon, White House, Capitol Building, monuments, and Arlington National Cemetery. They also get flown to many different places to sing the national anthem (like the Super Bowl and professional ball games) as well as on international performance tours. The auditions to become accepted into this amazing group are rigorous and competitive, yielding a crop of professional voices that can and do sing everything extraordinarily well. The impressive multitude of styles these individuals sing (not just well, but at amazingly professional levels) includes classical music, sym…