Wednesday, January 30, 2008

lessons I am learning

I was recently asked:

"Who are you?"

in relation to my performing, singing, etc.

Such a simple question, but what a landslide of emotion! This is the one thing that truly distinguishes a "singer" from an "artist." I was a little ashamed when I realized I HAVE NO IDEA.

I stuttered and faltered my way through a pathetic lists of excuses for why I did not know the answer to this question. I have spent the better part of 24 hours contemplating the answer. Don't get me wrong. I know who I am in many respects. I even know that I am capable of being whomever is needed for whatever situation.

The question was posed to me by my current teacher Ann Ostrow who proceeded to remind me: "Remember, an audience looks before it hears." She went on to talk about how they will decide who you are the minute you appear on stage and how MY job is to either fulfill or dispel their expectations. Or both.

She asked if I was: 1. ingenue, 2. sexy, 3. red hot mama. (what is the difference between the latter two, I wonder?) She asked what people see when they see me. OK. So I have to think like the audience, I get the lesson. Then she asked what I WANT them to see. Sheesh.

SO the question is not truly "Who am I?" but "Who do I want everyone to think I am?"

And with that comes the question: is the "who I am" and the "who I want everyone to think I am" supposed to be the same? Or am I required to have two different versions of "Me?" On stage and off? Wouldn't that read to the audience as a "fake?" Or isn't that just what acting is?

I have always thought of myself as a multifaceted gem. You can turn it every which way and see a new shape, a new color, a new part of the gem, but at the end of the day, it is the same hunk of rock it was when it got out of bed and drained an ENTIRE pot of coffee all by itself..whoops, I think I lost the metaphor, there.

Is this the answer? Or am I entirely too caffeinated to adequately convey the immense emotional stress this question has put on me?


Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Yes I sing Opera

That line was starting to sound hollow in my ears after a whole hell of a lot of school and whole heck of nothin' special in the performance world. Truth be told, I found myself passionate about the music, but hesitant to grab the bull by both horns and dive in. Not my style, really, so I was left wondering why I was so reticent.

After an eye opening lesson with Stephen King at Rice, who told me I sounded as though I had been singing Jazz in a bar for the past two years between Musical Theater gigs, (remember I was singing classical music for him!) I felt liberated. Well, actually, first I felt lost and stupid for my seemingly fruitless scholastic efforts. I wallowed in self pity and self deprecation, toyed with the idea of law school, getting my MBA, or moving to Colorado to join a Naturalist Colony. A LOT of soul searching and wrestling with my preconceived debilitating insecurities, and a little help from my friend the baker, and I was...STILL lost.

How does one just shift courses in mid-stride? As a few of you know, (Paul English, Brennan Nase, Ryan Ogrodowicz) I avoided singing jazz like the plague despite my natural affinity for the art form and my OBVIOUS strong connections with a particular Jazz musician in town...(THANKS for the great last name, Baby!) I had had a weird drunken snafu at Ruggles many years ago and was convinced that everyone in town thought I was a hack. (That is how egotistical I am! No one knew me from Adam, but I was SURE they didn't like me! HA!) I was also obsessed with having a separate artistic identity from Paul. I was terrified of the stigma associated with "riding his coattails" so to speak, worried sick that people who asked him if I would be singing anywhere soon(after the Eb5 jam I sang at) were just humoring him and being kind about his silly chick singer wife.

When I was honest with myself, I admitted that musical theater was my true love. I always had to explain to my family that all classical singers are crossover these days...yada yada...I always assumed I would be singing the Lullabies of Broadway more than opera and it never occurred to me that this MIGHT be a sign...

Well, thanks to Glen Ackerman, I was introduced to Ann Ostrow who instantly adopted me artistically speaking. I am looking forward to Stuart Ostrow's MT Workshop in the fall and his Audition class in the spring. I am singing music in my lessons that I LOVE and it feels so good!

Jazz, I feel, is a natural extension of Musical Theater. I am always amazed at how many instrumentalists (at least my age and younger!) have no idea that their favorite tunes in the Real Book came right out of a Broadway show! The beauty of the jazz idiom is that I can sing these beloved songs with my own personality infused instead of the directed and choreographed vision of a director (holding equal merit for me, but a tad limiting).

Also thanks to Glenious, I sang my first gig over Christmas. I was a nervous wreck and really expected the world to crumble around my ears, but no, it went well and the clients were very pleased. I have no idea why Glen trusted me enough to pull that off, but he has always been very encouraging and complimentary of my singing, and I am going to run with that for now!

A random appearance at a big charity function in November led to the next three gigs and suddenly I was making money doing what I love. WHAT A CONCEPT!

The plan is to put together a solo cabaret with Ms O in the next few months. I will let you all know when that will go up. In the meantime, I have been instructed by same to "sing everywhere." Easier said than sung, but ok. Here I go! So if you see me out at a jam, and you are willing to have me sit in, don't let me chicken out! Put a mic in my hands and remind me that the worst that could happen is relatively mild compared to the prospect of never sharing my soul with others through song!