Wednesday, September 24, 2014

What Are YOU Starting With?! Maintaining Your Zen in the Audition Waiting Room

The audition season is upon us: the time of year when YAP Tracker alerts have the power to incite instant panic, joy, fear, hope and disappointment (hopefully not all at the same time). The application process, from start to finish, is expensive and arduous. If we don’t live in a popular audition city, traveling to our auditions can be expensive and arduous. Making sure we sound and look our very best on audition day can be expensive and arduous. Much of fall and winter (heck, much of every season) is spent planning and preparing for the four to six minutes we might get in front of an audition panel.

Auditions are a special beast. We have roughly the equivalent of a long commercial break to convince a panel that the talent and skill we’ve invested our time and money in are worthy of their time and money. Auditions ask us to walk into a room of people we probably don’t know with music we’ve spent months or years learning, memorizing, and polishing, and perform it with a pianist we’ve likely never collaborated with before. We have to be skilled at reading the room to see what kind of mood the panel is in and show enough personality to make us memorable, but not abrasive. We need to stand out in a sea of other sopranos in pretty jewel-toned wrap dresses and nude heels. We naturally spend a lot of time worrying over our aria package—what our starting piece says about us, what we know of their season, what the girl before you started with, what they’ll pick second, or weather they'll even pick a second piece at all!

All of this is to say that the audition room itself is a minefield. It’s important that we are in our best possible mental space to accomplish what we set out to from the moment we set foot in the room. So what to do about that crucial time in the waiting room (or hallway or stairwell) right before the all-important moment? Well, no two of us are exactly alike, but here are some of the basics:

1. Pack Right
The things you surround yourself in the final hour of audition preparation have the potential to be centering, calming, and anchoring. Find a favorite water bottle, make sure you always have that lipstick that just pops, and tuck your inspirational message du jour into the back of your binder. Familiar objects can become your talismans for audition luck.

2. Take Your Time
Few things can throw off your game like having to battle traffic or slow public transit and cutting it too close for your audition slot, so whenever possible, give yourself the luxury of time. Make your own personal judgment call about the appropriate time to arrive that will give you the space you need to leave the bustle of outside behind and get your game face on. 

3. Respect the Rituals
Some of us are talkers, some of us are strong silent types, some of us like to engage in yogic breathing and wall sits. Whatever your pre-singing style, know it and own it. If you’re a talker, be aware that not everyone likes engaging with a Chatty Cathy right before they sing. If you need solitude, be polite but remove yourself as much as possible. Pro Tip: Headphones are a universal sign for “leave me alone,” and your waiting room-mates won’t even know if you don’t have music playing!

4. Resist Shoptalk
There’s a time and a place for shoptalk. I love it as much as the next soprano. But if it sets you on edge to have someone pick apart your aria package or your choice of starting piece (and who could blame you), disengage and see Tip #3. If you happen to meet someone who you seem to really click with, plan to have a celebratory cocktail after and get down to brass tacks.

5. Beware of Frenemies
I like to believe that most of us sopranos are generous, humble folk who understand that while engaging in this line of work is competitive, we’ll get further by supporting one another than by ripping each other down. But I have encountered enough diva-rific behavior (across all voice types) to know that there are certainly exceptions to this. And sometimes it can come wrapped in a friendly-looking package, only to betray its rotten core later. In any case, know that those who try to intimidate or make you feel inferior are a) not worth your attention, and b) likely compensating for their cripplingly low self-esteem, which is totally their problem, not yours.

I look forward to seeing you all around the halls of Nola this season. Good luck and Godspeed!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

One-Minute Eggs

         Ah, the opera life: frequent travels, numerous auditions, countless hotel stays…and rarely a kitchen to be found.  So, what do you do for the nutrition that is so essential to keeping you going? Do you go the “take-out” route, buying quick, heavy meals that slow you down and take a chunk out of you wallet? Do you go the “starving artist” route and only buy snacks when you are about as famished as you can physically handle? Or do you go the Sexi route and improvise healthy meals that are budget- and travel- friendly and can be made and stored with the bare minimum preparation essentials? Option 3 for us, please! 

         Think of your standard hotel room. There’s no stovetop, no oven, and no utensils or kitchen gadgets, except maybe a pack of plastic cutlery and those heat-safe coffee cups. You’ve got a microwave. And forget the full-sized refrigerator and freezer…you’ll have to make due with a compact mini fridge, at best. But guess what-you can do it, and in enough time to stick to your busy schedule! For this recipe, we give you shopping suggestions for items that can be accommodated by a mini fridge, how to use those few items provided by the hotel, and a recipe for a versatile and healthy breakfast scramble or power snack that takes no time at all to pick you up and get you going! To keep it even more budget-friendly, we give you suggestions to use up any leftovers so you don’t have to throw the rest of those groceries away before the next leg of your travels! Keep this one close, Sexi fans, it’ll come in handy!

One-Minute Eggs
Shopping List
Half-dozen large eggs (If they only have dozens, ask the grocer-they will often split the package for you!)
Pint of low-fat white milk (Or look for the single serve bottles!)
Small package low-fat shredded cheese

2 eggs
splash of milk
1 tbsp shredded cheese
salt and pepper, to taste (the hotel usually provides small salt and pepper packets with the coffee supplies! If not, see our “notes” section on getting creative!)

Crack eggs into microwavable cup. Add a splash of milk. Mix with a fork until combined. Microwave on HIGH for 30 seconds. Stir again with fork. Microwave again on HIGH for another 30-45 seconds, or until eggs are set. Top with shredded cheese and microwave 10 seconds. Enjoy!

Serving Suggestions/Leftover Ideas/Notes
-Don’t have salt and pepper, or want more condiments (like ketchup)? Get creative! Ask in your hotel’s lobby, or, if you do happen to visit a restaurant or eatery, grab a few extra to bring back with you!

-Not sure if your hotel is going to have microwavable cups? Before you travel (or if there’s one near where you are staying), stop at a dollar store and pick yourself up a ceramic mug. Keep it with you when you travel so you know you always have a cooking vessel! (Again, you can always ask at the hotel lobby, too!)

-Want to add a little variety? Add pre-diced veggies and your favorite coldcuts to your shopping list. Mix a couple of tablespoons of veggies and a piece or two of torn deli meat in to eggs before microwaving!

Using up leftovers: you can always repeat this yummy recipe the next morning, but here are some other ways to use your ingredients!

-Add low carb, high fiber tortilla or English muffins to your shopping list. Prepare eggs as directed (or with veggies and deli meat) and place on either a tortilla or English muffin. Microwave 10 seconds for a yummy breakfast burrito, quesadilla, or sandwich!

-Like ‘em poached? Crack your egg into the cup and add 1 cup of water. Microwave for about 60 seconds or until desired yolk consistency is reached. Remove egg carefully from water using spoon and fork. Add a pouch of microwavable brown rice to your shopping list and serve it under your poached egg! Add a little shredded cheese on top and you’ve got yourself one fancy microwave meal!

-Simple: Have a yummy glass of milk for a protein-packed refresher during your day!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Tumbling Tenor to Dynamic Director: Dean Anthony's no BS Guide to Standing Out

Dean Anthony opened the door to his St. Louis home and all at once I was hit by his energy like a bolt of lightening. He captivated me with his excitement and passion as we quickly began talking like we were old friends. His energy is quite contagious, spreading to those around him like wildfire; I could feel my own anticipation for the interview building. With the enthusiasm of a kid in a candy store, Dean provided me with a tour of his eclectic home. We entered his basement, I realized that two careers as a singer and director were not enough for a fireball like Dean; he is also an entrepreneur! I was surprised to find that his basement is where he runs a successful stagecraft and prop business.
Lets get right to it. I loved his advice to singers and made the first chapter in a long line (hopefully) of Dean Anthony guides to come.

1. Be smart: Use your resources. These days there is countless information at your fingertips. With the help of smart phones you have the tools to find almost everything about the people you are singing for in the audition room. Use it to your advantage.

"Find out all you can about the people you are singing for.  It’s so important you know who is sitting behind the desk. If you Google me, you would find out that physicality and movement are extremely important to the type of work I do. That should then tell you that I’d prefer that you don’t just stand and sing."

2. Ten Second Rule: How do you present yourself when you walk into the room to audition? There is a small window of time in which you have to show you are friendly, professional, and personable.

“Back it the day when I was auditioning, I knew I had about ten seconds to make an impression. TEN... That’s it… and before I even sang a note! Sometimes, it can be that first moment you say hello. Be real, be normal, and have some personality. Most of us hearing auditions WANT you to be great.”
3. The “Like” Factor: Mr. Anthony has a BIG pet peeve when singers use the word “like” twelve times in the middle of a sentence. In fact he will call you out on it, over and over. In fact, he brought it up three different times in the interview.

“Can you hold a conversation with me without saying the word ‘like’ over and over?  It drives me crazy! Look, if I send you to a fancy patron’s party with major donors, I’d prefer you have elegance in the way you speak!”

4. Have Character: This is an obvious one, but more of a problem than you’d think. Don’t just stand in the crook of the piano and expect to entice them with your gorgeous instrument. Many singers have pretty voices, but are they committing to the moment?

“Did you process this audition dramatically? Have you planned out your arias? Are you making it up on the spot? Does your character THINK? You don’t have to do a somersault, but you have to have a plan. We can usually tell if you don’t. Treat EVERY aspect of this craft with respect.”

5. Be Hungry for Change: Be the singer who has researched and prepared for anything, but be open to change, enhancements, adjustments, and overall strengthening of your role as a part of a complete production.

“I want someone who is a hungry, open book, and can take whatever work they have done and still be willing to adjust it, be flexible with it, and crave more. It’s much more enjoyable to do that with performers who are on the same page as you.”

Referring to him as “contagious and infectious,” colleagues and students work hard to meet his high expectations on physically demanding shows. A Dean Anthony show is no snoozer and he gets his actors to think, react, dig, and create. His twenty-five-year background as singer seemed to be all in preparation for the detailed, lively, and entertaining shows he directs. Known in his singing days as the “Tumbling Tenor”, he found his own niche with acrobatics, tumbling, turning and flipping his way through roles.

“I don’t think I ever said no to a stage director regarding physicality or stagecraft. I did some wacky stuff over the years and a lot of people seemed to dig it… and some didn’t. So I just worked for the people that did. Finding my niche was the key for me. It was a great ride.”

Mentor directors Dorothy Danner and David Gatley were hugely influential both in Dean’s singing and directing work. They taught him about a character’s rhythm and how to find it in the music.

“All your character’s physical work falls into place with the music that the composer gives you. I REALLY trust the composer’s rhythm, it sets up the physical work that you need as an actor and also helps with the intricacies in my directing. Composers give you the rhythmic structure that sets up your text, it’s RIGHT THERE! You need to listen and not just be waiting to sing the next phrase.”

Dean’s background in theater led him to a vast amount of repertoire including straight plays, operetta, and opera. These skills were the key points that led him into a career in directing.

“I didn’t set out to be a director. I was asked out of the blue to direct a show and before I knew it, I was performing in it AND directing it. Kind of just thrown to the wolves, I guess. So I just started directing as if I was playing every single role...that’s what I knew.” He pauses, laughs and continues: “I want young singers to think about their character and their body work while doing IPA and Nico translations.”

I can see in his eyes the passion he has for helping young singers. He speaks so intensely to me about his thoughts and I can tell he would give a singer the shirt off his back if he could.

“What I know is that I’ve survived doing this for over thirty years, and I believe I can take a young singer and make them better by the time they leave the room. Sure it’s hard work, but to me, if you aren’t tired or exhausted at the end of my show or after a coaching, there is something wrong.”

Dean believes in everyone; he has specific, demanding expectations that challenge his singers to think. His philosophy and overall goal for each show is to keep his audience on the edge of their seats. He is doing something right, as his career takes off and more and more young singers flock to him for guidance, coachings, and weekly sessions in which he will rip them to shreds and make them into the best actor they can be.

“Part of my job is to help guide singers in this business, but with the ups and downs of the business and with companies scaling down and even disappearing, what’s in the future for these young singers? It’s just not my place to decide, judge, or to interfere with someone's desire to do this. I’m just trying to help them in the best way possible and attempt to give them some tools to survive.”

He has come a long way from being “thrown to the wolves,” and has proven to the world and himself that directing is where he is meant to be. As he says: “The business seems to be buying my B.S. right now. I guess I’ll take it until they don’t.”

Visit Dean's website at

Photo Credit: Amelia Rollings

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Hit-the-Trail Mix

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: staying on track with your diet while on the go is hard! When hunger strikes, it’s so easy to grab the first thing available and usually, that’s not going to keep you powering through your busy day! What if you are craving something sweet or salty? Well, we’ve got it! Our “Hit-the-Trail! Mix” is the perfect companion for any adventure! Its healthy, it will keep you on track, it’s sweet and salty, and it’s perfect for your life on the go! It’s fully customizable so that you can include the ingredients you love most! Make a large batch and store it in an airtight container so it’s always ready when you are! Keep it in your bag when hunger strikes and you’ve just made staying on track while you’re on the go...dare we say…easy?!

Sexi Soprano’s Hit-the-Trail! Mix
1 cup raw almonds
1 cup shelled pistachios
½ cup shelled pumpkin seeds
½ cup dried pineapple
½ cup unsweetened banana chips
1 cup sesame sticks
½ cup dark chocolate covered raisins

Mix and enjoy!

Customized Your Own:
Choose 2- Nuts:
-almonds, pistachios, walnuts, pecans, peanuts, cashews, hazelnuts
Choose 1- Seeds:
-sunflower, pumpkin, flax 
Choose 1-2- Dried fruit:
-banana chips, apricots, pineapple, cranberries, raisins, blueberries
Choose 1- Grains:
-granola, sesame sticks, oats, mini pretzels, popcorn
Choose 1- Something sweet:
-Dark chocolate chips, yogurt raisins, dark chocolate raisins, white chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, butterscotch chips
Choose 1- Something for yourself:
-Wasabi peas, shredded coconut, toasted chick peas, toasted edamame, kale chips

Notes about this recipe:
-When shopping for your ingredients try to stick with unsweetened dried fruits and unsalted or reduced salt nuts and seeds.
-There’s always room for more! If you’d like, add an extra choice of nuts or seeds to boost up the variety!

-To make this super easy snack even more convenient, pre-portion your trail mix into snack-sized plastic bags!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Final Seal: Ben Nye Makeup, The Real Deal

If you’re anything like me (or many performers I know,)  the words “Ben Nye” inspire a feeling of fear and disgust. Thoughts of pancake makeup piled on your face causing humiliating breakouts; praying that the make-up artist at whichever company you work for next will let you use your own base … not something we care to think about.
Let me tell you something, ladies. I’m about to change the way you feel about Ben Nye, perhaps for good. Last summer I had a new set of headshots done. I decided I was going to do it right, so I didn’t have to do it again in another year or two. My beautiful and talented MUA, Olivia Moore  (, did a brilliant job of making me beautiful. When she finished painting my face, she pulled out this little bottle of green liquid. Ben Nye Final Seal. She says it’s far superior to anything made by Urban Decay and a fraction of the price, spritzes my face, and I head downtown for a 4-hour photo shoot.
Can we talk for a minute about how grueling head shots are? I mean, seriously. I have a new-found respect for models and what they do. This is hard work. My face was seriously tired after finishing this photo shoot, and I’m used to singing for hours at a time. When our session was finished, I had foolishly scheduled a 7-hour road trip. I changed into my traveling clothes, got in my car, and headed out on the road.
I was exhausted. And at the end of the day I had to move my life into a new apartment. But when it was over, my makeup was perfect. Seriously. I still wasn’t a true believer, but I was curious.
A couple of months later, I was in the throes of audition season and setting out on my first of several trips to the city. I knew I was in for a series of long days and needed to feel glamorous while simultaneously staying low-maintenance. I remembered the product my MUA had used, and did a web search. A one ounce bottle was just $6.50. What?!? I’ve paid more for lip balm. This surely had to be too good to be true.  I tried it out a couple of days at home before I left. With the exception of blotting once or twice through the day, my makeup stayed put. Perfect. I was astonished.
Fast forward a couple of weeks. I’m in the city for the first trip of the season. And if you’ve spent any amount of time in NY, in the winter you know that going in and out of buildings, the subway, bundling and unbundling to adjust for the heat … not to mention running between audition locations, a girl can work up a sweat! Perfect face. My makeup seriously didn’t budge.
This is the real deal. If you think about it, Ben Nye is meant to withstand the heat of stage lights. It would make perfect sense that this would be a product perfect for everyday use. And it is! It’s become a routine part of my beauty regime. Sensitive skin? No worries. I have allergies and detergent issues, and I use this daily without problems. A two-ounce bottle of Ben Nye lasts me about 10 weeks with everyday use.  At $8.50 for two ounces, this costs just 85 cents per week. Less than a cup of coffee. As a self-proclaimed beauty product junkie, this is more than worth the very small investment.
Try it. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Peanut Butter Greek Yogurt Dip

            Oh, our dear Sexi fans…have we got a treat for you. We are firm believers in the age-old ideal of  “everything in moderation.” Meaning that, while we always try to provide you with healthy recipes that will keep you on track and feeling good, we totally understand (and support!) the need for an occasional splurge. After all, you’ve worked hard and you deserve it! So why are we taking the time to give you a foodie philosophy lesson? We just thought you may need to mentally prepare for the mind-blowing goodness that is this recipe: it’s SO good, not only will you feel like you’re enjoying what could be one of the greatest indulgences you’ve ever laid lips on, you may even find yourself looking around to make sure no one is watching as you use your finger to scrape every last bit of goodness out of the bowl. Then again, it’s so good, you may not even care who’s watching! Seriously, this peanut butter greek yogurt dip tastes sinful, but luckily for us, it’s the exact opposite! What’s better than splurging without actually splurging?!

            So here it is. Let’s start with a little visualization. You know those peanut-shaped peanut butter cookies with the creamy peanut butter filling? The ones that, if you sat down, you could polish off the entire box without batting an eye? Yeah…this dip tastes like that. Like you sat down and scraped that luscious filling out of each and every one of those cookies and filled the bowl with the creamy, peanut butter-y goodness, and then dug in. Are you hooked yet? Now let’s talk about the other wonderful things about this recipe. It’s easy: only 3 ingredients! It’s economical: again, only 3 ingredients (that you probably have on hand anyway!). It’s healthy: loaded with protein! It’s portable: make it ahead of time and keep it in the fridge (if it lasts that long!), and bring a little container with you whenever you’re on the go! It’s super creamy, loaded with flavor, and is so versatile that it pairs well with all of your favorite dippers (or just your spoon)! We could go on an on about this one, but we know you’re probably on the edge of your seat by now so we’ll just go ahead and give it to you. It’s one of our favorites, and we hope it becomes one of yours as well!
Peanut Butter Greek Yogurt Dip
½ cup natural peanut butter
½ cup plain greek yogurt (we used unsweetened, 0% fat)
3 TBSP honey

Mix all ingredients together and serve!

Great with fruit, celery, pretzels, and all of your other favorite healthy dippers!

Notes about this recipe:
-Have a peanut allergy? Sub in almond butter, our Sexi Sunny Butter, or other nut/seed butter of your choice!
-Want to really make this indulgent? Add a few mini chocolate chips!
-For a slightly different flavor, try subbing pure maple syrup for the honey!
-You can make this batch as large or small as you want! Simply double or half as needed. It’s also great to share with friends (if you can bring yourself to part with it!).

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Working Out on a Budget

Money. It is something that is on every singer’s mind. We are constantly spending money on applications, recordings, accompanists, pay-to-sings, lessons, coachings, headshots…the list goes on. So, when we think of paying for things like gym memberships or yoga classes, our hearts tend to sink.  But there is hope! This month, I want to let you in on some inexpensive ways to get in a good workout!

One thing I’ve mentioned before is finding good start-up deals at yoga studios and gyms. Often, there are deals for new members, like taking your first class for free, or getting your first month at a discounted rate. These are great options, especially if you’re located in a metropolitan area where there are many different gyms and studios; you can pop in to many different places and get start-up deals!

Another great option is to invest in a set of workout DVDs.  For example, the full set of “Insanity” DVDs run about $60. It may take a little while to find the funds to purchase the set, but it will last forever and will save a lot of money in the long run.  It may also be possible to find workout DVDs at a discounted price on Amazon or EBay.  If you have other singer friends, you could even split the cost of the set and share it!  If purchasing just isn’t an option, there are some great at-home YouTube videos and magazine/internet articles (Yoga Journal includes a “Self-Practice section in every issue).

One thing that many of us don’t realize is that many places also have discounted rates for students, teachers, active military, etc. I realize that is only helpful for those who fit into those categories, but many times, we forget to even ask!  10% may not seem like much, but it all adds up in the long run.

Finally, don’t be afraid to ask! Ask if there is a student rate. Ask if there is an option for work study.  My gym offers free memberships in exchange for volunteering in the childcare room.  CorePower yoga offers a work study where you can trade janitorial duties for free yoga classes.  For those of us who live near family members, many gyms also offer deals for families, much like cell phone companies do.

There are so many ways to get in a good workout without breaking the bank. Try looking for at-home workouts online. Visit a nearby pilates studio. Ask your family if they would be interested in joining a gym with you. Or, combine several of these options!  Maybe you only do yoga twice a week at a studio, but you do P90X at home twice a week as well. Lace up the running shoes, buy an inexpensive jump rope – get creative and get moving!