Wednesday, December 30, 2015

New Year's Resolutions for Singers

By Lily Guerrero

Many people will make resolutions this January to eat healthier, work out more, and save money. What about singers? What can you do to shape up your brand?

1. Get organized.

Getting organized extends to many facets of your singing life. Do you have an insane amount of photocopies floating around your apartment? Buy large, three-ring binders and organize your photocopies by language. Within each binder, organize the music by the composer’s last name. That way, the next time you need to find an aria, you know where your photocopy is and you don’t have to make another copy out of your aria book. 

Is time management not your forte? Get to know your Google calendar! Schedule some practice time for yourself every day, and really stick to it. 

Are you terrible at remembering where you put all your receipts for tax purposes? Get a cute box and paperclip your receipts by type of expense so that you have them in one place when April 15th rolls around.

2. Get active in body, mind, and spirit.

We all know the many benefits of exercise, but in a world where every minute counts, use it as a multi-tasking opportunity. Before going to your day job, spend 30 minutes on the elliptical memorizing your aria or going over the text to an art song. Not only are you working your body, you’re working your brain! Incorporate breathing exercises and stretching into your practice routine. It is a great way to prepare your body to use its entire mechanism. Remember that your body is your instrument, and you need to keep it well-maintained!

3. Get in the loop.

The opera industry is your profession. Do you know whom the up and coming singers are and what they have done to get to that point? Do you know the current events in the business? Are you following all the latest news on opera blogs and magazines? You already read Sexi Soprano, so I know you’re a savvy singer! Consider getting all the latest opera gossip sent to your e-mail, so you have something to read in the morning while you sip your coffee. It’s both entertaining and informative!

4. Get in touch.

The New Year is a great time to reach out to people and send a quick hello as a networking tool. Draft a letter explaining all of the things you did the previous year, and what your career goals or plans are in the coming year. It’s always good to remind people that you exist, especially if you can do it with a handwritten letter. You never know if that church you subbed at a few months ago needs a soloist for their next big Requiem concert. Don’t forget to get in touch with previous mentors as well. They love to hear what you’re up to, and I’m sure they’ll be touched that you sent them a note with your appreciation for all they’ve done for you in the past year!

5. Get back in the game.

Maybe this audition season was disappointing for you, and you’re feeling discouraged. You didn’t place at the Met competition or get into the YAP of your choice. Give yourself a little time to grieve, but then get back in the game. You can start out with something small. Schedule your next lesson. Pick out a new aria and translate it. Find a local, low-pressure competition to enter. Remind yourself of all the reasons why you do what you do, and give yourself time to fall in love with the art form again.

What are your singer friendly New Year’s resolutions? Comment below!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

8 Things All Singers Do During The Cold Weather Months

By Lily Guerrero

1. They drink tea like it's an elixir of magical healing

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2. They wear comforters as scarves

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3. They run away from anyone who coughs or sneezes

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4. They get intimate with their Neti Pot

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5. They apply insane amounts of chapstick

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6. They don't shake hands with anyone for fear of germs

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7. They don't go outside unless it's for a voice lesson or rehearsal

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8. And finally, they absolutely refuse to go Christmas caroling, or anything else that involves phonating on cold air

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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Gift of Presence

While on a holiday concert tour last December, I was inspired to “pay it forward” at a Panera. Because it was lunchtime rush hour, the cashier was inconvenienced by my good intentions. She had to find a piece of paper, write down my credit card number, and go through a couple extra steps in order to set it up for the next customer. Not only was it a hassle, but it was a security issue! I hid behind a plant, spying on the next customer while furtively sipping tea and trying to look as much like the wallpaper as possible. The next customer wasn’t just one person; it was a family of four. However, when I checked my account later and saw the $10.42 charge, I realized they only accepted my anonymous generosity for a fraction of their lunch. From my position behind the plant, they looked more confused than grateful. But then again, that’s how most parents of small children look in public.

After lunch, I walked over to Barnes and Noble to buy a Christmas present for a friend. I picked out a book and brought it to the “Free Gift Wrapping” counter. The lady there was clearly stressed by the rapidly growing line of eager gift-givers. Unfortunately, her book-wrapping looked like the diaper job I did for my dolls when I was three. Trying to be helpful, I asked if I could re-wrap the book myself. Not only did I wound the pride of the frazzled gift-wrapper that day, but I also picked a book that my friend hated, as I would find out later. 

The whole day was full of failed attempts at goodwill. In that evening’s concert, however, I sang my heart out and gave the only gift I knew how to give well: myself. I didn’t fail. That day, I realized that being the most open and generous version of myself for one hour can create more joy in and around me than one hundred Tiffany bracelets. 

Gift exchanges are wonderful and fun, but being present is the best present you could ever give to me, and it is the best present that I could ever give to you. Here are ten tips for giving the gift of presence:

  1. Put your phone away
  2. Notice something new about the person you’re with
  3. Smile at strangers. Yes, even in NYC!
  4. Take time for yourself 
  5. Give compliments
  6. Carry around small things to share when you notice someone in need: throat lozenges, chocolate, gum, etc.
  7. Replace social media time with face time 
  8. Walk slower 
  9. Look up, not down at the ground
  10. Learn a few jokes and share them 

“If nature has made you for a giver, your hands are born open, and so is your heart; and though there may be times when your hands are empty, your heart is always full, and you can give things out of that--warm things, kind things, sweet things--help and comfort and laughter--and sometimes gay, kind laughter is the best help of all.” 
Frances Hodgson Burnett, A Little Princess

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

LIVE Webinar With Christine Goerke

Missed our LIVE webinar with Ms. Goerke!? Watch the replay!

Trouble in Paradise: What to Do When Your Partner is More Successful Than You

By Lily Guerrero

Finding another singer to share your life with can be both a blessing and a curse. You have someone who understands your lifestyle, but sometimes this person becomes your competition, or worse. If they happen to have a stream of successes while your career stands idle, they could become the object of jealousy. How do you separate work from home life when you happen to share the same bed as a colleague?

1. Celebrate your differences.

Maybe you are a great Mozart soubrette, while your partner excels at the serious stuff like Verdi and Wagner. Celebrate the blend of flavors that is your relationship, and remember, if you feel like your significant other is getting hired for more “exciting” roles and gigs, it doesn’t take away from any of the opportunities that you have.

2. Remember, you’re a team!

Their success is your success! If you are sharing a home, bills, or a bank account, their gig is your gig! Take the opportunity to rejoice in the fact that, as a couple, you are successfully “living the dream” and paying those bills by singing. Remind them that you are happy to have a successful partner and that your lives together are built on small victories and contributions from both ends.

3.  Tap into their new network for future opportunities.

If you attend any after parties or outings with your significant other, take the time to meet their cast mates, director, or conductor. A little networking never hurts, and sometimes a company can use your relationship as a marketing tool in future productions. Picture something like “star crossed lovers” or “opera’s power couple!” Just don’t go overboard with the self-promoting. Remember, you are first and foremost a guest, you are not there for an audition.

4. Communication is key!

When you are at home together, take that time to enjoy each other’s company. Problems will arise when one complains about the rough rehearsal they had that day, and the other resents the fact that they don’t have a gig of their own. However, that shouldn’t keep either one of you from talking about your problems. Remember, you’re a team! 

If you still feel that you haven’t expressed all of your concerns, keep a private journal to vent your frustrations. This goes for either person. Journaling is a great way to let your thoughts flow and find your own answers. Plus, it’s always fun to look back years later and see your crazy complaints!

5. Focus on your own strengths.

Maybe 2015 was a dry year for you. Everyone was casting for Puccini operas and you only found a few small, chamber opera gigs. That’s okay! Continue self-promoting, working on your craft, and taking auditions. Sometimes the deck does not fall in your favor, but perhaps 2016 will be full of opportunities for you. It is not a reflection of your ability if you did not get as many jobs as you were hoping. Take a look back at how far you’ve come, and get excited for all the future opportunities! Sometimes, it is best to keep the blinders on and only focus on yourself. Don’t worry about what your partner is doing, they have their own race to run!

It’s hard to watch someone climb the ladder of success faster than you, but always remember, you love this person for who they are and not what they do for a living. Not everyone gets to make a career out of what they love, and not everyone finds a partner with whom to share their life. Luckily, you have both!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

"So What Can You Do With A Music Degree?”: Surviving Your Family During the Holidays

By Lily Guerrero

As artists, our lives are full of choices. One thing we don’t get to choose in this world is our family, and sometimes they are not always supportive of our career path. Here are a few tips for surviving the holiday season without throwing the gravy in Uncle Adam the Accountant’s face.

Step 1: Answer questions vaguely but politely.

As singers, we don’t know a lot about our futures. Our lives are planned from month to month with each gig determining where we’ll be and how much money we’ll have to spend and save. Instead of trying to explain this to someone who doesn’t understand the business, just tell Sister Susie the Surgeon that you are a self-employed classical singer and that your job is to perform. Smile and go back to eating your mashed potatoes, or change the subject.

Step 2: Ask for clarification.

“What are you planning on doing with your life?” is a broad question that spans from “I want to get married and have five kids” to  “I am going to the grocery store after this meal.” If a vague answer doesn’t work, try asking what they specifically mean. Do they want to know your career aspirations? Family aspirations? Hobbies and interests? Do they want to know what brand of deodorant you use? If it’s just to be nosy, continue being vague. If they are truly interested in your career, as many who don’t understand this business are, try to explain things in a simple way. After all, we can often be defensive when Grandma Susan really just wants to know how often she’s going to get to spend time with you in the next year.

Step 3: Ask the same question in return.

This is a bit passive aggressive, but sometimes people do not understand that the question leaving their mouth is ludicrous because they themselves have not thought of what they would say if someone asked them the same thing. If Aunt Nancy the Nurse asks you what your goals are in life, ask her the same thing back. Say it with a smile and under a veil of genuine interest, of course. When she responds that it is silly for you to ask her if she’s achieving her dreams as a nurse, tell her that you felt a little silly answering her question as well. Hopefully, the light bulb will go off and everyone can move on to dessert.

Step 4: Have a one-on-one conversation with Brother Evan the Engineer in private.

Express your feelings using “I” statements, such as “I feel uncomfortable when you ask me what I’m going to do with my music degree, because it seems like you don’t respect my career choice. Can you help me understand your concerns?” Never accuse someone of anything, which puts them in defense mode. Brene Brown, the author of bestselling books like The Gifts of Imperfection and Daring Greatly, suggests that telling the person what the perceived intent was and asking for clarification creates a safe, non-hostile environment for an open conversation.

The holidays are stressful enough between coordinating church gigs, planning travel, and spending time in a home that isn’t your own. Use these tips to diffuse any potential dinner showdowns and remember to always smile and believe that your family has your best interests at heart. If not, remember that people who look down on you only do it to make themselves feel tall. You do what you love for a living! Let that joy carry you through every holiday party!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Artist Feature: Nicole Cabell, Soprano

Nicole Cabell, the 2005 Winner of the BBC Singer of the World Competion in Cardiff and Decca recording artist, is one of the most sought-after lyric sopranos of today. Her solo debut album, “Soprano”, was named “Editor’s Choice” by Gramophone and has received an incredible amount of critical acclaim and several prestigious awards: the 2007 Georg Solti Orphée d’Or from the French Académie du Disque Lyriqueand an Echo Klassik Award in Germany. An avid supporter of meditation and well-being, Nicole's message is to find your center your life. Make sure you are happy FIRST.

Nicole tells all! Watch a Sexi Soprano sponsored LIVE webinar with Nicole here

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Traveling With Pets: is it Possible for A Singer?

photo courtesy of Simone Osborne

By Lily Guerrero

Are you thinking of getting a pet, but are unsure of how they will fit into your travel schedule? Here are some tips from Sexi Sopranos who have made a lifestyle out of having a +1 for their performances!

1. Elizabeth Caballero and Schumie the Pomeranian: It’s All About the Love!

Liz Caballero says the unconditional love that comes from a pet is the reason she brings Schumie with her: “it's like bringing a little piece from home...these little guys have a way of making a really crappy day no so bad anymore. Say you had a bad day in rehearsal or your performance was not your best; once they see you they jump on you and shower you with love and affection, so then you forget all about it.” Liz also enjoys going on walks with him or taking him to the park during her free time. Liz suggests smaller breeds for their ease of travel. She too stresses the importance of socializing your pup with all kinds of people and animals before traveling, as their boho-dog lifestyle will have them meeting all kinds of people! Next up, Schumie will be making his debut with Opera Coeur d’Alene in their production of La boheme, where Liz will be singing Musetta.

2. Simone Osborne and Gatsby the Morkie: Think Small for International Travel

photo courtesy of Simone Osborne

Gatsby is a frequent travel companion of Simone, and he even has his own Instagram account: gatsbysmommy! Gatsby is well trained, doesn’t bark, enjoys staying in his carrier, and is comfortable around strangers making him especially suited for international travel. This Morkie, weighing under 20 pounds, travels in cabin during flights. Simone has trained him to be adaptable to loud orchestra rehearsals, unfamiliar transportation methods, and the sound of her voice in a small practice room. Logistically, Simone says, “know the rules of international travel. Understand the vaccination schedule and plan ahead, especially in the pet's first six months. There are about three months they cannot fly internationally because their vaccines haven't kicked in fully yet. Every flight will cost an extra $50-200€ to take a pet with you. This, plus all vet bills, including a $50-$100 mandatory pet check up and paper signing EVERY TIME you travel from Europe to North America or vice versa, can get quite costly. Factor this in when considering adding a pet to your life.”

3. Kaitlyn Costello, Beans the Chihuahua, and Bella the Boston Terrier: Leave the Grandpuppies With Your Parents

Kaitlyn usually brings Beans the Chihuahua on jobs with her, but Bella likes to stay in one place with a big yard, like Kaitlyn’s parents’ house. She enjoys bringing Beans because “living on the road can be so lonely at times, and it's nice to have the company.” She suggests that you be upfront with the company about your little companion. Make sure your contract states you will be housed in a place where pets are welcome. “The last thing you want to do is burn a bridge with a company because you were not forthright. Most companies understand and accommodate you!”

4. Daveda Karanas and Koukla the Chinese Crested Dog: Find A Trustworthy Pet Sitter

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Daveda advises that you check quarantine regulations before bringing your dog along. She also suggests finding a trustworthy pet sitter who can come and check on your pet at home multiple times a day, which is easier if you live in a larger city. Lastly, Daveda says, “Bringing a pet with you is a lot of responsibility, but well worth it. For me, it feels like home when I have her with me. I love exploring the area with her, [and] taking in the new sights, sounds and smells!”

Do you bring your pet on gigs with you? Comment below!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Singer Friendly Gift Ideas for the Holidays

By Lily Guerrero

The holiday season is rapidly approaching, and it’s time to start thinking of gifts to give the beloved Sexi Soprano in your life. Whether she’s your significant other, daughter, or friend, there is something on this list she’ll be sure to love!

1. Walgreens Personal Steam Inhaler Kit, $20

This product is pharmacist recommended and travels well for those singers suffering from colds, allergies, or dry weather. It includes an attachment to clear out the nasal passages and plugs into the wall: no batteries required! Buy it in-store only at your local Walgreens.

2. Satechi USB Portable Amazing Humidifier, $30

Going along with the moisture relief theme, a travel size humidifier is great for those dry hotel rooms she spends so many of her gigs sleeping in, and her vocal cords will thank you! This one is extremely easy to use, as it connects to a water bottle as an auxiliary cap and is powered by USB cord. Buy it on Amazon here.

3. Teavana Radiant Flower Gift Collection, $50

If she’s a big tea drinker, she’ll love this gift set from Teavana that includes an infuser mug and two tins of loose leaves. Buy it from Teavana here.

4. “Score Preparation” Kit (tabs, highlighters, pencils, paperclips), $26

If you like to make your gifts a little more “do it yourself,” create a score preparation kit. You’ll save her a trip to Office Depot, plus she’ll love how the kit is both thoughtful and useful! Arrange it in a festive box and put a nice bow on top.

Paperclips, $9, Amazon

Post-It Flags, $7, Amazon

Sharpie Accent Tank-Style Highlighters, 6 Colored Highlighters, $4, Amazon

Dixon Ticonderoga Wood-Cased #2 HB Pencils, Pre-Sharpened, Box of 30, Yellow, $6, Amazon

5. J Crew Chunky Ribbed Scarf, $50

Every diva needs a thick, luxurious scarf to keep warm during the winter months. I especially love a chunky infinity scarf, as it's trendy and works well with either a coat or an indoor outfit. Get it at J Crew here.

6. CafePress Opera Singer Tote Bag, $14

Give your singer a tote bag to carry around all her scores and aria binders. I like the cheeky statement on the front of this one. Available on Amazon here.

7. Opera the board game, $48

Try your hand at running an opera company with this fantasy board game. Great as a bonding activity for when she arrives to her new educational outreach gig and wants to get to know the other members of her touring group! Get it on Amazon here.

8. Sheet Music Toilet Paper, $6

If gag gifts are more your style, or you need a white elephant gift for your studio’s holiday party, order some of this sheet music toilet paper on Amazon here.

See something on this list that you want to buy for yourself? Don’t forget, it’s okay to get yourself a treat for surviving all of those Messiah gigs!