Wednesday, May 27, 2015

A Sexi Soprano’s Guide to Summer Dresses

By Sara Duchovnay

I’m a total dress girl! One effortless item of clothing that instantly makes you appear put-together, professional, and stylish. All without having to put on pants or find a shirt that matches? Yes please!

All winter long we were relegated to dresses with tights, dresses with boots, and dresses in more subdued wintery tones. We slogged to and from auditions in our tried and true, sad, jewel-toned, stretch jersey, faux-wrap style dresses, and we praised these workhorses of the industry for their ability to be thrown in the bottom of our suitcases and our washing machines! Now we have arrived at that wonderful time of year when the world proclaims itself ready for something new! It is truly the time to reap the rewards of that long, stretch jersey-clad winter! In the immortal words of Eduard Mörike, “Frühling läßt sein blaues Band...time for spring and summer dresses!”

Here are my dress picks for any rehearsals, sitzprobes, opening night parties, donor events, recitals, and even auditions that this glorious summer may throw your way!

Be still my heart! If there’s one thing I love (and one thing you’ll probably gather from this list), it’s vintage styling. In my opinion, you can never go wrong with classic, vintage inspired looks. Even the most conservative donors, auditioners, or administrators will approve. This 1950s inspired dress in stretch cotton sateen made by Trashy Diva is simply perfect for any occasion and would seamlessly work itself into your fall and winter wardrobe. It comes in a variety of colors too!  

trashy diva dress.jpg
Best for: Auditions, sitzprobes, donor events, parties, and afternoon recitals.
  • Flattering hour-glass silhouette that compliments a wide variety of body types and available in sizes 0-22.
  • Wide straps so you can wear a supportive bra.

  • Features a classic, full circle skirt that falls at or below the knee.

  • Its flirty details, like the sweetheart neckline, are sexy and fun, but still classic and appropriate.
  • It has a dressy feel to it without being over-the-top.
  • It has pockets so you don’t have to resort to using your “opera pocket” to hold your essentials.

Okay, I know prints can be controversial. Are they too distracting for an audition or a performance? Some say yes, some say no. I think this print is classic enough and won’t be distracting, but use your own discretion when it comes to prints for auditions and performances.

donna morgan.jpg
Best for sitzprobes, rehearsals, donor events, or parties:
  • The print is so lovely and just makes me feel happy! It is sure to attract attention and be a perfect conversation starter, which is perfect for parties and events!
  • It can easily go from day to night and would look be appropriate at a garden or a cocktail party.
  •  I love the princess seaming of the bodice and the pleating in the full circle skirt!
  • It’s “midi” length, so it falls well below the knee.
  • Again...pockets!

There is something so delightfully summery and nautical about navy blue and white, but this classic combination could easily carry you through the year as well.

lakeside libations dress.jpg

Best for: auditions, sitzprobes, donor events, parties, and afternoon recitals.
  • The lace is beautifully slimming and adds embellishment without drawing focus from your beautiful face and voice!
  • A 1940s inspired style where length falls well below the knees making it perfect for auditions and performances.
  • The fabric has some stretch to it, so it’s easy to walk and, perhaps most importantly, breathe in.
  • The cap sleeve and lace detailing adds a really cute touch and also facilitates supportive bra wearing.

I love a good maxi dress. Basically the yoga pants of dresses, maxis are super comfy, but unlike yoga pants, they look polished and appropriate in almost any situation!

eliza j maxi.jpg

Best for: rehearsals, parties, and donor events.
  • Maxi dresses are a great choice for the first day of rehearsal. Regardless of what your colleagues show up wearing, you can feel confident that in a nice maxi dress you will be neither overdressed nor underdressed.
  • I love the flowy look and the scarf inspired print. While it’s too loud for auditions and performances, it’s a great way to stand out in other professional situations. You can rest assured that you will be remembered as that soprano in that amazing dress!

I can say from experience that this dress is delightful. The pleating at the bodice is delicate and the tulle skirt has beautiful movement and flow to it. I own it in Blush (shown in the center) and I feel like a fairy princess-slash-goddess whenever I put it on. 

anabelle dress.jpg
Best for: evening recitals and gala events.
  • Has ties that blend into the tulle of the skirt allowing you to wear it 15 different ways. If you don’t feel comfortable performing in a strapless gown, you can wear it in a one shoulder, halter style, or even craft cap sleeves that cover your shoulders.
  • The multitude of options means you can get the most mileage out of your purchase! 

Happy shopping Sexi Sopranos!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Upgrade Your Mindset: Making the Mental Switch From Student to Professional

By Sara Duchovnay

During my first year in the real world, aka life after grad school, I struggled with taking ownership of the term professional. Professional companies began to hire me, but I was not quite sure what category I fell into. In our field, it can be difficult to know when we are ready. After many long years of school and training programs the industry still labels us young artists. So when does the switch from student to professional really happen?

For me the major turning point came when I decided that I wanted to take control over the way my career made me feel. I had been waiting for some sort of cosmic sign to tell me that I was old enough, good enough or professional enough – all the while consistently working side by side with high-level performers and feeling like I didn’t belong with them! I felt like a fraud because in my mind they were professionals and I was still stuck in post-student limbo. I wanted to talk about my work with poise and confidence, feel comfortable seeking out opportunities on my own, and feel the freedom to take risks in my work without being impeded by the need to prove myself. For me the crucial step in becoming a professional was changing my mindset and learning to view myself as one.

You are a professional. Every professional had to start somewhere. Are you being paid to sing? A church job, opera, concert, nightclub? Yes? Then you are a professional singer. Own it! T
here are infinite ways to build a career! It doesn't matter what you were told in school or the path your peers have taken. Don’t judge your path. Follow it for a while and see where it leads you! If the outcome isn’t what you wanted, try a different approach. Don't compare your path to that of your colleagues, (easier said than done, I know). 

There is a huge difference between being confident and being conceited. You deserve to feel confident! No one will hold that against you or think badly of you because of it. You are not misrepresenting yourself or your level of experience. You are simply comfortable with what you have to offer right now. Being confident doesn’t mean that you think you’re perfect or superior in any way. In fact, the most confident people are usually the most humble.

The choices are yours to make. There are a lot of rules accepted in our industry. The truth is, once your training is in place those rules are just guidelines. You are under no obligation to follow any of them! Your career choices are yours alone. Never feel the need to apologize for the decisions you make and the path you choose!

The money is important. Ok, so if we were really in it for the money we’d all probably have chosen a more lucrative career, but we are professionals and money is an important part of that equation. Run your career like a business. Know what’s coming in and what’s going out. Know what you are willing to accept from every gig and never apologize for asking for what you are worth. Knowledge is power. Talk with your colleagues about what they are getting paid and what they have been paid from companies in the past. This will give you an idea of the pay structure within the industry. It probably goes without saying, but feel the situation out on a case-by-case basis and usually wait until you know someone fairly well before asking questions about their financial situation. 

Owning your professional status and feeling confident. Feelings of insecurity regarding yourself, your performance, and your place in the industry take up a lot of energy! They not only take energy away from your performance, but create negative energy in the work environment and is exhausting to others around you. I am able to feel a greater connection to my art when I feel confident. I’m able to joke with my colleagues, laugh at my mistakes, and make corrections without feeling the need to apologize.

Now, I’ve accomplished my professional goals without conforming to how others think I should be. The sense of freedom and control of my career enables me to be a better artist every day. 

Sara Duchovnay is a San Francisco Bay Area based soprano and a recent addition to the roster of Mirshak Artist Management. Passionate about offering support to her fellow artists, she is a team member with Creating with Confidence. You can read more from Sara on her blog:

Image courtesy of  jscreationzs at

Friday, May 15, 2015

Sarai Elizabeth Cole, now featured by Sexi Soprano!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

How to Survive the Summer Without a Teacher


By Tina Boosahda

You wait all year, and now, it’s finally here– Summer! It’s hot, it’s muggy, and you think to yourself, “Summer! Again? Already?!” Then, maybe some fear creeps in, clouding your excitement at the thought of the school year being over. Finally, you have some time off, but then anxiety sets in. You realize that you are now on your own: no teacher, no weekly lesson, no coaching. Whether you are doing a summer program or not; it’s hard for us to cut the cord with our beloved teachers that we have seen every week for the past academic year. Doubts arise, and you worry that your bountiful year of vocal advancements may fade away over the upcoming summer months… Do. Not. Panic! 

Summer is my favorite season because I have more "me" time. I make excellent progress vocally and learn the most about my singing and myself. During the summer, I reflect on the thoughts, concepts, questions, discoveries, and advances I made over the past year. I realize at the end of a practice session – good or bad– that the things my teacher and I have discussed over the school year were in preparation for our long break over the summer.

As you grow and progress vocally, it is important to learn how to progress independently. With this career, nine times out of ten you will be without a teacher or coach whether it is at a summer program, at home, or preparing new roles/repertoire. You will have to learn to trust your gut, know your instrument, and listen to what your body is telling you. At the end of the day you must take ownership of your own instrument and solve your own problems. How, you ask, can you accomplish this?

1. Be Your Own Teacher. I always have my teacher’s voice in the back of my mind guiding me as I prep a new role, aria, song, or focus on perfecting a new technical aspect within my singing. You know the answer to why that high note isn’t working as efficiently as you want to, or why your breathing is out of whack. In these moments, stay calm, recall how you and your teacher would talk about the issue, and troubleshoot the problem for yourself. Whether a pro, or as a student, trust the technique you and your teacher have built over time and trust that you can recreate it. When you practice, reinforce the good habits you and your teacher have developed and discussed. You should take time to listen – I mean really listen- to your recorded lessons. I acknowledge I can fix my own problems based on the knowledge that I have of my instrument. It feels wonderful knowing this – so liberating! It works for any singer at any level, from a freshman, to a graduate student, and every level in between. Also, don’t over-practice! I personally set three to four goals for each of my practice sessions. Once these goals are completed, that concludes my practice for the day. Focused practice, with precise goals, helps you function without a teacher! 

2. The Mirror is Your Best Friend! Do all of the above and practice in front of the mirror Really look at yourself. If you see it, you will fix it.

3. People You Trust. Have a support group of ears: coaches, conductors, trusted colleagues, and even a stage director or two that are in your corner – supporters of your talent and progress who are cheerleaders for your development and success. It takes time to find these people. Start looking and thinking about who those people are today. That way, when you are on the road without your teacher, you can go to those mentors and they can help you get through whatever issue you are having vocally, technically, or dramatically. 

4. Keep Yourself Motivated! Don’t go home or to that summer program and get complacent. This is your progress and your career. Ultimately, your success is in your own hands! Practice daily, learn a new role that is appropriate, prep your rep for your recital, and set achievable goals for your technique and repertoire development. Keep yourself busy. Learn this self-discipline now and in the future; it will pay off big time! 

If you are in a huge bind and can’t dig yourself out of the proverbial hole; use technology to get a hold of your teacher, coach, or a trusted colleague (Skype, FaceTime, call, text, etc.). Honestly, they haven’t forgotten you! They don’t want you to get rusty and will LOVE that you are proactive in your own personal development! 

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Summer Program Food Hacks!

By Kat Supina

You got into a summer program that you’re super psyched about! You’re going to dive into an incredible new experience and work on your craft.

Aside from the fun and challenging music making, there is also the shared housing, and of course, the food. You’ll most likely be eating at a dining hall and we all know how exciting the food options can be… If you’re lucky, you will have some well-balanced, tasty meals, but chances are your summer program dining experience might be a bit on the bland side (to say the least). Here are some handy tips to help you get by:

1. Communicate and Stock Up! Make sure to communicate your dietary restrictions to the program’s housing director. These days, programs are very accommodating to those of us who may be vegan/vegetarian, or gluten- or dairy-free.  Even of you don’t have any dietary restrictions it is important to find the nearest grocery store and stock up on some essential snacks. Get a case of your favorite sparkling water or juice and look for bulk packages of granola bars (Kashi and KIND bars are my favorites), nuts, and other healthy snacks to keep in your room.

2. Salad Toppers. If you have access to a fridge at your program, make sure to grab some fresh produce. An avocado or some berries can really dress up a bland cafeteria salad. You can even pick up some salad dressing or oil and vinegar. Toss in a handful of pecans or walnuts, and you’ve got a truly tasty salad. One of my favorite salad toppers is cheese. Sorry to those of you who do not indulge for various reasons, but cheese is the best. Grab some chevre to crumble over a salad or string cheese for a snack. The protein will keep you satisfied and will help you cut down on carbs between meals.

3. Spice Things Up! Trader Joe’s has great spice grinders that combine salt with different seasonings. Grind some over a piece of grilled chicken to add a little extra flavor. Make sure to bring some hot sauce as well. A dash of Cholula or Tabasco can save a boring meal.

4. Bring Your Own French Press and/or Tea. Cafeteria coffee sucks, plain and simple, and you can only drink so many cups of Lipton tea. Having your favorite morning beverage can really start your day off right, especially when you’ve been up late rehearsing or bonding with your roommates!

You don’t have to break the bank or leave campus to have a satisfying meal. Keep a few of these tasty add-ons with you and you can dress up that boring cafeteria food. For great on- the –go snacks check out Sexi Soprano’s Sexi Snacks and Sexi Sweets! Eating a balanced and satisfying meal will give you the energy you need to bring it at your summer program. Bon appétit!

Photo credit: Raspberries at the West End Farmers Market in Vancouver, BC via photopin (license)

Saturday, May 2, 2015

YAFeature: Check out this talented Mezzo-Soprano - Jennifer Lazarz!