Thursday, July 30, 2015

A Sexi Soprano’s Guide to Thrifting

By Sara Duchovnay


I have made a second career out of shopping at thrift stores. Seriously, I have. A few months ago, after applying for a job as a barista and being told that I “lacked the commitment” that they were looking for due to my erratic performer’s schedule, my next door neighbors informed me that they were basically doubling their income by selling used clothing on ebay. I hit the thrift stores the very next day and I’ve since sold over 100 designer items and currently have over 200 designer dresses and skirts listed in my ebay store (and in every corner of my home).


What has become increasingly obvious to me over the past few months, aside from the fact that it is possible to make money by shopping all day, is that there is really no reason to ever buy “new” clothes ever again! The quality of the items that people donate can be unbelievably high, and the prices are so low that you can easily be decked out in Anthropologie and Trina Turk for less money than you would spend if you bought your entire wardrobe new at Forever 21 or H&M.


Here are some tricks of the trade to help you snag your own amazing thrift store finds:


  1. Bigger is better. When it comes to choosing your thrift stores, you will almost always have more success with bigger stores. My favorites are Savers, Goodwill, and Out of the Closet. Each region has it’s own mid-size thrift chains, so check yelp to see what your area has to offer. Bigger stores, that are part of large organizations, are constantly getting new merchandise in and they can carry a large inventory at all times. At many of these stores, new merchandise is put out onto the floor multiple times a day! Small, independently owned thrift stores usually do not get as many donations as chains do, their prices tend to be higher, and they don’t have as much turnover in merchandise. Consignment stores like Buffalo Exchange and Crossroads are great options for finding the latest fashions in consistently good condition, but plan on paying more for better brands than you would at a true thrift store. Not only do these stores have to charge more so they can buy the items from their consigner, but they are much more likely to know the true value of their goods and price accordingly. I recently snagged an authentic vintage Emilio Pucci for $6.00 at Goodwill and I guarantee no consigner would have let it go for so little! Pucci dresses sell new for upwards of $1,150.00 at Neiman Marcus!


  1. Get out of town! Each thrift store location is unique and will carry slightly different merchandise. If the stores near your house haven’t been yielding any treasures, do not despair. The opera career is fantastic for thrifting because it takes us to so many different places. Leave yourself some time before or after your lessons, coachings, or rehearsals to browse the thrift stores wherever your singing takes you! I spent most of May in Los Angeles and I loved exploring the thrift stores in all of the different parts of the city! It’s a great way to get to know a new place, and it’s an affordable way to give yourself a little retail therapy after a hard day’s work! Even when I’m at home, I sometimes take a break from the usual tried and true stores in my area to explore stores in different towns or neighborhoods that I’ve never been to before.


  1. Don’t rule anything out until you’ve tried it on. Keep in mind that these are all pre-owned items and may have been tailored or altered, especially dresses, blazers, or pants. An item may be marked for a different size and may fit you perfectly. Also, vintage sizes run very differently so do not go by the numbers. Try it on!


  1. Look for bridesmaid dresses! These used dresses are perfect for singers and don’t really hold much value for anyone else. Who else needs to own that much formal wear? Thrift stores are usually teeming with bridesmaid dresses, they can be snagged for cheap, and usually they’ve only been worn once. I love J.Crew’s bridal line and I come across their bridesmaid dresses all the time! The long gowns are obviously great for recitals and formal events, but I always see a lot of really great knee-length options that would be perfect for auditions!


  1. Know which flaws are fixable and which are not. A seam that is coming apart is no big thing and is super easy to fix with a needle and thread, but a hole in the fabric itself might not be as easy. Depending on the location of the hole, you might want to pass. By the same token, some stains are completely removable and some are there to stay. If you’re feeling brave, bring a Tide pen with you into the dressing room to see if you can get any stains to come out. Don’t let anyone see you do this though! If you find an item that you absolutely love and can’t live without, you might want to take a risk and bring it to your dry cleaner to see if they will have any luck.


  1. Never thrift with only one thing in mind. Go often and keep an open mind. If you see something you love but you don’t have a particular need for it at the moment, just buy it and save it for when you do need it. You’ll thank yourself later. If you see something great that’s not in your size, text a friend to see if they want it...or sell it on eBay!

Happy thrifting!


Picture courtesy of David Sorich via Flickr.com under license https://creativecommons.org/compatiblelicenses https://www.flickr.com/photos/dsorich/8242943196/

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

What does your online presence say about you?



By Shannon Langman

Stop what you are doing and type your full name into Google search. If the only pages that come up are Facebook images of you with your cat and random pages with your name on them (or even worse, nothing!),  you have some work to do on your online persona.


The internet is a beautiful and opportunistic place for opera singers, a platform for networking and branding like none other! Get yourself out there by being specific about what it is you want to show, by using a mission statement about your goals. Answer this question with one sentence: what do you want your imprint on the operatic or classical music world to be? Before you post online, ask yourself whether or not the sentence/picture/comment you are contemplating posting fits with your “mission statement.” If it does, great! If not, reword or set it to a private setting.
Don’t worry, as you grow as an artist, you can always change this “mission statement” and move forward!


Now on to the specifics. Here is your guide to utilizing the social networking world to create your own personal brand as an artist.


First: Clean up what you have online.
Think of your online footprint as your first impression. To stress the importance of this, ask yourself, would you walk into an audition with that cat pic from Facebook as your headshot? Chances are you would never dare show that image to a casting person or a colleague you just met, but if it is online and not set to some private setting, that is most likely the first impression you give to those who come across your page.


Log out of all the platforms listed below to view your profile the way the rest of the world sees it, and follow the steps listed to clean it up:


1. Google 


2. Facebook
  • Deleting images and posts is the best way to go to ensure no unwanted posts are foud, but if you just have to post that cat meme, be sure your content’s visibility is set to Private. To set your content to Private all at one time, use the following function: Log in >Privacy Settings > Limit Past Post Visibility. 
  • If the content you want to delete has been posted by someone else, you can use the ‘untag’ option, send a message asking them to delete, or contact Facebook using the Intellectual Property form (http://lifehacker.com/5850288/how-to-fix-internet-embarrassments-and-improve-your-online-reputation)


3. Twitter
  • As long as your account has the “Protect my Tweets” box checked, you may customize who can retweet from there. However, think about your “mission statement” before you tweet, as it is the largest and most widely used platform.


4. Google+
  • Hide anything you don’t want to be seen, and make sure your website, YouTube channel, and any other platforms you may use are visible to visitors on your profile.


5. LinkedIn
  • Update all your information and make sure your other site links are listed and visible.


Second: Add your online presence to all your social media sites. 
None of these “first impression” warnings are intended to scare you into becoming an online hermit – you should have a profile on every platform you can, especially if it is free! Even if you don’t use or update some of them often, just having them is key. That means Facebook and a Facebook Like Page, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, LinkedIn, and any others you can think of, in addition to your website. Your online presence is your projected first impression before your physical first impression, so take control of it and make it a truthful representation of yourself as an artist. Remember that “mission statement” when adding content, and know that the more links and website you have on different pages, the better your chances are of being seen and heard.


Third: Maintain.
It seems we cannot stress this enough: anything that is not set to private should show the best side of your artist persona. As an artist, your abilities are constantly changing with each new lesson, coaching, and performance. As an artistic entrepreneur, your online presence should be changing just as often, and you have to keep it updated and maintained. Your persona online is something that you as an artist control, and should portray yourself how you want to be seen as an honest representation of your artistry as your brand!


Photo Credit Shannon Langman Photography | www.ShannonLangmanPhotography.com
Model: Kyla Knox, Soprano


Shannon Langman, Photographer, Writer, Freelance Arts Professional


Thursday, July 23, 2015

THRIFTY THURSDAY: DRESS EXTRAVA-GOWN-ZA!

By Lily Guerrero


Any diva wants to look her best for the camera especially on the red carpet! The reigning queen of operatic fashion, Anna Netrebko, is no exception to the rule. She attended the Sky Arts awards wearing a blue Rubin Singer mermaid gown with striking alterations to the bust area.












Photo: twitter.com/AnnaNetrebko





Fashionistas may remember this gown from the 2014 Emmys when Keke Palmer stunned the paparazzi in this cobalt knockout. Notice how the bust area is quite revealing, which may be why Netrebko opted for a more modest silhouette.


Photo: bellaninja.com


Don’t have a red carpet budget? Here at Sexi Soprano, we want to help you find this look for less! Here are some great alternatives under $500 and some great rental options that are singer friendly. Remember to save the receipt for that tax write-off!



1. ML Monique Lhuillier: Strapless Sweetheart Trumpet Gown W/ Organza Inset, $798 $518 with sale, size 2.

This dress is perfect for the petite diva! The bust is a secure sweetheart cut and the fitted stitching on is fabulous the hips and waist area. The best part of this gown is the gorgeous organza side gathering at the bottom of the gown. It reminds me of the severe cut of the Rubin Singer gown, yet in a much safer place on the dress for those of you who plan on singing the Doll Song in concert and can’t afford to have anything fall out! For extra comfort, a shawl is included with your purchase, not pictured. Available at Neiman Marcus here. The great thing about buying online from Neiman Marcus is the free shipping and free returns if your bodacious,ball gown doesn’t work out! Right now they have an additional 35% sale items.


2. Black Halo: Hendricks Sleeveless Column Dress, $575, sizes 2-12.

This piece hints at the severe neckline of the Rubin, but provides some support with straps. The back has an equally gorgeous V-line. This dress is wonderful for those who are a little self-conscious about their mid-section. The waist is clearly defined and the faux-wrap bottom provides some concealment for those low, supported breaths! Available at Neiman Marcus here.












3. Lela Rose Moon River Gown, $500 $425 rental with first purchase, sizes 2-10.

If you’ve never used Rent the Runway, let me explain how it works. You can order a designer gown, in this case a $5000 Lela Rose piece, and rent it for four to eight days. They send you a complimentary second size in case you are between numbers on the chart, if you’ve never worn that particular designer before. Then, mail it back after your special event. While $500 is a lot of money to wear a gown for one evening, when you compare the rental price to it’s original price tag, you’re getting quite the deal! I love this gown because it includes all the angular stitching and the finished sheen of the Netrebko’s piece, but again, includes singer-friendly straps that gracefully show off the neckline. Available at Rent the Runway here. When you sign up to rent your first dress, get $75 off!






4. Badgley Mischka, Clear Skies Gown, $125 rental/$695 retail $50 rental/$620 retail with first purchase, sizes 0-12.[EH1]
This dress reminds me of the previous Monique Lhuillier gown with a softer elegance. I love the detailing on the bodice, and it’s another Olympia -friendly option. Available at Rent the Runway here.


5. David’s Bridal Long Strapless Satin Fit and Flare Dress, $230, sizes 0-14.


This is my favorite gown of the bunch for the full-figured diva. The bodice is a corset style seam with a flattering pleat finish. Blue isn’t your color? It’s available at David’s Bridal here in various colors including free shipping!











Lily Guerrero was a personal stylist at Banana Republic before devoting her pursuit of style to the intersection of opera and fashion at Sexi Soprano! Contact her at lilyguerrero.com.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Gear Up for Grad School


By Kat Supina

Getting a master’s degree in voice performance is a common next step after a bachelor’s degree. You’ve picked your school and have an amazing teacher lined up, but you’re only signing up for a handful of credits compared to your undergraduate degree. In some aspects, grad school is simpler because you don’t have general education requirements to worry about, but this newfound free time is really built in for you to become the musician you’re striving to be.

Your schedule will look different compared to undergrad. Your days will most likely be filled with opera or song literature seminars, theory, acting class, voice lessons, coachings, and rehearsals. A master’s degree is essentially a performance degree with academics sprinkled in, as opposed to an academics-heavy bachelor’s degree. Your focus is going to be on absorbing repertoire and performance techniques. With the guidance of your teachers and coaches, you will develop the skills necessary for building a career as a musician.

Organization is key. Create a system for yourself when it comes to class notebooks and repertoire notebooks. Have clean copies of your music and copies that are purely for note taking, translating, and diagramming. Recording your lessons and coachings are so easy to do from a voice memo app and can help you organize your thoughts.

Be patient with yourself. Graduate school is a completely different animal. You will go through a lot of vocal and personal changes, and it’s easy to be too hard on yourself. Remember that you are pursuing your craft for the love of it and that it won’t always be easy. Pursuing a degree isn’t about the piece of paper at the end – it’s about what you learn and achieve along the way.

Now go forth, grad student, and enjoy the next step of your musical journey!


Image courtesy of Unspash via Pixabay.com

Friday, July 17, 2015

Sexi Soprano YAFeature, Year in Review 2014-2015

Enjoy our review of all the YAFeatures that have been released this year! 
What a fantastic group of talented ladies!

Winter Opera St. Louis Audition Boot Camp: Get Artistically Refreshed


Are you feeling a little lost in the sea of arias, audition dresses, and resumes? Have you been singing “Deh vieni, non tardar” so much that it’s losing its novelty and want to freshen it up? Are you in need of guidance from current industry experts who will point you in the right direction, both artistically and professionally? It’s time to get that audition spirit in shape!

Winter Opera St. Louis is hosting its first ever, five-day intensive workshop series this September to help hone your audition skills for the upcoming season! Each day you’ll have a mock audition with an expert panel, one-on-one dramatic and musical coachings, and individual sessions with renowned conductors to help work out those pesky dynamic markings and tricky transitions. You will also have the opportunity to work on resume and headshot upkeep, business and marketing strategies, and learn about audition attire, making sure you make your best impression in future auditions!

Session sizes are purposely kept small, only ten singers per session, to ensure that you get plenty of time to sing and work with the experts. For only $500 for the five-day session it’s a real bang for your buck! You’ll come away armed with a wealth of knowledge and confidence, feeling artistically refreshed and ready to conquer the upcoming audition season!


Looking for more information? Visit http://www.winteroperastl.org/bootcamp/ for details on deadlines, application processes and faculty bios! Time to get out there and kick some aria booty!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Sexi Sunny Butter



There are so many ways to eat peanut butter! From a good old-fashioned peanut butter and jelly sandwich to just sitting down with a big jar and devouring it with nothing else but a spoon. A love this good should not be denied to anyone!

For our friends with peanut allergies or those looking to explore another option to peanut butter spreads, this recipe is calling your name. Our Sexi Sunny Butter uses sunflower seeds to create the smooth, creaminess of peanut butter so that you, too, may be launched into a beautiful realm of culinary comfort! Sunflower seeds contain far less saturated fat than their peanuty friends and have many health benefits such as high fiber content.

This recipe is so east and great to make in batches! It keeps wonderfully and you can do so much with it: spread it on apples, celery, toast, crackers, bananas, or our favorite, right out of the container with a spoon!


Sexi Sunny Butter
2 cups roasted, shelled sunflower seeds

Pour sunflower seeds into a food processor and blend for 5-8 minutes or until smooth. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator and enjoy! Yields approx. 1 2/3 cup of Sexi sunny butter.

Want to switch the recipe up?
-Salty: Add ½ tsp. salt!
-Sweet: Add 2 tsp. honey!
-Chocolate: Add 1 tsp cocoa powder!
-Smooth: Add ½ tsp oil at the end of processing and pulse, adding oil ½ tsp at a time until desired consistency is reached.      

NOTE: When processing your sunny butter you will notice it goes through phases as it’s grinding…it will look sandy, crumbly, then it may turn in to a ball, and then finally become smooth! If you like it a little chunky or thick, stop blending earlier. If you like it smoother, let it go for another minute or two.