Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Benefits of Honey and Cinnamon

By Nadia Marshall

Honey and cinnamon are great home remedies! It can help with upset stomachs, boosting the immune system and colds, not to mention they are both delicious! Mix them into your tea, into your food or just eat them raw.

To help clear coughs, colds, and the sinuses follow this recipe below:

1 tablespoon of lukewarm honey
¼ spoonful of cinnamon powder 

Mix together and eat for three straight days.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Sexi Soprano Presents Kristina Driskill: Building a Team, Creating the Mindset

Kristina Driskill  talks about the power of perception, dispelling the mystery of a performing career, building a team, and more!

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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Dare to be Human

By Amy Owens

I burst out of my dressing room, still floating in the sea of elation that always splashes around the closing of a show. Soon after, the affirmations we singers need came: "Congratulations! You are perfect. Just perfect."

It was meant as a compliment. I tried to smile and be grateful, but instead of buoying me, it landed on my psyche like a pile of bricks. Thousands of heavy, rough, red bricks, each representing a painful moment of my life when I tried to be perfect --and failed. I felt like a fraud. "If they only knew how imperfect I really am...", my brain screamed silently while my face smiled in illusionary acceptance.

The more I thought about it, the less like a compliment it seemed. Typical, for a soprano to muse on a compliment for hours. All of the most impressionable performances I have witnessed or heard about have had an element of imperfection, ugliness even. What makes those “flawed” performances so life changing is the humanity they possess. If we wanted to see perfect performances, we would have computers singing opera. But that's not what opera is about. Opera is about humanity, and humanity is inherently imperfect.

Think of a diamond. A real diamond always has imperfections, and each is unique in clarity, cut, and color. Diamonds that are perfect are synthetic, and while they are certainly beautiful, we don’t pay the big bucks for a diamond made in a lab. It’s not as interesting. It’s not real. Is it strange that we pay more for imperfect diamonds? Perhaps. But it reveals something essential about us: we value realness. Authenticity is priceless.

We love Mimi, Violetta, and Adina, the great heroines of opera, not because they are angels, but because we see something of ourselves in them. They are us, and we are them. They are not perfect, because the word perfect doesn’t apply to human beings. Perfect is a mathematical term. And if perfect doesn’t apply, neither does imperfect. So let's stop smothering the word over everything we do like ketchup. It's a disservice to ourselves, to our art form, and to humanity.

Next time you perform dare to be human, an imperfect yet motivating human. Discipline yourself and train your body to capture the widest range of expression possible, and let that be the purpose of your technique. When you walk through that audition room door or onto that stage, let go of perfection. Dare to be human. In that moment, you will become an artist. And for those that give the compliment, “you were perfect!”, just smile, say thanks, go home and be happy with your perfect imperfections.

“It was a flawed voice. But then Callas sought to capture in her singing not just beauty but a whole humanity, and within her system, the flaws feed the feeling, the sour plangency and the strident defiance becoming aspects of the canto. They were literally defects of her voice; she bent them into advantages of her singing. [Her voice] is what she had. What she made was a musical information of what was happening to her characters, a searching virtuosity. Suffering, delight, humility, hubris, despair, rhapsody — all this was musically appointed, through her use of the voice flying the text upon the notes….”

-Ethan Mordden, speaking of Maria Callas

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

6 Ways to Keep Your Food Choices Healthy This New Year

By Nadia Marshall

As the holidays wind down, the amount of candy, treats, and holiday flavors do not. Many of us pledge to eat healthier and work out more in the new year, but it can be hard with all of these temptations. Here are a few reminders on how to stay on track: 

1. Keep a food journal. Keeping a daily record of what you're eating can seem taxing, but it helps remind you of what you’re putting into your body. New Year's resolutions such as “Eat Healthier” are not as daunting when you have a record of what you’re eating. MyFitnessPal is an awesome app that keeps track of your calories, water intake, and calories burned. By taking the time to really LOOK at what you’re eating or drinking, you can make a positive change to your health goals.

2. Make one change at a time. Take baby steps towards making a healthier lifestyle. Don’t try to do too many things at once. For example, if you want to eat less dessert, eat more vegetables, or stop eating fast food, but only do one thing at a time. Once you are successful with one goal, you can attempt to add another one. If you try a drastic change too quickly, you may end up losing sight of your goals.

3. Don’t tempt yourself. If you’re trying to not eat french fries, don’t hang out at a restaurant or bar where they are on the menu. You should completely separate yourself from this food so you aren't tempted! Try this for at least a week. You might realize you don’t actually need to separate yourself, but by staying away from any and all temptation, you will find yourself achieving your goals quicker and easier.

4. You might just be dehydrated. Take a moment and think, “Am I hungry or do I just need a glass of water?” As singers, we all understand the importance of hydration, but sometimes don't drink as much water as we need. When you feel a craving coming on, try drinking a glass of water, waiting a little bit, and if you are still hungry, grab a snack.

5. Research healthy options. By packing a healthy lunch for work, or a healthy dinner for rehearsal, you’re taking another step towards a healthier you! Read magazines, look at food blogs, or ask your friends for snack suggestions to curb those cravings and give you the nutrients you need. 

6. Incorporate seasonal fruits and veggies into your diet. Finding out which fruits and vegetables are in season and incorporating them into your day will have you checking off the “Eat more fruits and veggies” resolution in no time!

What are your tips to eat healthier foods in 2016?

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

An Apple a Day... How to Stay Healthy This Season

By Josepha Castro
The days are long and the weather is cold. This means more pumpkin things to consume and boots to wear. It also means that cold and flu season is upon us. According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), it is estimated that an average 111 million workdays are missed yearly because of some form of illness. I know you and I don’t want to become part of that statistic. So what can be done?
  • Get the Flu Vaccine: The yearly vaccine is recommended by health professionals and highly recommended for very young child and older adults. That being said, you are by no means required to get one. It is a preventative method, but not the only one. For more information check out:

  • Wash Your Hands and Cover Your Mouth: It is very important to always wash your hands, especially during this season. A good way to thoroughly wash your hands is by using soap and warm water, using friction, and singing the ABC's twice. That is sure to get rid of those microbes chilling on your hand. Another way is to always cover your mouth when sneezing and coughing. This keeps everyone else from getting your sickness. I love to share, just not my germs. These simple actions go a very long way in avoiding the cold and flu.

  • Get Regular Sleep: This is very important because when we sleep our body gets rid of toxins. Sleep will kick those pesky cold and flu bugs butts. Now that I am in nursing school, I’ve learned the importance of scheduling my sleep time. It may seem a bit absurd, but it works. Even though I schedule sleep time, I do not always follow my schedule to a T. There is always room for flexibility.

  • Eat Healthy: I know this hard to do with the holiday flavors in full swing, but this is something we need to do every day. Healthy food contains nutrients that power our cells. Protein is king when preventing and repairing our bodies from sickness. Try a nice, hot bowl of homemade soup. Homemade soups are naturally packed with vitamins, minerals, and protein. The ingredients in soup contain little armies ready for your cells to deploy and keep you healthy.

  • Drink Plenty of Water: If you are anything like me, your water drinking habits are really just non-existent. Let’s face it together, put down the Diet Coke or Coffee, and pick up a bottle of water. Use fruits to spice it up and drink it up. Find a bottle that will meet your everyday needs. After much trial and error, I found my perfect water bottle and am lost without it! Keeping hydrated makes your skin pretty and keeps those cold and flu critters away. Hydration is the key!

  • Reduce Stress: We live in a fast paced world and often forget to self-care. Reducing stress is a key factor in lessening your chances of catching a bug. When we are stressed, our immune system is compromised. Make sure to take some time for yourself. I know we all live busy lives and barely have any “me” time, but there are small things you can do. Find something you enjoy and make time for it. This will greatly reduce your chances of getting sick any time of the year. My favorite de-stressors are painting and singing in the car.  Here are some tricks for de-stressing, courtesy of The Huffington Post:

Those are just a few examples of how to keep your body in its healthiest form. What are some things you do?

These examples are by no means a cure for the common cold or the flu. This is just advice to keep us at a maximum point in our health, so our bodies are better prepared in fighting those little invaders. Always, consult with your doctor on what is best for you.

Monday, January 11, 2016

8 Ways to Keep Yourself Motivated With Your New Year's Resolutions

By Nadia Marshall

Researcher Brene Brown says there are phases for new years resolutions:

January 1st – This resolution is going to be awesome!
January 5th – I’m awesome. 
January 10th – This sucks. 
January 20th – I suck. 

Instead of falling victim to this trend, follow these tips to stick to it:

1. Get a workout buddy. Find a friend or family member to keep you accountable. Meet them at the gym, or if your buddy is out of town, use social media to stay on track. Follow people on Facebook, Snapchat or Twitter who post pictures or videos of their workouts and healthy food recipes.

2. Motivation. Make a workout jar for yourself. Every time you complete a workout, put a dollar in the jar. After you collect a certain amount of money, use it to buy workout clothes or gear to keep you going! You can also use Google Docs or a spreadsheet to track your workouts. Every time you or your friends complete a workout, log it and keep each other accountable. If you’re more into apps than spreadsheets, MyFitnessPal is a great way to keep yourself on track, especially when traveling. It keeps track of your calorie and water intake, and even your workouts.

3. Realistically map out your goals : Most people write “Be Healthier” or “Get Fit” as one of their resolutions for the New Year. Be specific and realistic such as, “Run a 5k” or “Get my bench press up to ____ pounds”. Taking baby steps can help you achieve your goals and smash them! List some attainable yet challenging goals for 2016.

4. Research fitness groups or activities in your area: New gyms, studios, teams, or groups pop up everywhere. Look online, in the newspaper, or talk to friends for new things to try. Some gyms even offer free trial periods.

5. Have a plan for days when you don’t have motivation. We all have those days: you’re tired, rehearsal left you drained, you slept in this morning…it happens. Have a plan for “those” days. A quick five minute workout or stretch session is better than no workout at all. Look on social media for workouts or stretches on those days where it’s just not happening.

6. Treat yourself! Have rewards for achieving your goals or staying on track. Treat yourself to new boot socks, a relaxing day curled up with a book, a chance to see that movie you wanted to go see…find ways to give yourself some time to reflect on all of your hard work.

7. Have the right gear. There are plenty of websites with affordable workout clothes, equipment, or methods to get you started or keep you going strong. If you’ve committed to a workout such a rock climbing, get those gloves or shoes you really LOVE!

8. Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone. Sometimes it takes courage to commit to a workout or activity you love. Try that Barre or yoga class you and your friends have been talking about! Mixing up your workouts will keep it fun and will help you tone different areas.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Women Taking The Stand: Lidiya Yankovskaya


Photo by Angel Leung Photo Arts

Walking into Tisserie Bakery in Midtown I am immediately surrounded by a sea of businessmen and women wearing suits. But there is a different kind of suit sitting in the back corner. Wearing it is an innovator in opera, a development that seems long overdue. As I approach female conductor Lidiya Yankovskaya, one of the many burning questions I have for her centers around suits. Why do we care so much about what women are wearing and less about what they are doing? A question we all think, but never ask.

Is the typical power suit necessary for female conductors or part of the systematic sexism? She reminds me that this element in opera is a double standard. Lidiya says, “no one cares to talk about what a man is wearing when he conducts.”

Where are you from, and how has that shaped you as a woman and a musician?
I was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, but moved to the states when I was a kid, which ended up creating a perfect balance for me in many ways.

In Russia, the music education and general culture of music appreciation is fantastic. Since the fall of communism, many things have gotten better for women and other things not so much. In the 1980’s there were more female doctors, engineers, and scientists than men. There were many women in positions of leadership, which is not currently case. When I go to Russia now, people openly tell me that women should not be conductors. How men see women intellectually is one thing, but when it then comes to something physical, like conducting, that’s when you really start to see the sexism come out.

Is the sexism the hardest part of being a woman in a male dominated industry?
There are actually a lot of women who conduct. If you look at most high school music teachers or choral conductors, there are women. The issue at hand is the higher up you go - say, The Metropolitan Opera or a major symphonic orchestra – the fewer females there are.

I think the reason for this is a combination of factors, but mostly I think girls in our culture are often raised to be more insecure or self-critical. You need a large amount of confidence in order to lead people and not second-guess yourself all the time.

I also think when you are in charge of many people or elements, you can’t afford to take time off or not be available one hundred percent of the time. So, many women feel unjustly pushed away from the top because of their desire to maybe have a family or dedicate a little more time to the home life. I read an article that used a great analogy: A woman comes into a job interview and says, “I have two kids and every morning I wake up at 5 am, make them lunch, and get them to school, and every evening I make them a healthy meal, read to them, and occasionally they get sick and I will need to tend to them.” Immediately, the person hiring thinks this woman is going to be difficult. Then a man comes in and says, “I’m a marathon runner. Every morning I wake up at 5 am to run, and every evening I cook a really healthy meal and run some more. A few times a week I have physical therapy and I may need to take a little time off.” And the interviewer thinks, “Oh wow, this guy is dedicated!” Those discriminations aside, I have found the hardest part for women is just getting your foot in the door, but once you do, you do your job well. Even people with strong prejudices just care that you do your job well.

Do you think this confidence building must begin at a young age?
Absolutely. The thing about learning how to conduct is that you have to actually do it. I was very fortunate to have some teachers and mentors in high school that encouraged me to get up there and lead, who saw that I liked it and that it came naturally to me. I was very lucky to be encouraged early on.
What is some advice you could give to young singers?
I think in today’s world, it’s really important for a singer to be flexible, in a variety of ways. To be flexible in how they approach the creative process, to be flexible in terms of repertoire, flexibility in what kind of gigs you will take... I think a lot of young singers cut themselves off from potential success by simply limiting what kind of repertoire they are willing to do or what kind of jobs they will take. If you only take top dollar gigs, well, you might miss someone really important in the audience or be left out of an artistically fulfilling experience. But truly, the number one thing is being prepared and professional. It’s such a simple notion, but it will take you so far.

Lidiya Yankovskaya has recently been named an inaugural member of the Institute for Women Conductors at the Dallas Opera. Out of the 103 applicants, Lidiya and five other women were chosen to become residents of the program, which aims to address the obstacles females may face in the beginning their careers as conductors. To read more about it, visit 

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

10 Things All Singers Do While Waiting to Hear Back From Gigs

By Lily Guerrero

1. You smashed the audition out of the park, so you start imagining yourself in the title role for the next few days

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2. Until one day, the blue exclamation point on YapTracker announces one offer has been sent out

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3. You immediately text your friends who also auditioned to find out if they heard back yet

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4. No one knows anything, so you race to the mailbox to look for a letter

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5. And then you refresh your e-mails about twenty million times

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6. When that doesn’t work, you drop into a deep depression, wondering when you’ll hear back

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7. Eventually you forget about it, until one of your friends posts a Facebook update about getting an offer

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8. You die a little inside, knowing this is probably the end of your dream... and the $300 you spent getting to New York for the audition

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9. Suddenly, the phone rings. It’s an unknown number. Do you pick it up in case it’s an offer, or do you ignore it in case the loan officer is calling again?

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10. You pick it up. They offer you a comprimario part! It's not your big Met debut, but you'll take it!

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