Thursday, February 25, 2016

Sore Throat Remedy

By Nadia Marshall

Whether you are sick, the weather is changing, or you overused your voice at the Taylor Swift concert last night, sore throats are uncomfortable and can get in the way of singing. To quickly get rid of that pesky sore throat, follow David Avocado Wolfe's Sore Throat Remedy:

-2 tablespoons honey
-2 tablespoon vinegar or apple cider vinegar
-Dash of cinnamon
-2 tablespoons lemon juice

Mix all ingredients well and drink.

This concoction can be quite strong, but you feel the benefits shortly after drinking this remedy.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

“I’m Just Not Good Enough,” and Other Lies We Tell Ourselves

by Lily Guerrero

They’re going to hate me. I’m a fraud. I didn’t deserve to win. Do any of these phrases sound familiar to you? If so, you may be one of the many singers who suffer from what is known as Impostor Syndrome.

Impostor Syndrome is a term coined by psychologists to describe people who can’t internalize their own accomplishments. According to a study in the International Journal of Behavioral Science, about 70% of people suffer from this monster. Social psychologist Amy Cuddy describes it as, “the deep and sometimes paralyzing belief that we have been given something we didn't earn and don't deserve and that at some point we'll be exposed.” Many famous women have expressed this deep fear of being “exposed,” and it should come as no surprise that artists of all genres are especially plagued by this fear.

Why does this happen? In her book Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg suggests that Impostor Syndrome is a result of women underestimating themselves, judging their own work as “worse than it actually is,” or attributing their success to external factors like luck or the help of others. These ideas become lies we tell ourselves. I didn’t sing that aria very well. I only got the role because I was the only spinto soprano at auditions. I happened to sing the panel’s favorite aria and that’s why I won. My teacher probably told the director to hire me. How do we quiet this little voice in the back of our head that tells us we aren’t good enough?

1. Accept praise from others.

Even if you don’t believe the compliment is genuine, say thank you and accept it graciously. You may not believe all the praise you got for your mad scene, but if you hear it enough from others, eventually you will start to believe it yourself. Fake it until you make it!

2. Examine the hard evidence.

We’ve talked previously about the idea of keeping rejection letters. Make a contract binder, too! While it is great to see how many attempts you’ve made at climbing to the top of the mountain, don’t forget to keep track of all the flags you’ve planted at every summit. It is concrete evidence that you’ve achieved success, and there’s no denying the white paper in front of you.

3. Deny all temptation to compare yourself to others.

You are your own artist, and your interpretation of Musetta is vastly different than anyone else. There is no need for comparison in art, when anything genuinely inspired by the creative human spirit is a valid option for the character.

4. Give yourself a break.

Women create unrealistic expectations for themselves in every aspect of life. If you look hard enough you will probably find something wrong with every performance. You will convince yourself you could always be a pound lighter, or your teeth a shade lighter. Here is your permission from the universe to make mistakes, be adventurous, and embrace the perfectly imperfect human that you are. You are good enough!

Recommended reading:

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, by Sheryl Sandberg

The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from the Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It, by Valerie Young

Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges, by Amy Cuddy

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Quick Caprese Salad

By Nadia Marshall

As singers, our lives are busy and fast paced. We have ambitions of preparing snacks, lunch, and dinner for rehearsal, but sometimes run out of time! You may want to give up and grab the frozen dinner, but before accepting defeat, try our quick caprese salad! It contains ingredients most of us have in our pantry, it takes just minutes to prepare, and it's delicious! Here is what you need:

Ripe tomatoes
Buffalo mozzarella
Olive oil 
Sprinkle of Oregano
Fresh basil
Caramelized balsamic

Cut the tomatoes and mozzarella and arrange any way you like. Add fresh basil, chopped or whole. Sprinkle on Oregano, drizzle balsamic and olive oil and enjoy!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Pre-Show Ritual

By Andrea Hansen

To say that performance days are our favorite days would be the most obvious statement of the century. There is nothing like getting dolled up, striking out on the stage, and delivering a fantastic performance to an appreciative audience. At the same time, getting to that stage takes a ton of work and preparation, so it’s understandable the pressure of producing a finished piece of art can wear you down before you even get in front of an audience. For many singers, the saving grace from the stress is their pre-show ritual: a small moment, or series of moments, that allow you to rid yourself of outside influences and focus on the important task at hand, that is, your performance. We asked a few of our fellow singers what their favorite rituals are so you can benefit from those or similar practices.

"I eat really clean on show days. I avoid acidic things, since nerves, dairy, and caffeine can cause my reflux to flare. I try not to eat three hours before curtain, I drink a ton of water, and then invariably after the show I'm starving and I let myself indulge a little bit, maybe in dessert, maybe in a delicious cocktail, if I don't have to sing tomorrow.”

The old saying “your body is a temple” has special importance on performance days. Singing and deep breathing moves our interior organs, and if you are eating poorly, that movement will put your “temple” under some serious strain. Pay attention to your body’s signals in the days leading up to your performance and try to consume food and beverages that will have little impact on your digestive system.

"In grad school, my voice teacher told me to take the day of my recital to myself. Go get my nails done, pamper myself; be a diva for the day. Sometimes it's just an at-home manicure, but I do try to find a little way to indulge in something that makes me feel beautiful!”

If you’re working right up to the moment of performance, it’s unlikely you feel your normal, gorgeous self. Take a day, or even just a couple of hours on the day of your performance to treat yourself to something luxurious. Whether it’s a manicure, a massage chair, or a steam facial you can’t go wrong! If you’re short on luxurious items, a solid seven hours of sleep is always a good idea. Hit the hay early the night before and recharge those batteries so you can wake up refreshed and ready for the big time!

"It really depends on the rep, but I try to warm up in stages throughout the day. Luckily, my voice really likes singing at 9:00 pm, but maintenance can be a challenge. I have learned how to walk that line between sufficiently warm and over-sung."

A balanced, well-warmed voice on performance days is imperative, but warming up too early can be risky, particularly if the backstage area is drafty or dusty. Conversely, warming up too late can be dangerous, too. Do sirens or a few simple scales throughout the day to keep the folds moving fluidly.

"I work a day job and sometimes have to head straight from the office to the theater. This is good for me because I don't have time to psych myself out. I try to take a minute right before or after getting to the theater for some silent, mind-clearing time. Some people might call it meditation. I just focus on my breath, try to let the day melt away, and think about the task ahead of me."

That pesky day job isn’t going anywhere, so shape your pre-show rituals around your schedule. Try imagining you are in a room with soft, white walls; a clean slate devoid of the day’s distractions and issues. Use your “moment of zen” to focus on your goals in the upcoming performance – try not to stress about those high notes or if you'll catch that entrance. Focus on how you want to feel while singing or how you want to grow during the performance. Pay attention to your breathing. Imagine that with every inhale you are filling yourself with intent and with every exhale eliminating discouragement.

There are numerous rituals to calm and center you and everyone’s pre-show ritual is different, but they all aim to prepare you for the inhuman task of performing glorious music for the world. Try to pinpoint what calms and focuses you and channel that energy into a ritual before you step out into those bright lights. This will help you feel prepared for any and every performance!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Banishing Blemishes for Valentine's Day

By Nadia Marshall

It’s almost time for Valentine’s Day! If you’re going out on a date or hanging out with friends, you want to be prepared for just about…anything, including whiteheads. To get rid of those pesky pimples try this remedy:

Apply a lukewarm, soaked green tea bag on your blemish for a few minutes. The warmth and moisture of the tea bag will help get rid of bacteria and the caffeine will reduce redness. I suggest using a salicylic acid treatment as well. My favorite is “Yes to Tomatoes Daily Repair Treatment”. 

All information above is recommended by Dr. Day, author of Questions & Answers About Acne

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Dating Non-Singers

Congratulations! You’ve sifted through the Tinder, OkCupid, and Jdate profiles and you have - *gasp* - landed someone who is interested in having an actual face-to-face date! The night of the date arrives and you get ready for this mythological creature: your contouring and eyebrows are on fleek and you have that perfect outfit that exudes sexiness, yet in an effortless “oh I just threw this together” way. You’re headed out the door and think “Oh no! I forgot my binder and résumé!” Just kidding. But sometimes going on a date feels like you spend most of your time explaining what you do.

Of course, you can date singers or musicians without having to explain too much, but for those of us who are simply toxic with other singers, we have to explain why we are currently in between jobs or will be gone for an extended amount of time. Instead of dreading this conversation, use these tips to help make it go smoother:

1. You’ll probably have to explain what opera is. Your date might jump to the conclusion you’re on Broadway performing in Phantom, or that you sing like Andrea Bocelli. Smile, and explain while those are valid forms of singing, what you do is different. Better yet, offer to take them to the opera! Maybe just avoid Wagner for their first time.

2. Choose your words carefully. Instead of using words like I “have” to or “need” to - say I “get” to or am “lucky enough” to: travel, practice, and audition all the time or be in rehearsal at odd hours. If you immediately paint the time spent away from your potential significant other in a negative light, they will undoubtedly feel the same way and never feel completely onboard with your career.

Traveling a lot could be a red flag for your date. The phrase “long distance” freaks most people out. However, there's been ample research showing absence truly does make the heart grow fonder! My non-singer friends have confessed they are a bit jealous of the personal space my husband and I experience when I have a gig. Does that mean we don’t miss each other like crazy and sometimes dread when I have to pack my suitcase yet again? Not at all! It just means the reunion will be all the more special and the time we spend together isn't taken for granted. It also gives my financier husband an excellent reason to take time off to travel and see new places when he comes to visit me!

3. Explain love scenes shouldn’t really be an issue. Tell them, like actors, sometimes you get physical with your castmates. If said person seems uncomfortable or upset about this, you probably shouldn't invest much more time into the relationship. Sorry, but this type of insecurity typically leads to jealousy and controlling behavior. Ain’t nobody got time for that! 

4. Take an interest in what they do. I know this seems like a no-brainer, but since opera can be such an insular world, sometimes we forget there are other lives to be had! Chances are your date will feel just as confused when asked to describe their job. If things progress, you’ll be surprised how nice it is to make friends outside of your profession and get a little normalcy in your life.

5. Just be YOU. This might sound like overused, self help advice, but it’s true - no matter your career, lifestyle, or financial situation, the Sexi-est thing one can be is themselves.
Happy hunting Sexi Soprani!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Sissieretta Jones: Paving the Way to the Stage

By Andrea Hansen
To commemorate Black History Month, Sexi Soprano chose to explore the incredible life of the first African American classical diva, soprano Sissieretta Jones!
Before Leontyne Price stole Radames’ heart as Aida at the Metropolitan Opera, before Marion Anderson performed in a radio-broadcast concert on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Sissieretta Jones captivated audiences around the world as the premier African American soprano at the turn of the Twentieth Century. 

Born in 1869, Sissieretta's family provided her with a wonderful musical foundation. Her father was a Baptist minister and her mother loved to sing in the church choir. Her love for music started in her family's church before continuing her education in Boston at the New England Conservatory of Music. 

After her debut at Madison Square Garden in New York at the age of twenty-three, critics compared her to popular Italian soprano Adelina Patti, and dubbed her “The Black Patti” – a nickname Sissieretta abhorred, but was the namesake for her international touring company, The Black Patti Troubadors. The Black Patti Troubadors not only functioned as a touring company, performing spirituals, minstrel pieces, and using opera scenes and arias as closing numbers, but also served as a training group for other young African American singers and entertainers. The Troubadors toured for twenty years before disbanding in 1916.
As a solo performer, Sissieretta gained high recognition amongst world leaders and performed at many prestigious events. She sang for four different presidents over the course of her career, including President Theodore Roosevelt, President Florvil Hippolyte of Haiti, and the British Royal Family. Sissieretta was selected to perform for the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893; that same year, she befriended composer Antonín Dvořák, who later created a solo for her in his Symphony No. 9. Sissieretta was known to perform wearing the various medals and honors that she received from dignitaries. She was even gifted a tiara during a stop in the West Indies – the ultimate diva accessory!
While Sissieretta Jones faced hardships upon her return to the United States after touring and was barred from performing on many American stages, including the Metropolitan Opera stage, she was instrumental in bringing African American performers to the forefront of the classical music world. Without Sissieretta’s influence at the turn of the century, it’s hard to imagine that Marion Anderson would’ve been able to grace the Met’s stage in 1955. Sexi Soprano salutes you, Sissieretta Jones!
For more details on Sissieretta Jones’s life and career, visit the following links: 

Photo Credit: "Sissieretta Jones, taken by Napoleon Sarony, 1895 (Wikipedia Commons)"

Monday, February 1, 2016

Quick Leg Workout

By Nadia Marshall

Singing a role requires dedication, preparation, and a ton of physical strength! To keep you legs in shape and ready for anything the director throws your way try this quick work out! You don't need any equipment so you can do it anywhere!

Leg Session:
50 Jumping Jacks
20 Lunges
40 Calf Raises
10 Jump Squats
10 Side Lunges on each side
30 Squats

Repeat 3x