Wednesday, April 27, 2016

No Summer YAP? No Problem! 6 Ways You Can Give Yourself A Professional Boost During Your Time Off

By: Julie Tabash Kelsheimer

By now, most of us know if audition season resulted in a summer performance contract or not. If it hasn’t, don’t forget that there are plenty of important ways to grow during your time off stage. Here are some tips on how to advance your career this summer:

1) Examine your current aria package. As we develop as singers and humans, our arias should grow with us! It’s easy to stick to an audition package that is comfortable and familiar. However, we shortchange ourselves by not adapting our aria packages to represent our musical or emotional growth. Time away from a gig could be the perfect opportunity to navigate new characters and music that represent where you currently are on your musical journey.

2) Learn a new role or two. Didn’t get cast in the role you were dying to play or cover this summer? Your time off could be a chance to start working on a different dream role. As singers, we could probably list more than a handful of roles we’d love to perform, but we might not know the roles as well as we’d like. If you’re not preparing for a young artist program or another gig, take time to choose and learn a role that showcases the work you’re doing as a singer. Who knows? Next summer might find you singing that role on stage!
3) Boost your online presence. Give your website a little spring cleaning! Don’t have a website yet? Now could be the perfect time to build one. Keeping an updated and active online presence lets others see not only your achievements, but also your commitment to developing your craft.

4) Network. Not being a part of a summer YAP doesn’t mean you can’t stay well-connected with industry professionals and supporters. Consider writing and emailing a newsletter that highlights your professional accomplishments over the past 6-12 months. Keep directors, conductors, colleagues, and patrons in the loop about any recitals, roles, or concerts you’ve performed, degrees you achieved, competitions you’ve won, or other professional goals you’ve reached.

5) Get moving!  One of the chief complaints for not having an active, healthy lifestyle is lack of time. Perhaps having a short gap in your schedule could be the perfect time to get on track. Having an active life not only boosts confidence, but it also gives us energy to be our best selves both on and off the stage. Whether it’s joining a gym, going on outdoor runs or hikes, beginning an at-home workout regime, eliminating most sugary or processed foods from your diet, or experimenting with new healthy, wholesome recipes, find a few fun ways to commit to building a healthier you.

6) Reconnect with your non-musical self. View your time away from a YAP as a gift rather than a curse. As much as we all want and need to be the best professionals we can be, it is also important to remember all of what makes us who we are. Whether it’s taking a trip, planning a staycation, visiting with close friends or family, reading a handful of good books, or delving into a hobby, be sure to stay in touch with all of your passions! 

Enjoy spending time focusing on you. Developing our professional and personal selves is a duty that never takes a break!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Dandelion Root Tea

By Nadia Marshall

Dandelion roots and leaves hold some major health benefits. The next time you blow on a puffy dandelion and make a wish, you’re helping more of these wonderful plants grow. Though, if you would like to use dandelion roots or leaves for your own personal use, it might not be a good idea to take ones from your own lawn.

This plant is known for its many health benefits, including aiding in digestion, improving liver function, clearing your kidneys, helping regulate blood sugar and insulin levels, lowering and controlling cholesterol levels, reducing inflammation in gallbladder and throughout the body, boosting immune system function, and it is rich in antioxidants that have been shown to slow down aging process in cells.

An easy way to get your dandelion fix is with a nice cup of tea! Our favorites include:
-Traditional Medicinals Dandelion Root Tea
-Traditional Medicinals Roasted Dandelion Root Tea
-Traditional Medicinals Organic EveryDay DeTox
-Yogi DeTox tea
-Yogi Roasted Dandelion Spice DeTox

-Celebration Herbals Dandelion Root Tea

Friday, April 22, 2016

Sexi Soprano Feature: Chelsea Basler, Soprano

Photo credit in order of appearance: Lawrence A Johnson, Boston University Photo services, Matt Dilyard, BU photo services, BU photo services, Matt Dilyard, BU photo services, Matt Dilyard, Matt Dilyard, BU photo services,  Matt Dilyard

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Singers React to Maestro Levine’s Retirement on Social Media

Last Thursday, the Metropolitan Opera announced that Maestro James Levine would be retiring after 40 years as music director. Many singers took to social media to express their gratitude to the illustrious man who launched many young careers and who was also known as a singer-friendly conductor.

"James Levine was responsible for my having a wonderful career. He saw the potential in me from the beginning and supported and encouraged me for the next twenty years. He understood singing, but more importantly, he loved singers!" –Deborah Voigt

What are your fondest memories of Maestro Levine? Comment below!

Cover photo credit: Jack Mitchell/ Metropolitan Opera Archives 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

How to Get the Job Done When Your Heart is Breaking

By: Sara Duchovnay

As opera singers, we depict some very traumatic events in our characters’ lives. We communicate their loss, betrayal, pain, fear, and profound sadness in rehearsals and performances day after day. That alone can be emotionally draining, but what happens when events in our lives imitate our art? While it may feel like our world is ending, life around us still goes on. Performances still happen, rehearsals still take place, and roles must still be prepared. How do we manage to work through the difficult times and show up to get the job done?

This season, the busiest of my career so far, also happened to coincide with the shocking implosion of my marriage and my subsequent divorce. Less than a month after my heart was broken and my life as I knew it turned upside down, I was packing up to start my next gig. I remember driving away from my house and being struck by the fact that I didn’t really have a home anymore. My life was never going to be the same again.

For me, pouring myself into my work and being surrounded by wonderful, creative people was the best thing imaginable. Even in the darkest times, my career and my wonderful colleagues inspired me, excited me, and filled me with hope for the future. That being said, there are some unspeakable tragedies that occur in people’s lives that are far worse than anything I have been through. If you feel that you need to take a leave of absence from school or cancel an upcoming gig, listen to your heart and take time for yourself to heal.

If you do feel that you can work through your grief, here are some tips to help you do your best work during this difficult time:

1. Make physical self-care a priority:

Grief can take a toll on your body and your immune system, so if there was ever a time to take ridiculously good care of yourself, this is it! Routine is key. When everything around you has been upended, finding a routine can be a really wonderful comfort.

Nutrition - We all notice different patterns when it comes to food and our emotions. This is a time to stick to a schedule and to think about food as a utilitarian necessity. Fuel your body with healthy foods that will give you consistent energy, keep you full, and help you do your job. You have enough to deal with emotionally, so you don’t ever want to feel lightheaded, spacey, jittery, or hangry.

Watch your alcohol consumption during this time too. What’s worse than a hangover? A hangover accompanied by a broken heart. If you are on a gig, be mindful of keeping your conduct professional and classy at all times, and remember that alcohol could bring out emotional responses that you don’t want your colleagues to witness. Alcohol also weakens your immune system, so if you feel yourself already depleted or fighting something, best to avoid it.

Exercise - Getting up and moving your body is a great way to clear your mind and get endorphins flowing. If you can get outside and go for a walk or a hike, nature and fresh air can be extremely healing! During my first post-divorce gig, the opera company provided us with a free yoga pass and I went to yoga much as possible. During the subsequent gig, I bought myself some weights and worked out in my room while listening to early 2000’s pop. Both of these things were crucial in keeping my mind focused and calm for rehearsals and performances, and helping me sleep better at night.

Sleep - Grief can make you extremely tired and mess with your sleep patterns. If you can, try to get into a routine of getting into bed and waking up at a somewhat reasonable time each day. Even if you can’t sleep right away, just setting a time to turn off for the day will help you feel more rested.

2. Make emotional self-care a priority:

Adjust your method - If you were a screen actor, you might be able to use your pain to create a compelling performance. You would be able to let it all go in front of the camera and then collect yourself after the director yelled, “cut”. We can’t really do that as opera singers. Crying from a place of true grief during a performance is usually not the best thing for our singing or focus onstage.

If the dramatic situations we are portraying are triggers to us, we need to practice some level of emotional detachment. This gives you a great opportunity to grow as an actor and musician and add some new approaches to your performance practice. For example, you might try approaching the role from a more physical aspect. Above all, let the music guide you. The composer has already taken care of you dramatically! You just have to really perform what is on the page.

When some time has passed, you may want to draw on this experience for future performances. Keep a journal of your thoughts and feelings you can draw from when you’re feeling stronger. For now, protect your heart so you can do your job. Let the audience feel the feels! You might be surprised by the emotional impact your performance has on others.

Rely on your team - Know who your people are and don’t be afraid to reach out when you need them. These people are there to support you and offer you the guidance and advice that you need!  Phone conversations with my teacher and my agent were crucial to me during that first gig. You can also take this opportunity to add new people to your team and try new things. I was overjoyed to find that hypnotherapy worked wonders to help me remain calm, focused, and emotionally protected from triggering situations.

Be aware that while you may need additional support during this time, not everyone you deal with is going to be sympathetic to what you are going through. That’s ok. It may be hard to come to terms with this while you are already emotionally vulnerable, but it’s not their job to care about you or your feelings. Remain professional and emotionally protected from these people and rely instead on your team and the wealth of family and friends who love you.

Exercise boundaries - Try to put aside people-pleasing tendencies and put yourself first. If you make your emotional well-being your top priority, you will be the calmest, kindest, most focused, and most professional singer that you are capable of being during this time. If that doesn’t make people happy, then there’s likely nothing you could have done to made them happy in the first place. If you want to be social, be social. If you need to go back to your room and sit in silence with Netflix, don’t be afraid to politely bow out of social obligations. Everyone wins when you do what you need to do.

Celebrate your strength and resilience - This experience continues to teach me that I am absolutely capable of delivering under the least ideal of circumstances. There is nothing like performing during a personal crisis to make you realize the little things you used to worry about, hold no real power over your ability to perform. Previously, I believed everything in my day had to go perfectly leading up to an audition or performance. During this process, I learned even in the face of emotionally draining and stressful life circumstances, I could do my job well. We all go through hardships in our lives at one point or another, and the knowledge that we can survive and thrive is really empowering.

If you are going through a period of grief, please know that I am sending love and healing energy your way. Take good care of yourself and feel free to reach out if you need someone to talk to. For real. I will respond!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

A tribute to Brian Asawa 1966-2016

In loving memory of Brian Asawa 1966-2016


Monday, April 18, 2016

Natural Mosquito Repellants

By Nadia Marshall

April showers bring May flowers, right? Well, with rain comes...bugs. And if you live down South or are traveling to a slightly more tropical climate, you may need to pack some bug spray. If you prefer a more natural solution to preventing those annoying bug bites, here are some plants you can put in your garden or patio:

-       Lemon Thyme
-       Lavender
-       Lemon Balm
-       Basil- great for cooking, too!
-       Lemongrass
-       Catnip- if you have a pet, they’ll love you forever
-       Rosemary- also great for cooking!
-       Garlic- great for cooking and for throat remedies
-       Marigolds

Get your green thumb on, and hope you are bug bite free!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Refreshing, Infused Water

By Nadia Marshall

Sometimes a fresh, refreshing drink is exactly what you want after a great hot yoga session or after you’ve been soaking up some sun. Yet, you walk into Starbucks...and their refreshers are $2.25 for a tiny can. Your singer body requires more hydration than just a little 4oz can! Here are some cool combinations for a hydrating, delicious drink:

Peach and Mint Infused Water: This drink just sounds mouthwatering. Not only do you get the crisp taste of mint, but you also get a lovely tangy, sweet flavor of peach.

Mango and Lime: This drink screams summer, but who should stop you from enjoying this drink outside, after happy hour, or between rehearsals? This exotic, tropical mix is a perfect mini getaway for your taste buds.

Cucumber, Lime, and Mint: For this concoction, I usually use 10 mint leaves, half a cucumber (sliced), and a whole lime. This mix never fails to wake me up and last for a few days! Drink this mix first thing to keep yourself energized throughout the day.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Inside Nutritional Therapy: An Interview With Leigh Tomlinson, NTP

By Tina Boosahda 

It’s 8AM the morning of a big audition, you roll out of bed, and before you pour your first cup of coffee, you think, ‘NO! Is that a sore throat? A stuffy nose? A cold? The FLU?!?’ You start to feel hoarse, phlegmy, have a runny nose, itchy eyes, chills... Your think ‘Oh S!@#, I’m sick… I have to cancel! If I cancel, I won’t get the job, if I don’t get the job, how will I pay my bills…’ and so on. Don’t panic! Leigh Tomlinson, licensed Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, has some solutions to remedy an unexpected, last minute illness! As a singer herself, she understands what needs to go into our bodies to keep us healthy, get us feeling better faster, and keep us performing at our peak.  

What sparked your interest in the health and nutrition field? Share with us the path you took to get to where you are now as a licensed Nutritional Therapy Practitioner.

I got both my Bachelor and Master of Music in Voice Performance at Florida State University. In my last year as a graduate student, I realized that my weight and health were becoming an issue and I was about seventy pounds overweight. I couldn’t breathe correctly because I was plagued with horrible allergies and constant sinus infections.

It took several years of crash dieting, allergy testing, and constant ENT visits before I realized that I wasn’t losing weight and I wasn’t getting better. I was taking several prescriptions that were not fixing my problems, but making things worse. I had reached the end of my rope.

I finally tried a more natural approach and saw a naturopathic doctor who suggested I might be allergic to certain foods; specifically gluten, dairy, soy, and eggs. I went on a very strict allergy-free diet and incorporated some natural supplements to help support my body. It was really hard at first to cut out all of these foods, but I saw an improvement in days, and finally felt like I could breathe again! My energy skyrocketed, my sinuses cleared up, my brain fog went away, and best of all, I was singing better than I ever had. I also lost 75 lbs!

Over the course of about four years, three of which I was strictly gluten-free, after being introduced to the world of natural products and supplements, I was hooked. I felt great and I wanted to share that with others.

I then decided to take some time off from auditioning to focus on going back to school for nutrition. I am now a certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP) through the Nutritional Therapy Association. It was the best thing I have ever done. It encouraged me to be more confident in my ability to help other people discover their own health and happiness through good food and quality supplements.

What are the benefits of seeing a NTP?

Unlike most traditional doctors who treat symptoms, my job is to look at all of the symptoms and find the underlying foundational issue(s) that is/are causing all of the symptoms. Sometimes the symptoms that manifest seem completely unrelated to the foundation. For instance, my seasonal allergies and lack of energy were really related to my digestion system being out of balance. Our gut is the center of everything. If your digestion isn’t working, you will not receive the nutrients you need to make your body function properly. When you consume foods that are high in sugar, processed vegetable oils, hydrogenated dairy products, and processed grains, you are not only stressing the body by giving it little nutritional value, but you are limiting the body’s natural ability to break down foods because they have been heated and denatured to remove enzymes and probiotic cultures.

What are some holistic steps we can take or natural products we can use when feeling sick?

The first step to clear up gunk fast is to cut out anything that might be causing mucus, i.e. dairy, sugar, and even gluten. Dairy often causes a thick mucosal response when allergic to it, and sugar can weaken the immune system, allowing the symptoms to linger longer, and possibly cause an infection. Some great natural supplements to boost the immune system include:
  • Echinacea- an herb that helps boost your immunity.
  • Elderberry- another herb helpful in relieving symptoms of a cold and boosting the immune system.
  • Vitamin C and Zinc help build the body’s natural immunity. Not all Vitamin C is created equal. Look for one that is whole food based or contains Acerola, Amla, or Rose Hips for better absorption.
  • Turmeric- Curcumin is the active ingredient in Tumeric. It is a natural anti-inflammatory and can be helpful in reducing swelling without the hazardous side effects often found in over-the-counter pain medications.
  • Nettle leaf is a great herb that can help reduce the symptoms of allergies such as itching and sneezing. Staying hydrated is key for all singers, but increasing your water intake along with a “tea” made with hot water, apple cider vinegar, honey, and lemon can help soothe the throat and loosen the mucus as well.

What are some products every singer should have on hand to help maintain their wellness?

Here are some of my favorite natural supplements to take when you are facing an oncoming cold, flu, or allergy attack:

  • Gaia Turmeric Allergy: An herbal remedy with anti-inflammatory properties along with soothing herbs for the nasal passages.
  • Source Naturals Wellness Formula: This tried and true formula for boosting the immune system can be taken at high doses for the first few days and will show very quick results. Take 6 capsules a few times throughout the first two days of a cold and you should notice a difference pretty quickly.
  • Oreganol: A potent herbal tincture that acts as a natural anti-microbial, kicking away the bad microbes without harming the good bacteria, something a traditional anti-biotic might do. Add a couple drops of this to water and drink quickly. This stuff packs a punch!
  • Nutri-Biotic GSE liquid concentrate: this liquid form of grapefruit seed extract is great at loosening and breaking down mucus. It makes a great addition to a Neti-Pot saline solution and is usually the only thing I use that can break up that stubborn mucus in my ears. Just add 3-5 drops in your saline solution in your Neti, or gargle like normal, following the instructions on the bottle.
  • Enzymatic Therapy Air-Power- This product contains guaifenesin, the active ingredient in Mucinex, without all of the harmful chemicals and drying side-effects of the name brand. This product is very helpful at clearing up your lungs and sinuses so you can breathe and sing again.

What remedies interact with prescription drugs and how safe are the products?

Herbs and vitamins, while natural, can interfere with some prescriptions. If you are concerned, check with your pharmacist to see whether or not a natural supplement might cause a contraindication. If pregnant or nursing, some of the most common herbs can be harmful and should be carefully watched.

Two herbs that need to be taken with caution include Kava Kava, which can cause a sedative like effect, and St. John’s Wort, which can interfere with many medications including anti-depressants and birth-control.

Are there any scam natural products out there and how can we spot those types of products?  

Vitamins and supplements are tricky because they don’t have to be regulated by any one particular agency. Unless a company is doing their own quality control and third party testing, it’s difficult to know what is really in a product. I always look for companies that are certified USDA organic, non-GMO, project verified, and certified gluten-free. This usually means that they are constantly being regulated by outside companies and their product includes the ingredients they claim to. I also like companies that grow their own herbs and foods found in their products. A few of my favorite brands include: Garden of Life, Gaia, New Chapter and Herb Pharm. They make quality products that not only work, but also work with the body to help it heal and recover quickly.

There you have it, insight into the world of natural wellness, and nutritional therapy. Stay healthy, stay well, and sing beautifully, Sexis!

If you would like to get in contact with Leigh, please send her an email mentioning this article at, and get a discount on your first consultation!

*Please note, that while Leigh is a licensed practitioner, the information that she has given above is not meant to diagnose or treat any medical condition but is given as general information about holistic health and wellness. Please consult your doctor before starting a new diet or supplement routine. *

Photo Credit Shannon Langman Photography |

Monday, April 11, 2016

Leg Day On-the-Go!

By Nadia Marshall

This no equipment-needed workout will burn your lower body and give you the perfect workout for your on-the-go schedule. Perfect for when you get off a plane, your legs feel cramped, and you need to get the blood flowing!

50 Jumping Jacks
20 Lunges
40 Calf Raises
10 Jump Squats
10 Side Lunges (each side)
30 Squats

Complete this workout 2x or 3x for an extra burn!

Friday, April 8, 2016

Easy Breakfasts For Your Busy Day

By Nadia Marshall

Whether you’re traveling, have a long day of rehearsals ahead, or you just finished your morning workout and you need a quick, easy breakfast before you head out and conquer the day, here are some quick, simple breakfast combinations to try:

1. Whole Grain English Muffin + 1 Tbsp of Peanut Butter (or Nut Butter) = 190 Calories

2. ¾ cup of Oatmeal + Mixed Berries + Nonfat Milk = 200 Calories

3. ½ Banana (sliced) + 1 cup Strawberries + ¾ Cup Oatmeal = 165 Calories

4. ½ Frozen banana + ½ cup Frozen fruit + ½ cup of Apple juice + 1 scoop of Protein Powder + Ice = Under 200 Calories

Don’t forget to pack snacks if you are hungry during the day! What are some of your favorites snacks?

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Budget 101: A Performers Guide to Getting Control of Your Money

By: Jeremiah Johnson

A budget is a basic building block for financial success, but for most musicians it’s a confusing world of numbers and stress. Relax! If you can learn Mozart or Berg, you can manage your own budget! With a little help it really isn’t difficult. Here are 10 easy tips for building your next, or first, budget!

1) Automate it. Programs like Mint and YNAB (You Need a Budget) have lots of pre-made categories, making it easy to break down your monthly spending habits and see where your money goes. Have a huge Starbucks addiction? You’ll be able to see in uncomfortable detail how much that daily, skinny, extra hot, flat, white is setting you back.

2) Have different types of goals. Make sure to have short and long term goals. Try to find weekly, monthly, and 3+ month goals to track. That way, when you accomplish the short term goal, you get a burst of confidence to help propel you to the next goal, and the next, and so on.

3) Be realistic. I know you need to save money, but you’re not a hermit. Lying to yourself and saying you aren’t going to have fun of any kind is ridiculous, so plan things like “fun money.” You’re going to go out anyway. You might as well build it in now so it doesn’t throw you off track.

4) Steady income only! If you don’t get money from it on a regular basis, don’t include it in your regular budget. Day job? Sure! Church gig? Yup! A friend of a friend, who knows a guy, and it’s a done deal…. they just have to get you the contract, but they promise it’s gonna happen? NOPE!!
Take money from one-time gigs and put it in your rainy day fund. Then when that “sure thing” doesn’t come through, you aren’t forced to choose between keeping the lights on and your cell phone.

5) Plan ahead. Yes, I know audition season is in the fall, but if you just put away a little bit each month ahead of time then you won’t have to eat cat food to afford that last minute audition trip.

6) Realize that budgets change monthly. No budget works perfectly every month. The budget for living at home and working your day job is wildly different than the budget for your summer program in Italy. Trying to use one for the other is only going to end in tears. A few months out, make a rough draft, and then the month before sit for 30 minutes and fill in the blanks. It’ll help you be more successful and help you see how your spending changes.

7) Check in often. Making a budget doesn’t do you any good if you don’t check it. Make a budget “date night” every week to make sure you are staying the course. Make it a relaxed and fun event. Sit with a nice glass of wine and just make sure you’re staying the course. You have that fancy budget app for a reason, so you might as well enjoy it too!

8) Accountability is key! Talk to someone you trust and make them hold you accountable to your budget. Having to explain to someone like a family member or financial counselor why you spent $50 at happy hour last week is going to make it easier to curb the impulse.
9) You’re going to screw up, and that’s okay. The idea is to create a budget and learn from the mistakes. Don’t give up just because you got it wrong. If you went over in a category, figure out what you did wrong and adapt for next month.

10) Give yourself a pat on the back! Don’t just stop and notice what you did wrong. Take the time to acknowledge your success too! Highlighting the positive helps keep you interested and motivated to keep going.

Remember: this is a marathon, not a sprint! Take your time and learn along the way. Soon you will find taming your budget isn’t as hard as you thought! Good luck!