Friday, May 27, 2016

Sexi Soprano Summer Reading List


By Lily Guerrero

The sun is high, the pool is open, and you’ve applied the necessary sunscreen. All you need now is a great book to pass the time. Luckily, here at Sexi Soprano, we’ve scoured Goodreads for some worthy books to share with our readers. Take a look at our list and see if there’s anything you want to bring to the beach or read on the plane to your summer YAP program!

Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke
This short collection of letters is essential for any artist who has doubted the quality of their work or questioned their creative abilities. Reginald Snell beautifully translates these letters into easy-to-read masterpieces, and you’ll probably finish the whole book in one sitting!








Master Singers: Advice from the Stage by Donald George and Lucy Mauro

I like to think of this book as the 21st century version of Jerome Hines’ iconic Great Singers on Great Singing. Famous singers like Joyce DiDonato, Thomas Hampson, Jonas Kaufmann, Stephanie Blythe, and Alan Held share their advice on vocal technique, maintaining a career, and life on the road.






The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom                 
If you prefer fiction novels, Mitch Albom (Tuesdays with Morrie, The Five People You Meet In Heaven) writes a touching account of a humble young Spanish boy studying classical guitar who becomes an American rock icon. His guitar lessons will have you laughing as he struggles to learn the complexities of being a musician, and his remarkable journey will remind you of your joy for music.






The Inner Voice by Renée Fleming
Fleming is a household name in opera, but the story of her ascent to superstardom is lesser known to those who have seen her on the opera stage. Young singers will especially enjoy the first half of the biography in which Fleming describes her trials as she navigates the waters of the industry.







The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron
What does it mean to be an artist? How can one open herself more fully to welcome creativity into her life? Where does artistry fall on the hierarchy of importance? This thought-provoking guide is a difficult read, but if you can get through it, the self-enlightenment one reaps from Cameron’s lessons can be life-altering.





Fortissimo: Backstage at the Opera with Sacred Monsters and Young Singers by William Murray
If you saw The Audition, Susan Froemke’s masterful documentary on the behind the scenes of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, you will love this backstage pass to Lyric Opera of Chicago’s young artist program during the 2003-2004 season. Many now-familiar names make appearances in the book, such as Nicole Cabell, Quinn Kelsey, and Erin Wall. Murray takes us on the tough journey of what it takes to be an opera singer and the tribulations young singers face at the important turning point in their career.



Call Me Debbie: True Confessions of a Down-to-Earth Diva by Deborah Voigt
Many people think of international opera singers as high-maintenance shrews, but Debbie Voigt shatters that stereotype with her spectacular biography that is both honest and humorous. By the end of the book, you’ll feel like Debbie is a close friend that took you out for coffee and shared her life story.






The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee
This novel is a wonderful mix of mystery, history, and operatic drama as a legendary soprano looks for the source of a hidden secret from her past. She is forced to choose between a path of infamous stardom or sworn secrecy.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

A Balancing Act: Embracing Every Aspect of Your Life


By: Julie Tabash Kelsheimer

As performers, most of us live for the rush of excitement we get when we set foot on stage to perform a role we’ve worked so hard to bring to life. However, once the costumes have been hung and the audience has cleared out for the night, life can suddenly seem empty in one way or another. It’s sometimes easy to forget that we are living, breathing, human beings with talents and interests not only limited to the stage. Sound familiar? Here are a few steps that might help create balance in our otherwise busy lives:

1. Exercise. Whether it’s a low-impact run, a walk with a friend, or a high intensity solo workout, find time to get moving. Exercise not only increases energy, but it can also clear our mind and relieve stress that may be weighing us down.

2. Have something to plan and look forward to. For me, planning my wedding created a huge personal/professional balance in my life. Whether it is a vacation, reunion, fundraiser, or party, find something you care about and plan it. Planning an event, no matter how big or small, not only allows us to shift focus from rehearsal or score study, but gives us something exciting to look forward to each day!

3. Go to concerts. No, not concerts that feature music you are studying or have sung before. Make this concert experience a bit more self-indulgent. See a pop artist you listen to in the car or during your workouts. Listen to some live jazz or blues. Support a local songwriter. Have fun! Dance! Sing along! All music can be good for the soul.

4. Consider having a side job. Today there are so many at-home or online-based entrepreneurial side businesses available. Find one that you are interested in and that can be fun! Dedicating a few hours each week to a side business can help you meet new people, develop new skills, and help you make some extra cash.

5. Volunteer It feels so good to use our gifts and talents to make someone’s day better. After all, isn’t that why so many of us decide to be performers in the first place? Whether it’s weekly, monthly, or a few times a year, find a way to give your time and talents to someone who needs your help. If you want to incorporate music into your volunteer experience, check out organizations like Musicians On Call. www.musiciansoncall.org.

6. Make your friends and family a priority. Keep in touch with your friends and family. If your friends live out of town, meet them for dinner or coffee when you visit their city. If you haven’t called your parents or siblings in awhile, take a few minutes to do so. If you’re still waiting to return a friend’s phone call, don’t wait any longer. Reconnecting with friends and family not only gives us a break from the everyday grind, but it reminds us of the many people who have helped shape us to be who we are today.



Finding balance can be the key to living a full life. Taking care of each aspect in life can be the tool that not only creates happiness in our personal lives, but can also bring honest life to our characters on stage. Next time the curtain falls, open the door to everything that makes you, you!

Monday, May 23, 2016

7 Reasons Why Singers Are the Best Gym Buddies


By Nadia Marshall

1. We always put your weights away. ​We all despise those people at the gym who never put their equipment away. It’s rude and in the way of other gym goers. It’s common courtesy, brah.

2. We wipe off the equipment. One word: ​Hygiene. 

3. We always provide words or encouragement when you are struggling with those last few reps.Personal cheerleader, check.

4. We always make sure you're not grunting when lifting. ​Your chords and jaw will thank you.

5. We bring our own water bottle. ​We’re prepared and won’t make you wait in the water fountain line for an extra 10 minutes. Plus, we have a YAP sticker on it so everyone knows it’s ours.

6. We are totally cool with bathroom breaks. ​The importance of hydration in our lives
has made us aware of how many times we visit the bathroom. Water is life!

7. Equipment? No equipment? Not a problem. W​ith the amount of traveling we do, we
are accustomed to working out in a hotel room, on the road, and even backstage! We’ve figured it all out and ready for anything.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Tackling Spring Allergies: How to Stay Healthy This Season


By Brian Walters


Spring is here! Spring is here! After a seemingly endless torrent of cold fronts and actual colds, we can all relax and enjoy the warmer weather, right? Maybe. That pesky fiend, pollen, starts to rear its fuzzy head in late spring. Allergies can be a plague to many singers. Just when we think we're starting to feel better after months of hibernation and lack of vitamin D, the little spores start getting in the way of the perfect high C!
So whether you have your end of term recital, your first Musetta at La Scala, or just need good vocal health, here are some top tips for surviving, and thriving, during allergy season:

Medicine:
  • Pills: There are a number of strong allergy pills out there, popular ones being Claritin, Benadryl Allergy, and Piriton. Though highly effective, these antihistamine pills fiercely dry out the pharynx. If you have bad enough allergies to warrant pill-usage, up your hydration intake. I drink an extra 500ml or 16oz of water per dose. Experiment to see what works best for you.

  • Sprays: During my worst allergy seasons, Beconase and Vancenase have worked for me, but I only recommend them for short time use. Use a spray a least an hour before singing; always make sure the spray doesn't trickle down your throat as this can exacerbate dryness; and like the pills, up your water intake!

  • Shots: The granddaddy of allergy medication, shots can be less invasive to your singing. If you feel your allergies are chronic, go ask your friendly ENT and see if shots would be good for you.


Herbal and homeopathic remedy:
  • Lozenges: As a quick remedy for minor mucus, lozenges can be great. Vocalzone and Fisherman’s Friend are effective ones, but like sprays, this should be for temporary or short-term usage. Try and find a combo of vitamin C, echinacea, and zinc at your local health store.

  • Effervescent tablets: These quick and popular fizzy tablets can help when you think a heavy mucus day is ahead. Berocca is my go-to effervescent tablet, but I know some singers who swear by Airborne. Use only when you feel a cold coming on or when your immune system needs an extra boost.

  • Humidifiers/dehumidifiers/nebulizers: Depending on the environment in which you live, sing, and work, one of these machines might be massively useful. Growing up in the desert, I regularly used a small humidifier when my allergies got bad, especially overnight. Often, a cheaper machine works effectively, but if you do get a cheap one, remember to clean it out regularly.


Hydration:
  • Water: A doctor told me a great rule of thumb years ago that I use all the time: cold water encourages mucus and hot water discourages mucus. If you are feeling phlegmy try drinking lukewarm or hot drinks. If your allergies are making your throat really dry, try some refrigerated water and see if it gets things flowing.

  • General hydration: As a general rule, singers should aim for 2L or 68oz of water per day. If the pollen is especially high, maybe try overloading your system with water to flush things out.

Just like in sports, the best defense is a good offense. If your general health is in good shape, then you will have a better chance of surviving the next allergy season. Eating well, sleeping well, and exercise can be a good offense, readying you to tackle those little pollen spores of doom.

NOTE: Most of these remedies should include an increased water intake and be used short-term.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

5 Ways to Wind Down the Night Before an Audition


By Nadia Marshall

1. Drink some tea. ​A cup of chamomile, lemon, or ginger tea will help settle your mind and stomach. The warmth will help you relax and take away your troubles.

2. Try not to eat too late. ​Some days, this just isn’t possible. If it’s late and you need food, try to eat a light dinner such as soup or salad to keep your stomach from bothering you all night.

3. Turn off or silence electronics at least 30 minutes before bed time. The blue light from electronic screens tricks our body into staying awake. The sooner you turn your phone on silent, the better, but we understand if you need to check that flight info one more time before you set your alarm. 

4. Prepare everything for the big day ahead of time. Lay out your clothes, binder, resume, headshot, the travel information, and your water bottle all in a corner of your room the night before. Everything is in its place and you don’t need to worry.

­5. Try using a technique that helps you sleep easier. Whether that's using essential oils for aromatherapy and relaxation, putting on that “sound of rain” track, or leaving the humidifier on, use your personal technique to help you relax and feel comfortable before sleep.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Summer Spritzers: Hugo


By Nadia Marshall

After my visit to Vipiteno, Italy last summer, I fell in love with this delicious and refreshing drink called a Hugo! It has a light, but sweet taste that never fails to cool you off in that summer heat.

Ingredients:
  • Mint leaves
  • Lemon wedge
  • Prosecco Elderberry syrup

Directions:

Adjust your portions accordingly, but I suggest using more prosecco than syrup. 
Add more syrup to your mix for a sweeter drink.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Swimsuit-Ready Work Out


By Nadia Marshall 

It’s almost summer time and that means everyone’s getting ready to hit the pool. Do these pushup variations and feel great in your swimsuit! 


Arm Workout:

20 pushups
20 triangle pushups 40 air pushups
20 simultaneous lifts 20 pushups
20 triangle pushups

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Benefits of Eucalyptus Oil


By Nadia Marshall

Eucalyptus oil is something you should never leave the house without! Whether you are going for a hike, to rehearsal, or trying to get over a cold, Eucalyptus oil can help! Here are just a few uses:

  • Can help ward off dandruff, itchy scalp, and can be used to treat lice.
  • Provide a fresh and beneficial smell to your everyday household cleaning products. Add drops of oil to your soap, or buy products with eucalyptus scent to add an extra comforting fragrance to your home. 
  • It is a great odor killer! I like to add a few drops of eucalyptus oil to my load of dirty, exercise clothes. Those sweaty workout sessions may leave your clothes stinky, but eucalyptus can leave your clothes smelling good as new.
  • It helps respiratory issues such as asthma, bronchitis, and pneumonia. Mix in a few drops of eucalyptus oil, peppermint oil, and coconut oil to create a homemade vapor rub.
  • It's pet friendly! Rub a little oil on your furry friends' bug bites or when they step in an ant pile!
  • It easily removes dirt. Rub a little on after a hard day’s work or rigorous hike. It can also help relieve sore feet and hands after your adventure!
  • It helps you when you are sick! Put a few drops of eucalyptus oil on your pillow for a good night’s sleep. This oil helps your sinuses open and eases congestion.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

How to Say “I Do” to Singing at Weddings





By Lily Guerrero



Wedding season is quickly approaching, and with it comes the flood of requests for Ave maria and Panis angelicus in your inbox! While singing these pieces is a piece of cake for you, navigating the financial aspect of performing at a wedding with those who may be insulted that you request payment can be tricky. Here are a few ways to present the situation to your friends without ruffling any feathers.

1. I do... this as a favor to a very close family member or friend.

If this is your best friend from college or your cousin, maybe you don’t feel that any payment is necessary. Perhaps you know the pianist well, are already a cantor at the cathedral they are using for the ceremony, and don’t need much rehearsal time. Plus, you live in town and don’t need to worry about travel reimbursement. In this case, you’re not taking many loses, and even if there are a few, you don’t mind because this is one of the people who means the world to you and it is your pleasure to use your talent on their big day.

2. I do... present this performance as my gift to the couple.

Maybe this person means a lot to you, but there are a few costs incurred in order for you to perform at their destination wedding with a string quartet. Will your best friend from high school be okay with you gifting your performance to the couple even if wasn’t listed on their registry? When it’s all said and done, you’re probably owed more than the dining set they requested from Williams Sonoma, but you need to decide if it’s okay to give your friend a “discount” on your services.

3. I do... need to be paid!

If this is a distant relative, an acquaintance, or your dad’s friend’s niece, you’ll probably decide to sing as a contracted artist. If you are, make sure to ask a lot of questions and make sure you know what’s involved in the wedding. Are you required to sing any mass parts or hymns on top of your solo(s)? Is there an accompanist provided, or do you need to provide one? Are they playing piano, organ, or a combination of the two? Are they providing the music, or are you free to choose the repertoire? Does it need to adhere to strict regulations on sacred music, or can you throw in some secular music? Will you be paid a flat rate? What is the going rate for wedding singers in the area? Are there multiple rehearsals? What is the level of musicianship of your potential collaborators? Finally, make sure you get everything in writing and have the couple sign a contract to ensure that you are paid. Sometimes, when a bride gets under the wire and starts to run out of money as she pays vendors closer to the big day, the singer gets stiffed over the florist. Protect your business!

What tips do you have for those navigating their first season as a wedding singer?


Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Weekday Date Night Dinners


Just because Valentine’s Day has come and gone, doesn’t mean you can’t keep the romance alive! Going out to a restaurant is always fun but – why not save some money and instead spend some time together in the kitchen, cooking up great meals and great memories! I myself have vetted these recipes were definitely hubby approved!


In line with the health and diet trends, all recipes are gluten and dairy free, along with a vegan option.




Osso Bucco:

This is something I love to order at restaurants, but never figured that I could cook it myself. It’s surprisingly not that expensive ($25.00 for 3lbs) and super easy. This is the perfect mid-week date night recipe as you literally can fix it and forget, using a slow cooker.
INGREDIENTS:

  • 1.75kg (3-3/4lbs) beef (or lamb) Osso Bucco shanks, bone in
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups of chopped carrot
  • 2 celery ribs, finely chopped
  • 2 cups of beef or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tsp of tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2-3 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped. Dried is fine.
  • 6-8 fresh sage leaves, chopped. Dried is fine.
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon


INSTRUCTIONS:
  • Pat the meat dry and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Melt a generous amount of healthy cooking fat such as lard, ghee, or coconut oil in a heavy skillet set over high heat.
  • Add the meat and cook 3-5 minutes without moving to create a beautiful, golden crust. Flip the meat and cook until a crust forms on that side too. Remove the cooked pieces of meat to and place in slow cooker.
  • In the same pan, lower the heat to medium and add a little more fat to the pan if necessary. Throw in the onion, celery, carrot, and garlic and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are fragrant and become just slightly softened. Put in slow cooker.
  • Add vegetables, broth, tomatoes, paste, balsamic vinegar, herbs, salt, pepper, and cinnamon to the slow cooker. 
  • Set on low and cook for 6 - 8 hours or until meat is tender and falling off the bone. Serve bone in for a beautiful presentation. I paired it with roasted potatoes, and it was perfection!



Vegan borscht: 

Borscht, you think? That’s not sexy at all! Actually ancient Romans used beets as an aphrodisiac. Beets increase blood flow and give you an awesome energy boost. Plus, this creamy, velvety, beautiful red soup will have your lips stained and ready for some kisses!  
This recipe is so easy, it’s almost criminal!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 pound beets, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • 3/4 pound red cabbage, cut thinly into shreds
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 cups vegetable stock
  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • Salt to taste
  • Coarsely ground black pepper
  • Sour cream (optional, omit for vegan soup)
  • Finely chopped parsley or chives for garnish


INSTRUCTIONS:
  • Peel and cut the onions, carrots, and beets. If you have a food processor, shred the carrots and beets using the shredding blade. If not, chop as finely as possible. Sauté in a large soup pot with olive oil and a pinch of salt over medium heat. Reserve a small amount of beet to grate and add near the end to enliven the color.
  • Pour in the vegetable stock and bring to a boil. When the vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes, add the shredded cabbage. Cover, bring to a boil, and simmer 15-25 minutes, until all vegetables are tender. With a few minutes left, add the reserved grated beet.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper, then squeeze in the lemon juice, aiming for a pleasing but subtle sour taste. Serve with freshly grated black pepper, a dollop of sour cream, and chopped parsley, if desired.



Spaghetti Squash Carbonara:

Feeling like some Italian pasta but want to do something more adventurous? Check out this divine Spaghetti Squash Carbonara! Yummmm is all I can say.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 medium spaghetti squash
  • Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
  • Salt and pepper
  • 8 oz. bacon
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1-2 cups of chopped mushroom
  • 2 cups of spinach, frozen or fresh


INSTRUCTIONS:
  • Microwave the entire squash in the microwave for 5 minutes. This will make it much easier to cut in half. After, carefully cut the squash in half. Place cut side down into a microwavable safe dish, deep enough to put in some water so that the vegetable may steam. Place in microwave for 7 minutes on each side then scoop out the “spaghetti” and set aside. 
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, coconut milk, oregano, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and a generous dash of pepper until completely combined.
  • Cook the bacon in a skillet over medium heat. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate, crumble, and set aside. Discard of the bacon grease, reserving about one tablespoon. Add the onion, spinach, mushroom, and garlic to the pan and sauté for 4-5 minutes or until soft. Stir in the shredded spaghetti squash. Add half of the crumbled bacon to the pan and stir to incorporate. Turn the heat down to the lowest setting.
  • Slowly pour the egg mixture into the squash, stirring vigorously. Continue stirring constantly for 1-2 minutes so that the eggs do not scramble, until the egg mixture forms a creamy sauce over the squash noodles.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper. Top with remaining crumbled bacon and fresh parsley. Serve immediately.

Enjoy and hope you have fun spicing up your weeknight!