Friday, March 31, 2006

Much-Anticipated Weekend

Finally...the weekend is here. For whatever reason, this week has dragged. It hasn't been eventful--just long. I have a three-day weekend to rest and prepare for my Dallas Opera Chorus audition on Monday afternoon.

I just spent an hour in the practice room. I still have much work to do before Monday, but I think I'm making great strides in incorporating the comments from NATS. Even so, I know that I can do a formidable job and impress a panel of professionals. With the tweaks suggested from my NATS panel, I can WOW the panel on Monday rather than just impressing them. Here's hoping.

I'm looking forward to a quiet weekend. Last weekend was very busy with NATS on Saturday and then my twin cousins' baptism on Sunday followed by dinner with the in-laws. I wasn't able to get any of my housework done, and the myriad of rehearsals this week prevented me from playing catch-up. I don't know about you, but I'm all out of sorts when my house is dirty. So....I'll spend all day tomorrow cleaning and straightening & doing the mounds of laundry. (Derek will be very happy about that.) It will be nice to have the cleaning out of the way so I can enjoy the rest of the weekend--maybe go to Dallas Blooms on Sunday after church.

Derek is finishing my desk for the craft room. Since that requires sanding and painting, I probably won't get a chance to actually move all of my scrapbooking supplies & music-related stuff out of the office. But it will be relief to have the silly thing finished since we started the project in January! Plus, I'll have my own office/craft space and he'll have his own office/gaming space. I'll post pictures when it's done.

Aside from that, he has to figure out what's wrong with the office computer (thankfully, we still have the laptop to work off of in the meantime). We thought that our monitor went caput, so we bought a new one this week--a nice 19" LCD flat-panel. Hooked it up yesterday...and nope, it's not the monitor. Bummer. So we're hoping that it's just the video card and not a problem with the hard drive itself. I have oodles of stuff NOT backed up (doesn't everyone). So he has to make a trip to Fry's (a techno geek's paradise...very dangerous to send him alone) to buy a video card.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

"Much Professional Potential"

At my lesson tonight, I received my comments from this weekend's NATS adjudications. All in all, the comments were glowing. And each panelist likewise offered helpful comments about areas that could use more polishing. None of these came as a surprise. Here are some excerpts:

Judge 1
Musicianship
Good work with the fioratura in B. Jungling. Relax everything in "All Things."
Vocal Technique
Nice legato flow. Avoid stiffening your voice with non-vibrato singing.
Voice Characteristics
Good clear voice. Top blossoms very well. Bright vowels get out {of} line and cause your vocal line to be a bit uneven. Try not to "chew" the diction. Don't overuse the lips-and jaw.
Artistry
Good involvement-with text. Bright personality.

Judge 2
Musicianship
Good coloratura! Good control of your voice to do creative & expressive with the dynamic on high notes. Very good.
Vocal Technique
On initial notes of phrases, start the phrase with the same lovely vibrato that you have everywhere else. One detail to work on-line on the mid-range-maintain the quality of vibrato on all tones, even short notes. You have much professional potential.
Voice Characteristics
I like the healthy connection you have between registers, especially the way you work in and out of the lower range. Nice, bright resonant timbre throughout. Proud of you here! Good work on the upper register.
Artistry
Good work on communicating mood & text. You obviously love to sing & you draw us in with your joy. Thanks! Keep singing!!

Judge 3
Musicianship
Standchen-easier flow; try a plain vowel bed depending on tongue instead of jaw for economy & purity. Would like to see a little less "work." Hide the effort behind the phrases & flow.
Vocal Technique
Out of My Dreams-avoid glottal stops; link as you would in a foreign language. Try to maintain the crispness of diction without tension.
Voice Characteristics
Susan, you have {a} vibrant and beautiful voice! Keep enjoying the melodies & shapes & phrases & messages. Graceful Things-caress the lines; more horizontal instead of choppy stems.
Artistry
Find specific characters to vary your stance for each piece when singing several selections. Bester-excellent coloratura & intonation. Enjoy this diva


I'd say I have my work cut out for me the remainder of the week as I prepare for audition one of three, and by far the toughest of the three!

Saturday, March 25, 2006

1 Down 3 To Go

Today was the NATS adjudication. My friend Rhonda and I left at 6 a.m. to get to Fort Worth Baptist Theological Seminary by 7:30 a.m. to warm up before our 8:30 a.m. adjudications. Needless to say, it's been an early/long day.

Singing itself went very well. I was in fine voice (yeah), as was Rhonda. Surprisingly, we each sang all four of our prepared pieces. The three judges were very nice and complimentary. One of the judges actually approached us in the hallway afterward to thank us for singing for her and to tell us how much she enjoyed hearing us. She also asked why we were in the adult, comments-only division rather than the actual competition. It was nice to have such glowing remarks from a member of the judging panel.

The panel itself was interesting. We had that nice lady and then two men. The lady spent more time listening to each piece than she did writing comments. She was very supportive--smiled a lot during the pieces, just made you feel comfortable singing in front of her. One of the men was older, probably a retired professor. He spent most of each piece writing rather than watching. I think he will likely give the most technical comments. He was most impressed with my Bester J√ľngling, so I'm anxious to read his comments on that piece in particular. The third panel member was a man in his mid-40s. He was likewise encouraging like the lady but also wrote lots of comments.

All in all, it was a terrific experience, and I think I'll learn a lot from it. I'm anxious to see what needs polishing before my next three auditions. More on Tuesday after I pick up my comments from Janette.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

A Day in the Life

If your cats are as spoiled as ours, you will probably identify with the Rose is Rose comic from the last two days. I know Derek will certainly agree, particularly with Peekaboo's last comment--that is to say that the cats are not the only ones who are spoiled!



Monday, March 20, 2006

Bring on the Ark

When the weather forecasters predicted a weekend of torrential rains, they weren't kidding! As of 6 p.m. last night, Rowlett had received over 8" of rain, which all fell Saturday, and it continued to fall until early this morning. An average of 2" fell every hour. In all my years, I cannot recall rain like this. Our entire subdivision was standing in water, and we had a scare with our back patio. Had we not begun pumping water off early in the afternoon, I think we would have had water in the house. I was thankful to get up this morning and find the patio mostly clear, aside from the debris left behind by the receding water. The streets were likewise littered with debris. But all in all, things were drier than yesterday.

Unfortunately, I had to attend a rehearsal yesterday afternoon amidst the torrential downpour. If there had been a way to move it, I certainly would have. Getting to rehearsal was quite a trick! Not thinking before I headed out, I went my usual back way to the freeway. BAD idea! I should have known my shortcut was flooded as it's low-lying and surrounded in several places by little streams and ponds. I lost count the number of times I had to drive through streaming water. My dad would have given me a smart lecture about that. I know better than to drive through moving water, but I was at a point of no return when I realized just how flooded my shortcut was. Thankfully, the water was not very deep or swift enough to carry away moving vehicles. Even the freeway was covered with moving water in several places. More than anything, this surprised me. I expected wet driving lanes but not a covered freeway. How naive. I got to my rehearsal fine, and I took the long way home. Thankfully, the rain had let up while I was in rehearsal so the freeway was a little drier as was my neighborhood. The heavy rain didn't begin again until I had been home for an hour or so.

Today, the sun is out, the high is expected to be in the 70s, and we're supposed to have 30-40 mph winds. That ought to aid in drying things out some. Tomorrow, it's supposed to be in the 30s. Welcome, Spring!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

And the Schedule Begins to Fill

The weekend was busy with things house-related. My Saturdays are generally spent cleaning house and doing laundry. But with the advent of an early spring comes an earlier need to do yardwork. Derek and I spent Friday and Saturday doing just that. The bermuda is already beginning to come in, along with every weed known to the Southern lawn! I'm usually one step ahead of the pesky buggers, but they snuck up on me this year. I think the mild winter aided in their early arrival in full force. But they're all done now. The yard is greening up nicely, which hopefully should choke out any weeds that consider a come-back. The flowerbeds and shrubs also desperately needed attention. Each got a good cleaning, pruning, fertilizing, and watering. All in all, we're ready for the full onset of spring.

This week is busy for me. Tonight, I had a voice lesson. It went very well, and the muscle recovery is coming along. Janette was impressed with the progress. My NATS pieces are coming along, too, though I really should have been committing them to memory much sooner. Procrastination always comes to bite you! I scheduled two auditions today and have one more to schedule tomorrow. They fall very close together--April 3rd, Dallas Opera; April 9th, Garland Summer Musicals; and April 15th, WaterTower Theatre. Thankfully, my NATS pieces and some dusty pieces provide the repertoire so it's not starting from scratch. Still, with a busy Lenten schedule, making time for extra rehearsal is difficult at best. I hope I do well. There's nothing worse than disappointing yourself. Tomorrow's church, Thursday's Chorale, Sunday's a NATS rehearsal. Sing, sing, sing. Yep, that's all I do.

I do have a unique opportunity for the summer. An acquaintance, and student of Janette's, is the paid soprano soloist at her church and has been for the last 29 years. In that 29 years, she has missed very little and has taken very few long vacations. Janette mentioned to me a few weeks ago the possibility of filling in for Marilyn should she decide to take some time off. Now that she's retired from her day job and her husband is likewise, they would like to do some traveling. As of this week, she has asked for a hiatus over the summer. Janette told me today that she had mentioned me to the choir director--that I would be an ideal substitute for Marilyn. I'm planning to call Terry tomorrow to get more details and see what steps need to be taken. Since this is just temporary and it will occur when my church choir usually takes a hiatus of its own, I do not feel too bad about deserting my own church for the summer. We'll see how it works out.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Attitude is Everything

On my daily calendar, today's thought is:

How you feel is determined by how you think you feel.
If you think you're happy, you will be;
if you expect good things to happen, they will.

Simple Wisdom (emphasis added).

How often we're overcome by the despair of the world! It is safe to say that, in the last fifty years, our general view of events has gone from "sunny side up" to full-blown negativity. How often did positive stories run on the news fifty years ago? And now? Our media revolves around and thrives on reports of crime, hatred, disaster, and gossip. And society feeds off this overwhelming bombardment of depressing news.

As children of God, we are called to a higher purpose. We are called to separate ourselves from the things of this world; we are called to emit the Light we hold in our hearts to a dark world that is so desperately seeking a Savior. More importantly, and in direct context to my daily calendar quote, we, as Christians, are called to be positive thinkers.

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable if anything is excellent or praiseworthy think about such things.

9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Philippians 4:4-9

May no one ever again accuse us of being negative. May we consciously decide to be positive, happy, and uplifting. There is power in positive thinking! Even God says so!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Yes, sir, Drill sergeant

It's been a tough first week at DPS academy for David. He knew training would be hard, and he expected to have a drill instructor in his face some. But even knowing that it will likely happen doesn't prepare you for it when it does. Now, this is all part of the head game instructors play on trainees. They need to weed out those who earnestly want to be there and intend to succeed from those who just think they do. It's just like basic training for a branch of the military. You need recruits of both physical and mental fortitude because the job you're ultimately asking those recruits to do will require both.

Tuesday, David was a little slow on his push-ups. The drill instructor got in his face and ranted and raved and offered walking papers. David said, "no sir, I'll keep trying." Mind you, this is only his second day at training. He was pretty down about the whole thing when he talked to mom, but it had also just happened.

I called him Wednesday night to check on him. That day wasn't much better. He did push-ups fine, but he was slow on sit-ups. So he got another dose of the Drill Sergeant Tantrum, as we'll call it. He sounded tired and a little down when we talked, but he was certainly determined not to let the mind games get the best of him. He knows their intent with the yelling and screaming. He just has to remember not to take it personally. I believe his exact words were, "they can't make me quit."

Since his girlfriend literally lives about ten minutes from us, he stays with us a lot and will be staying on the weekends he's allowed to leave Austin. He's in visiting this weekend, as a matter of fact. He's resting up for the week ahead. He sounds much better than he did on Wednesday. And I think he's becoming accustomed to the Drill Sergeant Tantrum.

Please pray for David as he trains over the next six months. He needs strength of body and mind. He needs a sense of peace and constant encouragement. If you feel so inclined, write him a little note of encouragement. His mailing address is:
David Foster, Trooper-Trainee
Law Enforcement Academy
Texas Department of Public Safety
P.O. Box 4336
Austin, Texas 78765-4336

Sunday, March 05, 2006

The Last One Leaves the Nest

It's a time of big change for our family. My brother is officially entering a chosen career field. He's off to Austin this weekend to begin training at the DPS academy. He's due to graduate at an undetermined date in September. We're all very proud of him & wish him nothing but success. Mom's taking this pretty hard. The baby is officially fledging. I think this is a difficult transition for any mother. You want to see your kids grow up, leave, and succeed on their own. But the process is never an easy one. Add to that an impending wedding upon his graduation, and you have a recipe for motherly tears...and lots of them.

All in all, it will be six months of serious change for David. Training will be one of the most difficult, if not the most difficult, things he's done to date. Being a peon will be something new for him. Even more new will be being reminded daily of just how much of a peon he really is. I'm not sure I would want someone screaming in my face about how much of a scum I am. Been there, done that, have the jacket to prove it. It's certainly a character builder though. And while he already possesses a lot of character, this will develop an untapped side. Upon graduation, he'll be getting married to his girlfriend of four years. Then, the two of them will promptly move to his first assignment, which could be some God-forsaken part of West Texas...away from family and friends...but could be as close as Greenville or Rockwall. Yep, it will be an interesting six months for my baby brother. God be with you!

Friday, March 03, 2006

Exciting Concert Opportunity

For all of you piano aficionados out there, this weekend presents a DFW concert opportunity not to be missed. The renowned piano duo of Nielson & Young will be accompanying the Irving Chorale and Texas Choral Artists this Saturday, March 4 at 8 p.m. at Carpenter Hall of the Irving Arts Center. The choruses will be performing Brahms' Liebeslieder Waltzes, along with several other pieces for chorus and four hands. Nielson & Young will likewise dazzle the audience with several pieces. For more information, directions, or tickets, please visit the Chorale's website and click on the banner on the homepage.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Mi-mi-mi-mi

Terrific news from the ENT. Pulmonary functions are completely normal. There are no airway obstructions or signs of infection. It does appear that the problem is completely muscular. ENT recommended continuing the exercises Janette suggested and to give it time. I've only been cough-free for about four weeks. Muscular fatigue and weakness did not happen overnight and recovery will likewise not happen overnight. The best thing I can do is use the muscles, so singing is back on the agenda. I will, of course, take it slow and easy as I do fatigue easily these days. ENT did not suggest therapy for now.

Thank you for your prayers!!!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Be Anxious for Nothing

I wish this Biblical teaching was as easy to apply as it is to repeat. Tomorrow's (hopefully) the tell-all appointment with my ENT. I'll be picking up chest x-rays & pulmonary function tests from my primary care before going to the ENT. It's likely I'll have more testing tomorrow. That's the preliminary thinking anyway. It all depends on the ENT's evaluation, of course. I'm trying my best not to fret over the outcome of the appointment. I cannot change it, but I taking the first step in doing something about it. All prayers and happy thoughts are coveted.