Opera, Painting and Chocolate Chips

Today was an awesome day. I’ve finished the spring’s semester of teaching at Levine Music, which included conducting three choral performances of three different choirs, and my private studio has a lull before the summer schedule starts.

I’d forgotten how to play, so long has my nose been to the grindstone and taking care of others. So, today I made it about reconnecting with fun. I baked some gluten free chocolate chip cookies. And ate way too many and loved every moment of it! They were washed down with iced tea-lemonade which I made from scratch with fresh-brewed decaf black tea, the juice of one squeezed lemon and brown rock sugar. Yes sir-ee, it has been awhile since that much sugar invaded my body and it was fantastic.

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I also discovered the incredible Raina Kabaivanska, a Bulgarian lyrico-spinto, who is known for Verdi and Puccini as well as a wide range of opera roles. When you hear her sing “In Quelle Trine Morbide” from Manon Lescaut, it is a truly sublime experience. Her musicianship, emotional depth and technical finesse are—well, listen for yourself!

Watch that body at work–an athlete in her prime. If you are a singer and have been taught belly-breathing only, you might want to start asking questions about the kind of inhalation/phonation cycle she is using. There is nothing wrong with belly-breathing, but it is only one small part of the process, albeit an important one.

Anyway, I also FINALLY got to experiment in my crafts’ space with acrylic paints. (The number of musicians who are also visual artists is pretty impressive!) I spent much of today creating this painting which I have called “Circle of Women.” I am giving it to our daughter as a college graduation gift. I did use a body part to paint part of this–and no, it was not my boobs. Can you guess? :)

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I have just finished making dinner–lentils in a home made vegetable broth with sweet potato chips, and am typing the first blog post in ages. The weather is lovely for an after-dinner walk.

It’s been far too long since I “played.” I almost forgot what I love to do on my own to feed my soul. And today reminded me!!

No matter how much work you have to do, don’t forget to play. It makes all other things possible!

Refashioned Earrings

Here are some photos from my most recent refashioning of old jewelry.

The earring on the left of this photo is the original. I dismantled the middle and inserted a lovely freshwater pearl.

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And here’s the completed refashioned set:

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Then I took the middle section and created another set of earrings. The original is on the left.  The new earring design was was inspired by a sweet little triangular-shaped bell I picked up at a thrift shop recently.

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There were some left over components from the original pair of earrings that can be used for more refashioning–

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These won’t make it up on my Etsy site, so if either pair calls your name, let me know. $28.00 per pair, plus S/H within the US of A.

A Year Since Diagnosis of Vocal Fold Paralysis

IMG_0669Sometimes you look back on the passing of a year and think, “Wow, that went by fast!” But the year since the medical diagnosis and subsequent therapeutic work has felt very, very long to me.

If you’d like to read about the journey so far, medical diagnosis and what I decided to do, please read the posts listed HERE.

I’d like to reiterate that any progress that I’ve experienced (which the medical community would tell you was not possible,) is due to the extraordinary and cutting-edge expertise and care of Singing Voice Specialist Jeanette Lovetri and Healer/Therapist Dr. Robert Sykes. My own personal tenacity, courage and willingness to persevere was a pre-requisite. And my husband reminds me frequently that some of the world’s greatest athletic coaches either have never played the game or are not currently playing their sport, which lets me know he gets it, and that means a great deal to me.

The work of reestablishing neurological connection from brain to vocal folds is pain-staking and certainly doesn’t include any music-making. The mental focus of coordinating muscles and function is exhausting. Also, there is the “cha-cha” effect of two steps forward improvement, only to have one step back.

After my last session with Jeannie, via Skype, she wrote this post on her blog at The Somatic Voice Work tm: The Lovetri Method Teachers’ Association–Coaching An Injured Pro Back to Singing.

There has been tremendous improvement but this is relative.”Tremendous Improvement” actually means that I’ve been able to reestablish chest voice and head voice registration, which means I can phonate on pitch again with some tone and accurate pitch, as opposed to a strangled hiss. But it takes 25-30 minutes to find this registration via specific vocal exercises and mind/body visualizations. I started out needing an hour to find it, and had to rest frequently.

Evidently, we are doing some of the exercises following ideas put forth by Silverman Technique for Parkinson’s Disease, practiced by qualified speech pathologists.

Right now there is limited ability to “Sing,” as in,’string sounds together in a musical manner.’ Singing five tones together on one vowel is still very difficult. Every once in a while, a full sung note of great beauty and strength will escape and make me hop up and down with tremendous excitement.

And also every once in awhile I sing two or three phrases together that actually feel better than anything I was able to sing from 2006-2013. Jeannie thinks I may be able to sing a simple song straight through in 6 months or so. If this is successful in that way, I will become part of a team of singers, lead by Jeannie, who have gotten their voices back after the medical community said it was highly improbable, and we will present our results to the public. Cutting edge stuff!!

Students have noticed the vocal improvement, but it is still bittersweet. They do not know me as a performer. Some of them are surprised that I had 27 successful years performing as a singer of classical music since I have only a few recordings for posterity. I did not allow recordings my last 4 years performing, because I was not singing well–now I know why.

But after the past 13 months of voice therapy and counseling, I felt it was time to move forward with my work as a teacher of singing and musician. How could I best be open to Inspiration and be inspiring to others while finally letting go of my identification as a working singer?

As I moved through the emotional and psychological quagmire of the situation, I began to feel ready to work with more groups of singers on a regular basis. Seasonally, I lead choral workshops (click HERE for a list of clients) but regularly week to week, I have worked with only one group–The Maryland Women’s Chorus of Levine Music.

And, like magic, when I was truly ready to work with more groups, (and still keep my most excellent private studio!) I was appointed Conductor of all three of the Adult Programs’ Choirs at Levine Music. Even though I have conducted choirs since I was 13 years old–yes, 13 years old! the change in perspective and letting go of the old gave me joy to move into another kind of work with purpose and clarity.

If you build It, It will come. Astonishing, really!

PS. My Etsy shop, which features some of my hobby of refashioning jewelry from vintage pieces, features the last of my Earring Quartets on a Canvas Jewelry Holder. Click HERE if interested! The studs are real topaz and classic pearls.)