Who and Why

I began singing opera because of Violetta. Now, I am going meet her.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

NY Historical Society’s Armory Show Reveals Interesting Parallels in the Art World Today

I went to the NY Historical Society’s exhibit on the Park Ave Armory Show of 1913. It was a fascinating glimpse into –well- how little the world of art business has changed. With so many gadgets and technological advances, one would that think we, too, as a species would evolve as quickly. But, we don’t- and in this instance, it was a very reassuring feeling.

In 1913, the upheaval the show wrought to both the artistic illuminati and ladies who lunched not at all surprised the curators; in fact, they planned for it and tried to cull it in a very logical manner. For those unfamiliar with the show, essentially, the artistic community brought modern painting and sculpture – primarily from France –  to NYC.  The public were shocked with what they saw.  (You can read more about it on NYHS site: http://armory.nyhistory.org/about/) However, in anticipation of this kerfuffle, the curators developed a strategic plan.  The armory, for anyone who has been inside, is a huge space and the curators didn’t just hang up stuff randomly. They cut the room out into smaller exhibit rooms- starting from 1813 to the present day- all the while trying to clarify to the public that what one thought was shocking in 1813 is now the norm and who knows- maybe what is shocking in 1913 may be the norm in 2013 (which people thought was an insane conjecture! Matisse, Picasso, Duchamp? I mean- come on- who are these chumps?).

A less optimistic person may read this and say- Courtenay- how is this reassuring? I mean, these curators obviously tried to clarify to the audience their mission and still caused a stir! If you can’t please them…why try?

Well, I say- ever heard of Matisse, Picasso or Duchamp? And aren’t you glad you have?

Another interesting factor is how much the American curators desired illustrating American art with the European art. In other words, it was important for them to curate a comprehensive survey on Modern Art; a very novel and ambitious idea for a young country to partake.  And, thank god they did- for the American public and artists were greatly influenced by the exhibit and art was never the same.

On November 22nd-23rd, “21C Liederabend,” curated by Paola Prestini, Executive Director of VIA, and Beth Morrison; produced by their companies, VIA, Beth Morrison Projects and with Trinity Wall Street; and, presented at BAM as part of their NEXT WAVE FESTIVAL, will present a similar survey of contemporary living composers from around the world. Using the traditional term to describe intimate parlor performances of song, this 21C Liederabend hopes to bring it into its modern guise. For you Schubert lovers out there, or Wagnerites, its our hope that when you do hear modern art song, you will reflect on what Schubert and Wagner were trying to do in their day and listen with open ears. We think you will like what you hear! For those who still have no idea what this “Liederabend” is, we think you will enjoy the ride! And, either way, shocking or not, we think that this world survey of song will illustrate that modern music is alive and well. Aren’t you the least bit curious to see what it’s all about?

 Duchamp's Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Why Kickstarter is the "New" Audience

as posted on VisionIntoArt's blog: http://www.visionintoart.com/why-kickstarter-is-the-new-audience/

An article titled “Only Connect the Prose and the Passion- A Manifesto” by Marian Godfrey was posted on the Grantmakers in the Arts website last week (and later re-posted on Artsjournal.org). Godfrey has worked for over 30 years in artistic administration, both as a grantmaker and arts manager. As part of her manifesto she declared: “art organizations have a direct and necessary part to play in building connections among artists and the people and places and communities in which they are grounded.”  I think Kickstarter’s success is driving this point home.

Among art administrators, it’s a common frustration to seek and hold dearly onto “new audiences”. Grantmakers want us to share our strategies on how we intend to do this, the dwindling audiences have our boards in a tizzy… when quite simply-- the standard model is obsolete.

I like to recall a statement I overheard from a frustrated art administrator: “New audiences? I have been trying to find those for 30 years.” Although we all share her pain, we also may be overlooking the obvious - the new audience is the one we’ve had all along.  What’s new is how we connect with them so they keep coming back and, hopefully, support our organizations beyond the ticket price.
Human nature dictates our need to connect.  In the past, to see a performance you’d go to the concert hall, meet some friends, sit down and listen to the music and maybe, if you were lucky, meet the artist afterwards. Nowadays, music is in your pocket, art is on your phone, the newest movie or something like it is on your computer, and if you are fan of someone, you can connect with him or her on twitter or facebook. Some would think this would cause competition, when in fact; it’s proof that audiences want a more personal connection with performing arts. Moreover, what seems to be so isolating –sitting at a computer all day- is actually facilitating an easier and more efficient way to become more involved. What Kickstarter invites fans to do is to take this step further and become involved in projects from the beginning, allowing the fans to be, rightly so, part of the artistic process. These intimate connections provide artistic projects normally not funded in the standard old way- grants and people with large sums of money- to be funded by the entire audience.

On the flip side, beautifully described in Amanda Palmer’s TED talk, is that we shouldn’t worry about making people buy music; we need to let them. To this end, Kickstarter allows our audiences to know what is happening and to be part of the process. For today’s audiences, it’s our jobs as artistic managers and artists not to find these people and present our ideas to them; it’s our job to invite them to the conversation.

(And I invite you to our conversation by visiting VisionIntoArt's Kickstarter Campaign!! Please RSVP by clicking here! I also invite you to see VIA Artist, Jeffrey Zeigler’s, post on CELLOBELLO about our Kickstarter Campaign.)

Friday, October 26, 2012

[Untitled]- Honoring the Process

First, for anyone who has seen the hilarious movie, <Untitled>, please know I am fully aware at how ironic I am being in writing a blog about it. But- I couldn't NOT comment on a movie that so closely imitates art that imitates life that imitates my life that imitates my art that I love. Let us begin...

<Untitled> is ultimately a very dark and funny conversation about what good art is. You have the artist who mass produces that horrible art everyone knows because it hangs in every lobby in every hotel in the USA. You have the art gallery owner using this same artist to actually financially support the crazy "post it note on the wall" art you find in Chelsea Art Galleries. Then, finally, all of this is underscored, literally, by a composer who writes extremely advant-garde music.

I am not up on the art scene- which <Untitled> makes fun of with humor and almost painful accuracy. It's with the poor composer that my heart (and the movie's -heart- if there is one) really embraced. What I found so poignant about composer's character is that he is so hell bent on making anything seem like something that actually nothing is being said at all (he literally kicks a bucket in his performance- without realizing how ironic he is actually being- he just likes the sound of the bucket being kicked). His frustration takes a turning point when he hears a very beautiful concert by an older composer (much older) and an audience member goes up to him and says, "I just don't get this? Why did you write this? I hope the next one is better" (which is hilarious and horrible because this guy is like 85 years old). The composer goes up to this older man and says, "How do you deal with this?" And the wise old man says, "It doesn't matter- you have to honor the process."

Which leads me to this blog. Part of writing a blog is exactly this- honoring the process. Whether it be singing, or working in the arts field behind the scene, or doing the dishes, all we really have is the process. All we have is here to there and what is in between. And when we realize there is this "in between", we slow down and focus on the here and now. I must say, I am really relishing in this right now.

But- what happens when the process sucks?

I am currently rehearsing for a concert I am not that thrilled about doing. And it's not because I think the concert is bad but because I am at that point where I rather do other things with my life.  But, I joined up because a) I love to sing and b) I get to sing with my friends and c) some of the music is a challenge for me. However, it was June when I signed up; it's now October and that June person is far far away.   The process for this concert has not been a good one. The music has been more challenging than I thought- which I am usually good about but when one's focus has shifted to not singing professionally anymore- one thinks- why did I do this to myself? Then, there have been many many rehearsals in far away places. So, we grin and bear it. Right? Hmm...I rather not- it's cheating the audience and cheating my experience (so I know not to do this again!). But- what about that June person? Why did she sign up again? Ah right...because of a) and b)- and let's not worry about c) so much. And by honoring that choice, I am honoring this experience.

How is that for process!?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Back to School Basics

This late July and early August I have been having back to school dreams - but not the nightmares of arriving after the test starts, or worse- naked and the test has already started; but, rather, the unexpected anticipation of a new start, of learning something new, of having a simple life when student loans and credit card debt and ... well, dreams that didn't turn out the way you thought they would... occur. And, coincidentally, I am singing in a few opera scenes this fall in a concert sponsored by Professional Women Singers Association (PWSA). And unlike in grad school (another post!),  I am singing in languages that are not my mother's tongue. So, when told by my fellow Voices of Women member, Melissa, that she was IPAing her scenes, I thought she was insane. God- who the hell wants to do that? Don't I know all those things now? Isn't that beaten in my brain? Aren't I a...PROFESSIONAL?

But then, I thought- wait- I miss school, I miss the in the moment learning and taking things slow, so- why not?

And it was miraculous what I discovered. First, I definitely forgot a few things (I was IPA'ing Pamina in the finale of the Magic Flute). Like- ich is actually "I" and not "i" (same with dich!). And there are nuances with the umlauted o and au and all that. But, most importantly, I just looked at the vowels. And then I just looked at the consonants. And then I sang the vowels- matching them up in a melodic line, with my voice...well, it was a hell of a lot easier to sing. And then, when I just did consonsants (with "ng" as my neutral vowel), I noticed how much I constrict my voice so that must mean I am not using the tip of my tongue enough and wow, when I adjusted that...it so much easier to sing.

It was a coincidence, too, that on that same day I took a basics yoga class. I have been doing yoga for 15 years and not that I am a pro (I still can't do a hand stand), I am definitely beyond basics. But, there is something amazing and quieting and most importantly, humbling, to do downward dog over and over and over and over!! again. I didn't let my frustrations or boredom come in, but just allowed the amazing discovery of noticing the slight nuances that make the pose so much easier to do.

So, for those students out there (well, I know none of my 16 followers are)- but, just in case you are new to this blog and a student-- don't rush. Enjoy it all. It's painstaking and boring and you just want to go on the stage but, in reality, that's what life can be- reaching for something new and allusive and not here today. So just enjoy today. Enjoy each IPA symbol. Enjoy each vowel. Because, really, that is all we have and it's awesome!

PS- Thank you Nico Castel who made this much easier and enjoyable. I can't take all the credit for looking up each word, etc. And thanks Mom for buying that book for Christmas!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Baby, It's HOT outside

As I was climbing up yet another flight of stairs, in yet another stifling disgusting stale opressive MTA subway station, I thought, "Why the hell am I walking so fast?" My vision was blurry, my head spinning- all because I am walking the same pace as when it's 60 degrees- or even 20 degrees! Well, the kitchen is hot and I want to stay in it but that doesn't mean I have to use my usual NYC pace...so, slow down. What's the hurry? It's going to be disgusting no matter what I do. And, as I have my performance coming up this Wednesday (6.30 pm- Cornelia St Cafe), I remind myself yet again- slow down- what's the hurry? Take this heat as a lesson to pause and look around and think...

(plus, everyone's on vaca anyway!)

Monday, May 14, 2012

Thank You Salesmen!

I was one of the fortunate few who was able to see Death of A Salesman, directed by the legendary Mike Nichols, starring the amazing Philip Seymour Hoffman, heart-wrenching Linda Edmond, surprising Alex Garfield  (I only say this because he was in Social Network and next appears in Spider Man), and profound Finn Wittrock. When I immediately stood up to give my standing ovation, I thought to myself- Thank You. Thank you for sharing your amazing gifts.

It's hard to be in the performing arts world. When everyone everywhere talk about the economy and more and more arts education programs are being cut- you begin to drink the Kool-Aid that arts don't really matter. I mean, what do they really bring? Spiderman on Broadway is the Number 1 Broadway show right now. Spiderman.  That's a tough sell on integrity.  We live in a world of American Idol, the Kardashians, really bad movies, BLOGS ;), twitter. The get successful fast formula.  And, the arts admin world, trying to find something ANYTHING hip and cool and edgy because that's what foundations want- what the critics want. No one wants music for the sake of music any more. And if they do, it's just too expensive to take a risk.

So, because of this, I was a bit skeptical. I mean- I read it in high school. Broken Dreams...blah blah blah. Was this another guaranteed get rich scheme by Broadway? Yet another revival? Ugh.

But the critics piqued my interest and I heard good things so..ok, I'll bite...last row though!

And even though I was in the cheap seats- literally, the LAST row, I was completely captivated.  I couldn't see their faces, but I could hear the emotions and  feel their body language. I fell in love with these characters and I was deeply torn apart by the decisions, or lack of decisions, they all made.

No aerial-stunts can do this. No reality TV. Not even the most eloquent blog.

So thank you. I feel like a human being again.

Monday, April 30, 2012

VOW Concert- May 18th!

I will be singing with my Quartet, Voice of Women, in our new concert:

All Girl Band

Friday, May 18 at 7:30 pm 

Museum of Motherhood (M.O.M.) 

$20 at the door or buy early online by visiting our DONATE page The Voices of Women (VOW) present a brand new spring program about camaraderie and companionship. It will feature a variety of works including composers Barbara Anselmi, Joseph Turrin, Stephen Sondheim, Stephen Flaherty, Terrance McNally and more! The concert is accompanied by Jim Trainor. This poignant program will focus on the passages the women have taken in their formative years as well as the friendships that have shaped their lives. Half of the proceeds will benefit the Museum of Motherhood.